Back to the Future: The impact of science across Essex – The Science of Archaeology

Our next speaker introduction is Dr Zoe Outram, currently working as a science advisor for Historic England. She will be giving a talk on the science of archaeology as part of our conference.

Having been inspired by childhood trips to places like Avebury and West Kennet Long Barrow, Zoe has pursued a varied career centred around the archaeological sciences. She studied Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford, reassessed the Iron Age chronology of the Northern Isles of Scotland for her PHD and, in 2011, completed a post-doctoral project in archaeomagnetism. Her various job roles have included: providing specialist scientific dating services, studying Viking and Norse settlements in Shetland and the Faroe Islands, lecturing in Archaeological Sciences, working as an excavator, and carrying out specialist work in environmental archaeology, geoarchaeology, and forensic archaeology.

Some of the uses of science in archaeology include, but are not limited to:

  • Helping to find a site
  • Dating a site
  • Analysing the material to help understand the people and their lives

FINDING A SITE

Sketch from E. J. Rudsdale’s archaeological notebook; appears to have been compiled during the Summer Holidays of 1924 (D/DU 888/6)

Resistivity meters use electric currents to measure the resistance in the ground. This is particularly useful for finding walls or ditches.

Ground Penetrating Radar uses electromagnetic pulses to find objects underground; the electromagnetic waves reflect off the object and are picked up by a receiving antenna.

Magnetometers can be used to find archaeological features with a magnetic field, such as ditches with magnetic particles contained in the soil.

DATING A SITE

From ‘Illustrations for a History of Colchester’ –
an album of illustrations, sketches and notes compiled by William Wire c.1845-1850 (D/Y 37/1/6)

Dendrochronology can be used to date large wooden objects by measuring and studying the patterns caused by tree rings.

Carbon Dating can be used to date organic matter, using the decay rate of carbon-14 to measure how long ago the object was alive.

Thermoluminescence Datingcan be used on objects which contain crystals by measuring the stored energy from the decay of radioactive elements.

ANALYSING MATERIAL

Analysis of bones can reveal many things about the person they belonged to. Such as:

  • Gender (eg. gendered jaw differences),
  • Approximate age (eg. un-fused skull in a child),
  • If they had children (eg. pelvic scars).

Stable isotope analysis can also tell you what a person ate, which in turn can give an indication of where they have lived (eg. near the sea if they ate lots of fish) and of their social class. Social class can also be indicated by signs of undernourishment or work.

From ‘Illustrations for a History of Colchester’ –
an album of illustrations, sketches and notes compiled by William Wire c.1845-1850 (D/Y 37/1/6)

Feeling inspired by our amateur crash course in archaeological science? Imagine how amazing it would be to listen to an expert talk on the subject! If you don’t want to miss Zoe speaking at our conference, book now:
https://www.essexrecordoffice.co.uk/events/back-to-the-future-the-impact-of-science-across-essex/

Back to the Future: The impact of science across Essex – The Science and History of Cloth Manufacture

We have already introduced you to two of our speakers for jam packed day of talks on the 7th March, our next introduction is for John Miners.

John has many years experience in textiles, starting his career with Samuel Courtauld & Co. Ltd in Essex. He has been involved in the sourcing and supply of historic fabrics for many restoration projects both in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the USA. His background is technical, rather than design based, and he has knowledge of the production techniques used to produce textiles in past centuries, as well as studying the social history aspects involved in the manufacture of fabrics.

In January 2018 he was appointed as Director of the Warner Textile Archive Trading Company Ltd. This archive is a rich design resource documenting the successes and innovation of Warner & Sons from the late 1800s. Owned by the Braintree Museums Trust, this Collection, the second largest archive of publicly owned textiles in the UK, comprises stunning textiles and inspirational paper designs, as well as original printing blocks, photographs and other documentary material.

John will be talking about how the local textile industry moved from the home into factories, changing from wool to silk. He will look at how Samuel Courtauld & Co changed their production methods of silk yarn using various forms of power: from hand to donkey to water to steam, then exploring the move into the production of mourning crape using machinery built to their own designs in their own workshops. In addition the history of the company up until closure in 1982 will be examined, giving information about the changes in technology.

Hopefully you will be able to join us for this fascinating subject on the 7th March. To secure your ticket, visit our website
http://www.essexrecordoffice.co.uk/events/back-to-the-future-the-impact-of-science-across-essex/

We are only half way through our introductions, so keep an eye out here on our blog for more sneaky peeks at what our speakers will be talking about.

Back to the Future: The impact of science across Essex – Gas Manufacture and Water Purification

In our last blog post we introduced you to Dr David Crease, one of the speakers for our day long science conference on March 7th. Next up we would like to introduce you to Peter Wynn, who will be giving two talks: one about gas manufacture and one about water purification.

A view from ERO of the Gas Holders, photo courtesy of Walter Roberts

Peter is a retired senior lecturer of civil engineering at Anglia Ruskin University and a fellow of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management. He has long held an interest in gas manufacture in Essex, having discovered papers from 1947 relating to issues with the Chelmsford gas holder’s foundations.

Though the dangers of unsanitary water supply were proved by Dr John Snow in 1854, his findings were not widely believed until after his death when the bacteria causing cholera was isolated in the 1880s.

In 1895, when John Clough Thresh became the Medical Officer of Health for Essex, the purification of water for human consumption was still very much a challenge. Well beyond his retirement, Thresh continued to act as a consultant for Essex County Council until his death in 1932. His work to improve the water supply for his adoptive county was considered pioneering by both his peers and by more recent researchers alike. His influence extended well beyond Essex.

Commercial supply of gas in the UK began in the early 19th century, originally by way of small gas plants installed in the premises where the gas was to be used. Following the formation of the Chartered Gas Light and Coke Company in London in 1812, pioneers of public gas supply, many other companies were founded; including in Chelmsford in 1819.

Photo of coke lorries from the Spalding Collection

If we’ve managed to pique your interest, be sure to book your place at the conference now: http://www.essexrecordoffice.co.uk/events/back-to-the-future-the-impact-of-science-across-essex/

If you still aren’t quite convinced, keep an eye on our blog for more speaker introductions to entice you in!