On Wednesday the 8th of August four AIM members visited the Roman Town Excavation project at Silchester, south of Reading. We were extremely grateful to Maidenhead Archaeological & Historical Society who kindly allowed us join their visit.
After an excellent meal in the Red Lion at Mortimer West End, we and the Maidenhead members assembled in the official car park and then walked around to the excavation area.
The Silchester site is one of the largest and best-preserved towns in the south of Britain with walls that still stand up to almost five metres high and the site’s features lie relatively shallowly below the surface. It is a ‘greenfield’ site, one of only half a dozen towns that has had no modern successor built upon it.
The current excavation is a large single trench known as ‘Insula IX’ and has been dug since 1997. Over 100 students are accommodated (mostly in tents on site) and they are trained in archaeological practices by Reading University. Insula IX was chosen especially because it lies adjacent to the north-south and west- east principal thoroughfares that bisect the site. The project is using the latest archaeological techniques to trace the site’s development from its origins before the Roman Conquest to its abandonment in the fifth or sixth century A.D.
Professor Mike Fulford, Site Director, believes Calleva (Silchester) was founded around 50BC by Commius, an Atrobates leader, once a trusted ally of Julius Caesar, who then joined an unsuccessful rebellion against him and had to leave Gaul rapidly. Whether Commius headed for an existing Atrebates settlement at Silchester, or started to build on a greenfield site, a defensible hill with excellent views, near the navigable Kennet and Thames, is, Mike suggests, “a million-dollar question – why here?” They have found nothing earlier than 50BC – yet.
Commius’s town flourished, trading across Britain, Ireland and both Roman and Iron Age tribal Europe. The Callevans paid for their luxuries with exports of metalwork, wheat – the site is still surrounded by prime farm land, and there is evidence of grain-drying on an industrial scale – hunting dogs, and, almost certainly, slaves: British slaves and dogs were equally prized in continental Europe. They have also found evidence in little flayed bones for a more exotic craft industry, puppy-fur cloaks.
Commius was succeeded by three quarrelsome sons – significantly dubbing themselves on coins as “rex” or king – who successively deposed one another. The third, Verica, was toppled by local tribes and made a move that would change the course of British history: he fled to Rome and asked for help – and in AD43 the Romans came. Calleva already had strong trade links with the Continent and political allegiances to Rome before the Conquest.
Those who attended Amanda Clarke’s talk on 24th January 2012, will remember the wealth of knowledge and information she conveyed to us about the Silchester site.
Amanda, who is the Field Director at Silchester and Research Fellow at Reading University, gave us a most detailed tour of the site explaining its different phases. The western part of the trench is mainly Iron Age and is set out south-west to north-east (an alignment which is based on the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset), whereas the eastern side of the trench is Roman and runs north south.
It appears that Calleva was a well-organised Iron Age town. Amanda pointed out the earliest feature, a late 1st century BC Iron Age ditch. Finds in the ditch could be military and might point to Caesar’s invasion. There is also a large rectangular Iron Age building, not the traditional round house, which has a dog buried in one corner. There is strong evidence that the Iron Age people lived at Calleva in regular house plots flanking broad gravelled roads,
The site has no natural water and so there are numerous wells. In these have been found four holed pots, perhaps evidence that they had been ritually disfigured. Samian ware from Italy and France is also to be found together with amphorae in this period, evidence of Calleva’s trading links.
Amanda said that Iron Age Britons were importing olives from the Mediterranean a century before the Romans arrived with their exotic tastes in food. Excavators have discovered a single olive stone from an excavation of an Iron Age well. The stone came from a layer securely dated to the first century BC, making it the earliest ever found in Britain – but since nobody ever went to the trouble of importing one olive, there must be more, rotted beyond recognition or still buried. The stone, combined with earlier finds of seasoning herbs such as coriander, dill and celery, all previously believed to have arrived with the Romans, suggests a diet at Silchester that would be familiar in any high street pizza restaurant
Amanda informed us that this year a tiny skeleton of a dog, no bigger than a celebrity’s handbag dog, had been unearthed and it was one of a handful ever found in Europe from such an early date: the evidence suggests it lived for up to three years, and was then laid, curled as if asleep, into the foundations of a house. Also the skeleton of a cat was found, carefully packed into a clay jar.
