ANOTHER RESISTIVITY PROJECT FOR THE NEW YEAR IN BARNET; BARNET GATE WOOD MEADOW TREE PLANTING
BRIAN WRIGLEY writes; The English Heritage advisor to the London Borough of Barnet, Robert Whytehead, has notified us of proposed tree-planting by the Forestry Commission at Barnet Gate Meadow (close to the junction of Hendon Wood Lane and Barnet Road, near Arkley), and suggested we might monitor the ground disturbance. We have suggested that preliminary levelling and resistivity surveying might be useful in showing up any anomalies in the surface or subsoil, indicating areas of possible interest. Barnet Borough, owners of the site, would be more than happy to allow
this, and we understand that planting will not start until March..
There is a fairly large area (something like 300 X 40 metres) to cover, for which resistivity testing may take several full days’ work, which needs to be done before the planting starts, so we need help from as many members as possible. Would any members who would like to take part please contact me on 0208 959 5982 or Vicky O’Connor on 0208 361 1350 (Note those new area codes – Ed)
HOT NEWS UPDATE Several of the ‘Digging Team’ ventured up to Barnet gate on a cold and clear Sunday 16th January for a preliminary reconnaissance. It is a very pretty spot, a long, narrow undulating pasture field running down towards the Dollis Valley, with a band of trees on both sides. The low winter sunlight revealed possible ridge and furrow to one side of the field (or is it tractor marks?) and the first few pegs of a base line were laid in and the nearest bench mark located. The
Gate pub is readily accessible for lunchtime refreshment, and the local woodpecker was in good form, thankfully avoiding our ranging poles on this occasion. Brian reports that five members visited on Wednesday 19th Jan, making three runs across the field with the resistivity meter, and getting some
interesting readings – Ed.
UPDATE II – LISTING BUILDING
Local drinkers will be dismayed to hear that the RISING SUN public house, Highwood Hill, a listed building, was hit by a bus (from the uphill direction !!) on Monday 17th and badly damaged.
Tuesday 8th February LECTURE; Armageddon; A History of Megiddo by Sam Moorhead
Meggido is thought to be the site of the biblical Armageddon. It is one of the major archaeological sites in Israel, and has been considerably excavated over the past 100 years. Sam Moorhead is a staff member at the British Museum.
This lecture will as always be at Avenue House, East End Road, Finchley N3, starting at 8pm and followed by coffee and biccies and the chance for a chat and purchase of HADAS publications.
Up on Greyhound Hill, there is still time to catch the excellent current Church Farmhouse Museum exhibition – BARNET: a Century of Change which closes 13th February. This uses photos and artefacts from each decade of the century to chart the changes affecting our lives in the 20th century. Subjects include transport, public services, housing, war, schools, entertainment, and shopping. Strangely enough, your editor found himself drawn to the case containing the trolleybus destination blind, tubestock destination boards for Finchley, railway milepost, and the single line token for the former Mill Hill East – Edgware railway line! The exhibition is based on the new book Barnet: The Twentieth Century ( Sutton Publishing 1999) by our own Percy Reboul and John Heathfield, and available at the museum.
A smaller temporary exhibition, Strange Barnet includes the sheep skeleton excavated by HADAS from the garden at the rear of the Museum in 1999, sharing a case with a mummified cat!
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Brian Wrigley, our esteemed excavation secretary, writes; Sheila Woodward’s report in the last Newsletter of John Creighton’s November lecture makes me feel it essential to apologise for not being able to attend it. It was John, in alliance with his schoolmate my son Stephen, who made me join HADAS in the late 1970’s so that, in accord with insurance requirements, I could come as their ‘guardian’ while they took part in the west Heath dig. While John (I now see) lost interest in the Mesolithic, and Stephen lost his in archaeology generally, I remained a member and having obtained a certificate for doing the training dig at West Heath thought I Should make use of it by taking the Diploma! I have certainly retained my interest in the Mesolithic and Prehistory generally, and indeed the reason I was unable to come to John’s lecture was my Tuesday evening lecture course on prehistoric Britain – which I am taking to bring me up- to- date on what I learned nearly 20 years
ago! Whilst there may be some logic in my absence from the lecture, I still very much regret it!
NEWS UPDATE – AVENUE HOUSE DIGGING TEAM
Bill Bass informs us that two HADAS members, Brian McCarthy and Peter Nicholson, have been attending the Museum of London Specialist Services office at Eagle Wharf Road to help identify the ceramic building material (CBM) collected from the Brockley Hill fieldwalking in 1998.They are there for a English Heritage grant assisted total of five days instruction and sorting spread over a number of weeks. They are being supervised by Ian Betts who has spoken to us before at one of our lecture days. In conjunction with this the Society has just bought a Brunel binocular microscope to study our various CBM and pottery collections.
