Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Alfred Schwartz Barnes and Technology

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

Page 110 from Barnes, 1939, in American Anthropologist with kind permission of Wiley-Blackwell

Page 110 from Barnes, 1939, in American Anthropologist with kind permission of Wiley-Blackwell

1950.6.20 Strike a light, 'modern' German. Owned by Barnes and donated by Knowles

1950.6.20 Strike a light, 'modern' German. Owned by Barnes and donated by Knowles

Unlike the other museum volunteers who contributed so much to the study of technology at the Pitt Rivers Museum (Knowles and Turner), Barnes did not write a paper for the Occasional Papers on Technology series. Instead his contribution is listed in the accession books of the period and in the fulsome praise of his collaborators, like Knowles, who said in his Stone-worker's progress:

'my debt to my old friend and collaborator Professor Alfred S. Barnes, .... [and his] unique teaching collection that he made for the Pitt Rivers Museum. In spite of age, failing health, and failing eyesight, he continued in his last year to give me his advice and assistance in the preparation of the earlier pages of Chapter VII, so as to ensure that the definitions and the notes on his specimens should be correctly worded. His work in the Pitt Rivers Museum will remain as a monument to his originality, his exactitude, and his enthusiasm. [Knowles, 1953: 15]

Barnes' life

Alfred Schwartz was born in 1868 in Sevenoaks but seems to have moved to Germany shortly afterwards. His father is described in his Who Was Who entry as 'John Schwartz of Sevenoaks' so he must have had English connections. Alfred left Germany during the First World War and came to England as a refugee. For obvious reasons, at that time he added a second surname of Barnes. He was educated in Eastbourne and at King's College, University of London. In 1902 he married Maria Alexandra Lavers-Smith of Ditton Hill, Surrey; they had two daughters.

By profession he was an electrical engineer. For five years he was the assistant to Professor Henry Robinson of Westminster, designing and erecting power stations for St Pancras in London among other places. From 1895 he was acting Head of Electrical Technology at Chelsea Polytechnic. In 1901 he was appointed Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering at the School of Technology, Manchester and in 1905 he was appointed Professor of Electrical Engineering at Manchester University. He published many books on his subject.

Towards the end of his life he lived in Farnborough, Kent and this seems to have been his residence when he donated artefacts to the Pitt Rivers Museum and when he worked on displays. He died in 1949.

His hobby

His principal hobby was archaeology, listed in his Who Was Who entry. Other members of this family seem also to have been interested in the subject. His elder brother Ernest Justus Schwartz's collection of shell beads was given to Ipswich Museum in 1932. [http://www.accessingvirtualegypt.ucl.ac.uk/museums/ipswich.php]

Barnes was very interested in the techniques of stone-working. He was also interested in the eolith debate, when scholars debated whether the so-called eoliths were manufactured or found objects. He carried out many experiments into stone tools and left stones used in his research to the Museum. Sadly he never published his research in detail but the further reading list below lists some of the relevant ones.

It is noteworthy that Barnes seems to have had a number of collaborators / fellow researchers including Francis Knowles, Samuel Hazzledine Warren, William Charles Brice, Armand Donald Lacaille, Leon Coutier and others.

Barnes work at the Pitt Rivers Museum

1. Teaching and Displays
Professor Barnes is never really 'introduced' in the Pitt River Museum's Annual Reports. The first references to him regard donations of artefacts (see below) but in the Annual Report for 1939-40 Penniman (who had just become Curator) wrote, 'Professor A.S. Barnes has supplied us with a considerable number of specimens to fill important gaps, and many well-executed drawings from his note-books of specimens which are unobtainable, and Mr. Hazzledine Warren has filled other large gaps'. This seems to be the first sign of a strong relationship which continued until Barnes' death in 1949.

In the Annual Report for 1940-41 there are a very large number of mentions of Barnes work. It may be that Barnes had moved from Farnborough to Oxford to escape some of the effects of the Second World War and was therefore able to attend the museum more frequently (but this is not based on any evidence, merely speculation). Here are the references from the 1940-1 Annual Report, it is clear that not only is Barnes helping the Museum by donating material, preparing displays but also teaching:

