Newsletter-321-December-1997

HADAS DIARY

Tuesday 13 January:                    "Here's Looking at You! Mummy portraits from Roman Egypt": Paul Roberts

Tuesday 10 February                            Report on the Dig at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Gordon Malcolm

Tuesday 10 March                                  Update on Flag Fen? (To be confirmed)

(Lectures are held at Avenue House, East End Road, Finchley, N3 - 8.00 pm for 8.30 start).

NOVEMBER LECTURE                                                                              JUNE PORGES

We were very disappointed to hear at the last moment that Garrick Fincham, who had been our guide round Flag Fen in 1996, had not recovered from his illness sufficiently to be able to come to speak to us. I have asked Maisie Taylor from Flag Fen if someone can come to speak to us in March and update us on what has been happening there. The problem is that March is the lambing season when they are all very involved, as we know this contributes to Francis Prior's theories about prehistoric agriculture in that area. Watch this space for further information! Many thanks to Andrew Selkirk for stepping in and giving a challenging talk on Roman London.

Terry Dawson reported on Andrew's thought-provoking speech, which sugiested that Roman London was an Imperial city, ic built on land owned by the emperor himself, and the result of property speculation which brought additional monies to the emperor's personal fortune. This explains not only the city's symmetrical layout, but how it grew so quickly (from nothing to the biggest town in the province in 10 years) and how it recovered so soon from the disaster of AD61 when it was destroyed by Boudica. London was one of the few Roman towns with a large fort - the only parallel is Rome itself. Tiles marked PPR-BR have been found, a marking that signifies that they are the property of the emperor. In the 4th century Londinium changed its name to Augusta - another possible pointer to imperial ownership. What do members of HADAS think of this theory?

CHRISTMAS DINNER

At the time of writing this, we are about 20 overbooked. I have been waiting to hear from Sutton House to know if they can place a few more members in another room. If this is possible I will have notified those members next on the list. If any booked-in members find they cannot join us on December 3', please let me know as soon as possible. Dorothy Newbury (0181-203 0950)


METAL WORKING IN NORTH WALES                                                                          Roy Walker

Our lecturer in October was Peter Crew, the Snowdonia National Park Archaeologist, an area visited nearly twenty years ago by HADAS when Peter was our guide. He gave an overview of the wealth of metal-linked activity within his area of operation - copper mining at Great Orme in the Bronze Age, slags at Llandudno (the residue of Bronze Age smelting) and hillforts with evidence for iron working. There were medieval bloomeries and a 16th century blast furnace with documentary evidence from 1598-1603 held in the records of the Star Chamber! At Dolgeen was one of Abraham Derby's blast furnaces dated to 1719 - documentary evidence this time held at Friends House in London, Derby being a Quaker.

Peter looked at two prehistoric sites where extensive excavation had revealed much of how metal working was carried out. The first was the small hillfort Bryn-y castell, one of ninety in the region, traditionally thought to be a Dark Age site but proved much earlier with intensive iron working over three to four hundred years and abandonment in the 3rd or 4th century. 1.2 tons of slag were recovered from the smelting areas - modern blast furnaces produce the same quantity in five minutes - along with a 20 cm square anvil stone with traces of slag on it and stone hammers. Three stones seemed to have Bronze Age-type cup marks which were later recognised to be fire stones for use with a fire drill, the only examples yet found in Britain although common in Europe. A snail-shaped building was identified as a smithy for the working of iron, the shade created by its curves essential to the working of the iron and recognition of the distinguishing colours of different temperatures of hot metal. A significant find was made in 1982 when a stake-wall roundhouse was identified, the first timber structure to be found in north­west Wales.

The second site was at Crawcwellt where first just a piece of slag was found, then a bucketful, the excavators realising they were back with iron working! The low, wandering walls contained semi-circular kinks - the site of timber buildings. Here were the post-holes of three successive stake-wall roundhouses with fifteen internal iron smelting surfaces. The smelting, surprisingly, was undertaken inside these wooden buildings. But as Peter pointed out, this was essential in order to keep the charcoal and furnaces dry, to keep out of the wind and to check the temperature colours of the hot metal. Although stratigraphy was almost non-existent with only 10 cm of deposits, a complex sequence of activity was uncovered. Furnaces, stake holes, rings of stakes around furnaces creating wattle formers were revealed. The furnaces had poor preservation with only sub-soil features remaining. The clay inner linings were vitrified. Elsewhere on site, a stone founded but containing smithying evidence was found above a stake-wall building. There were three or four other overlapping stake-wall buildings with smithy hearths dated to 350 BC plus an oval pit containing a Bronze Age beaker of 1710 BC. There were 2.5 - 3 tons of slag.