Other ongoing projects include the site watching and resistivity at Barnet Gate Meadow ( see front page), forthcoming resistivity surveying at London Charterhouse, completion of writing up the assorted digs and surveys at the Church Farmhouse Museum and having a good old sort out at Avenue House and College Farm to address our problems of lack of storage space. We have also bought 50 strong cardboard storage boxes to assist this.
This should all keep us off the streets for a week or two!
ARCHAEOLOGY ON THE WEB
With a growing number of HADAS members ‘on line’ here are some of the new web sites sitting there waiting to be ‘hit’; Thanks to Ann Kahn for some of this info.
The Museums and Galleries Commission (MGC) has completed the second phase of its web site development; The MGC site now includes a new site search facility and over 30 free downloadable fact sheets, and advice about museums issues. Visitors to the site can interact by nominating their favourite museum object. New online for 2000 is the ‘Cornucopia’ web site covering the collections of all 1,700 MGC Registered Museums in the UK, with the aim of giving users all the information needed to contact a museum or make a visit, as well as providing a link to that museum’s own web site. ( www.museums.gov.uk/)
The Public Record Office, Kew has now put its indexes on the internet. Viewers can locate a set of documents and request them to be available when you visit Kew, or view famous documents such as Napoleon’s post mortem report, the first American newspaper, and,-within a couple of-years, the complete 1901 census will also be on the web. ( www.pro.gov.uk)
Information on the Swindon based English Heritage (former RCHME) National Monuments Record – providing details on the Archaeology and architecture of England, including photographs of people and buildings, aerial photography, building surveys, maps, plans and drawings is described at www.english-heritage.org.uk. The National Monuments Record is also involved in the Lottery funded Images of England national project to create a new photographic record of some 360,000
photographs over the next three years – ‘a defining image’ ( external) – of all the listed buildings and
structures in England at the turn of the Millenium. The project website and its selection of images can be visited at www.imagesofengland.org.uk
The Council For British Archaeology – publishers of British Archaeology and organisers of the Young Archaeologists Club- website can be found at http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cba
Our own Chairman, Andrew Selkirk of course has his own publishing venture – see www.archaeology.co.uk for the CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY website.
At this juncture it would of course be remiss of me not to mention the web site of a certain local
aircraft museum – www.rafrnuseum.org.uk.
Monday 21th February – we will be taking a small group of younger members (7-15 years) to visit the LAARC (London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre) for a short guided tour. This centre is frequently on News Room South East or on the radio, when they process something out of the ordinary. If you, ( or your son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter) would like to join us, please phone Vikki O’Connor on 0208 ( ex 0181) 361 1350 as soon as possible. The tour would be around an hour on the Monday afternoon, and we will be meeting at Highbury & Islington Underground Station for a short bus ride to the centre. The exact timing will be finalised by the time you have read this!
(The Archive is due to be closed to visitors for about twelve months for building work, so this is your last chance till next year!)
PLANNING APPLICATIONS IN THE NORTHERN AREA BILL BASS…..
There has been a proposal to rebuild or develop The Marie Foster Home in Wood Street, Barnet. HADAS conducted an excavation next door to this site at the former Victoria Maternity Hospital in 1993. In addition to much post medieval disturbance we found a probable medieval ditch aligning with Wood Street which may have run under the Marie Foster Home ( if the feature has survived). Other medieval finds have been found in the area over the years….AND TESSA SMITH;
Former White Lion Public House & Edgware Football Club; Construction of 4-story hotel and new access to the football club. Situated on the old Watling Street and adjacent to the old bridge where the Deansbrook crosses Edgware Road. Robert Whytehead of English Heritage is issuing a field evaluation brief.
Hearns Coach Yard, Brockley Hill; Replacement room for drivers. Situated due north of the field 140, where HADAS last field-walked in 1998, and where Roman pottery kilns were fund by Stephen Castle. Robert Whytehead is requesting a watching brief.
Hendon; 19 Rowsley Ave – near to Roman cremation and Church Terrace dig.
39 Meadow Drive NW4 – ditto.
51-53 High Street Edgware – Perrys Show Room to be changed to a supermarket.
