ISSUE NO 292 Edited by Peter Pickering JULY 1995
SATURDAY JULY 15 Outing to COLCHESTER with Tessa Smith and Sheila Woodward. (application form and details enclosed)
SUNDAY JULY 30 BOXGROVE, near Chichester.
We have, unexpectedly, through the good offices of Percy Cohen, been given a chance to visit Boxgrove, the Middle Pleistocene site where part of the tibia of the “Oldest European” has been found. The 500,000-year old tibia was associated with stone tools (biface handaxes> and butchered animal bones. Digging is continuing through this summer, but the site may have to be covered at the end of the season as the money is running out. So this is a unique opportunity to see this dig. At this late date we have not been able to lay on the usual organised HAMS outing, so interested members are asked to go in their own cars, offering lifts to as many people as possible. The site is near Chichester (West Sussex near to Goodwood House). Maps will be provided. No meals will be arranged – picnic lunches would be a good idea. After the visit (planned for 11 am) everyone will be free to visit other places of interest in the neighbourhood – Chichester, Arundel, Goodwood House and Fishbourne are all close and teas can be obtained there. Please fill in the enclosed form if you would like to come, June Porges will do her best to co-ordinate lifts.
SATURDAY AUGUST 19 Outing to SILCHESTER with Bill Bass and Vikki O’Connor
THURSDAY AUGUST 31 – SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 3
Long weekend away to DURHAM, staying at St John’s College. We are lucky to have obtained the help of Richard Brickstock, Curator at the University Museum of Archaeology. He will guide us during our stay, visiting Hadrian’s Wall, the current Roman excavation at South Shields, and other sites ranging from Roman to Industrial. Further details enclosed for members who have booked for this trip.
New members may find it helpful to be told that we do not acknowledge your outing applications – unless we notify you that the trip is full. You are welcome to ring Dorothy Newbury (0181-203 0950) if you want to confirm that your application has been received. The June trip was overbooked, and had 24 members on the waiting list, When this happens, those members have priority for the next outing. But please ring 0181-203 0950 straightaway if you want to take up this offer.
Ivor Leverton has resigned his membership after many years as he is no longer able to participate in our activities. We wish him well.
And, a reminder to the members who have not yet renewed their subscriptions – please do so!
Car Boot Sale at Edgware on June 4th. The weather was awful on the day Gill Baker, Gwen Searle and Tessa Smith struggled to dispose of left-overs from last year’s minimart. Nevertheless, they managed to make £30 which is a very helpful addition to our funds and was well worth the effort. Our thanks to them for braving the weather. Can we have any volunteers to run a table at the Cricklewood Car Boot Sale? We still have lots of surplus goods, particularly summer dresses which we can’t sell in October. Any volunteers ring Dorothy Newbury on 0181-203 0950
EXCAVATION REPORT – ST MARTHA’S CONVENT SCHOOL, MONKEN HADLEY (CTY95) by Roy Walker
A brief report on TRENCH 1 was made in last month’s Newsletter. The continued excavation revealed that the “wall” was only one course of brick and rubble and contained a piece of metal foil indicating its modern origin. This “wall” as found could have been a garden feature limiting the end of the path. It was placed on a brown clay with charcoal flecks which ran the full extent of the trench and overlay the natural (clay and sand), As mentioned previously, the stratigraphy varied either side of the “wall” showing the effects of cultivation on the mound (now lawn) side.
TRENCH 2 Extensive probing of the lawn had revealed in places the existence of a hard layer beneath. This trench, one metre square, was the first of three to investigate the nature of this feature.
The turf was lifted in three strips revealing a very dry, powdery, humic soil about 4cm deep. Beneath this was yellowy brown sand with some clay flecks, dry but firm. This 3cm deep layer contained pottery fragments, glass and ceramic building material. The hard surface was beneath this – a layer of pebbles covered the full 1 square metre area of excavation at a level of between 126.21 and 126.18 m OD. This is over one metre higher than the pebble layer found in Trench 1 (125.35 m OD) which has been interpreted as an earlier pathway based upon its location, At present the pebble layer in Trench 2 is tentatively regarded as a levelling or drainage layer for the turf. Brick and slate were associated with this layer.
The trench was then half-sectioned•reducing it to lm by 0.5m. The pebble layer (4-5 cm deep) rested upon 12cm of firm, light brown clay contaminated with soil intrusion possibly due to root action. Below this was a 4cm layer of yellowy brown sand containing brick fragments which rested upon a brown sandy/clay containing flecks of charcoal probably the same as context 108 located in Trench 1 although the Trench 2 layer is around 0.35m higher. This context was not excavated owing to the need to backfill and reinstate the turf but augering revealed a clay beneath, interpreted as natural by comparison with Trench 1.
