Newsletter-225-December-1989

 ISSUE No 225             Edited by Liz Holliday              DECEMBER 1989

HADAS DIARY



Tuesday, 02 January 1990 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS by our new President

                Dr. Ralph Merrifield, entitled THE ARCHEAOLOGY OF RITUAL & MAGIC.

Dr. Merrifield wonders if members will have recovered from Christmas and New Year festivities, but we have assured him that we will all make a special effort to come to meet him (even if still suffering from hangovers!).

Tuesday, 6 February Lecture to be confirmed

Tuesday, 6 March CONSTANTINIDES MEMORIAL LECTURE

            WHETSTONE by Percy Reboul & John Heathfield

FOUND: a green wool scarf with silk pattern reverse was found after the November lecture. Phone 203 0950 to claim,



BOOK LAUNCH AT HENDON TOWN HALL

A Place in Time, the Society's most ambitious publishing venture to date, was well and truly launched at Hendon Town Hall on Thursday,16 November in the presence of The Worshipful the Mayor of the London Borough of Barnet, Councillor Mrs. Dot Benson, our new President, Dr. Ralph Merrifield, Society members and guests.

After welcoming guests and members, our Chairman Andrew Selkirk introduced the authors and outlined the contribution they had made before each was presented with a copy of the book by the Mayor.

Following the presentations, the Mayor spoke of her pleasure in being associated with the launch of A Place in Time and complemented the Society on its production. It was, she said, a splendid example of co­operation between members of the Society and staff from the Libraries Department and the use of funds from the Edward Harvist Charity. She wished the Society and its latest publication well. In reply, DR. Merrifield thanked the Mayor and said how delighted he was to be introduced to the Society on such an auspicious occasion. He considered the book to be an editorial triumph, for although it was written by a committee it read as a cohesive whole. Dr. Merrifield found the naps particularly fascinating and had used then to locate the various archaeological finds and features within the Borough in relation to the house where he was born in Child's Way, Temple Fortune.


The publication of A Place in Time was, Dr.Merrifield believed, a fitting record to mark the first twenty-five years of HADAS' activities within the Borough.

Thanks must go to Percy Reboul and Dorothy Newbury who arranged the occasion, Ann Lawson and John Heathfield who organised and served the refreshments and Alan Lawson who coped with the rush of sales.

'A PLACE IN TIME' tells the story of human settlement and activities in the area now covered by the London Borough of Barnet from earl­est tines up to the Battle of Barnet in 1471.

The book has been edited by Borough Archivist, Dr. Pamela Taylor and the text, maps, photographs, drawings & index contributed by members of the Society.

Brigid Grafton Green has provided an introduction to HADAS' first 25 years; Victor Jones, Myfanwy Stewart and Pamela Taylor wrote the chapter 'Framework,Geology and Settlement'. The second chapter, 'The Stone Age' is by Myfanwy Stewart, followed by Brian Wrigley's contribution about 'The Bronze and Iron Ages up to the Roman Conquest'. Helen Gordon wrote the next Chapter ,'The Roman Period 43-410AD' and Ted Semmes and Pamela Tayor collaborated to produce the final chapter on 'The Middle Ages'. The excellent naps were drawn by Eunice Wilson and Jane Pugh and Freda Wilkinson compiled the index. Barnet Museum, Dr.E.R.Robinson and the Libraries' Archives and Local Studies Department all provided generous advice and help.

A grant from the Edward Harvist Trust publication.

Copies are available from Alan Lawson, 68 Oakwood Road,NV11 6RN (telephone 458 3827), price f4,50 plus 50p postage and packing. A PLACE IN TIME will make an ideal Christmas present, so rush your order to Alan now, to avoid disappointment!

HONOUR FOR OUR PRESIDENT

At its Foundation Day Ceremony on Thursday,12th October, the University of London conferred honorary degrees on seven eminent people. The ceremony was presided over by H.R.H. The Princess Royal, the University's Chancellor.

Amongst those so hono­ured was Ralph Merrifield who was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Literature, D.Lit. Members will remember that Ralph Merrifield was elected President of HADAS at the AGM this year.

The University of Lon­don has kindly provided us with a copy of the Oration which was written by the Public Orator:-



"Your Royal Highness and Chancellor, 1 present Ralph Merrifield.