Following Amanda’s tour, we sat in a large gazebo where Elise (Finds Supervisor) handed around some of the most important artefacts found this year. Including a selection of brooches, a bronze hair pin, an Iron age coin, pieces of multi-coloured glass, a portable toilet set, a sherd of Samian ware – inscribed with the potter’s name, a coin of Nero, a bone awl and a gaming dice.
For reasons unknown, Calleva was abandoned shortly after the end of the Roman era. There is no evidence of a cataclysmic event. Maybe the water supply ran out. It has been suggested that the Saxons deliberately avoided Calleva after it was abandoned, preferring to maintain their existing centres at Winchester and Dorchester. With the exception of one small medieval manor, now part of a farm, and the church of St Mary, which probably stands on a Roman temple, nobody ever built on or lived at Calleva Atrebatum to this day.
The 16th season of work on Insula IX at the Roman town of Silchester took place between 2nd July and 12th August 2012. The dig has another three years to run, ending in 2015. For further information see http://www.silchester.rdg.ac.uk/.
Many thanks to Maidenhead A. & H. Society for arranging this visit and to Amanda and her team for providing us with an impressive and informative tour.
by John Laker, with help from Jeff Griffiths, Reading University’s website and Maev Kennedy’s articles in the Guardian
On Sunday the 1st of July, four intrepid AIM members travelled to S.O.A.G.’s (South Oxfordshire Archaeological Group) Roman site near Goring-on-Thames.
Hazel Williams, the site Director, welcomed us and gave us a guided tour of this large site, which has now entered its twentieth year of excavation. The description of ‘Roman Villa’ has changed to ‘a large Roman Farmstead’. This is mainly due to the lack of mosaics found there.
Hazel showed photographic overlays, which outline the areas had been excavated previously and the areas under current excavation. A geophysics graphic showing the Farmstead and it setting in the local area was most illuminating. Hazel also showed us a selection of artefacts found at the site, including some pieces of high class Samian ware pottery.
After our tour, we entered the very large trench (see photo’) to start excavating. We dug in an area just outside of the main building’s western wall. We expected this area to be devoid of ‘finds’, but the finds tray was soon full of pieces of roof tile and burnt pottery.
The spoil from such a dig gathers quickly and wheelbarrows are used to convey the spoil to areas outside excavation areas. One of our members used his metal detector to find various metal items, including a selection of Roman nails.
At lunchtime all the volunteers gathered in a circle and sat eating their lunches and chatting about archaeology locally and in general.
Having been refuelled, the gathering dispersed to various parts of the site. The AIM members continued digging in the same area, but, not long after we were transferred to the southern side of the trench to dig amongst the probable fall of a Roman wall. This tumble of flints and chalk contained few finds, but some roof tile and on small piece of painted plaster were unearthed.
Although the weather was cool and windy, the rain held off all day! Just before 4 o’clock we packed our gear away, said our goodbyes and departed for Marlow.
We all had a wonderful day on the important site. Many thanks to Hazel and her team. SOAG’s hospitality was at its usual high quality.
For more information see SOAG’s website at www.soagarch.org.uk
Photos gS and qS
On Wednesday the 21st of June, the Chilterns Woodlands Project (CWP) arranged a visit to HG Matthews Brick Company which is situated at Bellingdon, near Chesham.
The Brick Works was started in 1923 and the grandson of the founder, Jim Matthews, gave us guided tour of the works. About 50% of the brick production is machine made and the other half are handmade. HG Matthews has made bricks for Hampton Court, Chequers, Mapledurham House and many more.
Jim showed us bricks being made by hand and the kilns in which they were placed before firing. All the clay used for brickmaking is sourced within a few miles of the plant.