TRENCHES 3 & 5 These further two trenches, dug to investigate the nature of the “hard layer” beneath the lawn produced similar results. In summary, the stratigraphy from the top was sandy clay beneath which was a pebble layer with a sandy brown clay matrix and patches of dumped clay. The lower layers were disturbed clay with sand beneath, interpreted as natural.
SUMMARY OF TRENCHES 2,3 & 5 The mound, a photograph of which formed part of the original research design, had been lowered to its present level and grassed over. The area we investigated was below the mound and contained no archaeology.
TRENCH 4 A further trench was dug on the northern edge of the lawn near to an existing classroom block to investigate the nature of a curved parch mark. This trench contained modern building material close to the surface thus reducing the depth of soil.
WATCHING BRIEF ON SITE OF NEW CLASSROOMS
The trenches for the floor beams for the new classrooms were machine-dug on 24th and 25th May 1995. The trenches around the perimeter basically followed the line of the previous sleeper wall with others crossing the site east/west and north/south linking the series of piles sunk over the previous seven days. The trenches were excavated with a half-metre toothed-bucket to a uniform level but the unevenness of the ground gave a depth range of between 1.90 and 0.40 meters. All the ground was disturbed -seemingly excavated and re-deposited during the construction of the now-demolished classroom block. The matrix was a dark brown clay/silt mix, loosely compacted, with patches of dumped brown clay. the higher layers contained building debris including bricks, window glass, lino tile fragments, ceramic tile fragments and broken glazed sewer pipe, but lower down within the walls of the trenches and embedded in the base were brick fragments, brick flecks, not all of which had been redeposited during the current building works. In places, at c20cm below ground level, redeposited turf was visible – in divots, not as an earlier land surface.
No cut features were observed within the sections but two pits were noted on the floor of two trenches at c70cm below surface level. They had a burnt clay infill, blue/black, containing charred treewood. An edge to these deposits was confirmed by trowelling although they could not be fully excavated and the full diameters could not be ascertained owing to containing by the sides of the trenches and truncation by the new piles. They were both in excess of 60cm wide. Within the top few centimetres were a clay pipe stem, modern crockery fragments, fragments of pottery (flowerpots?), a piece of bone and oyster shells. These features are post mediaeval or modern.
The floor of the new building will be suspended upon the beams laid in these trenches and it is therefore unlikely that there is any additional risk to archaeological remains not revealed by the current works.
Our investigation at the School has now been completed and our thanks go to the volunteers who assisted at weekends, and especially to the Headmistress for her helpfulness and co-operation throughout. A full report is now in preparation.
SITE-WATCHING AT HENDON CAMPUS, MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY, THE BURROUGHS, HENDON
During May, the South-East London Archaeological Unit (SELAU) undertook to watch earthmoving operations for the building of a new sports hail at this site, which is of archaeological importance particularly because of the finding, in 1889, of Roman material nearby, in what were then the grounds of Grove House, by Dr Hicks. According to the Borough’s Archaeology Adviser, Robert Whytehead of English Heritage, who attended the site for the earth-stripping, some remains of a gravel pit (possibly the pit the Roman finds came from) were revealed plus the fact that the surrounding area had been so much terraced in the past that no ground surface from Roman times remains.
HADAS had been asked by the contractors, at the beginning of May, to help by preparing “a programme of archaeological work in accordance with a written scheme of investigation” for approval by the Planning Authority before development. We did not feel able to take this on, and pointed out that we knew from our past excavation (Church Farm Museum) that on this slope an ancient land surface is overlain by slipped sandy soil from above,
and any archaeological recommendations would require detailed examination of the local geology as evidenced by records of previous works in the area, and of any changes made, plus consideration of the precise location, depth and likely effect of any ground disturbance for the proposed building. We suggested MoLAS, but in fact the contractors went to SELAU whom they had, I gather, used before. From copy correspondence I have seen, it is clear that our comments were passed on to SELAU.
THE PREHISTORIC SOCIETY SPRING CONFERENCE, PERTH
Myfanwy Stewart and Brian Wrigley
HADAS members were 4 out of the 32 prehistorians on this expedition to this land of (as some of us learnt for the first time) the Picts. Our visit coincided with the Parliamentary by-election and rumour was rife of famous (or notorious) national political figures being seen in the bar of our hotel. (Famous archaeological figures were of course commonplace!)
