Cool Finds of the Month

During photography in the Stables library attic, we’re continuing to find a lot of interesting drawings, posters, and maps, some are archaeological, and others are a bit different. Here are a select few.

This cartoon was made by Denis Grant King During the 1939 excavation of the South East sector at Avebury. The cartoon has captions describing people and their day-to-day activities on the excavation site. It’s worth zooming in for details.

Denis Grant King Cartoon  of the 1939 Avebury excavation, accession number 20004595
Denis Grant King Cartoon of the 1939 Avebury excavation, accession number 20004595.

Stuart Piggott was well-known for doing quick sketches and cartoons when he had a free five minutes. We have many within our collection here at Avebury. This one below is my personal favourite – a strange creature sneaks into a room, with the caption “a regrettable error has unfortunately crept it”.

Cartoon by Stuart Piggott, Accession number 20004596. showing a  creature crawling through a partially open door. Captioned "a regrettable error has unfortunately crept in
Cartoon by Stuart Piggott, Accession number 20004596.

After the 1934 and 1935 West Kennet Avenue excavations archaeologist Denis Grant King drew up some of the flints found during the excavations. The flint drawings below show all the worked areas of the flints as well as cross sections of the flint. These drawings are a just few of the ones we have, they are all grouped together under Accession Number: 20004991.

The graph below, accessioned at 20000573-014-001 was also created by Denis Grant King. The graph shows the distance between the standing stones in the North West and South West sectors of Avebury.

bar graph showing the distance between standing tines in the north west and south west sectors of Avebury
Graph of stone distances created by Denis Grant King, 20000573-014-001.

Whilst we know little about the map below, we do know it was produced in 1935. The map itself shows the path of 32 different historical sea voyages dating between 600 BCE and 1906. It shows everything from Columbus’ voyages to Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River! It’s not clear why exactly it’s in the Keiller archive, but someone must’ve thought it was of interest at some point in time – perhaps it helps us think about Avebury in context of world history?

Map of the world with sailing journeys taken by famous adventurers and explorers shown
“The Great Discoveries” Map, accession number 20004686-001.

Cool Finds of the Month

*Content warning: drawings of a human skull at the end of the post*

Whilst organising the stables archive there have been some interesting discoveries, here are some of them:

These mounted pictures of dinosaurs were used as a museum display piece! From left to right we have a styracosaurus, an iguanodon, and a ceratosaurus.

Plan drawing of a road accident from 1940
Plan drawing of a road accident from 1940, AKM accession number: 20004634.

During World War 2 Alexander Keiller worked for the local police force. This meant he had to write reports for any incidents that occurred in the area. Here we have one of his plans for a report.

At Stables, we also have Alexander Keiller’s floor plans for his London residence at Charles Street. It is interesting to see how the house was laid out during his time there.


Below you can see a select few of Doris Chapman’s pencil drawings of some of the skulls from Alexander Keiller’s 1936 excavation at Lanhill. While not strictly an ‘Avebury paper’, they fall within the wider project’s remit to celebrate all the people who excavated Avebury, and allow more people to access Doris Chapman’s work and realise her contributions to archaeology.


Getting the Stables Archive Ready for Photography

Here in the archive, we are gearing up for round two of photography. We are moving the photography equipment to the stables archive where we have a lot of our larger maps and plans stored. But before we make the move we have to make sure everything is in order.

the two main plan chests in the stables archive
The two main plan chests in the stables archive

To make sure photography at stables goes as smoothly as possible we have been doing some important prep work. This includes rehousing documents so they all have their own individual wallet and accession number.

rehoused documents in a plan chest drawer
Rehoused documents in a plan chest drawer

This is a super important job as we need to know exactly what we have before photography starts so we can make sure nothing gets missed during the process and so that accession numbers don’t get muddled up!

We’ve also started a more detailed catalogue, as some items were catalogued as a bundle.

A person holding up a large map of Avebury
Volunteer JM holding up a map of Avebury. Accession number: 20004915

Here we have volunteer JM holding up one of the many large maps of Avebury that we have in the collection. The organisation of the stables archive has led to some other interesting finds, stay tuned for a future blog post on these!


Sorting Loose Prints

In the archive, we have several photo albums for the 1934 to 1939 excavations at Avebury. Each album shows us how Alexander Keiller and his team carefully excavated and lifted the stones in the outer circle and down West Kennet Avenue.

the photo shows four photos on a photo album page of workers lifting a stone
Page 70 in photo album B (78510301_070)

Alexander Keiller was very particular about which photo prints he used in the albums so we have a lot of loose spare prints that did not make the cut.

