Friday, 20 October 2017

Text about 'Milling About' by Dr. Melanie Giles

Milling About by artist Laura Wilson explores Hull’s and the East Riding of Yorkshire’s history of growing grain and producing our for baking bread. Inspired by the archaeological collections in the Hull and East Riding Museum, Wilson worked with archaeologist Dr. Melanie Giles, University of Manchester, to explore the evolution of ancient grinding technologies and their a ect on the human body who describes the archaeological context here. 

‘The history of milling in the British Isles has a long heritage. From the earliest cultivation of cereal crops in the Neolithic to modern organic farming, the Yorkshire Wolds has been the scene of generations of farmers, using di erent types of quern stones, to mill their wheat, rye and barley, for daily bread. Whilst the technology has changed dramatically over six thousand years of our- making, the intimate knowledge of the soils, the crops that can be best grown, and the skill that goes into the making of our daily bread, links past to present in a powerful way. 

Quernstones tell the day-to-day story of food production. They are often made of a special stone brought into an area: gritty enough to grind grain, but not leave too much sand in the sandwich! Sometimes they are worked into engraved surfaces to help grind the our into a ner grade, and rarely, they are decorated. Some could be worked by grinding back-and-forth (the ‘saddle quern’), and others by turning with a handle (‘beehive’ and ‘rotary’ querns). Most are ceremonially broken and fragmented at the end of their life-use, and placed in special contexts: pits, ditch terminals and rarely, burials. They were bound into the life of a house, perhaps strongly associated with individuals, who had their own, distinctive way of working these stones, and they were clearly powerful symbols of fertility and well-being for those agricultural communities who thrived or starved, according to their harvests. It was only with the Romans that water - and later, wind power - could be used to ease the burden of toil this took on the body. This leaves traces that archaeologists can identify in the shoulders and musculature of prehistoric bodies.

From discussions with experts in ancient querns, archaeological botanists and experimental archaeological farms, to modern organic farming on the Wolds, Laura has produced a film inspired by the transition in the Iron Age to early Roman period (about 500 BC to 100 AD), from simple saddle quern to beehive and rotary quern. Drawing on her previous artworks on the making of bread, Laura brings to this project an understanding of the way in which the body, the quernstones and the grain, are fused in a dance-like, entrancing relationship of everyday labour’. 
Dr Melanie Giles, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Manchester and author of Archaeologists & the Dead: Mortuary Archaeology in Contemporary Society (Howard Williams and Melanie Giles - Oxford University Press) A forged glamour: landscape, identity and material culture in the Iron Age (Melanie Giles - Windgather Press)

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Thanks to all who came on Saturday for the opening of Milling About at the Hull and East Riding Museum in Hull.

Photos: (From top image down) Laura Wilson, Milling About, 2017. Installation view. Photo: David Chalmers; Curator Lara Goodband introducing the work. Photo: Nick Harrison; Laura Wilson and Dr. Melanie Giles, archaeologist. Photo Nick Harrison; Laura Wilson, Dr. Melanie Giles and John Cruse. Photo: Nick Harrison,