Newsletter-503-February-2013

 

Number 503                        February 2013               Edited by Andy Simpson

 

HADAS DIARY

Lectures are held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, N3 3QE, and start promptly at 8 pm,

with coffee/tea and biscuits afterwards. Non-members: £1. Buses 82, 125, 143, 326 & 460 pass nearby and Finchley Central station (Northern Line), is a short walk away.

 

Tuesday 12 February From Longboat to Warrior; the evolution of the wooden ship Lecture by Eliot Wragg, Thames Discovery Programme (NB- held in the Salon)

Tuesday 12th March: The Railway Heritage Trust                         Lecture by Andy Savage.

Tuesday 9th April: Nautical Archaeology – past, present and future

Lecture by Mark Beattie-Edwards, Programme Director, Nautical Archaeology Society. Tuesday 14th May 2013: 10,000 years of History Beneath your Feet: the Bankside foreshore Lecture by Dr Fiona Haughey

Tuesday 8th October: Brunel’s Tunnel under the Thames

Lecture by Robert Hulse Director of the Brunel Museum

Tuesday 12th November: Lions on Kunulua - excavations of Early Bronze and Iron Age periods at Tell Tayinat, Hatay, Turkey Lecture by Dr Fiona Haughey

Our long weekend”, 2013                                                    Jim Nelhams 

HADAS long weekends have for a few years been rather longer, and our trip in 2013 is a total of 5 days, running from Sunday 15th September and returning home on Thursday 19th. We will be based at Lee Wood (Best Western) Hotel in Buxton in the Derbyshire Peak District, an area which HADAS does not seem to have visited before. 

We expect to visit Stoke on Trent, the plague village” of Eyam, and Matlock Spa, including the Heights of Abraham, and are examining a number of other options. If you have any other suggestions, please talk to Jim or Jo Nelhams or Don Cooper (contact details on back page of newsletter). 

Pick up points will as usual be Barnet, Whetstone, Finchley, Hendon, Golders Green and Temple Fortune. Times are not yet known until we confirm our en route coffee stop. 

We managed to hold prices last year, but unfortunately both hotel and coach prices have risen this year so the proposed cost will be £450 per person sharing a double/twin room and £495 for a single.

These prices are based on a group of 36 people. Because the prices have risen, we need to know that we have enough interest to make the trip viable. 

With this newsletter, you will find a form about the trip. If you want to come, please complete it and return the form to Jim Nelhams with your deposit, not later than 15th March. Cheques payable to HADAS please. Cheques will not be banked until we know we have enough support.

We hope you can join us for what we expect to be another enjoyable trip.

Thanks, but no tanks                                                               Andy Simpson 

Last month’s newsletter featured recent resistivity work by HADAS at Martin Primary School, East Finchley. 

The main entrance corridor of the school features original Finchley Urban District Council architect’s plans for the school, and historic photographs. One of these seemingly dates to the late First World War period, showing the entire school grouped in front of the main entrance (this photo being reproduced on the first page of the January/February 2013 Finchley Society Newsletter), and what appears to be a classic Great War British tank in the background.  Or not. When I showed this to RAF Museum colleague Alan Wicks, a member of the Friends of Bovington Tank Museum (http://www.tankmuseum.org/), he pointed out a few problems. Using the people standing on top as a scale, for one thing it isn’t long enough, and the forward raised housing is too square and too big – and should slope at the back. It could perhaps be a mock-up, perhaps in wood, and produced for recruiting or ‘Tank Bank Week’ fundraising events run by the National War Savings Committee. Anyone out there know more of tanks in Great War Finchley or Barnet? 

Publication Backlog                                                                Andy Simpson 

Further to last years articles on 1970s HADAS digs in Fuller St, Hendon, and the White Swan, Golders Green, I am now working on the Hendon Town Hall dig directed by Ted Sammes over the August Bank Holiday weekend, 1978, assisted by the Sunday morning Avenue House gang with the finds processing. There are no extant site notes or drawings, just a few informal snapshots, mostly by the late George Ingrams, and just a handful of references in HADAS committee minutes. Finds are varied a single

residual sherd of medieval pottery, clay pipes, and much 18th- 19th century pottery, including part of a Government Issue plate dated 1944 and even a fragment of shrapnel from an artillery shell, presumably from anti-aircraft fire. 