Our guides were from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and it was most instructive to be told about the sites by their excavators. Strat Halliday described the increase in recent years of knowledge of Scottish prehistory, with new scientific techniques of dating and aerial photography. We got a feeling of the excitement and enthusiasm of the Commission in its programme of newly-identified sites, (We Sassenachs were also reminded that, because of Scottish/Pictish success in limiting Roman incursions, prehistory here goes on later than in England!)
On the first day we visited some of the hill-forts of Strathmore (=”wide valley”). The former assumption that such forts are Iron Age is now becoming misleading, as thermoluminescence dates from forts in Scotland where vitrification has resulted from burning range from 2300BC to 1000BC. We saw 3 forts, the White Caterthun, the Brown Caterthun and, on the south side of Strathmore, Turin Hill. In each there are multiple earthworks, apparently not built at the same time, and suggesting activity over a long period with reconstructions from time to time for different purposes – quite possibly starting from Neolithic times.
The second day we went to the Balfarg prehistoric ceremonial complex, including a henge and remains of an earlier henge, mortuary enclosures, the Balbirnie stone circle with 4 cists, ring ditch and ring cairn, and sundry pits. Roger Mercer, who excavated the henge in 1977/8, told us that, at the time a housing estate was planned, what was known of the site was the 2 standing stones and a circular mark in air photography. The authorities recognised that archaeological investigation was needed, and excavation revealed a nearly complete circular ditch, originally with a bank outside, and inside it the holes for a timber-post circle and a later stone circle, of which the 2 surviving stones had been part. The building plan was changed, to preserve the henge, now encircled by a road with houses numbered “1 The Henge” etc, with a reconstructed circle of wooden posts.
The nearby mortuary enclosure has been partly reconstructed with wooden posts in the original postholes. This is thought to have been an examination platform for bodies before communal burial, and had been covered by a mound with ritual deposits when it went out of use, and surrounded by a henge-type ditch, part of which survives; this in turn went out of use when the great henge was made.
The Balbirnie stone circle has been re-set about 125 metres from its original site to allow for road-building. The earliest activity here was probably the deposition of pottery and burnt bone, before the construction of the great henge. Then the stone circle was erected some time after 3000 BC and after the henge. There are 4 burial cists. At some stage these were sealed with a cairn, but small deposits of cremated bone were inserted later into the surface of the cairn. It was impressive to see how the
pottery and other dating evidence have enabled the investigators to construct a sequence and time-table for the use of this ceremonial site during three millennia, from the early Neolithic to the late Bronze Age.
We then went to the fort and broth (a small diameter circular fortification) at Laws Hill, Montifieth (the broth may be 1st century AD, and later than the remaining segment of fort wall) and then to an underground chamber typical of the Angus area, a souterrain at Tealing -happily its excavation has left it open to the air, so we did not have to scramble underground to inspect it Its likely date is later 1st century BC or 1st century AD.
The third day was devoted to the 9th and 10th century Pictish sculpture for which this part of Scotland is renowned. More than 30 carved stones and fragments have been found in the Meigle district and many are in the Meigle Museum. Gazing at these splendid carvings, the uninitiated soon became familiar with the round mirrors, combs, serpents, fish and “Z rods” which typify this art form. We were intrigued by lions, elephants, a kneeling camel and a winged Persian god, while the horseman, foot braced in a pocket at the lower edge of his saddle cloth, demonstrated riding techniques at a time when the stirrup was unknown in Scotland.
The Pictish cross in Eassle Church is famous for its clear depiction of a cloaked warrior marching along carrying his spear and square shield. The cross is filled with interlaced designs and opposite the warrior is a finely carved stag. On the back of the stone, 3 cloaked figures are shown together with a typical double disc design, a Z rod and a mythical beast.
At Glam.’s, a cross slab in the Minister’s garden shows the two main aspects of Pictish art. On one face, the mirror, a fish and a serpent were very clear and, on the reverse, the cross is completely filled with complex interlaced designs. Reminders of the more violent aspect of life were two men facing one another, each armed with an axe, and the cauldron from which two pairs of legs protruded! We then walked with the Minister to the nearby sacred well and lunched in the idyllic setting of the river and gardens.
The St Vigeans Museum, in one of a row of weavers’ cottages, had more sculptures the most noted of which bore a rare Pictish inscription in Roman script, a hooded archer and the equally rare depiction of a crossbow
On the morning of day 4 we walked the 1820m of the Cleaven Dyke neolithic earthwork which was once thought to be of Roman date. Similar to a curses, its central bank, some 8-10m across and 1-2m high, is composed of linked dumps giving five breaks in all. The two flanking ditches, between 45 and 51 m apart, are also segmented and, like the dumps, each is slightly out of alignment. Limited excavation in 1993 revealed a construction technique of layers of turf and soil and a pre-monument hearth dated to 4,587-4,002 and 4,653-3,999 Calibrated BC. Work is now in progress to clear the woodland covering the earthwork and to annihilate the plague of rabbits which threaten the site. A new section has recently been put through the bank, a detailed survey is almost complete and further palaeoenvironmental work will be undertaken. It is hoped that all this will shed more light on this important earthwork and its relationship with the surrounding area.
