NEWSLETTER 215: February 1989 Editor: Liz Sagues
Tuesday, February 7 ALEX WERNER on London’s Dockland – Its.
Archaeological Discoveries and Potential.
Alex Werner works for the Department of Working History and Museum in Docklands Project. He led us on an excellent day trip to Dock-lands in July last year. By popular request we asked him to come over to Hendon and tell us more. This is an opportunity for members who missed out on the trip to come to see slides and to hear Alex Werner talk on this huge area, so near yet so unknown to many of us. HADAS will have a permanent attachment to the Docklands Museum as it has taken the winding gear rescued from Barnet for inclusion in the display when the museum is finally set up.
NEWS OF MEMBERS.
Serious swordplay: HADAS secretary Brian Wrigley will be briskly rousing post-lunch slumberers at the second day of the Prehistoric Society Spring Conference (April 1 and 2) with a demonstration of the use of Bronze Age weapons – a rare skill he displayed to HADAS members briefly at last year’s AGM. An ex-fencer, he explains that ancient warfare was a logical combination of two interests. “No-one knew anything about the use of old weapons, so I started doing something about it myself.” Using wooden models, he will demonstrate attack and defence techniques and will argue that without practical understanding of how weapons work, study of their development lacks a solid, factual background. Theme of the conference, at the Department of External Studies, Oxford University, is War and Prehistory.
On stony ground: Myfanwy Stewart will be the first speaker at the 26th Annual Conference of London Archaeologists, organised by LAMAS at the Museum of London on March 11. Her subject is to be Recent Surface Flint Collection from Brockley Hill and her talk will be complemented by a HADAS stand, as usual. Final details of lecturers and ticket applications will be published in the March Newsletter, but meanwhile Victor Jones (458 6180) will be glad of offers of help with the stand.
Much other news of members, sadly, is more depressing. Mrs Crossley, who we congratulated last autumn on reaching the age of 103, died after Christmas after a short spell in hospital. John Enderby went to the funeral.
Mrs Jacqueline Morgan, wife of Eric Morgan, has sadly died at the early age of 47 after several months in hospital. Both she and her husband often came on outings and Mr Morgan attended lectures.
Mrs Tallant, formerly a regular at lectures and on outings for many years, has been involved in a bad fire in her flat, suffering severe burns which have necessitated amputation of both legs above the knee. Although over 80, she was still very active and as recently as November had spent a holiday in Malta. She is progressing well in Mount Vernon Hospital, is very cheerful and is looking forward to being provided with a special chair.
‘PETER’ GRIMES: THE FIRST RESCUE ARCHAEOLOGIST
Professor W.F. “Peter” Grimes, HADAS President since 1965, died on Christmas Day, aged 83. HADAS sends deepest condolences to his widow – and recalls happy memories of April 1982, when he gave a presidential address on the occasion of the society’s 21st birthday. His subject was Prehistoric Burial Rites in Britain and, in the words of the Newsletter report, “he gave us an expert and exciting survey of prehistoric burials and the information they provide about the central role of death in the life and religion of the people”.
Seventeen months later, Professor Grimes led a HADAS group during two days of a long weekend in Wales – including a memorable climb in the Prescelly Hills in “stinging sleet” and “the full blast of a gale… it was the worst mountain weather ever remembered by the Professor himself”.
HADAS chairman Andrew Selkirk contributed an obituary of Professor Grimes to The Guardian, which is reproduced in part below:
W.F. “Peter” Grimes is best known as the uncoverer of one of the most spectacular Roman discoveries in London since the war, the temple of Mithras.
During the late war, he was seconded to the Ministry of Works and became the country’s first rescue archaeologist. Rushing round the country salvaging what archaeology he could from the construction of wartime aerodromes, his most notable discovery was the unique Celtic temple that be found under what is today the main runway of Heathrow Airport.
From 1945 to 1956, he was director of the London Museum, but his most important work was as the honorary director of the Roman and Medieval London Excavation Council, and from 1947 to 1972 he salvaged archaeology on the bomb sites of war scarred London. Though the Mithras temple was his most spectacular discovery, his more important work, to the archaeologist, was the discovery of the Cripplegate fort, a fort attached to Roman city which remains unique in the Roman world outside Rome itself.