 

Margaret Maher 1938-2012 - a personal tribute by Myfanwy Stewart 

It was with great sadness that Margaret's friends heard that she had passed away on the 15th December 2012 after years of illness.  She had fought ill health with an indomitable spirit that came as no surprise to all who knew her. 

We first met when HADAS started the Mesolithic excavation of West Heath, Hampstead, under the direction of the late Daphne Lorimer, and we stayed to the close in 1981. In 1977 the excavation of the West Heath Spring site, a boggy area to the south-east, was made possible when Margaret's husband William (always "Billy" to her) provided a HY-Mac excavator to dig out the first 1.6. metres of the bog. Samples from a deeper pit were taken by the late M.Girling and J. Grieg and evidence of five thousand years of environmental data were obtained from the beetle and pollen evidence. Sadly Billy was to die prematurely and Margaret was left a widow with 4 children. 

After West Heath, we both went as full time students to the Institute of Archaeology, UCL and successfully graduated. We dug on the Mesolithic site on Hengistbury Head and then West Heath was re-opened by HADAS in 1984 under Margaret's direction. 

Margaret proved to be a very able director for the 3 year excavation. Extremely thorough, she ran a 'tight ship' which brought out the best in the diggers.  Her knowledge of flint knapping and typology was prodigious and she was always eager to teach all who took part. She generated enthusiasm and the site had a very happy atmosphere.

My usually reticent mother, who progressed from tea making to writing up the finds ledger, said that working on the site "was one of the happiest times of my life" and that Margaret was "a real worker". It was very gratifying when UCL acknowledged the excavation and allowed their undergraduates to work there as part of their required excavation experience.

 

Much humour came from the crowd of people who inevitably came to watch and comment from behind the fence. A memorable moment came when a mounted police officer called to Margaret "I am looking for a man".  "Arent we all" she jokingly shouted back. 

The last time we excavated together was at Culverwell, the Mesolithic shell midden on the Isle of Portland, owned and directed by Susann Palmer. Overlooking the sea, the site was a complete contrast to West Heath and added to our experience of the Mesolithic. 

The last time I saw Margaret she knew she did not have long to live. She faced the inevitable with immense courage and dignity.  The large congregation at her funeral requiem mass showed how well she was regarded and included members of HADAS and former UCL graduates. 

Another side of Margaret was shown in the order of service booklet which referred to her "eclectic taste in music", some of which was played at her funeral.  Included also was a selection from her collection of "sayings, oddments and poetry that she particularly liked or which touched a chord". She really was "one of a kind" and will be greatly missed by her friends.   Sincere and deepest sympathy is sent to her children and family. 

Ironbridge Trip Day 4 

BRIDGNORTH                                                                                              Kevin McSharry

 

Day 4 of this year’s HADAS excursion to Shropshire was a real delight despite the inclement weather. It began with Bridgnorth, thence to the atmospheric pipe factory of Broseley and finally to Cosford to view the RAF Museum there. 

 Bridgnorths name comes from a bridge over the Severn, a little to the north of where the  town stands. It is one town with two very distinct parts: The High Town which stands on a  cliff and overlooks the River Severn; and the Low Town on the west bank of the Severn. The two parts are connected by the  Bridgnorth Funicular or Castle Hill Railway, said to be the  steepest  inland funicular railway in Britain.

 

Our guided tour began in the windswept Sainsburys car park but with one or two stops we hastened to the historic centre of Bridgnorth High Town, which we entered by Northgate the only surviving gate of the original five. Northgate houses the Bridgnorth Museum, which had been opened for our Hadasian party. The Museum was accessed by a narrow, steep stone staircase. The Museum’s shape was dictated by its location on the Northgate cum wall of Bridgnorth. Thus it was one long narrow room crammed with a fascinating collection of historic artefacts telling the story of Bridgnorth over the centuries. Members of the Bridgnorth & District Historical Society were on hand to answer the many questions posed to them.

 

Much of historic High Town Bridgnorth we see today dates from the seventeenth century, as the town was a severe casualty of the English Civil War (1641-1649). The fateful day was the 29th March 1646 when Parliamentary forces attacked the town which had declared for the King. Bridgnorths motto is Fidelitas Urbis Salus Regius (In the Towns loyalty lies the Kings Safety). In the ensuing melee much of the town was fired and a goodly portion of St. Leonard’s Church destroyed, by explosion.

A hop, skip and a jump from Northgate was St. Leonard’s Church approached by a narrow picturesque street. As with St. Mary’s in Shrewsbury, St. Leonard’s is now under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Its location which is circular is a delight and known as St. Leonard’s Close. St. Leonards is a Norman foundation and some of its interesting features include lovely windows and a pulpit carved, as an angel with a trumpet, in wood.

 

Our tour wended its way to Bridgnorth’s 17th century Town Hall (part of which was once a court of justice), a half-timbered building standing over the arched market area, that dominates the High Street. The Town Hall, accessed by a wooden staircase, is a gem. The Council chamber, wooden panelled with interesting stained glass windows is a palimpsest of the Towns history since the 17th century. Our tour of the High Town concluded at the classically designed church of St. Mary Magdalene.  Designed by whom? None other than Thomas Telford with whom I associated things

industrial and not this light-filled beautiful, spacious building with soaring windows. St. Marys, despite its classical design, stands on an 11th century foundation and, unlike St. Leonard’s, is the centre of an active and vibrant parish. 

Leaving St. Mary’s we hastened to the Castle Hill Railway, approached by a narrow walkway with stunning views over the Severn and beyond. Views said by Charles I to be the finest in the Kingdom. 

What fun it is to ride on unusual forms of transport. The funicular railway is one such form. The railway, initially operated by water, is now powered by electricity. 

 

Below going down! – Photo by Andy Simpson.






 

The railway operated two cars on parallel tracks. Connected by steel cables, the carriages serve to counter-balance each other, as one rises to the top station the other runs to the bottom station. The railway (opened in July 1892) is a testament to Victorian entrepreneurial and engineering skills.

 

Two of Bridgnorths most famous sons are Francis Moore of Old Moore’s Almanac fame and Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Shakespearian actor and star of stage and screen. Their names evoked those mystic cards of memory of my childhood as the Almanac was always in our house, usually bought at the door from an itinerant pedlar; and Sir Cedric is remembered from the black & white (and some colour) films shown at the matinee performances at the Classic Cinema, alas now no more. I remember more vividly his son, the actor Edward Hardwicke, a grandson of Bridgnorth, who played Watson to Jeremy Brett’s Holmes.

 

Once our descent, from the High Town to the Low Town had been accomplished we embarked on the coach at Lavington Hole to journey to historic Broseley. 

 

BROSELEY PIPE MUSEUM                                                                              Don Cooper

 

And so to visit the Broseley pipe museum;  the museum is on the site of one of the last clay pipe factories in Britain. It belonged to the Southorn family.  Having opened in 1880 as Crown Pipeworks, it closed in 1957 and was left as it was until becoming a museum in 1992.  (The last pipe-making factory to close in Britain was John Pollock & Co. of Manchester, which closed in 1992). The village of Broseley was renowned for clay pipe makers, the first one being recorded in 1590. Such was the popularity of clay pipe smoking that what was once a cottage industry became an industrial factory business. 

At its peak in the 18th century Broseley was known world-wide for the quality of its clay pipes and there were a number of factories in the village. Smoking a Broseley 

was the height of fashion. However, by the late 19th century clay pipe smoking was in decline as cigarettes became more popular. To meet this challenge the various 

companies consolidated and eventually only William Southorn & Co., which had started in 1823, was left.

