The Ouse Washes Conference was a day of talks taking us through the archaeological history of the area. With expert speakers, who not only knew their subject but were able to convey it to us, a mixed audience of people interested in the area, but not necessarily skilled in subject of archaeology!
I enjoyed the slide shows that went with each talk, they were well chose and helped me understand how archaeology has explained the people and places that have developed in the area.
The drainage was of course important, but the well-known view of Vermuyden draining the Fens to make them useful is not the whole story. The historical use of water, through flooding and natural draining, was well-explained and interesting.
I’ve made many notes, for my own interest and to explain it to my children! But for this project, the most interesting parts were describing how shells were used for jewellery. particularly interesting as the discovery of shell necklaces were used to note that people must have travelled in that period, as shells like that were not found in that area. A mussel shell necklace was found inland, and a cockleshell necklace was found at Thorney, along with a limpet shell which must have come from somewhere like Hunstanton, a good distance away.
There was mention of Beavers trapped for their fur, and large birds being trapped using weaving cones. In the talk on Roman times, the speaker mentioned thatching, flooring, basketry and wickerwork, making use of the local materials.
The last speaker was a storyteller and read from a book called the Fenland Chronicle, by Sybil Marshall, which told the day to day stories of life. I think I need to find a copy of that book, as just what I heard had interesting snippets of information that I’d like to pursue – the food making, also candles.
My notes also have “rush lights” and “milk and cheese”, but I’ll have to wait for the film to come out to make sure I attribute it to the correct speaker!
It was a fantastic day, full of information, I scribbled away trying to note anything of use for this project, as well as general interest as it was just fascinating for me as I have lived here for some years, and grew up not far away, so these areas are very familiar to me and the development of their history is really interesting.