Ashmolean Pitt-Rivers to John Evans 1874-1880

Part of the Ashmolean Museum (Dept of Antiquities) manuscript collections.

Sir John Evans archive, JE/B/2/31 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

The letters were not numbered at the time of transcription, they have been placed into date order (with one uncertainty about a letter dated September 1877 but without a specific day). We are most grateful to Alison Roberts for her help in producing these transcriptions and also to the Ashmolean Museum for allowing us to include them on this website. Please note that they form part of a much larger John Evans series of correspondence held by the Ashmolean Museum, see here for much more detail about him and his collections. See also here [A2A] for a list of the correspondents with John Evans, including Lane Fox, held at the Ashmolean Museum.

If you want to consult the original documents please contact the Department of Antiquities at Tel: +44 (0)1865 278020 Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

john evansWA2009.44 John Collier, 'Sir John Evans' © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

A. Petch

Not in Ash.Mus. [in pencil in a different hand]

Guildford July 7th 74

My dear Evans

If I sent you another copy of my catalogue, would you mind sending it to the editor of the Athenaeum.  My reason for asking is that they have put such a high price on it as to prevent its selling, and as there is no publisher I have no means of making it known. the collection as I have arranged it is so little useful without the catalogue that I am afraid all the time I have devoted to it will be thrown away.  The book is as you see something between a catalogue and a book and tho I dare say it has a fair proportion of mistakes in it owing to the hurried way in which it has been finished off so as to be in time for the opening, it has taken a good deal of time.  The South Kensington people usually have to pay the writers of their catalogues but I wrote this for nothing in the hope that by reducing the cost it might be sold cheaply for the use of the East End people.  I find however now that it is finished that the printing and authorship are defrayed out of different funds so that the saving effected by this means goes to the museum which was not at all what I intended.

Yrs [illegible]

A Lane Fox.

Mr. Boyd Dawkins has found some remains of ancient copper workings at Alderley in Cheshire which I hope will turn out important. The hammers are of the usual copper mine types.

[Drawing] Not in Ash.Mus [in pencil in a different hand, probably 1884.127.12 in PRM]

Lubbock has kindly offered to send the catalogue to the editor of Nature.


Information [in pencil]


June 17th 75

My dear Evans,

Thanks for the cheque for 5£ received. the shaft extends for 6 feet below the bottom of the ditch & branches out with galleries.


We have no evidence as yet to pin the date of the camp.  no pottery is found in the silting of the ditch fill 2 feet from the surface then a kind of ill made pottery is found for about a foot and a half and again bone is found in the lower ½ feet but the only evidence we have got as yet consists in the finding of a quantity of flakes & chips 160 in all.  all together in the space of about a square foot or 1 foot in height by 2 in length at about 2 to 3 feet from the surface in a seam concave (anticlinal) seam of the silting of the ditch.


the position and number of these seems almost to prove that they were flaked in the ditch after it had silted up for 2 feet or so. No implements or flakes have been found as yet in the shaft or galleries but several brow tynes of red deer. [drawing] and the marks of them on the chalk blocks taken out of the galleries from a position in which they could not have been touched by our picks.

in great haste

yrs [illegible]

A Lane Fox


Information [in pencil]


March 17 76

My dear Evans

I am glad you liked your bone. [Added in pencil, Not identified] I wish we had thought of the Blackmore Museum before as I am afraid that there was little left that was worth their acceptance.

With respect to the symbols I think there are some good suggestions in Mr Joass letter I thought well over the possibility of distinguishing British from Roman Camps at the time your paper was read but gave up the idea as impracticable.

Of course British camps are no more circular than they are square.  their peculiarity consists in their ramparts following the tactical line of defence of the hill which is usually disregarded in Roman camps.  You or I or Mr. Joass would no doubt distinguish them easily.  But I am certain that nine out of ten archaeologists would not.  Take for example Hollingbury near Brighton which is usually marked on maps square and has consequently been attributed to the Romans by some but it is no more square nor Roman than I am.  The shape of the hill gives it something of a rectangular form.

A symbol for a line of entrenchment cutting off a bluff of a hill or head of a river might perhaps be of use but even in this case I know Camps that might easily be mistaken for such of course the more detailed the symbols the greater the chance of having them misapplied.

The circle I understood was excluded for being too much like ordinary map marks.  The break in the circle would be a distinction if you could always be sure its being well printed.

As to the symbols marking the class of objects found, it appears to me that they are less liable to be wrongly placed.  Objects like urns[?][illegible] being definite & acount [illegible] it is merely a function of the advisability of multiplying the number of symbols.

Yours very truly

A Lane Fox


1927.?3762 ?6033 [by different hand, matching to Ashmolean object]


June 21st 1876

My dear Evans,

We had two good days digging today & yesterday but it was rather hot.  We found the bottom of the ditch at 7 feet below the present silting.


We found an old line of surface at 3 feet above below the present bottom & upon this there was a quantity of fragments of Romano British pottery & two roman handles of jugs but not a fragment of pottery as yet below the 3 foot line My impression is that this 3 foot line marks the period of Roman occupation and that all below that line is of the period British period the part above the 3 foot line consisted of mould & below it of chalk rubble.  Not a fragment of pottery as yet in the rampart altho we have excavated it as deep as the original surface.  Tomorrow we shall excavate below the 3 foot line in hope of finding a fragment of pottery perhaps British.  Only a few flakes [in pencil added 1927.?6033q, ?3762] in the ditch & surface not more than 5 or 6.


A Lane Fox


28 6 76drawing1Drawing in letter dated 28.6.1876 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Information [in pencil]

Guildford June 28th/ 76

My dear Evans

I enclose you a drawing of the gold coin found on the cliff between the Camp & Seaford.  Lincoln tells me it is a common type.  I promised to send the owner the value of it which Lincoln says is about 21s?

I account for the very marked way in which the Roman line is defined in the silting of the ditch by supposing that the Britons, as long as the camp was in use, kept the ditch open as a defence, by throwing up the chalk rubble which fell into the ditch again upon the rampart. by this means [illegible] and by constant use the grass was prevented from growing. then came the Romans when the defences were abandoned, and the rubble which was fell into the ditch was not taken out. The narrow part of the ditch filled up quickly & remained so, & at last the grass began to grow.  Then the work was occupied by the Romans, but only for convenience, as an old site, not as a fortified place, for the Roman line is clearly a line of silting.


all the Roman pottery was found between 2”6 & 3 feet from the top, that is to say in the last 6 inches, & chiefly in the last 4 inches of the 3 feet of mould which overlies the chalk rubble, and this was the same all through the 20 feet of the ditch which was excavated.

Moreover the 3 feet of mould in the ditch was continuous with the mould on the Rampart, the thickness of which was, 6 inches on the crest of the rampart, 1”10 on the exterior slope and 1”10 at the foot of the interior slope, thus.


I assume from this that the whole of the 3 feet of mould in the ditch above the Roman line was due to the decay of the grass combined with silting upon the grass during the last 17 or 1800 years.  It accords well [illegible] with what we found at Cissbury except there the Roman line was more clearly defined as the line separating the chalk rubble from the mould & also the ditch at Seaford being narrower & deeper, filled up more quickly & deeper with chalk rubble before the grass began to grow.  On the whole I am convinced that the silting of Rampart ditches when we come to know more about it will afford very reliable data by which to estimate the date antiquity of the objects found in it.

Yrs very truly

A Lane Fox

28 6 76drawing2Second drawing in letter dated 28 June 1876 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford


15 7 76drawing1Drawings in letter dated 15 July 1876 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Information [added in pencil]

PS All right about the 5 [symbol like + over a minus sign]  let it be as you wish with thanks


July 15 ?1876 [added in pencil]

My dear Evans

Thanks for your note.  It is then as I expected from the apparently bare metal & its [illegible ?th...] alate British coin.  I found another in a later pit which tho less distinct has apparently the same obverse & they have been found [?joined] to others & cut asunder a piece of its metal [illegible several words] thus [drawing]

The Evidence goes on to favour the camp being yet [?] date of the Roman [illegible] Roman occupation [illegible several words] the implements [illegible] of late Celtic type. No Samian as I said has been found in any of the pits in Caburn or anything absolutely Roman except a small piece of tile in the top of one of the pits & oysters  but in the adjoining camp which I call Ranscombe which I have now cut a section through samian ware has been found in sufficient quantities distributed all along the foot of the interior slope the pottery associated with this samian is not ornamented like a good deal of that in Caburn but quite plain.  The Ranscombe camp faces Caburn as you know within 300 yards & it really seems as if it must have been occupied by the Romans during an assault upon the Britons in Caburn. 

What could have brought the Romans up [illegible] a position so remote from water & so different from any site they ever selected for encampment except war & if war this was against the Britons in Caburn.

15 7 76drawing2Drawings in letter dated 15 July 1876 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

[drawing showing Ranscombe and Caburn with valley between]

I do not call to mind that samian pottery was not used at the time of [illegible, possibly Vespatian] expedition into these parts but tho Ranscombe was unquestionably occupied by the Romans or by people using Roman glazed samian ware it was not made by them.

