26th February 1945

Fine day, warm, brilliant sunshine.  Alas, lacked the energy to rush for the early train to Cambridge, so caught 11.10.  To Museum, and found the Essex County Standard had arrived.  A paragraph describes how young Thorpe, son of the butcher at Langham, who is now in Germany, found a pig in a German dug-out in Holland, and killed it expertly for his mess.  Odd to think that I saw him in 1940 when he came over to Sherbourne Mill with the meat-van, full of excitement because a bomb had fallen in their yard at Langham.  He was then 14 or 15.

Cambridge at one o’clock, had a sandwich, and went to the Fitzwilliam for an hour.  Then to the lecture rooms in Mill Lane to hear Armstrong address the Cambs: Antiquarian Society on his discovery of the “goddess” at Grimes Graves in 1939.  It was the most remarkable archaeological lecture I have ever attended.  The brief facts are these: - it had been decided to open one of the pits so as to expose half the section of the filling, so that persons descending by a ladder would be able to see the stages by which the pit was filled.  This was done, but unfortunately, as soon as the job was finished, there was a heavy shower which caused the entire section to collapse.  Nothing daunted, Armstrong at once began on another pit, reaching the bottom of which he observed the usual layers not filled in so tightly as usual.  Pulling out some of the blocks of flint and chalk, he flashed in a light, and there, sitting on a ledge, was the little obese “goddess”, sitting quietly in the black silence where she had sat for 10,000, maybe 20,000 years.  When the slide of the “goddess” came up on the screen, the audience burst into applause.

Further digging, under great difficulties, revealed an altar of flint blocks, on top of which were broken antler-picks and some burnt substance.  Nearby was a huge chalk penis, pointing towards the “Goddess”, with a line of quartz pebbles, representing the semen, leading to her on her ledge.  Armstrong’s theory is that this pit proved unproductive, as the floor-stone was not of the right quality.  Before beginning another pit, where they hoped for better luck, the miners had gone through the ceremony of “fertilising” their little goddess, in the hope of “breeding good stone elsewhere”.  In the discussion after the paper, one speaker mentioned that in India similar belief in the breeding power of stones and the existence of male and female stones exists until this day.

Another speaker, discussing why Grimes Graves pits were every dug with such labour, when the floor-stone out-crops in the little valley a few hundred yards away, suggested that as this valley was obviously of glacial origin perhaps the pits were actually pre-Ice Age!

The “goddess”, penis and other relics were shown on the table.  Old Dr Margaret Murray was there.  Spoke to her, and reminded her of our talks about the Easthorpe “shiela-na-gig” many years ago.

Had tea, and went round to see Lambeth at the Folk Museum, where he offered me a bed for the night.  Showed me a complete bowl of dark grey ware, with wide mouth, rolled rim, plain moulding and slight cordon at foot, found at Priory Farm, Swaffham Prior, about 1942.  It was discovered by a Land Girl, Miss King, when tractor ploughing.  Several others were found at the same time, but were broken by the plough.  All were cinerary urns – this one has never yet been emptied.  Miss King took the urn to the Archaeology Museum, but Miss O’Reilly refused to see her or to accept the urn as a gift, so the girl took it to Lambeth’s place and left it, not wanting to carry it all the way back to Swaffham.  Lambeth promises to see if he can get it as a gift for us.  A most interesting find, and the nearest Romano British urnfield that is recorded near to the Fens.

Spent the evening talking museum-world scandal, had one of Mrs. Lambeth’s delightful vegetarian meals, and so to bed, hopeful that this is not to be a night when one of the occasional ‘divers’ or rockets reaches the Cambridge district.

Lovely moon tonight, the town looking exceptionally grand.

No comments: