Saturday, December 31, 2005
Piltdown Man: the secret life of Charles Dawson & the world's greatest archaeological hoax
Tempus, 2003, pp97-107
My copy cost £3.99 from Spelman's in York, but the normal price is £14.99 (or £5.00 on the web, direct from Tempus)
Meanwhile, an outline of the reasons why the tile is a hoax can be found at this website, showing DPS Peacock's piece in Antiquity 1973:
Forged Brick-Stamps from Pevensey
The picture of the tile doesn't show as the link hasn't been done properly, but click here and you'll see it.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Not long back, there was a campaign to ensure that the cinema would be kept open. I think I would be content that the building remain, but the building would obviously need to be used in some capacity. Much of the interior does not survive, though some of the doors are definitely 1930s.
Quite a few of the brick buildings I like best in York are actually from the 1930s, including a couple of brick built churches. One of them is English Martyr's Church on Dalton Terrace. Again, quite close to me, and beautifully Romanesque.
Monday, December 19, 2005
To quote the full title of the paper:
Ceramic Petrology and the Study of Anglo-Saxon and Later Medieval Ceramics by Alan Vince in Medieval Archaeology Volume XLIX 2005, pp219-245Well worth a look for those of the tile inclination, as for once 'ceramic' really does include ceramic building materials! And not just floor tiles either.
The author refers to the possibly early but unpublished roof tiles from Coppergate York. It was good of him to say that, as he's bringing welcome attention to the fact that important material is still not in the public domain. Unfortunately, I was only paid to do what amounted to a part-assessment on the Coppergate material (i.e all the recording, but no cigar - or should I say analysis!), so it's not even in prep :-( It's way too complex a sample for me to attempt to do off my own bat (i.e. for free), and I would also need significant input from the site side of things. Ah well, come my big lottery win ...
But there's a glimmer of hope: I'm currently working on a super (and again probably early) collection of curved and flanged tile. The site side of things will confirm this, and I won't get round to checking this out till March now. If the cbm from this site (Spurriergate) is not published in five years, I will put it on the web anyway.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
There is no evidence for the domes or vaults made of concrete which can still be seen in Mediterranean lands ... (Roman York, P Ottaway, page 66)
But there is some evidence - in the form of tile. There is an armchair voussoir. It's a complicated thing, requiring another covering of flat tile. Unfortunately, I can't find a picture on the Web at present; looks like I might have to put one on myself. There are some examples in York: Yorkshire Museum, with a 9th Legion Hispana stamp, and one from the Blake St excavations. I've also come across the occasional fragment from York excavations where I though it might be piece of armchair voussoir (though in fragmentary form, it's difficult to identify them). But they are used to support vaulted roofs. There are also vaulting tubes, found on the Swinegate Excavations in the 1990. These small, coil built/wheel-finished tubes with nozzles at one end, and open at the other, slotted into one another to form the ribs of perhaps a barrel vault or dome. The whole would have been covered over by concrete.
Even then it's not certain they were used like this as there's no Roman vaulted roof extant, but it's certainly a possibility.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
It looks like my course will be going ahead. Eight brave students have signed up so far, which makes the course viable! So after lunch, I photocopied the course programme and a York brick and tile identificaiton booklet, sorted out the course web, and hit the library for a couple of articles I've been after. Phew!
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Monday, December 05, 2005
An Argive lady seeing king Pyrros of Ipiros about to skewer her son with his lance during a streetfight in hellenistic Argos whacked him with an accuratly thrown rooftile.
This is mentioned in Plutarch:
Pyrrhus By Plutarch (Translated by John Dryden )
Pyrrhus, seeing this storm and confusion of things, took off the crown he wore upon his helmet, by which he was distinguished, and gave it to one nearest his person, and trusting to the goodness of his horse, rode in among the thickest of the enemy, and being wounded with a lance through his breastplate, but not dangerously, nor indeed very much, he turned about upon the man who struck him, who was an Argive, not of any illustrious birth, but the son of a poor old woman; she was looking upon the fight among other women from the top of a house, and perceiving her son engaged with Pyrrhus, and affrighted at the danger he was in, took up a tile with both hands and threw it at Pyrrhus. This falling on his head below the helmet, and bruising the vertebrae of the lower part of the neck, stunned and blinded him; his hands let go the reins, and sinking down from his horse he fell just by the tomb of Licymnius.