The kilns used to be fired by coal and then oil, but escalating costs have made wood an economic alternative. The wood is cut locally and the family business has woodlands close by that they can harvest sustainably.
Apart from bricks of all shapes and sizes, HG Matthews sell a large range of wood burning stoves and fires. They are also agents for larger wood burning boilers which can attract grants from the government.
Following Jim’s tour we had a quick lunch and John Morris (of the CWP) led us around the local woodland explaining how the woods are to be managed. Older and sickly trees have been marked for felling and some overcrowding has been earmarked for thinning. Again there is Government money available to woodland owners to help to access areas for sustainable tree felling.
It seems a historic craft and the sustainable use of renewable fuels are combining to make HG Matthews a very viable enterprise.
On Thursday the 21st of June, Yvonne Edwards of Chess Valley Archaeological and Historical Society (CVAHS) gave an excellent talk about their investigations along the river Chess.
Yvonne illustrated talk began with CVAHS excavations at a Burnt Mound adjacent to the river. Yvonne said that burnt mounds are common in Ireland and Scotland but not so common in Britain. Most are associated with a good stream or river water supply, hearths and a large trough. The troughs, that are thought to have held water, are sometimes clay-lined or wood-lined. Radiocarbon dates for these mounds vary quite widely, ranging from the late Neolithic to the Iron Age, but most between 2,000 – 800BC during the Bronze Age.
The mound is made of charcoal and heat shattered flints which are thought to be the remains of stones heated in fires and wood burnt on the fire. The hot stones were subsequently used to heat the water in the trough. There are various theories about what the hot water was for – possibly cooking, bathing, dyeing or leather treatment – but no general agreement as yet.
CVAHS’s test excavation spanned four days and enabled them to make a section through the mound and uncover the underlying surface of river deposits. They also recovered pieces of crude pottery and some fragments of bone. The pottery fragments have been examined by a specialist and identified as late Bronze Age (1,200 – 800BC) jar fragments tempered with flint. One of the pieces appears to have slight finger impressions in the surface, which is very common in Bronze Age pots.
No trace of a hearth, or trough, were found during this initial excavation, but CVAHS hope to return in the future for a more comprehensive investigation.
Yvonne next spoke about their dig at a suspected Romano-British site near Sarratt. CVAHS had conducted an extensive geophysical survey near the Chess at Sarratt. This had revealed numerous indications of tracks, walls and buildings. A vast array of Roman coins and artifacts have been found in this area since the 1960s and they were pretty sure there was a significant Romano-British settlement there.
Three trenches were positioned in order to examine features that CVAHS had previously identified by resistivity survey. These included what looked like a large rectangular area enclosed by a ditch and possible traces of a small building.
These trenches were dug and uncovered evidence of possible enclosure ditches, dumped building material and pottery all dating to the Romano-British period. This quickly uncovered several undated pottery sherds, a tile with the imprint of a hobnailed sandal, and another with a paw print, probably of a dog.
CVAHS succeeded in finding ditches in two trenches. In one case the ditch contained pottery dating from the late Late Iron Age and first century. The other ditch contained pottery dating from the second to third centuries, many iron and bronze objects and a substantial number of third century coins. Other trenches produced a large amount of Romano-British roof tile fragments, together with some floor tile and also flue tile, indicating under-floor (hypocaust) heating.
These finds indicate that human occupation probably spanned at least the period from the Iron Age to the Romano-British period. During the latter period there appears to have been at least one villa and/or a bath house on the site, as indicated by the flue tile fragments.
The third site Yvonne discussed was the Chesham Bois Manor. The current Chesham Bois House stands on the site of a much older and larger residence and estate dating back to the 11th century. There is evidence that the estate was one of the 5 estates (or manors) listed in the Domesday Book in 1086 as part of Chesham. The estate had had a long and varied history since the days of King Harold. It was taken over by the Norman Bishop Odo of Bayeaux, but by 1213 the de Bois family were in residence, they brought their name from France and it became attached to the Parish.
