It is all art to me

*advisory note. This blog includes mention of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, and suicide*

 

The parallels between art and archaeology are closely interwoven. If you were to study art history in school or university, or even for personal enjoyment read Grombrich’s The Story of Art (now in its 16th printing with over 8 million copies – it’s worth a read), you will find that archaeology is at the beginning of the history of art (Grombrich, 2006). Through rock art and decorated objects, the story of art starts as part of its contemporary life and later, much later, whether as a fragment or in its full form, the work lives on as art and archaeology providing part of that all-important interpretation of our social narrative. So, when does art become archaeology? Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History form a trinity covering the analysis and retrieval of material culture, the patterns of use through cultural meaning, norms and values, and an interpretation of aesthetic value through visual means. So, does something stop being art and become archaeology? No, not really.  It is how it is researched, curated, or presented to us, either in a gallery or museum, that creates a norm or a value on how we interpret it.

The art in archaeology, as presented in art history, continues to be an influence and inspiration to many artists. However, it can be a complex of cultural appropriation, and then there is the discussion of taking something out of its context and placing it in a museum or gallery (really this is a whole other blog post) and then also the concept of ‘found art’… (see below- another blog post, but don’t hold me to it as they may be a bit of an unravel).  But this is a blog about archaeology, and the purpose of this post today is a far simpler story of a historian (and part-time artist) finding artists in archaeology.

‘I’m going to pick it up’ T. Wadsworth, 2020. Instagram image of found art by A. E. Gibson, 2020.

It should not have been a surprise to me (but it was) when through the course of my work supporting archaeologists with their research and report writing, that a distinctive cursive form was appearing in archaeological site record forms. It was type of handwriting that when reading it you could almost hear a halting, but knowledgeable, voice, aware of differences, a script suited to the canvas. All the forms were signed with an artistic flourish of ‘T. Fomison’, Tony Fomison. My colleagues were like ‘yeah he was an archaeologist’ and I was ‘nah he was an artist’! It could be said that whilst my colleagues and myself were vaguely aware of Fomison’s other professional pursuits, we were all conditioned by our respective education, meaning that our perception of Fomison’s skill set was that art, or archaeology, was the dominant force in his career. In my case Fomison’s work had been part of my art and design education focusing on New Zealand art. I had known of his connection to Māori rock art but always as an artist.

An ArchSite record written by Tony Fomison in 1859. Image: ArchSite: M36/6, 1959.

Born Anthony Leslie Fomison in Christchurch 1939, Fomison was the eldest of five children. His father, who served with the second Echelon to Maadi Camp and Italy during the war, was a tram driver who later worked at the Dunlop factory in Christchurch. Fomison’s mother worked at the Christchurch public hospital. Fomison grew up in Linwood and was not a well child. It was his mother that encouraged the young Fomison to draw (Fomison, 1994). It was during his time at Linwood High School that the ‘bookish’ Fomison started to cultivate his interest in archaeology and photography, compiling photographic essays. Fomison went on to study sculpture at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts from 1957-1960, avoiding a boilermaker apprenticeship, and, from there, went on to work for the Canterbury Museum as an archaeological assistant (Fomison, 1994). Here, between 1959 and 1962, Fomison cultivated his essayist style of photography, which resulted in work such as documenting the eeling season at Wairewa/Lake Forsyth (Fomison, 1994).

Hocken Snapshop (15th Apr 2020). Forsyth, Lake – Outlet 1958 Eeling Season “At the end of the day’s work”. In Website Hocken Snapshop. Retrieved 15th Oct 2020 14:04, from https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/11439.

In 1959 Fomison had been endorsed by Canterbury Museum archaeologist Roger Duff. Along with Owen Wilkes (later a prominent peace activist) and others, on behalf of the museum and Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga), they surveyed the Māori rock art in South Canterbury (Fomison, 1994). It has to be noted that a Theo Schoon had traversed the area in 1947, and made his presence known by scrawling his signature on the limestone rocks at Craigmore (Byrt, 2019). Theodorus Johannes “Theo” Schoon was an Aotearoa New Zealand artist, photographer, and carver interested in Māori art, carving, geothermal activity. He also performed Javanese dance (Skinner, 2000). You could say Schoon held a forthright approach to everything and everyone in his life. Schoon was described by Anthony Byrt in 2019, on the release of his biography by Damain Skinner, as being ‘hinged on whether he’s master or mulch’, in as many words, lacking self-awareness and an artistic agenda that divided many of his acquaintances on his work and insistence (wanted or not) on providing advice (Byrt, 2019). I have tried to be measured in my appraisal of Schoon but Byrt’s colourful take on the artist can be read here.

Fomison recorded the archaeological work in field books, took tracings, and completed a card index of over 450 entries, creating a body of work that must be viewed as a ‘vital component’ that would stand alone archaeologically and provide a wealth of process to his art (Fomison, 1994). The relationship with Duff and the museum was terminated in 1962. Fomsion continued to work from time to time in an archaeological capacity with fieldwork in Taranaki in 1980 and in Rotorua in 1981 (Fomison, 1994). The amount of work that Fomison covered in three years in Canterbury and Banks Peninsula was vast, and archaeology was an aspect of his career that was never far away and was revisited, including the controversial artist Theo Shoon, throughout his life. In 1987 Fomison published an article in the New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA) newsletter on the topic of Shoon and the retouching of rock art (Archaeopedia New Zealand, 2015). Shoon was accused of having retouched rock drawings during his work recording them. Fomison reviewed the evidence and found it was clear that Shoon had modified some of the work as a ‘restoration dot for dot’ in Shoon’s words (who I imagine did not have an awareness of his white saviour mentality) (Archaeopedia New Zealand, 2019).