More on Greek women and tiles later ...
Sunday, December 04, 2005
More main-stream medieval sounding are green and red chequered tiles mentioned on page 224. This type didn't appear in England until something like the 14th century, and tended to be green and brown. There are specialised glazed mosaic tiles in the late 12th century, but not 11th century. The only colourfully glazed floor (and wall?) tiles which could be dates as early as the 11th (and sometimes the 10th) are the much-vaunted polychrome relief tiles, of which I have had recent experience. These are confined to a few select ecclesiastical sites in England, including York, Lincoln and London. Perhaps though, the ones mentioned in Hollick's novel are some sort of stone tiles ...?
Also mentioned are hearth bricks (pages 173 and 627). Bricks are currently a no-no until about the 12th century. I have heard some mutterings about Saxon bricks, but at present they haven't been substantiated by publication (much like my unconventionally early dating of the curved and flanged tiles). However, Roman bricks were reused in the Saxon era, so perhaps the author was thinking of these? They tended to be used in walls and around windows, but I'm not aware of use in hearths.
Tiles being mentioned at all verdict: arguably some correct usage
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Judging by the rest of her descriptions of material culture, the author needs to hit the archaeological books so that she knows exactly what she's writing about. However, the emphasis here was showing how decadent the Romans were in contrast to the Britons. In general, it was overdone at the expense of archaeological rigour.
Tiles being mentioned at all verdict: wish she hadn't!
Friday, December 02, 2005
First off is Jack Whyte. He mentioned tiles being imported from Gaul in an earlier book, but they've been mentioned again in Clothar the Frank (sometimes known as The Lance Thrower). No, no and thrice no! Well, very unlikely, particularly as Britannia could produce tiles - in stone and ceramic - with no problem at all. Why bother importing at this period, when importing was so expensive? Admittedly, in the medieval period tiles and brick were imported to this country, but there is little, or no evidence for this in the Late Roman period so far. Never say never, but on the other hand novelists assuming isn't a good idea either. I only have to point to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code to exemplify how influential novels (aka works of fiction) are.
A time when tiles were imported to Britannia was the earlier, conquest period (1st century), where there is some evidence for movement of tiles from Gaul to the south coast. But Clothar the Frank is set in the 5th century, and sometimes referring back to 4th, blithely mentions tiles imported from Gaul (page 526, Viking Canada edition, 2003). What with all sorts of other assumptions the author makes, the tiles business in an assumption too far for me :-)
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
In the BBC's current sublime version of Bleak House, the Brickmaker and his wife Jenny have been seen in the first couple of episodes. Jenny had just lost her baby and her husband was aggressive and threatening.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Edit: As requested by Gabriele, here is a link to the main page for Lew Wallace's Ben Hur online text.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
Well worth a look is Fired Up - Celebrating Ceramics from York's Collection which is on exhibition at York Art Gallery, UK, till 15 January, 2006. Included are all sorts of tiles, including a Roman chimney, an antefix, a scored flue tile, and also later tiles such as a Polychrome Relief tile (10th-12th century), delftware tiles, and later items. There are also lots of pots, from Prehistoric to the 21st century. There's even a bathroom sink on display. In fact, the exhibition has a refreshingly broad interpretation of ceramics.
There is also a short film of three experts looking in depth at four pots - the Severus Roman head pot, a Medieval Medallion jug, Delftware charger, and a modern piece by Kate Malone called Bursting Dense Garlic Bud Life Force. Very illuminating.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Chief amongst the loveliness is a small collection of imprints. There are some good hobnail prints, but also some animal pawprints. As well as dog and sheep/goat, there was one I was uncertain about. Could it be a stoat? The prints were very faint and I had difficulty with matching it with my big book of animal prints (aka Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs by Bang & Dahlstrom). Thought in might be a stoat because it was very small, though the claws didn't show, but this could be perhaps because the clay might have been fairly dry. However, the small prints could be small because of the shrinkage of clay ... Going round in cirles here. So ...
