Thursday, 30 January 2014

ESRC Impact Accelerator Award: From Museums to the Historic Environment

Image: A selection of Bronze Age copper alloy axes from the UK and Ireland, collected by General Pitt-Rivers between c.1851 and 1881, from the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum. Photograph by Carlotta Gardner, taken as part of the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project in 2013
We were delighted to receive news today that our application through the ESRC Impact Acceleration programme for funding for a pilot programme of knowledge exchange in partnership with the British Museum was successful. The programme builds directly on the documentation work, funded by an award from Arts Council England, that was undertaken on the English archaeological collections in the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2013. The project is led by Dan Hicks (Pitt Rivers Museum) and Dan Pett (British Museum).

The award of £28,947 will fund a pilot programme titled 'From Museums to the Historic Environment': using the Pitt-Rivers archaeological collections to explore the ways in which historic archaeological museum collections hold significant, untapped information about the historic environment of England that is of wider public value.

The project will involve enhancing our knowledge of the sites from which the archaeological objects acquired by General Pitt-Rivers derived, and exploring the wider value of this information through knowledge exchange.

Our aim is to experiment with how a range of new users across the fragmented heritage sector could benefit from knowledge generated from collections-based research into historic collections: from local government planning authorities and Historic Environment Records to archaeological contractors, community heritage groups, local historians, regional museums and national heritage agencies.

This pilot project will run for six months during 2014. A project officer will be appointed in the first half of 2014, and a cross-sector workshop will be held in Oxford in Autumn 2014. More details will be posted on the Excavating Pitt-Rivers blog as the project develops.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Report on Designation Development Fund award for the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project

Between November 2012 and December 2013, the work of the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project was supported through an award of  £76,654 from the Designation Development Fund of Arts Council England. We have now published a Report, summarising what our team has achieved during through this award, and our plans for future work on the collections. The document is available here and the summary is provided below. 

The Excavating Pitt-Rivers project continues in 2014, building on the crucial proof-of-concept work funded through thus Arts Council England award, through further publication and public dissemination,  and further grant applications.


Through an award of £76,654 from the Designation Development Fund, the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project has enhanced the care, documentation and public understanding of the earliest archaeological collections that were acquired by General Augustus Pitt-Rivers from sites across England, and which are held at the Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM). Led by Dr Dan Hicks (Lecturer-Curator in Archaeology), the project team has documented, photographed and published to the Museum’s online database c.10,687 archaeological objects that were collected and excavated by General Pitt-Rivers from across England between c. 1864 and 1880.

Our understanding of this unique archaeological collection has been completely transformed by the project. In our application to the Designation Development Fund, we stated that “Our initial estimate is that this collection comprises c. 5,000 artefacts from more than 61 sites across at least 12 English counties”. Through a collections based approach, the number of objects recorded in the database has more than doubled to c. 10,687. The number of sites from which objects derive has risen from just 61 across 12 English counties to 267 across 32 counties. Before the project the vast majority of the objects had not been examined since their arrival in Oxford in 1884: the taking of more than 20,800 photographs of objects by the project team – now fully uploaded to the Museum’s database and website – is therefore a watershed moment. The newly enhanced documentation transforms not just our understanding, but also the future potential of the collection for research and display. It also highlights the potential of applying the highest standards of documentation to historic archaeological collections that have conventionally been treated in a more broad-brush manner.

At the same time, the project has pioneered an approach to collections-based documentation enhancement and desk-based research that is grounded in a programme of public engagement. A project blog ( has attracted more than 20,000 unique visitors over 12 months, and an additional estimated 100,000 people have been reached through an active Twitter campaign led by Pitt Rivers Museum (Twitter) and Dan Hicks (Twitter).

Seven public events have been held across the country, in Folkestone, Leeds, York, London, Lewes, Guildford and Oxford. Four visits by local archaeological societies have been hosted at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and have included talks and object handling sessions. Published outputs have ranged from a feature in British Archaeology magazine, and articles in the journals and newsletters of regional archaeological societies, to an open-access peer-reviewed paper in the distinguished American journal Current Anthropology (December 2013). The project has achieved extensive regional and national media coverage, including appearances by Dan Hicks on the BBC4 documentary Heritage! The Battle for Britain’s Past, and on Radio 4’s In Our Time.

