Newsletter-171-May-1985

Newsletter No. 171: May, 1.9.85

PROGRAMME  NEWS.

Tues May 14.Annual General Meeting. By tradition the Chair at the AGM is taken by one of our Vice-Presidents. This year it is Ted Sammes turn to officiate. Business meeting at 8.30 (but come for coffee at 8 pm as usual) followed by slides and short talks by Members.  If anyone has a few interesting slides, please ring. Dorothy.Newbury.„(203 0950) as more volunteers will be most welcome.

Sat May 18. CANCELLED outing to Cambridge. It is much regretted that our plans for this fell apart when the original compere became ill and it was then discovered that the colleges are closed to the public during May because of examinations.

Fri-Sun  June 21-23 Weekend 'in South Cumbria

Sat July 20. Mill Hill walk

Sat .Aug 17. Porton Down

Sat  Sept  21. .Sutton Hoe

 

Sat Oct .5. Revised date for 1985 Minimart. Please change the provisional date given on your programme card (which was 'Oct 12 tp be confirmed') to Oct 5; if possible, do it now, while you think of it.

 

WEST HEATH DIG

 

The dig re-opened in-the week-end of April 20-21, and we shall be reporting on it as it progresses

 

Meantime, you may like to have again the details of days and times: Digging will go on .four days a week (Fri, Sats., Suns, Mons) until, the end of May, from 9 am. In June and July the site will be open six days a week. All diggers - including the inexperienced will be welcome. Please bring your own 3" or 4" inch pointing trowel and a kneeler and wear soft-soled shoes.

For further information, .contact either Sheila Woodward.(952 3897) Or Margaret Maher (907 0333)..

 

From our MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY comes this message...

Many thanks for the good response to subscriptions due in April. I am being kept busy doing lists, paying money into the bank and acknowledging same. Keep up the good work this month. Thank you for the kind wishes many of you have sent.

With grateful thanks for prompt payments,

sincerely,

PHYLLIS FLETCHER


ALL THINGS TUDOR. The Museum of London is going Tudor for the next two months. In May and June Wednesday lectures (1.10 pm in the theatre) will cover such subjects as Stow's Survey of London, Tudor architecture, the Elizabethan theatre, Tudor maps, Tudor poverty and Tudor shinning. Some Thursday Workshops (in the Education Dept, 1.10 pm) also link, up with the Tudor theme: on May 23, recent Tudor finds in the City; on June 13, Tudor coins.

ZINC MAKING IN ANCIENT INDIA                           Report on the April lecture

by ALEC GOULDSMITH

It is always a pleasure to welcome back Dr Paul Craddock because he

usually has something original to say.The April lecture proved no exception.

During his previous talk on 'Early Metallurgy' he had mentioned the discovery of huge dumps of spent retorts and other refractory materials scattered over a wide area of hillside around the mining area of Zawar in the province of Rajasthan about 300 miles north of Bombay. He had now been back with a team made up jointly from the University of Baroda,' the British Museum and Hindustan Zinc Limited. This talk covered their findings so far.

He promised not to be too technical and indeed his first slide reassured us. It was a High Street ironmonger's shop displaying many galvanised %iron products. Zinc, he said, is now a common and relatively cheap metal, but this was not always so. It was only in the 19c that it became so in Europe.

From about 1600 all metallic zinc had been imported through the Dutch and British East India Companies. Historians were never quite sure where the metal came from, but the most likely sources were India and/or China, The Romans, of course, knew brass from about 100 BC; but this alloy of copper and zinc had been made by heating finely divided copper and calamine (zinc oxide) in.a closed crucible with charcoal at around 1000 C, When the zinc dissolved in the copper. Calamine could not be reduced to metallic zinc by the normal smelting methods of those days, because at temperatures over 900°C it volatilised away. It was not until the 13c that the relationship of calamine and zinc was understood. Then an Englishman, William Champion, in Bristol, designed a furnace with an external condenser and produced metallic zinc in Britain. Was this a re-invention, or had the knowledge been brought back from the East? After all, Bristol was the port of entry for the zinc.

At Zawar the zinc/lead ores outcrop along the tops of the hills. Old shafts run down steeply into the hillside to a depth of 22m or so, with galleries running out. Mining was carried out by 'fire-setting' .i.e. building fires of wood to neat up the rock and then pouring water over it. This is shown by .the amount of wood-ash still left.. Iron chisels and some rather unusual pestle like hammers were also found. Wooden chutes were still in situ. Samples from these and other wood gave a C14 date of 2000 years BP. Some potsherds in the same area were dated to the 2nd century AD.