In 1956 he was appointed director of and Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology. The previous director, Gordon Childe, was a brilliant scholar but no administrator, and Grimes was chosen to rectify the situation.
Under him the institute entered its most successful phase, doubling the number of staff and tripling the number of students. The major change came in 1956 when it opened its doors to undergraduates, and during his long tenure it became a centre of archaeological technique and expertise. After his retirement in 1973 Grimes returned to his beloved Wales where he served with distinction as chairman of the Dyfed Archaeological Trust and continued teaching and his excavations at regular summer schools.
His administrative abilities saw to it that he served on the councils of, and indeed as chairman of, virtually all the major archaeological societies, and with his dapper charm and the frequent flower in his buttonhole he adorned every committee he sat on.
It would be too easy to describe Grimes as a talented administrator who had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time, for in so many ways his career foreshadowed what has gone since. In his work during the war he became the first rescue archaeologist and his work in Roman London paved the way for today’s highly successful unit at the Museum of London. Above all, with that twinkle in his eye, he made archaeology a happier discipline.
A personal tribute comes from Anne, Julian and others who excavated with him:
Besides Peter Grimes’ many professional talents and achievements his personal qualities were equally outstanding. He was an excellent and polite communicator, and an amusing after-dinner conversationalist, but the depth of his character always showed itself in his skill at directing an archaeological excavation.
He had a natural leadership ability, disguised behind his relaxed and pleasant style, to elicit hard work, loyalty and much dedication from the many volunteer archaeologists he directed. His personality assisted them to forget the many discomforts of excavating and he gave them his full personal attention, making each individual feel an essential part of the dig. He had mastered inspired leadership without domination.
We shall miss him, because of his extreme kindness and his charming manners over the 12 years that we were at Dale in the summer time.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Percy Reboul
My father died at the age of 78 just before Christmas. He was not a member of HADAS and the only reason I presume to write this obit is that HADAS was directly responsible for making him into a supersalesman and well known as an authority on the history of Whetstone.
It started a decade ago, when I recorded his memories of working as a milk delivery boy for the Al Dairy over 60 years ago. This appeared in the Newsletter, made the columns of the local rag and eventually went on to the ultimate accolade of being included in Brigid Grafton-Green’s Money, Milk & Milestones.
Flushed with success (and to my astonishment) upon retirement at 65 he began to lecture on the history of Whetstone to schools, WIs, old people’s clubs and the like. Many letters among his papers testify to his relaxed, warm and witty style. His philosophy, he told me, was simple: “As long as you give the audience the right dates,” he observed, “they don’t doubt that you know everything else.” I haven’t yet made up my mind about this…!
At the same time, he released his wonderful collection of photographs of old Whetstone to the local newspapers which brought him letters and comments from all over the world.
Finally, he developed techniques for selling HADAS publications which are an object lesson for us all. I would describe them as classic tinged with eccentricity. It was not unknown, for example, for him to board a bus and follow the conductor down the gangways offering HADAS publications when tickets were being dispensed and money was to hand. How he would have loved the Barnet Press headline “Mr Whetstone dies”. I know I did.
STAIRWAYS TO THE STARS
Betty Jacobs reports on the January lecture
HADAS celebrated the New Year with a flourish and a full house, inviting George Hart, well known for his gallery talks and lectures at the British Museum, to describe the Pyramid Age in Ancient Egypt, spanning the first half of the third millennium BC – the first flowering of Egyptian civilisation.
Chronologically, this follows the unification of the two lands, the Delta and the Valley, around 3100BC under Narmer (Menes) King of the South. This highly-significant event is recorded on the Narmer Palette with its representations of Narmer as King of Upper and Lower Egypt and pictorial descriptions of his conquest.
The kings of Dynasties I and II (of the Old Kingdom) were buried in mastabas, table-topped shafts lined with mud brick and roofed over with protective limestone. In Dynasty III King Dzozer and his architect Imhotep created the Step Pyramid at Saqqara by building, in limestone, a tiered series of six mastabas of diminishing area, symbolising a 60-metre-high stairway to the heavens, and surrounded by a vast wall enclosing many festival buildings and storehouses. This pyramid, the first known stone building, marked a dramatic change in the architecture of the world.
