Ian Blair and John Burke-Easton are proud to announce the birth of ‘Digging London’ on 29th March 2021, after a lengthy gestation of five years, and a difficult labour.
Digging London joins her older, but much smaller, ten-year-old sibling ‘Hobley’s Heroes’.
Please follow the link for more information and photos of the new arrival: https://digginglondon.org.uk/about-us
An article about Digging London, can be found in the current Spring 2021 (Volume 16, Number 4) issue of London Archaeologist.
Unsolved archaeological mysteries No. 42:
‘Could I have worked at Sutton Hoo in 1939, but have no recollection of it?’
Written by Ian Blair
I recently spent a pleasant couple of hours watching the film ‘The Dig’, which details the discovery and excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship burial in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War.
The film starred Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, and Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty, and did a good job of depicting the bucolic Suffolk landscape, and reconstructing the excavation of the Mound 1 ship burial. Though coached by a native Suffolk speaker for the film, Fiennes ability to master the local dialect, may also have been helped by being born in Ipswich, a mere twelve miles from Sutton Hoo.
Ivor Noël Hume in his autobiography ‘A Passion for the Past’ details how as a schoolboy boarding at Framlingham in Suffolk, at term’s end his junior scout troop was to spend two weeks camping at a site owned by Mrs Pretty. He recounts how they made a field trip to visit the dig and witnessed the excavation underway. Noël describes: ‘When we got there we found a long slice through the mound and in it something resembling a giant, attenuated, and upturned toast rack. Although all the ship’s wood had long since rotted, its iron nails survived, and thanks to brilliant excavating, the sand matrix in which they lay had been sculptured to reconstruct the hull’s ribs’. He goes on to say: ‘I also remember somebody handing me a bucket and asking me to empty it into a wheelbarrow. In hazy retrospect I like to think of this incident as my initiation into the world of professional archaeology, though at the time it made little impression. On the contrary, nothing much seemed to be going on, prompting the conclusion that if this was what archaeology was all about, it was slightly less exciting than watching apples grow’.
So, moving back to the present day, and the subject of this post, suggested by an article I spotted in the Metro Newspaper entitled: ‘Dig Uncovered Five Big Finds from Sutton Hoo’, which appeared soon after the film was released. I would draw your attention to the picture of the gold belt buckle in the final frame.
‘Dig Uncovered Five Big Finds from Sutton Hoo’ published in the Metro Newspaper
Seeing this image made me dredge up a distant repressed memory of my having seen it somewhere before, and after a long search I found the accompanying image of my excavating the same gold belt buckle, proof positive I feel that I must have been at Sutton Hoo in 1939, and somehow forgotten. Perhaps this is understandable, as I must now be over a hundred years old, or else have a working time machine, that I have also forgotten about. Whichever the most plausible scenario, either one leads to the intriguing possibility, that it was I who passed the bucket to Noël to empty into the wheelbarrow, which I must admit has a certain pleasing symmetry to me.
Excavating the gold belt buckle at Sutton Hoo in 1939
Paul Tyers Photo Album
28 fantastic photographs
Lord Mayors Show, Envirnemental Department, Upstairs at the Globe Pub, Gill Craddocks (Scarlett) leaving Do, Finds Department Party and Pudding Lane Excavation photographs from Paul Tyers
Written by Ian Blair
Re-reading the recent ‘Heavy Metal at Regis House’ post from 2015, brought to mind a Facebook post I wrote a year later, not having realised that both had as their starting point, Bruce Watson, and the weighty subject matter of hard (nigh on impossible) to move leaden objects. My prompt for the secondary post, came from a photo that Patrick Allen sent to us, in which he said:
The DUA (Department of Urban Archaeology), managing archaeological investigations in the City of London 1973-91
Written by John Maloney
Heavy Metal on Regis House
Written by Ian Blair
For a period of several weeks on Regis House, our superb metal-detectorist Pat Connolly (more of him in a later post), had been getting ever-more excited by a massive signal that was given off as he passed the detector over an area of one of the Roman quayside warehouses destroyed in the Hadrianic fire. Further excavation revealed that the signal had its origins in 3 large lead ingots (stamped with the Emperor Vespasian’s name) which had been deliberately hidden beneath the warehouse floor.
Two photos taken in Smallhythe, Kent, by Rysz Bartkowiak during the making of Time Team Episode 6, Series 6 (1999)
From Trevor Brigham
Two photos taken in Smallhythe, Kent, by Rysz Bartkowiak during the making of Time Team Episode 6, Series 6 (1999), where Time Team were looking for a 15th-century dock next to the River Rother, one of a number of episodes with MoLAS involvement.
THE WHISPER DICTIONARY
[Devised at the Custom House, Seal House, Angel Court, Trig Lane, St Magnus, and New Fresh Wharf Sites 1974-5
Edited by Jamie Muir who writes,
"A lot of [misplaced] youthful energy went into the devising of the attached. Everybody had a hand. I don’t think it’s libellous."
Extended tour of duty: From the DUA to MOLA
Written by Ian Blair
31st March 2020
Today is a really bittersweet moment for me, my last day as a salaried archaeologist, after an extended tour of duty lasting forty two years, two months, and sixteen days. Hastened in part by a projected downturn of archaeological work in London, I elected to do the only honourable thing, and throw myself on my well-worn archaeological sword, by accepting voluntary redundancy. I’m not alone in this decision, as fifteen of my colleagues chose to make the same difficult choice.
That even now, I have no idea exactly who has departed ‘stage left’ with me, says much of the speed with which this process was hastily implemented, and it is a real tragedy that these talented people have now gone. Unfortunately, and more worrying, is that the real threat of future enforced ‘compulsory’ redundancies on London archaeologists down the line (though now on hold for obvious reasons) still remains, hanging over their collective heads like the Sword of Damocles.
Merton Priory - Station Road, SW19
From Louise McDonagh
The entire N half of the priory church was revealed in 1987, and most of the N transept, Lady Chapel and choir was excavated. Some 160 burials were found within or close to the church.*
Trig Lane Archaeological Excavation (TL74) Summer of 1974
Department of Urban Archaeology (DUA)
A short film by Jamie Muir©
Forum and Huggin Hill Baths Models
Written by Trevor Brigham
Workshop and gallery slides of the Huggin Hill Baths and forum models in the MoL Roman gallery, variously taken by Kandor Modelmakers Ltd, Valhalla Ltd, and Jenny Hall.
Photos supplied by Trevor Brigham, who also did the design drawings for both models in 1995/6.