ISSUE No. 244: Edited by Vikki O’Connor JULY 1991
Saturday 13 July HISTORIC CHATHAM DOCKS & FORT AMHERST: Dorothy Newbury. (Details & application form enclosed)
Saturday 10th August NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGISTS DAY, HERTFORD To be confirmed next month.
Friday 30th August to Sunday 1st September WEEKEND IN NORWICH Fully booked, but no waiting list. Please contact Dorothy Newbury (081 203 0950) if you wish to go on the waiting list.
Saturday 5th October CITY WALK with Mary O’Connell
Saturday 12th October MINIMART at St Mary’s Church House, Hendon
A REMINDER ABOUT LAST MINUTE BOOKINGS – If you’ve been unable to book seats or get on the waiting list for a trip, it may still be possible to get a place due to eleventh hour cancellations and to people on the waiting list having made other arrangements. It is always worthwhile contacting the organiser the night before a trip – you may be lucky!
WHAT DOES ARCHAEOLOGY MEAN TO YOU?
THE COMMITTEE INVITES YOU TO USE THE NEWSLETTER TO PUT A PERSONAL VIEW
We have a number of members, some of them fairly new, who enjoy visiting a site, a lecture, an exhibition, but who may then wonder WHAT NEXT? It is possible they could feel a little excluded, left out, with no way forward or particular focus for increasing understanding. Our members who have found a way on can perhaps help by passing on their thoughts, experiences, ideas through the Newsletter.
What is it that especially draws you to archaeology? What would you miss most if it all went? Is it fieldwalking – trowelling – metal-detecting; flints – pots – bones; stones banks & ditches – hedges; Romans – early peoples; markets – deserted villages; surveying – drawing – photography …. or any other aspect?
You may have contributed to the Newsletter from time to time or never until now – let’s hear from you, say 500-600 words. No theses are required, and not necessarily orthodoxies. Should the editors have the luxury of a backlog they will advise of any delay in publication.
RURAL AND RIVERSIDE E JOHN HOOSON
On June 15, under a rain-threatening overcast sky, 55 members and friends left the urban spread of Barnet for rural Reading, or more precisely, for the Museum of English Rural Life of the University of Reading’s Institute of Agricultural History. When founded 40 years ago in 1951, rapidly increasing mechanisation and scientific development were revolutionising farming. The general introduction of tractors, combine harvesters, etc, resulted in horse-drawn carts and ploughs, tools and other farming paraphernalia, developed over centuries, being discarded and left to be forgotten and to rot.
The objectives of the museum were to rescue and preserve these disappearing artefacts of the Horse Age and to record the knowledge of farming practices while still contained in living memories. The thematic displays show the success of this timely action, with the objects well displayed, clearly labelled and explained where necessary by well-illustrated posters. The objects range from a multitude of farm carts of different type, frequently known by their county name, to rooms furnished in the style of circa 1860. There are displays concerning basketry, smocking, smithing, saddlery and many others. The most recent item appeared to be a 1947 Ferguson tractor which, nearly half a century on, looked as antique as any of the other-exhibits.
After leaving the museum, we took lunch by the river. The rain held off and we could enjoy the views of the Thames although we came under the scrutiny of countless inquisitive swans. We then boarded the “Caversham Princess” for a leisurely journey to Mapledurham, which lies literally on a backwater. The manor belonged to the Bardolph family who sold it to the Blounts in 1490. It has remained with that family although, following the termination of the male line in 1943, it passed through the eldest of nine daughters, who had married into the Eyston family, in 1863 to her son. The present owner is his grandson.
We were met on the landing stage by a guide who escorted us to St Margaret’s church which was begun in the 13th century by William Bardolph the younger. Following Butterfield’s 1863 “restoration” little original work remains visible although the south aisle built in the late 14th century and known as the Bardolph Aisle survives unaltered. It became the Blount family Catholic burial chapel and remains their private property. The family survived the religious turmoils by maintaining a low profile in these isolated parts but it was necessary to separate the Aisle from the Anglican church by building a stone wall although this was not possible where tombs lay across two of the arcades. The tomb of Sir Richard Blount and his wife is particularly fine. This is one of five Anglican churches in this Country with a Catholic aisle.
After describing the church our guide left us free to visit Mapledurham House and the watermill. The present house was commenced in 1588 and remains mainly unchanged apart from some alterations in 1828 and 1863. Taking advantage of the Catholic Relief Act 1791, a chapel was incorporated in 1797, built in the Strawberry Hill Gothic Style. The rooms on public display together with their original furniture, furnishings and family portraits provide a good impression of life in a manor house over the last 400 years.