On a practical level, this achievement is awesome, but magic had its place too, for all but one of the entrances are dummies and the famous statue of Dzozer seated in his serdab has two holes at eye-level, to keep watch – or to inhale incense.
Though Dzozer’s complex was never repeated, other pyramids followed. We saw evocative slides showing the development from the Step to the true pyramid. That at Maidum, which may have been started by Huni, last king of Dynasty III, and completed by Sneferu, his son, first king of Dynasty IV, demonstrates vividly this transition. Its outer casing slipped and much of the pyramid collapsed probably 1,000 years after its construction. The remaining upper tiers stand among the mass of fallen material, showing the inner steps which would have been faced with limestone to create a true pyramid.
Sneferu built at least three pyramids, one, the Bent Pyramid, so-called because of its changed angle of inclination. That change remains of mysterious origin – did the king die unexpectedly, limiting the building time, or was the original angle too steep for stability – or, most probably, does the double angle symbolise the duality of Ancient Egypt?
The first true pyramid surviving is the Northern pyramid at Dashur and from it we came to the Great Pyramids of Giza – those of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, with smaller pyramids for their queens. The still-complete Great Pyramid of Khufu was built on a scale never equalled and exemplifies the power and determination of the king and also the consummate skill of its creators.
Its casing having been shed, the precise apposition of the 21/2 million limestone blocks is clearly visible. Unusually, the sepulchre is in the superstructure. The gallery has a graffito date which confirms its origin.
Beside this vast pyramid there were at least two boat-pits. The boat in one of them has been reassembled to occupy a specially built museum nearby. This beautiful boat, the oldest of its kind in the world, is wholly functional, for there is evidence that it had been used, perhaps to convey Khufu to his last resting place. The craftsmen who built it had only the simplest of tools – adzes, saws, stone pounders and blades of beaten copper, no bronze, no iron, no pulleys.
Nearby is the pyramid of Khafre (Chephren), whose splendid statue of diorite shows him protected by the wings of a hawk and seated on a throne with the entwined papyrus and lotus, heraldic plants of Upper and Lower Egypt. He is also the king of the famous Sphinx of Giza.
The third pyramid at Giza is that of Menkaure, with its base of granite slabs and the gashes made by treasure seekers. In fact, all the pyramids had been robbed by 2000E0.
Menkaure’s pyramid, being much smaller than the others at Giza, heralds the beginning of the demise of the Pyramid Age of the Old Kingdom. In Dynasties V and VI, pyramids became amorphous heaps but texts inscribed in them give us the world’s first literature, spells of the ritual of the royal cult. In association with the pyramid of Unas, the last king of Dynasty V, there is the evidence of the huge causeway of inscribed blocks linking the mortuary temple with the valley temple on the river, where the king’s embalming may have been performed, from which the funeral procession would leave and where building materials would have arrived by river.
The king, paramount in power, was surrounded by courtiers, who were rewarded by him with tombs and statues. They were buried in mastabas, often close to the king’s pyramid. Stelae give details of their names and titles and show family groups united for eternity, listing pictorially and numerically their requirements for the afterlife. They are represented in the prime of life, as they wished to be for ever.
So the preponderance of evidence from tombs speaks not of morbid associations, but rather of the Egyptians’ hope and expectation that life in the hereafter would continue to be enjoyed. Idealist representations are at times tempered with a touching reality, as in the stela of Seneb, keeper of Khufu’s wardrobe, who sits cross-legged, with his son and daughter occupying the space beneath him and disguising his dwarf stature, while his wife sits full-size alongside.
We saw slides of scribes, all-important in Ancient Egypt, where everything was counted and recorded. Their part in the organisational management for the building of pyramids is obvious. For this was not a land of slaves. The annual inundation meant that the mainly agricultural population was unable to work on the land for four months each year. This labour was utilised annually for the building of pyramids during these months – the regular pyramid workforce of 4,000 swelled temporarily to 50,000. They were well treated, supplied with basic rations of bread, beer and onions, water supplies were protected and they were rewarded in kind.
