mount pleasant

Harold Augustus Hyde’s Contribution to Welsh Archaeology

This post has been published on behalf of Heather Pardoe,  palynologist in the Botany Section, Department of Natural Sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales.

Harold Augustus Hyde had a long and distinguished career at the National Museum of Wales. He was appointed Keeper of Botany in 1922 and he remained in this post until his retirement in 1962. He published more than 100 papers. Hyde collaborated with many of the leading archaeologists of the day working in Wales including Sir Cyril Fox, Aileen Fox, Grimes, Hemp and Williams. His research made a significant contribution to their discoveries.

National Museum of Wales Staff Outing 1925. The arrows indicate Sir Cyril Fox (back centre and Harold Hyde (front, right, reclining) (With thanks to Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales Library).

In the 1930’s and 1940’s Hyde worked with the Museum’s Director, Sir Cyril Fox and his second wife Aileen Fox. Hyde identified small fragments of charcoal found on archaeological excavations and this provided insights into the composition of the local vegetation at the time. In some cases his results provided vital clues for the rituals and other activities taking place at the site. For example, Savory (1950-1952) described a house foundation of Neolithic or Early Bronze Age from Mount Pleasant Farm, Pyle (only the second found in Wales) overlain by a Middle Bronze Age Cairn. Hyde examined charcoal from the site and found that the fragments from the Late Bronze Age central ritual deposit were all slow-grown ash. Hyde suggested that the ash may have been deliberately chosen and felled expressly for the pyre since ash burns so well. Hyde was clearly interested in the evidence that this site provided of locally growing ash in the Neolithic or early Bronze Age.

Hyde’s notes on charcoal from Mount Pleasant Farm

Hyde was one of Britain’s leading palynologists. He used pollen evidence to improve our understanding of the post-glacial vegetation history of Wales and to support the research of the archaeologists with whom he worked. For example, in the late 1930’s a cauldron and a sword were donated to the National Museum of Wales. They were recovered from a peaty mountain tarn at Llyn Fawr, Rhigos when the lake was drained to create a reservoir (Fox and Hyde, 1939). Hyde extracted pollen from a film of silty peat coating the objects. These peat brushings contained birch, oak alder, hazel heather and grass pollen. Hyde observed that “the pollen evidence …suggests that the articles composing the hoard were cast either into the lake or into this wet swampy bog.” The date of this event is uncertain.

Title page of Fox and Hyde (1939)

 

Cauldron from Llyn Fawr

 

Heather Pardoe is a palynologist in the Botany Section, Department of Natural Sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales. She is interested in the pollen-vegetation relationship, vegetation change during the Holocene and various aspects of the history of Botany. A detailed biography of Hyde is currently being prepared (Pardoe and Edwards, in prep.).

 

References

Fox, C and Hyde, H.A. (1939) A second cauldron and an iron sword from the Llyn Fawr Hoard, Rhigos, Glamorganshire. The Antiquaries Journal, 19 (4). 369- 404

Pardoe, H.S. and Edwards, K. (in prep) Harold Augustus Hyde: pioneering palynologist (provisional title)

Savory, H.N. 1950-1952. The excavation of a Neolithic Dwelling and a Bronze Age cairn at Mount Pleasant Farm, Nottage (Glam.) 75-91. Cardiff Naturalists’’ Society’s Reports and transactions 81, 75-92. Hyde, H.A. Appendix Report on charcoal from the excavations at Mount Pleasant Farm, Pyle, Glamorgan p91-2.