newsletter-078-august-1977

Newsletter

Page 1

CONGRATULATIONS and to those HADAS members who took examinations this summer (most of them either for some stage of the London University External Diploma in Archaeology or for the Certificate in Field Archaeology) and passed with flying colours. We haven't yet heard from all who have been through the mill -- but these are the results as far as we know them:

Helen Gordon (passed 3rd year Diploma)

Alec Gouldsmith (passed 1st year Diploma)

Marguerite Hughes (passed 1st year Diploma)

Dave King (passed 2nd year Diploma)

Merle Mindel (4th year Diploma, with Merit)

Liz Sagues (4th year Diploma, with Distinction)

Elizabeth Sanderson (passed 2nd year Diploma)

Autumn Courses

Still on academic matters, here is an alteration in the arrangements for one autumn course of which we gave advance news in the June Newsletter.

It forms the first year of the London University Certificate in Field Archaeology. There has been difficulty, however, in finding a lecturer. Now the college has arranged for Michael Pitts, BA, to take the course; but as he is busy on Wednesdays, the evening has been changed to Mondays, 7.30-9.30p.m. starting 19 September, the term will run to 12 December; the second term is from 9 January - 20 March.

The Certificate is an essentially practical 3-year course, and HADAS members who have already taken it have found it very useful. Barnet College is re-starting the Certificate (which has not been in their programme for the past two years) after urging from HADAS, so we hope that many members will support it. Those who do will study, in the first year, recognition and location of sites of all kinds and periods; various archaeological techniques ranging from field walking to resistivity; and the use of photographic and documentary evidence.

We would also again draw members' attention to another course of which we gave advance details in June, called "Beginning Archaeology" at Hendon College of Further Education, Flower Lane, Mill Hill, on Tuesday evenings 7.30-9.30. This, too has been put into the college programme at HADAS's suggestion. It is genuinely for beginners and it will be a positive advantage if you know very little about Archaeology -- ideal, therefore, for recently-joined HADAS members who place themselves in the archaeological "Don't Know" category.

Here are details of further courses on archaeological, historical or allied subjects which will start in the Borough of Barnet this coming autumn:

Page 2

Archaeology of London, Tues. 8-10 pm, South Friern Library, Colney Hatch Lane. Further details, Miss E.F.Pearce (WEA).

History of English Architecture from 1066, Mons. 8-10 pm, Queen Elizabeth School Barnet. Lecturer Frank Bradbeer. Details Mrs. S. Neville (WEA).

Roman London, Thurs. 8-10 pm, Golders Green Library, Mrs. Roxan. Details Mrs. L Hieger (WEA).

London Architecture, 1800-Today, Thurs. 10 am-12. 44 Rotherwick Road, NW11, Mrs. Smith. Details Mrs. Hieger (WEA).

Victoriana, Mons. 10.30 am - 12.30, Union Church, Mill Hill Broadway, Stephanie Dummler, details Mrs. Symons (WEA).

Earth and Its Resources (conservation), Weds. 8-10 pm. Burnt Oak Library, John Matthew. Details Mrs. Symons (WEA).

Antique Appreciation, 2 courses, Thurs. 1.30-3.30 pm, Tues. 7.30-9.30 pm, Hendon College, Flower Lane, NW7.

Physical and Ecological Basis of Conservation, Tues. 7.30-9.30 pm. Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute. D. Crouch.

English and Continental Ceramics, Renaissance-1900, Tues. 10.30 am-12.30, HGS Institute, Miss L.M.Knox.

Elizabethan and Stuart England, Fri. 10.30 am-12, Fellowship House, Willifield Way, NW11. Philippa Bernard.

HADAS on Display

Report by Jeremy Clynes.

During the last six weeks HADAS has staged at five successful exhibitions within the Borough of Barnet, each for a dual purpose -- broadening public understanding of archaeology and selling our Jubilee booklet.

The first display at the Hampstead Garden Suburb June Flower Show was organised by Christine Arnott. It showed a selection of flints from West Heath and a general exhibit on "What you might be up in your garden." The stands at Hendon St. Mary's Junior School Fete (run by Ted Sammes), Woodhouse School Fete (Vincent Foster), Hendon St. Mary's Parish Fete (Dorothy Newbury) and Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute week (Jeremy Clynes) showed a variety of material, including pottery from the Church End excavation.

All the exhibits aroused much interest; and 49 Jubilee booklets were sold. HADAS is greatly indebted to the various organisers and the members who helped them. Chances of putting on this kind of one-day-stand often crop up; if you would like to help with similar events in the future, please let our Hon. Secretary know.

Trading Stamps

Our earlier appeals for trading stamps have been highly successful. We have bought over £30 worth of equipment, including wheelbarrows, forks and spades. Now we would like to remind members again that donations of trading stamps will be most gratefully accepted. With them we would like to buy some of the more specialised tools which hitherto we have had to borrow, including:

pliers, ordinary and long-nose; wire-cutters; small hammer; small saw; screw drivers of varying sizes; Stanley trimmer; chisel; wooden mallet.

All this equipment is in fairly constant use on the West Heath dig; and although members (not to mention members' husbands!) are extremely kind about lending it for long periods, we feel that the Society should as far as possible have its own tools.

Page 3

Anyone with trading stamps to spare during the next few months is asked to send them to the Hon. Treasurer.

From Prehistory to Steam

The HADAS August Outing.

For a rapid transition from the world of prehistoric man to that of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, join the HADAS excursion to Avebury and Swindon on 13 August (see accompanying itinerary and booking form). Visit the greatest prehistoric mound in Europe, the largest Neolithic tomb in a England, the widest stone circle in Britain -- and then measure the structures and achievements against the magnificent iron and steam-age monuments built by the Great Western Railway People at Swindon.

Complete your form and send it, as soon as possible, to Dorothy Newbury. But if you were one of those who wanted to join the last outing but didn't get further than the waiting list, please also ring Dorothy Newbury immediately you receive this Newsletter, and tell her that you want to reserve a place for the August trip.

In the Steps of the Crusaders

By JOANNA WADE, one of our younger members now waiting to go up to Cambridge. She has filled part of the interval between school and university travelling -- and described here are some of the things she has seen.

From March to June this year I followed the approximate route of the Crusaders, culminating in a tour of Israel. Masada and Caesarea were just to other sites we visited.

I'll never understand how the Romans managed to capture Masada. We got up at 3.00a.m. to begin the long climb to the summit, and even then it was hot; by 8.00 am. we were beginning to wilt. It is, however, the site itself, not the heat, that makes the fortress so impregnable -- I suppose soldiers working in that climate, 1292 ft below sea level, the lowest place in the world, would get quite used in time to wearing their armour under the glaring sun.

As we wound our way up the Snake Path the neat squares of the eight Roman camps, joined by a surrounding wall, appeared on the plain below, hopelessly puny compared with the massive fortifications to be assaulted. In the distance was the Dead Sea and the hills beyond, over which the sun began to rise as we climbed. Eventually we reached the top and sat on the wall, staring out at the plain on one side and on the other the yellow hills and deep crevassed valleys folding away. It was remarkably still up there, in the vast empty water cistern around which a bird wheeled, and in the long storerooms, workshops, towers and bath house. Beleaguered on Masada, the Jewish rebels could only wait, watching the ever-growing height of the ramp was the Romans began to build in 73 AD on the less steep side of the mountain. From this incredible feat of engineering the Romans battered a breach in the wall and broke in -- to find the entire garrison dead. To avoid enslavement, they had killed themselves.

Masada has a grandeur which inspires both nobility of purpose like that and beauty like Herod's Northern Palace. As one enters the area of the palace, the whole atmosphere changes from the calm of desolation to the calm of peace. King Herod (40 BC-4 AD), fearing assassins, built himself a pleasure palace on three tiers down the side of the mountain, where in the perfect safety of his painted, collonaded a room he could lie looking out over the sea.

Page 4

Herod may have been dissolute, but he was also undoubtedly Great -- as his other enterprise, the huge city of Caesarea, shows. Compared to Yadin's work on Masada, Caesarea seems to have been less well excavated: part of the site is being used as a car park or is overgrown, the ground around the second Century Roman Amphitheatre is absolutely strewn with potsherds while the theatre itself is painfully over-restored. Nevertheless it must be exhilarating to sit in the theatre and looking out over the Mediterranean, for performances are still held there.


Some distance away two vast and headless figures sit beside the hippodrome which could hold 20,000 spectators. Much more is still tantalisingly covered by sand which blows everywhere, hiding but also preserving things such as the Emperor Hadrian's other great feat, an aqueduct running all the way from Mount Carmel, in Haifa, to the city. Its top has now been revealed by and stretches along the white sand close to the sea; modern technology cannot compete with it, so that Caesarea has been left to the sands and the drought, and the town has moved inland.

Masada and Caesarea are among the most famous and impressive sites in Israel, and we set off intending to visit them, but what is so exciting about the country is the number and variety of sites one simply stumbles across, from Beit Shean's Roman Theatre which is miraculously complete with brilliant acoustics, to the engagingly primitive mosaics of the sixth century synagogue of Beit-Alpha: I must hold myself back from even beginning to enthuse about the glories of Jerusalem and Jericho! The archaeology of Israel shows clearly the great waves of people who have trampled over this land -- fascinating to study, but daunting when I realise the gaping holes in my knowledge. I hope to return when I am a bit wiser.

Lunch with Emily

A report on the HADAS July outing by John Hooson.

Three hours after leaving Hendon HADAS members were at Grimes Graves, a group of Neolithic Flint Mines covering an area about 34 acres 5 miles north of Thetford, Norfolk.

30 ft below ground, at the bottom of Pit 1, Mr Lord, the Department of Environment custodian, gave us a clear explanation of the pits and the ways in which it is thought they were worked. The attraction for the miners was a stratum of extremely high-grade flint lying up to 40 ft below the surface. Where it was nearer the surface, it could be worked on an open-cast basis, but the quality was inferior, due to the buckling of the strata by glacial action. To obtain the finest quality, it was necessary to sink pits and extract the flint from galleries radiating from the bottom of the pit. In all, 366 known pits have been identified, but Pit 1 alone is open for inspection.

Red deer antlers were used to remove the Flint. Many antler picks have been found in the pits and is estimated that 50,000 may have been used in all. The antlers are exceedingly strong and last year, during research on the site of by the British Museum, professional Dutch miners found that they could remove the flint with them almost as quickly as if they were using the modern steel picks. It is believed that this high quality flint was needed to make axes to clear forested areas. This appears to be supported at Grimes Graves from the results of pollen analysis.

Page 5

Waste material from a new pit was discarded into an exhausted pit; and examination of the infill shows that after mining ceased about 1500 BC, later Bronze and Iron Age people occupied the site.

Before we left, Mr Lord demonstrated flint knapping and pressure flaking, presenting HADAS with a "Neolithic" axe-head he had expertly made during the fifteen minutes we were watching. His small daughter sat on the ground at his feet and the pressure-flaked one of the waste flakes. The pair presented a picture which might have been the prototype of a Neolithic family and work! (Mr Lord's axe-head has now been carefully and indelibly marked -- lest by some missed chance it should be mislaid, and a future archaeologist leap upon it with glad cries and enshrine it falsely and for ever on the distribution map!)

A picnic lunch was taken at a nearby Emily's Wood. At present its most outstanding feature is that the source of its name has defeated our indefatigable Hon. Secretary, Brigid Grafton Green, who had (otherwise) so excellently organised to the whole day's arrangements.

We then travelled to West Stow, to the site of the Anglo-Saxon Village discovered nearly 30 years ago and excavated from 1965-72. Occupied up to the seventh century, it was untouched until the present time apart from mediaeval ploughing which ceased around 1300 when the site was inundated by about three feet of sand during a sand storm.

The Warden, Richard Darrah, explained that 3 pit houses (grubenhauser) had been reconstructed and work was progressing on a hall house. No Saxon houses have survived and the work is, of necessity, experimental, using the evidence of the pits and postholes together with the results of analysis of the charcoal remaining from two huts which had been destroyed by fire. Only contemporary style tools have been used. Local traditional styles have been applied in an endeavour to determine a true representation and the effect of weather conditions upon them are carefully noted. Perhaps the most interesting fact emerging is that the pits were in all probability floored over and not left open, as previously believed, for it has been found that when left uncovered the recognisable shape of the pit soon disappears, due to wear.