The legacies of the project include a series of new connections across the museum and heritage sector that have already led to funding applications for new initiatives that build on the momentum built up through Excavating Pitt-Rivers, grounded in excellence, public engagement, and sustainability. The results of the project will also directly inform the re-display of the archaeological collections in the Museum’s permanent displays through the Museum’s £1.6m Heritage Lottery-supported redisplay and outreach programme VERVE (Visitors, Engagement, Renewal, Visibility, Enrichment), which runs from 2012-2017.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Unrolling a large watercolour of Stonehenge

images: Pitt Rivers Museum curatorial staff unrolling a large watercolour of Stonehenge for photographic documentation. This previously unknown item appears to be one of a series of visual aids made for, and used by, General Pitt-Rivers in lectures in the 1870s. Photograph by Ian Cartwright, Archaeology Imaging Unit, Institute of Archaeology, Oxford

In December 2013, the Excavating Pitt-Rivers team, in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology and Philip Grover of the Pitt Rivers Museum, undertook a programme of photographic documentation for a selection of oversized archival material from the Pitt Rivers Museum archival collections. 

This material had been catalogued in the mid 20th century as from the collection of E.B. Tylor, and our documentation work has confirmed that a wide range of images made for use in Tylor's publications is present. However, documentary research also indicated that there may be some of General Pitt-Rivers' lecture aids amongst the items. They were accessioned by the Museum in 1944, shortly after the death of the Museum's curator Henry Balfour, and were recorded as used 'to illustrate lectures in places & at a time when lantern-slides could not be had or used'.

The process of documenting the material has led to some potentially important discoveries, including a series of seven large-format watercolours of British archaeological megalithic monuments, and a series of illustrations of firearms. Three working shots of one of these - a unique large-scale watercolour illustration of Stonehenge  - being carefully unfolded for photography by members of the museum's the curatorial team, is shown above.

Research and documentation is ongoing, but the evidence seems to indicate that these images were made for General Pitt-Rivers during the 1870s, for use by him as visual aids in  lectures (and possibly also in museum exhibits), before being transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum. The watercolours bear some similarities to other (much smaller) images made for Pitt-Rivers by his illustrator, William Stephen Tomkin. 

These re-discovered images of archaeological monuments will be fully researched, documented and published as work continues, and updates will be posted through this blog. In the mean time, these rediscovered images are another reminder that processes of re-discovery and documentation that are akin to archaeological excavation can be undertaken within museums, as well as at more conventional archaeological sites. 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Wayland's Smithy Chambered Tomb - a scale model from the 1860s

Image: A scale model of Wayland's Smithy Neolithic Chambered Tomb, made in the 1860s by Alfred Lewis, and acquired by General Pitt-Rivers shortly thereafter. Pitt Rivers Museum Accession Number 1884.140.97

Among the material explored by the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project is a series of scale models collected by General Pitt-Rivers, some of which were made by him. The first models acquired by the General were made by Alfred Lewis in the 1860s, and included a series of sites in southern, western and north-western England. Dan Hicks published an account of one of these models - of Wayland's Smithy Chambered Tomb in Oxfordshire, and made with moss and cork on a wooden board - in 2011, in the inaugural issue of the Edgar Wind Society's Journal. You can now read the text for that short article on Dan's blog here:

Monday, 9 December 2013

Chalk carved figure from Bishopsgate, London

Chalk fragment carved in the form of a crucifix (or possibly a human figure with arms outstretched). Pitt Rivers Museum Accession Number 1884.58.54 
The Excavating Pitt-Rivers team completed the uploading of the photographs of the newly-documented archaeological objects from England, excavated or collected by General Pitt-Rivers, to the Museum database last week. This has enormously enhanced the documentation of the collection, and allows us to share images of the objects much more widely. We'll be posting a series of the documentation photographs of the more unusual objects on this blog in the coming weeks.  

Here is the first in this new series: a fragment of chalk carved in the form of a human figure: a crucifix, or possibly a figure with arms outstretched. It was found at Bull Yard, of Dunnings Alley on Bishopsgate in the City of London (EC2) on 16 November 1865. The Museum's accession book describes it as "Rough chalk carving of a crucified figure (no cross) on a block". 

