Talk to Yorkshire Archaeological Society

On Saturday (22nd June) Carlotta gave a talk to the Yorkshire Archaeological Society in Leeds. The talk focussed on the work that the project has completed on the Yorkshire material and highlighted the importance of the time that Pitt-Rivers spent working in Yorkshire. Yorkshire appears to have influenced Pitt-Rivers work considerably and it is a great shame that we know so little about his early work in 1867. We hope to build upon our existing knowledge as the project moves into a more research based phase.
One of the three rags collected by Pitt-Rivers from St. Helen's Well (PRM 1884.140.331 .1).
The society were incredibly friendly and provided great nuggets of information. One particularly interesting piece of information was about the three tied rags, from St. Helen's Well, that we have in our collection. St Helen's Well was, and by some still is still, known for its healing powers. People would leave rags tied to a near by tree or drop coins or stones into the well - they would then take a sip of the water. The idea was that the illness would pass from the person into the object and they would be cured.
The information and local knowledge that the project gained from the talk in Leeds really emphasised why it is so important to communicate with local societies. We look forward to our talks in London and Surrey in the near future.

Antler and Bone

We have finally completed Sussex, the largest assemblage from a single county.  It mainly consisted of ceramic sherds and stone tools.  However the last few objects we looked at were a complete change; three beautiful weaving combs of antler from Lancing [PRM 1884.46.11-13].  Two of the objects photographed are decorated, one of which [PRM 1884.46.13] is broken where the handle was perforated for a rope or leather thong to pass through to allow the comb to be attached to the wearers belt. 

PRM 1884.46.11-13 (left to right) were collected in Lancing by James Medhurst and purchased by Pitt-Rivers in 1879.
London, our next county, has a great variety of objects and is proving to be very interesting.  The animal bones excavated from London Wall were identified by Professor Richard Owen, the first director of the Natural History Museum.  His name is written on a number of objects as seen below.  

PRM 1884.140.271 is a metatarsal identified as Red Deer by Richard Owen.
Lane Fox (1867: lxxvi) described some of the bone implements from London Wall as being of ruder construction...cut through in the middle and roughly squared at the small endHe goes on to say that:

Professor Owen and Mr. Blake concur in thinking these implements may possibly have been formed with flint, but I cannot ascertain that they were found at a lower level than the Roman remains, nor have any flint implements, to my knowledge, been found in the place.

PRM 1885.118.260 is an example of a pinners bone found at London Wall. 
The objects are in fact pinners bones from the Medieval and Post Medieval period.  The shaft was worked into four flat facets and a saw used to make the grooves for holding the pin in place whilst it was filed and sharpened (MacGregor 1985: 171).

Other bone and antler objects excavated in London include chisels, points, knives, mattocks, bobbins, scoops and skates.

PRM 1884.118.190 is a mattock made from antler, excavated in August 1869 from peat bogs in Walthamstow.
PRM 1884.118.257 is a scoop made from the metatarsal of a horse, found in the excavations at London Wall in January 1869.
Lane Fox, A.  1867. A Description of Certain Piles Found near London Wall and Southwark, Possibly the Remains of Pile Buildings.  Journal of the Anthropological Society of London, Vol. 5 (1867), pp. lxxi-lxxxiii

MacGregor, A.  1985.  Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn: The Technology of Skeletal Materials Since the Roman Period.  London: Croom Helm

Out and about...

