A History of London in 10 Archaeological Objects: Object 1January 31, 2012 Archaeology, Archaeology in Action, Blogs, LAARC, LAARC Object of the month
This year the LAARC (London Archaeological Archive & Research Centre) marks its 10th anniversary. To celebrate our achievement of promoting London’s archaeology and making our collections publicly accessible we’re in residence at the Museum of London’s galleries. You can even join in yourself and assist us in improving our collections by getting your Hands-On real Archaeology.
Although the Archive holds a wealth of information from maps, drawings, digital data, context sheets to photographs, it is perhaps archaeology – the ‘stuff’ – filling over 200,000 archive boxes that we are all instantly drawn to. Our ‘general finds’ are the bread and butter of archaeology but for the most part it is our ‘registered finds’ that are intrinsically interesting.
For several years my colleague Adam has been blogging about these noteworthy objects that lie dormant in the Archive waiting to be researched, audited by a volunteer or even make it into a Museum of London gallery display.
Over the next year I’ll be presenting you with ten archaeological objects. Ten objects that emphasise the importance of London’s archaeology in shaping, or even reshaping, our understanding of the City’s history. I have literally over millions of artefacts to choose from, but this won’t be a display of the shiniest or most well-known. My selections may be representative of, or even unique to, an historical period. They may acknowledge the science of how these objects are discovered and how they survive London’s chthonic depths over millennia.
Like all good history we’ll start at ‘the beginning’:
Prehistoric (Upper Palaeolithic) Leaf-point Flint Blade
The first of our objects is a flint blade (not so interesting you may think…). Dredged from the Thames at Longreach (opposite Purfleet) in April 1905, it came to us via the late Geoffrey Gillam of Enfield. This is a classic example of a museum object that has lain dormant; its significance waiting to be unlocked, for this prehistoric flint may actually be the earliest example of an artefact crafted by a ‘Londoner’ in the Museum’s collection.
Our first Londoner in this instance would be a modern human, that is, homo sapiens sapiens. It was during the Upper Palaeolithic, about 40, 000 years ago, that modern humans developed blade technology (our predecessors, Neanderthals, perhaps being commonly associated with flake technology produced hand-axes) resulting in a huge range of stone artefacts being crafted. At the same time scholars have also argued about the inherent aestheticism of these objects – and we may even be looking at London’s earliest ‘work of art’! Lithics expert, Jon Cotton, ‘re-discovered’ this object with colleagues and they will hopefully be publishing it in the near future.
Next month object number 2 – where we’ll skip past a few millennia (and a lot more flints) to the Iron Age…