Subsequently various families owned and extended the manor, especially the Cheyne family, from (around) 1430 to 1735. The house and estate were then purchased by the Duke of Bedford, but were considered of little value. The house was eventually demolished and another building replaced it in the early nineteenth century. Excavations by the Chess Valley Archaeological Society uncovered a 12th century pitch tile hearth and a smithying pit. In 2006 Time Team asked if they could take part in these investigations (Series 14, Episode 10 – available on Channel 4 OD) and their work over 3 days helped to discover more about the old Manor House. CVAHS volunteers help Tony and co., to map out 17th and 18th century features and buildings.
Tea, coffee and biscuits followed a question and answer session. Yvonne was thanked for a very interesting and informative talk and we departed with a much greater knowledge of the history of a town not far from Marlow.
Following our AGM on 31 May, AIM Chairman Andy Ford gave a talk on “Richard Cornwall, Lord of Marlow and King of the Romans”.
Andy explained that the origin of the talk was in the research that he has been conducting over the last few months into Warren Wood. As part of that he came across an entry in the medieval Close Roll document for 14 April 1233 which, roughly translated, reads as follows:
“Peter de Rivall is ordered to give eighteen fallow deer from the royal forest of Windsor as a gift from the king to Richard, Earl of Cornwall for the establishment of his park in Marlow”. Andy has therefore been exploring both the life of Richard of Cornwall and trying to identify the location of the deer park.
Andy explained that Richard was born in Winchester in January 1209 and was the second son of King John. He was only six years old when his father died and his elder brother Henry succeeded to the throne. Henry III spent much of his reign trying to assert his royal authority over the powerful barons, often through controversial means such as promoting outsiders and foreigners. His younger brother Richard was, by contrast, a far more able and sensitive politician who was known during his lifetime for his diplomacy and his strengths as a negotiator.
Although Richard was a member of the royal family and heir to the throne until 1239, he had to make his own way in the world and did so with remarkable success. He became reputedly the wealthiest man in England and one of the richest in Europe. He acquired much of that wealth through land granted to him by Henry III, including the Earldom of Cornwall in 1231. Many of the subsequent grants were made after the brothers had quarrelled and were often, in effect, a bribe to keep Richard from siding with the barons. During the course of his life, Richard built up an extensive portfolio of estates in Cornwall, the Thames Valley and Buckinghamshire, Middlesex, Suffolk, the East Midlands and Yorkshire, as well as enjoying wealth from tin mines in Cornwall and Devon, and presiding over a highly lucrative recoinage across the country.
Once he had secured his position both financially and politically at home, Richard became increasingly active overseas, for example joining the Sixth Crusade between 1240 and 1242. The success of his contribution to the Crusade and the increasingly close links with leading European families fuelled Richard’s ambitions and he became heavily involved in European politics. This culminated in his being elected King of the Romans in 1256, although in truth this meant that he became effectively not much more than overlord to a number of German states concentrated around the Rhine. Richard spent a considerable proportion of his wealth to acquire the title and visited his new kingdom on four occasions during his fifteen year reign, albeit spending less than four years in total there.
Richard’s focus on his overseas ambitions coincided with increasing unrest at home. Marginalised barons, frustrated by Henry III’s increasingly autocratic and aloof kingship, found an effective champion in the form of Simon de Montfort who led them in open revolt in 1263. In May of the following year, his army comprehensively defeated the royal forces at the Battle of Lewes where both Henry III and Richard were taken prisoner. The situation was reversed in August 1265 when royalist forces under Henry III’s son defeated the rebels at Evesham and restored Henry’s position as king. Richard played a key role in re-establishing peace in England after the rebellion and remained a central figure at court until he died in April 1272. He was buried in Hailes Abbey (Gloucestershire), which he had founded after surviving a shipwreck in 1243.
