Newsletter-203-February-1988

NEWSLETTER 203; FEBRUARY 1988  Edited by: Liz Sagues

DIARY

An expanded list of HADAS events this time, to allow diaries to be marked in advance of publication of the programme card -it will appear, promises Dorothy Newbury, as soon as all dates are confirmed, and she apologises for the delay.

 Tuesday February 2            The Romans in Rumania, by Dr Margaret Roxan

Dr Roxan, FSA, will be known to- many members who attended her evening classes over the years --or -travelled--with—hex on foreign visits. Her present position is Honorary Research Fellow in the department of the Archaeology of the Roman Provinces at the Institute of Archaeology and her particular interest is the Roman Army, especially the auxiliary army of the Principate.

On her lecture subject, she provides the following introductions A large part of the modern state of Rumania was annexed to form the Roman province (later provinces) of Dacia in AD 106. Trajan's column in Rome was erected to commemorate the conquest of Dacia by that military emperor; its reliefs are justly world famous. Rumanian archaeologists are working very hard to uncover the traces- of Trajan's wars of conquest, but they have also discovered some fascinating remains of pre-Roman Dacia, as well as the traces of Roman occupation which spanned the years AD 106-270. The talk will be' accompanied by slides of these excavations in progress, as well as some of the fascinating objects found in them, which are now in museums.

Tuesday March 1      Tythe Maps, by Geraldine Beech, Assistant Keeper, Map Department, Public Record Office.

Tuesday April 5         Archaeology and the Great Fire of London 1666, by Gustav Milne

Saturday April 23     Morning tour of St Lawrence Whitchurch, Edgware, by Sheila Woodward

Tuesday May 10        Annual General Meeting

Saturday May 14       Outing to .Windsor, led by Ted Sammes

SATURDAY JUNE 11th     Flag Fan, Peterborough with Dr Francis Pryor

Saturday July 16       Coach tour of Docklands

September (to be confirmed) Derbyshire weekend, led by Peter Griffiths

Saturday September 10 or 17 Charterhouse tour, led by Mary 0'Connell

Tuesday October 4    Recent Excavations at Waltham Abbey, by Peter Huggins

Saturday October 8   Stepney walk, led by Muriel Large

Tuesday November 1            Excavations at the Mint, by Peter Mills

Tuesday January 3, 1989 Egypt in the Pyramid Era, by George Hart

All lectures are at the Central Library, The Burroughs, Hendon, 8pm for 8.30pm. Coffee is available, and a books selection.

ELEVEN DECADES OF CONSERVATION;    POLICY AND PROBLEMS

Muriel Large reports on the January lecture

HADAS made a good start to 1988 with a talk by one of its members, Philip Venning, who is Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, on the work in which he is involved - work not without its problems. One of these is how far "conservation" should go: right back to the original building or accepting later but still historic accretions? An example was the Norman building in which Oliver Cromwell went to school, so restored in Victorian times that at first glance it appeared a pastiche of itself.

Ruskin, Morris and Carlyle were all alarmed by the worthy but misguided intentions of restorers of their time, and set up the society in 1877 to pursue an enlightened policy - a policy continually under review. Since 1877 the scope of conservation has spread so that now it covers prehistoric and Roman sites and also 20th century buildings - such as the Schreiber House, Hampstead, built in 1962 and regarded as a fine example of its period, and the Electric Palace, the earliest cinema in Harwich. Mr Venning stressed the importance of preserving the interior as well as the basic fabric and regretted the stripping of the 18th-century interior of Fournier Street mosque, in Spitalfields, originally a Huguenot chapel.

It could also be highly desirable to preserve a group of buildings which were undistinguished individually but together formed a significant and irreplaceable area. A manor house in Cornwall had one very ordinary-looking wing until it was examined with a knowledgeable eye. It was the oldest inhabited building in Great Britain, far older than the rest of the house, and dated back to the time of the Conquest.

Even royal properties needed careful watching, a floor of medieval tiles in part of the Tower of London having been recently at risk, and so could be churches and chapels. Among religious bodies, only the Anglican Church had its own assessment system overall and even .so the wishes and means of a devoted but shrinking congregation could conflict with a wish to preserve a historic and beautiful building which was falling into decay.

Conservation, we learned, could help destroy the character of a building if the car parks and ticket offices needed to raise funds were insensitively sited, and we were told of the anomaly of the Old Curiosity Shop in Holborn, where commercialism had nevertheless helped to preserve a genuine 16th century shop although its connection with Dickens was tenuous. Caerphilly Castle was another instance, where some reconstruction had taken place, but, done carefully and with expert knowledge, could arguably be "said to have' enhanced its atmosphere and importance.