It was from 1961 that Fomison started to focus more on his art, using painting as his main medium. In 1963 Fomison was awarded a travel grant by the Arts Advisory Board and travelled to England in 1964. Not a lot of work was produced and Fomison’s travels included a trip to Spain, then joining an ‘Apache’ street gang in Paris. Here Fomison drew pavement art for tourists. Fomison was later imprisoned and subsequently sent back to England. In England a drug habit found Fomison hospitalised at London’s Banstead Hospital. While hospitalised, Fomison began to paint again  (Fomison, 1994). In 1967 Fomison was aided in his return to New Zealand, moving back to Christchurch and living on Riccarton Road with fellow artist Philip Clairmont. Clairmont, Fomison, and Napier based artist Allen Maddox formed a defiant grouping called the ‘Militant Artists Union’ (McAloon, 2009). As you can imagine, the trio exalted the bohemian lifestyle, expressionist and outsider art (see below), all fuelled by drugs and alcohol. They were all enablers of their vices and their talent. Photographer Marti Friedlander captured one of these moments between the friends as part of a documentative series of New Zealand artists. The image is now in the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū collection. This way of life did find Fomison spending six weeks in Rolleston and Paparua prison for drug offences (Fomison, 1994).  After a brief stint in Beverage Street, Fomison moved with Clairmont into 300 Hereford Street, and it was it was here that Clairmont produced Fireplace. They lived and worked at the property between 1971 and 1972. the property is now a listed building with the Christchurch City Council (Christchurch City Council, n.d.: 269; Figure 4). In 1973 Fomison moved to Auckland (Fomison, 1994).

300 Hereford Street: the studio and home to Fomison during 1971-1972. Image: Kete Christchurch, 2009.

In Auckland Fomison immersed himself into Polynesian culture, all the while producing what you could call a distinctive, dark, tormented painting style. Fomison’s work can be uncomfortable, with skull and moon like faces, jesters, and caves, but is without influence from his peers. The term ‘Outsider Art’ has been associated with Fomison, as Howard Davis notes in his article ‘The Outsider Art of Tony Fomison’. Howard goes on to say ‘Fomison clearly relished depicting such unsettling creatures because he felt they literally embodied his deep disdain for ‘civilised’ bourgeois society’ (Davis, 2018).

In Auckland Fomison lived in several places including 17 Gunson Street in Freemans Bay, which was photographed by photographer Mark Adams in 1977. It was in Auckland that Fomison was introduced to Colin McCahon, becoming involved in reviving Tā moko (Fomison, 1994). Think of Friedlander’s images in Michael King’s Moko: Maori Tattooing in the 20th Century. In 1979 the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt held the first major survey of Fomison’s work, and it was at this time that Fomison met Paulo Sulu’ape II, a tufuga ta tatau (master tattooist) and started to receive the pe’a. Photographer Mark Adams captures the process of Fomison receiving the pe’a, which is a Samoan male rite of passage. The tattoo was completed in 1980. Fomison continued to live in Auckland, with a brief interlude in 1985 in Wellington as the first Rita Angus Fellow, living at Rita Angus Cottage in Sydney Street West, Thorndon (Fomison, 1994). By 1988-89 Fomison was nearing 50 and in failing health spending time in hospital. His frail health in childhood, combined with his later drug and alcohol use, likely to be contributing factors. Fomison’s final exhibition was in 1989 at the Gow/Lansgord Gallery. In 1990 during his visit to the Waitangi Day 150th celebrations in the Bay of Islands with an old friend, Merry Isaac, Fomison’s health rapidly declined. Fomison died 7th February 1990 aged 51 (Fomison, 1994).

You could say it was a poignant place to die for Fomison, whose immersion in Māori and Polynesian culture wove as a central core throughout his life and his art. His cohorts in the ‘Miliant Artists Union’ faired no less in their time. Clairmont had died aged 34 in 1984 by suicide and Maddox died in 2000 at age 51, having sustained himself and his art on a diet of whisky and cannabis. Maddox’s obituary by Gilbert Wong was quite the piece, but did quote Maddox, of Fomison and Clairmont: “One of the things about those two guys – and I can say this being schizophrenic and having caused them difficulties – is that they were non-judgmental.” (Wong, 2000).

If you want to see Fomison’s work, I can recommend the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū exhibition Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania that features Fomison’s Hill top watcher, 1976. This work is amongst my favourites of Fomison. The exhibition notes that the Te Waipounamu/South Island mountains still heavily featured in Fomison’s work despite his later move to Te Ika-a-Māui/North Island and that Hill top watcher could be ‘a reimagining of Aotearoa New Zealand’s pre-history’ (Te Wheke, 2020). There is much more to tell of Fomison’s work, but as a rambler I fear I will do it no justice. But I do still find that seeing Fomison’s writing in the course of my research gives me a little bit of a thrill that his work continues to influence not just in the art world. As for Theo Schoon? Well his mark was well and truly made, the good and the bad (and yes this is a whole other blog post too!).

So, on that note, time to wind up this blog post with a ‘good strength to your paint brushes’ – as Fomison once wrote (Gilber Marriot Gallery, 2019). Or maybe, in this case, your trowels, for there is art in archaeology and an art to it all.

Annthalina Gibson

References

ArchSite, 2020. New Zealand Archaeological Association, Dunedin.

Archaeopedia New Zealand, 2015. Fomison Tony. [online] Available at: <http://archaeopedia.com/wiki/index.php?title=Fomison_Tony> [Accessed 15 Oct. 2020].

Archaeopedia New Zealand, 2019. Schoon Theo. [online] Available at: <http://archaeopedia.com/wiki/index.php?title=Schoon_Theo> [Accessed 15 Oct. 2020].

Byrt, A., 2019. Book of the Week: That total asshole Theo Schoon. [online] The Spinoff. Available at: <https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/28-02-2019/book-of-the-week-that-total-asshole-theo-schoon/> [Accessed 16 Oct. 2020].

Christchurch City Council, n.d. Heritage Statements of Significance – Christchurch.

Davis, H., 2018. The Outsider Art of Tony Fomison. [online] Scoop Independent News. Available at: <https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU1809/S00176/the-outsider-art-of-tony-fomison.htm> [Accessed 16 Oct. 2020].

Fomison, T., 1994. Fomison: What shall we tell them. City Gallery Wellington.

“good strength to your paint brushes” part of Tony Fomison’s correspondence to artist Richard Lomas (http://gilberdmarriottgallery.weebly.com/gmg-blog/richard-lomas-coque-tails-exhibition-10-august-7-september-2019)

Grombrich, E.H., 2006. The Story of Art, Pocket Edition. Phaidon.

Hocken Snapshop (15th Apr 2020). Forsyth, Lake – Outlet 1958 Eeling Season “At the end of the day’s work”. In Website Hocken Snapshop. Retrieved 15th Oct 2020 14:04, from https://hocken.recollect.co.nz/nodes/view/11439

Kete Christchurch, 2009. 300 Hereford Street. [online] Kete Christchurch: Places and Streets. Available at: <http://ketechristchurch.peoplesnetworknz.info/en/places_and_streets/images/show/919-300-hereford-street?view_size=large> [Accessed 16 Oct. 2020].