There is no evidence of Richard of Cornwall having any association with Marlow until 1231 when two separate events established firm links with the town and the area. The first was his marriage in Fawley in March 1231 to Isabel Marshal who was a member of one of the leading baronial families of the time. Isabel already had connections with Marlow through her former husband, the Earl of Gloucester who had died in the autumn of 1230.
It seems the new family spent quite some time in Marlow in the first years after the wedding. Isabel gave birth to four children during her marriage to Richard. Their first, John, died in Marlow in September 1233 and may have been born in the town in the preceding year. He was buried in Reading Abbey, as was the second child, Isabel, who was born in 1233 and died in the following year. It is possible that Isabel also was born and died in Marlow. Coupled with the establishment of a deer park by Richard in Marlow in 1233, these births and deaths suggest a close association by the family with the area over a short but intense period. Unfortunately, we can’t say for sure where the family were resident when they stayed in Marlow.
What is also notable is that Richard did not gain control of the estates of the former Earl of Gloucester including Marlow, except perhaps for temporary custody of them during the period 1239-43. Instead, Richard did acquire land in Little Marlow, also in 1231. In that year, one of a series of royal charters granted him the honour of Wallingford that brought with it an estate in Little Marlow. Given this, it is highly likely that the location of Richard of Cornwall’s deer park is to be found in Little Marlow rather than Great Marlow.
Deer parks were a common feature of the landscape during the medieval period. It is possible that over 3,000 existed at various points during the period and 50 have been identified to date in Buckinghamshire alone. These were typically enclosed areas of land preserved for the purpose of the local lord being able to hunt deer, both for food and for sport.
Andy suggested that Warren Wood, which is located in Little Marlow, may be the site for the deer park for a number of reasons. Firstly, it shares many of the characteristics of other known deer parks in terms of both location and features, in that it is a sloping, wooded site some distance from the main village settlement, on the edge of the parish/manor boundary and on a site that would have been difficult to cultivate.
In addition, the various finds from our investigations to date on the site suggest that it was highly likely that there was a medieval dwelling at Warren Wood, the dating of which is consistent with the establishment of Richard’s deer park in1233. Dwellings of this type for a park-keeper would have been common in deer parks at this time to help with maintenance and security.
A further clue is offered by the name of the site. For some time, it has been assumed that the name of the wood derived from the local Borlase Warren family who were prominent local landowners during the eighteenth century. However, the first record of a map for the wood identifies it as “The Warren”. Andy explained that the term “warren” had a number of different meanings during the medieval period, but all in some way were associated with the hunting or rearing of animals.
Andy explained that there were some challenges with this interpretation, for example the lack of evidence of a boundary around the Warren Wood site which would have been necessary for keeping the deer in the park. It is also possible that the name refers to the prior existence of a rabbit warren. In the early medieval period, rabbits were extremely rare and highly prized, both for their meat and their fur. They were farmed in specially developed “coneygarths”. There is documentary evidence showing that Richard maintained rabbit warrens at his other estates so it is possible that Warren Wood also served that purpose. Interestingly, rabbit warrens were elsewhere maintained alongside deer parks.
There are no further records relating to the deer park in Marlow after Richard’s death. By the turn of the next century, the number of parks across the country was at its peak and for various reasons it declined after that. Due largely to the effects of the Black Death and the subsequent labour shortage, it became more and more difficult to maintain the hunting parks and many gradually fell into disuse and were leased out.
As soon as our speaker, Gerry Palmer, stood up it was obvious that he was impressed by Horemheb – a virtually unknown Pharaoh from Egypt’s New Kingdom who started his rule just four years after Tutankhamun died. By the end of the evening pretty much everyone else was impressed as well!
Horemheb ruled for between 14 and 27 years around 1300 BC, when the Pyramids were already some 1200 years old. He was the last ruler of Egypt’s 18th dynasty – which is considered by many to be the highpoint of their civilization.