In the interior slope and in the [drawing] superficial mould of the ditch Roman pottery is abundant but in the body of the Rampart and in the bottom of the ditch beneath x a hard crust of consolidated chalk rubble so hard that it took 2 men ½ a day to cut through 5 feet of it. not a single fragment of Roman but in its place a few fragments of coarse British pottery. not one fragment of the latter having been found in the interior slope or above the consolidated chalk in the ditch [insert] flint flakes abundant [end insert] stags horn & stags bones in place of the [illegible] and Bos found above We have  [illegible] 1st Ranscombe Camp, a large British Camp built first, & now destroyed, all but the the small part of the Rampart which faces Caburn.  2 Caburn, occupied & perhaps built by the British later. 3rd that part of Ranscombe which faces Caburn occupied by the Romans perhaps during an assault on Caburn. At any rate long enough to cover the place with their pottery & in a place which no Romans would fix upon for habitation at ordinary times.

Yrs [illegible]

A Lane Fox


6 10 76drawingDrawings from letter dated 6 October 1876 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Guildford Oct 6th 76

My dear Evans

Many thanks for your bronze albums.  I have been digging with Rolleston & Greenwell on Bucklebury common.

Some long mounds about 75 feet by 25, very shallow with slight ditches on both sides were supposed to be long barrows but we could find no trace of anything in them not even charcoal. 

There were precisely similar ones on [illegible Mitch...hampton] Common and on Merrow Down near here & we cannot make out what they are. We dug out the [drawing] graves at Kintbury but could find nothing of consequence & Greenwell thinks they belong to the Saxon period the one close to the church yard.

Yrs [illegible]

A Lane Fox


Guildford Dec 5. 76.

My dear Evans

I attended a meeting of the psychological society the other day and altho I hold psychology to be distantly a branch of anthropology, yet I agree with you in thinking that we should not at present take any further steps towards alliances than admitting them to our rooms. They are at present little more than a debating club. The affairs of the Inst [Institute ie Anthropological Institute probably] as regards the journal appear to be no clearer than before.  I think it will be desirable to put Mr. Harrison at once in Mr Heath’s place in order to put him in a better position for working it out.  we are I think already much indebted to him for the trouble he has taken in finding the matter out. 

Would it be advisable and for the good of the Institute to put up a two days special meeting in a large theatre for discussing the question of the Antiquity of Man. Commencing with a history of the subject and continuing with special papers.  The subject appears to be attracting public notice at this moment through the writings of Mr. Southall, Patterson & Tylor.  It is true that these writers, especially the two former have little or no influence with scientific men. but they have considerable influence with the public and with the writers of goodly [sic] books. And as our object would be to ventilate the subject in public, it might be useful for the Institute to take it up, altho the Geological Society might not think it worth much to them in the meeting.  Would you kindly pass me your opinion on this point.

Will you please keep Galton up to the mark as to continuing to take an interest in the Institute he talked of giving up the Vice Presidency which would be a misfortune for you.

Yrs v t

A Lane Fox


Information [ added in pencil]

6 ½ a ~


Sept /77- [added in pencil]

My dear Evans

Professor Rolleston writes me to send you the enclosed tho it seems to relate more to the Anthropometric committee.

We continue to obtain satisfactory evidence from pottery & the rampart.

At one time yesterday we thought we were getting pottery of the superior quality out of the second rampart but on digging further we found that it was not the rampart proper but a terreplein on the outer side of the upper ditch which had been silted over in the denudation of the second rampart and consequently the superior pottery may have belonged to the more recent occupants who used therampart terreplein before it was silted over. the construction of the second rampart is interesting and well worth the digging even if no other evidence was obtained.  3 flint hammer stones on terreplein but very few flakes any where. 

Park Harrison was here yesterday starting all sorts of crochets out of sheer opposition but even he could not find any marks in the shaft.  Hilton Price is here. this baby of Professor Rolleston is a nuisance.  I am sure he cant want any more. I get a letter from him every day he is longing to be here but I cant put off the digging as the people owner wont allow the chalk to remain on the grass.

[drawing of terreplein and rampart] 


A L Fox


6 9. 76drawing1Drawing from letter dated 6 September 1877 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Information [in pencil]


Star Inn


Thursday, 6. 