McAloon, W., 2009. New Zealand Art at Te Papa. [online] Te Papa Press. Aslo see at: <https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/967769>.

Skinner, D., 2000. Schoon, Theodorus Johannes. [online] Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Available at: <https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5s4/schoon-theodorus-johannes> [Accessed 16 Oct. 2020].

Te Wheke, 2020. Tony Fomison, Hill top watcher. [online] Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. Available at: <https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/collection/2010-003/tony-fomison/hill-top-watcher> [Accessed 15 Oct. 2020].

Wong, G., 2000. Obituary: Allen Maddox. New Zealand Herald. [online] 25 Aug. Available at: <https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/iobituaryi-allen-maddox/XXRWLVA7SGVRCAILBLHIBZL3JA/>.

New Zealand Artists featured

Tony Fomison

Theo Schoon

Phillip Clairmont

Allen Maddox

Rita Angus

Paulo Sulu’ape II

Marti Friedlander

Mark Adams

Merry Isaac

 Galleries

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

Hocken Collections

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

 

The archaeology of uncertainty

Evening, love, how’s your day?

Part 1: the archaeology of uncertainty

As a discipline, archaeology carries with it a lot of uncertainty. A number of times, I’ve been faced with an artefact, feature, or stratigraphic sequence that is difficult to figure out, and that could be one or a combination of several things. Sometimes further investigation clears it up, and sometimes you just have to come to terms with the fact that you may never know for sure. We don’t have a time machine, or ghosts that we can ask to recount their life stories. Radiocarbon dates sometimes have error margins of several decades, which mean we may never know the exact day Māori set foot on Aotearoa. When we excavate a rubbish pit in Christchurch, we try to associate it with a particular occupant, but are often in a situation where the uncertainty of the artefact dates means that an assemblage could have belonged to one or more family groups over a long period of time. A large part of the discipline is interpretation, and there’s a joke among archaeologists that goes something like: “if you put one archaeologist in a room with a question, they’ll come out with two different answers”. People commonly conceive of the past as something that is solid and unchanging in a way that the future is not, but we are constantly re-evaluating our understanding of the past based on new evidence. Looking into the past is like looking into the horizon on a hot day, the farther you look, the hazier it gets. As an archaeologist, uncertainty is just something you just have to get used to.

chicken feeder

Sometimes we figure out brief mysteries pretty quick, like Clara’s identification of this chicken feeder recently featured on out Facebook page.

Features 41 and 56, at the CJESP site, a pair of  likely privy pits formed in the 1880s. These privy pits, and the artefacts within them, may have been associated with Richard Brown,  a bootmaker, or a Mrs. Rose, a dressmaker, or perhaps both. Both were active at the corner of Durham and Tuam Streets around the time the artefacts were deposited (Williams, et al. 2017).

upside down bottle feature

Still a mystery. A circular feature of carefully placed upside-down bottles at the Christchurch Convention Centre (Trendafilov et al. in prep). We’re still not sure exactly what the purpose of this was. Image: Hamish Williams.

Part 2: The archaeology of uncertainty

At the start of the February, I went on a three-week holiday to the exotic ‘northern hemisphere’. At the start, the recently reported coronavirus seemed restricted to China. Three weeks later, heading home from the UK, that country was reporting 8 or so cases. Our flight through Hong Kong got re-routed through the US. On 28 February, New Zealand reported its first case of covid. Less than a month later, NZ case numbers surpassed 100, and NZ went into Alert Level 4 on the 25th of March. Time was running wild.

As I’m writing this, the global total of the coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 30 million cases, and just passed 1,000,000 deaths. Not a good one at all. The west coast of the USA is being ravaged by wildfires, just as the east coast of Australia was at the start of the year. Apparently approximately half the world’s population is in some sort of lockdown restrictions. The ‘travel bubble’ between NZ and Aus that was discussed optimistically in the middle of the year now seems unlikely to occur before 2021. I googled ‘trans-tasman bubble’ and got internet reckons ranging from ‘weeks away’ to ‘mid-2021’ so who the blimmin’ heck knows. Don’t speak too soon, the wheel’s still in spin.

When I talk to people about this period, I often remark how we lived in a world without plans (though the return to Level 1 across the country has reproduced some kind of normality). The spectre of uncertainty has devoured the ideas of all those kiwis who planned to make an overseas trip, or start an OE or a business, or buy a house. An untold number of people don’t know when they’ll see loved ones again. Uncertainty isn’t a peculiarity of our current phase, but it seems more present to us because so much of our modern mode of living, things we took for granted, have been affected by the pandemic and the human response to it. In truth, we are constantly exposed to change, both in our natural environment, and in the behaviour of our fellow humans. The outlook for Thursday? Your guess is good as mine.

So what does archaeology tell us about uncertainty and how people responded to it? Much of the archaeological approach to uncertainty is related to the variability, both seasonal and year to year, of the environment and the resources we use and consume. The change of the seasons may be regular, but there can be great variability, and therefore, uncertainty in these seasons: really rotten weather, temperatures, winds, pests, and so forth, all affecting seasonal produce, and causing pressure from the hinter to the heartland. This variability is not solely environmental (if such a thing exists), but is also exacerbated by human activity like overharvesting, overstocking, habitat destruction etc. etc. etc. For a local example of seasonal variability, my bloody cauliflower hasn’t seen fit to sprout heads this year, so I’m going to have to look elsewhere for ingredients for my aloo gobi. Every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet.

cauliflower traitors

Traitors.

The environment – natural and cultural – offers us good years and bad years, or even less specifically, good times and bad times. Archaeologists generally lump cultural responses to food variability and scarcity into four categories: mobility (go somewhere else), diversification (eat a bunch of different stuff), storage (eat some stuff that you have now, later), and exchange (get some stuff to eat from somebody else; Halstead and O’Shea, 1989). Some of these approaches are better suited for dealing with different kinds of variability, and some strategies mesh better in combination: mobility and diversification work well together because food resources tend to be environmentally scattered, whereas mobility and storage are often considered non-complimentary because large surpluses have to be left behind if you’re moving elsewhere. Our modern global food system tends to be a combination of diversification, storage, and exchange, the latter two combining to mean that lots of seasonal produce is now available year-round. If you’ve ever done seasonal harvest work or fly-in fly-out work, mobility will be a familiar part of the economic system to you.