To understand how impressive Horemheb was you need to understand how low the earlier Pharaoh, Akhenaten – the so called “Heretic Pharaoh,” had brought the country. Obsessed by the sun god Aten (Ra) he had dismantled the religious structures of an empire that had lasted for well over a thousand years – and for Egyptians, religion ruled and moulded every aspect of life. He had disbanded the Amun priesthood and, like Henry VIII’s monastic dissolution, he had taken their entire staggering wealth as his own.
He built a new capital at Armana and declared that the only person who was able to talk to the god Aten was him, and perhaps his wife Nefertiti – everyone else had to pray to Akhenaten who, as a semi-divine living god, could pass their requests on. He employed teams of masons to visit temples across the country and remove the name of the old chief god, Amun. He overthrew over a thousand years of artistic convention and changed the style used in temples and palaces and he pretty much let everything else go to pot.
The rule of law broke down across the country. Corruption became endemic; Enemies invaded, beating the Egyptians in major battles and plagues broke out across the country.
In those days the Pharaoh personally had four main tasks to perform: to ensure the Nile flooded every year (but not by too much!), to win battles, to keep the country free from plague and to make the sun rise each morning. Well, at least the sun continued to rise!
Egypt had come to a disastrously low ebb and the Pharaohs that ruled for the next fourteen or so years made little impact. The best was Tutankhamun, but he was very young and much of the power for the first half of his reign lay with his regent and deputy Pharaoh – and that was Horemheb!
Horemheb was also the general in charge of the Army and may have held this post since the reign of Akhenaten.
As the de-facto ruler of the country under Tutankhamun, Horemheb was a main player in moving the capital back to Thebes (modern Luxor) and restoring the old Amun religion. He was probably also responsible for changing the young king’s name to Tutankhamun from Tutankhamun. He was certainly responsible for turning the balance back against Egypt’s enemies – the Hittites in the North and the Nubians in the south.
Horemheb was the son of a minor noble; he became a scribe, then a military scribe, then a general, then commander of the Army and chief scribe of the country. He campaigned successfully in both the north (Egypt’s power extended nearly as far north as Turkey) and in south. But perhaps his greatest military achievement was planning and building a row of major forts along the north of Sinai which protected Egypt and even acted as a secure base for later expansion plans.
As Pharaoh he introduced his “Great Edict,” which effectively restored the rule of law. He imposed draconian punishments on corrupt officials and army officers – especially those that stole his tax money! In doing so he largely wiped out official corruption.
He also put a law court and a (paid) judge in every town throughout the land. His laws were even fair on peasants, who, if they had their tax money stolen, did not have to pay again, as they had been forced to in the past.
Horemheb restored the religion of Amun, along with the priesthood and temples throughout the land – he even gave them back their wealth, power and prestige. Being quite canny, he appointed most of the senior priests from positions in the military to ensure they were loyal to him!
He pulled down Akhenaten’s great Temple to the Aten at Karnak, using the stones as filling for three giant Pylons (50 metre high entrance gateways) as well as half completing the best-known feature of Karnak – the great Hypostyle hall (which is usually and erroneously credited to Seti and Ramesses as they finished it and added their cartouches!)
He also spent a considerable time eradicating traces of the name Aten and the years of the Armana “criminals” so that, effectively, they “officially” never happened and Maat (continuity, order and balance) was restored.
Unusually Horemheb built two tombs, one, near the pyramids at Saqqara, before becoming Pharaoh. He used it as the grave for his two wives (the second was Nefertiti’s sister).
His second tomb in the Valley of the Kings is very large and introduced architectural styles and texts which were copied for a centuries after he died. Some of the decoration in these tombs is amongst the very finest from all of ancient Egypt. His coffin (which was later reused by Ramesses the Great) and one of the statues in the British Museum have only been identified recently and are, again, amongst the finest anywhere.
But what of his Dynasty after his death? Having re-built international links, achieved a peace with the Hittites and a long lasting security for Egypt; having restored religion, law and economy, he still failed in one, all-important aspect. He had no son to rule after him.
