For our January talk, we were given an illustrated talk by Neil Redfern, Executive Director of The Council for British Archaeology who gave us a fantastic insight into his thoughts on archaeology. I can say that if I had heard that talk as a teenager, I would have taken an archaeology degree. In short he's the bees knees when it comes to how an archaeologist looks at the world.
Neil started by explaining that archaeology is not about preserving finds in an archive, but thinking creatively about heritage. He has worked for Historic England
, based in York for over 20 years. The photographs above taken from my computer screen show their remit includes pre historic sites, monastic sites, ruins, national parks, 1960s flats in Sheffield that are Grade 2* listed.
The next slide showed the uniform an inspector for English Heritage, the forerunner of Historic England looked like in 1913. One of the things hotly contested at one time was the notion that trees were bad for archaeological sites, and above you can see a bronze age barrow with trees on it. Now trees are left where they are growing, because thye are seen as part of the landscape.
Above are some words associated with archaeology and explaining what it encompasses.
Above is a slide showing 3 views of Whitby Abbey
, this has been subject to 'gatekeeping', a process where the site is 'tidied up' from the original condition it might have been in at the turn of the last century, surfaces evened out and grass laid and mown so visitors can easily walk round without tripping up.
Other examples of this process include Berkhamstead Mott and Bailey Castle
where the moat was enhanced by resculpting in the 1920/30s, and trees were removed. Helmsley Castle
also has had sculpted earthworks. Sandal Castle
is perhaps the most fascinating example of changes made to ruins. The old print shows three windows and Wakefield in the background, which it isn't quite, and present day photos show one of the windows has been filled in, presumably to give the structure strength? The site has also been excavated and sculpted making it stark and sterile.
Neil talked about many sites being at risk from arable cultivation, and then talked about not preserving, but creating from archaeological sites. At Hanging Grimstone dig, medieval rooftiles were found that had been on a dovecote, after the dig, rather than than putting them back again after the dig was finished, they were used to paint on, the results are seen below.
And more here
I hadn't heard about the Lego lost at sea
in 1997 which is now being washed up in Cornwall, but collecting the Lego is a lovely project
Some recommended reading for us all..
Neil's reduced lexicon to include the words he feels essential to the archaeological process
Hatfield Colliery is an important landmark, and an example of how the art of loss can be used creatively via storytelling and finding what is important in a community. What they value. Being inquisitive, curious, storytelling and using creativity are essential to the process of archaeology. These notes have got a bit rambly, do watch the recording
of the talk, apologies for my bit at the beginning, I don't have the necessary skills to edit recordings.
Thank you for such a moving talk.