Weapons of mass distraction: Record Breakers

Although there are still a few artifacts to work through,  I spent this week’s session rifling through files of records. That means that there will be nothing shiny in this week’s blog.

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The kinds of records made include papers relating to the initial desk-based survey, the drawings and context sheets from the dig itself, an assessment of artifacts, notes from what looks like a presentation that was given about the dig, and so on.

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These records proved fascinating and were indicative of the state of play in the 1980s. At this point in time, the Tower foreshore was accessible to mudlarks, metal detectorists and basically anyone who wanted to visit. This is a time before the Portable Antiquities Scheme, before Finds Liaison Officers and before Foreshore Permits to protect the archaeological deposits and advise interested parties, including mudlarks, on recovering, recording and reporting finds. This is specifically alluded to in the excavation report. One set of documents in particular suggests that there was some ‘disagreement’ about the advisability of allowing random, unfettered “Treasure Hunting” on such a historically and archaeologically significant site.

There is also an extensive collection of site photographs, with contact sheets and notes.

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I find these particularly interesting as, firstly, they are a social document. This is archaeology 1980s style. Perhaps not so different from archaeology 2000s style, but it’s funny to see how much archaeology was carried out topless! A couple of the senior staff at the Royal Armouries recognised some of the faces in these photos.

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More importantly, these are a visual record of the condition of the foreshore in 1986. A lot of what we can see in the photos simply doesn’t exist in the same way now, as this stretch of foreshore has been subject to significant erosion over the past few years.  The fact that the excavators took not only the above action shots, but also shots of the trenches at different stages of the excavations; the sections where we can clearly see the layers that made up this stretch of foreshore; a number of shots of timber structures, possibly a revetment or the base of a set of river stairs that were recorded; the riverside wall down to foundation level, and more, makes this collection of images archaeological gold.

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These are just my crappy photos of photos, but I’m going to be doing a mammoth scanning’n’tagging session with these photos, so at some point in the hopefully-not-too-distant future, they should be accessible to view properly.

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There was also a, frankly hilarious, document that would be of particular interest to anyone working in conservation and archiving. Glynn? Adam?

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These are the guidelines for processing and storing finds, as issued in 1983. Among the dos and don’ts are these gems:

Don’t wrap finds in toilet paper.

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Don’t store finds in fag packets or baccy tins.

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Don’t keep artifacts under your bed or in the garage.

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And, for anyone who is lucky enough not to be able to  actually remember 1983, welcome to the 1980s!

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Ah, the ’80s *wistful smile*. So bad. So very bad.

At the beginning of this post I said no shiny things, but in true Time Team style, Chris came up with a last minute bag of shiny buttons recovered from the site, so here they are. Shiny. Shiny.

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One thought on “Weapons of mass distraction: Record Breakers

  1. Pingback: 11 Questions to a Museum Blogger on (the day after the day after) Museum Blog Day | moose and hobbes

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