 

As a final fling they diversified into making china dolls, pipes for children to blow bubbles with etc., but gave up the struggle in 1957 when Harry Southorn died.

 

We were very fortunate to be able to arrange for Rex M Key (one of the very last clay pipe makers) to give us a demonstration of how clay pipes had been made in the factory. In summary, the clay (which often came up from Cornwall) was washed in tubs to remove imperfections. Then it was worked like dough to remove the air and was rolled into a rough pipe shape and a wire pushed through the stem to make the hole. Next it was put in a two part steel mould to form the bowl properly, the mould was clamped and the wire pushed through to complete the hole for the smoke to reach the smoker. Once dried, it was trimmed and excess clay removed, put in saggars (ceramic boxes for holding products put in kilns, which could be stacked neatly and reused) and fired in the kiln. The kiln at this factory held 75,000 pipes, and firing and cooling took four days in all. After the clay pipes were fired, they were sometimes polished and burnished, and had the tips dipped in a waxy substance so that the smokers lips did not stick to the clay. The pipes were packed carefully in straw or wood shavings (as they are very fragile!), boxed and dispatched all around the world.

 

Clay pipes came in all shapes and sizes. Essentially they were used as advertising for a whole host of organisations; pubs, clubs, societies, and often commemorated individual people and events. The smallest pipes were known as “cutties, church warden pipes were 20” (50cms) long, and the longest pipes were up to 36” (91cms). 


Below Rex at work photo by Andy Simpson




Rex is a knowledgeable clay pipe enthusiast (he has a personal collection of 14,000 pipes) and he gave us a wonderful demonstration on how to make clay pipes supported by an excellent commentary - thanks Rex. As one of the last clay pipe makers, he says he is inundated with orders from organisations wanting clay pipes to advertise their organisations.

 

After the demonstration (which was done in two groups so that everyone could see Rex at work) we toured the rest of the remains of the factory, left as if the workforce had just gone home for the day, and viewed workbenches, samples of moulds, types of pipes as well as videos of pipe-making in the past. As clay pipes were virtually a disposable item hence a pipe and pint for a penny, with frequent changes of designs, they are an important tool, when found in context, in helping to date archaeological finds.  The pipe museum, a time capsule of what the working conditions were like in the declining years of this industry, was a grim place to work, full of dust, but a fascinating gem of a place to visit.

 

Warning –  Contains Aeroplanes!                                                                     Andy Simpson

 

After a most enjoyable visit to Broseley, we moved on to the Royal Air Force Museum, Cosford, which is theMidlands Outstation’ of the Hendon museum. This is a long-established collection; the writer of this note remembers with affection 1970s Sunday afternoon drives out to what was then the Cosford Aerospace Museum, long before it was formally joined with the museum at Hendon.

 

In those days, when the aircraft there were viewed as one of the RAF’s former Regional Collections’ of historic aircraft, for 50 pence you got museum admission, duplicated guidebook, AND a car sticker! Even today, admission remains free. 

This is a large site to one side of what remains an operational airfield and tri-service training base see http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcosford/ 

The museum site occupies five large buildings a reception building, upper pair of hangars, lower hangar, the vast, lottery-funded National Cold War Exhibition building (‘NCWE), and the building where we started our visit, the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre (MBCC’), named after a long-serving Chairman of the RAF Museum Trustees, a wartime bomber pilot. Our guide for the tour of the centre was MBCC Manager Tim Wallis, also ex-RAF. Tim talked us through the conservation and restoration role of the MBCC, with particular reference to the on-going long-term restoration projects on two wartime RAF bombers the Vickers Wellington, after 40 years display at Hendon, and the Handley Page Hampden wreck recovered from its Russian forest crash site in the early 1990s and requiring total rebuild whilst retaining as much as possible of the original structure. Also being worked on was the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel, an early development version of the late lamented Harrier Jump Jet that recently fell victim to government cuts. Tim’s team of technicians and apprentices have also been heavily involved in the reassembly of the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft, a derivative of the Comet airliner, seen parked outside in the final stages of assembly following its move by road from Kemble airfield in Gloucestershire – Cosfords relatively short runway means not all RAF Museum acquisitions can be flown in due to their size and weight.