As a buffering strategy against uncertainty, storage effectively turns a seasonally available surplus of food into future food for less productive seasons and can see you through a bad harvest in the future. A cucumber might go off in a week or so, but you can move into a new flat and find a pickle jar from the 1980s still lurking in the back of the cupboard. I like to think of a refrigerator as a one-way, slow-moving time machine. Every time you put something in there, you’re sending it a short length of time into the future, though it does continue to age slightly slower on its journey. Storage of food is not a uniquely human behaviour, but we’ve certainly nailed the greatest diversity of techniques  – including drying, freezing, fermenting, etc. – and food stored or preserved in some way forms a major part of the human diet worldwide. The development of animal husbandry could also be seen as a way to store meat ‘on-the-hoof’. My homemade lockdown kimchi (yes, I’m a hipster) is part of the grand tradition that includes 2000 year old beef jerky and 9,200 year old fermented fish. Storage is often related to the conversion of a resource that occurs in substantial amounts over a relatively short period of time, so is associated with aggregate communities (often dispersed) coming together to harvest and prepare. In Aotearoa, Māori used and continue to use a range of techniques to store and preserve food, including smoking the huge numbers of tuna/eels that migrate out to sea each year, and the preservation of the annual tītī/mutton bird harvest in pōhā/bull kelp containers (Anderson 1997, 1998). A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but a bird in vacuum-seal might be a bit more expensive this year seeing the season was cut short.

eel poha

Preparing pōhā in 1910. Image: Basil Keane, ‘Te Māori i te ohanga – Māori in the economy – The Māori economy’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/25761/poha-containers (accessed 2 October 2020). Story by Basil Keane, published 11 Mar 2010

dry

Drying eels at Waihora/Lake Forsyth, Canterbury, 1948.
Image: John Wilson, ‘Society – Food, drink and dress’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/2542/drying-eels (accessed 2 October 2020). Story by John Wilson

bog butter

Bog butter, and its wooden container, from County Kildare, Ireland (National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology). This was butter was buried to preserve it almost 2,500 years ago, but evidently never retrieved. Image: Tristan Wadsworth.

Perhaps the most archaeologically visible form in storage in New Zealand archaeology is the kūmara storage pit. One of the most commonly recorded archaeological features from Horomaka/Banks Peninsula right up to the top of the country, these semi-subterranean pits are the remains of roofed storage facilities for kūmara and other crops. The cool, dry conditions allow the kūmara to keep for longer, both for food over winter, but also to ensure a supply of seed crops for the next year’s planting (Davidson et al. 2007).

Remains of kūmara  storage pits, Auckland. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

In 19th century Christchurch, preserved foods perhaps are over-represented in the archaeological record, as they tend to be associated with storage containers that survive through to the modern day, whereas fresh ingredients do not. So we often find vinegar bottles, branded and unbranded preserving and canning jars, and the classic stoneware ‘oyster jars’ for pickled oysters or fish and other food pastes.

‘Oyster jars’. Often used for storing pickled oysters. Image: Chelsea Dickson.

A typical wide-mouth pickle jar. Good for preserves of all sorts. Image: Clara Watson.

An Anchovy Paste jar found in Christchurch and accompanying recipe from 1904. Image: J. Garland, Otago Witness 17/08/1904: 67.

I also want to talk about one of the sites we’ve covered on the blog before: a bonded warehouse that is one of our largest and, to me, most interesting central city sites, and one of multiple bonded warehouses that existed in nineteenth century Christchurch. Jessie’s blog describes how the bonded warehouse was a building in which “goods could be stored and remain exempt from customs duties. They were usually used to store goods and bulk merchandise until they were distributed for retail, at which time those duties and taxes would have to be paid.” The rubbish pits from this site contained remarkably uniform deposits of numerous, identical, and still sealed alcohol bottles, interpreted as stock – full bottles – that had been destined for sale in Christchurch, but that never made it to market, and were instead discarded. Now I’m certainly no economist (Don’t want to be a richer man, and couldn’t tell you the difference between a $4b fiscal hole from an $11b one), but it seems to me that at least in part, the bonded warehouse represents an adaptation to the uncertainty of the international import market. Stock could remain in storage, exempt from customs tax, until such time as it was profitable to sell. However, the discarded stock we find at these sites shows us that trying to wait out the market uncertainty didn’t always result in a final positive outcome (Garland et al., 2014).

One of the rubbish pits found at a bonded warehous site, containing a large number of J & R Tennent sealed bottles. Image: J. Hughes.

A couple of the J & R Tennent sealed tops found in the rubbish pit shown above. The side of the seal reads: “Bottled by J & R Tennent” and (not pictured) “Betts & Co / Patent / Patent / Trade Mark / London.” Betts & Co were the original patentees and manufacturers of metal bottle capsules like these. They were founded in 1804, but weren’t established in London until 1840. The company continued to manufacture bottle capsules until the 1960s: these particular seals were probably made between 1860 and 1915 (Nayton 1991). Images:  J. Garland.

Straying a little further from physical archaeology, I wanted to touch briefly upon the notion of insurance as a modern approach to risk and uncertainty (though I’m not trying to sell you insurance). When we talk about exchange as a buffering strategy for resource variability, it’s not just the modern exchange of currency for goods, but more generally any way in which “present abundance is converted…via social transactions, into a future obligation in time of need.” (Halstead and O’Shea, 1989). This works a bit like storage, except the method of conversion is social rather than physical, and is based around the reciprocal nature of human relationships. Friends and families tend to take care of each other in turn during tough times, and there’s a sliding scale in terms of how formalised the nature of that reciprocity tends to be.

When conducting historical research for some of our sites, we regularly come across insurance claims, particularly reports of fire in local newspapers where the value the building and effects are explicitly listed (see The City Remains for the story of the destruction by fire of the Christchurch Librarian’s house in 1894 but also check out this blog post for a dodgy insurance claim and the mysterious Case of the Severed Hand in Taylor’s Mistake. Insurance companies can be seen as modern, communal but corporatised methods of ‘exchange’ – as buffering strategies against the uncertainty of events such as fires, unexpected death and injury, converting small surpluses in the present to future reciprocal aid. In 19th century Christchurch, those social supports were often associated with fraternal orders such as the Freemasons or Oddfellows, the latter of which’s support was largely aimed at the working class (but just men, because patriarchy).