VOLUNTEERING AT SPITALFIELDS BILL BASS
As with several other HADAS members I was lucky to volunteer on this extensive and important site of the Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital in east London. Starting with finds processing, I then managed several weeks between June and October excavating on site. I’d had some experience digging on a Roman and Saxon cemetery adjacent to St. Albans Abbey several years ago but this was something else altogether.
Overall the site was multi-period from Roman to post-medieval with burials, features, floors, streets and structures; my time was spent in the Medieval cemetery. This meant digging skeletons – the hospital inmates, monastic canons, lay sisters and benefactors, just some of the c.8500 excavated over nearly a year by MOLAS, the archaeological contractor. This was described by Julian Richards of ‘Meet the Ancestors’ fame (you may have seen the programme) as ‘archaeology on an industrial scale’. I can only agree. For most of the dig MoLAS employed over 100 archaeologists, plus excavators, mostly on short term contracts for the duration of the dig, also several students and volunteers.
What struck you first overlooking the site was the sheer size of the project, bordered by the old Spitalfields market, Eden house and St. Botolph’s, with a surrounding backdrop of shiny modern office blocks. The excavation was destined to become a carpark for one such building. Then you noticed the hive of activity as people were digging, recording, surveying and carrying the results – bags of Skeletons to be stored before washing, drying and so forth. Apart from the scattering of 82 burials from the underlying Roman cemetery the rest were from the extensive and intensively used Medieval cemetery of the Priory and Hospital. The site has been known about for a long time, indeed MoLAS have been excavating in this area for the last 20 years or so.
On site there were various ways to find a burial including;
· spraying an area with water to show up the burial ‘cut’
· ‘spitting’ with a mattock – i.e. slicing off sections of brickearth a few centimetres thick until finding a burial ( usually the skull to start with)
· or, very often when excavating one skeleton or feature, another burial is disturbed.
· This last point is important as all the burials had to be dug in a stratigraphic manner to enable the correct phasing of the cemetery to be seen, to show for example, where the cemetery was started, how it was used and how intensively over the several centuries it was in use (c.1235 to 1538), although the hospital inmates were buried in a separate cemetery until 1280.
Once a burial was found it was a matter of defining any edges and then extent and completeness of the skeleton. Quite often you were dealing with parts – odd legs, feet, skulls etc – how did these relate to surrounding burials? Often excavators could have several skeletons exposed for some time until the right relationship between them could be found.
Once this had been established your burial could then be carefully excavated by trowel, brush etc. making sure small hand and feet bones-were- situ and looking for evidence of coffin nails or small finds associated with the body. Although there were some coffin burials, most people appeared to be laid to rest with a simple shroud. Any obvious signs of pathology such as bone disease or healed and broken bones would be notified to the bone specialist in case they wanted to see the material before it was lifted.
Once the bones had been uncovered and cleaned in situ it was time to have them surveyed, because of the amount of skeletons and time involved the burials were not individually drawn in relation to a grid but are plotted by ‘pen-mapping’.
I’d seen this done when laying out a grid for a field-walking operation but not on-site such as this. The technique involves a type of laptop computer connected to an electronic theodolite; the theodolite emits an infra-red beam which is reflected by a prism held over different points on the skeleton or feature to be recorded, this giving an instant reading of the burial plotted on to the site grid with its levels, the recording process taking 5-10 minutes, much quicker than by tape and drawing.
Once downloaded onto the main computer all sorts of information about density and relationships could be seen, plotted and printed out. A digital photograph of all skeletons was also taken. While this was going on you would get on with the paperwork such as entering numbers for the cut, skeleton, and fill of the burial, each of these 3 items needing a MoLAS pro-forma context or skeleton sheet to be filled in. Describing various elements of the burial such as orientation, position of the body, limbs, head and condition of the bone and so on, plus the all important stratigraphic matrix. Once recorded the bones could be lifted, which was not always a simple task – the brickearth did not want to give up its dead that easily.
Leg and arm bones were generally 0.K to lift but the ribs, vertebrae ( and sometimes skulls) were often a challenge being fragile and sometimes in poor condition. The bones were bagged and labelled then stored upstairs for washing.
In general there were few finds from the graves themselves, but some important ones included a papal bulla, a lead disc given as a reward by the Pope for charitable works and about five other graves were found with a communion set consisting of a pewter chalice and paten denoting a priest. These were lifted by specialist conservators ‘en block’ for excavation back at the lab.
The above does not take into account digging any of the mass burial pits with 20 or more skeletons in each which was a complex and time consuming job. It was however fascinating to be around and work on such an important and interesting London excavation. Many thanks to all the staff on site especially Dave Bowsher, Nick Holder, Tony Grey ( finds) and Site Director Chris Thomas for their help.