We hope to be able to commission new professional photography for some of these objects through future projects. The object is now on display in the Court of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Reverse of carved chalk fragment 1884.58.54
This is one of the earliest objects from early salvage or 'rescue' archaeology undertaken by Pitt-Rivers in London. It is unclear at present whether this is a 19th-century forgery made  for sale to Pitt-Rivers, or whether it is medieval in date.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Leather shoes from London

A fragmented sole of a Roman leather sole with hob nails still present (1884.92.41).
Organic artefacts are rare finds on archaeological sites. Organic material typically decays within most burial environments; however on occasion archaeologists are fortunate to excavate a waterlogged site or other environments, such as peat, that encourage the preservation of this material type.  

During Pitt-Rivers’ archaeological watching brief and excavations during the construction of the Gooch and Cousens Warehouse on London Wall in the City of London in October-December 1867, a number of organic objects were recovered and survive in the collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum. His own publication on the site described how the peat was responsible for the preservation of this organic material (Lane Fox 1867). The material that was preserved included objects made of wood and leather. The wood preserved on the site comprises two handles attached to iron blades and also a series of wooden piles that are discussed and illustrated in Pitt-Rivers' publication.

Section drawings illustrating the wooden piles that were excavated at London Wall (Lane Fox 1867)

The leather objects from the site are all fragments of shoes and the majority are the soles of Romano-British shoes or boots. A number of the shoe soles have iron hobnails still attached. Pitt Rivers described them as “…being thickly studded with hob nails, may be recognized as the caliga of the Roman legions.” Due to the ‘great quantities’ of leather finds and the discovery of two iron implements, used for dressing leather, from one particular area of the site in his 1867 publication Pitt-Rivers queried whether this was an area where shoe-making took place - although he later concluded due to the worn nature of the shoes that it is very unlikely but does comment that more recently the site was in the vicinity of a tannery and that a passage close by is known as “leather-sellers’ alley”.
The leather shoe fragments have now been re-packed appropriately and a few, due to their fragile nature, are waiting for the museum's conservation team to assess. You can read the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project's full report on the Pitt-Rivers archaeological material from London here -

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A Roman lamp stand

The Excavating Pitt-Rivers project has nearly finished cataloguing the Founding English archaeological material. Our last count totals just over 10,900 objects which is an increase of 3,500 from our original estimations!

The remaining objects are those that are more difficult to locate in our stores; the title of the project is currently very apt. One object that we recently found is an excellent Roman lamp stand thought to have been found in London.

Roman lamp-stand (1884.116.95 .1-3). 
The copper alloy lamp stand has been beautifully made and comprises of a tripod-foot with lion feet detailing and three birds sitting on the tops of each foot; a spirally-fluted shaft ornamented with a cockerel and a cat / weasel. The dish top is square and has fractured from the main shaft.

The shaft is spirally-fluted and has a cat / weasel attached to the lower section.

Above the cat / weasel is a cockerel; the detailing on this ornament is particularly fine. 
The feet of the tripod are lion feet and each has a bird attached.

The dish-top is square with a circular indent for holding the oil. A hole has been drilled through the middle to attach it to the main shaft, it is likely that this hole was created during restoration and is not an original feature.

This object is by no means characteristic of the majority of material that makes up the English archaeological founding collection but has to be one of my favourites. Similar examples can be seen at the British Museum (1756,0101.530, 1869,0304.1, and 1772,0302.43).

Monday, 21 October 2013

Sussex Archaeological Society visits the Pitt Rivers Museum

Public engagement, as previously mentioned, is a central element of the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project. In June Carlotta went to Lewes and presented the projects initial findings on Pitt-Rivers' time in Sussex and visited Mount Caburn with the Sussex Archaeological Society. On Saturday (19th October), as a follow up to this visit, the project invited the society to the Pitt Rivers Museum.  

Dan Hicks giving an introductory lecture to members of Sussex Archaeological Society 
at the Pitt Rivers Museum
The day began with an introductory talk by Dan Hicks who updated the society on our progress over the past couple of months. After lunch, which included excellent discussion on the theme of the day, we were able to show the group a selection of the material collected in Sussex. The material we had on display was from two of the key sites in Sussex (Mount Caburn and Cissbury) and included flint implements, ceramic sherds, fragments of metal, and four examples of Pitt-Rivers' experimental work at Cissbury. We asked the group to look at the material in a different way to expected; instead of looking at the objects as examples of archaeological artefacts we wanted to look at them as a source of information about Pitt-Rivers. This demonstrated the importance of using the artefacts within the founding collection as an important source of information when studying his early archaeological work. 