London, Ma'am, is like an iceberg: there is as much below ground as there is on top. But public awareness of London's subterranean culture is spasmodic, prompted by events like the Great Fire, the Blitz. or that transformation of the City which we have learned to call Big Bang. When the mosaic Bucklersbury Pavement is uncovered outside the Mansion House, as in 1869; when the Temple of Mithras is revealed in the City, as in 1954; when the foundations of Shakespeare's Rose Theatre are dug up on the South Bank, as in 1989 - then London has woken up to its heritage below ground, But all the time - not just on famous occasions - learned moles are at work, the archaeologists of London, patientit sifting the rubbish of 2000 years in pursuit of historical truth. During the last four decades their leader has been our third Honorand tonight, Ralph Merrifield.

Mr.Merrifield is not a university man: his only formal contact with universities has been a London External Degree taken in Brighton 54 years ago. He is first and last a museum man: first in Brighton, then at Guildhall, finally in the Museum of London; and museum studies are rooted not in books or manuscripts, but the objects themselves - in Merrifield's case, objects buried in the muddy clay of London. He is not himself what the experts call a dirt archaeologist; he is an interpreter, a synthesizer of other people's discoveries; and inevitably so, since many finds have been fragmentary and random, turned up by spade of bulldozer in an ever-changing city. His role has been to encourage, to photograph, to catalogue, to explain: helmets and spoons, daggers and pins, coins, shoes, bottles, beakers, medallions and Jugs -all recorded dispassionately, sometimes with a dusty sense of humour. The famous leather bikini, for instance, thrown down a well in the City sometime during the 1st century A.D., and now in the Museum of London: these nether garment she tells us, probably belonged 1900 years ago to a young acrobat or dancer, "but the circumstances in which she lost them in the well can only be guesses"; then he adds: the knot that tied them, "incidentally, is a granny",


Since William Stukeley drew the first, tentative plan of Roman London in 1722, knowledge of our capital city between the arrival of the Romans in AD.43 and their departure in the early 5th century, has increased inexorably. Diet, religion, dress, technology: these are now everyday concerns for historians armed with digital computers and carbon-dating calibrators. Before long, ground-penetrating radar may be able to pinpoint remains which at present lie hidden in the earth. The techniques change, but the conceptual process - turning evidence into hypothesis and hypothesis into history - remain the same, "Hypotheses," notes Merrifield sagely, "do no harm unless they come to be regarded as established truth." One of his own hypotheses - dating to the year AD.60 the gruesome hoard of sculls found in the bed of the river Walbrook - is now itself under scrutiny: perhaps that particular massacre was not the fault of Boadicea after all. In this way, historians clamber up on the shoulders of their predecessors, and the name of Merrifield takes its place with those of Roach-Smith, Pitt-Rivers and Mortimer Wheeler in the role-call of London's archaeologists.

"Our knowledge of Roman London," wrote Merrifield in 1965, "resembles a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing." The fact that so many of those pieces are now no longer missing is due in large part to the patient work of Ralph Merrifield.

Your Royal Highness and Chancellor, I request you by the authority of the Senate to admit Ralph Merrifield to the degree of Doctor of Literature, Honoris causa."



On a personal note, I first met Ralph in the early 1960s when the London Borough Secretaries Group was formed. This Group brought together the various Societies in London north of the Thames,

who were at that time carrying out excavations under great difficulties. Ralph became President of LAMAS in 1974 & held that position until 1977.


For many years he has chaired the Working Party for London Archaeol­ogy, and only resigned in October this year to take up another post.He retired as Deputy Director of the Museum of London in 1978, but his great interest in archaeology continues ­particularly Roman London tinged with folklore superstition. His writings on these subjects are considerable. All-in-all, a well-earned honour.

News of Members

Miss Ningo, quite a regular on our summer outings, has not been on any this year - and no wonder. We have learned that she had a accident to her foot way back in May and is still incapacitated.


Freda Wilkinson was on a study weekend at Oxford in November with several other HADAS members and when crossing a dark, Wet Street was knocked over by a reversing car. It was some while before she was taken to hospital and she is now home again with her leg in plaster supporting a crushed shin bone. Unfortunately she was unable to attend the launch of the Society's book. If any member phones her, do wait for a long time as she is barely mobile.

Best wishes to both casulties for complete recovery.

Deirdre Barrie was unable to type last month's Newsletter as she was in considerable pain from "typist's shoulder". Dawn Orr nobly stepped into the breach at the last minute, earning editor Micky Cohen's heartfelt thanks. We are pleased to hear that Deirdre is now fully recovered and back at work.

Miss Sheldon was one of the more or less silent majority of HADAS members- no less valuable than the more vocal among us. An appreciative listener at winter lectures, an active participant in the summer outings and valued contributor to the Minimart, she has now retired to live among friends in Yorkshire. We wish her Joy in her new home and a good local history society.

Mary Rawitzer and the indefatigable Dorothy Newbury braved the wet of a Saturday morning in November to attend a car-boot sale in an attempt to dispose of some of our better Minimart left-overs. As there were only six other cars there and even fewer customers, they did well to take 412! They may try again in the spring. Any offers of assistance?



THE PREHISTORY OF GREATER LONDON Lecture report by Jean Snelling

Dr,Nick Merriman, Assistant Keeper in the Prehistoric and Roman Department of the Museum of London, gave us a blessedly lucid (and audible) lecture on November 7th,

He spoke of human presence in the middle and lower Thames valley over 500,000 years, first in the long glacial and interglacial periods and then during the more domestic time-scales before the Romans came.

Flint tools from Boxgrove, Sussex give evidence of man before the first great glaciation within this period - the Anglian of c.475,000 350,000 years ago. Ice-sheets 1000 feet thick then pushed boulder clay as far south as Finchley and stretched from Wales to France, displacing the Thames from its former St.Albans-East Anglian line.

The warmer Hoxnian interglacial followed for about 14,000 years, during which time Acheulian handaxe industries appeared, as at Swanscombe, Kent.

A second glacial period from 300,000 led us to consider the Thames gravel terraces which became so attactive to hunting peoples, A warm spell with high sea levels produced a sluggish river which filled its bed with gravels as it ambled towards the sea. A cold spell with ice-sheet caused the sea level to drop and the pelting river cut narrow

deep channels through the gravel, as it tumbled to the sea. (We enjoyed a drawing of boggy prehistoric Trafalgar Square, with a straight-tusked elephant splashing around the terrace and a hippo peeping from the Thames!). The deepest of the Thames terraces now lies below the present river, filled with gravel holding mammoth bones. Islands of gravel, such as Thorney (Westminster), provided areas for human settlement in later times.

The long cold Devensian period from c.60,000 years ago allowed Neanderthal men with their Mousterian handaxes to thrive, until the ultimate glaciation of 25,000-13,000, when Britain was uninhabited. The subsequent recolonising probably saw the suppression of the Neanderthals by modern men, for the transition cane too quickly for evolution to be possible.

From c.12,000 Britain was a permanently settled peninsula of north­west Europe. Some settlers had a temporary site at Uxbridge around 10,000 years ago,(occupied twice in late Paleolithic-early mesolithic times), where wild horse and reindeer were butchered. Other hunters used HADAS West Heath site intermittently. The North Sea gradually spread south over the land bridge with Europe and the Channel severed the Thames-Rhine connection. During the following 6,000 years the Thames basin began to fill with farming cropmarks - most of them are now buried beneath brick earth or river-bourne alluvium, and their discovery is now largely by chance.

Evidence of Neolithic activities in the lower Thames valley include, the causewayed enclosure at Staines; stone axes found under silt on Bermondsey island and a possible man-made landing platform there, formed of brushwood; arrowheads found beneath a Roman warehouse floor at Courage's Brewery, Sothwark and a small farm settlement at Stanwell,Middlesex, with a double cursus monument similar to one known at Springfield, Essex.

The Bronze Age initiated the rich metal work found in the Thames, possible thrown there as offerings to gods or as funeral gifts. Other finds include the ceremoniously buried aurox, wounded by six arrow­heads, in west London; the remains of a collared funeral urn found under the General Post Office; the probable rectangular cooking-pit, with its mound of burnt stones from a streamside at St.Saviour's Dock, Southwark and above it, an ard-marked soil surface prepared for subsequent hand digging and planting. This is the earliest sign of agriculture yet found in the lower Thames valley. There are also enclosures and trading places near Heathrow and close to Southwark bridge, a circular ditch on ploughed land containing late Bronze Age pottery and cremated human bone with flint, from a burial on the flood plain - perhaps indicative of others undiscovered. At Beddington in Surrey, a Bronze Age settlement continued into the late Iron Age.

From the Iron Age there was the temple at Heathrow, now destroyed; the hillforts at Wimbledon and. Ivinghoe Beacon and Ilford's great Uphall Camp, as large as Maiden Castle, now embracing a suburban housing estate. The Iron Age population of England before the Roman incursion would have equalled the country's population in medieval times.

In closing, Dr.Merriman observed that chance is the arbiter of archaeology in the Thames valley. If the London Docklands conceal another Flag Fen, will anyone ever find it?