In the afternoon was a field study of the complex series of ring cairns, stone circles, round cairns, but circles and the later earth and stone foundations of rectangular houses which are all to be seen in the Balnabroich landscape. The group extends over one square kilometre in terraine composed of rough pasture and higher moorland rising to 330m OD via a series of terraces and ridges. We tramped up through the heather, eyeing the black-face sheep and the snow on the distant corries, and grateful for the clement weather.
Day 5 began with the neolithic Pitnacree round cairn. Excavations in 1964 had revealed a rectangular stone mortuary enclosure in the centre of this impressive cairn. Dr John Coles, the excavator, added greatly to our
knowledge and enjoyment of the site. At Lundin he described the fourposter stone circle, incorporating a round cairn. The visit to Fortingall was prefaced by a warning to keep together and not stray on account of the bull and his retinue of wives who were in the vicinity! Fortunately the pleasure of seeing one of the few unploughed areas of land along the lower valley of the Lyon was unmarred. The long cairn, the ring ditch with its recumbent cup-marked stone and the mediaeval moated homestead again attested to the long-time settlement of the area.
A crannoch is a man-made island built out in the waters of a river or loch. At Loch Tay a replica is being built directly over the remains of the Iron Age crannoch which lies beneath the water. Based on the evidence obtained from the under-water archaeology, concentric rings of the tall tree trunks which support the platform have been set in position and lashed together using only techniques proved to have been used in the Iron Age. The excavations have yielded artefacts and evidence of construction methods. Amongst the finds were a wooden spoon and plate, with a wooden dish which, we were assured, still contained traces of ancient butter.
Some intrepid members went, via a raft, to the reconstructed crannoch, climbed the steep ladder and braved the alarming gap between the top of the ladder and the upper platform. Others watched the video made by Dr Nick Dixon and his team and visited the exhibition. All took tea and shortbread before leaving for our final site, the imposing Croftmoraig stone circle with cup-marked stones in the inner and outer rings.
THE ROMAN CITIES OF TUNISIA Peter Pickering
At the end of March we went on a week’s tour of the Roman cities of Tunisia. Africa Proconsularis was one of the wealthiest parts of the Roman empire, since it supplied Rome with corn, and much evidence of that wealth has survived the depredations of subsequent invaders. Although there is a clear family resemblance, each of the thirteen sites we visited has some distinctive feature. Bulls Regia, for instance, has two-storey houses, the lower storey being underground, perhaps for coolness; Thysdrus (El Diem) a very well-preserved amphitheatre, second only to the Colosseum in Rome; Mactaris massive baths; Sufetula a forum with three temples to each of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, rather than the usual single temple to the Capitoline Triad; and Thugga a theatre with stage-buildings, and a public square with a large compass incised on it, its twelve points each inscribed with the name of a wind.
Impressive triumphal arches are ubiquitous, but most impressive are the mosaics. Most of the figural ones (some very beautiful) are in museums, and most, except for El DJem, in the Bardo museum in Tunis; but many of the patterned ones in situ are very fine, The baths of Mactaris have one with a complex maze.
The Romans have a clear domination over earlier and later civilisations, though there is a Numidian tower tomb in Thugga, and the poignant remains of the tophet in Carthage – it seems much more likely to me that the Carthaginians sacrificed children than that they had such an affection for them that they had a special children’s cemetery. The Vandals have left little trace, but many places have the massive walls built by the Byzantines following their reconquest of North Africa; most evocative of these is the remote Ammaedara, with a church paved with crudely inscribed graves. Nor can one forget the holy city of Kairouan, its Great Mosque a veritable museum of Roman columns.
The sites are reasonably well looked after, and restoration is going on. There is also some excavation in progress, rather less professional than HADAS would achieve; at one site in Thugga we saw some pots and a Roman lamp being unearthed at the corner of a room. “Tresor” the diggers
said, and put them carefully on one side; but we were forbidden to take photographs. I do not think the dig was clandestine – there were several diggers, in full daylight – but it looked the next worst thing.
