Object of the month – A lovely little fellow..

As we near another dig at Chedworth Villa, I thought I would make an object from there our object of the month ūüôā

This little stone altar is one of a few found at the Villa and from sites nearby.

The figure on the alter holding a spear and sheild.

The figure on the altar holding a spear and shield

We like his spiky hair!

This little figure as a faint inscription at the top which seems to suggest he is Lenus¬†Mars.¬† Simon Esmonde¬†Cleary in his recently published¬†History Press book on “Chedworth – life in a Roman villa” says that ‘Lenus was a native god from the Moselle valley in Germany where he seems to have had healing properties; his assimilation with the Roman god Mars suggests he also had warlike qualities – this identification with Roman gods is often the only way to know the name and character (or aspect of the character) of indigenous gods and goddesses.’

We are not sure why he was being worshipped at Chedworth and if he is who we think he is! Maybe a digital scan of the stone work may reveal more, wonder if we can persuade one of the Birmingham students, who’ll be digging with us, to do a little project on our altars?¬† Lots of tea and cake may work¬†ūüôā off to the kitchen we go, watch this space ūüôā

Lurking at the back of the cupboard

In the Trust we have lots of ‘stuff’¬† and every cupboard and box can contain surprises, this is one interesting tale from Chedworth when we cleared the cupboards in the Museum ready for a revamp and new display cases.

The old museum cupboards at Chedworth

The old museum cupboards at Chedworth

Amongst the boxes of tile, pottery and metalwork was a brown paper bag, with ‘two tesserae’ written on the outside. Inside were indeed two cubes of stone, the tesserae, along with the following¬† letter.

The letter and the returned tesserae

The letter and the returned tesserae

We have not been able to replace them as we don’t know the exact place he took them from, but at least they have returned home ūüôā

The roman pot with all sorts picked up on my travels through archaeology!
The roman pot with all sorts picked up on my travels through archaeology!

We all pick up interesting objects or souvenirs of our travels. I have flints and bits of pottery in my pockets and a roman pot on my desk full of ‘bits and bobs’.¬† Somehow¬† having something ¬†whether it be an interesting¬†stone, feather, pine cone, sherd of pottery or shell from the beach,¬†seems to ¬†connect¬†us with places and memories.

I am sure we all have shells, sea worn glass and pebbles from trips to the seaside, or a stick or seed pod from our countryside rambles. Maybe some of the odd things we dig up on site could be explained by this subconscious need to collect objects that map our wanderings in life.

The three ammonites, small, medium and¬†large, ¬†we found on Maiden Castle¬†were maybe collected as curious souvenirs, when the Ironage¬†people were collecting ¬†pebbles on Chesil¬†Beach to use as sling shot. Or the french coin in the 17th century context at Corfe Castle that may have come back with a traveler plotting¬†and scheming to help the King as Civil War touched all in the country….. once agin the archaeologist weaves a story……..:-)

Object of the month – Oldest and smallest

A bit of a cheat this month as I am featuring two objects not one. They are both made from (broadly) the same material, flint and are both what we call prehistoric. They are the oldest and the smallest flint tools we have found while excavating sites on trust land in the Wessex Region or I should say ‘old’ Wessex region as we are now joined with Devon and Cornwall and are the South West region and I still haven’t seen everything from those two counties.

The oldest and the smallest

The oldest and the smallest (2cm Scale)

The oldest tool from the Upper Palaeolithic ¬†(12000 to 40000¬† years old) was found in High Wood on the Kingston lacy Estate in Dorset, during an excavation of an enclosure¬†in the woods. It has a beautiful¬†patina on the surface and amber areas were the soil conditions¬†have stained it. I remember finding it in the semi darkness under the trees in a yellowish orange clay. At the time all¬†I knew was that it was a large flint ¬†tool, but was not sure of its date. Phil Harding at Wessex Archaeology, ‘as seen on TV’ (Time Team fame) did the flint identifying and report on all the flint from the site and was very pleased to say it was a special find ūüôā

Upper Palaeolithic Tool 12000 to 40000 years old

Upper Palaeolithic Tool 12000 to 40000 years old

He says ‘The importance of this object lies in its discovery. There is nothing of a similar age at the site to confirm occupation of the hill at this time although the presence of iron staining makes it likely that it represents a casual loss or was discarded at the site rather than a curio that was picked up by occupants of the later prehistoric/Romano-British enclosure. Traces of Upper Palaeolithic occupation are known from Dorset but they are nevertheless rare, and all discoveries, including individual pieces such as this, add to and confirm the distribution of human groups in this period.’¬†¬†So someone left it on the hill all those years ago, I wonder what they saw as they looked out across the estate that was yet to be.

The second object is our smallest, a Portland chert (a type of flint) barb from the Mesolithic period (6000 to 10000 years ago) excavated at Thorncombe Beacon on the West Dorset coast, the site  would have been many miles inland in the Mesolithic period (coastal erosion has cut the cliff back to where it is today) It is so small and every side has been reworked. Small half-moon chips have been flaked from it to sharpen the sides, how did they hold it to do the work on it! Any flint knappers out there let me know.

Mesolithic Portland chert barb

Mesolithic Portland chert barb

It would have been hafted into a wooden rod along with others to make the barbs on an arrow shaft.

Our little barb was used last year by an artist Simon Ryder as part of the ¬†Exlab Project http://exlab.org.uk/¬†he worked with Southampton University and produced a ‘pelt’ of the barb and a larger scale 3D print in resin.

Part of Simon Ryder Exlab exhibition featuring the mesolithic barb, the 'pelt'

Part of Simon Ryder Exlab¬†exhibition featuring the Mesolithic barb, the ‘pelt’

The 3D print of the microlith barb, part of Simon Ryders exhibition

The 3D print of the microlith¬†barb, part of Simon Ryder’s exhibition

Little Stone Cubes

Lawrence the mosaic running under the later Roman stone steps traces of pink mortar surviving against the wall.

Lawrence the mosaic running under the later Roman stone steps traces of pink mortar surviving against the wall.

Detail of mosaic showing pink mortar between and overlying the tesserae

Detail of mosaic showing pink mortar between and overlying the tesserae

Back in July we uncovered a corridor mosaic at Chedworth Villa, Glos. It was made up of thousands of little stone cubes (of course) and quite a lot of brick ones. What a life, cutting cubes of stone. Perhaps the apprentices did it before they got involved in the more creative sideImage

The mosaic had been worn and broken 1600-1700 years ago. There was obviously not much money around at the time because they just filled in the gaps with loose stone cubes, bits of stone and pot and then covered it with pink mortar.

One thing we notice when cleaning the loose cubes is that you can always see which way up the floor surface was. It is worn by Roman foot fall and cleaning. The bottom is marked by the cream mortar the mosaic maker pushed it into and the fixing grout can be seen as a pink mortar staining the upper edges.

Cut the stone, fix in the cream mortar, assemble the mosiac, finish with pink grout, use clean and wear, erode break and patch. Abandon, rediscover and excavate 1864, rebury for 148 years and place in a finds tray in 2012.