Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Footprints and Philistines

I came across this news article today – A Sky News exclusive no less.

It’s about an archaeological discovery in North Yorkshire, on an excavation during a project to widen the A1 and near to the known Roman military fort of Healam Bridge.  While excavating, the archaeologists have made the rather unusual and remarkable discovery of a series of Roman child’s footprints preserved in the mud – seemingly made when the child ran or skipped across the area which would have been waterlogged at the time.  Unfortunately it seems that although photographs were taken, the footprints themselves were not able to be saved.  As a museum curator, I have to say, the long term preservation of a muddy footprint is a challenge I wouldn't exactly relish!

However, as much as news of this discovery excited me, it seems from the public comments that I may be in the minority.  The embittered and cynical readers of Sky News, rather than being intrigued by such a rare discovery, were rather more caustic in their reaction.

"oh my god i can`t get my head around it,people in roman times walked?on their feet?" commented ‘kieran84’. (Grammar as the original so you can get the full effect).

‘HotspurAndy’ also goes for the misplaced sarcasm - "Shock news...........the Romans had feet...well I never!!".  Yes, because that was the major point of the discovery…

A reader called ‘Oh Polemic’ was rather more scathing of the whole process – "If David Cameron is looking for somewhere else to make cuts then he could do worse than to start with the fees we taxpayers appear to be wasting paying to archaeology firm AECOM!"  I wonder what sparkly treasure has to be uncovered before ‘Oh Polemic’ becomes impressed?  Of course, he / she makes the classic rookie mistake when it comes to criticising archaeology, the old ‘taxpayers money being wasted’ approach so favoured by Daily Mail readers.  Of course, virtually no archaeology is done in Britain at the taxpayers expense.  It hasn’t been for very many years now.  I know nothing about the details of this particular dig, but if it is like 90% of excavations in Britain, it will have been done in advance of development (the widening of the A1), as part of the planning process and paid for by the developer.  So the discovery of these footprints has cost ‘Oh Polemic’ absolutely nothing.  Still, why let that stand in the way of a good old ‘everyone in authority is a money wasting, backhand-taking charlatan wasting all my hard earned taxes’ whinge, eh?

A philistine, yesterday

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