Day 4 @NeolithicHouses Chalk, Chalk and more Chalk #Neobuild

Well I must say today did actually feel like hard work. We need to crush chalk for the floors in two of the houses. I am excited to discover that not only does our Neolithic materials chalk sieve work but that modern equivalents have been abandoned in its favour and it is attracting a lot of attention. There’s been rain over night and today is a little cooler with a brief shower. Wet chalk is not fun, instantly we are a couple of inches taller and considerably heavier as the chalk sticks to our boots. So jolly sticky is it that it is difficult to lift our feet from the ground. We are using shovels that are, at their best and driest, heavy. Add to this what seems like several tons of soggy wet chalk and then the chalk that we are trying to shovel and you have something that even my arm muscles, hardened from hefting armour, find difficult – goodbye bingo wings. I have a sneaking suspicion that both Rosemary and Kath, in a similar age bracket to myself, are considerably fitter than I, or maybe it is just that they’ve been in the Neolithic era for longer. But chalk pound we must so it is a hard day at the chalk face. We commission a second sieve and Liz gets to work. Even our less expert sieve holds up for a whole day of basically having rock thrown at it. Together with Rosemary and Kath, I chalk crush all day, others joining us for shifts at various stages. This is such a rubbish job that we wonder if it would be reserved for lesser mortals in Neolithic society and if there was some kind of hierarchy – we guess yes, because those of religious significance would be at the top. Or maybe this was meted out as some form of punishment. A society that could construct Stonehenge must have had rules and by extension, transgressors.

26 April 2013 Chris and the chalk sieve mark 2 1

Chris demonstrates the perfected chalk riddling technique

We are joined by a film crew making clips for the English Heritage website and in theory u-tube. We debate how well it would go down if we adopted cave-man speak al la Armstrong and Miller. Pretty much everything in a wide range is getting covered with chalk dust, including the camera equipment. Our feet are filmed as we tamper away. This means we have to sign clearance forms as our feet may be ‘published’. Our chalky hands are not a good combination with the producer’s posh pen. Neolithic persons’ hands must be jolly dry if they ever did this amount of crushing, sieving and tamping.

Down in the compound, floors are going in and chalk-wash is being put on the walls. I’d still like red walls and there is no archaeological evidence at all for white but there is a theory that white held some religious significance – not too sure upon what this is based. We discuss how Neolithic paint brushes might be made – some kind of porcine bristles seems likely but we are less sure if they would be fixed into something or kept on the skin and maybe wound round their hands like some kind of early paint pad. There is a debate as to whether there should be some kind of fixative added to the chalk paint. Personally I’d vote for urine which pretty much seems to do anything but solution 1 is washing-up liquid. It won’t have escaped your notice that washing-up liquid is scarcely Neolithic so an alternative has to be found and tried. If you ever want to chalk wash your walls (and my advice is don’t) just add an egg.

All this chalk crushing has made me slightly hysterical and I make the mistake of challenging Chris to a wheelbarrow race up the hill from the houses to the chalk pile. I think I may have won but I did have a slight head start. In case you are wondering, we were pushing the wheelbarrows not holding people’s legs while they walked on their hands as we did at school sport’s days.

An eat in meal at the Harvester today, mainly so I can at last get an Internet fix. I have had to leave my adoring public with us in Rutland 3 days ago. Never fear dear reader you will catch up in the end!

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3 comments on “Day 4 @NeolithicHouses Chalk, Chalk and more Chalk #Neobuild

  1. Brian Hall says:

    If you are stuck walking through mud, try tying supermarket plastic bags over your feet. Nothing (including wet chalk) will stick to the plastic. I know that plastic bags are being phased out in most countries, but this IS recycling.

    We here in Oz are enjoying the blog.

  2. Caro - Claire Wiles says:

    I will be waiting with baited breath for the next installment to hear what the fixative will be and what you will come up with for the paint brushes!
    At least you are getting some internet access to keep us informed.

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