Today we had a visit from Doctors Karl Harrison and Andrew Shortland from Cranfield University. Karl has a background in forensic archaeology and is very interested in the hoard in the context of its landscape and was keen to see the burial site. His colleague Andrew was interested in the material science side of things and rather splendidly brought over a handheld X Ray Fluorescence device. This fantastic machine is carefully pointed at the surface of any desired metal/ceramic etc. and will give you a readout of what percentages of elements it is made from. In an hour's work Andrew was able to tell us that the bulk of the coins were about 40% silver/60 % copper, that the two large gold objects were indeed 75 and 80% gold and that the bowl of corroded metal recently found at the hoard's lower edge was bronze! I want one! Sadly the machine is beyond our price range but are talking with Cranfield about one of their students or staff coming over periodically to do a 5% XRF survey of all the coins as they are cleaned. Hopefully Cranfield can also work with us to do a geophysical survay of the area where the hoard was found so that we can get our first idea of how the site relates to nearby buildings, roads etc.
There was one of those interesting moments when you get a glimpse of someone else's expertise when I was talking with Karl Harrison. There is a feature on the hoard's surface that is hard to see in photos but looks very much like a footprint when seen close up. I'd rather hesitantly put this idea to Karl, not wanting to look like a burk if I was wrong but he immediately said yes, he thought it was a footprint. Then in a matter of seconds he said it was a left foot, that the owner's other foot was outside the hoard pit, the man was bent down and that he'd been smoothing about 2-3cm of earth over the top of the hoard with his hand at the time. Very impressive, very Sherlock!