Recently, I went to a Flintshire country park – Wepre Park between Ewloe and Shotton. Within its grounds is the wonderful Ewloe Castle. On this particular trip we didn’t get to the castle, because we had a double pushchair filled with the twin girls and the main path to the castle required us to navigate too many steps. Still, we did spot an oddly shaped pile of earth. Walking around it, I suddenly realised, using my expert archaeological training, exactly what it was.
It was an effigy mound! Not only that, it might be the very first effigy mound found east of the Atlantic Ocean!
Academic immortality was mine! I could imagine the journal articles, the prizes, the glory. Not only that, I would get cool points for taking hyper-diffusionism and using it to empower disenfranchised native American communities. Showing them that Flintshire, perhaps even Merseyside too, was populated from the regions of the American Mid-West!
This is because the effigy mounds are an ancient form of geoglyph known from a wide distribution but particularly from the state of Iowa and the south of the state of Wisconsin in the USA and thought to have mythological significations and perhaps also roles as cultic and mortuary sites.
So could this be evidence of ancient migrations from Wisconsin or Illinois to Flintshire? And I alone, the first archaeologist to tread near this fascinating earthwork and notice was it was, see it for its true meaning, could I be its discoverer? Was academic immortality mine?
Of course not! My moment of discovery was joined in milliseconds by the realisation that this beast is not ancient but modern. Brand new in fact. Not only that, the beast featured is outside the standard pantheon of species found in the American effigy mounds.It is a monumental newt. In other words, rather than evidence of ancient migration to support my crazed neo-hyper-diffusionist theories, it is yet another monumental celebration of the conservation work taking place in the country park. This amphibious species are to be found in Wepre Park and the rangers came up with this idea for what to do with leftover soil following redevelopements. Indeed, the BBC have just announced a news story about the beast that you can read here.
I haven’t come across other examples of Iowa/Wisconsin archaeology in the UK landscape but would be interested to here about others around the country.