Newsletter-262-January-1993

ISSUE NO. 262 - JANUARY 1993                                                                   Edited by D.L. Barrie

DIARY

January: NO MEETING

Tuesday 2nd February: Ancient Near East Cylinder Seals by Dr. Dominique Collon (British Museum). Cylinder seals were made in the Near East from c. 3300 - 300 BC and are a major source of information for the historian and for dating tools for the archaeologist.

Saturday 6th February: Exhibition of Brockley Hill Pottery and a Guided  Walk around St. Mary's Church, Hendon. The Exhibition at the Church Hall, St. Mary's, Hendon will open between 12 o'clock and 4 pm. It will give you a marvellous chance to view a large selection of Roman material. Several HADAS members will be there to welcome you. The walk, guided by Ted Sammes himself, will start at 2 o'clock. You will need warm clothing and stout shoes. Admission to the Exhibition and walk will be £1. Please bring your HADAS membership card along. A donation to the Church funds is always welcome. The Museum will also be open, and we are hoping that the Moxom Collection, small but important, will be available for viewing. Treat yourself to a pub lunch - both the "Chequers" and the "Greyhound" will be serving hot food between 12 and 2.

Tuesday 2nd March: Excavating in Northern Iraq: From the Greeks to the  Mongols by Dr. John Curtis (postponed from November).

Tuesday 6th April: Excavations at Fulham Palace by Keith Whitehouse

CHRISTMAS DINNER AT FULHAM PALACE  TUESDAY 1ST DECEMBER, 1992

It is a well-known fact that good wine, good food and good company are not the best precursors to a detached assessment of the merits of an archaeological location, so it was a good thing that we saw certain features of Fulham Palace before we sat down to eat dinner.

The museum, based in Bishop Howley's dining room, is well planned, and with the exhibits labelled, it gave us the history of the site from Neolithic times c. 3,000 B.C. as was evidenced by flints as scrapers, arrowheads, and also some pottery. Artefacts of the pre-Roman and Roman periods excavated in 1972-73 included a piece of an axe, fragments of bracelets, a hairpin with a flower-petal head, and a ring. There were also coins, a pig- and an ox-bone. Pottery fragments included a mortarium and parts of a hypocaust, and and also some fragments of Samian ware. Early medieval evidence from a corner of the moat excavated in 1975-6 and post-medieval evidence excavated in 1972-73, were fragments of metalwork including a key-lock, a knife-blade, a one-inch-long tweezers, and some tokens. In a separate case were some moulded stones and a mummified rat which was found in the roof. In 1986 a third excavation produced evidence of an earlier Tudor building believed to be the state apartments.These excavations were carried out by the Fulham Archaeological Rescue Group. In the museum there was also a magnificent cope and mitre encrusted with gold thread and embroidered in red, green and yellow. This belonged to Bishop  Winnington-Ingram (1901-39) and is on loan from Saint Paul's Cathedral. A second room in the museum in the Porteous Library showed in placards and pictures the Bishops who had lived in Fulham Palace from Saxon times until 1973, when Bishop Stortford retired.

The chapel, designed by Butterfield for Bishop Tait, was consecrated in 1867. Butterfield's interior - "a full orchestra of coloured bricks, marbles and encaustic tiles"- was largely destroyed by Bishop and (1945-55). Before this, the bricks were arranged in bold ­horizontal stripes along the lower part of the walls in elaborate patterns. The hardier souls among us then repaired to walk in the adjacent Tudor court, floodlit, and with Butterfields fountain, playing water in the middle. The early-sixteenth-century entrance porch has two oriel windows, one above the other. The upper one was reconstructed in 1928-9, when the clock, sited here for over one hundred years, was moved to its present position in the eighteenth century bell turret. The court was built to contain domestic offices and staff accommodation, which in the nineteenth century contained a bakehouse, dairy, bread-room, stillroom, brewhouse and laundry. Opposite the entrance porch, the gateway with medieval gates led to the garden. Unfortunately we could not see the garden as it was dark, but Bishop Compton (appointed in 1675) had responsibility for the Anglican Church abroad - a vast diocese, which included parts of North America, Vest Africa, the West Indies,and India, and this provided him with a network of contacts enabling him to produce rareties for his garden. In the late 1760s the grounds were landscaped for Bishop Terrick in the fashionable style created by "Capability" Brown. Succeeding Bishops added to the garden to make it an important feature. A return daytime visit is obviously necessary to appreciate this.

The entrance to the Palace from the north-west crossed the course of a natural stream and from this evolved a single water-filled ditch or moat. A high tide in 1774 flooded the Palace "to the top of the dresser in the Bishop's kitchen", and forced Bishop Terrick to build an embankment against the moat. Originally this bounded an area of thirty-six acres, and was one mile in length - the most extensive in England. The decision in the early 1920s to do away with the moat by allowing builders to use this as a tip was widely deplored and seems still to be regretted.

Then we had dinner - turkey, then chocolate mousse cake, and lots of wine. As always, Dorothy had provided us with a fascinating evening, filled with conviviality, and as always it is a place to visit again. Thank you, Dorothy.                                                                                                      AUDREE PRICE-DAVIES 

We are grateful to miss Miranda Poliakoff, the Curator of the Museum, for her guided tour, and I acknowledge her help in providing additional information for the compiling of this report. 