Four members of Sussex Archaeological Society examining a selection of material excavated by General Pitt-Rivers from Mount Caburn and Cissbury.
An example of the documentation that is on the objects that Pitt-Rivers collected during his time in Sussex. Almost every single object from Mount Caburn has a label similar to this attached, it typically records the date and location from which it was excavated. In this case the label for 1884.137.41 .7 reads 'MOUNT CABURN SEPT 1877 Upper Rampart interior slope'.
The day was a great success and we hope that Sussex Archaeological Society found it as useful and enjoyable as the project team. We look forward to our next visit from Yorkshire Archaeological Society on the 4th November. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Pitt-Rivers and London: draft report

Image: A Romano-British ceramic vessel from the site of Broad Street Station (now Broadgate, EC2 - behind Liverpool Street Station) collected on 17 July 1868, probably by General Pitt-Rivers himself; from the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum (Pitt Rivers Museum accession number 1884.37.27)

The Excavating Pitt-Rivers team has now completed documenting the c. 1,016 archaeological objects collected by General Pitt-Rivers from London - a collection that represents just under one tenth of the c. 10,763 archaeological objects acquired by the General from England between 1851 and 1880.

Our draft report on the material from London, and the sites from which they were collected, is now published, and is online here. Through our documentation of the artefacts, we have identified a range of sites from which material was collected, largely through early instances of salvage archaeology, undertaken during groundworks for railways (including the London underground) and warehouses during the 1860s.

Image: Ceramic bowl recorded as 'found in London', collected by General Pitt-Rivers before 1881; from the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum (Pitt Rivers Museum accession number 1884.37.27)

Most of the material from the City of London comes from the site of the Gooch and Cousens Warehouse on London Wall, which Pitt-Rivers published in 1867. However, further objects come from (in order of the number of objects) sites at Queenhithe Dock/Thames Street (SE1), Cannon Street & Cannon Street Station (EC4), Lothbury/Tokenhouse Yard (EC2), Bishopsgate (EC2),  Broadgate (EC2), Lombard Street (EC3), Poultry/Mansion House Street (EC2), Old Jewry (EC2), Moorfields (EC2), Bucklersbury (EC4), Clement’s Lane (EC4), Mansion House (EC4), Walbrook (EC4), Billingsgate (E14), Birchin Lane (EC3), Lower Thames Street (Brewer’s Quay) (EC3), Minories (EC3), Finsbury Circus (EC2), Bell Yard/Fleet Street (EC4), Holborn Viaduct (EC1), Smithfield (EC1), Bartholomew Lane (EC2), and Cripplegate (EC2).

Beyond the City of London, there is a large collection of Palaeolithic material from Pitt-Rivers' pioneering survey of the Thames Valley near Ealing undertaken in 1869-1871. Alongside this material are objects collected or excavated from  sites as diverse as Southwark Street and Borough High Street, Walthamstow; Hampton Court; Lincoln’s Inn, Serle Street;  Queen Square, Camden; Yeading Brook, Hounslow Heath; Charing Cross Station; Wormwood Scrubs; Mill Hill, Barnet; Grays Inn Road; Sanderstead - and even from a cesspool at Homerton.

Many of the objects have specific dates from the 1860s, when they were collected, recorded. We hope that publishing this draft report will help us contact museum professionals, archaeologists, historians and others with knowledge of the context of the archaeology of these sites, and the history of construction at them, to add to our knowledge of Pitt-Rivers activities in early 'rescue' archaeology, from Roman, Palaeolithic and other sites in London. To contact the project, please read the report, and email

Image: a sherd from a Romano-British Samian ware bowl, marked as collected during excavations for the new railway station at Cannon Street in 1864; from the Pitt Rivers Museum founding collection. The potter's mark - 'OF.SEVERI' - has copied onto a label stuck to the sherd  (Pitt Rivers Museum accession number 1884.41.114)

Image: Ceramic jug from Bishopsgate acquired by General Pitt-Rivers on 22 February 1878; from the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum (Pitt Rivers Museum accession number 1884.37.39)

