newsletter-386-may-2003

Newsletter

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HADAS Diary

Tuesday 12th May ROMAN SOUTHWARK Harvey Sheldon

Tuesday 10th June ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (Details enclosed)

All lectures start at 8.00 p.m. prompt in the drawing room on the ground floor of Avenue House, East End Road, Finchley N3, and are followed by question time and coffee. We close promptly at 10.00

Outings

Saturday 14th June OUTING to WHEATHAMPSTEAD AND ELY with Micky W. and Dorothy. At Wheathampstead, Simon West will show us his excavation which will be in progress in June - a rare opportunity. At Ely we can visit Cromwell's House, the local museum. the Stained Glass Museum as well as the Cathedral.

Saturday 6th July READING and SILCHESTER, with Tessa Smith and Sheila Woodward. (Did anyone happen to tape the 'Meet the Ancestors' programme on Silchester? It would be very useful before the Silchester outing. If you can help, please contact Tessa on 020 8958 9159.)

Application forms for outings are sent out with the Newsletter the month prior to the event.

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The Great Well Hunt at Avenue House by Andrew Coulson

"Inky" Stephens did more than invent inks. He set about enlarging Avenue House and landscaping its grounds, and he paid special attention to the water supply. He developed systems for collecting and storing the run-off water from the roofs of the House by means of drains and sumps. Some of these are thought to be under the asphalt on the terrace outside the Garden Room. One such sump, capped with a man¬hole cover in the year 2000, is about six feet in diameter and some twenty-five feet deep. Avenue House management suspected that there might be more sumps under the terrace and asked HADAS to look for them. The lack of ground water in the asphalt and its impenetrability rendered our resistivity meter unworkable. The team considered dowsing, bosing, or metal detection (we assumed that any well-cap would contain some metal). Dowsing was not tried because we had no rods (wrong - it seems some are available!) and it was feared it would look silly and un-scientific. Perhaps, but one wonders if it works, and if so how well? Maybe we will find out some day. Stephen experimented with his metal detector which, according to its manual, could detect a 10 pence coin under 6 of soil, and an iron man-hole cover under 4 or 5 feet, and which would indicate what sort of metal was involved. We found, however, - that experience is needed to fine-tune the equipment and to interpret its signals. The experts Stephen consulted stated that detection through the estimated 5" of asphalt was quite feasible, though they did have some reservations as to the capacity of the equipment to do this. On tests in flower beds. it worked well. We tried echo-location or "basing". This involves dropping an object and listening to the sound made. If the sound changes, then the subterranean structures have also changed providing, of course, you have dropped the same object in the same way. It helps, we found, to have a "listener" as well as a "dropper". We found a mattock handle in the stores with a rounded "big end". This is useful because a "squared off end is less likely to achieve a constant angle of impact. Hold the mattock handle at its point of balance pointing downwards and at about waist height. As you pace slowly forwards, release your grip, and the handle will fall, hit the asphalt, and bounce back to your hand. Repeat ad infinitum. Note the harmonic vibrations emitted by the handle and ignore them; they are not what you are after. Listen to the sound of the impact. Ignore constant similar sounds; they are mere background. Only when, for example, "BONG" becomes a strident "BOING", do you sit up and take notice. With the chalk in your other hand, you mark an X, or whatever, and add your "listener's" interpretation. We used three; "hard", "soft", and "It's different, but I can't say how", recorded on the grid as "h", "s", and '7'. We found it best for the "listener" to decide which type it was_ Does it work? We now have a grid plan of the terrace showing spots and areas which produce sounds which are distinctly different from those obtained in adjacent places. This difference would, perhaps, be more easily quantified by using an oscilloscope or a D.I.Y. seismometer. One supposes that a solid (concrete) substructure will produce a solid or hard sound, whilst any sort of cavity will make a soft or hollow response. Indeed, the plan shows lines of similar noise which could be caused by drains, except that these are usually "hard" when they ought, if they are indeed drains, to be "soft"! It is a puzzle. To find the answer the asphalt will have to go. Avenue House, egged on by English Heritage, have schemes to do just that. There is also the chance of a prize for the most accurate "guess" at what is where. Who said archaeology doesn't pay? With grateful thanks to Christiane, Eric, Stephen, Bill and all the other Bosers.

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Clapham Junction Peter Pickering

Not, I can assure members, in South London, but in Malta. There, in many places on the bare limestone, are pairs of grooves in the rock, of varying depth, up to 60 centimetres in places. The grooves in each pair are some 1.41 metres apart (though there is not absolute uniformity). 1.41 metres is 4ft 7in - remarkably close to the standard railway gauge. The grooves fork, or cut across each other, for all the world like railway tracks - hence the popular name for one particular concentration of them, which we visited with the Royal Archaeological Institute just before Easter. The date and purpose of these grooves are alike enigmatic. Dating might feasible when the grooves encounter another feature, such as a tomb, but no robust conclusions have yet been reached. The grooves have, naturally, attracted the lunatic fringe, who ascribe them to aliens or the citizens of Atlantis, drawing attention to places where they seem to run beneath the sea. But sober archaeologists cannot choose amongst three possible purposes: transport, irrigation and quarrying. T o each of these there are objections: the grooves might have been worn by wheels or the runners of sledges, but one would have expected the animal pulling the vehicle to have left some trace; no association of the grooves with water sources has been found; and the length of some of the grooves (more than a kilometre in places, uphill and down) is hard to reconcile with quarrying. By the way, there was a railway in Malta, running from Valletta to the ancient capital Mdina, but it closed in 1931, though traces of it are visible to the enthusiast.