Thanks to the great industry and generosity of Sir Francis Knowles and Professor A.S. Barnes, and to the help of Mr. A.D. Lacaille and Mr. S. Hazzledine Warren during the past year, we have added greatly to our collections and ability to teach this subject. A main source of strength is in our comparative material from peoples who were in the Stone Age at the time of their discovery by Europeans, and in our series illustrating techniques of working. Against this richness must be set some poverty in European material, mainly Mesolithic and Upper Palaeolithic, a gap which the Musée de l’Homme of Paris has promised in part to fill. .... This room is now used for reception, so that we know first that all material unentered in Accessions Books will be in one place, and secondly that its possible moth, rust, worm, or other corruption will not infect the rest of the collections. It is a favourite room with our pupils for it is sunny, and they need not be too tidy. Here they make flint implements under the direction of Professor Barnes, try their hands at spinning or weaving, work out the scales of primitive musical instruments or listen to recordings of them, spread out big maps, or read. .... Another notable collection has been arranged and mainly given by Professor Barnes. In three large table cases he has displayed, with printed explanations, a series of natural fractures stimulating human workmanship in flint and other stone, together with a set of drawings mounted on glass to illustrate and explain the features of a number of human flaking techniques which are being placed beneath the drawings. A place has been fitted in Museum House where he makes plaster casts and cut-out cardboard drawings mounted at an angle fill serious gaps in our teaching apparatus, and made as they are by a master of scholarship and technique, show our pupils essential facts of workmanship in an admirable way. The Museum is fortunate to claim his interest and devotion. He has been a perfect factory of specimens and equipment. ... We have been indebted to Professor Barnes for practical demonstration and teaching the way to make flint implements, and for introducing some of our students to a study of the characteristics of such implements when treated by statistical methods. .... [Knowles] and Professor Barnes are preparing a paper on aboriginal Tasmanian industries.

In 1941-2 the Annual Report records that:

Extra lectures in the Curator’s course were given by Professor Barnes on the making of stone implements and the evolution of hand tools ...


donation of Professor Barnes’s small library of archaeological pamphlets on subjects usually difficult of access

In 1944-5 Barnes had obviously donated and worked on a display about 'Natural Fractures simulating Human Technique'. Another case showed 'modern attempts to reproduce ancient and primitive techniques by Glover, Flint Jack, Snare, Spalding, Edwards, Balfour, Barnes, Coutier, and Knowles'. [Annual Report 1945-6]

The Annual Report for the year Barnes died paid him an elegant compliment:

One of the pleasantest features of the appointment is that [Penniman] has spent a long time for several years in the Museum and has had teaching from Sir Francis Knowles, the late Professor Barnes, and Sir John Myres. Thus he has a combination of the Humanistic outlook together with the technical skill of Stone-Age peoples, a combination not so easy to find as it once was.

2. Donations

1935.50.17 Gunflint from Meusnes, France donated by Barnes

1935.50.17 Gunflint from Meusnes, France donated by Barnes

Barnes donated a total of 978 artefacts to the Museum. Many of these are either experimental specimens made by Barnes or items made Barnes specifically for displays at the Museum. Around 42 items in the Barnes collection are pictures or illustrations. At least 458 of the Barnes artefacts are specimens or artefacts made by himself. At least 500 of the artefacts were clearly intended by Barnes to show particular stone working techniques.

An example of the items specifically made by Barnes might be the following, taken from the accession book entries:

1937.20.1 Wooden model of a FRENCH gun-flint maker’s knapping hammer (from original in Ch. Scheichers collection).


1937.20.2 Very fine long, leaf-shaped blade made by himself from plate glass, flaked all over with a hammer of horn


1945.10.132 - Illustration mounted on tin with explanation displaying North Australian flaking technique. A selected stone held in both hands is the core. The core is given an inclined platform at its lower end and then struck downwards on the anvil stone to remove two adjacent flakes. A third blow is struck on the anvil to remove the ridged flake which is the tool required. From sketch by Baines, Geol. and Nat. His. Repertory no. 13 May 1866

The Geographical Card Catalogue at the Museum has a note:

Examples given by Barnes without provenance to illustrate technique, or made by him are assumed to be from his home in Kent. Others with provenance are under that provenance. Natural Fracture - Kent Farnborough Natural Fractures Besides those listed here, there are many selected from various regions, which can be looked up in the pages of the Accessions listed above [X 234 318-328, 578-580] Selected and presented by Professor A.S. Barnes

But Barnes also gave 'real' artefacts, for example, 1937.20.3 'Grattoir à museau’, with steep marginal flaking on a thin flake. From Solutréan layer, LAUGERIE HAUTE, DORDOGNE. (?early Madelainean)

He also donated stone tools he had obtained from other people like Harold M. Cooper from South Australia. Cooper was the Assistant Ethnologist at the South Australian Museum, Adelaide, Barnes also gave a copy of a letter from him to Cooper relating to specimens.

The Annual Reports of the Museum demonstrate the importance of the donations by Barnes in the eyes of Balfour and Penniman:

1934-5 Four flint flakes of Clactonian type with cone-bulbs, Twydale, Gillingham, Kent. Presented by A.S. Barnes

Implement (coup de poing) of Chellean type made by percussion with a boxwood hammer (modern). Presented by Professor A.S. Barnes.

