Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

Castle Wynd, Inverness, Inverness-shire, IV2 3EB

http://inverness.highland.museum/

This was a rather nice small museum and gallery, tucked in at the foot of the castle mound. It manages to fit the whole period from when the earth had just started to cool, through to the week before last into two floors, concentrating on the Highlands. There’s an inevitable Pictish/Celtic slant throughout illustrated with a few quality finds from each location, period and racial grouping of your choice. We spent a wet morning there and managed to identify the snake we’d seen a few days earlier.

Bone

Bone pins

Bone dice

Bone die from Urquhart Castle, possibly loaded.

Bone objects from Bernera

Viking sword charm or toy.
INVMG.1975.009

Bone objects from Bernera

Shoe toggle and comb plate

Ivory

Bonnie Prince Charlie dice box
This small copper alloy box with a miniature portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, painted in oils on a concealed ‘lid’ hidden beneath the outer kid of the box. It contains three ivory dice.
INVMG.1945.009

Horn

18th century powder horns

18th century powder horns
INVMG.1985.103.054/055-7

18th century powder horns

INVMG.1985.103.054/055-7

18th century powder horns

INVMG.1985.103.054/055-7

Horn cup 18-19th C

Horn cup with silver rim and mount, Robert Naughten (1786-1857)
INVG.1992.024

Leather

Leather shoe sole

Leather shoe sole and reproduction. Castle Street, Inverness
INVMG.1984.090

Book binding, first edition Gaelic Bible, Bishop William Bedell. Published 1690
First edition Gaelic Bible, 1690

First edition Gaelic Bible, 1690

First edition Gaelic Bible, 1690

Leather faced Tage

Tage, 18th century, leather on wood with iron nails.

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Dominos – A revised history

This one was submitted to the Editor General on 2 July, 2007 and was printed in the subsequent edition of The International Routier, back in it’s dead-treeware days. Vanity presses me to reproduce it here.


At the start of chapter 3 of the forthcoming second edition of the Routier Gaming Manual, I pontificate:

There are no references to dominos in western sources before the middle of the 18th century, when domino games appear to have been played in Italy and France. They are kept in this volume mainly so the Routiers have something to do with their dominoes.

And fair enough too, this is the view held by most serious scholars of the introduction of different games into Western Europe. Strutt (1801) says, “Domino… a very childish sport imported from France a few years back”. My innocent enough enquiry to the Mary Rose Trust in 1996 about the photo above, simply captioned Domino found on the Mary Rose, resulted in the photo being taken down from the site and a personal apology to me from one of the senior archaeologists.

Early 18th century bone domino found in The Solent, allegedly lost from a French prison hulk… or is it?
Photo from the Mary Rose Trust

I scored some really nice archaeological drawings of combs, arrow spacers and book covers for my efforts. In 2003, I also queried a domino on display in the Southampton Archaeological Museum labelled as 17th century, pointing out their own database showed it as probably 18th century. Here I must admit to being a serial offender. I do have a nice letter from Warwick Castle thanking me for the information I sent them challenging their dating of a leather jack on stylistic grounds.

Domino

The Southampton domino in question. It’s 14mm wide and 23mm long so almost exactly the same size as the Mary Rose find.

Photo (and attitude) by me.

There’s only one problem… I just got my copy of the Mary Rose personal effects book and now I have to rewrite the intro. They obviously prepared for people like me, the drawing of artefact 79A0665, Single Bone Domino, (complete, 25.8 x 13.3mm) comes with the accompanying text: “… was found in an insecure context on the Upper deck area… It is likely, given the provenance of the object, that the single Mary Rose domino post-dates the wreck.”