I don’t know if all that helps with consideration of the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic world, but one of the takeaways for me is that buffering strategies are typically reliant on community action and existing relationships. Mass harvest and the preservation of resources requires community organisation, and exchange is based on the inherently reciprocal nature of human relationships, where we help out others in tough times, because we know they will do the same for us. In both cases, the products of communities are greater than the sum of their parts, and we’ll be together, yeah, together by design. Shoutout to my Ma and Pa for the venison, to my outlaws for the preserves, and to Kirsa and Lou and Hamish for the fruit and veg and homebrew that I consumed over lockdown. I’ll leave you with this. According to Dr. John Wikipedia the first company to offer life insurance was the ‘Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, founded in 1706 in London. In the ‘current times’ I wish all of you out there all the Perpetual Assurance, and Amicable Society you need.

Chur,

Tristan

Also, don’t hoard toilet paper.

References

Anderson, A. ‘Historical and archaeological aspects of muttonbirding in New Zealand.’ New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 6 (1997): 35–55.

Anderson, A., 1998. The welcome of strangers : an ethnohistory of southern Maori A.D. 1650-1850. Dunedin: Otago University Press.

Davidson, J.M., Leach, F., Burtenshaw, M. and Harris, G., 2007. Subterranean Storage Pits for Kūmara (Sweet Potato, Ipomoea Batatas L. Lam.): Ethnographic, Archaeological and Experimental Research in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology, 28 (2006), pp.5–49.

Garland, J., Carter, M., and R. Geary Nichol. 2014. The Terrace, Christchurch: report on archaeological investigations. Unpublished report for Hereford Holdings. NZHPT Authorities 2013/757eq & 2014/134eq.

Halstead, P. and J. O’Shea. 1989. ‘Introduction: cultural responses to risk and uncertainty’ in Halstead, P. and J. O’Shea. 1989. Bad Year Economics: Cultural Responses to Risk and Uncertainty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Trendafilov, A., Garland, J., Whybrew, C., Mearns, L., Lillo Bernabeu, M., Hennessey, M., and K. Webb. In prep. Christchurch Convention Centre Precinct. Final report on archaeological monitoring under HNZPT authority 2017/280eq.

Williams, H., Garland, J. and Geary Nichol, R., 2017. Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct Archaeological Report. Unpublished report for the Ministry of Justice.

Virtual Horizons: how heritage is communicated or forgotten

One of the most obvious, but frequently overlooked, facts of archaeological investigation is that it is often a destructive process, and one that consumes a non-renewable resource. The awareness of this is particularly acute within the field of buildings archaeology, for unlike subsurface archaeology where there remains the constant possibility of an archaeological feature being unearthed; it is clear there is a dwindling inventory of pre-1900 structures. The economic factors such as development that drives the heritage sector are legislated for and administered by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and private sector consultants, with the assessment of archaeological values largely determining how onerous the conditions for demolition and re-development will be. It is often tacitly understood that the commissioning of an archaeological report as a condition for an archaeological authority to demolish is sufficient mitigation for the irrevocable and destructive loss of New Zealand pre-1900 building stock. Whilst the rigor and detail of an archaeological report is essential, I would argue that the opportunity for providing the broader public with a more accessible and tangible way of engaging in New Zealand’s lost built environment has not yet been sufficiently met, with much of this information lost in the oblivion of ‘grey literature’. This situation is not helped by Heritage New Zealand’s practice of removing detailed information about listed buildings that have been demolished, further reducing the already scant amount of information about demolished heritage buildings available to the public.

In terms of visual representations one of the most common recording requirements is the production of two dimensional plans, sections, elevations, and other architectural details. Alongside photography this provides the primary visual record of a building. Advances in technology have reduced the time spent recording so that it is no longer necessary to record a building with a tape measure and graph paper as I was first taught, but the ways in which such information is shared and communicated still lag behind the building industry whose technical innovations are relied on so heavily by buildings archaeologists and heritage architects.

Example of Level 2 recorded elevation from a now demolished house in Christchurch. These kinds of images largely disappear after publication. Image: Michael Healey

Example of Level 2 recorded elevation from a now demolished house in Christchurch. These kinds of images largely disappear after publication. Image: Michael Healey

What I propose

 What I propose here is a publicly assessable 3D database of NZ heritage buildings. This would be a web-hosted platform where consultants would upload 3D data such as point clouds, photogrammetry, 2D elevations drawings – these could then be navigated zoomed and rotated, thus providing an accurate representation of our lost building stock for future generations.

What is photogrammetry and point cloud

 American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing states that photogrammetry is “the science and technology of  obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment through the process of recording, measuring and interpreting photographic images and patterns of electromagnetic radiant imagery and other phenomena” (aprs.org). A basic picture of a photogrammetry workflow would involve somebody with a camera or drone taking pictures of a building, importing the photo data into a computer program which would then process an exportable 3D model of the building that could then be hosted on-line. Point cloud is similar to photogrammetry and is usually captured with a 3D scanner. It provides a similar result but is generally a much faster recording process if somewhat more expensive due to the required equipment.

This is usually a three-step process that involves:

  • The creation of a complex 3D model (very processor intensive) where the photos are extracted, and a texture rich model is generated.

Photogrammetry virtual model heritage building, J. Ashford & Sons building in Birmingham. Image: Seeable.co.uk

  • The initially complex model is the reduced to simplified mesh that enables the efficient use within a 3D viewing environment.

Optimized mesh model J. Ashford & Sons building in Birmingham. Image: Seeable.co.uk

  • The photos are then texture mapped onto a 3D mesh model.

Texture mapped 3D model, J. Ashford and Sons building in Birmingham. Image: Seeable.co.uk

A video link of both photogrammetry and point cloud models is provided below and should provide some indication of the attractiveness and ease of use of such media for the end user

What is stopping this happening?

 Like most problems in professional life, they can be divided into two categories: technical and bureaucratic.

The technological problems are manifold, this first issue would be that of hosting. There are a variety subscription services (free to the end user) where 3D models can be hosted. But the optimal solution would be to have a New Zealand-based platform and preferably a government subsidised one. But stable long-term platforms such as sketchfab.com with over 3,000,000 users worldwide, is a viable alternative in lieu of a New Zealand-based site. One argument for democratising this process on an open platform is that it would enable the public to 3D print models of demolished heritage building and bring them back to life in a tangible way.