The views from the windows were impressive but would have benefited with some sun. On the other hand, it was probably an advantage that mist enshrouded 20th century Reading on the horizon.
A watermill has been on the site since Domesday. The present mill, dating from the late 15th century, is the last one still working on the Thames. The taped description provided (inclusive in the ticket) gave a good account, of the mill with some interesting asides such as when the miller adjusted the critical speed of the wheel, he did so using the sound of the water without the need for meters.
Our thanks go to Ted Sammes, who as a Founder Member knows the correct ingredients and recipe for a successful HADAS tour, and arranged this excellent tour by land and water. As he had not selected the date, he was able to deny responsibility for the weather which fortunately provided very little water from above.
THE APRIL LECTURE ON JORDAN was given by Ted Sammes based on a holiday twelve months previously. Sadly there was only time for 40 slides from his 18 rolls of film. He began with some background information on the region, the Jordan Valley has always been a prized settlement area with fighting recorded since Biblical times. Main rock types found are limestone, sandstone and basalt. The Great Rift Valley runs through Jordan and resultant earthquakes are identified by archaeologists as destruction levels. We saw manifestations of the geological fault: in Southern Jordan a crater plugged with basalt; Zerka Ma’in, a canyon east of Madaba, Central Jordan has a series of some fifty hot springs and a waterfall with a temperature of 59° spilling into the largest pool. Herod the Great came here to ‘take the cure’, today it’s a popular modern mineral water health spa.
Deir ‘Alla (House of God) is the site of an ancient sanctuary overlooking the Jordan Valley 50km north of the Dead Sea. First settled in the late Bronze Age through to 500BC, it has a temple mound dating from c.1500BC which was not re-built after destruction by earthquake in 1200BC BC. However, Deir ‘Alla remained a holy place. Aramaic text on a fragment of 7thC BC wall plaster from a mud-brick wall mentions the Deir ‘Alla Sanctuary, apparently supporting the theory that it was separate from Hebrew influence during the Judean Kingdom. Ted was disappointed to see how trenches from the 1960’s excavation had been left open and were rapidly deteriorating.
Nearby Tell es-Sa’idiyeh is identified with the Biblical city of Zarethan where the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Jonathan Tubb had completed a 5-year dig for the British Museum two days before Ted arrived, and the finds were already boxed up. These subsequently formed part of the BM exhibition “Archaeology and the Bible” which ended this April. In case you missed this, there is a book of the same name by Tubb and Rupert L Chapman, price £7.95, and finds from the site will again be displayed at the Museum later this year. The site, comprising eastern Upper and western Lower Tells, was occupied from the Early Bronze Age, 3rd millennium BC, until about 700BC. A building in stratum XII in the upper Tell is identified as a 12th century BC Egyptian Governor’s Residency, with Egyptian building techniques: deep brick foundations and external double walls with a channel between for drainage. Excavation in the mid-1960’s by James Pritchard of the University of Pennsylvania revealed a staircase, Tubb continued on down to a small pool, confirming this was part of a water system. An interesting feature of the lower Tell was the cemetery associated with stratum XII, with “double pithos” burials where pottery coffins are made by joining two large storage jars at their shoulders.
North of Deir ‘Alla, on the banks of the Wadi Jirm, Pella was one of the cities of the “Decapolis” – ten cities built by Rome to defend their eastern empire. The site was continuously occupied for 10,000 years and, like Petra, prospered from being on two main trade routes. Named after the birthplace of Alexander the Great in Greece,
Pella is currently is undergoing a long-term programme of excavation and reconstruction. Part of the old town is unfortunately under a modern town, nevertheless, temples and a small theatre from the Greco-Roman period have already been reconstructed.
North of Amman another Decapolis city, Jerash, is one of the best preserved Roman cities in the world. The site was occupied in Neolithic times but Jerash (ancient Gerasa) is thought to have been founded by soldiers of Alexander the Great c.332BC. The city expanded early in the 1st century AD, but was abandoned in 747AD following a series of earthquakes and remained buried in sand over a 1000 years until re-discovery in 1806 by German explorer Ulrich Seetzen. Today it’s a big tourist attraction with regular Son et Lumiere performances and a two-week Festival of Culture and Arts each August. ‘Sights’ include Hadrians Arch (1291 130AD); the oval stone-walled Hippodrome; an oval Piazza; Zeus Temple complex; the “Cardo” – a colonnaded street with paving stones rutted by chariot wheels; a 2nd c. AD Nymphaeum (a public fountain with some original coloured painting remaining); Byzantine churches with mosaics, etc etc….