The town hall in Lewes - formerly the Star Inn where Pitt-Rivers stayed whilst excavating Mount Caburn in 1877-78.
As part of our public engagement programme, for the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project, Carlotta Gardner gave a talk to the Sussex Archaeological Society in Lewes on Saturday (8th June). It was an excellent opportunity to inform the society, with which Pitt-Rivers worked, about the project and our results from cataloguing and researching the archaeological material excavated by the General from Sussex which is held at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.
The Sussex Archaeological Society on top of Mount Caburn
After the Talk a group of us went on a small field trip up Mount Caburn, where Pitt-Rivers excavated in 1877-78. The weather was perfect and we were able to see for miles around. As mentioned in a previous post Pitt-Rivers spent a considerable amount of time in Sussex studying and excavating a number of 'camps'. Mount Caburn was of particular interest to Pitt-Rivers and the Museum holds approximately 3,900 objects from his excavations there. In a letter to George Rolleston he described having to walk up the mount in order to be there before 8 am to set things up. Walking from Lewes would have taken around 30-40 minutes.
The walk up Mount Caburn (from Glynde)
Overall it was a wonderful day out and the Society were incredibly friendly and welcoming. We look forward to their visit to Oxford, to look at the Sussex collections, in October.
Panoramic view from the top of Mount Caburn.

Pitt-Rivers and Cissbury

The Excavating Pitt-Rivers team continues to work through the material from Sussex. Among the many sites excavated in East and West Sussex, Pitt-Rivers spent a considerable amount of time excavating at Cissbury - a prehistoric site near Worthing in West Sussex. He wrote numerous articles and consulted multiple specialists about the finds from the three seasons of excavations and the geology of the site. From his published work and excavated material culture, the project is starting to consider the development of his understanding of the site, and its place in the development of his archaeological approaches.

A sketched plan of Cissbury from the Pitt-Rivers papers (courtesy of Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum; Pitt Rivers Papers, P Series). 
Pitt-Rivers first identified the site's potential when he spent a month of continuous walking over the Sussex downs. Cissbury stood out due to the quantity of flint flakes that he found and the presence of large pits in the southwest corner of the camp, which he describes as being completely honeycombed. Previous excavations at the camp by George Irving, had not taken note of this abundance of flint flakes, and Pitt-Rivers proposed that the quantity of flintwork means that this site was a flint mine.

Pitt-Rivers, in his three field seasons at Cissbury (1867, 1868 and 1875), spent the majority of his time working and developing his theories regarding the flint mines he first identified in 1867. During the seven-year gap in his work excavations led by others took place; the results of which influenced the excavations he later completed in 1875.
A plan of the galleries and shafts under the ditch and rampart of Cissbury from a survey by Pitt-Rivers
(Lane Fox, 1875: PL XV)
His first excavations of the ditch in April 1875 did not produce the results that he was hoping for. He states in his article (Lane Fox, 1875: 368) that he was not willing to pay, without assistance, for future excavations and so went to the Anthropological Institute (now known as the Royal Anthropological Institute) to raise funds. In one night he was able to raise £30 (the equivalent of perhaps £3,000 today), and this funded excavations from June through to September. Whilst researching the material that the Pitt Rivers Museum holds, the team realized that the British Museum and the Ashmolean also hold material from Pitt-Rivers' excavations at Cissbury. We were kindly given access to the material at the British Museum last month, and whilst examining the material we noticed that a number of the flint tools were labelled as originally held by the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. We can perhaps infer from this that Pitt-Rivers gifted a selection of the material he excavated from Cissbury to the RAI in 1876 as a form of acknowledgement of the money donated to the excavations.
Flint scraper held at the British Museum (C.101) showing the sticker indicating it was given to the Anthropological Institute on the 13th March 1876 (Permission to use this image was kindly granted by Gillian Varndell, Curator of Neolithic Collections in the Prehistory and Europe department at the British Museum). 
The Excavating Pitt-Rivers project has now finished looking at the material, held at the Pitt Rivers Museum from Cissbury. In total the Museum holds c.200 objects from the site, of which the majority is flint implements. A number of the flint objects are flint axes whilst others are cores, flakes and natural flint nodules. Almost all of the flint objects are completely covered in white patina that is chalky in texture - Pitt-Rivers also took note of this fact in his paper. The Museum holds relatively small quantities of pottery and bone from the site. The Museum's historic documentation records a model scapula shovel that Pitt-Rivers reconstructed and tested in 1875, the location of which is currently unknown.