 

After this most informative tour, we were free to explore the rest of the site. Many concentrated on the NCWE with its collection of Cold War artefacts including tanks and armoured vehicles as well as aircraft. It is the only place in the world displaying all three nuclearcapable V Bombers’ – Victor, Valiant and Vulcan. See http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford/

 

Below Cosford’s De Havilland Mosquito and Avro Lincoln (Photo by Andy Simpson)









Others of the group found their way to the hangars containing the extensive collection of research and development aircraft, including the ill-fated TSR2, and warplanes, including Mosquito and Lincoln bombers, the latter a development of the immortal Lancaster. The weather was perfect and after a good stroll round we headed back to the hotel. 

Site visit to the Bucklersbury House Excavation                                                Bill Bass 

The visit was organised by the City of London Archaeological Society, on the 12th Dec 2012. As it was popular the group was split into a morning and afternoon time-slot, this report is of the afternoon session. 

The site borders Queen Victoria St to the north (near Bank station) and takes in not only the area of the now demolished Bucklersbury House, but also other properties to the south. Our party entered via the north-west entrance, where we were met by Sadie Watson, the Project Officer for Museum of London Archaeology.  After signing-in, the first thing to strike you was the massive scale of the site, 5-10m deep in places and covering a wide area, lots of big construction plant, piling machines and staff in high visibility vests. It was, we were told, currently the biggest privately- financed development in Europe.  After walking down to the site cabin we were given a briefing on the site by Sadie.

 

This part of the City between Moorgate and Bank was bisected north to south by the River Walbrook which created the upper Walbrook Valley. This area has long been known for its archaeological importance.

 

In the early 1950s, Professor Grimes discovered and excavated the Temple of Mithra(whose peripatetic fate will be more fully reported in due course). In more recent times there have been several high-profile digs associated with the Walbrook Valley including No1 Poultry which overlooks our site just to the north, Drapers Gardens  and 8-10 Moorgate. In fact the excavations at 8-10 Moorgate and of Bucklersbury House were being dug concurrently for a time, those at Moorgate have just been completed (early December).

 

The earliest signs of Roman occupation in the immediate area came from No1 Poultry a timber drain of 47AD. In this period the Walbrook would have been navigable by boat. As noted in the other sites above, the Walbrook and its valley became increasingly industrialised, post-holes, piles, revetments and the like saw the river channelled and moved for various purposes. At Bucklersbury, a system of plank-lined drains and wells have been recorded across the area, posts, and groupings of posts, may indicate a substantial mill and associated mill-race being built over the river at the north of the site.

 

Eventually as water levels dropped and the Walbrook became silted up, timber-framed buildings were erected over the line of the river around the late 1st to early 2nd century. Built mostly of oak they would have been founded on base-plates supported on piles with vertical beams slotted into mortice joints, then in-filled with wattle and daub walls. Access to the buildings could be seen with excavation of fence-lined alleyways. Preservation of these wooden frames and fence features was described as ‘excellent’.

 

After a series of dumping and levelling layers in the later Roman period, the area was re-modelled with buildings of ragstone lining the east of the Walbrook, together with a shrine, walls and floors possibly leading to, or associated with, a temple precinct The Temple of Mithras.  Indeed remains of the foundations of the Temple of Mithras not removed when it was dismantled in 1954 were rediscovered during early work on the site, but were reburied, as it is now a ‘Scheduled Ancient Monument’.

 

A tessellated floor was recorded and lifted, the floor was partially made with recycled materials hypocaust tiles and similar, so not top-notch but a step-up from a beaten earth or chalk floor, for instance. (In 1869 a superb mosaic was discovered in the region of Bucklersbury).

