Last year we made our own Christmas cards. It took a bit of effort but we were pleased with the result. Phil had bought a collection of stone axes and included in the lot was a small bag of about 20 flint arrowheads, beautifully crafted by ancient ancestors. They are most probably North African in origin and date from 6,000-5,500 BC.
We moved some books at the weekend. I have particular affection for this grouping.
Well if you didn’t know, this is a blacksmiths swage block, used for forging metalwork. Now with its bamboo inserts, we are eagerly awaiting the first guests to arrive at the hotel.
Last summer the Antiques Roadshow came to Lowther Castle which is just up the road from us near Penrith. It was a glorious sunny day and we arrived early and prepared to queue. We brought a couple of ‘treasures’ with us which Phil bought in Hillary’s antique shop in Brampton a few years ago.
The first queue was for about an hour and got us to the reception stand where several experts ummmed and ahhhd about our objects and decided which specific expert we should be directed to. They didn’t really fit into a specific category so we queued for about another hour and a half to see Adam Schoon who was tasked with ‘miscellaneous’.
Our first object was a bronze pot which we believed to be from China and contained the original letter explaining it was a Christmas gift to a gentleman in 1938. Adam explained that this pot was a Chinese Hu and used for storing wine for the journey into the after-world. He estimated it to be a couple of thousand years old but not the finest example due to its rustic casting.
Our other piece was an Ethiopian Crucifix which has a bail so it could be worn during ceremonial occasions. He seemed quite excited by it and asked another expert who deals with icons and fine artwork for his opinion. After much discussion, they were not able to tell us much and said it was very difficult to date, although clearly ‘not made yesterday’. They suggested we take it to a dealer in London who deals in Icons.
That brought us to lunch time and we sat on the grass in the sunshine eating our picnic and looking out for Fiona Bruce when we spotted our neighbour Catherine. She remembers Lowther in its days as a stately home as her family farmed on the Lowther estate and she has happy memories of playing in the gardens as a child when the family wasn’t at home. Then the war came and the army comandeered it. The lawns and gardens were concreted over so that tanks could practice maneouvers. The house was given back after the war but fell into disrepair and is now derelict but work is underway to restore the gardens and lake.
Next Sunday’s (19th April) broadcast of Antiques Roadshow is from Lowther. See if you can spot us (Phil has his Indiana Jones hat on). You’ll need to expand the photo below.
When I posted The first in the “What the Dickens?” Series I was awaiting a reply to an email I had sent to The British Museum. The reply finally came yesterday. I sent pictures of several stone implements bought from a local auction and antique shop.
Nicholas Ashton Curator Palaeolithic Archaeology at the British museum replied as follows.
Most of the hand axes are made from quartzite, which is a metamorphosised sandstone. This is a material very commonly used throughout the Palaeolithic, particularly for hand axes, in areas where it is available. I think the two of the finer grained rocks in your latest email are probably Flint. See “The Old Curiosity Spot” for photos.
I think you mentioned that they were from sites in North Africa. The chronology of the North African Acheulian sites is still not well understood, although the earliest sites, such as Cassablanca in Morocco are probably almost a million years old. Hand axes such as yours are probably much later in date, although Handaxe is often a misleading indicator of age. Probably a good estimate would be somewhere between 600 and 300,000 years old.