Being the man he was, he nominated one of his generals, not just because he had ability but because had a son and a grandson. It was a very good choice as the son became Seti I, one of the greatest Pharaohs, and the grandson became Ramesses the Great who eclipsed even his father.
So is Horemheb known today? Well, it’s true that few have heard of him, but the millions who visit Karnak (the largest temple ever built) will see his great works. For those not lucky enough to visit, his amazing Hypostyle hall appears in Death on the Nile, The Mummy Returns, The Spy Who Loved Me, Lara Croft –The Last Revelation and it even saw Megan Fox in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
And that’s not bad for a man who has been forgotten for over three thousand years!
By Gerry Palmer
Newsletter April 2012 – click to download as pdf
Excited Archaeology In Marlow (AIM) members gathered on the evening of Tuesday the 20th of March, in the Garden Room of Liston Hall to launch our 54 page Warren Wood Members’ Report covering all aspects of our 2 year project. Now available on AIM’s website at www.archaeologyinmarlow.org.uk, or in hard copy at £10. Contact John Laker (see back page) if you wish to purchase a copy. The report for the HER in Aylesbury, and another for inclusion in the Records of Bucks Journal, are now close to completion.
The evening centred around an illustrated talk given by John Laker, detailing AIM’s investigations at Warren Wood. The highlight of the proceedings was the display of the significant artefacts/finds found by members at Warren Wood during the project.
During 2010 and 2011, AIM had investigated the earthwork at Warren Wood, off Winchbottom Lane, Little Marlow, which consists of an Inner and an Outer Enclosure, thought to date from Medieval times (500AD to 1500AD).
Members will remember that eight test pits (four in each enclosure) were excavated to try to discover artefacts, that could be dated, and to try to find any evidence of buildings that may have been constructed on the site.
AIM also intended to give opportunities to as many members and visitors as possible to explore the areas of archaeology they were interested in. Training was given in all aspects to expand people’s knowledge. AIM started its investigations in February 2010 and continued them until November 2011.
A large quantity of important artefacts was unearthed to help date AIM’s archaeological site, but the additional discoveries of artefacts dating from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age were unexpected delights (see below).
The test pits in the Inner Enclosure revealed much Medieval Roof Tile (nearly 41kgs) and 289 pieces of Medieval pottery. Many large flints were unearthed and some smaller flakes that were manmade in the Stone Age. 10 Metal items (badly corroded), 5 pieces of Bone and a little Charcoal (23gms) were also excavated.
In the test pits in the Outer Enclosure, very few artefacts were found (56 as opposed to 1999 in the Inner Enclosure). However, 15 Flint flakes and 10 Pot Boilers (pieces of Flint that had been heated in a fire and then dropped into a pot of water to boil the water – in under 10 seconds!) were found.
To our great surprise in one Inner Enclosure test pit we found small pieces of chalk and 18 pieces of pottery with inclusions, or grit. This test pit was extended and it revealed another 61 pottery sherds, or pieces, with inclusions, 222 pieces of chalk weighing 1.392kgs, along with 18 large burnt stones weighing in at 2.845kgs.
The pottery has now been professionally dated, along with all the other ‘finds’. The Medieval Pottery dates from approximately 1050 to 1400AD and the Roof Tile dates from 1400 to 1700AD. This suggests occupation over a period of at least 350 years, probably starting with a wooden building, which was then replaced with a grander building complete with a tiled roof.
But the biggest surprise was the Pottery with inclusions (82 pieces, of which a few had finger impressions on them), mostly from one large pot, Some of these pieces have now been fitted together, indicating a rim diameter of 30cms. In addition, Flint flakes, Burnt stones and Pot Boilers were also unearthed.
The Pottery was dated from the late Bronze Age (1200 to 800BC) and the early Iron Age (800 to 500BC), whilst the Flint pieces were dated from the late Neolithic (3000 to 2500BC) to the early Bronze Age (2500 to 1800BC). The Burnt Stones were not dateable, but they may have formed part of a hearth.