So, having safely covered themselves against future emails, they fire a full broadside. “However, dominos from such earlier contexts are attested, though rare. One such with a drilled number was found in Oxford and was thought to come from a context ‘no later than the sixteenth or early seventeenth-century’ (Henig, 1976, 218).” [Their emphasis]. They continue, “… The form of the Mary Rose domino closely resembles post-medieval examples from Plymoth (seventeenth century; Fairclough, 1976. 129 no. 39), Southampton (probably eighteenth century; Platt and Coleman-Smith 1975, fig. 249 no. 1950)… Not satisfied with that, they then drag out a textual reference relevant to date of the ship. “An early reference to a game called dominoes occurs during Henry VIII’s divorce proceedings against Queen Catherine of Aragon when he resumed his gaming habit, and in January 1530 he lost £450 at dominoes at Greenwich and Whitehall (Williams 1971, 122; Privy Papers and Expenses of Henry VIII).” [p140]

I’m gratified that at no other point in the book, do Gardiner and Allen go to such lengths to prove something which they say probably isn’t from the ship could have been if it really wanted to be.

References and Notes

Just in case you want to follow this further…

Before the Mast: Life and Death Aboard the Mary Rose – The Archaeology of the Mary Rose Volume 4,edited by Gardiner and Allen, The Mary Rose Trust Ltd, Portsmouth, 2005. ISBN 0-9544029-4-4

The Southampton Archaeological Museum is on line, the domino entry is at http://sccwww1.southampton.gov.uk/archaeology/view.asp?acc_num=A.2000.78.161

Henig, M. 1976. “The small finds”. I G. Lambrick & H Woods, Excavations on the second site of the Dominican Priory, Oxford, Oxeniensia 41, 213-22.

Faiclough, G.J. 1979. St Andrews Street 1976. Plymouth: Plymouth Museum Archaeological Series 2

Platt, C. 1975. Excavations in Medieval Southampton. Volume 2: The Finds, pp.274, fig. 249, cat.no.1950

Williams, N. 1971. Henry VIII and his Court. New York: Macmillan

Strutt, J. 1801. The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England. (On line at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/spe/index.htm)

St. Thomas guild – medieval woodworking, furniture and other crafts: The game of the Four Seasons: making 7-sided dice

St Thomas Guild has a nice write-up on making 13th century seven sided dice for use with a number of games the Book of Alfonso X the Wise. There method for making the spots is quite different from mine, but may work better for some of you. I may have to redo that post some time.

seven sided dice

St. Thomas guild – medieval woodworking, furniture and other crafts: The game of the Four Seasons: making 7-sided dice.

National Museum of Scotland – Bone, Horn and Antler Gallery

Finally. Here’s the long promised skeletal materials gallery from our NMS photos.  Leather finds photos are in another post, and I’ve already done the leatherworker’s toolkit elsewhere. Click on the photos in the gallery them to ennoble if you want a closer view.

The full set of photos contain lots of stone and metalworking as well.

Stone, bronze and iron age

Leatherworking finds
Burnt stones and flint, leatherworker’s rubbing bone fragments and pebbles. Family cist grave, Patrickholm, 2100BC-1750BC

Bone axe-headed pins
Bone axe-headed pins. Orkneys, AD0-600

Roman leather fragments, 100-175AD
Weaving comb and leather fragments. The triangular piece looks like it might have been from a tent. Newstead, 100-175AD

Shuttle and weaving tablets
Bone shuttles, Dun Scurrival and Elsay, horn(?) weaving tablets, Burrian, Jarlshof, Keill, Tain, Keiss 200BC-AD200

Bone dice
Bone dice, Newstead and Sty Wick Bay AD1-200

Weaving combs
Broxmouth, Burgar, Hillswick, Howmae, Newstead and Thrumster, 200BC-AD400

British Leatherworking Tools
Bone, metal and wooden British leatherworking tools. Awls from Ruberslaw, Burrian, Druimvargie Cave, Foshigarry, Knop of Howar, MacArthur Cave, Skara Brae, Torran Dubh, Buiston and Newstead. 8500BC-900AD
Needles from Hillhead, West Grange of Conon and Laws of Monifieth. 300BC-800AD.

Unfinished pieces of bone work
200BC-AD800

Antler comb making
Making antler combs 200BC-AD800

Comb blanks and flat plates
Comb blanks and flat plates 200BC-AD800

Bone pins
Bone pins, Kerrera, Buiston, Burrian, Jarlshof and North Uist, Covesea. AD500-1100

Bone pins
Bone pins, Skara Brae, Broxmouth, Jarlshof, Roughout.

