Fifty Shades of Flint, Foyer Fun & Movember FeverNovember 24, 2012 Archaeology, Blogs, LAARC, LAARC VIP, Volunteers
LAARC VIP11 – Week 8
I can deal with most of the history of London; I get that it wasn’t so long ago that Victorians lived here without electricity; I understand how and why a great fire could break out and cause such devastation in 1666; I fully believe that the Norman conquest took place 600 years earlier and I would happily assure you that roman Londoners were the first to inhabit an actual city called Londinium almost 2000 years ago.
But when it comes to prehistory, my brain gets a little bit frazzled. Suddenly we have these massive margins as we deal with tools that date to around 8 – 10 THOUSAND years ago (and some thousands of years older than this!). I suddenly find myself thinking that that’s a pretty long time span and how, over all those years of habitation, the main bit of evidence we have for ‘human’ activity is… flint.
But having attended this week’s VIP flint workshop from lithic specialist Jon Cotton I soon realised that there are many shades to these stone tools. For instance some were made out of stone that was incredible difficult to get hold of – flint that comes from amazingly inaccessible places which our neolithic man must have had quite the challenge to obtain.
Some tools would have taken around 10,000 hours to have been formed, worked and then polished, only to be deposited in a riverbed, never to have been used. Others would have been shaped to top spears used to defend territories. Others would have simply been a useful utensil to cut open that night’s dinner of deer.
Perhaps my favourite aspect of flint knapping and prehistory is the evidence for community activity that the archaeology hints at. From several sites dug up in the past 30 years, archaeologists have found scatters of flint waste in v shaped piles, all in close proximity to each other and all forming circular shapes that surround a central hearth. It isn’t hard to imagine individuals gathering round the fire, chatting away, sharing stories, making their tools.
Gathering around, sharing stories was pretty much our philosophy this week when our fabulous U3A team took to the museum’s foyer. It was simple really. The volunteers were working on the collections in front of visitors. The visitors were free to go up and chat to the U3A about their work. They shared stories of their archive experience and showed the visitors what they were doing and the visitors left happy and with an enhanced museum experience. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Part of our volunteers’ public engagement was to show our visitors how to carry out simple collections care work, encouraging them to have a go at packing a find for themselves. In a bizarrely brilliant scenario, visitors were helping our volunteers preserve London’s archaeology and then thanking the volunteers for letting them do so. You don’t get that in many other museums! And if you want to be that visitor, come along to the foyer next Wed 28th Nov from 1-4pm and have a go yourself.
Our daily teams continued to make excellent progress with objects from Brentford & Beddington but to end this blog, it’s one of the objects that was audited this week as they tackled material from Roman Rd, E3: a spectacularly apt artefact if ever there was one for this month:
According to the glass specialists, this is a late 19th glass oil burner. The burner would have featured as part of a cosmetic set along with melting wax; melting wax that potentially would have been used to style gentleman’s moustaches! Perhaps I should get one for my #Movember effort…
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