Sunday, October 23, 2005


I went to the Annual York Archaeology Book Fair yesterday, hoping to pick some interesting books. In particular, I was on the look out for Prehistoric landscape to Roman villa: excavations at Beddington, Surrey, 1981-7, edited by Isca Howell. According to the Museum of London website this book is in print and available. Yet, athough we arrived early, the Oxbow Books stall didn't have it, although they had many other MoL publications. On checking out the Oxbow website, it says it's unpublished. Will have to pursue it with the Museum, and pay postage costs, I guess!

The reason I want the Beddington publication so bad is that it was the first site that I was a Finds Supervisor, and the very first time I had to thoroughly record brick and tile! My partner wrote the coin report, so it would be good to find out if that's been published or not. Will any of our input be acknowledged? It's a shame that the people who directed the excavations, and wrote up it up very thoroughly don't have their names on the cover of the book. Lesley and Roy Adkins are excellent archaeologists and ensured that all categories of finds, even brick and tile, were properly recorded. It's their fault I went on to specialise in ceramic building materials :-)

Btw, the Adkins wrote a small interim, popular, report on the Bedidngton excavations, called Under the Sludge, which still seems to be available.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Preparing for November 16th

I'm teaching the IFA Finds Group Brick and Tile Recording Workshop on November 16th, and currently costing equipment. My budget was too modest (should've been more like £100, rather than £50!), but it's making me look for the the equipment I want at the cheapest rate. For example, I once saw some plastic Vernier calipers somewhere, and lo and behold, a search on the Web brought up a source. Since the metal ones available locally are at least £6.99, finding the plastic ones at £1.99 from Greenweld's is a big saving on the tight budget. It's a shame to pay the fixed postage price, but it's still worth it, and at least Greenwald's don't have a minimum order.

I was well served by Tescos, who supplied me with four kitchen scales for £1.92 each. Since the average size of a piece of tile comes out at 200g, the fact that these scales only go up to 1kg is no problem. I'll be taking my own scales as well, which go up to 5kg, should we get a big piece.

Next on to hand lenses. Somehow, I own four of these! I think I lost a couple years ago, so bought some more, but they've all come home to roost now. But I need ten, so that everyone has a hand lens. They can't be shared as looking at brick and tile fabrics is the most time-consuming aspect of recording. Hand lenses horribly expensive if you look in your local Photographic Shop, but the local hardware store, Barnitts, has them between £2.99-£4.99. They were locked away in a cabinet, so I couldn't check them and didn't have time to ask to see them. But I've checked on the Web, and Northern Geological Supplies has some for £2.35. The main problem is that they have a minimum order of £15.00 (six hand lenses come to £14.10!) plus post. So, if Barnitt's hand lenses are OK, it may be easier to go for them. Still, NGS is a useful supplier to know about.

And there's loads of other stuff to get, some that can be shared (like hammers) and others that they all have to have (like googles).

Never mind equipment though! I've done that first in case I have to order anything in (as per the calipers). The main thing now will be too get my talk and notes together ...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Publication report

These days, I don't get out of bed (archaeologically-speaking) for anything less than a publication report. Nine out of ten assessment reports don't go anywhere due to lack of funding, hence the reams of grey literature on my website. However, occasionally, actual analysis and publication hoves into view!

Courtesy of MAP Archaeological Consultancy, this hoary old nag will actually be recording, then writing-up, the ceramic building materials (aka brick and tile) from a site in York. The honoured (honoured, as it might get published) site is Spurriergate in York. I've seen part of it before, back in 2000, when I was still tilting at archaeological windmills, so know it's got some juicy stuff, including Roman, and probably some early medieval material. Not to be sniffed at. And they're even paying me - Gawd bless 'em.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Community Archaeology Workshop, York

Back in May, I took part in one of York Community Archaeologist Eliza Gore's workshops. Needless to say, I was asked to speak about brick and tile! I enjoyed this day out, talking with local enthusiasts and there's a short write up about the workshop on the York Archaeological Trust's webpages.

My favourite photo is of the chap looking bemusedly at a complete horseshore drain. The reason he's smiling is because he's looking at the stamp on the tile, which say 'DRHAIN' These tiles had to be stamped with this in the early 19th century, otherwise extra taxes would have been applied. The spellling of DRHAIN for DRAIN perhaps reflects the pronunciation of the word, as this tile comes from East Yorkshire. Initially, though, I was very worried, as though I was convinced it was a 19th century field drain, I had only previously seen the similarly shaped Roman roof tile called imbrex with a stamp such as this. Was I getting it all wrong, and were some of the fragment's I'd previously ID'ed as field drain actually Romna Imbrex? It couldn't be, surely? The method of manufacture clearly shows signs of extrusion ... I puzzled for ages as to what the stamp said (it's slightly fuzzy), and then it suddenly came to me! And the case was solved.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Recently, I joined ASPROM - The Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics. I do Late Roman re-enactment, and this last season took up mosaic making, which means that I am a tessellaria! I'm still learning, of course, and reckoned it was worth me joining ASPROM, at least for a year. Today, I got a nice package through the post, including some back numbers of the Mosaic Journal I purchase. But also included was complimentary copy of this year's Mosaic, and recent Newsletters, which I wasn't expecting.

There are plenty of late Roman mosaics in Yorkshire (eg. Rudston), so I'm well covered on that front. The main problem is finding local sources of material. I have some Roman tile, but stone is more of a problem. This year, I've mostly used marble, ordered from Italy, but I need some nice local limestone to play with.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Current read: AD 500

Finally, I'm getting into my To-Be-Read pile. Not having a book to review for the Historical Novel Society, I can take my pick of the tottering heap. Just started on Simon Young's AD500, which is not historical fiction, and not quite non-fiction either. It takes the form of a Byzantine guidebook for travellers to the Dark Isles of Britain and Ireland in the 6th century. So far, I can detect some of the sources the author has consulted. The book's an interesting idea, but there's a little touch of the clever-clever about it, which I'm not sure about.

I note that the author is due to publish AD400 which seems to be a bit more on the fiction side. Apparently it's a history of the Aureli family in Britannia ...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Roman brickworks ...

Thanks to David Meadows' Explorator, I found this link to some Roman brickworks near, well, Rome:

Discovery Channel

It's also mentioned at:

The Scotsman

and latterly

The Daily Telegraph

There aren't many civilian tile stamps in Britain; most are army. The ones local to York are the 9th Legion Hispana (up to the early 2nd century and the 6th Legion Pia Fidelis (from the early 2nd century to, presumably, the early 5th century).