NEWS FROM EXCAVATIONS By Brian Wrigley

WHETSTONE

We have now finished work on site, having reached what appears to be a natural layer of sand, deep in four spaced-out places in the areas we have opened. Quite a lot of detailed analysis of our information remains to be done before a full report can be made, but a the moment the main points of interest are:

1. We have exposed a Tudor-style brick-on-chalk-block foundation, which could have been the footing of the "missing" bay of the timber-framed building. Those who have studied the building have suggested that it appears likely to have originally had a further bay at the back.

2. There is evidence of small-scale iron-working, slag, cinder, charcoal, etc fn situ and the wide spread of evidence of burning associated with this continues beneath the Tudor-style footings, indicating that it was an earlier use of the site.

LAND BEHIND 'THE MITRE', HIGH STREET, CHIPPING BARNET

Our small dedicated forces from Whetstone have now turned immediately to this site. A trial trench 12 metres by 2 metres has been opened, exposing quite a lot of past (but recent) building work. However, exploration of a test pit made recently by the building contractors shows a number of underlying strata which may be of more interest. We are not sure how much time we shall be allowed, or indeed how long the weather will be kind, so our small digging team will certainly welcome any new (or old!) recruits. If you'd like to join in please get in touch with Brian Wrigley (959 5962) or Arthur Till (368 6288).

COUNCIL FOR INDEPENDENT ARCHAEOLOGY

The first newsletter of this newly-formed body has now been received, reporting the inaugural meeting and election of Committee - the first Chairman being our very own Andrew Selkirk.

The objects of the new Council as expressed in its Constitution clearly shows its interest to HADAS and its members. In furtherance of its main object - educating the public in the study of archaeology - the Council wants to:

explore and promote ways in which amateur archaeologists and local archaeological societies can contribute more effectively, including rescue archaeology;

support the Congress of Independent Archaeologists, holding regional congresses, seminars and workshops;

act as a clearing house for independent archaeology, compiling databases of need and capabilities of societies and individuals, to match up needs and capabilities and provide information.

Prehistoric Course report


In association with the Prehistoric Society, the University of Oxford Department of External Studies arranged a week-end Conference on Palaeolithic Art to take place 10-12 November.

For the first time, members of other archaeological and historical societies were invited. The conference was very well attended and Judged to be an unqualified success.

The speakers came from Britain, America, Italy, Germany, France and Spain and there were contributions from those who had worked in Africa, Australia and Russia and so we were given a wide range of ideas to discuss and contemplate with them.

To accompany the lectures we were shown slides of mobiliary art, cave paintings and tectograms. Various questions were raised, for example: what is the significance of the well-known Venus figurines and why do we interpret figures in engravings bearing certain marks as female unless they are depicted in a hunting scene? Did men carry out the drawings and paintings of animals and strange patterns and are they of magic or religious significance? Were the often spacious cave entrances meeting places where families with children could congregate (this idea being conjectured on the evidence of foot marks and smaller hand prints) and if so, were the inner depths of the cave reserved for ceremony and ritual activities?

It was interesting to hear about a cave on the White River in the Ural Mountains, not yet fully excavated by Soviet archaeologists, which may prove to be a link with well-known European caves.

Dr. John Coles gave a lively and amusing summary on Sunday morning and he showed slides of rock engravings taken on a recent visit ti Sweden by the Prehistoric Society.

The conference was very comfortably housed in Rewley House, the headquarters of the Department of External Studies.


CONSERVATION FAIR Report by Christine Arnott

A good deal of interest was expressed by visitors to the HADAS information stall at the Conservation Fair organised by the Barnet Group of the Herts & Middx Wildlife Trust at Church House, Barnet recently. We displayed flints found during field walking and the details of the "Ice House" identification and excavation at Hendon, sold publications and dispensed membership forms. Thanks to Bill Bassey, who collected and later dismantled the display, Audrey & John Hoosen, Jean Snelling and Phyllis Fletcher who supplied visitors with plenty of archaeological information, HADAS made a good contribution to the day.

VOLUNTEERS URGENTLY NEEDED by the British Museum Quarternary Department, to help sort, index and pack their "back room" collections. Please contact Dr.Jill Cook, Franks House, 38-46 Orsman Road, N.1 (739 5264).


BOOKSHELVES & 2 UPRIGHT CHAIRS URGENTLY NEEDED for the HADAS Library, to replace those lost in the Avenue House fire. Ring June Forges (346 5078)

Comments