Time to call in the expert! Will Higgs has done a goodly amount of work on animal prints on tiles. He was able to say that it was in fact a cat. I was disappointed, as previously I had managed to identify stoat pawprints on a tile from Layerthorpe (see my publication report here).
Since not everyone can get hold of the excellent Will Higgs or the Bang & Dahlstrom back-up, I checked out the Web for some animal track links:
Beartracker.com - as you might suspect, this is a US site, but there are one or two animals on their list that appear in the UK. There are some good pictures of cat pawprints.
ussartf.org - good on gait patterns
Never mind, there's always another tile sample to play with! And I'll be back on a Roman one on 16th November when I teach the Brick and Tile workshop at the Yorkshire Museum. Initially, I had my eyes on the Bedern sample (see my notes on some of the cbm from this site here), but changed my mind. Bedern is a medieval sample, and all that implies - basically flaming bewildering for beginners; too many forms, way too many fabrics, plus probably residual Roman material mixed in. Nightmare!
Roman material in York tends (but not always) to have less fabrics, and a relatively limited amount of forms. So I've gone for the sample from Blake Street, York instead. It's an all singing, all dancing Roman site, dug in the 1970s and the sample's never been assessed, let alone recorded. Perhaps there'll be some animal pawprints for the beginners to find as well!
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Sunday, October 23, 2005
The reason I want the Beddington publication so bad is that it was the first site that I was a Finds Supervisor, and the very first time I had to thoroughly record brick and tile! My partner wrote the coin report, so it would be good to find out if that's been published or not. Will any of our input be acknowledged? It's a shame that the people who directed the excavations, and wrote up it up very thoroughly don't have their names on the cover of the book. Lesley and Roy Adkins are excellent archaeologists and ensured that all categories of finds, even brick and tile, were properly recorded. It's their fault I went on to specialise in ceramic building materials :-)
Btw, the Adkins wrote a small interim, popular, report on the Bedidngton excavations, called Under the Sludge, which still seems to be available.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I was well served by Tescos, who supplied me with four kitchen scales for £1.92 each. Since the average size of a piece of tile comes out at 200g, the fact that these scales only go up to 1kg is no problem. I'll be taking my own scales as well, which go up to 5kg, should we get a big piece.
Next on to hand lenses. Somehow, I own four of these! I think I lost a couple years ago, so bought some more, but they've all come home to roost now. But I need ten, so that everyone has a hand lens. They can't be shared as looking at brick and tile fabrics is the most time-consuming aspect of recording. Hand lenses horribly expensive if you look in your local Photographic Shop, but the local hardware store, Barnitts, has them between £2.99-£4.99. They were locked away in a cabinet, so I couldn't check them and didn't have time to ask to see them. But I've checked on the Web, and Northern Geological Supplies has some for £2.35. The main problem is that they have a minimum order of £15.00 (six hand lenses come to £14.10!) plus post. So, if Barnitt's hand lenses are OK, it may be easier to go for them. Still, NGS is a useful supplier to know about.
And there's loads of other stuff to get, some that can be shared (like hammers) and others that they all have to have (like googles).
Never mind equipment though! I've done that first in case I have to order anything in (as per the calipers). The main thing now will be too get my talk and notes together ...
Monday, October 10, 2005
Courtesy of MAP Archaeological Consultancy, this hoary old nag will actually be recording, then writing-up, the ceramic building materials (aka brick and tile) from a site in York. The honoured (honoured, as it might get published) site is Spurriergate in York. I've seen part of it before, back in 2000, when I was still tilting at archaeological windmills, so know it's got some juicy stuff, including Roman, and probably some early medieval material. Not to be sniffed at. And they're even paying me - Gawd bless 'em.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
My favourite photo is of the chap looking bemusedly at a complete horseshore drain. The reason he's smiling is because he's looking at the stamp on the tile, which say 'DRHAIN' These tiles had to be stamped with this in the early 19th century, otherwise extra taxes would have been applied. The spellling of DRHAIN for DRAIN perhaps reflects the pronunciation of the word, as this tile comes from East Yorkshire. Initially, though, I was very worried, as though I was convinced it was a 19th century field drain, I had only previously seen the similarly shaped Roman roof tile called imbrex with a stamp such as this. Was I getting it all wrong, and were some of the fragment's I'd previously ID'ed as field drain actually Romna Imbrex? It couldn't be, surely? The method of manufacture clearly shows signs of extrusion ... I puzzled for ages as to what the stamp said (it's slightly fuzzy), and then it suddenly came to me! And the case was solved.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
There are plenty of late Roman mosaics in Yorkshire (eg. Rudston), so I'm well covered on that front. The main problem is finding local sources of material. I have some Roman tile, but stone is more of a problem. This year, I've mostly used marble, ordered from Italy, but I need some nice local limestone to play with.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I note that the author is due to publish AD400 which seems to be a bit more on the fiction side. Apparently it's a history of the Aureli family in Britannia ...