 

It would appear that the Walbrook is the place to dig as at Drapers Gardens there was a wonderful array of finds, which were passed around the table. These included a small polished Neolithic hand- axe found in a Roman context where somebody had tried to drill a hole through it to act as a pendant. Another star find was a small amber amulet shaped like a gladiators helmet.  From the Walbrook Discovery Programme blog: 

“At a little over 1 cm across this was a great spot on site and could easily have been missed. The helmet has a large crest and has a lattice work of engraved lines on the face which forms a stylised representation of a visor. It is perforated through the crest for suspension. This type of helmet was worn by a murmillo type of gladiator who was armed with a sword, shield, helmet, greaves and padding on his right arm. Normally paired off against a thraex these gladiators were amongst the most popular of the imperial Roman period and would undoubtedly have competed at the Londinium Amphitheatre at Guildhall Yard”.

 

Some recently excavated wax writing-tablets in excellent, water-logged condition, were also seen. The wax has disappeared but the impressed writing can often be seen with scientific and photographic techniques. One from No.1 Poultry describes the sale of a female slave Fortunata. A host of other finds we saw included copper items pendants, brooches, hinges, coins, buckles and a tabard for holding your chain-mail together. Iron keys and arrowheads were also seen.

 

We were soon issued with our own hi-vis ‘safety-kit’ and retracing our steps from the west to a viewing platform on the east of the site off the Walbrook street. Most of

 the archaeology survives only down the east side of the site due to truncation by the 1950s office development. We were looking through and over massive modern day

steel piling and revetments, this was needed as the site was so deep and directly behind us was St Stephens Church, whose medieval 15th century foundations 

needed to be kept in check! A new entrance to Bank station will be built in this area and there are plans to re-instate the line of the Roman Road of Watling Stree

across the site here. Looking down we could see many of the 50-60 archaeologists working away at the deep black deposits of the 2nd century Walbrook. They are 

surrounded by Roman timber posts of the possible two-storey mill together with other walls, wells and drains, in between was their modern concrete equivalents. As an aside, many of the Roman timbers may be recycled as an ‘art instillation’ in the new building, which will also include a publicly accessible new display of the Temple of Mithras. It was a fascinating and impressive sight to see such a large chunk of well-preserved archaeology being excavated in the City of London. 

The site is being developed by McAlpine to be the European HQ of Bloomberg LP. Many thanks to Sophie Jackson, Director Design and Development and Sadie 

Watson of MOLA, for giving up so much of her time, and to Rose Baillie for organising the visit. The dig can be followed on the blog here

(http://walbrookdiscovery.wordpress.com/) where more info and further finds are to be found. 

 

The Foundling Hospital in Hadley       Report by Stephen Brunning. 

I recently joined the Barnet U3A and attended my first meeting and lecture on 3rd January. The lecture was given by exhibition curator Yvonne Tomlinson.

The Foundling Hospital was set up by Thomas Coram (1668-1751) who was appalled by the plight of London’s abandoned children. The hospital received its charter on 17th October 1739 and became the first children’s charity. A building to house the children opened in Bloomsbury in 1745. There were 376 governors who included royalty and painter William Hogarth. Women were not allowed to be governors.  Hogarth donated paintings to the hospital and composer George Frideric Handel gave concerts to raise much needed funds. 

On admission the children were given a token with a number on it which they had to wear at all times.  They were also baptised in a new name to protect the mothers identity. The hospital became the legal guardian to the children who placed them in apprenticeships at age 12 and supervised the placements until they were 24 years old (male) and 21 (female).  Boys were apprenticed into a variety of trades and the girls in domestic service. Not all children were accepted and those who were too sick were turned away. On the first day of the General Reception” (GR 2nd June 1756 to 31st March 1760) over 117 children arrived.   The numbers became so great that branch hospitals were required.  These were established at Ackworth, Aylesbury, Barnet, Chester and Shrewsbury. 

