by Mord Hrutsson
Keeping track of all the objects stored in an institution like the immense British Museum is a daunting task. The store-rooms of this museum are brimming with stuff that evan a hoarder trepidation. It is perfectly natural that some objects have been, sadly, misplaced.
Such was the case when intern Agnes Hald (1) was exploring one of these storage rooms instead of having lunch at the pub. Upon opening a cabinet whose pad-lock was so corroded some thought it an artifact, this intern found an whole series of objects that hadn’t seen light since they were put in there.
On the second shelf was a dust cover shoe box. Hald carefully took the box off the shelf. On the top cover faded writing in pencil said:
C W P; S. Piggot: Sutton Hoo: June 7, ‘39
Hald has said she could not believe her eyes. Still, the intern just as carefully put the box back in its place, closed the cabinet, and went to see her supervisor, Angela Carver.
Curator Carver understood that interns were allowed to “putter” about the museum storage rooms, so long as they were careful. For this reason, Hald’s report to Carver did not excite her. Conversely, taking a look would be a welcome respite from writing expense reports, which the Philistine Administrators demanded. Carver followed Hald to the box in question, read the writing, and made Hald promise to tell no one. After this, Carver opened the box.
Covered in tissue paper was a “scrunched-up” (2) object with a muddy reddish-brown color. The object was thin and torn. Carver concluded that whatever it was, the object was incomplete and very delicate. She also informed Hald that the artifact was either genuine or someone’s idea of a joke, and that she was going to look at C.W. Phillips and Stuart Piggot’s notes concern Sutton Hoo, which were kept in the archive. Hald began doing this the next day.
Meanwhile the object, box, tissue paper, and all were (literally) carted off to the Museum’s Conservation Department. Head of the Department, Mr. H. Maryon Jr. correctly identified the shoe box as being from the late 1930s or early 1940s (3) and was impressed by the writing on the top. As for the contents of the box, he said nothing, but made noises that he was intrigued. Finding a better storage area, Maryon promised “to get to it” as soon as he was done writing a long expense report for the Museum Administrators. He mentioned that figuring how to take the reddish-brown object out of the box was “going to be tricky.”
One month later Maryon Jr. reported that the object was not leather, as first thought, but textile. This was determined after technician’s x-rayed the object, and plainly saw the weave. Further preliminary tests determined the textile was cotton, not linen (which is what the lab-techs originally thought.).
Meanwhile, Hald (4) had been reading through the notes of both C.W. Phillips and Stuart Piggot, who had originally found the item and extracted it. After some time, Hald found the following entry in Phillips’ notes for June 7th.
—Item # 42: found near iron complex. FRAGILE. Leather? Left in situ.—
And on June 8th.
—Item # 42, Leather, extracted into shoe box from Miss Pretty. S. Piggot did excellent job.
Hald made a copy of these entries, and reported her findings to Carver.
The eventual publication of the find (5) caused discussion among the archaeological community in general. Among the textile archaeologists, the find was cause for great deal of argument. A few scholars (dubbed “The Localists”) argued that, despite the burial’s connection with Byzantium, the object had to be made of flax. This debate was summarized by Hald (6), which included what the textile should be called—the “tea towel,” or the “bar rag.” It should be noted that the “surfer theory of migration” was completely rejected (6).
As it stands now, the textile is thought by most to be made of Egyptian cotton, and was a conversion gift along with the spoons found in the burial. The purpose of the textile cannot be discerned, since most believe it is a fragment of the original object. Still, more study is required concerning the trade connections within Europe in the 7th Century.
- Hald, Agnes. “The Rusty Lock and the Cabinet.” Z-Drehen.Zietschrift fur Nerdigtextilvolk. Band 23, #87. (2024) ISSN: 0042-003X.
- Carver, Angela, and A. Hald, H. Maryon Jr. “A Rediscovered Item from Sutton Hoo.” Bulletin for Early Medieval Antiquities. Vol. 6, No. 1 (2023). ISSN: 0476-1066.
- Maryon Jr. H. et al. “Technical Aspects of Fragility, or How Do I Get This Out of the Box?” Newsletter for Museum Technical Stuff. (2025).
- Hald. Ibid.
- Carver, et al. Ibid.
- The Surfer Theory of Migration states that the cause migration is the continuous search for beach-front property. By the way, this work is a hoax, brought on by the need to buy a 2nd towel, lo these many years ago, when Martin Carver was kind enough to allow volunteers to help at Sutton Hoo. The author is thankful to Professor Carver for the opportunity, and hopes he gets a laugh if he reads it.
Many “thank yous” go out to everyone who submitted something for the April Fool’s “Fake Research – Real Writing” challenge. Thank you for taking the time to read, and enjoy, each and every one of these articles. Aunt Æthel and I were most amused to read the creative thoughts of our artisans. We will judge all of the articles after they have been all posted on the Æthelmearc Gazette, and then announce the winner who will have the rights to brag about their win for the next year to anyone who would listen. – Caleb