Jet beads – YORYM : 2012.779.3.8
In October 2011 York Museums Trust received an exciting collection of Bronze Age objects excavated by a father and son in the pioneering days of post-war archaeology. David Lamplough, then a young boy, and his father William, a secondary school teacher and amateur archaeologist, carried out rescue excavations on Bronze Age barrows and occupation sites across North Yorkshire along with their friend John ‘Ronnie’ Lidster. There are several things about this unique collection that make it extremely interesting.
Lamplough artefacts in storage
So what’s in the collection? The bulk of the collection encompasses flint tools, reconstructed ceramic vessels and the cremated remains of individuals, but we also have a few, considerably less day-to-day objects. There are a series of worked bone artefacts, including a very rare scabbard hook and a fine pin. We also have a few fragmentary pieces of copper alloy that came from cremations as well as some jet beads.
Putting the objects in context
The accompanying paper archive is what give the objects their context and, as any archaeologist will tell you, context is the most important thing! William Lamplough’s records provide a crucial insight into archaeological practice in the 1950’s. As an amateur archaeologist he had no formal training, yet he meticulously recorded what he found at every site, seemingly adding to his archive and modifying it as more discoveries were made and new conclusions reached.
Along with these records is what might be described as a series of essays on the Bronze Age in Yorkshire and Britain in general. William writes extensively about subjects ranging from the palaeoenvironment (how the environment might have looked like in the past) to what the prehistoric cultures he was studying might have been like themselves. He quotes various contemporary scholars who were writing in the 1950s, but also draws on historical sources such as the Domesday Book and Gildas.
What’s next for the Lamplough collection?
The next logical step was to talk to the people who were around when all of this was happening, and to allow their experiences to contribute to our knowledge of this wonderful archive. David Lamplough agreed to being interviewed about his experiences of early archaeology. To me it seems that this will open up a whole conversation about the way that archaeology was practiced in the 1950s. Below is an introductory video from this interview, in which David introduces himself and gives us a bit of information about how he and his father found themselves digging on the moors.
Lamplough Collection Introduction from dtymt on Vimeo.
By blogging about this research, I am hoping to show just how organic a process this sort of endeavour is. Hopefully I will be able to delve deeper into the histories of the artefacts and perhaps into the way that David and his father (along with others who are mentioned in the archive) conducted archaeology in the 1950s, how they became interested in such an important subject, and how archaeology was perceived by the wider public before it became a formal science.
A bit about me
My name is Emily and, as a Masters student studying Digital Heritage at the University of York, I am primarily concerned with the dissemination of archaeological knowledge using digital media and other forms of narrative. I am currently on placement with York Museums Trust, working on this exciting project.