3D printed model produced from photogrammetry capture. Image: https://www.3dnatives.com/

The second technical issue is data security and avoiding obsolete formats, at the present time uncompressed TIFF is considered the gold standard for archiving digital photos and is all that would is required to reconstruct a 3D model in the case of data loss or eventual platform obsolescence.

The third issue is having personnel trained to capture adequate quality photography. A buildings archaeologist will often piggyback off architects and engineering consultants who will initially record a large site with a 3D scanner, sometimes with variable results. The below image is an ‘ortho-photo’ – a scale photographic elevation produced from point cloud data which can then be traced over in native CAD application to produce metric drawings. In this case several digital artefacts are reproduced in the image and will need to be corrected for by having recourse to photography.

Image of a 3D Point cloud ortho-photo prior to the production of CAD drawings. Image: modified Michael Healey

The cost of implementing this is quite affordable and would only require a digital SLR and several hundred dollars for an appropriate software option. The use of affordable drone technology paired with HD cameras makes such a workflow flow a cost-effective option over standard building recording techniques due to the reduced recording time, and had the added benefit that scale 2D elevations (a normal requirement of most building reports) can easily be extracted at a later time.

Example of measured elevation extracted as part of a 3D point cloud workflow from orthographic photo. Image: Michael Healey.

In fact, it has been proven that by using appropriate methods of image capturing and by using robust software, the high expense of 3D laser scanning can be completely replaced.

3D virtual model capture with the use of a drone. Image: project Hayastan in Armenia.

On the bureaucratic side of the equation there are two major problems. Firstly, there is the question of who would take responsibility for administering a visual database. In the case of sites of international significance web-hosting is often site-specific, but on the other end of the spectrum there is a push for a more democratic and crowd sourced photogrammetry, especially for museums and curated collections. This makes obvious sense for cultural institutions that lack financial and human resources for digitisation work, and there is no reason why this could not be scaled up to include large objects such as built structures. Such a strategy has been used successfully in digitally reconstructing lost artefacts and monuments that have been destroyed during recent middle east conflict, and the idea is clearly relevant to potential natural disasters. I would go as far as to suggest that Category 1 heritage listed buildings should be pre-emptively 3D scanned, a process that could piggyback off engineering and condition reports that would use the same data sets. It would seem to me that this would be better implemented at a regional level through local body council regulations as a best practice for significant buildings scheduled on district plans. Christchurch is the prime example, where this loss of place is felt most acutely in an urban environment. Unfortunately too few buildings were scanned prior to demolition following the 2011 earthquake, even so many of these point clouds that could be easily converted to 3D models in the public domain remain largely neglected, and provide a valuable if unrecognized resource for digital heritage projects

Assyrian lion 3D reconstruction. Image: sketchfab.com

But more broadly there needs to be a reassessment of how mitigation is understood for heritage management. The usual process when a developer attempts to demolish a heritage building is they have first proven that it is unfeasible to repair it for reuse or relocate it elsewhere, in which case assuming the assessment of values does not determine the building is of unique significance, it is then recorded prior to demolition. In the case of particularly significant buildings there is often additional monetary mitigation which might be, for example, directed to a local heritage fund. What I suggest is being lost in translation here is the understanding of mitigation relating to site specific intervention. The argument would go that if a structure is significant enough in terms archaeological values to warrant additional mitigation beyond the cost of commissioning a consultant’s report to the required standards, then these outputs should primarily be related to the production and preservation of site specific interpretations commensurate to the archaeological and historic heritage value of the building – 3D models are but one example of this. A non-virtual example of this often-missed opportunity is the too infrequent use of interpretative panelling, signage and other site-specific intervention that memorialize place. It should be noted that these two categories are not mutually exclusive, the overlapping of physical and virtual geographies is the next frontier in heritage management, with companies like http://www.virtimeplace.com/ producing apps that enable the viewer to walk through heritage sites and reconstruct a lost or degraded built environment based on an archaeologically accurate reconstruction. There is no reason why this technology could not be integrated with heritage signage and potentially broadened to incorporate other socially significant historical events where the connection between memory and the built environment has been disrupted. Overseas examples abound of the seamless integration of interpretive signage and multimedia that is incorporated into local body heritage planning policy, and should be understood as an aspect of forward looking and humane urban planning that takes some local responsibility for the inevitable consequences of development in New Zealand towns and cities.

Virtual image of a restored Mesquita de Cordoba taken from inside the building through the Virtimeplace.

What is being suggested here is really not that radical but requires a broadening of policy focus, one that takes further account of the stake the public has in its heritage. Such a shift would have the additional positive consequence of educating developers about the public interest in the management of heritage assets, one which is not merely a financial penalty, but a process of producing memory and cultural knowledge on a larger scale.

Michael Healey

It’s All Child’s Play

When I think of childhood in the 19th century, my mind goes back to visits to museums and heritage parks with rooms and displays set up to replicate key spaces in Victorian society: the household, the blacksmiths, the doctor’s office and the school. Visits to these places always instilled me with the opinion that the 19th century was not a good time to be a child.

This opinion had a multitude of influences. Tales of high child and infant mortality rates, with the impression of an accompanying belief that it was a waste of time to invest love and attention into children when they would most likely just die, coloured my perception of children’s home lives. If the child did survive, then they were most likely put to work as a chimney sweep or in a factory, where they would probably die because the industrial revolution was not known for its health and safety practices (at least not in the first part of the century). If they were lucky enough to go to school, then they probably got put in a corner with a dunce cap or were beaten with a cane. Various sayings like “spare the rod and spoil the child” and “children should be seen and not heard” enforced this opinion.

There is truth in this view. A quick search through the death notices in old newspapers, or a wander through an old cemetery, will very quickly show that many infants and children died at a young age. This is confirmed in infant mortality rate statistics, with the infant mortality rate fluctuating between 7.1% and 12.6% in the 19th century (in comparison the modern infant mortality rate is 0.4%). Tales of children working in factories will come up in almost any summary of the industrial revolution, as will stories of strict teachers in summaries on Victorian schools. But to say that life was completely awful for a Victorian child would be a mistake, and it is certainly not the impression given by the archaeological record here in Christchurch.