From the Membership Secretary
Hello to the following members who have joined since August; Christian Allen & Lin Liu; Daniel Anglum; Megan Rosen-Webb; Shane Copus; Leslie Hedges; Tricia Roberts; Dr and Mrs John Gorvin; James Boureh; Andrew Coulson; Rose Wilson; Jill Hooper; Elaine Furze; Sonia Mariani; Peter Collins. We have already met most of you at one event or another, and look forward to seeing
more of you this year – and bring a friend!
APACHE AUTUMN AGAIN 1999 DEREK BATTEN
This report is a continuation of my 1998 dig in the Guadelope Mountains, dutifully documented in Apache Autumn 1998. This Passport in Time project had failed to locate the site of Lt. Cushing’s December 1869 fight with the Mescalero Apaches and it was decided to extend the search this year.
I telephoned our project leader, Chris Adams, to be told that New Mexico had received abnormal rainfall this summer, and I could expect the land to be much greener. This had increased the presence of rattlesnakes in the area. Gulp! But I remembered the 1998 Apache advice to bang the ground with a stick to keep the critters away. ( in four days I saw only one snake; a patch head, about two feet long and quite slim).
It seemed a good idea to arrange my itinerary to fit in a visit to the Alamo. The Alamo’s claims to be the cradle of Texan liberty, all presented by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas is well presented, like most American historical locations. There was a time chart outside relating Texan and world events. Of course, I always get angry when read for 1815; ‘European coalition defeats Napoleon at Waterloo’ making no recognition of Wellington.
There are ten of us in the team this year, five from last year and five newcomers. In the four days I can participate, we find two new Rancheria sites but no evidence of Cushing’s attack. On the first day I locate a coscojo – part of a Mexican bridle, and on day three find a number of metal arrow head points. Our big find that day was a Spanish silver coin dated 1884 and showing the head of King Carlos III. On this day we were visited by Mark Rosacker who runs a sanctuary for injured wild animals; he led us on an unsuccessful hike through a canyon in search of a pictograph of a Spanish padre.
So – very little archaeological success but the search continues. We did see several pictographs and petroliths. With luck I might be back in 2000.
COUCH POTATO CORNER
For those dark winter evenings when the trowel is best used for slicing the pizza, the TV programmers have brought back some old favourites;
We are well into the new TIME TEAM series; still to come, all on a Sunday at 5.30pm, are Elvedon – the earliest traces of mankind, on 6th February; Coventry – the missing Cathedral and the diabetic prior, on 13th February; Basing House, Royalist stronghold in the civil war, on 20th Feb; Flag Fen – Bronze Age Burial Practices, on 27th February, Greenwich – The Roman Temple on Watling Street on 12th March, Hartlepool, Nuns in Northumbria, on 19th March, and York – Imperial Mausoleum, Viking Street and Norman Hospital, following up from last year’s live dig, on 26th March. ( Also now showing is the new series of Meet The Ancestors)
From the Membership Secretary
Hello to the following members who have joined since August; Christian Allen & Lin Liu; Daniel Anglum; Megan Rosen-Webb; Shane Copus; Leslie Hedges; Tricia Roberts; Dr and Mrs John Gorvin; James Bourch; Andrew Coulson; Rose Wilson; Jill Hooper; Elaine Furze; Sonia Mariani; Peter Collins. We have already met most of you at one event or another, and look forward to seeing more of you this year – and bring a friend!
JANUARY LECTURE REPORT by Andy Simpson
A packed house enjoyed an excellent talk from long-time HADAS member Okasha El Daly
on `Predynastic Egypt: The Formative Years’. Our lecturer has taught courses on Egypt for 20 years, and in that time has noticed a general lack of interest in pre-dynastic, pre Pharaoh Egypt, covering the period 6600 – 3000BC. The former title for this period, proto-dynastic, has recently been revived. The beginning of this period, c.7000 BC, saw climatic change certainly in Egypt and possibly on a global scale. There was extreme drought in the desert areas. People arrived in the area later to become Egypt some 300,000 years ago, moving eastwards but not up to the Nile – they settled instead around large freshwater lakes such as Napta in Southern Egypt. By 6,700 BC the inhabitants were still hunter-gatherers , with fishing and some agriculture evident. The search for fertile land brought outsiders from Mesopotamia and Arabia, producing a mix of indigenous and incoming peoples including African and near eastern elements. Egypt is 1.070km long, North – South, and 1,270KM wide. The southern part of Upper Egypt – has little green land but much desert. With such a
restraint on land many buildings are built on top of one another, producing tell-like mounds as they decay and are replaced. Parts of Egypt are forested, and there is a large petrified forest in the SE of the country, a half hours drive from Cairo. In Cairo there is a Predynastic site on an early road from the Red Sea.
Ancient King Lists show early Egyptians were aware of this past, referred to in shadowy, supernatural terms of gods and demi-gods supposedly living up to 30,000 years before the first dynasty. This time scale, large though it is, could be correct, though we presently can only trace events back some 7,000 years. The King Lists record the mother’s name, not the fathers, hinting at a matriarchal society. The level of the life-giving, irrigating Nile is also recorded on these lists.
One site visited had in-situ quern stones on the surface with even their grinding stones still intact, and fertile soil buried beneath 2-3 cm of sand. The level of the now lost Lake Napta fluctuated, so wells with carved steps were dug on its perimeter. The rock drawings of c.40000 BC show, very accurately, animals now found further south, such as giraffes and elephants, and also the Ostrich,. which does still survive in the Egyptian desert. Another urban site of 5,200 BC has burials between and beneath the houses with house lined streets suggesting centrally imposed social order.
The occupants worshipped the cow goddess as the cow was one of the earliest domesticated animals. Of the figurines found, 90% are female, again possibly reflecting a matriarchal society. There is evidence of well organised linen workshops, and distinctive bone combs with animal decoration. There is much ceramic material, and bird headed figures – human, or a deity? The Predynastic period entered its final phase c.3,700 BC and features wooden model houses with lintel built doors and windows. The area was still dry – today, parts of Upper Egypt get rain every 30-40 years. One painted tomb shows distinctive boats and animals fighting – possibly a festival. Carvings of this late period suggest some warfare, organised by the kings that ruled by this time, although trade was an important influence on the unification process. Ivory plaques show war scenes on one side and peaceful scenes on the other. There is evidence of the emergence of a middle class – we have the names of senior officials on tablets. This was a most detailed and enjoyable reminder that there is more to the history of Egypt than the Pyramids and ‘King Tut’?
NEWS FLASH – The Iron Age Interpretative centre at Flag Fen, previously visited by HADAS, has been damaged by fire. The museum and visitor centre are untouched, but the post excavation room, containing Francis Pryors’ slide collection and 3 years site archive, is lost. Our Condolences.
OTHER SOCIETIES’ EVENTS by Eric Morgan
LONDON CANAL MUSEUM 3rd February 730pm
The Ice Age: Satisfying the Victorian Appetite for Ice – Dr. Robert David New Wharf Road, King’s Cross N.11 £2.50/1.25 concessions.
PINNER LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY 3rd February 8pm
Emma and Horatia: Like Mother, Like Daughter? Joan Walpole Reilly Pinner Village Hall Chapel Lane car park £1.00 donation requested.
LAMAS Thursday 10 Feb, AGM followed by Derek Keene’s Presidential address; New Thoughts on the Royal Palace in the City of London, 6.15pm Museum of London, London Wall.
WILLESDEN LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY 16th February 8pm HADAS stalwart MARY O’CONNELL is talking on ‘London’s Oddities’
at The Archives, Cricklewood Library, Olive Road, NW2,
HAMPSTEAD SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY 17th February 8.15pm
Evolutionary & Genetic Control of Body Asymmetry Dr Jonathan Cook. Crypt Room St. John’s Church, Church Row NW3.
BERKHAMSTEAD & DISTRICT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY
Thurs 24 Feb, LOOKING AT ROMAN COINS, David Thorold, Deputy Keeper of Archaeology, Verulamium Museum. 8pm Berkharnsted Collegiate School, Newcroft Wing, Mill Street, Berkhamsted ( £1 donation )
FINCHLEY SOCIETY 24th February 8pm
Organisation, Supply and Retailing at Teseo Drawing Room, Avenue House, Finchley.
16th Local History Day ASPECTS OF THE MILLENIUM Saturday 26 February;
Winston Churchill Hall Ruislip 9.45 am – 4.45pm. Tickets £3 Tel; 01895 635890 from Mary Pache, 20 Rosebury Vale, Ruislip, Middx. HA4 6AQ. (Cheques to R_NELHS with SAE). Speakers include Jim Gotland, who took HADAS on an excellent tour and talk on the origins of Harrow School, and Pat Clark who took us on an excellent tour of Pinner, followed by a visit to Harrow Museum. Topics include The Domesday Survey in NW Middlesex, changes in churches in Tudor Times, Transport and Industry, and housing for the rural working class.