Other slides showed feasting with dancing and music, hunting and domestic scenes with a love of flora and an unmistakable appreciation of their animals.
From this zenith of a civilisation lasting some 3,000 years, George Hart brought to us such a wealth of information and interest that we understood, as he said in his opening remark, why the Egyptian galleries, with the Elgin Marbles, are joint first destination for 99 per cent of the annual four million visitors to the British Museum.
INTO A LAND OF FANTASY
Peter Pickering explores Cappadocia and South-Eastern Turkey
Last autumn we spent a fortnight in Ankara, Cappadocia and South-Eastern Turkey, using public transport and hotels varying from international top-class to scruffy. Here are a few highlights.
The landscape of Cappadocia is truly fantastic, with the tufa produced by Mount Erciyes long ago now carved by water and wind into gorges, pinnacles and cones. Into these hundreds of churches were carved and decorated with frescoes during Byzantine times. Natural decay, vandalism and desecration have taken toll, but the Turkish authorities are making great efforts to protect and restore them: such are the benefits of tourism, though too large numbers of visitors are also a threat.
The frescoes are remarkably varied, in date, style and context, with several scenes inspired by apocryphal gospels. Oldest were some childish drawings of birds and monstrous insects in red, which one authority thinks were Byzantine military standards.
We also visited two whole cities dug underground, with passages on up to eight levels, as refuges from invaders during the troubled history of these parts.
Next, we visited the mountain sanctuary of Nemrut Dagi, built by the megalomaniac Antiochus I of Commagene (64-32BC). The minibus ride up the mountain from Malatya took six hours, including one minor and one major breakdown. We were thus almost late for the sunset on the western terrace, but in the morning – after a night in a simple hotel – saw the full glory of the sunrise from the eastern terrace.
The giant headless statues on the side of the central tumulus, and the fallen heads below, most with pointed hats and curly beards, are unforgettable, as are the faces of the majestic and inscrutable, but endearing, eagles.
The south-east was really too hot for us. But the massive walls of Diyarbakir, the Amida in which the historian Ammianus Marcellinus was besieged in 359 by the Persian king, were great compensation. And in Urfa we sat by pools full of carp sacred to Abraham, visiting the cave where, legend has it, he was born and the place where the wicked emperor Nemrut threw him into the fire.
We went through the northern part of the Fertile Crescent – the reality of tells coming home to us – to Harran, with its strange beehive houses and its ruins all around. How are the mighty cities fallen! Finally, Mardin, still off the tourist trail, but with fine buildings of the various Moslem dynasties who ruled there in medieval times. Nearby is a Syrian Jacobite monastery, very neat and tidy, unlike some of the churches in Diyarbakir which testify to eastern Christian communities whom time is passing by.
Central and South-Eastern Turkey are full of monuments. The museums are good. Prices are low. The people are friendly – trust the self-appointed guides (some do not even want a tip, or to sell you a carpet). Some women are emancipated enough not to wear head-scarves. The food is good – though at the very end we had some which did not agree with us. Visit the area.
THE EMPEROR’S MONEY MARKET
Liz Sagues reports on a lecture given by Andrew Selkirk to the Society of Antiquaries (reprinted from the Ham & High)
Roman London was no ordinary provincial city of the empire, democratically run. It was the emperor’s private property, a free zone where entreprenerus were at liberty to go about their money-making activities as they wished.
With that argument, Andrew Selkirk, editor of Current Archaeology, aimed to upset the archaeological establishment. He contended that archaeology had become “dull, boring and, worst of all, soggy”, too bureaucratically-oriented and increasingly out of touch with popular enthusiasm for the past.
His controversial thesis on Roman London – the central “lollipop” of an example in a broader discussion of monetarism and archaeology – was one reaction to that. But it wasn’t a new theory, he pointed out. Tacitus had said London was not a colony, but full of traders, and the Greek geographer Ptolemy had called it a city of the Cantii, from Kent.
