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Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Prestonpans Artefacts

Can Tony Pollard and Biddy Simpson equal Indiana and Cate?

It never disappoints to see a bit of swashbuckling and glamour on celluloid and Indiana and Cate Blanchett this month make archaeology the vehicle for the fun and games .... although there are always a few killjoys around like Claire Smith who professes at Australia's Newcastle University [see below]

click on Daily Telegraph cutting to enlarge

Such excitement and indeed controversy swiftly leads to thoughts of the upcoming fun and games this autumn here in The Pans when Scotland's leading battlefield archaeologist Tony Pollard joins forces with county archaeologist and veteran Pans digger Biddy Simpson [lately of Glassworks fame] in their Quest for The Prestonpans [1745] artefacts.

Our Thorn Tree Stump and more ....

The artefacts that the duo for the Trust are seeking probably lie beneath the neatly landscaped gardens of SE Prestonpans including Jacobite Way and Gardiner Terrace, Scottish Power's railway tracks and the farmed acres that straddle the old Waggonway that runs from Tranent to Cockenzie harbour. That is all except for one artefact which was officially smuggled out of town on the orders of the Earl of Weymss in the 1930s - the remains of the white thorntree beneath which Colonel Gardiner was believed to have been mortally wounded September 21st 1745.

The stump in question seems to be in two parts now, one sitting in a plastic bag in a warehouse in Leith [thus cared for by the National Museum] and the other on show in Fort William. Attempts at negotiating their peaceful cultural restitution have thus far failed. Daring raids on either or both locations are reported to be in the script of the new movie planned by Spielberg.

Community involvement in The Quest

The more prosaic fun and games arranged by the Trust this autumn are also sponsored by a Your Heritage Grant. And as with all activities the Trust and HLF are keen to involve as many members of our community as possible in this archaeological work. So, will all who aspire to be in the eventual movie or simply like digging their garden with an even greater sense of purpose than a row of radishes or turnips, please be in touch asap with the Trust's offices on 01875 819922, being the Prestoungrange Gothenburg, or by email here to

.... and in fairness to the truth, can we add that this autumn's archaeology will mainly involve metal detecting rather than careering around in mechanical diggers or desecrating the family lawn.

click on Sunday Times cutting to enlarge

Published Date: May 25th 2008

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