Experiment is a feature of Peter's work - essential if the technology is to be understood. Furnaces based on the archaeological evidence have been reconstructed which have shown the importance of the amount of air bellowed in. Too little results in slag with no iron being produced, too much and cast iron results. Iron when smelted is contaminated with slag and clay from the furnace unlike copper which smelts clear. These "blooms" need some two hours processing to produce workable iron. It has been shown that 1 kg of refined iron requires 100 kg of charcoal which requires 1 ton of wood, the whole process requiring 25 man days of work. A fuel- and time-hungry past-time. This is why very little iron is found on prehistoric sites - it is re­used. These experiments have enabled the quantity of raw materials used to create the amount of slag recovered from the two sitesto be ascertained as well as the number of years work involved. The "value" of finished objects can be determined- For example, the Betws-y-coed firedogs would have required 3-4 man years works. Just to supply each settlement with one knife a year would have required one ton of iron although the slag has not been found to match this. Peter asked whether the importance of slag was being ignored by archaeologists. New sites had been found in E Yorkshire including one with the largest quantity of prehistoric slag - some 5,000 kg near Arras culture settlements. In contrast, very little slag had been found at Danebury despite the evidence of much iron working.

Peter looked at trade and the role of currency bars. These were not money but used for trade. The drawing of the iron into bars proved that it could be worked, the bending of the ends showed its quality. There were twenty distinct types of currency bars in Britain (plough, sword etc) which fell into regional groupings. There was also bulk traded iron in the form of smithed blooms, round blocks of which have been found in the Forest of Dean.

This lecture went beyond its prehistoric base. It showed the results of "two dimensional" excavation on shallow deposits, the importance of a single theme to the understanding of the past societies and especially the relevance of experiment.


WITCH WAYS                                                                                      VIKKI O'CONNOR

A recent article by History Professor Ronald Hutton, in the University of Bristol's newsletter, outlined his researches into the roots of modem paganism, identifying four common strands. The first, high ritual magic, uses invocations and sacred equipment such as swords, and can be traced back to Hellenistic Egypt, via Moorish Spain and medieval Christendom to 19th and 20th C organisations such as Freemasons with, as an example, one Scottish lodge parading through the streets carrying torches on Midsummer's Eve (This category reminded me of archaeological items such as swords found in the Thames). Secondly, folk memory - the "hedge witchcraft information was held and passed on by "wise women" and "cunning men"; this was assembled and written down by 19th C folklorists. The Professor includes "Horse Whisperers", who tamed horses by secret methods, in this category as they had their awn society involving initiation ceremonies. I found the third, literary strand harder to follow. Professor Hutton states that writers form medieval monastic sources through to 2011 C novels have "glorified ancient paganism", and latterly representing urban society's longings for an idealised rural past. His illustration of a "green man" carving in a church, and his reference to Hardy's novels form part of his hypothesis. He believes that these various writings influenced the fourth strand, the folk customs and rituals, where modern survivals of folk customs are believed to have derived from old religions, as set out in Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough (late 191" C).

Professor Hutton goes on to point out that Margaret Murray's The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921), (which proposes that Europe remained predominantly pagan in the face of a powerful Christian establishment) is factually flawed.

He concludes that the late 20th C Wicca religion is a modern invention which has been heavily influenced by its co-founder Gerald Gardner being a Freemason, Rosicrucian spiritualist, Druid, ember of the Folklore Society and Order of Witchcraft Chivalry; also the Wicca phenomenon is a product of British 19'" and 201"C culture.

The newsletter did not mention publication of Professor Hutton's work; it will doubtless be of interest to at least one HADAS member, won't it, Jenny?