The training of young men in old crafts would seem to be highly commendable when buildings were crying out for thatchers, for example, but what if it led to a standardisation of styles so' that the East Anglian method could appear where it had not been before; yes, it was keeping a traditional roof on a cottage but at some cost to the final appearance if the cottage was in Somerset.

Mr Venning's talk stimulated several questions, not least on the sore point of what examples of present-day architecture would be worth handing on to posterity, as well as the problems of over-visiting and consequent erosion. One could only applaud the work of the SPAB and feel relieved that one did not have to cope with its problems.                                                       

THE EMPEROR'S TERRACOTTA WARRIORS

Sheila Woodward finds Eastern promise is realised

Few archaeological discoveries have fired the imagination as powerfully as the uncovering of the array of terracotta warriors guarding the tomb of the first Emperor of China. It has all the necessary elements of excitement; the chance finding in 1974 of the first figures by farmers digging a well, the gradual realisation of the size of the mausoleum (over 7,000 figures to date, and digging continues) and the appreciation of the exquisite workmanship of these sculpted terracotta life-size soldiers with their horses and weapons.

We have all seen photographs and read accounts of this wonderful site. Now for a few brief weeks (until February 20) we have an opportunity to see some of these figures in London and a HADAS party visited the exhibition at the Royal Horticultural Society's Old Hall, Vincent Square, Westminster, on January 12.

There have been criticisms in the press of the small size of the exhibition; only nine figures, two horses and a dozen or so assorted exhibits such as weapons and weights. In fact, I found the limitation in size an advantage. Each figure is so exquisitely detailed and so fascinating that it repays long, slow study, and one had leisure to digest and appreciate what one had seen.

The display is excellent and the recorded commentary on the individual headsets provided was most helpful. There is an introductory section, with pictures and maps, which sets the scene historically and geographically and leads into the single hall in which all the figures are displayed.

The Emperor Zheng in whose honour the figures were made, seems to have been a most unpleasant character, and the potter-sculptors who worked on the figures were slaves and convicts. Yet the overall impression of the exhibition is of beauty and joy in craftsmanship. Each warrior-figure is an individual, his face and expression quite distinctive. Every detail of clothing is lovingly included: the rivets of the iron-mail coats, the tread on the sole of a boot. The chariot-horse strains forward so that his shoulders take the weight of the (now-vanished) chariot, his tail carefully tied up so that, it cannot catch in the chariot wheels.

There is a reconstructed cross-bow, of which only the bronze trigger mechanism remained, and batch of bronze bolts or arrowheads, coated in chromium for durability and hardness. A bronze sword was similarly coated and one realises how advanced technologically the Chinese Empire was in the third century BC.

One cannot at this exhibition experience the majesty and magnificence of the whole tomb complex of Emperor Zheng, with serried ranks of terracotta warriors stretching over a vast area. Instead, one can begin to appreciate and marvel at the artistic sensitivity and delicate technical skills of the artisans of the Qin Empire. An exciting, enjoyable and most worthwhile visit: thank you, Dorothy!

ARCHAEOLOGY AND'THE ROOTS OF LANGUAGE Peter Pickering answers a HADAS challenge

The November Newsletter suggested that someone might write an appreciation for HADAS members of Professor Colin Renfrew's new book Archaeology and Language. Comparative philology was a subject which fascinated me when I studied it - or rather the ancient Greek dialects - 30 years ago, and I therefore ventured to take up Christine Arnott's challenge.

The fact that requires explanation is that languages with similarities - in grammar and/or vocabulary - which seem very unlikely to be chance ones are spoken, or appear on inscriptions, in parts of the world as distant as Ireland and Chinese Turkestan. The question is how and when this came about.

The textbook I used - Buck's Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin - says; "What region was the common centre... has been a notorious subject of discussion, with theories ranging from the Scandinavian Peninsula to central Asia. No conclusive evidence is available or is likely to be forthcoming. But" the best working hypothesis is that which favours the region extending north of the Black Sea- and the Caucasus."

But the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language, published last year, is much less uncertain (which is interesting, since it is not in other respects traditionalist). It says: "Archaeological evidence has shown the existence of a semi-nomadic population living in the steppe regions of South Russia around 4000 BC, who began to spread into the Danube area of Europe and beyond from around 3500 BC... The Celts emerged in south central Europe around the fifth century BC, speaking common Celtic. In a series of waves they spread throughout the rest of Europe."

It is the view set out in the Cambridge encyclopaedia that Professor Renfrew challenges. His account of the various Indo- European languages accords closely with what I learnt - there has been no major new discovery since the (probable) decipherment of the Mycenaean Linear B in the 1950s. Nor (though at one point he seems tempted to) does he dissent from the basic tenet of comparative philology, that one language descends from another and linguistic change is not random, but follows observable regularities (as Latin "pater" is to English "father", so is Latin "piscis" to English "fish").

He emphasises that languages are not totally discrete entities, which split up or change suddenly into other totally discrete ones (people did not speak Latin one year and Italian the next and, despite education, Italian and French blur at the border). But this is not a new point, and it is nonetheless true that there are languages just as there are species of animals, defined by mutual intelligibility or interbreeding, despite partial understanding between speakers of different languages and hybridisation between different species.

What Professor Renfrew does not accept is that the Indo-European languages were spread, through migrations or invasions, by people identifiable with a particular physical type or using a particular type of pottery or burial custom, from around the beginning of the Bronze Age.

He argues that they spread from Anatolia, with farming itself, from the seventh millennium BC, by a slow expansion, as people set up their own homes a few miles away from their parents' farms, into areas inhabited previously by Mesolithic people. The languages of these Mesolithic people may have been the ancestors of Basque, Etruscan and perhaps Pictish. Professor Renfrew suggests that an Indo-European language, which developed in Celtic, was spoken in Britain from before 4000 BC. In India also the Indus Valley civilisation may have had an Indo-European language, and collapsed from internal strains, not in the wake of an invasion of Aryans, as the traditional view has it. Only Tocharian, isolated in Chinese Turkestan, may, Professor Renfrew believes, have been carried by nomads.

I found Professor Renfrew's thesis attractive and plausible and not perhaps as revolutionary as he seems to expect, I am not competent to judge his archaeological arguments, though I do not like some jargon words such as "processual" or the constant use of the word "model" to denote what seems to me to be a good, old-fashioned "theory". I am a little worried at finding the cradle of the Indo- European languages in Eastern Anatolia, where the Hittite language was spoken, since the greater part of that language's vocabulary is not Indo-European (though its grammatical inflexions are); one would not naturally expect the language remaining in the cradle area to be a deviant.

And one must not be too critical of those who have believed in mass migrations or conquests as the mechanism that spread Indo-European from Ireland to India, since we know how much such mechanisms have spread Latin, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish and English, in their turn, across vast tracts of the globe.

A MEDIEVAL SURVIVAL

Deirdre Barrie makes a surprising discovery in the City

It is truly astonishing to find such a large, little-publicised and historic site in the City of London as the Charterhouse. The Master's house is early Georgian, built on the 15th century entrance gateway to the original monastery. Behind lies an imposing complex of buildings including a splendid Tudor town house, parts of the original monastery (including a recently-discovered monk's cell) and a Jacobean school-cum-"hospital" or home for impoverished gentlemen or scholars.

Originally the gentlemen were "decrepit or old Captaynes either at Sea or Land, Souldiers maymed or ympotent, decayed Marchaunts, men fallen into decaye through Shipwrecke, Casualtie or Fyer or such evill Accident, those that have been Captives under the Turkes etc." The buildings of Sutton's Hospital are still home to more than 30 retired gentlemen today.

 The buildings were the original site of Charterhouse School before it moved to Godalming in 1872. John Wesley, Baden-Powell and Thackeray were "Old Carthusians".

There is no space here to describe the fascinating detail of the buildings, the chapel formed from the chapter house of the monastery, the great hall with its impressive English renaissance screen, the atmospheric rooms and interesting works of art.

It was here that Elizabeth I stayed for the first five days of her reign, and from here she went out to her coronation. In the very splendid Great Chamber with its Flemish tapestries, 16th century plaster gilded ceiling and painted chimney-piece, James I created some 130 knights in one afternoon. Sir Thomas More knew the earlier monastery well, and had had thoughts of becoming a monk,

In 1535 the prior of the monastery was executed for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the Church. One of his arms was fastened above the gate as a dire warning to the monks. It is said that hundreds of years later earnest schoolboys peered up at the archway, hoping to perceive the nail-hole.

HADAS members will have the opportunity to see the Charterhouse in September, under the guidance of Mary O'Connell. See Diary for preliminary information; full details later.

A HAPPY CHRISTMAS

A message of thanks from George Ingram

I read with much interest the report by Marjorie Errington on the visit to the Museum of London on December 9 when Dr Francis Sheppard gave a talk on the history of the two museums which were united in 1975.

This was followed by an enjoyable repast at The Crowders Well - I was very sorry I could not attend on this occasion, but a few days later I was delighted to receive from the postman (and Ted Sammes), a large envelope which contained a menu card on which many members of the party had written little messages,. May I take this opportunity to express my very grateful thanks to all concerned for this unique memento, which brought to mind many happy times spent together, in our common interests in archaeology and local history. May the society continue to flourish!

RAILWAY REMAINS

John Crowther describes a lost line and modern plans for it

There are still clues to the railway that used to run from Mill Hill East to Edgware, in spite of modern building and the coming of the Ml.

A short stretch of the railway's line, between Deans Lane, Burnt Oak, and Mill Hill Broadway Station, is going to be made, jointly by the London Borough of Barnet and the London Wildlife Trust, into a nature reserve. What, I wonder, is going to happen to the rest of the land, much of which is simply lying waste at present, but can easily be seen on a road map. Some has been built on, some is being used as allotments, some is going to extend Lyndhurst Park, but all that leaves some promising land which might someday provide an extension of the nature reserve habitats.

There had been a proposal by Barnet to open a walkway along the land. This fell through. Then the GLC described it as "a site of borough importance" and said that "although sites of a similar quality may be found elsewhere in London, damage to a site of   borough importance would imply a significant loss to that borough". But you know what happened to the GLC... Still there is no public access.

Actually, it could be this very privacy which makes it interesting to the wildlife enthusiasts - a wide variety of plants and animals is already on the site, which is claimed to be- a valuable wildlife refuge within a suburban area. The archaeological and educational interests still have to be put there.

It is a "suburban" area because it is hemmed in by roads, offices, houses, railways and the Ml. "Suburban" also points to the big snag - refuse tipping. Brick rubble is all right, it is good for insects and the like- all other litter needs to be removed as a high priority. This one-off operation would let the site recover quickly and local residents will be asked to enjoy the site, not to deface it.

As for archaeology, already there is a blind subway in Deans Lane, a bridge over nothing at Lyndhurst Park, a line of poplars in Langley Park and the shapes of residential streets all over the place. All are good clues - the railway is by no means dead.                                         

THE BEGINNINGS OF AGRICULTURE; UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Professor David Harris, professor of Human Environment at the Institute of Archaeology, posed some of them on January 21, when he launched the University of London Extra-Mural Department's new Thursday lecture series, Stock and Crop; Aspects of Early Domestication.

Inquiry into agriculture's beginnings, he said, went back to classical Greek times, perhaps even earlier, he said, and most recently centred on two theories, the "revolutionary" - that it all happened quickly, in a limited number of centres and diffused out from them - and the "gradualist" - that it arose in fits and starts, most likely in many different places at many different times. Gradualism was now most in favour, but the case remained far from proved. Hoped-for precision from radio-carbon dating had not been realised, though the new accelerator mass spectrometer technique was finally providing dates for actual fragments of plant and animal bone remains.

He looked at the evidence that could be gathered from people still living primitive lifestyles and from the most important of current sites - notably Tell Abu Hureyra in Syria. "The earlier idea that agriculture was in some way an inevitable process has been reversed," he argued. "The problem now is not why did it not happen earlier, but why did it happen at all. Why are we not all hunter gatherers, because it is so much easier a life?"

The challenge now facing archaeologists was to devise the right questions to ask of the archaeological remains, to turn theories into fact.

Other lecturers in the series include Tony Legge (February 4) and Warwick Bray (February ll), while the subjects span the world, taking in India, the Andes and Africa as well as Europe and the Near East. Lectures are each Thursday until March 10, at the Institute of Archaeology, Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, at 7pm, price £2.50 a time.

COPPER-BOTTOMED ISLAND

The wealth of Cyprus in antiquity was built on copper, and there's no mistaking the importance of the mineral in the new A.G. Leventis Gallery of Cypriot Antiquities, - latest of the British Museum's Greek and Roman galleries to be refurbished, The display is entirely new, though some of the individual objects have been seen before, and it is arranged thematically rather than by period. Such an arrangement, argues Veronica Tatton-Brown, the BM Cypriot specialist responsible, makes the occasional gap in the chronological sequence less obvious and, more importantly, it presents Cyprus's past in a way that should be more appealing to visitors.

And there is much that appeals, the larger objects free of inhibiting glass cases, the smaller ones well displayed. Themes range from flora and fauna to weapons and warfare, taking in others' such as trade arid manufacture, writing and the human form en route, all covering the period 4?500BC to 330AD. The gallery is a permanent one, and should be open normal museum hours.

 

Comments