Bone pins and gaming pieces
Bone pins, AD600-1000 Burrian, Foshigarry, Jarlshof

Bone combs and decorative work
Bone combs, pendants, handles and belt sliders, AD500-1100. H.KL3

Bronze needles and bone cases
Bone needle cases, Freswick and Vallay AD800-1100
Bronze needles and bodkins, Balevullin, Freswick, Newstead, Swandro and Traprain Law 200BC-AD1000
Bronze shears, Loch Erribol, AD1-200.

Pin beaters
Pin beaters used in weaving. A’Cheardach Mhor, Dunbar and Jarlshof. 200BC-AD400

Bone needles and bodkins
Bone needles and bodkins. A’Cheardach Mohr, Burrian, Foshigarrt, Freswick, Jarlshof, Keiss & Newstead. 200BC-AD1000

Game Piece, 8-9th century
I think this little fellow is walrus ivory, a game piece in the shape of a cowled figure from Mail in the Orkneys, AD750-800. He looks similar to the hooded figures shown on the Pictish standing stones of the period.

Pagan Viking grave, Orkney
Bone comb from a pagan male Viking grave from a Viking and native cemetery on Orkney. Eighth-ninth century. The museum shows the grave as excavated.

Bone tools
Bone Mattock, knife and tool handles. Foshigarry, Vallay, Burrian, Cairston and Stromness. 200BC-AD800

Medieval

Antler comb
Antler comb from a woman’s grave, Cnip, c. AD1000.

Bone needle case
Bone needle case with remains of metal needles. Woman’s grave, Cnip, c. AD1000.

Bonework debris
Bonework debris, Bac Mhic Connain, Borough of Biordsay, Foshigarry, Gurness, Jarlshof and Westray, 4000BC-AD1500

Isle of Lewis Chess pieces - Knight
Knight from the Isle of Lewis chess set. This one’s a token effort. I’ll cover all the pieces in another post as I’ve been chasing them around the various musea that have them. Walrus Ivory, found in Uig, Lewis in 1831. Other pieces are in the British Museum. H.NS19023, H.NS 25-9.

Leather belt pieces and bone awls
Leather belt pieces and bone awls with off-cuts from leatherworking, from Fast Castle, Berwickshire.

Early Modern

Powder horn, James Graham Earl of Montrose
Powder horn belonging to James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (25 October 1612 – 21 May 1650), his arms are engraved in the silver base plate.

National Museum of Scotland – Leather Gallery

There’s a proverbial cow somewhere that’s starting to look nervous…

I’ve finally finished the first cut of the NMS photos. Here for your edification and viewing pleasure is the first lot of leather photos. I’ll do the skeletal materials photos in another post, and I’ve already done the leatherworker’s toolkit elsewhere. Click on them to embiggen if you want a closer view.

The full set of photos contain lots of stone and metalworking as well, I’ll also get the textiles and paint photos up in the Fullness of Time™.

Stone, bronze and iron age

Roman leather fragments, 100-175AD
Weaving comb and leather fragments. The triangular piece looks like it might have been from a tent. Newstead, 100-175AD

Decorated Leather panel, Newstead

Embossed and decorated leather chamfron panel, Newstead. 75-100AD

Roman and Celtic leather shoes

The one-piece shoe on the left is from Newstead (2nd C), the wooden last from Buiston and the two piece shoe from Iona (both 6-8th C). This is one of the problems with the NMS, they group similar items together even though there may be several centuries apart and from different cultures and imply a relationship between the objects that doesn’t necessarily exist.

Roman leather shoes

Multi-part shoes, Newstead 2nd Century AD. There’s at least two and possibly three different styles of shoe here.

Roman leather shoes

Multi-part shoes, Newstead 2nd Century AD. There’s some unrelated leather working tools on the top shelf.

British Leatherworking Tools

British leatherworking tools. Knives from Cairnholly, Cleughhead, Luce Sands, Traprain Law and Camelon. 7500BC-900AD. At least the dates are fairly obvious on this set, even if it does cover nearly 8000 years. The shoe is from Newstead.