Sunday, October 02, 2005
It's also mentioned at:
The Daily Telegraph
There aren't many civilian tile stamps in Britain; most are army. The ones local to York are the 9th Legion Hispana (up to the early 2nd century and the 6th Legion Pia Fidelis (from the early 2nd century to, presumably, the early 5th century).
Monday, September 26, 2005
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Roof tile LEGTFM
Jona was kind enough to thank me for my input (so often people don't bother!) and has put the ideas onto the Arenacum/Rindern entry on his interesting website.
A recent excavation has revealed a dump of chalk, flint and building material immediately below the top soil. The CBM when compared to other Roman sites is remarkably similar. There is no other dating material amongst this dump
Can 19th century building material resemble Roman building material in shape and form? e.g are there 19th century variants of imbrex and tegula? Are there any good reference works which may help?The main things that looks like Roman building material are horseshoe field/land drains. These imbrex shaped suckers have had me on the hop a couple of times (especially small fragments where you can't get a good idea of the shape), but manufacturing methods and a very refined fabric normally give the game away - as would any 19th century copies of Roman roofing. Checking out 19th century trade/business directories may also help with this aspect.
Some useful Publications:
Harvey N, 1987. Fields, hedges and drains Shire Album 21
RCAHMS, 1993. Brick, Tile & Fireclay Industries in Scotland
There's also a super display of field drains at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton, just outside of York.
There's the outside possibility that it's 12th-13th century curved and flanged roof tile. See:
A G Vince, J E Pearce & K H Armitage 1981, Early medieval roof tiles from London, Antiq J, 61, 359-62
Garside-Neville S, 1995. 'Tile File - Curved and flanged medieval roof tile', Interim: Archaeology in York, Summer 1995, Vol 20, No2, 31-34
Or, in general, contact the Archaeological Ceramic Building Materials Group (email@example.com) for your friendly local CBM specialist)
Sunday, September 11, 2005
In particular, the current main events in the book world are the announcement of the shortlist for Booker Prize (two historical novels in contention) and the new film of Pride and Prejudice. The film, like Gladiator, may bring a ressurgance in the hf sub-category. Certainly, Gladiator made it a tad easier for Roman set novels to be published, and meant that existing series were more likely to continue. Perhaps Regency novels will become (even more) popular with the new P&P film! Here's hoping :-)
Friday, September 09, 2005
But for the moment, I have no more books to review (though still have two forthcoming in the next edition of the HNR) and am catching up with other reading. Just got a copy of Margot Fonteyn's biography by Meredith Daneman, which is in stark contrast to Fonteyn's sanitised autobiography.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
On the brick front, I've been offered some publication work on an assemblage from Spurriergate, York. More later, when/if I manage to sort out a quote and it's accepted! I'm not worried if it comes to nothing, as I have plenty of previous work and publications to contribute to my proposed article on tile in Yorkshire.
My course on York Brick and Tile has been publicised in the University of York's Centre for Life Long programme in the printed and the web version. Starting next January, it will cover brick and tile from the Roman period till the 20th century.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
It's set just after the First World War and concerns an ex-Nurse who took photos, and a veteran who was posted in Ireland. Don't know much more yet, as I haven't got that far! I'm reviewing it for the Historical Novel Society. The author is local to me (lives near York), and her previous book did quite well; it was historical too.
Meanwhile over at Blue Remembered Blogspot, I've posted the final part of Charles Evans-Gunther's Rosemary Sutcliff article.