Image: a sherd of Romano-British Samian ware pottery, marked as collected from New Southwark Street on 10 December 1886 by General Pitt-Rivers (then known as 'A.L. Fox') (Pitt Rivers Museum accession number 1884.41.106)

Image: a sherd of Romano-British Samian ware pottery, collected during excavations at the Gooch and Cousens warehouse on London Wall, and evocatively marked in Pitt-Rivers' own hand as found at a depth of 13 feet 'in roadway, Dec 28 [1866], by me' (Pitt Rivers Museum accession number 1884.41.109)

Image: A Palaeolithic implement, collected from Clapham Rise, Battersea by General Pitt-Rivers on 25 September 1869. (Pitt Rivers Museum accession number 1884.122.356)

Image: Base of a sherd of Romano-British pottery, collected during excavations at the Gooch and Cousens warehouse on London Wall, and evocatively marked in Pitt-Rivers' own hand as found at a depth of 13-14 feet 'in peaty earth in roadway, Dec 28 [1866], by me' (Pitt Rivers Museum accession number 1884.41.42)

Friday, 27 September 2013

Four-Field Anthropology

Image: Table of the various sections and sub-sections of Anthropological science according to my view of the matter” by General Augustus Pitt-Rivers: Copyright Bodleian Library, Acland Papers d92, fol. 90.

As part of the research for the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project, the team has worked through primary manuscript sources as well as documenting objects in the museum collection. Archives and manuscripts are often considered as different kinds of evidence from artefacts, but this kind of distinction was alien to General Pitt-Rivers own approach - and the project team, informed by historical archaeology, has tried to approach manuscript sources as just another kind of material evidence.

With this approach in mind, in Spring 2013, as part of the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project Dan Hicks wrote this paper, about a previously unpublished drawing made by General Pitt-Rivers in 1882. The drawing shows the discipline of anthropology as consisting of four fields - Physical Anthropology, Ethnology, Culture and Archaeology - and pre-dates the 'four-field' model of anthropology associated with Franz Boas by some 24 years. This idea of anthropology as including archaeology has remained important for North American archaeology, while during the 20th century more commonly archaeology and anthropology took different directions in Europe.

The paper is published in open access form online by the journal Current Anthropology, includes a supplement that provides a transcription of the letter written by Pitt-Rivers that accompanies the drawing, outlining his view of the organisation and teaching of the discipline.

The drawing is a unique insight into the early transatlantic exchanges in the development of anthropology as an academic subject. The Current Anthropology paper argues that museums, as places that require the physical organisation of knowledge in material form, were key locations at which classificatory approaches in anthropology came to start to classify anthropological knowledge. It also explores the kind of disciplinary histories that can be written from museums and archives.

You can read the paper on the Current Anthropology website here -

The abstract of the paper is below:

"The four-field model of anthropology is conventionally understood to have begun with a paper read by Franz Boas in St. Louis in 1904. Publishing for the first time a drawing made by Augustus Pitt-Rivers in England in 1882, this paper rethinks this proposition by making two arguments. First, the paper explores the role of the classificatory anthropology of the 1870s and 1880s on both sides of the Atlantic in the emergence of the idea of organizing anthropological knowledge. It suggests that this emergence was bound up with the problem of classifying anthropological knowledge in material form in European and North American museums. Second, the paper considers how our knowledge of the discipline's past can develop from the study of objects and documents (rather than only through rereading anthropologists' published texts), in a manner akin to documentary archaeology. In this respect, the anthropological problem of organizing knowledge in material form is still with us, but with a new challenge: How adequate are our current forms of disciplinary historiography for the use of material evidence? Rather than proposing a new set of “charter myths,” the paper explores writing the history of four-field anthropology as a form of material culture studies or historical archaeology (in other words, as a subfield of anthropology), working with the “time warps” created by museums and archives in which disciplinary history is not always already written." Continue reading at Current Anthropology

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Pitt-Rivers' field diaries

The P-series of documents from the Pitt-Rivers archive, which is currently on loan to the Pitt Rivers Museum from the Salisbury & Wiltshire Museum, consists of various notes and drafts written by Pitt Rivers, most of which were subsequently published. Over the past month, Maria Temporal has been transcribing the documents from this archive that are most relevant to the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project. Below is her summary of one of the papers.