THE LONDON BOROUGH OF BARNET:  TEXTILE STUDY CENTRE PAST AND PRESENT by BILL BASS

A donation of over Ulm from the Clothworkers' Foundation, the charity of the Clothworkers' Company, will support the establishment of a World Textile Centre within the future British Museum Study Centre. This Clothworkers' Textile Centre will bring together for the first time some 18,000 textiles at present dispersed round the museum's many departments. It will include one of the most spectacular collections of ethnographic textiles in the world. The collections cover the 7000 years from the Fayum Neolithic period in Egypt of about 5000 years BC to the present day. Among the treasures are ancient Egyptian Books of the Dead on linen, a Peruvian embroidered mantle of 400-200 years BC, a Tahitian mourning dress of bark cloth and pearl shell, 18' century Hawaiian feather cloaks and 17111 century Assamese silk textiles. The Textile Centre will offer a unique combination of exceptional public access to the collections, specialist conservation services and wide-ranging education programmes. It will open in 1999.

Britain in Old Photographs
(Sutton Publishing, 1997)

Percy Reboul and John Heathfield, HADAS members and chroniclers of the history of the Borough, have produced another excellent book of photographs, this time placing the current view against its historic equivalent. The price is £9.99 and will be on sale at HADAS meetings. These would make ideal Christmas gifts and if you require a copy before our next meeting (in January) please contact Roy Walker (0181 361 1350), who will try to get one to you as soon as possible.

The new HADAS resistivity meter was purchased through generous donations from the Lando Borough of Barnet and the CBA to whom the following report was recently sent.

PROGRESS REPORT ON RESISTIVITY SURVEYING

CHURCH FARM MUSEUM, HENDON (Site of CFM93, CFM96 excavations)

On 31 March 1997 we tested our new resistivity meter, making 2 runs 5m apart running E/W which both went through an area 10 X10m where we had augered in 1996, and we compared the resistivity results with those of augering.

The most striking results were:

On each run, the lowest resistance reading came within a metre or two of a point where augering had shown considerable water, probably running, in a sand subsoil layer.

At at least two points on the runs, high readings were shown close to auger holes where an impassable hard layer had been found within 1 metre of ground surface.We felt these results could give us some useful information of what layers lie beneath the ground surface, if we continue the survey over the whole site as far as possible. and could indicate where further excavation might be rewarding.

ANCIENT BOUNDARY DITCH, KENWOOD AND HAMPSTEAD HEATH

Our object here was to try to find the course of the ancient (probably Anglo-Saxon) ditch between the points where signs of it are still visible at ground level; the attached part of a contour map (kindly supplied by English Heritage) shows, at the bottom, an end of the visible depression, and, since July, we have started a resistivity survey in the area to the north of this, starting from near the boundary stone marked near the top of the map, which may be associated with the same boundary.

On the enclosed map, the lowest resistivity readings in each run are shown as black dots.     We are encouraged by these results,
which appear to show a linear feature curving round the west of the boundary stone (possibly following the contours?) and progressing in the general direction of the visible ditch remains

to the south.                    The pattern, clear near the boundary stone,
becomes somewhat confused towards the south with low readings to the east; however these may be due to the general slope of the ground (shown by the contours) down towards the east causing the

lower part to be damper.                                             We may hope that continuing our
survey to north and south will show a clearer linear pattern which could safely be interpreted as the course of a filled-in ditch.

 

SITE WATCHING                                                                                                         BRIAN WRIGLEY

Earth-moving works (cables, sewers, etc) in the Borough from current planning applications may be of archaeological interest. They are of course being monitored by English Heritage's adviser to the Borough, but members might be interested to keep an eye open for them in the areas concerned.

Dollis Brook, where Hendon Lane crosses it

Brockley Hill and Edgware, Stonegrove Park

Hampstead Garden Surburb (an "application to dig ducts")

Anyone interested to have further details, please get in touch with Brian Wrigley (0181 959 5982) or Roy Walker (361 1350)

Portrait of a CITY: Illuminating London's past through Archaeology

Thu Birkbeck College series of lectures organised by Harvey Sheldon continues on Thursday evenings at the Institute of Archaeology, 31-34 Gordon Square, WO, 7.30-8.30 pm.

December 11th  Art and Society in Londinium (Martin Henig)

January 22nd Religion in Londinium (Roman Conquest to 5" Century AD) (Ian Haynes)

January 29' Death and Burial in Roman London (Bruno Barber)

The admission fee is £5.00 (£2.50 concession) per lecture, payable at the door.

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