At this point Ted muttered something about “if you’ve seen one Roman Theatre you’ve seen them all”. Sacrilege! Perhaps Jerash has too much to digest at one sitting?
Amman, capital of modern Jordan, the site of one of the earliest farming communities 7000-6000BC, has a history of continuous occupation. This was another Roman Decapolis city, Philadelphia. The old city consisted of lower and upper sections. Worth visiting are the Forum and Roman 5,000-seat Theatre (still used today) in the lower area, and on Citadel Hill, the Temple of Hercules and fortress, which the Romans re-built. As a point of interest, Ted pointed out an unusual modern structure in. Amman – their “emblem”, a huge coffee pot the height of a two-storey building!
At the outer point of the Moab Mountains, Mount Nebo is a traditional site of the tomb of Moses. Franciscan excavations at Siyagha revealed a 6th century Byzantine church and monasteries containing many well-preserved mosaics. Nearby Madaba, dating from the middle Bronze Age, 2000BC is known as the city of mosaics. In the Greek Orthodox Church of St George is an exceptional mosaic – a map of Palestine showing Jerusalem with a gate and the street names in Greek. Madaba was destroyed in 614AD by the Persians then abandoned following damage by earthquake in 747AD.
No journey to Jordan would be complete without visiting the legendary rose-red city of Petra which was- re-discovered in 1812 by Swiss- explorer, John Burckhardt. In his day the journey would have been by camel or horse over mountain, stream and desert, but the modern road from Amman has removed some of the mystery with accessibility. It was first settled around 800BC by the Nabataean Arabs, and developed from a few cave dwellings into a wealthy city as the Nabataeans established their control of two major trade routes between Arabia and the Mediterranean, and the Red Sea and Syria. Roman expansion in the 1st century BC eroded the Nabataeans power and in AD 106 Palestine and Jordan were incorporated into the Roman Province of Arabia. Through Ted’s superb slides we were there – entering Petra via the “Siq”, the winding 1 km gorge through overhanging cliffs that change colour according to light, reflecting red, yellow, pink, purple. Emerging from the Siq one is confronted by a two-storey building carved in the rock, known as “Al Khazneh” the Treasury as it was thought the urn carved at the top contained a Pharaoh’s treasure. “Pot shots” taken at the urn by Turks and Arabs scarred it but proved fruitless, the building is in fact a royal tomb styled as a Greek temple.
As the valley widens you come to the Amphitheatre built by the Nabataeans but enlarged by the Romans (to accommodate 7,000 people) by cutting through houses and chambers at the back. Nearby is an ancient rock-cut stairway, now restored, lined with temples , houses and tombs and leading to Mt Nejr, the High Place of Sacrifice. Another climb from the Theatre via a Roman Road leads to a cliffside series of Royal Tombs. The area of the canyon is two square miles and there are over 800 buildings and façades still to be seen. Petra was gradually abandoned in favour of other cities, Jerash, Amman and Palmyra ai was uninhabited from the 3rd century AD save as a secret Bedouin refuge. In the 12th century Petra was captured by the Crusaders who built two fortresses but after Saladin’s victory in 1189 it was again abandoned.
5 miles north of Petra is Aklat, dug by Diana Kirkbride in the 1960’s. Earliest levels, c.7000BC are pre-pottery Neolithic. Ted’s guide noted there are less quernstones than a couple of years previously – it’s not easy to see how tourists could be “pocketing” them? The adjacent site of Beida has an entrance similar to the Siq at Petra and an ancient stairway leading to a lookout over the valley.
Wadi Rum, east of Aqaba, is littered with rock carvings in early Thamudic script made by long-gone travellers. Ted told us they were too poor to screen and by way of contrast showed some beautiful hibiscus blooms! Wadi Rum is an awe-inspiring valley with sandstone cliffs and pink and white sands. This was the route taken by T E Lawrence and Sherif Hussein on their way to fight the Turks in World War I.
Lawrence made a study of “Crusader Castles” as an Undergraduate; he continued adding to the work which was published in 1936 after his death, and an updated edition was published in 1988. The Crusaders built a chain of hilltop fortifications extending from Turkey through Jordan along the ancient King’s Highway, Amman to Aqaba, to guard the trade routes. In 1132 they built a fortress at the walled town of Kerak which Saladin took in 1187. Built on a precipice to accommodate several thousand people and animals the castle had many galleries with cross-vaulted ceilings. A museum has been made in one of the battlement passages and remains of a reservoir can be seen.