Document P23 is a day-by-day manuscript account of Pitt Rivers excavations at Cissbury Ring, on the South Downs in West Sussex, over five days in April 1875. Pitt-Rivers describes the excavation of a ditch and the various artefacts recovered from different layers of the ditch fill. He also describes the excavation of two intercutting pits, and earthworks in the environs of the site.

Pitt-Rivers' field sketches ceramics found in 'Pit 2' at Cissbury, West Sussex (Document P23, folio 7).
The account includes sketches and drawings of sections of the ditch and the pits, such as that reproduced above. His day-by-day field diary presents his ongoing interpretation of the site, including his account of a large earthwork feature on which further work might be undertaken in the future. These field diaries provide a vivid account of the General in the field. As the project progresses, these accounts will help the interpretation of the objects from these excavations which survive in the Pitt Rivers Museum founding collection.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Pitt-Rivers in London

image: Archaeological sections drawn by General Pitt-Rivers at the Gouch and Cousens Warehouse, London Wall (EC2, City of London) in Autumn 1866. From Lane Fox 1867a: figures 2-4.

The Excavating Pitt-Rivers team is continuing to work on documenting the archaeological collections made by General Pitt-Rivers across England during the 1860s and 1870s. As we move forward with this, we have written this piece on his activities in Greater London for the newsletter of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society (LAMAS), introducing the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project and giving some overview of the London material. This includes extensive early salvage archaeology undertaken in the City of London, and Palaeolithic archaeology in west London and Acton. A full report, detailing each site and object from Greater London, will be published here later in 2013.

We'll be giving a talk to the Society at 6.30pm on 8 October 2013, at the Museum of London's Clore Learning Centre (EC2Y 5HN; nearest tube: Barbican). For further details, contact LAMAS

Pitt-Rivers in London
General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) is well known as a collector of archaeological and ethnographic material, as the founder of the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford (founded 1884), as a pioneer in archaeological fieldwork, and as a writer on ideas of typology and change in material culture over time. His significance in excavation and recording techniques is well known from his fieldwork on his estate at Cranborne Chase in the 1880s and 1890s. Less well known is the wide range of fieldwork that he undertook at sites across England during the 1860s and 1870s (Bowden 1991: 57-94).

Our current project, funded by Arts Council England, is documenting objects from the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum to provide a new account of this early fieldwork, undertaken while the General was in his 30s and 40s, and before he unexpectedly inherited his title and inheritance in 1881 – when he was known only as Augustus Henry Lane Fox. The English archaeological collections have never been a principal focus of research at the Museum, and the vast majority of objects have been unstudied for 130 years. In this respect they represent a distinctive kind of 19th-century archaeological assemblage, as well as collections from earlier periods of English archaeology – which is why we gave the project the title Excavating Pitt-Rivers.

The founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum comprises some 26,000 objects, around 70% of which are archaeological. Material from other sources acquired by the Museum after 1884, which includes more than 280,000 objects, does not form part of the present project (but see Hicks and Stevenson 2013).

Around two thirds (10,500) of the 16,600 archaeological objects in the Pitt Rivers founding collection are from England. These objects, together with documentary records and published accounts of excavations, represent a unique record of Pitt-Rivers’ changing techniques of acquiring and recording objects. Some objects were bought at auction or acquired from other collectors. Many others were obtained through site visits, and small and larger-scale excavations. The largest single assemblage is from the large-scale excavation of a medieval castle at Castle Hill (Caesar’s Camp) in 1878.

Material from Greater London forms a very significant element of the early Pitt-Rivers collections. The General was a Londoner for most of his life, living at various houses in Belgravia and Kensington including 10 Upper Phillimore Gardens and 4 Grosvenor Gardens during the 1860s and 1870s. He was an active member of learned societies, including the Ethnological Society of London, the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Archaeological Institute. His archaeological and ethnological collection was first shown to the public in London - at Bethnal Green Museum (now the V&A Museum of Childhood) from 1874-1878 and at South Kensington Museum from 1878-1882 - before being donated to the University of Oxford

Documenting the Pitt-Rivers’ London collections has highlighted his use of salvage or early rescue archaeology, especially in relation to groundworks for railway construction, during the 1860s. Extensive collections of Roman and post-Roman material from London Wall made in 1866-7 were published by him (Lane Fox 1867a, 1867b). His interpretation of timber piles as the evidence of a lake village was incorrect, but more than 300 objects from the fieldwork survive at the Pitt Rivers Museum, including 20 skulls (see Marsh and West 1981). 