1938-39 A collection of Eocene fractured flints, goniometer and other measuring tools from Professor A.S. Barnes.

1939-40 [loans] natural fractures simulating human work from Professor A.S. Barnes,

1942-3 'Of accessions in general there is space to mention only a few. Professor Barnes has continued to develop our series illustrating human stone-flaking techniques with a great many specimens'

A few years later in 1947-8, it was recorded that Barnes was still donating material:

In the meanwhile, however, among donations, Mr. H.V.V. Noone has greatly enriched our collection by a gift of French Upper Palaeolithic material collected by himself, and to this Professor Barnes has generously contributed. Some of the specimens have replaced those on show, and a special collection of burins arranged by Mr. Noone’s classification has been displayed in the Top Gallery.

This is 1948.2., a collection described in the accession books as:

Professor Barnes and Mr H.V.V. Noone - Specimens collected in the neighbourhood of Les Eyzies. The classification into periods is that supplied by H.V. Noone - Laugerie Haute, east end. Solutrean end-scraper
Added Accession Book Entry - Key to letters and numbers on implements LH - Laugerie Haute, Les Eyzies LHF = pieces found on surface of field in front LHW = Found at western end of shelter LHP = Given to H.V. Noone by M. Peyrony and similarly P.L.H. LH2 = Found at Eastern end of shelter LHCl - Found at main (Classique) excavation O.G d'Enfer = Oreille of Gorge d'Enfer, there are 6 gisements in G.'d'Enfer Fe. = La Ferrassie La M = La Madeleine S'oquette = Souquette = Upper Paleo (Aurig. and Magd. at Seageac) Abzac = One of Gorge d'Enfer sites

Barnes' stone tool publications

1926. A Misleading Exhibit
This is a letter from Barnes and James Reid Moir to the editor of Man criticising S. Hazzledine Warren's exhibition of 'a number of models of flint-making, in a further attempt to support his erroneous views on this question' at the Royal Anthropological Institute. Barnes and Moir believed that 'Mr Warren's models ... can only be treated as isolated examples, and not in any way representative of a class. [p. 78] In the present state of our knowledge it is not possible to discriminate between the special characters of certain flakes from the Sub-Crag horizon, the Cromer culture, and those of well-known palaeolithic deposits'. [p. 78] The authors conclude that it 'will be clear, then, that the claims made by Mr Warren, by means of these models, have no basis in fact; and because of this, and the suggestion (Man, 1926: 24) that duplicate sets of these models should eventually find their way into museums, where they would be consulted by those anxious to acquire an accurate knowledge of the fracture of flint and of early implemental forms, we wish to state, for the reasons given in this note, that the exhibit is misleading'. [p. 79]

Comment: In this publication Barnes demonstrates his concerns for the display of stone implement technology within Museums, something that would presumably feed into his later work at the Pitt Rivers Museum. James Reid Moir (1870-1944) was a tailor from Ipswich. He was interested in archaeology and was elected President of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia twice and to the Royal Society in 1937. He was a keen collector in the Suffolk brick-pits.

1939. The Differences between Natural and Human flaking on prehistoric flint collections
Barnes opens this article by pointing out that even bone does not survive as well as stone and that therefore stone tools might form the best evidence for the dating of the 'antiquity of man' and identify 'the rate at which human evolution has taken place and the stages through which it has passed'.[p. 99] He believed that evidence of the 'earliest tools of the Palaeolithic (Quaternary) men already exhibit complex forms points to the existence of men in late Tertiary times'. [p. 99] He briefly discusses the contributions made by Abbott, Prestwich and Blackmore, Rutot etc. He concludes that 'the belief that the tools of pre-Palaeolithic ma have been discovered in various parts of the globe is both widespread and old established. Barnes then sets out to consider the 'criterion by means of which we are enabled to distinguish between the works of man and that of nature'. [p.102] He considers the following factors: '(1) the natural forces which operate on flint (2) the characters displayed by natural fractures (3) the artificial application of natural forces in the laboratory (4) the characteristics displayed by human flaking'. [p. 102] Barnes obviously wished to identify criteria which would allow the 'human workmanship on flaked tools' [p. 109] to be clearly identified. He appears to identify this as the 'angle platform scar' [p110] described later as 'the dihedral angle formed by the intersection of the surface on which the blow has been struck or the pressure applied and the surface of the scar left by the flake removed'. [p. 112]

Comment: The eolith debate was very current for most of the first half of the Pitt Rivers Museum's history and is well represented in the Museum's collections (with at least 200 examples in the collections).