A remarkable Barnet woman by the name of Mrs Prudence West suggested in May 1760 and again in September 1762 that a branch hospital be set up in Monken Hadley. She felt the country air would be good for the children.  It finally opened on 19th December 1762 with Mrs West as Manager. The Matron and her assistant were Martha & Sarah Cullarne who received an annual salary of £15 and £10 respectively. 

Mrs West recognised the need for the children to have a good diet and, like the children in London and the other branch hospitals, they were also given smallpox inoculations. Despite this, the death rate was shocking by modern standards. 42% of the children at Monken Hadley died although this was good when compared with the 63% before GR, 70% during GR and 45% after GR in London. Mrs West treated minor ailments herself and tried to help the sick children along with the nurses. This no doubt helped, as they had the third lowest death rate. 

The Monken Hadley hospital finally closed its doors on 19th March 1768 and the children were collected by caravan. Some were deemed too sick to return to London and sent to a local nurse instead. Following her challenge to the hospital governors when the hospital closed, about the high price of goods, Mrs West was reimbursed 40/- to keep her quiet” as Yvonne put it!  Mrs West was the only woman managing an outreach hospital. In 1927 the hospital in Bloomsbury closed, and the children were moved to a building in Redhill. A site was found in Berkhamsted and a new hospital was built in 1935 which survives today as Ashlyns School. Parts of the original building still stands around a playground in Coram’s Fields, Bloomsbury, where adults are only admitted if accompanied by a child. 

References 

The Foundling Museum website, 2011:  http://www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk/   (accessed 3rd January 2013). 

This talk complements the exhibition at Barnet Museum and the Foundling Voices exhibition which runs from 1st December 2012 to 28th February 2013; although after 14th January the original objects will be replaced by facsimiles. The exhibition will travel to Hendon, East Barnet and Chipping Barnet libraries until mid-April 2013.


The Mythology of a Pharaoh: Akhenaten, deformed or divine? Lucia Gahlin

Report on Januarys lecture by Sigrid Padel

 

The reign of Akhenaten, 1352 1336 BC, stands out as an extraordinary chapter in Egyptian history and archaeology. It has attracted many theories and interpretations. Lucia Gahlin, who lectures in Egyptology at Bristol and Exeter, gave a lively, well-argued and illustrated account of what we actually know about him and his time. 

Akhenaten broke with the long established ideas and traditions of religion and kingship in Egypt. Amun-Ra had long been the principal god in the Egyptian pantheon. His temple at Luxor is still one of the most impressive buildings ever constructed. Akhenaten replaced Amun-Ra by the Aten, the solar disc, making this the sole god, thus introducing a form of monotheism. 

Akhenaten was the son of Amunhotep III and Queen Tiye. We know nothing of his childhood. Since his elder brother Thutmose died young, he was destined to rule as Amunhotep IV. But by the fifth year of his reign a significant change had taken place. He chose to be called Akhenaten. (Akh- spirit of  Aten the sun god).  His wife, Nefertiti, became Nefernefarnuaten. Though, at the beginning of his reign, Akhenaten had built a temple to the Aten at Karnak next to the temple of Amun-Ra, he soon decided to move his capital from Memphis to Amarna, a city he founded on a new site further south. This was laid out orientated towards two hills between which the sun rises on certain days of the year. He and Nefertiti had themselves portrayed beneath the sun’s disc with rays emanating from it towards the royal pair, creating an image of a special link with this god. It seems that Akhenaten saw himself as a God-King.  The art of this period differs from the norm established in Egypt during the preceding centuries, using more sinuous lines, emphasising sexuality and the closeness of Akhenaten’s relationship with his wife and their six daughters. Statues of the king show him as rather effeminate. 

The changes introduced by Akhenaten were not to last. He was succeeded by Smenkhare, who died soon after. This brought the nine-year-old Tutankhamun, formerly known as Tutankhaten, to the throne. Early in his reign El-Amarna was abandoned as was the cult introduced by Akhenaten. It is unclear what happened to his body and all his cartouches were erased from buildings and statues. His name, like those of his successors Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun, possibly his sons, are omitted from the King List of all pharaohs from about 1250 BC. 