There is also salvaged material, collected by him and acquired from others, from other sites in the City of London (including Broad Street Station (now Broadgate), Cannon Street Station, Bishopsgate, Bucklersbury, Clement’s Lane Finsbury Circus, Fleet Street Lothbury (Tokenhouse Yard), Lombard Street, Lower Thames Street (Brewer’s Quay), Mansion House Minories, Moorfields, Old Jewry, Poultry and Smithfield. 

Beyond the City, there are objects and assemblages from railway works in Southwark (SE1), from a peat bog in Walthamstow (E17), from Old Swan Wharf in Wandsworth (SW11), from Lincoln’s Inn (WC2), from Shepherd’s Bush – and even a leather bottle recorded as found in a cesspool in Homerton.

There are also some 74 later prehistoric, Romano-British and post-Roman objects recorded as  from the River Thames in London, including bone, ceramic, iron and stone objects, three bronze axes and two bronze swords.

As well as this material, there are Palaeolithic collections made by Pitt Rivers during a survey of the gravels of the lower Thames Valley in west London between 1869 and 1872, including more than 125 stone tools from Acton and Ealing (Roberts 2013: 197; Lane Fox 1869, 1872).

Image:  "Sketch map of part of the Thames valley, from Acton to near Chiswick and to the Thames at Kew", showing sections opened by Pitt-Rivers (A-K). From Lane Fox 1872, Figure 1).

By enhancing the documentation of the earliest excavated and collected archaeological material acquired by Pitt-Rivers, the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project explores the significance of museum collections for re-thinking the history of archaeological fieldwork. In London, the collections hold unique evidence for the beginnings of salvage archaeology and collecting practices that would be continued by the Guildhall Museum in the 20th century, and for Pitt-Rivers’ interests in Romano-British, post-Roman and Palaeolithic archaeology. Where the material has been acquired from other antiquarians, such as the c. 17 objects from the City of London acquired by Pitt-Rivers from James Clutterbuck around 1870, there are new histories to tell – in this case, about the connection of Clutterbuck (Rector of Little Wittenham) with Pitt-Rivers’ involvement in protests about the destruction of the Dorchester Dykes, and the growing awareness of ideas of preservation and salvage in this period (Lane Fox 1870).

The Excavating Pitt-Rivers project team will be giving a talk about the project to the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society on 8 October 2013, at the Museum of London's Clore Learning Centre (6.30pm). The talk will provide a more detailed overview of the project, and Pitt-Rivers’ activities in London. Pitt-Rivers was President of LAMAS in the early 1880s, which is another reason why we are excited to be able to look back on his work in London, and to speak to the Society in October.

Bowden, M. 1991. Pitt Rivers: the life and archaeological work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hicks, D. and A. Stevenson (eds) 2013. World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Lane-Fox, A.H. 1867a. A description of certain piles found near London Wall and Southwark, possibly the remains of Pile Buildings. Journal of the Anthropological Society of London 5: lxxi-lxxxiii.
Lane Fox, A.H. 1867b. Objects found at great depth in the vicinity of the old London Wall. Archaeological Journal 24: 61-64.
Lane-Fox, A.H. 1869. On the Discovery of Flint Implements of Palaeolithic type in the gravel of the Thames Valley at Acton and Ealing. Report: British Association for the Advancement of Science for 1869: 130-132.
Lane Fox, A.H. 1870. On the Threatened Destruction of the British Earthworks near Dorchester, Oxfordshire. Journal of the Ethnological Society of London 2(4): 412-416.
Lane-Fox, A.H. 1872. On the discovery of Palaeolithic Implements, in connection with Elephas primigenius in the gravels of the Thames Valley at Acton. Journal of the Geological Society of London 28: 449-466.
Marsh, G. and B. West 1981. Skullduggery in Roman London? Transactions of the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society 32: 86-102.
Roberts, A. 2013. Palaeolithic British Isles. In D. Hicks and A. Stevenson (eds) World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 169-215.