Most self-governing Roman towns, he explained, were ringed with villas, the homes of their town councillors. London had none. Its basilica, the largest Roman building north of the Alps, was far too big for a normal Roman town and its “parallels must be found in Rome itself”. “London clearly was not an ordinary Roman town. But what was it? The answer I believe is that London was the emperor’s private property, part of the imperial domain. Once this is accepted everything falls into place.” And it became, he added, “a free zone in which entrepreneurs could get on with making money without any interference from local authorities”.
Money, he said, was the key to the middle revolution of the three that were critical to understanding the past. Between the neolithic revolution and the industrial revolution came that of the Greeks and Romans – in which the Greeks provided the world’s first market economy and the Roman empire was the first victim of inflation. A satisfactory explanation of that and of the succeeding 2,000 years, plus a new “symbiotic relationship” between archaeology and the present age, was essential to bring back “some of the excitement and some of the controversy into archaeology”, he said.
But despite his description of his lecture as a Christmas cracker, the archaeological luminaries in the audience seemed reluctant to pull it. While Ralph Merrifield, doyen of London archaeologists, described Mr Selkirk’s theory as “very one-sided”, he admitted there was a “great problem” about the city’s status.
EXCAVATION IN 1989
Calling all diggers – young, old, experienced or novice
With the amount of development currently going on in the Borough of Barnet, we have to be prepared to get in quickly on redevelopment sites if valuable archaeology is not to be lost – readers will remember the heart-rending story of Chipping Barnet High Street told by Jennie
Cobban in Newsletter 213! We still have hopes of digging, this year, in Chipping Barnet and also at The Burroughs, Hendon; both are places which we think important for their good prospects of finding remains of medieval settlement.
We need to be ready to call up a team when the chance of digging occurs – so if you want to be in on this please write or telephone
Brian Wrigley or Victor Jones
21 Woodcraft Avenue, NW7 2AH 78 Temple Fortune Lane,
(959 5982) NW11 7TT (458 6180)
Please don’t be reluctant because of lack of experience – it’s the very purpose of this society to enable complete novices to join in a useful dig to learn at the side of other diggers. We hope shortly to prepare a small leaflet of advice to new diggers.
The committee recently had occasion to discuss this topic, and it was generally felt we should adopt a positive attitude. It was agreed that we should encourage the use of metal detectors under suitable archaeological supervision in appropriate situations, and it would be sensible to initiate investigations ourselves making use of them. The sort of situations in mind were examining spoil heaps (archaeological or building ones) or plotting concentrations of metal on new sites.
As a start, it would be interesting to know how many members have a metal detector available. If you have, and would be interested in using it on HADAS sites, please let Brian Wrigley (address and phone number on previous page) know.
AN ORIGINAL QUESTION
Bill Firth (49 Woodstock Avenue, NW11 9RG, phone 455 7164) has a plea for help:
I have been asked about the derivation of the name Silk Stream and if it has any connections with the silk industry. My, admittedly scanty, records of Hendon do not tell me. Can anyone help, please?
ORDERS TO CHANGE
Membership secretary Phyllis Fletcher reminds all members that, from April 1, new subscription rates apply: £6 for members aged 18 to 60, £4 for members under 18 or over 60, £2 for dependent relatives residing with a member and £8 for corporate members.
All those members who pay by standing order should complete a new form – sent with this issue of the Newsletter – and send it on to their bank as soon as possible, certainly before April 1.
Several series of courses of archaeological interest run at the City University, EC1, during the coming months. First to start (10 meetings weekly, Tuesdays 4pm to 6pm, from February 22) is Britain Before History, by Brian Oldham, on the archaeological evidence for the ritual, social and economic development of people in Britain.
Inquiries to: Extra-Mural Studies, Centre for Continuing Education, City University, Northampton Square, EC1V OHB (253 4399, extensions 3268, 3252).
Down on the farm, at Butser Ancient Farm, the 1989 course programme ranges from General Experimental Archaeology to Pollens or Fire, Clay and Metal, the six-day courses running through from late March to late October. Fees, including full board, are normally £95. Details from: Dr P.J. Reynolds, Director, Butser Ancient Farm Project Trust, Nexus House, Gravel Hill, Horndean, Hants (0705 598838 – office).