The villa of Tiberius Claudius Severus Tessa Smith

We were very pleased to welcome Roy Friendship-Taylor for our April lecture, as several of us met him last year on the site of his dig at Piddington. Set against this background, the excavation was vividly brought to life for us by our lecturer. Originally the Viatores had traced a Roman road to Piddington, and later air photos seemed to show the corner of a Roman fort. More recently a local vicar with a metal detector had dug up an iron key, Roman tile and tesserae, and it was at this point that the Upper Nene Archaeological Society were called in to excavate. They have now been digging there for 24 years. Last summer, they found a timber villa dated A.D.70, associated with a huge spread of iron slag and many lengths of cauldron chain, indicating an iron-age smelting industry_ Previous years' excavations have uncovered a large nine-roomed Roman villa which had an amazingly colourful tiled roof, cream tegulae overlaid by sky blue imbrex, and bright red tiles with drops of red paint applied, Over 80 very fancy white and red 'chimneys' have been found, which could have been bird feeders, but definitely went on the roof of the villa. The floors were tiled in herringbone, ears of wheat pattern, and 2nd century heart-shaped mosaics were found, as well as key and swastika designs. Low limestone wails were plastered in red, topped by highly decorated supporting columns, and a formalized courtyard garden was edged with pillars. A very rare and prestigious find is a tile inscribed TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS VERI, meaning 'the estate of Tiberius Claudius', which identifies very neatly who owned the property at that time, In the corner of the villa, a hypocaust and stoking room heated the bath house which had box-flue tiles with internal lead piping found in situ. Two stone seats were situated in one corner. Water was fed to the villa by means of a wooden pipeline and although the wooden pipe has not been found, its iron collar has, thus giving the diameter of the pipe. One of the largest stone-lined wells in Roman Britain, over 8 metres deep and 2 across, contained over 25,000 oyster shells and whelks, (the original "fishy water"?) Pots, jugs and a decorative bucket-hook were found at the bottom. Amphorae, two Brockley Hill carmated bowls, four huge mortana over 1 metre in diameter, made in the 2nd century by the potter Viliarcus, army horse harness and scale armour show that it was a site of the Roman army, It will be very interesting when they- excavate the area where the aerial photos indicated the corner of a Roman fort to be. Several medical instruments have been found, scalpels, traction hook, needles. Silver spoons, a gladiator penknife, 18 brooches stamped with the maker's name, and the head of a Mercury statuette from a dining bowl (which is one of only three found in Britain) and a large collection of Samian indicate a superior lifestyle at that time, In the 3rd century, the villa was burnt down and refurbished more than once, and a detached bathhouse suite of rooms was built. In the 4th century, squatters moved in and pig bones, bird bones and a horse's head were found in the ruins. In spite of a rather squalid ending to the villa, the latest news is very exciting. Partly due to a lottery grant, partly due to a bequest, and a lot to do with Roy Friendship-Taylor, a new museum will be opened to the public later on this year, showing all the finds. A conservation area, education area, library and photographic section will all be available. What a wonderful event in the ongoing excavation at Piddington, and the Estate of Tiberius Claudius.

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Other Societies' Events

Saturday and Sunday 3rd and 4th May 10.00-5.00 Family History Fair, Royal Horticultural Society, New Hall and Conference Centre, Greycoat Street, Westminster, SWI. Society of Genealogists event to launch Local History month

Sunday 4 May 2.30 pm Heath and Hampstead Society, Burgh House, New End Square, NW3. "Historic Features". Walk led by Brian Senddon. £1.00 donation.

Sunday 4th May 10.00-5.00 7th May 5.00 Hampstead Antiques and Collectors Fair, Community Centre, 78 High Street, NW3. Admission 20p. Postcards, photos, prints, watercolours, maps etc. British Archaeological Association Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1. "According to Function? Decorum in English Architecture of 12tm-13'th centuries. Talk by Peter Draper. Church End Festival, Avenue House grounds, East End Road, Finchley, N3. HADAS will have a display stand here. We welcome any offers of help on the day or part of it.


Wednesday 14th May 6.30 pm London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, Interpretation Unit, Museum of London, 150 London Wally, EC2. From Flints to fire Engines: Work of the conservation Department at MoL. Talk by Helen Ganiarus.

Wednesday 14th May 8.00 pm Barnet and District Local History Society, Wyburn Room, Wesley Hall, Stapylton Road, Barnet. "Medieval Armour". Talk by Christopher Gravett.

Wednesday 14th May 8.00 pm Hornsey Historical Society, Union Church Hall, corner of Ferne Park Road and Weston Park, N8. "History and Operation of the New River". Talk by John Cunningham. £1 entrance fee.

Thursday 15th May 8.00 pm Enfield Preservation Society, Jubilee Hall, junction of Chase Side and Parsonage Lane, Enfield. 'Church Farm, Hendon". Talk by Gerrard Roots (Museum Curator and HADAS member) May is also Museums and Galleries month. City of London Archaeological Society, St. Olave's Church Hall, Mark Lane, EC3. "Understanding and Recording Standing Buildings in London". Talk by Andrew Westman (MOLAS)



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