This means that we have to individually check each print to see if it is a duplicate or an original. To do this we have a quick and easy process.

First, we start by dividing the prints into piles. We separate the prints by their film reel number, which Alexander Keiller wrote in the bottom right corner of the print.

the photo shows 8 piles of loose black and white prints
Loose prints for photo album G sorted by film reel

Once sorted we search our excel catalogue to check if any of the prints are already in the album.

an excel spreadsheet with the find tool open
searching film numbers on the spreadsheet

Occasionally we will find that one of the loose prints is already in the album. In this case, we open the photo album to check if the image is the same in the print as it is in the album.

two identical prints of a standing stone
Loose print and Photo Album G (78510306)

Loose prints that are identical to the photo album are separated out from those that are not. This is because we only want to photograph prints that are not already in the albums.

Once a box is sorted into photos already in the album and those that are not it is put back on the shelf to be photographed later.


Cool Finds of the Month

We are now well into our second month of digitisation here at Avebury. So let’s look at some cool finds we’ve had this month.

black and white print of workers pumping water out of a trench
Workers pumping water out of a trench. Photo Album E, page 33, 78510304.

This photo found in photo album E shows workers pumping water out of a stone hole, presumably after heavy rainfall, to complete the stone’s excavation.

A sketch of skeletal remains found in a feature. includes a list of reference points
Sketch of skeletal remains in stone hole 31. Found in one of Stuart Piggott’s books, accession number 78510489_059.

This cool sketch was found in one of Stuart Piggott’s plotting books. It shows a detailed drawing of the burial in stone hole 31. Stone hole 31 is the feature that we saw Stuart excavating a pot in last time!

black and white photo of a lady on a ladder cleaning a standing stone
Photo of Doris Chapman cleaning a stone, accession number 78510304_052_b.

The above photo shows worker Doris Chapman up a ladder cleaning one of the excavated and lifted standing stones down West Kennet Avenue. It shows that Alexander Keiller and his team had a sharp eye for the fine details of the site.

black and white photo of four men in work clothes, the second man from the left is holding a cat in his arms
Photo by W E V Young, 1939, accession number 20004235_002.

These workers seem to have found a furry friend on the dig site! This moment was captured by W E V Young in 1939.


Coolest finds of the month

This month we had the first volunteers in the archive, here are some of the cool things they found in the photo albums photographed so far.

The photos above show workers setting up a pulley system to help lift one of the stones into place in the West Kennet Avenue excavations. This clearly shows that there was no such thing as health and safety back in the 1930s.

Workers on a break around a caravan
Workers on a break around a caravan, Album C, West Kennet Avenue excavations 1935, 78510302, Alexander Keiller Museum.

Not everything was all hard work on the Keiller excavations, workers had the chance to take breaks and relax in the summer sun. They even had a caravan!

A toy armadillo on a stone
A toy armadillo on a stone, Album A, Avenue excavations 1934, 78510300, Alexander Kellier Museum.

Keiller and his excavation team were known to hide a toy armadillo around the dig site. Here is one example we found this week.

Stuart Piggott working on some pottery in a feature
Stuart Piggott working on some pottery in a feature, from Photo Album B, West Kennet Avenue excavations 1934, accession number 78510301, Alexander Keiller Museum.

In the above photo, it looks like archaeologist Stuart Piggott is having an afternoon nap in a feature. However, upon further inspection, you can tell he is carefully removing soil from around the base of a fragile piece of pottery.


Photographic Equipment Has Arrived

Yesterday our equipment to create a digital photo archive arrived. Lensart has supplied us with the Book2net photographic studio. The setup has a 71-megapixel camera which allows us to take high-resolution images of the documents within our archive. The installation was completed by the lovely Martin French at Lensart.

Photo of equipment arriving
The equipment starts to arrive.

With the installation complete, Martin took time to train two of our team, Fran and Caitlin. He demonstrated how to adjust the camera to get optimal focus for a range of document types. He then showed us how to use the Tocosa software to capture our documents and how to adjust that software so that we can best present each individual piece of our archive. Almost every item is different and so requires slightly different photography.

Once we felt comfortable using the set up we started photographing one of the photo albums from Keillers 1934 excavation at West Kennet Avenue (78510300). This allowed us to get a better look at the 1934 dig team. for the first time, we were able to see the detail of workers’ faces within the image. We invited the team to view the work we had done. Members of the team were able to point out familiar faces within the 1934 excavation team

Thanks for reading, Caitlin 🙂

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