If I had to think of an artefact that encapsulated the worst aspects of Victorian childhood, then it would be this. This unassuming artefact is the stopper from an infant feeder bottle, later given the nickname “Murder Bottle”. This name comes from the design of the bottle, which was difficult to clean, resulting in a build-up of bacteria that was only made worse by household guru Mrs Beeton recommending they were only cleaned every two to three weeks. Funnily enough, the bottles stopped being popular near the end of the 19th century when the medical community condemned them. Image: C. Watson. 

Infant bottle feeders aside, most of the artefacts relating to children that we find in Christchurch can be divided into three categories: play, education, and foodways, with some overlapping between categories. But before we have a look at these, I first want to delve into what we specifically mean by childhood. On one hand, childhood is simply that fun period of your life with no responsibilities before you have to work, pay bills and worry about the inevitable collapse of society as a result of climate change – i.e. a developmental stage on the way to being an adult. On the other hand, childhood is a social construct, and different societies differentiate the differences between childhood and adulthood in different ways, and at different ages (this video here gives a quick summary of childhood as a social construct, but if you really love theory then check out this thesis here, which takes a very detailed look at the theory of childhood). Childhood itself is influenced by many factors, (the child’s biology, the environment they grow up in, the education they receive), with the overall view that these factors influence the type of adult they will become. In this way, the child can be seen as either a passive receptor (being influenced by the factors that contribute to their childhood), or an active agent, engaging in and influencing their childhood (Vlahos 2014).

One of the key aspects of childhood is play. Play is a culturally universal phenomenon, observed across all societies as a significant and distinctive activity (Vlahos 2014: 260). It’s also what we see most frequently in the archaeological record in Christchurch, when we’re looking at the archaeological evidence for the presence of children.

Dolls are probably the most common artefact relating to children that we find on archaeological sites here in Christchurch. This is probably related to the fact that most of the dolls we find in Christchurch are made from ceramic, which tends to preserve well. We generally find two types of dolls. The first are jointed dolls. These had a cloth body to which a porcelain head, arms and legs were attached, with the limbs and heads surviving. The second are Frozen Charlotte Dolls. These were small naked figurines, inspired by ballad Fair Charlotte which described the story of a young girl who froze to death in a sleigh on her way to a ball. Most of the dolls shown here are Frozen Charlottes or jointed doll parts, although there are two more decorative figurines. Also pictured down the bottom is my personal favourite, a jointed doll’s head with inlaid teeth. Image: C. Watson.

Also relatively common are marbles. We find a great variety of marbles, ranging from cheap clay “commies” to glazed bennington marbles to glass marbles with various swirls and patterns. Image: C. Watson.

The artefacts that inspired this blog post: miniatures. Most of these artefacts come from one assemblage, which was quite unique for both the quantity and variety of miniature vessels it contained. Prior to this I had never found a miniature ladle before! Image: C. Watson.

These artefacts tell us much more than just that there were children present at the sites – they tell us about childhood in the 19th century. All of these toys were likely made by adults, and probably chosen by adults for the respective children. As such, childhood is often heavily influenced by the adults surrounding a child.  Many of the toys were likely intended to be played with in a manner that would prepare the children for adulthood. Dolls and miniature tea and dinner sets would prepare girls for their future role as mothers and homemakers, and let them mimic activities that they saw their own mothers doing. Whilst there were a variety of different games to be played with marbles, most of them had the main objective of obtaining all the marbles. The intricacies of marble trading, with some worth more than others, prepared children for the capitalist society they were entering (Vlahos 2014).

The education factor of childhood is more explicit in other artefacts, often those also associated with food, such as plates and cans intended for use by children. And of course we also find artefacts specifically associated with education itself, such as writing slate and slate pencils.

Cans and plates intended for use by children were often printed with educational designs (along with other fun patterns). These could be an alphabet printed as part of the pattern, encouraging the child to learn to read. Or they could have a morality theme. The can on the bottom right depicts two men gardening, with a sailboat shown in the background. The pattern refers back to one of Dr Benjamin Franklin’s maxims, specifically his maxim “industry needs not wish, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting, there are no gains without pains, then help hands for I have no lands”. The illustration was taken from 24 scenes of town and country life illustrating Franklin’s “lessons for the young and the old, on industry, temperance, frugality &c” by Robert Drighton, published by Bowles and Carver, London in 1795 (Riley 1991: 270). These illustrations and maxims were probably familiar to children in the 19th century, and vessels decorated with them were intended to help with children’s moral education. Image: C. Watson.

And, of course, we find artefacts associated with education itself. The Victorian child’s schooling was slightly different to that of modern children- slate tablets rather than iPads! Also different was the inclusion of things beyond the three Rs, skills like needlework and woodwork were also taught to prepare children for adulthood. Image: C. Watson

How well the perception of childhood based on the archaeological record matches reality is something we can’t really tell from the archaeological record alone. If we view children simply as passive actors, then we can assume that if a girl was given a doll, then she played with it as if it was her own child, as was intended by the adult who gave it to her, and then she grew up to be a good mother. But if we view children as complex individuals and active agents, then the girl may have played with it as if it was her own child one day, but on another day sacrificed it in a witch’s spell make believe game, or given it to her brother to play with, or used it in any other type of play other than what was intended. Intended function versus actual function is a bugbear of archaeology – is the ceramic cup we found actually part of a tea set, or is it from the flour bin where it was used as a scoop? And, of course, while we’re talking about bugbears of archaeology, I can’t really assume that the toys we’ve found mean that there were children at the site (Mills 2010). They could represent mementos collected by adults to remind them of their own childhood. In the case of children, I think it’s safe to assume that whilst children may have played with toys as intended, they also likely used them imaginatively and played all sorts of games with them.

Unfortunately, I can’t go back and ask any of the children from my sites how they played with their toys. But what I can say is that play was likely an important part of childhood in 19th century Christchurch. A quick survey of the assemblages I’ve analysed over the past couple of years revealed that just over half of them contained artefacts relating to children, and that those which didn’t were generally small assemblages (2-20 artefacts) from sites that only had minimal excavation, indicating that artefacts relating to children are relatively common finds. Reading 19th century newspapers and manuals on the management of children (which didn’t make it into this blog after it somehow took a very theoretical turn) also frequently refer to play, and clearly indicate that it was an important part of childhood (Barrett 1883; Royal College of Physicians London 1889). And so my view that the 19th century was not a good time to be a child has changed. I have revised it to that the 19th century was an okay time to be a child, provided that you survived and weren’t employed as a chimney sweep.