The “Desert Castles” in the desert area east of Amman had differing purposes: palaces, baths, caravan stations or farming centres. Ted mentioned three sites:
Azraq castle is built of black basalt, the front gate is one huge basalt block on two pivots. Earlier Roman and Nabataean structures were re-built by the Umayyads (7th/8t h century AD) and again in the 13th century by a Mamluke Governor. Azraq was the only oasis in the Eastern desert, hence the fortress. In the 20th century Prince Faisal and Lawrence used it as their HQ whilst planning their final advance on Damascus.
Qasr El-Kharaneh, another Umayyad building has two floors of 50 rooms each. This was possibly a “caravanserai”, it is square with a central courtyard with large rooms which could have been stables.
Finally, Qasr Amra, an Umayyad bath complex/palace, similar to the earlier Roman baths. The hydraulic system has a well, tank, pipes, with a series of dams and cisterns. Frescoes on the walls and ceilings have been restored and Ted found it unusual in the Muslim world as they were representations of human images with scenes of hunting, wrestling, dancing… Thank you Ted, for the magic carpet ride.
WEST HEATH AND LATER PROJECTS Victor Jones
In the June Newsletter I reported on the Excavations Committee’s review of this season’s possible programme. I had intended to include a short description of projects the Society completed in recent years for those of our newer members who may not know the scope of these activities, and for those who have missed one or more of the items.
Our more recent activities all followed what was the Society’s largest and most ambitious undertaking, the long and complex “West Heath” excavation. This project resulted from a very observant younger member of the Society noticing some man-made flint pieces whilst out walking. Further investigation and excavation revealed a Mesolithic hunters’ camp site dated to about 8,500 years BP, not long after the end of the last glaciation, situated at the edge of Hampstead Heath just outside Golders Hill Park. Many items of worked flint including a number of tools and weapons were found, and the working areas where these were made were traced. Aspects of prevailing local climatic and environmental conditions could be studied from residues of various plant, insect and pollen remains.
In the number of members involved, range of subjects studied, public interest shown and prestige generated for the Society, it exceeded anything else we have undertaken. The project proved to be a major task and a great deal of planning and organisation were required. The work was undertaken in two stages, the first from 1976 to 1981 directed by one of our Vice-Presidents, Daphne Lorimer. The second 1982 to 1984 by Margaret Maher, another senior and highly qualified member of the Society. The project was guided and supervised by Desmond Collins.
The report was delayed for some years due to various publishing problems, and deals with the larger, first stage of the project. It describes the processes used to investigate the camp of the Mesolithic hunting people. Included are a wide range of aspects of their lives and environment: climatic conditions; kind of shelters they probably used; weapons and tools; cooking techniques; plants and trees. The report also includes drawings and photographs, reflecting great credit to its authors and to the Society. The special members’ price is £7.00 (£8.00 with p&p) and £13 to the public.
In the year following completion of the West Heath project no major work was undertaken by the Society.
The Hadley Wood Earthwork
A detailed survey of the Hadley Wood earthwork was made in 1982/3. This is a quarter-mile approx. trench and residual bank in the north east of the Borough. It was rapidly being lost by motor-cycle and bicycle erosion. No evidence for the date of the construction could be found. Further investigation could be considered and possibly documentary research might be used to this end.
The Burnt Oak investigation
The first large project was commenced in 1986 on an open area site near the centre of Burnt Oak, and was rescue work in advance of proposed development of the site for a car park. It is near to Roman “Watling Street”, now the Edgware Road, and the field has a stream running through it. It was thought it could possibly have been a stopping place for water and refreshment for horse and man, and of course, Roman finds have been made in this district.
The investigation used resistance surveying, the results of which showed points of interest and subsequent exploratory trenching located several pits. Most of these contained pottery sherds and other materials, none of these earlier than Victorian time, and much modern rubbish.
Most members will know the term “Rescue”. It is used, as it suggests, to describe excavation to recover any possible archaeological remains before building development disturbs the site.
Another newer term coming in to use is “Archaeological Assessment” . This describes the archaeological sampling of a site before planning consent is given, and then (with safeguards) leaving it below the new building for future, and perhaps better, archaeologists to find.
The Chipping Barnet, Spires Centre Project
This was commenced in 1987 arid continued into 1988. It was also a “Rescue” excavation, in advance of the building of the large central shopping precinct and new public library for the area, now completed and forming the new centre for Chipping Barnet.
It was undertaken to see the early building and/or remains of the original 12th century market which might be in this area. A number of exploratory trenches were dug as sites became available, as the very large-scale project proceeded. These were on the east side of the site as near as possible along the line of the old Great North Road and as close as we could get to the rear of the buildings along the road.