LONDON LOCAL SOCIETIES MEETING 15th May 1995 Brian Wrigley
I attended for HADAS this twice-yearly meeting organised by MoLAS, as an opportunity for exchange of information, ideas and problems on the working of archaeology in London. Brief summaries were given of work done recently by local societies and professional bodies (I contributed for HADAS). Some concern was shown about the working of PPG16 in London, seemingly sometimes varying between different planning authorities. SCOLA have been surveying this matter, and are expected soon to produce a report of findings and recommendations.
There was also some concern about units from outside London operating in London failing to keep in touch with societies; it was agreed that this Committee could be a useful forum to help on this.
Work done by statutory undertakers, not requiring planning permission and hence liable to be missed by archaeological watchdogs, was also raised, and it was agreed that all should keep eyes out on this, and report any failings to this committee who might be able to draw attention to the problem. (I am not aware that we have many such problems in Barnet, but it could be useful if members would keep an eye out and let me know of any things such as public utility roadworks in sensitive areas which might not have been spotted in planning applications.)
LIBRARY NEWS Roy Walker
We have recently received three Site Reports from MoLAS, which are available for loan upon application to Roy Walker (0181-351 1350) 1182-1228 High Road, Whetstone (Lawson’s Timber Yard)
Church Farm Industrial School, East Barnet
The Wimpey Sports Ground, Brockley Hill
As this last will be of interest to the Romanists in our membership, I set out the abstract to the Report:-
“Fourteen archaeological evaluation trenches were investigated in order to determine if archaeological evidence survived for the Roman road, Watling Street, and any associated Roman roadside settlement or pottery kilns as have been located to the north of the site in the area of the Scheduled Ancient Monument (Sulloniacae). In six of the trenches adjacent to the modern road a Roman road with a ditch on the west side was found directly below the topsoil. Limited investigation showed that the road had been constructed an a bank of clay and pebble layers, and had undergone periodical maintenance as indicated by a number of earlier layers of road gravels and recutting of the ditch when it had silted up. Dating evidence confirmed the road was in use into the 4th century AD. Early Roman pottery was of the type produced at Brockley Hill and the Roman ceramic building material was of fabric types produced in kilns found alongside Roman Watling Street. The Report concluded that these are significant archaeological remains of national importance and as such merit preservation in situ or full archaeological investigation where below-ground disturbance is unavoidable.
NORTH LONDON ARCHAEOLOGICAL LIAISON COMMITTEE MEETING Brian Wrigley
I attended this Committee for HADAS, and reported on our work since the last meeting. Reports from MoLAS included two Barnet sites, Church Farm Industrial School, East Barnet, where only the remains of the Victorian
school were found, and the rear of Tapster Street, Barnet, where signs of mediaeval activity were found but most of the area dug showed gravel pits. MoLAS produced a Publication Programme, some of the titles in which will be of interest to HADAS. Our Librarian, Roy Walker, has this list and will be on the watch for publication (though it should be said that the dates for the “finished drafts” go on to the year 2000!). Many of them are bound for the London Archaeologist or LAMAS Transactions.
There were also reports of work starting on the LAMAS project for archaeological survey of the Thames foreshore, for example in Richmond. There are encouraging signs suggesting that there is not so much disturbance by the river of deposits and artifacts as previously assumed and, for example, it could turn out that deposits of bronze weapons, formerly thought to have been ritually thrown into the river, were actually dry-land hoards later covered by a change in water-course.
We have just reprinted “Those were the Days”, our ever-popular booklet about Barnet between the wars. It was compiled at the end of the 1970s from tape-recordings by Percy Reboul, and the titles of some of its chapters (“The Brewer’s Tale; The Commercial Traveller’s Tale; The Postman’s Tale” give the flavour of its contents. If any new members do not possess their own copies, Dorothy Newbury will let you have one for £2.50 post free.
KINGSBURY MULTI -CULTURAL FESTIVAL
This will take place on the 8th and 9th of July in Roe Green Park Kingsbury Road NW9. There will be a “local history hail” at Holy Innocents’ Church Hall, Roe Green, and besides your favourite Society, the Grange Museum, Harrow Museum and the Church Farm House Museum, and local history societies will be exhibiting. The Wembley Observer will be displaying historical photographs from its archives.
TAILPIECE (From the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, via Private Eye)
Sally Morgan’s work explores the fragility of knowledge and the impossibility of certainty. You are invited to measure your heart and to understand what cannot be understood. You are invited to make truth immutable through the exacting processes of archaeology. The crypt will be open over two days, during which time you may enter the installation and, if you choose, excavate for meaning.
(Why then did not more of you members come along to excavate for meaning in St Martha’s Convent, Monken Hadley? – Editor)