I went into researching for this blog with the preconceived notion that I was going to be astounded by Victorian parenting advice. Instead, I found that most of what I read was relatively relatable. I thought this piece of advice on how to keep children occupied was a nice way to end the blog- I certainly remember whining to my mum as a child that I was bored and that there was nothing to do, but being all too happy to go off and play if I was made to bring the firewood in. Image: Daily Telegraph 04/04/1891: 2.   

Clara Watson

References

Barrett, H. 1883. The management of infancy and childhood, in health and disease. G. Routledge, London. Available: https://archive.org/details/b21931574

Riley, N. 1991. Gifts for Good Children: the history of children’s china, 1790-1890. Richard Dennis, Somerset.

Royal College of Physicians of London. 1889. Suggestions to mothers on the management of their children. Churchill, London. Available: https://archive.org/details/b2398434x

Mills, R. 2010. Miniatures in historical archaeology: Toys, trifles and trinkets re-examined. Unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History. Available: http://www.firesofprometheus.org/dissertation_1.pdf

Vlahos, M. 2014. Developing an Archaeology of Childhood Experiences in Australia 1788-1901. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Queensland, School of Social Science. Available: https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:344451

All Sherds are Equal

Modern archaeology, in New Zealand at least, is a democratic science. By this, I mean that as archaeologists we investigate and record ALL deposits, features, and artefacts we come across on sites. We don’t cherry pick our sites to only excavate those that represent the wealthy and elite of society (looking at you classical archaeologists *cough* Heinrich Schliemann *cough*). Instead, in Christchurch, we excavate sites where the working classes lived, along with those from the middle and upper classes.

This means we don’t privilege any people of the past, or at least not when we’re looking at artefacts (buildings are sometimes a different story). The archaeological deposits we find that relate to a butcher and his family who lived in a small four room cottage are equally as important as those we find that relate to an ex-mayor who lived in a large house. I personally think that this is important, as whilst we typically view our sites in an archaeological and academic context representing the history of New Zealand and Christchurch (and discuss them as such), they can also hold a personal connection for any descendants wanting to learn more about their ancestor’s lives (hot tip for anyone doing family research, archaeological reports are now available online from Heritage New Zealand if you know where an ancestor was living and want to see if any archaeology has been done at the site).

It also means we are able to do comparative research. How can we say (using the archaeological record) that a person was wealthy and that this is demonstrated in what they have thrown away, if we don’t have deposits from working-class sites to compare with? How can we know what items were typical for a period if we don’t have a representative sample from across society? From this viewpoint, everything is important. The rubbish pit containing unusual complete and near-complete vessels from a household clean-out event has as much information potential as the small pit with a few broken fragments of common items. Both can provide specific information on the occupants of the site and how they lived their lives, as well as being used to look more broadly at life in Christchurch through comparative studies.

This has been a very long introduction to basically say that today’s blog is show-casing some of the artefacts we’ve found over recent months. But unlike previous blogs, where we normally focus on complete or unusual objects, today I’m going to be sharing the small, broken fragments that we don’t normally talk that much about, because they’re just as important as the unusual artefacts.

Ooooh yeah, Asiatic Pheasants. We couldn’t do a blog talking about ceramic sherds and not include the Asiatic Pheasants pattern. We find this pattern on almost every archaeological site in Christchurch. It doesn’t matter who you were, what you did for a living, how much money you had, if you lived in Christchurch from the 1860s onwards then you probably owned Asiatic Pheasants patterned vessels. One of the best things about the pattern being so common is that it also doesn’t matter how small the fragment is, we can almost always identify the pattern. Image: C. Watson.

 

Fragments can also be frustrating though, in that you get a tiny glimpse into the pattern but it’s too small to work out what’s going on. Take this flow blue pattern for example. The figure in the centre of the sherd is clear. But is she facing another figure who’s much larger than her? Does that mean the central figure is a child and the larger figure is her mother? And why does the central figure not have legs? Is she a ghost? Has she come back to haunt the figure on the right? Have I been watching too many horror moves? So many questions, but unfortunately with such a small sherd we’ll probably never know what the pattern was. Image: C. Watson

 

Sometimes a fragment will have distinguishing elements (like a lot of the patterns pictured below), meaning that there’s something to start with when trying to identify the pattern. Others, like this one, I generally won’t even bother searching for. There were literally thousands of different patterns made by the Staffordshire potteries that had floral elements, meaning that unless you’re super familiar with a pattern (like Asiatic Pheasants), it’s near-impossible to identify a sherd that just has the edges of a flower on it. Image: C. Watson.

 

I think this sherd is made 100% better by the fact that the horse and rider are missing their heads *insert headless horseman pun here*. Image: C. Watson.

 

When it comes to random patterns on sherds then this is definitely the best. My favourite part is the smoking pipe the figure on the right is holding- that’s one long pipe stem. We weren’t able to identify the pattern, but I imagine that it’s probably based on an 18th or early 19th print that was adapted into a ceramic pattern by a Staffordshire pottery. Image: C. Watson.

 

Houses, but miniature, so they’re better. This is likely from the background of a romantic pattern. Image: C. Watson.

 

It’s very satisfying when you’re able to identify a pattern from only a small sherd. This plate is decorated with the Royal Exchange pattern and the central scene (which was missing) shows the third Royal Exchange building, opened in 1844 (Coysh and Henrywood 1982: 311). Image: C. Watson.

 

And what is perhaps even more satisfying than identifying the pattern from a small fragment, is identifying the manufacturer. All my time spent lurking in pottery groups on Facebook is paying off because when I saw these sherds my gut instinct was that this was Mason’s Ironstone with Imari pattern. A google search revealed a near-identical dinner set, with details like the small spines on the gilt spirals and slightly uneven painting of the flowers exactly the same as the fragments we found. The best part though was that the dinner set had the Mason’s Patent Ironstone China mark, making me pretty confident that my gut instinct was correct. Image: C. Watson.

 

And to end the blog, a scene from where we would all rather be: at home, lounging on the couch, patting a dog. Image: C. Watson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clara Watson

References

Coysh, A. W. and Henrywood, R. K., 1982. The Dictionary of Blue and White Printed Pottery 17801880, Volume I. Antique Collectors’ Club, Suffolk.