It is not surprising that this pharaoh has been heavily mythologised. The portrayal of Akhenaten’s body in statues and frescoes is seen by some as typical of homosexuality, bisexuality or linked to various conditions such as Marfan’s syndrome. He has been seen as a pacifist, not “smiting his enemies” as other pharaohs were seen to have done. Frescoes of this period seem to emphasize birds and flowers rather than warfare. But there are depictions of Akhenaten killing birds and Nefertiti in an aggressive pose. Sir Flinders Petrie who was responsible for the excavations of El-

Amarna saw Akhenaten as the first monogamist ruler, an idea that would have been appealing to his contemporaries.  There is no real evidence for any of these interpretations. In judging the past it is more important to look at what is really known and to acknowledge that what is read into the past

often merely reflects the attitudes of the authors of these theories.

 

OTHER SOCIETIES’ EVENTS                                 compiled by Eric Morgan

 

Friday 22 February, 7.30pm. Edmonton Hundred Historical Society, jointly with Enfield Society, Charity School, Church St, Edmonton N9. Enfield’s Railway History, Pt. 1 The Lea Valley, Southbury & Enfield Town Lines - talk by David Cockle. Visitors £1. Please note correction to this venue.

 

Sunday 3 March, 10.30am. Heath & Hampstead Society. Heroes and Villains The History of the Heath as we know it. Meet at the Flagstaff, Whitestone Pond. Walk led by Thomas Radice. Lasts approx. 2 hours. Donation £3.00.

 

Tuesday 5–Sunday 17 March. Hendon Library, The Burroughs, Hendon NW4 4BQ. The Barnet  Foundling Hospital, Monken Hadley, 1762-68. Exhibition- a continuation of the exhibition at Barnet Museum, which runs until 20 February (see January and this Newsletter). Then on to East Barnet Library, Tues 19Sat 30 March, and then Tues 2–Sun 14 April at Chipping Barnet Library.

 

Tuesday 5 March, 8pm. St Albans & Herts Architectural & Historical Society, St Albans School, Abbey Gateway, St Albans AL3 4HB. Tudor Hertfordshire. Talk by Daphne Knott.

 

Mon 11 March, 3pm. Barnet Museum & Local History Society, Church House, Wood St, Barnet (opposite Museum). Charles & Mary Lamb talk by Helen Walton.

 

Wed 13 March, 2.30 4pm. Mill Hill Historical Society, Trinity Church, The Broadway, NW7. The History of Harrods (preceded by AGM) -talk by Mrs M. Wright.

 

Wed 13 March, 7.45pm. Hornsey Historical Society, Union Church Hall, Corner Ferme Park Road/Weston Park, N8 9PX. The Building of St Paul’s Cathedral - talk by Neil Houghton. Visitors £1.50

 

Friday 15 March, 7.30pm. Wembley History Society, 977, Harrow Road, Sudbury, HA0 2SF (opposite Black Horse Pub) - talk by Len Snow, author & historian. Visitors £2. NB- different venue.

 

Friday, 15 March, 8pm (refreshments & sales from 7.30). Enfield Archaeological Society, Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane, junction Chase Side, Enfield EN2 0AJ. Old & New Finds of the Coin Collection of Verulamium Museum - talk by David Thorold. Visitors £1

 

Saturday 16 March 2013. LAMAS 50th Annual Conference of London Archaeologists Weston Theatre, Museum of London Morning session – recent work; Afternoon session - 50 Years of London Archaeology: Past, Present and Future. Tickets booked pre-1st March: £10.00, £15.00 after this date.

Cheque payable to LAMAS and SAE to Jon Cotton, c/o Department of Archaeological Collections & Archive, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN

 

 

With thanks to this month’s contributors;     Bill Bass; Stephen Brunning; Don Cooper; Kevin McSharry; Eric Morgan; Jim Nelhams; Sigrid Padel; Myfanwy Stewart.

 

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