It can be argued that a large quantity of large flints, plus substantial quantities of roof tile, indicate a building (or buildings) of a relatively high standard. The mixture of large flint pieces, roof tile and pottery sherds, indicate that the building (or buildings), had been demolished at some time, rather than just falling into disrepair.
Using extremely rough guesswork, if the 12 x 12 metre square containing the test pits revealed the same concentration of roof tile that was unearthed from the test pits, the roof area would have been 6 square metres, indicating a building (allowing for a 30 degree angled roof), that would have measured approximately 2 metres wide by 2.5 metres long. If the 12 metre square had been a 17 metre square, and the tile spread were similar, a building 2.5 metres by 4 metres could be feasible, and so on.
Although accurate dating has still not been achieved, it appears that the site was occupied from around 1050AD until 1400AD, but probably not much later.
In addition, despite having a good idea regarding the occupation of the site in Medieval times, we now know that men and women visited the area many years before this period – truly a historic (or, in part, pre-historic) site!
After the talk members gathered to examine the artefacts, have a chat and enjoy the tea, coffee and biscuits provided on the night.
Back by popular demand, David Thorold, Keeper of Archaeology at St Albans Verulamium Museum came to Marlow to give us a second talk. On the night of the talk all the roads around Liston Hall were closed because of resurfacing, which was a challenge for David and the audience alike, however, I think everyone made it in eventually, thanks for your perseverance David!.
David has been at Verulamium Museum since 1991 and has been the coin specialist there since 1993. He has excavated on a few of the St Albans excavations. He has also written a children’s book on the Romans in Britain along with the Verulamium field archaeologist.
David’s talk looked at the forgers’ methods of copying designs and techniques over the centuries and the difficulties involved in spotting modern reproductions, then he ran through coin like objects that aren’t technically coins, such as the jeton and tokens. After that a look at later coinage and “oddities” and semi legal coinage.
David put up a slide of 6 coin like objects to see if we could spot the forgeries (not easy) and then went through some different methods of forging, such as casting using the lost wax process, this could be identified by the bubbles sometimes produced by this process. Sand casting, similar to lost wax method would usually produce a rough texture coin. An electrotype forgery usually has solder on the edge, where the two halves are joined. Looking at the edges is one way of identifying forgeries, he explained that the modern £1 coin forgery is usually identified by the edge of it, the writing type is the giveaway, there are very many forged £1 coins in circulation.
He explained how a gentleman called Slavey has become so good at making copies that he signs the copies and these are now collectable in their own right.
Billy and Charlie were Mudlarks on the Thames in the mid 19th century and when the demand for medieval artefacts could not be fulfilled, they started making their own, but these had meaningless and incorrect inscriptions, however they were able to sell these for several years and now these also have become very collectable in their own right. Many of the forgers were illiterate and therefore the wording on the forgery was incorrect which would identify it as such.
We were shown an early example of a Jeton which were first struck around 12/13c, the English jetons were of good quality, they were also made in Europe, mostly of bronze and were used as reckoning counters.
Medieval lead tokens were used for agricultural workers who were paid using tokens which could be redeemed at the end of the season in the farm shop. Later, hop picking tokens were used in the same way
Official coinage started to be produced around 1772 – by King George III, then it stops (the issues of copper coins from the mint were extremely irregular, as the government only needed silver and gold coinage, so copper coins were only struck as an afterthought, or once the supply had become so limited that it was a necessity). If an exact copy of a coin was made, this was a punishable offence, so to get round this slightly different coins were made, these were called evasion coins.
Parys Mining Company produced the copper penny token in 1787 which became accepted as currency because of trust in the owner of the mine who was known to be wealthy.
David showed us an early example of a calendar coin. And explained that tokens also started to be used for advertising.
As before, David had brought numerous examples from the collection at the Verulamium Museum and he was very happy to discuss and identify items brought in by the audience.
Thanks David for another hugely interesting talk.