Viewsheds, Atlatls, Ai Wei Wei and the Lost 12th!

On the 15th of January we held our annual A.G.M. When the formal section was over we had 4 short talks. Our first talk was by Robert Smith a student doing a Masters degree at UCLAN who has benefited from the Ben Edwards fund which was set up by L.A.S. in memory of our founder Ben Edwards.
This talk was on the subject of Arran and Kintyre: a virtual analysis. He was investigating chambered tombs; stone circles and rock art to see if he could discern similarities or differences in location and what this may tell us. The most significant proportion of these monuments consist of chambered tombs and the rock art is the least extensive. Mr. Smith looked particularly at viewsheds at each location and one interesting point he noticed was that sites by the coast tend not to have their viewshed out to sea but that more inland sites did. Indeed the coastal locations often have their sightlines impeded by mountains and usually by one in particular; Goat Fell; which is the highest mountain on Arran. Did the builders do this deliberately? The landscape rises up and restricts the view. Most of these monuments lie in valley bottoms although there are a few sites on the peaks. It would seem that the by placing the monuments where they did that they were trying to achieve a particular natural configuration. Most of the rock art was confined to Kintyre.
Mr. Smith then contrasted his findings from his previous year’s work in North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist. There he investigated chambered cairns, passage graves and Clyde cairns. There he found that 83% had visibility of lochs, 100% visibility of shores and 74% of other chambered cairns. What was going on to account for these location preferences.  Mr. Smith is still analysing his work and when it is completed he will update us on his findings.
The next talk was given by Dr. Bill Shannon of our society; it dealt with experimental archaeology – his own!    Whilst in the Isle of Man on holiday last year he visited the Manx Museum and was inspired by a display he saw there. It was on flint tools from the Mesolithic period. He found some flint pebbles eroded from a cliff and he decided to crack them to see if they would contain usable flints. He made some microliths and then decided to make short spears or darts with a flint tip. To do this he had to make a glue from birch bark which he explained how he made it and then attached the flint point to the dart and also attached a goose feather for a flight. He was successful in his experiments and then went on to construct an atlatl which has the same characteristics as a ball thrower for dogs. He then used this to throw the darts.
The third talk was by Mrs. Margaret Edwards who incidentally is the widow of the founder of L.A.S, Ben Edwards. This talk was on the Special Chinese exhibition at the Whitworth Museum. This was a thought provoking talk on the meaning and use of ancient artefacts without archaeological provenance in an artistic display. It was constructed by the celebrated Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei. This piece was called ” Still Life” and consisted mainly of Stone age axes and  some loom weights. They were arranged in designs that created ripples and was three dimensional.
Our last talk was given by one of our members Derek Forrest on a topic he has been researching lately – the Home Guard -particularly in Leyland. His title was “The Lost 12th.” The 12th Battalion of the Lancashire Regiment of the Home Guard. It was created after the fall of France in 1940 and disbanded in 1944.They had various tasks such as climbing the roof of St. Andrew’s in Leyland mainly to watch for parachutists. They were also trained to go from roof to roof so had to be fit men; indeed 4o% were veterans of the 1st World War. They also had a bomb disposal squad though only one bomb was ever dropped on Leyland. They were initially poorly armed but later on were well armed with rifles and ammunition. He then mentioned the built heritage associated with the war namely pillboxes and our duty to maintain them This was another interesting and fascinating talk and concluded a very informative and enjoyable evening.

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