ST. ALBANS ROMAN TOMB

A sculpted stone on display in the Verulamium Museum has been identi­fied as part of the pyramidal roof of a 2nd-3rd century Roman tomb. The stone, decorated with sculpted bay laurel leaves, was previously thought to be medieval. However, Sir Anthony Beeson of the Roman Research Trust, an expert on Roman architecture, believes it to be part of a tomb based on the design of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos (now in modern-day Turkey), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. For years archaeologists have bemusedly tried to recreate the 'mausoleum on paper from Pliny's slightly ambiguous description. The original pyramid above its Halikarnassos colonnade tapered in 24 stages to its peak; but the St. Albans version is said to have had only about 10 tiers, and probably stood outside the north-west gate of the Roman city.

A FEW DAYS 1N PETRA                                                                                                                                                     by AUDREE PRICE-DAVIES

The way into Petra is through the siq - a fissure in the rock, which is about 6 feet wide at its narrowest and about 20 feet wide at its widest. Tt is about 2 miles long. The terrain is sandy and rocky and the dust generated by the horses' hooves is incredible. You can either walk or go in on horseback. I chose the horse and I was glad ­in spite of being saddle-sore: Petra is a vast place and walking in and out just adds to the exhaustion, although there are monuments along the side of the sic which are seen most easily on foot - unless the horse, like mine, goes very slowly.The first monument, on leaving the sig where it broadens into the valley of the wadi Mousa, is the Treasury. It glows pink in the light of the sun and is probably a temple to the patron and deity of Petra. Petra is a nekropolis, a city of dead people, with their tombs sculpted into the sandstone rock. The sculptures and columns are not masonry blocks but rock - freestanding except for the base, and they have lasted for this reason. The tombs are those of wealthy Nabateans, the race of people who inhabited Petra from about 315 B.C. The quality of workmanship is high and the tombs face each other across the valleys. Originally the Nabateans were Bedouins who traded across Arabia. They carried spices, rugs, gold, silver, myrrh and frankincense from the east to the cities of Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean.

With the conquest by the Babylonians in 587 B.C., overcoming thereby Judah, Edam and Moab and with the fall of Jerusalem in that year, all Jews of any consequence were led into captivity in Babylon. The land of Judah lay empty and the Edomites infiltrated - making a new kingdom of Idumea. But the old kingdoms of Edam and Moab ceased to exist after the fall of Jerusalem. The Neo-Babylonian Empire depended on trade and they attempted to secure the trade routes in North West Arabia. The local nomadic tribes therefore felt it was time to move on. They had made a good living by plundering the caravans that passed, but with the tightening of Babylonian security, this was becoming difficult. These nomads were the Nabateans, and they turned to the depopulated old kingdom of the Edomites, and integrated with those who were left of the Edomites. The Nabateans had lived as nomads and shepherds, but now they settled and with their genius for trade and administration they guaranteed the safe passage of the caravans and policed the trade routes. They built not only tombs, but elaborate trinicliums, where funeral meals were eaten - rooms carved into the rock for a depth of twenty feet and some sixty feet high. They built their sacrificial and holy places on mountain tops. The monastery is a vast and dominating temple with ancillary buildings carved into the rock alongside. On the opposite side of the main valley is the sacrificial high place where the mountain top has been levelled. The sacrificial site in this flat-topped rock space is reached by six steps, and from this elevated area channels cut in the rock lead across the sacrificial place to the area sixty feet below where the people waited to watch the blood run down as a sign that the sacrifice had been made. The ritual washing area was also reached by steps. Presumably the priests washed before and after the sacrifice. 

The Nabateans had two principal gods - Dusares and Al Uzza. Dusares was symbolised by a block of stone, since the early Semitic peoples were            against human representations. The block of stone was frequently squared in the proportion of 4 x 2 x 1, but was also ovoid - and could be carried. It had   a triple function: it was a representation of the deity, also the abode of the deity, and it was also the throne of the deity. In the concept of ritual, it was        probably the origin of the altar. In the ritual washing area, there is a socket for a god-block. It was probably the equivalent of the ark of the tabernacle or  the cross. Dusares was the patrician god, 441 Uzza was the goddess of the people. Under the influence of hellenistic culture, Dusares began to assume human form and was equated by the Greeks with their god Dionysos.The conservation of water had high priority, and the water engineering was their most impressive achievement, which not even the Romans could better. The total of people in Petra would have been about 30,000, and water was brought from outside the siq through earthenware piping. The sockets in the rock above the architectural features of the tombs show where the piping was laid. The collecting, distributing, and conserving of water showed their ingenuity and skill.

The expansion of the Roman Empire brought about the downfall of the Nabatean state. In 106 A.D. the Emperor Trajan ordered the annexation of Petra  into the Province of Arabia. The Romans created a colonnade street, markets and temples, and in the 3rd century Petra was still a prosperous city, but the trade routes were changed to serve the greater good of the Roman Empire. The merchants departed and so did the Roman Legions. The only unifying force was Christianity, which had been adopted as the state religion. Disaster in the form of an earthquake shook the city in 363 A.D. and thereafter the population thinned out. By the middle of the 6th century Petra was silent and deserted. Although the Crusaders plundered the stor to built their forts and castles, there was no settlement.

In 1812 John Burckhardt, the son of a Swiss colonel, claimed that he wished to sacrifice a goat to the Prophet Aaron whose tomb he knew to be in the vicinity, and gained access to the City of Petra. The Muslims viewed strangers with distrust, and would have killed him had he not learned to speak    Aramaic and dressed as a Muslim. Knowledge of his discovery spread and others came. The first scientific exploration of Petra was made in 1896 and     published in 1907. It is a place to see - exotic and fascinating. The difficulty of access and the exhilaration in reaching the high places with their              breathtaking views give Petra a sense of excitement and discovery that the first explorers must have had.

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