Sept 77- [in pencil]

My dear Evans,

I am sorry to say that by practising what I am always preaching against in other people viz. coming to a too hasty conclusion I have misled you about the shafts, I felt confident when I wrote they must be flint mines but the next morning we came to a bottom in both & found them to be simply pits probably for habitation and of the same age a horn comb [insert] Not in Ash.Mus [end insert] [drawing] at the bottom of one an iron bill [drawing] at the bottom of another an iron spud [drawing] in a third pottery of what we should call Romano British down to the bottom of all one being marked [drawings] thus and [drawing] another altho [drawing] animal remains around all through which I have packed up & sent to Rolleston. oysters in surface mould only & Helix hortensis in surface mould only nemoralis undoubtedly they should be observed and let me say that as for Park Harrison's assumption which he spreads about as diligently as his spurious drawing that I did not look out for them.  Years ago I put forward a theory about fine [?or some] organic marks similar to what Dr. Rhys has since published in his book judging by a review of it which I read the other day consequently I was not likely to over look marks and in fact the first marks found in Cissbury in a position which appeared to be beyond the reach of tourists [?] were found by me and not by Harrison and so far from taking no notice of them I took 1st a careful rubbing 2nd an attempt at a cast and 3[rd] cut the pieces out & preserved them, notwithstanding this I doubted and will doubt their genuineness, but I was at first anxious to leave the consideration of these marks to Harrison as he seemed inclined to take the matter up because in the first place division of work is good and also it gives a man an interest to have some particular branch in his own hands.  It was only when I found that he put about drawings which were not accurate and noticed scratches which were not marks at all and was altogether immaterial and crazy in his deductions that I felt it necessary to protest. 

6 9 77drawing2Drawing from letter dated 6 September 1877 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

In regard to some of his more recent remarks of this kind I was positive when [drawing] I saw them first they had cross marks on them [drawing] which all were represented of a [illegible ?blu..] leading him wrongly to suspect that whoever made them when he found that cross marks were not wanted, scratched them out: all I am certain of is that the marks were as white as a sheet of paper and the surface of the chalk yellow. but Harrison has done exactly what I expected would be the result of his publication in the Journal. he has got a certain [illegible] of people to believe in him and as one knows when people once commit themselves to an opinion, evidence or no evidence, they dont easily change. It is a pity Rolleston cant come now,  he wants to come very much but is busy propogating his species.  I fear I shall have to begin filling in the pits on Monday as every thing has to be returfed in the filling of the pits & not in surface mould.  I have not means of reference as 5 forms but it appears to me that they must be Romano British if not British of the [illegible] Roman [illegible] age.  I found an iron bill of the [illegible] form in an [illegible] one piece of pottery looks Saxon but it could well be that there is still a large pit which may turn out to be a flint shaft but I should be sorry to predict it is full of white chalk rubble without any surface mould & we have got down more than 10 feet from the surface but there were no flakes or flint chipped blocks about after that will come the question of the relative age of the pits now opened in the interior and the rampart w[ill] be determined by the pottery & animal remains found in this [illegible]. I found very good evidence at Newhaven camp the other day by finding several pieces [illegible] in other section of the rampart of a class of pottery inferior to that found in the interior of the camp In regard to your observationa I must look out for marks in the chalk, most [end of letter not present]

[on previous page] Yrs sin A Lane Fox


25 2 80drawingDrawing from letter dated 25 February 1880 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Not in Ash.Mus. [ added in pencil]

19 Penywern Road

South Kensington

Feb 25th 1880

My dear Evans

I bought a gold chain of a jeweller in Quimper not long ago which the French antiquarian believes to be Gallo-Roman.  To my delight I find the discovery of it noted in the since published number of the Société d'Emulation de St. Brieuc which confirms the account the jeweller gave me.  He bought it of a girl who found it at Pont Labbe and gave for it, so the notice says, but of course he did not tell me, 75 centimes he sold it to me a few days after.  the notice continues to an “Anglais de passage” for 180 francs this [illegible] is a mistake I only gave 100 francs, its weight in gold.  the jeweller is described as a man “qui meriterait de voir son nom pub lie partout” 

You know most things of this kind can you tell me what the law is in France about treasure trove I should like to send them a drawing of it but dont want to have a row about it  It was sold by the jeweller to me in open market and it is hardly necessary to say that I dont mean to give it up.

Yrs [illegible]

A Lane Fox


Add.9455vol3 p765 3 top of pageAdd.9455vol3_p765 /3 [part]

Note that this is Add.9455vol3_p765 /3 described as

Date:     Description of object:  c. Gold chain probably Gallo-Roman found in a field at Pont Labbe Brittany in 1878 ... (all removed to Rushmore) [Drawing]

Add.9455vol3_frontflyverso: Note ‘Missing Gold Chain 765  Price:    Deposited at:  Removed from 4 Grosvenor Gardens   Removed to: to Rushmore Gold case   Added: Oak lecturn case Rushmore corridor [in red]

Initially transcribed by Judith White for the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project and amended by Alison Petch and Alison Roberts August 2013.

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