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The author refers to the possibly early but unpublished roof tiles from Coppergate York.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 :-)