Episode 69 - Digging for Brown Gold (Hobbies Week)
Tom's Notes; The Portable Antiquities Scheme
I’ve committed to archaeology this week. I started with metal detecting and then expanded my horizons just slightly to allow me to do something very silly.
I wanted to saturate your senses with some stimulating stats about sifting soil for striking substantial sources. I wanted to give you an idea of how many volunteer archaeologists there are in the UK. Where could I possibly begin on such an exciting quest? Yes, that’s right, the State of the Archaeological Market 2018 report. SEXUAL GROAN. This stuff is like 50 shades for archaeologists. It’s even authored by a chap called Ken.
“They called him Ken the Spade, and he wielded his spade like a Knight wields his sword. Nobody knew how to dig, sort and collate like Ken. With the flick of a brush he would reveal priceless artefact after priceless artefact. And here he was, reading his report.”
I didn’t spend long on this document. I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to sleep after watching it, much like if I’d downed 10 Red Bulls. Instead, I went to the Portable Antiquities Scheme website and started searching for artefacts by rude words. And this is what I found!
Juvenile, is the name of the game and I started by typing ‘big poo’.
It’s a cuddly coin!
Was cock on the board Miss Ford?
It’s nice to type arse, to type arse, nice!
Before we getting on to what I discovered, I had better explain the Portable Antiquities Scheme. In a nutshell, if you are metal detecting in the UK, or gardening, or out and about hiking through recently ploughed fields, and you discover an historical artefact, a Roman coin for example, you SHOULD report it to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, although you are not legally obliged too. This organisation is not looking to pinch priceless artefacts off you to sell to Middle Eastern trillionaires with pet blue Tigers, it is simply wishing to keep a record of what has been found for the purposes of study and ensure significant finds are protected. For example, you can map discoveries of coins minted in the Danelaw (the North and East areas of the UK ruled by Vikings) and find out lots about the extent of Viking influence. Or, there might be a concentration of finds in a certain area, and this can lead to extensive archaeological digs to find out what’s going down.
If you find something really juicy, like a big hoard of coins and jewellery, and this constitutes ‘treasure’ according to British law, you are legally obliged to declare this and there are restrictions on what can be done with the find.
Right, what have I got for you!
Fuck me! 199 records.
Well you see a colon is a symbol isn’t it? So lots of coins have colons on them. I was going to need a less ambiguous search.
Get out of here! One result. A complete post-Medieval cast lead cloth seal with the remains of cloth. Oh, disappointment, the inscriptions says Jarse.
I need to keep technical.
Oh and have we struck gold here.
The first result is a Roman object yet to me classified found in Nottinghamshire.
I’m just going to read the description, only slightly abbreviated:
“… an erotic scene depicted in relief on one side. This involves two naked figures: a young man to the left and another party of indeterminate gender to the right. The young man crouches with knees flexed as he thrusts a long rod with a slightly swollen mid part into the rear of the other figure, who is bent over with flexed knee to receive it in the hindquarters; the latter participant may be looking back towards its companion, perhaps contributing to a pointed appearance of the head. One arm, the left, is crooked behind the figure's back, perhaps offering guidance to the intruding object. The other, also crooked at the elbow, is held in front. A globular object, perhaps a vessel, and a vertical surface, perhaps a wall offering support, appear immediately in front of the figure to the right…
The scene does not appear to represent sexual intercourse per se, as the [presumably] male figure deploys an implement whose end is visible beyond the right hand which grasps it. Johns (1982, page 102) considered that the portrayal of the dildo in Classical art was usually in a religious context or one intended to entertain a male audience. The Satyricon of Petronius, however, alludes to its anal use in an episode of female on male action in which pepper, oil and stinging nettles are also employed. Entry from behind is a common subject of erotic illustration from the Greek and Roman worlds, usually in a heterosexual context. This scene is of a sexual nature, probably as a consensual coupling of man and woman, possibly in the context of prostitution, but lacking any connotation of violence.”
The second result was found in Yorkshire. It’s a pipe tamper, used to poke and flatten tobacco into a pipe.
“Standing on the ground beneath the tree canopy a male and a female figure are depicted engaged in an act of fornication. The females back is pressed against the trunk of the tree with her weigh supported on one leg. The other leg is raised around the waist of the male and supported by his right arm. The male figure is shown standing on both feet. The heads of the figures are pressed together in a kiss.”
This was probably only 100-300 years old and is deliberately rude. Apparently these are not too uncommon; a bit like the soft porn cigarette lighter that your dirty uncle bought in a service station in France. In fact, the third item for this search term is also a pipe tamper, this time discovered in Wiltshire, depicting the same scene.
No results. Disappointing.
Well, maybe I was being too technical with my search terms.
Lots of results; ‘tit’ is a common on coins with Latin inscriptions.
Crikey! 9 results.
There’s an unidentified post-Medieval coin shaped object (but clearly not a coin) depicting a penis being inserted into a vagina. Isle of Wight.
Here we go, another pipe tamper. This time mechanised but missing the male.
Hold on, here’s another one from Wokingham and it’s intact! Fully mechanised and intact. Boom!
More parts of pipe tampers.
Two more. A Roman phallic amulet; popular with the Roman army apparently. Although only three have been found in the UK, so quite a jump that. And a limestone carving of a cock entering a vagina again.
I found a piss pot
Lots more piss pot!
Quote: A cast copper-alloy pendant of the Medieval period… At the centre is a monkey sitting right, one arm bent back with its hand on its bum, the other raised toward its mouth as if about to eat something.”
Oh what could that be?
Metal working debris described as “usually larger, at the size and pellet form of a guinea pig turd”
A seal from Buckinghamshire with a picture of a monkey holding an owl. Quote: “The position of the monkey's left hand may indicate that it is farting, or perhaps that it has a backache. The latter would perhaps have been caused by holding the owl.”
I liked this one. A jetton, which is like a token, medal or poker chip. Whoever has recorded this find has described in great detail the intricate images on both sides, images with deeper meaning. On one side a Spanish man holding a goblet, a candlestick, he also has a watch on a chain and a bag of money. He stands on scales.
On the other side, two men. Between the two men is a complicated image, from what I can make out, something involving a skull and a money bag hanging from a cross. One has a pair of compasses, a square and a plumb line. The other man holds a book and the lead of dog, the dog in the process of vomiting.
A result! Get in!
You’ll like this Sam. The following item was found in Lincolnshire.
Abbreviated quote: “Pottery… spout from a jug, with a central moulded aperture.... An applied ring at the end of the spout passes around it, conferring a phallic appearance which may not be fortuitous: rough areas below it may show where modelled hands formerly gripped the 'shaft'. Peter Armstrong, a leading excavator of sites in Hull and Beverley which have produced such vessels, indelicately referred to the form as a 'wanking jug', to describe the juxtaposition of hands and spout which characterise this form. The potters of Beverley were innovative and skilled craftsmen, and their demise in the mid-14th-century is ascribed to the Black Death. Suggested date: Medieval, 1200-1350.”
That’s a wrap from me. If we have anyone listening who works for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, yep, those searches were performed by me.