The most exciting find however was made in the valley below. Usually in excavations of this kind complete furnaces are never found,* The picture is built up by piecing together the evidence from stratified-fragments within the heaps. On the third day of the excavation, however, one of the Baroda team spotted the corner of a refractory plate sticking out from a heap of debris on the side of a goat path. Excavation round this revealed first the edges of furnace walls and then the tops of retorts still in situ. Eventually seven complete furnaces in a row, each of 36 retorts, were uncovered: This bank  of furnaces was dated to the16c. Another larger bank was found later dating to the 18c.

Using analyses of the residues in the retorts, together with evidence from the recipes in medieval Indian books on medicinal chemistry and alchemy, it was now possible to decide how the operation was carried out. Roasted ore together with charcoal, salt and sticky substances such as treacle and gum were rolled into marbles. These were then charged into an open clay retort which was fitted with a funnel-shaped condenser which had a wooden stick passing through the hole to stop the charge falling out when the retort was turned over. The inverted retorts were then placed in the holes of the supporting plates. A fire was built in the top part of the furnace round the retorts, the oxide was reduced and the zinc distilled off into the lower cooler part where it condensed and ran into collecting vessels. The wooden stick burnt away and would have fallen out after the charge had fritted.

Scientific examination of sections of the vitrified retort walls suggest temperatures of 1100 C, which was the temperature recommended the retort process used in Europe during the first half of the 20c. The whole process was estimated to have taken about 9 hours, during which time the temperature would have had to be closely controlled. This procedure was probably the most complex and sophisticated pyrotechnical operation in use before the Industrial Revolution.

Dr Craddock speculated that up to and during the Roman period the mines were probably operated for lead and silver, followed by a period of inactivity. From around 1300 AD zinc became the prime objective using a distillation process which carried on into the late. 18c. Certainly the presence of many elaborate Jaen temples in the neighbourhood suggest a. big population in the 14c-15c. It is perhaps ironic that in the late 20c Hindustan Zinc are installing at Zawar a process and plant developed by RTZ at Avonmouth in Bristol.

It was most lucid talk on a specialised subject, much appreciated by members, as shown by the many and varied questions that arose. Bill Firth proppsed a vote of thanks that was warmly endorsed.

For those interested in pursuing this subject further, a Conference on "2000 Years. of Zinc and Brass" is being organ­ised at the University of Bristol in conjunction with the Historical metallurgy _Society and the British Museum for June, 7-9 1985. Further information from J H Bettey MA PhD, Dent. Extramural Studies, University of Bristol, Wills' Memorial Building, Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1HR.

FRAUD AMONG THE FOSSILS? One of the most famous fossils is Archaeopteryx, 160 million years old, considered hitherto as the link between reptiles and birds because of having a reptilian bone structure covered with feathers. Six specimens are known, the two with the most clearly defined feathers being in East Berlin Museum and the Natural History Museum, South Ken. Now five physicists (one of them. Sir Fred Hoyle) have publish­ed a paper in the British Journal of Photography (No 10, March 8 1985) describing a photographic analysis they have made of the two specimens. They strongly, suggest that the feather impressions were added after the fossils had been found in a Bavarian lime quarry. Is Archaeopteryx about to join Piltdown Man?

PREHISTORIC SOCIETY 50TH ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE:     A report by

NORWICH, March 29-31                                         BRIAN WRIGLEY

There was a respectable representation of HADAS - even if not so large as on other occasions - at the conference; once we had got used to the time-consuming walking (much of it on aerial walkways) necessitated by the somewhat trendy architecture of our campus accommodation in the hospitable University of East Anglia, it was clear that all were enjoying themselves Considerably, solicitously directed from place to place by Aubrey Burl, the Meetings- Secretary, with much visual aid from a black­board map. And what places: On the first evening, from' Grahame Clark's opening address by coach to the Lord Mayor's generous wine reception and by coach hack to a convivial suppers

The Prehistoric World: a Celebration of Diversity was the theme of the Conference. (we were let into the secret: the speakers were chosen firstl, and a theme had to be found afterwards to cover their subjects!) Indeed, the subjects ranged in time from the Mesolithic to the Romans, and in place over Africa,. America, Australia, China, Boreal Eurasia-and Japan. Nevertheless, from such notes as I was able to scribble whilst the lights were on between slides ('Ex oriente Lux' I muttered) some sort of common thread does seem to appear: that apparently simple societies may be more complex than we often believe, so that for instance. Hierarchy, settlement and systems of exchange (everyone meticulously avoided calling it 'trade') may exist amongst hunter-gatherers and are not (nor even is.pottery) necessarily indicators of agriculture; and there may have been a considerable level of complexity, social stratification and urbanisation in Precolonial Africa.

Not all that was said, clearly, was to the liking of Lewis Binford, who abandoned his prepared paper to regale us with anecdotes of the practices of hunter-gatherers from his own experience,. to make his point that our interpretation of archaeological evidence should be based on as wide a knowledge as possible of human behaviour.

Richard Bradley sought in his break-neck ¾-hour to cover Britain for 4000 years, from the introduction of agriculture to the Romans. In charting progress from funeral to ceremonial monuments to votive deposits to defensive settlements he mentioned periods of expansion and contract­ion and conspicuous consumption - but it did seem to me a charting of the activities more of 'prehistorians than of prehistoric people. His speaking surprised me by being much more logically structured than his writing, in my experience, and it was A lively performance that kept all awake.          

The outstanding feature of the Conference which I think, stand as an important landmark in. archaeology, was Colin Renfrew's plea to re-introduce the study of linguistics as an aid to understanding the spread and development of ethnic groups; taking as'his important example the Indo-European group of languages, he put forward, to the obvious anguish of many present, the hypothesis that the proto-Indo-European language was spread across Europe from its homeland ('Urheimat' he even called it) in Anatolia by the waves of farmers bringing their now Neolithic culture amongst the Heaven-knows-what-speaking Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.

It was good to be there.

STEAM TRAIN LANDMARK. Cricklewood is to lose a landmark, according to the Hendon Times of March 21 last - the Carlton Forge, which has stood on the Edgware Road for a century or more. It was part of the Cricklewood Motive Power Depot of the Midland Railway (later the London, Midland & Scottish) and was maintenance base for many famous main line steam locomotives. British Rail has sold the property to an oil company; a self-service filling station will partly replace the present buildings.

PIPE-LINE ALERT

HADAS owes Tessa Smith a big debt for keeping a sharp eye on the Society's interests, particularly in the Elstree/Edgware area. Recently she discovered that the Lee Valley Water Company is planning to lay a trunk water main from Arkley, in the Borough of Barnet, to Ivor in Bucks. Part of the proposed line will run under the northwest corner of our Borough. Tessa suggested we contacted the water company - so we did.

Now they have-kindly provided scale drawings of the scheme. The route starts at Rowley Lane, south of Rowley Lodge (TQ 2189 9564) and runs southwest until it cuts below Barnet Road just south of Stirling Corner and north of Hyvor Hall. It Crosses Hyver Hill and then the Barnet Bypass (at app. TQ 2080 9491), It goes under the wooded area on the east of Scratch wood Open Space (under Thistle Wood and skirting south of Boys Hill Wood) and on below the north part of Mill Hill Golf course, going under the railway line just south of Elstree Tunnel (app TQ 1982 9446).

The route then enters and traverses the Bury Farm fields, passing to the south of Bury Farm buildings and north of the interesting area of the Clay Lane dog-leg. It crosses Edgwarebury Lane at app TQ 1908 9409 and moves on across more Bury Farm fields to the Watford Bypass, which it reaches at app. TQ 1804 9367. It then traverses the fields between the Bypass and Brockley Hill, which it approaches at app TQ 1775 9354. It then goes on, in the Borough of Harrow, below the open ground to the west of Brockley Hill, skirting the south side of Pear Wood

The whole route, traversing one of the least built-up areas of the Borough, is of potential archaeological interest - it's almost like having a large trial trench dug for us through areas known to be of possi­ble medieval and probable Roman interest: quite apart from any unknown quantities -which may turn up from other periods. We know, from our own field walking, that the whole Bury Farm area is important for Roman finds.

To watch the digging of the water pipe trench through the Borough therefore seems to be a top HADAS priority. Maybe it's just pipe dreaming (if you'll forgive the pun) to imagine that the water board may just happen to uncover a Roman mosaic ...

When we told the Lee Valley Water Company of our interest, they promised to keep us in the picture; at the moment the position is that they will let us know as soon as a pipe-laying programme has been approved.

Meantime John Enderby, in charge of HADAS site-watching, feels we should begin to get geared up so that we can go into action, if necessary, at short notice. He already has a little list of possible pipe-watchers whom he proposes to contact; but if any member would like to take part ­either because he/she lives near the areas concerned or is mobile and would be able to travel and watch at short notice - please contact John on 203 2630 and add your name to his list. A group of 7 or 8 watchers will be our aim.    

 

ANOTHER MARY ROSE? The waters of Poole Harbour, Dorset, hide the remains of an early 16c Spanish trader of the type in which Columbus sailed to America in 1492.. Amateur divers working under a surveyor from the National Maritime Museum have found enough polychrome pottery of Iberian Isabela' type to date the vessel to between 1475-1550. The wreck was found when a fisherman asked members of the local sub-aqua club to free his nets, which had caught on something on the seabed. Investigation of the wreck by the club, under professional direction, continues, and the prognosis is that this will prove to be an important underwater project.

COMMITTEE CORNER

The final meeting of the present Committee, prior to the AGM, took place on April 19; the following were among matters discussed:

A contribution of £25 will be made by the Society to Christian Aid, in memory of Vice President and founder member Eric Wookey. Er Wookey's daughter has suggested that we ask for this to be earmarked for-Ethiopian famine relief, as this was a charity dear to her father's heart.

College Farm. We were sorry to learn that our suggestion of organisations 'adopting' College Farm animals by paying their weekly food bills had been turned down although. we appreciated Chris Ower's reasons. Such a project would have been difficult to operate, Mr Ower felt, on a working farm where animals may come and go. The Commitee decided to investigate other possible ways of helping.

Blue Plaques of Barnet. After the Hon. Treasurer had reported hold­ing a large stock of the second edition of this HADAS pamphlet, for which sales are now slow it was agreed to offer the booklets at a much reduced price of 25p. This is a real snip, and any HADAS member who would like to take some (how about using them as small presents - much cheaper than todays birthday. cards?) should get in touch with our publications manager, Joyce Slatter, 5 Sentinel House, Sentinel Square, NW4 2E1.

Scientific Dating Awards. We reported last month (under the News­letter item An Award for HADAS') the suggestion that we might apply for one of the new Scientific Dating Awards under the Lloyds Bank Fund for Independent Archaeologists. The Committee decided that, as soon as certain preliminary work had been done, we should apply for an award to meet the cost of dating the ditch-fill at the Hadley earthwork.      

HADAS on TV? The question mark is because, as this is written, we are not sure when - or indeed if - the Society will be on the telly; It was reported to the Committee that Thames TV had asked HADAS to put, in a TV news programme, the archaeological side of the case against the use of metal detectors on Elstree Open Space. An application to-use-a detector there had been made to Barnet Council some weeks ago by the Herts. & District Metal Detection Society. Barnet had turned the applica­tion down, partly on HADAS's advice. Thames TV decided that the pros and cons of the decision would be of interest as a local news story. As members will know, Roman Watling Street skirts the whole western border of Elstree Open Space: which means that every part of it is  within walking distance of one of Britain's great Roman highways - and the Romans were determined ribbon-developers. For this alone - and there were other reasons - the Society would have advised against the use of metal detectors in such a sensitive area.

Our Hon. Secretary, Brian Wrigley, accompanied a Thames TV team to Edgware, starting at Brockley Hill, just south of Elstree, to explain this objection. He pointed out, on the ground, the wealth of Roman find spots thereabouts. Thames said they hoped to use the interview soon: perhaps, by the time you read this, they will have done so.

 


INVITATION TO HADAS MEMBERS

Our colleagues in Camden history Society have sent us their programme for the rest of this year, with an invitation to attend their meetings. Your members will always be welcome,' their Hon. Secretary, Jane Ramsay, writes, and no charge is made.'' We see that their August lecture will feature HADAS - it's on West Heath, by Margaret Maher. .Here are the details of the list:

 

May 22 7 Pm. Huguenots in London by Rosemary Weinstein (Holborn Lbry, Theobalds Rd). This will no doubt link with the Museum of London's Huguenot exhibition, 'The Quiet Conquest,' which opens on May 15.