British Leatherworking Tools

British leatherworking tools. Awls from Ruberslaw, Burrian, Druimvargie Cave, Foshigarry, Knop of Howar, MacArthur Cave, Skara Brae, Torran Dubh, Buiston and Newstead. 8500BC-900AD
Needles from Hillhead, West Grange of Conon and Laws of Monifieth. 300BC-800AD.

Medieval

Leather shoes 13-14th C

Leather shoes from the lead mining site at Sillerholes, West Linton, Peeblesshire. 13th to 14th century.

Leather belt pieces and bone awls

Leather belt pieces and bone awls with off-cuts from leatherworking, from Fast Castle, Berwickshire.

Shoe soles

Leather shoe soles. The one on the right is a child’s size. 15-16th century.

Early Modern

Shoe sole detail, Tomb of Mary Queen of Scots

Shoe sole detail, Tomb of Mary Queen of Scots. 1606-12. The cut in the sole for hiding the welting [see comment below] sole stitches can be clearly seen.

Bombard, seventeenth century

Large bombard from the 17th century, four layers of leather in the handle, possible traces of red paint on the back edge. H.JS32.

I have some detail photos here.

Scottish Bollock Knives, 17th C

Scottish Bollock Knives, 17th C

L: With gilt and engraved decoration indicating it belonged to the Master of Home. H.1991.1865.1

R: with scabbard and gilt and decoration on the blade, dated 1617. Scottish, probably Edinburgh. H.LC. 111a and b.

Note the diamond cross-section. Most earlier daggers of this type have triangular cross-section blades.

Preparing bone for working

It’s probably time I wrote about something other than leather. We had a huge bag of bones in the freezer and some spare time over the weekend, so I’ll talk about preparing bone.

There are as many different opinions on the best way to prepare bone as there are bone workers. A couple whose opinion I value strongly state that it is simply impossible to use bone from roasted meat because the resulting bone is too brittle. Others equally emphatically insist that raw bone is the only way to go. I beg to differ. I find that as long as you don’t use the exposed ends, bones from your Sunday roast work fine.

There’s lots of ways of cleaning bone. Medical specimens can be cleaned using beetles, or if you have lots of space and a strong stomach, using anaerobic bacteria in a sealed water bath.

I’m not going to make any claims to accuracy in this technique. I haven’t done enough research to know exactly what was done, I’m drawing this from what I was taught years ago by a metalworker who prepared bones for knife handles, and my experience since.

I’ll make the big assumption that historically, meat wasn’t filleted before use and the bones were cooked. A quick look at the cooking techniques of your chosen period would indicate whether boiling, roasting or other methods were more common. Try to stick to this method of cooking for bonus authenticity points.

If you are using whole bones, cut one end off to expose the marrow before boiling, otherwise it will go off during the subsequent steps and when you get around to cutting the bone to work on, the ensuing explosion isn’t very pleasant. Collect  a sufficient quantity of bones, throw them in a pot with copious quantities of water and boil until all the scraps of meat, fat, cartilage and tendon can easily be scraped away. A metal skewer can help loosen the marrow so all that you are left with is a pile of cleanish bones and a damn fine broth.

Once clean, I let sunlight, rain and ants do the final clean. If there’s a problem with dogs or native animals running off with your freshly cleaned bones, make a wire cage to hold them together. Exposure for 2-3 months seems to work for me.

6-9th century leather worker’s toolkit

I’m about half way through the photos from the National Museum of Scotland, it takes a while to sort 800-odd pictures. I couldn’t resist the temptation to share this one. It’s a leather worker’s toolkit, dated from between AD550 and 850 from Evie, Orkney.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

The box is made from a single piece of timber, hollowed out so there’s no joint in the base for the heavy tools to push out. Some of the tinder boxes from the Mary Rose (82A0070, 81A1718, 81A3874 and 81A 5922) are done the same way, although in the latter case to keep moisture out of the tinder.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

Carving on the back of the tool box.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

Tool handles. The metal blades have obviously corroded, but many can be inferred from the handle shapes.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD
Bone leather punches.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

Pumice, antler and leather thong. I wonder if the antler is an edge slicker?

The original can be seen in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.