Thursday, March 04, 2010

In search of gold

Yesterday's thin sunshine found me up in the field, head down, kicking at molehills with the toe of my boot. Why? Looking for gold of course - inspired by the 'Staffordshire Hoard' Exhibition at the Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent. I imagine a large percentage of the 45,000 others who have also visited it have their heads down too hoping to spot buried treasure - not in our field of course (that would be silly).
We got up at dawn to catch an early train from Shrewsbury to Stoke - hoping to arrive early enough to be at the front of the queue. The dawn was exquisite - the moon sank in the west as a rosy sun rose in the east. Early enough though? Ha! No such luck - we joined the back of the queue, way, way, back and hoped for the best. As the museum's doors opened we moved forwards quite quickly and the rumour spread back down the line that once inside the queue snaked up and around the building for as far, if not further, again. Sigh. Indeed after half an hour we reach the front door and a sign letting us know that we should be prepared to wait for 2 hours + to reach the exhibition. Sigh again. I remind myself that queuing has been proven to enhance whatever experience is so keenly awaited.

At the door we receive the first of 3 hand stamps - quite what the purpose of stamps 2 and 3 were I don't know. They're a good topic of conversation and we discuss celtic knots and fugitive 'inks'.
It was a very friendly queue; we exchanged banter with our neighbours and chattered amongst ourselves. Pretty soon we were queuing in the Museum's galleries and have plenty of time to get to grips with the ceramics industry in great detail - and I would really like to go back and take a proper look. The time passed quite quickly. Really...

Then with the final stamp we were in the exhibition itself and only slightly disappointed to find that of the more than 1500 items unearthed only about 80 are on view. Those objects are miniscule too - the banners and photographs which illustrate the exhibition have led us believe that we would be seeing huge golden artifacts, big treasure.  However, there is very little larger than a matchbox; much is crumpled and incomplete. Most of the exhibits are still encrusted with soil and are as they were when a metal detecting enthusiast found them in July 2009. There is speculation that because the Hoard contains no 'feminine' or domestic items - many of the items adorned weapons and armour - it may be spoils of war. The workmanship is extremely fine - the 7th century gold and silversmiths must have been very skilled craftsmen indeed.

Soil or no soil, the glister of gold is unmistakable, it's brightness undimmed by 1300 years underground. One piece was discovered on the surface, turned up by the plough. Imagine stumbling across that by chance - and chance it would be - like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Which is why I've been looking - as I'm sure there's treasure in these hills somewhere. I've not much to show for it though. The molehills have given up 3 pieces of clay pipe stem so far:
I deduce they are from three different pipes so with luck there is still more to find. Perhaps I would do better putting new batteries in the metal detector.


Pondside said...

Your are far more patient that I'd ever be!

Tattie Weasle said...

I love searching for treasure but I'm not just looking for gold any metal on the farm. So much of it has been buried adn I do not wnat it around for my boys or my livestock. Last year I took £600 worth down to the scrap man: joy indeed!

Frances said...

Thank you for taking us along with you to the exhibit. I know that I would also want to see those objects, but wonder if I would be willing to undergo all that waiting.

I think that the rest of the museum would also be worth a look.

Good luck with your own digs!


SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Lovely to see something that old in its just found state ! No wonder it's inspired you !
The old pipe stems might be an encouraging sign .... are the old codgers who congregated to chat likely to have dropped more odds and ends ? After all , you can sell anything on eBay .

Diary Farmer said...

Mrs D F said you all had a good day but a long wait to get to see the artifacts sadly spoilt in the cafe by being served with the left overs from Tutankhamun's picnic!!

elizabethm said...

Did you see the cabinet at Blackden properly with all the associated explanations? I am not an archaeologist so I need helping to get what is going on. I hear both the fascination and the frustration in this (I think) and have certainly felt both.

hand-knitted muesli said...

Reminds me of school 'dances' and then 'poly', 'uni' dances - the various stamps on the had that is

hand-knitted muesli said...

oops that should be "hand" not 'had' - see that's what comes with living 'downunder' :D