Day By Day

Monday, July 11, 2005

Here We Go Again -- Hyping Archaeology

Another beautiful example of the ways in which archaeological discoveries are routinely mis-reported in the press.

The Stropshire Star reports:
Historians stunned at Saxon find

The remains of a ancient Saxon rotunda probably dating back to the 10th or 11th century have been discovered under a Leominster car park.

The find, details of which have only just been made public, is being hailed as of international importance.

The rotunda is thought to be part of a monastery founded by one of Britain's ancient rulers and may have been used as a baptistery - for the remains of martyrs - or as a royal mausoleum.

Archaeologist Bruce Watson said it was expected to be the "best preserved example of its type in England".

Mr Watson, from the Museum of London Archaeology Service, coordinating the dig, said: "This is a tremendously important find - an opportunity to rewrite the early history of Christianity."

The find was revealed in a geophysical survey by Peter Barker of Stratascan, a company that specialises in tracing buried remains.

Measuring 17 metres in diameter, it lies beneath the staff car park of Herefordshire council in Leominster and came to light during a radar scan of the site.

"Stunned!" Oh really? Could we find a more appropriate way of describing the reaction such as "this is mildly interesting, but I'm going to hype it for everything I can."

"International importance?" Oh really? In what sense? This dates to about half a millenium after the beginnings of Saxon occupation.The London bombings are of international importance. This is at most of interest to local historians.

"Rewrite the history of early Christianity!" I don't think so!

This is ludicrous reporting, and judging from the quotes, the archaeologists [if indeed that is what they are] are every bit as responsible as the semi-literate reporter for the silliness. Unfortunately we see this sort of thing nearly every day as "scientists" and reporters conspire to attribute dramatic importance to every find, no matter how obscure.

Read this tripe here.

No comments: