Newsletter 181: March 1986
THE PROGRAMME CARD
At last the programme for our 25th Anniversary Year is ready – and the card is enclosed in this Newsletter. As you will see, it is a pretty full programme and we hope all members will come to as many events as possible, and will so help to make it a memorable year. Coach and entrance fees have risen astronomically and the more people who attend, the more reasonable we can make the charges – and the more opportunities our members will have to get to know each other.
There’s one particular item on the card which we must point out because it changes a date already announced in two previous Newsletters – last month’s and November’s. In those issues we gave the date of October 11 next for the start of the exhibition which Ted Sammes is organising under the title of One Man’s Archaeology at Church Farm House Museum. This date has now been altered to October 18, in order that it shall not clash with the Minimart. If you had put the original date in your diary, please change it now.
Here are the dates for events for the next couple of months:
Tues Mar 4. Alexander the Great and Art in the Greek East by Dr Malcolm Colledge
Dr Colledge is on the staff of the University of London and has taught Classics for many years at Westfield College. He is an old friend of the Society. The most memorable occasion was his talk on Pompeii in 1976 prior to our visit to the Exhibition at the Royal Academy the following February. He also came to our Roman Banquet in 1979 as an honoured guest and gave us dramatic readings from Homer. This will be his fourth lecture to us and it is certain to be as entertaining as his previous ones.
Tues Apr 1. Recent excavations at Peracora, near Corinth by Professor R A Tomlinson
Sat Apr 19. Clerkenwell Walk
Sat May 10. Outing to Mary Rose at Portsmouth and to Portchester Castle
Tues May 20. Annual General Meeting
Lectures and AGM at the Library, The Burroughs, Hendon NW4, coffee 3 pm, meeting 8.30 pm.
NEWS FROM OUR CHAIRMAN
It was a real pleasure recently to get a letter from our Chairman, Brian Jarman, in which he reported that he is now on the mend and feels very well. Sadly, however, he has, for health reasons, to move from Hendon.
‘I have now sold my flat,’ he writes, ‘and am staying in Herstmonceux, waiting for my new home here to be built. As usual, builders are very slows but I hope it will be ready by the end of March. That’s where my Newsletter to which I look forward every month – should be sent … I don’t want to lose my links with the Society, which I have been connected with from the very first meeting in the Town Hall in 1961, and which has given me so much pleasure.’ (Note* that first meeting was nearly 25 years ago – on Apr 19, 1961 – Ed).
Councillor Jarman (he will give up his seat on Barnet Council as from May, when the next local elections take place) is hopeful that he may be able to join us at the AGM on May 20, just to see old friends and, as he puts it, ‘to say a few words of thanks and hand over to whomever is the new Chairman.’ He also intends to make a special effort to attend the Silver Jubilee display at Church Farm House Museum next autumn. And he ends by asking the Newsletter to ‘remember me to all.’
GENERAL RESEARCH DAY AT THE PREHISTORIC SOCIETY: A report by
PREHISTORY AND THE REGION E JOHN HOOSON
The afternoon programme organised on January 25 by the Prehistoric
Society, and arranged by staff of the Field Archaeology Unit of the Institute of Archaeology, attracted a ‘full house’ of members amongst them about a’ score from. HADAS. In his opening remarks the President, Dr Geoffrey Wainwright, said, that this was a new venture for the Society and was to introduce members to a range of work carried out in various regions. The meeting was organised by Peter Drewett director of the Field Archaeology Unit (FAU), whose work is mainly carried out in Sussex.
Peter Drewett then described the formation and transformation of the FAU. Founded in 1974, the years 1974-6 were formative, based on rescue requirements. However, there were far too many threatened sites for the Unit to handle, and random excavation was neither academically desirable nor financially justifiable. In 1976 it was decided to design research projects centred on rescue situations to provide knowledge both: for Sussex and nation-ally. To identify the appropriate sites, an extensive survey of plough damage to known archaeological sites was carried out,
In 1984 the unit was integrated with the Institute of’ Archaeology with responsibility for
drawing, survey, research; etc.;
rescue for Sussex (other than Chichester, which has separate archaeological cover);
worthwhile projects elsewhere. These have included the PrescelIy Mountains, which served to familiarize students, with the highland zone and tropical excavations, to introduce Students. (many from overseas) to different methods ,and requirements – it being pointed
out that crop-marks are not found in a desert! At present a team is working.in the Barbadoes.
In all 136 excavations have been undertaken of which 130 have been published. The remaining six have been delayed due only to outside agencies. Many of the reports have been published in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society or in the Bulletins of the Institute of Archaeology. Of the latter, a generous supply of off-prints was available free to those at the meeting.
While the FAU has responsibility for all periods, the work described during the afternoon was confined to the prehistoric Excavations at Boxgrove, a lower Paleolithic site at 33ft OD, revealed by quarrying, produced some lithic finds but principally faunal evidence. Although the site fell within the presently ascribed ‘Hoxnian’ sea level, the evidence produced indicated a later date and it seemed probable that the lower Palaeolithic dating should be reviewed.
The 1985 Long Down FlintMine excavations were described next. Information obtained from the working floors was different from that from the mines. As it is now possible to analyse flint to identify the source, it appears to be probable that much flint was imported during the earlier period and obtained from the mines during the later Neolithic. Furthermore, it appears that work was on a communal basis during the earlier period and on a more individual basis later this being supported by burial evidence.
Finally, the 1985 excavations at Thundersbarrow Hill (a Late Bronze/Early Iron Age enclosure) were described, Together with recent excavations at previously excavated hill forts and enclosures; evidence is being found that the dating of many of .these monuments to the Iron Age is in need of revision. While many now appear to be .from the Bronze Age, others can be dated to the early Neolithic (e.g. Bury Hill, Court Hill).
During the afternoon there was an opportunity to watch a video on the Boxgrove excavation; also demonstrations of prehistoric charcoal and ceramic thin sectioning, and archaeological illustration. There were also displays of major prehistoric excavations by the FAU. Members had previously been invited to show their own recent work, and Essex and. Oxford mounted displays; so did HADAS, with finds fromWest Heath,-Hampstead.
NEWS FROM WEST HEATH
Processing. Two sessions are planned for Mondays, March 10 and 17, from 10 am – 4.30 pm, at 13 Greystone Gns, Kenton, if there are enough volunteers. Six people would be an ideal number and unlimited tea/coffee and a snack lunch are offered as inducements: Would anyone interested please ring me on:907 0333 Don’t drop in unannounced, because you won’t get any refreshments
Excavation. It is planned to re-open the site on April 7 for three weeks, and then for the whole of June and July, in order to extend the trenches north and eastwards. .
A telephone call would be appreciated, from anyone interested in digging in April as days/dates when the site will be open will depend very much on demand. Either ring me on 907 0333 or Myfanwy8tewart on 449-3025.
Any volunteers over 16 are very welcome, both old friends and beginners, but it is essential that ‘first-timers’ ring to discuss dates, equipment, etc, as this helps with forward planning. Looking forward to seeing you all there MARGARET MAHER
NEWS FROM AROUND
Archaeological news, came recently from two of HADAS’s haunts, both of which we have visited not all that long ago.
First Canterbury where we had an outing in July 1982 (and previously in 1965). There the Canterbury Archaeological Trust has unearthed in the grounds of the present Archbishop’s house (built at the turn of this century) the undercroft of the palace built over 900 years ago, in 1080 by Lanfranc, William the Conqueror’s archbishop. They also discovered that large bits of the original palace have been incorporated into the present building. This was a surprise to everyone,-because it had long been believed that no trace of Lanfranc’s palace – most famous, perhaps, as being the house from which archbishop Thomas a Becket fled to seek unsuccessful sanctuary in his cathedral – remained after its demolition in 1832.
Second news item comes from Repton, visited by HADAS in August 1984. Then Professor Martin Biddle showed us finds from a large 2-cell building excavated in the garden of the Repton vicarage, including disarticulated bones of some 250 skeletons. It was then uncertain who these bones had belonged to: whether they were Saxon soldiery, killed fighting the Vikings who occupied the area in 874-5, or someone else.
Now detailed medical examination of the skeletons suggests that they may have been the remains of members of the occupying Viking force which encamped at Repton; and that they died, not in battle, but of natural causes. All the skeletons are of tall robust men. No evidence of violence – such as sword cuts – was found on the bones. The fact that many small bones of hands and feet are missing has led to the theory that during the winter of occupation of 874-5 the dead were buried progressively as they died but were finally disinterred for mass burial in a charnel house.
Long established beliefs about early stone tools have been upset by the theories advanced by an American archaeologist in Science (vol 231, 113-5). Nicholas Toth, of the University of California at Berkeley, suggests that early core-tools, of 1.5 million years ago, hitherto thought of as choppers or scrapers, were in fact only waste products after early man had removed from them the sharp ‘flaked’ blades which he wanted – and used – for hunting and cutting meat. In other words, Mr. Toth believes that blade industries go right back to man’s earliest days as a tool-maker. His theories which, we feel, are likely to provoke some argument – are based on the hundreds of stone tools which he himself has made and has compared with those found at the Lake Turkana excavations in Kenya.
His stone-knapping has produced another new idea: Mr Toth suggests that predominance of right handedness in modern humans is a comparatively recent occurrence. Originally, a million and a half years ago, it was a 50:50 chance whether you were born right or left-handed. The great apes still have that 50:50 ratio. Mr Toth’s evidence for this is that right-handers, when removing flakes from cores, produce more flakes with a crescent on the right side of the object; left-handers do the reverse. He investigated the finds from a number of sites and discovered that the later the site and the more sophisticated the tools, the more right-handedness appears.
The Society’s financial year is drawing to its close, and at the end of this month – on April 1, to be precise – subscriptions will again become due. Our Membership Secretary, Phyllis Fletcher, will include a reminder in the April Newsletter.
The membership list (as at Jan 1, 1986) is going out to the Committee with this Newsletter, and also to non-committee members who have said that they would like it. If you want a copy – but have not yet let Phyllis Fletcher know please give her a ring on 455-2558 and she will send it to you with the April Newsletter.
NEOLITHIC ARRAN A report on the February lecture by SALLY SPILLER
Dr Eric Grant, in his lecture on February ,took us on a lively tour of the megalithic and cairn monuments of the beautiful Isle of Arran, at the mouth of the Clyde. There are eighteen listed Clyde chambered cairns, and suspected remains of a further eight – a greater density than anywhere on the Scottish mainland. Some, such as East Bennan, are horned cairns: Gordon Childe in fact took this one as type-site for the Clyde group. Dr Grant drew our attention to the arrangement of paired orthostats on the side walls of the chambers; on the mainland these are aligned edge to edge, but in Arran they are typically set to overlap, giving a ‘feathered edge’ in plan. One passage grave is also known, like those in Brittany and elsewhere.
Most cairns were excavated by Dr James Bryce in the latter half of the 19c. He was a medical doctor, an enthusiast for bones, and unfortunately discarded artefacts and did not record structures. One has been re-excavated, however, and radio-carbon determinations were obtained indicating the mid-4th millenium for the inside, mid-3rd millenium BC for the outside, implying usage over a period of about a thousand years.
Most of the tombs are in the undulating south of the island rather than the more mountainous north; they are generally set at the junction of arable and upland, though cliff top sites are also known. The builders took advantage of slight rocky knolls to give the monuments firm foundations; this also ensured maximum visibility and. impressiveness. A few were sited on high ground; now so overgrown with the lush vegetation of the Gulf Stream climate that.they are hard to find.
Tombs are not the only prehistoric structures on Arran; Dr Grant also showed us several ‘four-poster”- settings of great boulders; also on Machrie Moor, a close group of five stone circles, one of which was double. Whereas other structures were grey granite, these were mostly thin slabs of red sand-stone, sometimes rain-grooved and toppled, but many standing to four or even five metres. One ring was of alternate grey granite boulders, perhaps one metre tall, and sandstone slabs. Some of the circles had cists in the middle with burial traces, though acidic rainwater running off the slopes above had dissolved much of the bone material.
Colin Renfrew had some time ago produced a map of Arran (see Renfrew, Before civilisation, Pelican edition 1976,-147) in which megalithic tombs were taken as nuclei for Thiessen polygons dividing land into territories of roughly equal areas of arable land, plus varying amounts of hill pasture from this he deduced that the people lived in groups of roughly equal status, no one group being dominant. Dr Grant had initially been skeptical of these deductions but his own survey work, coupled with comparison with land-use indicated on a map 1801commissioned by the Duke of Hamilton (the laird) now supports Renfrew’s hypothesis. Dr Grant also took various considerations likely to have influenced the original builders, such as proximity to farmland (and, by extension; to habitations), proximity to water, accessibility of stone for building etc, and found that these, taken with such natural features; as form natural boundaries, made for a significantly better ‘fit’ than by taking purely arbitrary divisions of land.
At this point came the frustration, just as many of us were brimming with questions, Dr Grant was off – not even a puff of smoke – to catch a train to Scotland, We could only hope that the roads to King’s Cross were not icy, and that one day he can be persuaded to return.
For the last 18 months or so some HADAS volunteers have been helping the Greater London Archaeological Unit of the Museum of London with finds processing at Theobalds Road.
This work has now been moved to a new address: at 3, Ray Street a short street off Farringdon Road, EC1 (phone’837:8363). The nearest station is
Farringdon. More volunteers would be very welcome, and anyone who would like to help is asked to ring Jean Snelling (346 3553), who can give further information. Jean usually goes down for a daytime session on Mondays, and there is an evening session on Tuesdays.
CONSERVATION – PREHISTORIC STYLE
The General Research Day described on p2 of this Newsletter by John Hooson isn’t the only good new idea that the Prehistoric Society has floated recently. Last year when the Society celebrated its half-century it set up, for the first time, a Conservation Committee under a
coordinator, Francis Pryor.
The idea behind the new Committee is to project a picture of prehistory as an integral part of the conservation movement. In its first year of life the Committee has made recommendations to English Heritage about the future of Stonehenge and has briefed a representative to give evidence to the Navan Fort planning enquiry in Northern-Ireland. It aims to provide such ‘expert witnesses’ whenever they are required.
AU REVOIR, DAPHNE
These paragraphs are written with great regret from the HADAS point of view. We have to report that the LORIMER family has now moved completely to Orkney, and no longer has a London base. DAPHNE tells us that their Golders Green flat has been sold and that her address henceforth will be Scorradale, Orphir Orkney; telephone Orphir (085 681) 255.
She hopes to return to London every so often to see her mother, but will not be staying for more than a few days at a time; and so feels that in future her archaeological interests will be Orkney-orientated. That’s really sad news for HADAS, to whom she has been such a tower of strength in all circumstances.
However, perhaps we should look at it more positively, and now think of Orkney as an outpost of HADAS! Daphne asks us to pass on to members a message which is characteristic of Lorimer friendliness and hospitality: any member who visits Orkney in the future can be sure of receiving a warm welcome at Scorradale!
The Committee met on February 21 and matters discussed included the following:
Newsletter. As Brigid Grafton Green will be giving up the editorship of the Newsletter from next May, a subcommittee of three (June Porges, Christine Arnott and Victor Jones) was appointed to consider editorial arrangements.
Roman Group. It was reported that Gill Braithwaite and Tessa Smith are hoping to re-activate the Roman Group.
Trial Excavations, summer 1986 The Borough has offered HADAS excavation facilities at two sites which are to be redeveloped soon – Stapylton road, Chipping Barnet (new library, etc) and an area at Watling Avenue, Burnt Oak, which is earmarked for car parking. We had already expressed interest in the Chipping Barnet development, and the other – the open area alongside the Silkstream at the back of Burnt Oak station – is close to Watling Street and, though lower-lying, is only ¼ of a mile from the HADAS excavation of 1971 which uncovered 3rd century Roman material in the garden of 33 Thirleby Road. The
Committee decided that, if possible, trial-trenching at both sites desirable this coming summer.
Proposed Water Pipeline. A further spring/summer activity this year will be closer examination on the ground of the route of the proposed water pipeline (on which work is not due to begin before 1988) across the north part of the Borough. It is hoped that a reconstituted Roman Group will look at the West side of the route; Isobel McPherson and Victor Jones have undertaken to concentrate on the eastern part.
Membership. Despite taking on five new members in the last month, membership is down by 9 on this time last year 376 instead of 385.
The Photographic Group is to be asked to record the foundations of the west (carpark) end of Church Farm House Museum while the present deep trench there is open.
LBB Topic Study on Recreation and Leisure. HADAS has received a copy of this and has been asked to comment on it by March 31 next.
West Heath Phase I Report.– . Daphne Lorimer reported that she has still been unable to set any response from LAMAS to her enauiries about the publication of this in the LAMAS Transactions. She and Desmond Collins are engaged in streamlinj.ng the,report.
West Heath plans, 1986. Margaret Maher has heard from Peter Challon, the manager of, Golders Hill Park, that with the imminent demise of the GLC, the London Residuary Body is taking over administration and has given permission for excavation at the West. Heath site this coming summer (see p3 of this Newsletter for details of the West .Heath precessing/dig programme).
Next GLAS Local Societies meeting will take place at the Museum of London on April 7. Sheila Woodward, Victor Jones and Ted Sammes will represent HADAS,
CONFERENCE OF LONDON ARCHAEOLOGISTS
On Saturday March 15 the 23rd of these conferences will take place at the Museum of London, starting at 11 am and finishing at 5.30 pm.
Theme of the morning session is described tersely as ‘Recent, Work;’ it includes reports on four sites and one report on recent acquisitions by the by the Museum of London. .
The afternoon will be devoted to ‘Recent Monastic Archaeology.’ The subjects will be holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate; Bermondsey and Barking Abbeys; and inner London monastic sites.. Lecturers will be mainly members of the Greater London Archaeological Service or Museum of London staff.
HADAS hopes to have a bookstall and a display of ‘some of the post-excavation work which has been done on the Church Terrace dig.
Tickets (£2.50 LAMAS members, £3.50 non-members) are obtainable from the Museum of London; London Wall, EC2Y 5HN, marking the envelope LAMAS Archaeological Conference (enclose an sae).
MORE ABOUT COLOUR SLIDES by Brigid Grafton Green
In the last Newsletter I mentioned that I’d been doing a trawl among the museums for prehistoric and Roman transparencies with which to broaden my colour slide collection. Some suggestions for fresh sources of slides were immediately forthcoming from HADAS readers (it’s surprising how often, if you air a problem in the Newsletter, someone comes up with an answer: HADAS members are knowledgeable in all sorts of fields). The information – specially the addresses – may be helpful to other members.
First of all Andrew Selkirk provided me with the fact that Brian Philp, the Kentish archaeologist, ran a flourishing slide business which services a number of museums, and suggested that Mr Philp’s catalogue would be well worth looking at: the address to write to is 5 Harvest Bank Road, West Wickham, Kent.
Then Gill Braithwaite offered further ideas. “Do you know the D.o.E. slide catalogue, Colour Slides of Ancient Monuments in Britain?” she wrote. “It includes a number of Roman monuments and the address – a remarkable one! is: D.o.E DAMHB/P Stores, Building 1, Vision Way, Victoria Rd, South Ruislip, Middx HA40 ONZ.
“I also have another address, of a Mr H.A.B. White, who can provide ‘classical film strips’ (which can be cut and mounted as slides), again on a wide range of archaeological subjects, mainly Roman, and the main emphasis is on Roman Britain. In 1982 a colour film strip of 35-40 frames cost £4.50 with full notes. They could be framed for an extra £3.35. The quality was excellent on the ones that I ordered.”
I’m now busily exploring these new avenues.
HADAS TALKS IN HORNSEY
Slides have been an integral part of the lecture series which HADAS members have been giving for the two winter terms 1985/6 at Hornsey Historical Society’s HQ at the Old Schoolhouse in Tottenham Lane. The lectures are just coming to their end as this Newsletter goes to press.Daphne Lorimer, Sheila Woodward and Brigid Grafton Green have done six lectures each, under the general title “Aspects of Archaeology;” and Christine Arnott has organised two museum visits, one to the BM and the other to the Museum of London.
The series seems to have been pretty successful. The course luckily produced the sort of class that ‘gelled’ from the word go – most members of it didn’t know each other beforehand, but they got on well and sparked each other – and the lecturers: – off from the start. Numbers kept up, with an average class of 12-15 each time, and never below 10 good, when you think of the recent bitter weather. As an experiment, lectures were timed from 2-4 pm instead of in the evening – and the experiment paid off.
Sheila included, among her six, three lectures on famous archaeologists of the past and their digs. She felt that the one on Sir Leonard Woolley and the Royal Tombs of Ur went down particularly well, partly because it was less familiar territory to her audience than Schliemann, Mycenae and Troy or the exploits of Mortimer Wheeler. Brigid’s talks on town life in Roman Britain and the prehistoric search for salt both started a lot of discussion. Daphne found that her talk on “Any old Bones?”-was highly popular, not least because she took along half a human skeleton for demonstration purposes; Incidentally, we feel that full marks for courage must go to Daphne’s husband, Ian Lorimer, who brought the skeleton down by car from Orkney for the occasion: one shudders to think what the reaction of the police might have been had Ian been involved in even the slightest road accident enroute!
SITE-WATCHING. We haven’t got quite enough space this month to include our’ regular list of possibly interesting planning applications: we are holding them over and will provide double measure next month.