June 12, 6.30 pm. Annual Meeting and talk on Waterhouse, the architect, by Robert Thorne of the GLC Historic Blgs Div (Prudential Assurance Blg, Holborn)

Aug. 22, 7.30 West Heath dig, by Margaret Maher (Swiss Cottage Lbry)

 

Brian Wrigley reviews

BRONZE AGE METALWORK IN SOUTHERN BRITAIN

by Susan M Pearce. Shire Archaeology (£1.95

Having spent some time recently reading about bronze weapons, I was much interested to see this new (1984) publication. Appropriately enough for this series, Dr Pearce says she has tried not to linger on contro­versies in a book intended to introduce and encourage. Having no inhib­itions myself about being controversial, however, I will say that I found it disappointing that so much received wisdom' is presented so un­critically. As she says in her introduction, typology remains fundamental in spite of its severe problems' (I think she must, after reading some of the works that I have in the last two years, have wished she could  use a much stronger phrase!); some explanation of what these problems are would have been welcome.

One problem which I have certainly found is that of terminology. Whilst it is, in a way, refreshing to come across a book on this subject which does not complain about the terms traditionally used, it seems a little hard on the beginner to use those terms without explanation - for instance, that 'halberd' doesn't' really mean a halberd which would

be recognised as who we know, actually used an-implement which they called by that name; or that dirk' doesn't mean a dirk, that would be recognised as such by someone who wears one as 'part of his national costume. And I have to wonder what a 'leaf-bladed rapier.(p38) would look like (it is not ilIustrated).; but then I wonder about 'leaf-shaped' anyway  what leaf? It certainly doesn't seem to be the same leaf for leaf-shaped swords, leaf-shaped spears and leaf-shaped arrow heads!

It is a shame that it is really, I suppose, impossible to write a generally accepted summary of this period that is not either liberally spattered with 'perhaps' 'and may be' .and 'some think' (which would make it unreadable); or alternatively, contains a series of firm state­ments, any of which are disputable, on the evidence, and many of which appear to say things we could not possibly know from the evidence. The author goes mostly for the latter alternative, with the result that in a good few places the dreaded circularity of reasoning and: intellectual arrogance, (of her sources, not of herself, I'm sure) show through. Arrogance? Well - neither type proved to be very popular throughout southern Britain' (.p12); doesn't that really mean that archaeologists haven't (yet?) found many there? Particularly is this true in the Middle Bronze Age, which virtually exists only as a group of bronze artefacts, mostly found without dating context, which typology has decided should be called Middle Bronze Age. One must surely be cautious about any sub-division into further 'phases,' still based entirely on typology; to go on and say that a certain type 'continued to be made in Phase X' is really saying no more than that 'we have decided that that type should be included in the group which we have called Phase X.' This, surely, is circular?,

Granted, that in a book meant to summarise current thinking, one has to take that thinking warts and ail; but a passing reference here and there to the wartiness might be a considerable help to the beginner.

Some of the drawings appear to be a little wobbly, and comparison of some other drawings of the same objects suggest that it is the draughtsman's shake rather than any irregularity in the original object:

An interesting suggestion is that some of the multiple finds which have been put under the all-embracing term 'hoard' are more likely to be debris from the settlements which are otherwise scarce. This links interestingly with the recent article in Current Archaeology No 94, where Robert Gourlay and John Barrett suggest that the Dail no Caraidh 'hoard' was a result of multiple deposits and call for a rethinking of what many so-called 'hoards' represented.

We apologise for two errors which crept into the April Newsletter.

The first was in Ted Sammes' remarks about the finding of Lindow Man and the report on him in the current issue of Antiquity. Ted said that Antiquity can be read at LBB Central Library in the Burroughs.' The Borough Reference Librarian, David Bicknell, rang to say that alas, that is no longer so.

The Library used to take Antiquity, a quarterly, for 40 years; but in 1931 they gave it up. No doubt this was in one of the economy drives which have been hitting almost all aspects of our library service in the last few years.

The second error concerned College Farm. We had reported, after seeing an item headed 'College Farm Sells its Highland Cattle,' in-the Hendon Times of March 21 that the Farm's Highland cattle had gone. '

HADAS member Mrs P S Karet, who lives in Fitzalan Road near the Farm, rang up to say that the cattle - four of them - are still in residence. They are a great pleasure to her and to all who live nearby - specially the cow which produced a most delightful calf a week or two ago.

BUILDINGS IN LBB. News of two well-known buildings in the Borough this month. Good news about the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley - said to be the oldest in London and perhaps in Britain. It received a last-minute life-saver of £100,000 from the GLC, without which it would have faced demolition in favour of an office block. Bad news, however, about the Borough's only Grade I Listed building, Edwin Lutyens' Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute, which started building in 1909 and was completed in 1930. It is suffering from structural deterioration, will cost £2,500,000 to restore. A public appeal for half a million has been launched. 'If successful, the Dept of Environment will find the other two million.

 

Comments