1947. The Production of Long Blades in Neolithic Times
The article summarises accounts of the methods used to make 'the long slender knife blades and the beautifully "fluted" cores of obsidian produced by the natives of Mexico' [p. 625] given by Torquemada (as quoted by W.H. Holmes) and Catlin (reported by Sellers). Barnes then refers to work by his fellow researcher Francis Knowles:

In a report to the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford (England), in 1942, Sir Francis Knowles pointed out the existence of cortical platforms and the fact that certain "fluted cores" had their platforms roughly flaked to afford a grip for the flaking tool. These included obsidian cores from Crete, Melos and Mexico, jasper cores from Flint Ridge, Ohio, and chert cores from Denmark, India, and Cape Flats, South Africa. [p.627]

It is not clear what sort of report it was that Knowles made.

Barnes concluded that the 'production of long straight blades demands a good deal more than the preparation of the striking platform of the core' and that 'the width of the piece cut off is governed by the disposition of the material in its vicinity'. [p. 628] He discusses the 'Pressigny technique' for obtaining long blades. In conclusion, Barnes wished 'to express his indebtedness for material and for facilities for research to the Curator of the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, to Mr A.D. Lacaille of the Prehistorical Department of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, London and to Sir Francis Knowles for valued aid and advice'. [p. 630]

Comment: This article reflects Barnes work at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

General Note: The Barnes papers and correspondence are held in the manuscript collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum under Francis Knowles' name. My thanks to Sarah Milliken who had noted some of the references given in Further Reading.

Knowles and Barnes

It is not known when Barnes and Francis Knowles met, but they definitely collaborated together in their flint flake research and worked together at the Pitt Rivers Museum. In 1937 they decided to write a short article together which was published in Antiquity.

The authors say in the opening section that they 'had long been interested in the technique of flint flaking' but they were moved to write the article because 'an essential feature of the knapping process has not been recorded'. In order to clear up these points, among others, Barnes and Knowles had visited the knapping workshop of gun-flint maker, Mr V.R. Edwards at Brandon and recorded their notes in the article. [Knowles and Barnes, 1937: 201] One of the illustrations on this page shows an item given to the Museum by Knowles after Barnes' death, but owned by him (presumably he had given or bequeathed it to Knowles).

In fact, it seems clear that Knowles must have acted as formal or informal executor for Barnes as many items loaned by Barnes before he died were donated via Knowles immediately after his death.

Further reading:

Who was Who entry for Barnes
Schwartz, A. [that is A.S. Barnes before he changed his name] 1914 'Some suggestions for organised research on flint implements' Prehistoric Society of East Anglia, Proceedings 1: 449-54
Barnes, A.S. and J. Reid Moir. 1926. 'No. 49: A misleading exhibit' Man, vol. 26 (April 1926) pp. 78-9
Barnes, A.S. 1932. 'Modes of prehension of some forms of Upper Palaeolithic implements'. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of East Anglia 7:43-56.
Barnes, A.S. and H.H. Kidder. 1936. 'Différentes techniques de débitage à La Ferrassie' Bulletin de la Sociétè Préhistorique Francoise 33: 288-92
Barnes, A.S. 1937. 'L’industrie des pierres à fusil par la méthode anglaise et son rapport avec le coup de burin tardenoisien'. Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française 34:328-335.
Barnes, A.S. and Francis H.S. Knowles. 1937. 'Manufacture of gun flints' American Antiquity 11: 201-7
Barnes, A.S. 1939. 'The difference between natural and human flaking in prehistoric flint implements' American Anthropologist 41: 99-112
Barnes, Alfred S. 1943 Letter to the Editor: High-Angle Edge Flaking of Flint' Nature 152 (23 October 1943) p. 477
Barnes, Alfred S. 1947a. The production of long blades in neolithic times' American Anthropologist vol. 49 no. 4 pp 625-630
Barnes, A.S. 1947b. 'The technique of blade production in Mesolithic and Neolithic times'. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 13:101-113.
Burchell, J.P.T. 1944 'Obituary: James Reid Moir 1879-1944' Man vol. 44 (Sept-Oct 1944) p. 125
Knowles, Francis and A.S. Barnes. 1937. 'Manufacture of Gun-flints', Notes and News, Antiquity XI no. 42: 201-7
Knowles, Francis. 1953. The Stone-Worker's Progress. Occasional Paper on Technology 6, Pitt Rivers Museum
Johnson, L. Lewis et al. 1978. 'A history of flint-knapping experimentation 1838-1976' Current Anthropology, vol. 19 no. 2 (June 1978) pp. 337-372

 Technologies & Materials