So a quick follow-up from yesterday’s news on the Anglo-Saxon hoard…

Article from the Guardian “now the countryside will be overrun with metal detectorists – hardly, but then I doubt journalists can get away with saying ‘there’ll be a short term increase, but it’s likely to drop off once people realise how dull day-to-day metal detecting is’. It probably wouldn’t please their editors. The article does at least give a little more depth to the detectorist in question, Terry Herbert.

Perhaps more interesting is an article in the Times Online on ploughing. Okay, so you might not think ploughing is that interesting or relevant, but it seems to be ploughing which pulls these objects out of the deeper soil layers – essentially because ploughing grabs chunks of earth and flips them over. Deep ploughing such as they do in Italy can turn over chunks nearly a metre in depth. The fields the Anglo-saxon hoard came from had been deep-ploughed the previous year, which probably explains why all of these objects came to the surface in one go. I don’t know if there were many pieces showing cut marks from the plough, but if not it’s unlikely they were knocking around in the surface soil for very long – ploughs can really cut up objects.

Of course the fact that countless archaeological sites are being destroyed by ploughing doesn’t actually bother anyone in power (or many farmers – fair enough). But the fact that the soil also represents an important carbon-capture resource, as well as the major source of our future food supply, is important – and apparently deep ploughing damages the soil’s ability to retain and capture carbon. So the government wants more farmers to follow in the footsteps of larger conglomerates, and use ‘no-till or low-till’ techniques. The environmental advantages are good, and this should also signficantly reduce the damage to the archaeological layers. Who knows, give it ten years and all those detectorists could find it a lot more difficult to find any ‘productive’ sites – and buried archaeological sites should be safe for future generation. Finger’s crossed, eh?

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