Just a quick preliminary post on work I hope to undertake next week – taking the Institute’s portable XRF machine out to take a peek at this beautiful Roman period military parade helmet.
I don’t have any pictures yet, because the ones I’ve seen are all copyright of Christie’s who are the auctioneer, but it’s the one on the front cover of the catalogue.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about the object. It was metal-detected in England, but obviously it’s not gold or silver so isn’t ‘Treasure’ so there was no way to ensure the museums got a chance to gather the funds to buy it. It’s gone from field to auction house in just a couple of months, which seems to have flat-footed everyone and made it pretty difficult for any of local or national museums to get together the funds necessary to buy it.
Of course, there’s also a good chance it will be too expensive for any of them to buy anyway. I guess the best case scenario is probably that a foreign museum buys it – there would at least be the chance of getting it on tour at the local museum. Worst case scenario it’s bought by a foreign collector, leaves the country and is never seen again.
Which is of course why we are trying to ellicit as much information as possible out of it in the time we have. Unfortunately the object has been ‘restored’ rather than conserved, so what you see in the catalogue is in fact a composite reconstruction of all the little pieces it used to be in. This makes it look great, but makes it much less useful for research. It’s bound to have been coated with something (similar to a varnish), which might make the pXRF less successful, and I’m going to have to be careful not to analyse bits of adhesive, or wax inserts.
Of course, there’s also the chance that I won’t find anything interesting at all! Fingers-crossed though, and I’ll update on Monday after I return.
EDIT – For some information on the actual helmet, rather than my distracted ponderings on the morality of such things, have a look at this page on of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (thanks Dan!). There’s even pictures of it in its pre-restoration form.