Charting the Effects of Plough Damage Using Metal-Detected Assemblages

By Haldenby, D.; Richards, Julian D. | Antiquity, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Charting the Effects of Plough Damage Using Metal-Detected Assemblages


Haldenby, D., Richards, Julian D., Antiquity


Introduction

The exceptional quality and wealth of the Staffordshire hoard (see Editorial in Antiquity 84: 295-6) has highlighted the importance of the Treasure Act in facilitating the reporting of finds of portable antiquities in England and Wales. We should not ignore, however, the more mundane objects reported on a day-to-day basis which can also throw light on past societies and, as this paper seeks to demonstrate, on the depositional history of artefacts.

The archaeology of the ploughzone is an important area of study (e.g. Schofield 1991) and archaeologists are well aware of the damage done to stratified archaeological deposits by modern agricultural practices (e.g. Lambrick 1977, 1980, 2004; Hinchliffe & Schadla-Hall 1980). Most mitigation strategies, however, have focused on lessening the damage to monuments rather than assemblages (e.g. Oxford Archaeology 2006; Oxford Archaeology & Cranfield University 2010). There has been some research into the effects of plough disturbance on artefacts, although most previous studies of such attrition have been concerned with mechanical or chemical damage to pottery (Reynolds 1988, 1989; Boismier 1997) and, in a few cases, bone, while for metalwork most work has started from the issue of how arable agriculture has resulted in changes in the chemical stability of objects and has not looked at mechanical damage (Fjaestad et al. 1997; Scharff & Huesmann 1997; Wagner et al. 1997; Gerwin & Baumhauser 2000; Pollard et al. 2004; Ullen et al. 2004).

McLean and Richardson (2007) have discussed whether detected Anglo-Saxon brooches are accidentally lost or represent deliberate deposition, based on the composition of the detected assemblage over southern England in comparison with the excavated assemblage. Chester-Kadwell (2009: 76-7) has compared excavated and detected brooches in Norfolk and reviewed the literature on aspects of ploughzone taphonomy as it relates to metal-detected artefacts.

Metal-detecting is often portrayed as an activity which destroys archaeology (Dobinson & Denison 1995; Oxford Archaeology 2009; Thomas & Stone 2009). However, comparison of the condition of stratified excavated and metal-detected artefacts recovered from the ploughsoil allows us to chart the effects of plough damage on portable antiquities. Instead of being a cause of damage to archaeology, metal-detecting has the potential to provide new data to help us understand the processes at work in the agricultural destruction of the archaeological record.

Anglo-Saxon pins and strap-ends

Copper-alloy artefacts comprise the majority of finds made by detector users although they are frequently recovered in a fragmentary state. The VASLE project identified that 85 per cent of Anglo-Saxon finds recorded in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database were copper alloy (Richards et al. 2009: 3.2, fig. 61). In the present study, attrition to two groups of Anglo-Saxon copper-alloy dress fittings, namely pins and strap-ends, was quantified and demonstrated to result largely from farming practices. The choice of pins and strap-ends rests, on the one hand, from them being ubiquitous and numerous finds on Middle Saxon sites across the country and also through the availability of comprehensive records of longstanding detector surveys of several sites of the period in the East Riding of Yorkshire and one in West Yorkshire.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

In the case of the pins, the process was found to be observable on two sites over two to three decades. The pins studied here date from the later Middle to Late Anglo-Saxon periods (c. AD 800-1000), and divide into the following broad categories of head form: faceted, biconical, globular and flat (largely disc or rhomboid) (Haldenby & Richards 2009). Other groups of Anglo-Saxon pins are not included, each predating the study group and being far less numerous. These comprise those from early burials, often with plain disc or spiral heads, and the large eighth-century chip-carved and gilded forms.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Charting the Effects of Plough Damage Using Metal-Detected Assemblages
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.