We were very fortunate to visit West Stow in its early stages and it should be interesting to follow its development during the coming years. The intention is that it will form part of a country park open to the public, but at present visits are by prior arrangement only.

At Bury St. Edmunds we were met by Mrs. Margaret Statham, chairman of the Bury Past and Present Society, who showed us first of the Abbey ruins. The Abbey was founded by Benedictine Monks in 1020 upon the Shrine of Edmund, who had been buried there in 869. Mrs. Statham explained at the Abbey Gate that relations between Abbey and townspeople were not always friendly, and the present gate replaces one built shortly after the original was destroyed by townsfolk in 1327. Following the Dissolution, the West front of the Abbey Church had dwellings built into it, so that the "ruins" now present an unusual appearance, being at the same time both the ruins and inhabited houses.

Next we went to the fifteenth century St. Mary's Church, a magnificent building, light and airy, with a splendid Angel Roof to the nave and decorated roofs to the chancel and Baret's Chantry, the latter recently restored by the Victoria and Albert Museum and set with twinkling pieces or mirror glass, like stars.

One would have been happy to linger in Bury for a day or two, seeing the town and visiting the Moyses Hall Museum, which contains many of the Anglo Saxon finds from West Stow. However, tea awaited us in a pleasant cottage garden at Great Sampford, where our charming hosts, HADAS members of Mr and Mrs. Bergman, had prepared for us most perfectly. Everyone was able to relax comfortably on the lawn, amid flowers and apple trees, while tea, sandwiches and strawberry scones appeared in an apparently unending procession. A perfect ending to our day.

Page 6

Biological Overtones at West Heath

Botanist and HADAS member Dr Joyce Roberts provides an unexpected slant on our current excavation.

Nothing at West Heath but sand and flints and burnt stones? Don't you believe it! Mesolithic man may have been dead long since, but living denizens of the site are with us still -- perhaps direct descendants of creatures who shared the Bagshot Sands with our "ancestors." West Heath is a living place. When the diggers depart, the site is left to tree roots, insects and possibly bigger creatures, who don't live in archaeological strata. They move up and down, mixing everything, and the tree roots go down and decay in situ.

The soil is very acid and heavily leached, so biological activity is at a minimum; but there is sufficient activity to decay all organic materials except charcoal. This, to the archaeologist, may be evidence for fires and hearths; to the biologist it will give clues to the plant material available and used as fuel, provided the fragments can be identified. Some of the West East charcoal has been identified as oak.

What has been found so far? Twice, objects thought to be archaeological turned out to be entomological. Brown, wrinkled, nut-like objects were discovered, well below the surface; these have been identified as a root galls of the Cynipid Wasp (Biorhiza pallida). Within each gall a wingless female develops which climbs the trunk of an oak tree and lays eggs in a bud. The oak responds by enclosing the developing lava in an oak-apple gall.

Tiny clay "pots" of the large hairy solitary bee (Anthophora acervorum) were found at the bottom of a pit. The female burrows down into soft soil, excavates a circular cavity and smooths it inside. In this she lays an egg, with some pollen and honey, and then seals it with the clay lid. She repeats this a number of times, making a group of nests. These objects are of no archaeological interest, unless they point to a possible sort of protein -- grubs and larvae.

The pollen in the soil is being examined as an indicator of the vegetation of the past. At the lowest level there was oak, hazel, alder, birch, heather, grasses and various ferns including Polpody. Neither Hazel, alder, heather nor Polypody are to be found on or near the site now.

Knowledge of the usual habitat for these plants at the present time enables one to imagine the plant cover in the past. A picture is emerging or mixed oakwoods with birch and lime; in open clearings are hazel bushes and grasses, in damper hollows alder trees and undergrowth of various forms including Polypody -- the latter now found only in damp woods of the western and northern parts of the British Isles. In the dry sandy areas denuded of trees there was heather and bracken. A happy time can be spent conjecturing the reasons for the denuded areas or even wondering if Mesolithic man would have recognised the above as a description of "home."

NOTE TO ALL DIGGERS. No West Heath dig during August. Digging re-starts on 3 September, will continue all the month on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Comments