Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's a Brickfielder, cobber

Whilst looking for information on red brick dust, I came across a reference to a Brickfielder. Quoted in the Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911, it is:
... a term used in Australia for a hot scorching wind blowing from the interior, where the sandy wastes, bare of vegetation in summer, are intensely heated by the sun. This hot wind blows strongly, often for several days at a time, defying all attempts to keep the dust down, and parching all vegetation ... illuminates further:
The hot northerly wind [in Australia] blew across the Brickfields, formerly so called, a district of Sydney and carried clouds of reddish dust from the brickworks over the nascent city - thus the name: Brickfielder. However, another - agricultural - explanation comes from the hot and dry character of the northerly wind itself, turning the surface of the already dry soil hard as bricks. Therefore, by confusion, every dry, hot wind from the north might be called a Brickfielder today. The Brickfielder is related to the Argentinian Zonda wind.

And just for good measure, a picture of some preserved brickwork buildings in Sydney!:

Another use for bricks: Red Brick Dust

Whilst watching the film The Skeleton Key ( I noticed that red brick dust was used to protect a room or house from those who would harm, as part of a voodoo ritual. This got me wondering if:

a) it really was a voodoo ritual (since we're dealing with Hollywood, aka the producers of Braveheart)
b) if so, how did it come about.

Unfortunately, I've only got access to the internet on this Sunday afternoon, but I did pick up a few likely sounding snippets:

The first organized voodoo ceremony in New Orleans is said to have taken place in an abandoned brickyard on Dumaine Street. It was probably presided over by Sanite Dede, the first of the great voodoo queens. (Voodoo was a matriarchy. The witch doctors and kings paled in comparison to the strong queens, always free women of color, never slaves, who reigned over the rituals). Repeated police raids on the brickyard drove the cultists out t0 Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain ... Superstitious Creoles scrubbed their front stoops with brick dust to ward off curses

As usual, anything to do with brickyards, and we're into shady dealings of one kind or another! Though brick dust being used to ward off curses is hinting that brick has protective properties is rather nice.

Red Brick Dust, also known as Brick Dust, Red Dust, Red Powder or Reddening derives from the ancient use of red ochre clay for sacred purposes. For protection, sprinkle Red Brick Dust across the doorstep of your home. For money, drawing mix Red Brick Dust with cinnamon powder and brown sugar into water and scrub your doorstep inward for quick and continuous cash

So there's Red Brick Dust for sale on the Internet ... I knew I'd missed a trick somewhere :-) My doorstep is gunning for a right scrubbing with brick dust plus cinnamon and brown sugar, and I can at least supply the brick dust for free!

And here is another supplier, who is obviously a wiccan:

But it was the reference to red ochre that got me really interested. It's known in prehistoric graves for examples, and there's a reference to a particular article (Red Ochre and Human Evolution: A Case for Discussion [and Comments and Reply] Ernst E. Wreschner, Ralph Bolton, Karl W. Butzer, Henri Delporte, Alexander Häusler, Albert Heinrich, Anita Jacobson-Widding, Tadeusz Malinowski, Claude Masset, Sheryl F. Miller, Avraham Ronen, Ralph Solecki, Peter H. Stephenson, Lynn L. Thomas and Heinrich Zollinger Current Anthropology, Vol. 21, No. 5 (Oct., 1980), pp. 631-644 ), first page here: Definitely worth looking at the rest of the paper, when I get time to go to the University library some time. Meanwhile, there's some further information on Wikipedia:

So if red ochre isn't easily available, may be red brick dust will do. I'll go with that any time!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Framework Archaeology CBM reports on scribd

Ceramic building materials reports can be found here:

A total of 1,255 fragments of ceramic building material, weighing 155,408 g was recovered during evaluations and excavations at Stansted Airport:

Wessex Archaeology CBM reports on scribd

Ceramic building materials reports can be found here:

Cambourne New Settlement - Iron Age and Romano-British settlement on the clay uplands of west Cambridgeshire:

Suburban life in Roman Durnovaria: Excavations at the former County Hospital Site, Dorchester, Dorset 2000–2001:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

York vicar in tile plea

(Photo from the Press 9/7/09)

The tiles of the Lady Chapel floor in All Saints Pavement, North Street, York, are being restored. The newspaper article can be found here: If you want to donate toward the restoration of the Lady Chapel go here:

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Time Team find tile in Colworth ...

This fragment of tile was found by Time Team and shown during their 2009 season. It's from a Roman site in Colworth, Bedfordshire. It's very clear from the photograph that the tile is made from a common shelly fabric, well known by those who work on tile down south.

Leeds International Medieval Congress - 13th July

Brick and Tile in the Middle Ages
Monday July 13, 2009
Leeds University
Brick and tile were extensively used in the middle ages in north-western Europe both in cities and in rural buildings. Dating techniques are becoming more sophisticated and two of the papers look at the relatively new technique of optical luminescence and the insights this provides into the dating of early brick in England.

Sponsor: British Brick Society

Luminescence Dating of Medieval Essex Brick Thomas Gurling, Luminesence Laboratory, Department of Archaeology, Durham University

The Origin of Ceramic Building Materials for the Early Medieval Church at Chipping Ongar, Essex: A Case Study of Thermoluminescence Dating Applied to Building Archaeology Sophie Blain, Université de Bordeaux

Roof Tile and Brick in Medieval York Sandra Garside-Neville

British theses online - ETHos

The British Library are hosting a PDF download service for British doctorates. Quite a few are available for free, some are charged for, and a minority will charge for digitising costs; it depends on the University supplying it. Some universities (eg. Oxford) have not signed up to the service, and need to be contacted direct for supply.

However, this means that some 'classic' brick and tile doctorates are now very easily available, for example Betts' brick and tile in york up to the 18th century, and McWhirr's Roman brick and tile. These are already scanned in, and available for download straightaway. Others have yet to be scanned and it will take BL at least 30 days, if not more, to do it. But at least it's opening up access!

The service is available at:

Recreating Roman Building Materials

Over on Roman Army Talk, a couple of members have been re-creating Roman building materials for their displays at shows:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fire and water reveal new archaeological dating method

Scientists at The University of Manchester have developed a new way of dating archaeological objects – using fire and water to unlock their ‘internal clocks’.

The simple method promises to be as significant a technique for dating ceramic materials as radiocarbon dating has become for organic materials such as bone or wood.
A team from The University of Manchester and The University of Edinburgh has discovered a new technique which they call ‘rehydroxylation dating’ that can be used on fired clay ceramics like bricks, tile and pottery ...

To read the rest of the article, following this link: