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TENANTS OF THE  LAND: Part 2

The following is Copyright © 2016 by Clayton Barker, all rights reserved. It was published on the editorial page of The Burford Times, Feb. 4th 2016, in Burford, Ontario, Canada.

 

 

The ‘close’ at Salisbury, England.

Photo by C. Barker, 2015

 

 As you may have guessed by the sub-title of this and last week’s column, I am trying to convey the idea that we are merely tenants of the land and that everything about this man-built world of ours and our present way of life is just temporary. This is my topic leading up to heritage week; however, this year’s government-designated topic for Heritage Day (February 15th) is “Canada’s Distinctive Destinations.” I’m sorry to say though I have been to the U.K. twice over the past 35 years and to many American destinations across the border, including Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas, I haven’t been outside of Ontario here in Canada at all – cor blimey! Seeing Canada sometime in the future will definitely go on my “bucket list.” However, for the time being I will return to my topic, which was partly inspired by my recent trip to the United Kingdom.

 

Salisbury Cathedral, England. Photo by C. Barker 2015.

 

 

My first British “distinctive destination,” when I visited the U.K. last autumn was Salisbury (Salz-bree), a medieval city of about 40,000 located about 130 kilometers’ south-west of London, in the County of Wiltshire (Stonehenge is within 13 km of Salisbury). It was on “day 2” of my journey, that I had the opportunity of attending a flint knapping workshop put on by CBA Wessex Archaeology and meeting British Archaeologist celebrity Phil Harding of the BBC TV series Time Team. I also met CBA Wessex Archaeology’s Senior Project Manager Andy Manning who was kind enough to let me stay at his place one night and he took me on a tour through the medieval streets of Salisbury. I was amazed to see nearly complete town blocks or “checkers” lined with original half-timbered buildings still in use, with some dating as far back as the 1200’s.

 

The old buildings line the medieval streets of Salisbury....

 

 

The Cathedral and its “close,” pictured here, are just some of the oodles of remnant architectural treasures in the U.K. that the people of ages past decided was important enough to keep. Other ancient landmarks or archaeological sites such as Stonehenge have become world famous national treasures. I’m sorry to say that though I was within only a few minutes’ drive of Stonehenge; I did not visit it because of time constraints – once again, another one for my “bucket list!”

 

Stonehenge is believed to have been constructed about 4000 or 5000 years ago, during the “New Stone Age” (Neolithic archaeological period classification of Europe) which is the equivalent of the Late Archaic archaeological period classification according to the classifications we use here in North America. Five thousand years ago, sounds quite ancient to us, and many Ontarians think this is far older than anything we could ever conjure up from our landscape over here – wrong. For instance, archaeological evidence shows that the first occupants of this region, in and around present day Brant County, may have lived here some 7,500 to 11,000 years ago, during North America’s Paleo-Indian or “Lithic” period, which was the time just after the last ice age. The evidence I am speaking of is also of stone, but unlike Stonehenge are only fragments or “flakes” that are the by-product of “knapping” rather than huge boulders placed into a circle.

 

 

This is actually a stone tool made of flint several thousand years ago (bayport chert). Photo by C. Barker, 2015.

 

“Flint knapping,” is the shaping of flint (what Ontario Archaeologists prefer to call chert), through the process of lithic reduction during the manufacture of stone tools and weapons, or the making of “gun flints” and squared flint blocks or building components in architecture. Because pieces of this type of rock (flint/chert) are not something that is found naturally scattered about, here in Southwestern Ontario, it is evidence that prehistoric people had been here.

 

Back in 1994, I was licenced by the Ministry of Culture (now called The Ontario Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport) to conduct archaeological surface studies in the Burford area. Around that time, I gave a presentation at a Burford Heritage and Tourism Committee meeting called “Making Silent Stones Talk” which gave a brief outline of my discoveries and also illustrated the difference between what is a common stone, a stone that shows diagnostic evidence of man’s having altered it, and a stone that not only shows signs of being altered by man, but was properly documented in its context. There is a significant difference between the three; with the latter being the best form, whereby the artifact’s location was properly recorded and mapped.  After watching Phil Harding “banging rocks together,” I now have a better appreciation for the huge amounts of scattered debris that can be produced from the manufacture of just one flint tool!

 

 

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Tenants of The Land, PART 1

 

Tenants of The Land Part 3