We found black, well-cultivated type soil about one metre deep on all sites. All had much modern and Victorian pottery and other remains, and a few late Georgian items.
We concluded that the area had long been used for cultivation, so it is unlikely that Chipping Barnet extended much further north of St Johns Church on the west side of the old Great North Road.
The Brockley Hill 1987 Project
During 1987 a two-months “Rescue” project was undertaken at Brockley Hill on the field to the east side of Watling Street, where the Society had on earlier fieldwalks found Roman pottery etc. This was in advance of the then proposed route of The Rivers pipeline, finally dug in 1990. A trench was dug across the route and exposed a road surface about 0.5m below the soil level, approximately 100 metres south of the present pipeline.
This road was judged to be a Middle Ages Roman-Road-bypass, perhaps at a time when this was unusable. Roman pottery, tile and brick had been found during previous exploratory fieldwalking. In the dig some medieval material was recovered. Later fieldwalking found Neolithic worked flint, and some possibly used tools and arrow head. Further areas in which flint fragments occurred were noted but could not be searched as the crop in the field was already too high to allow this.
The Hendon Ice House
In 1988 an Ice House in the grounds of St Joseph’s Convent School, Hendon was excavated. It had been suggested by former pupils of the school that there was a possible underground connection with the nearby St Mary’s Church. A large effort was made to remove a great volume of rubbish and soil accumulated within a large oval chamber about 10 ft high by 7 ft diameter.
What we had found was an ancestral version of the modern refrigerator as used in Europe from the 15th to 17th centuries and tracing back to possibly Greek origin as Alexander the Great is said to have used one. (Industrial archaeologists please note!) It uses the best available insulating methods – evaporate cooling, as do modern refrigerators.
More remarkably, we learnt of others in nearby Hampstead and other parts of London. The Hendon version is similar in size and design to one built for Charles II in the 17th century, situated in Green Park. Another of the same type is preserved and open to view in Kew Gardens, and was also built for Royal use.
The Hendon Ice House was well built and in good condition. We hoped to get it preserved as a feature of interest for the area (next to the Town Hall), but so far have had no response. Unfortunately we did not find evidence of its construction date except by association with the date of the rather late rebuilding of the nearby Grove House in the early 19th century. It’s presence seems to put the Hendon Manor in very good company as many Royal and “Great. Houses” of the Aristocracy had them in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Whetstone Tudor House
In 1989 we were asked to investigate a house in Whetstone next to one we had studied some years previously which had been beautifully restored by a Whetstone building and development company. We quickly commenced the house study and an excavation in the grounds at the back of the property. The internal construction indicated an earlier construction date than suggested, and the excavation indicated that the house had at one time extended further to the rear by one or more structural bays. The excavation and the documentary studies were completed and proved the house was earlier than the listed date and was probably built in 1495.
English Heritage were this year called in to draw the timber roof structure and this explained why the document sometimes referred to two adjacent cottages and sometimes to three. It appears that these and the adjoining cottage were at time jointly owned.
An excavation near St Mary’s Church, East Barnet
This project was also undertaken in 1989, a result of a collapsed well-cover on the site of a farm cottage adjacent to the Church. The collapse was found to be in the capping of a well, and further excavation of the cottage area found Victorian construction with a natural soil level below.
East Barnet remains an enigma. The church is very old (earlier than St John’s in Chipping Barnet), and is a Dependency of St Albans, but there is no trace of the village community which it might serve.
The Mitre Inn, Barnet
The-Mitre is said to be 17th century and is the only example now left of the 100 or more public houses and inns which were Barnet’s Main activity in pre-railway times.
The project commenced in September 1989 and was undertaken in advance of development of land at the rear of the Mitre. We had much help from Barnet Museum and the Local History Society.
The ground here has a natural slope and had been built up and surfaced to provide vehicle standing. Clearance was a considerable problem, taking several weeks. It was necessary to dig through various layers of tarmac and brick rubble to reach the first Victorian building remains, then deeper still to earlier construction. We found various 17th and 18th century pottery sherds. Below this was a deep stony soil layer containing mainly Medieval pottery fragments of 11th to 13th century date. Among this material was also found some datable Roman material. This, together with similar items found in an earlier dig in the area, may indicate some Roman connection. The project continued throughout 1989.
The “Charity House”, 19/25 High Street, Barnet
In 1990 a site on the opposite side of the road to the Mitre was being cleared for,
development. This was a somewhat disturbed site, however we found several small
undisturbed areas with pottery of 12th to 14th century date as well as later materials.
A further 1990 project was to watch the Three Rivers pipeline construction which has been described in recent newsletters. Copies of these are still available if required.