Cultural anxieties and ritual protection in high status early modern houses
Ritual protection marks are widely found in sacred buildings, agricultural structures and low to middle status houses. Recent work at palatial complexes such as the Tower of London and Knole has demonstrated that the hopes, fears and desires expressed through spiritual middens, apotropaic symbols and burn marks are also abundantly present in such high ranking buildings. A survey of the Queen’s House at the Tower of London led to the archaeological excavation of an intact spiritual midden coupled with the discovery of one of the largest assemblages of burn marks ever recorded in a building of its size. Meanwhile twenty-five miles to the south a dense distribution of apotropaic symbols at Knole were found to be intimately related to James I, witch trials, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the Gunpowder Plot.
James Wright is a Senior Archaeologist at MOLA. He is an expert in recording and analysing historic standing buildings and has a background in conservation stonemasonry. His specialisms include medieval and early modern buildings, vernacular architecture and the study of architectural fragments. He has conducted surveys of historic graffiti in nine counties. Alongside being project leader at the Queen’s House and Knole, James has also worked at the Palace of Westminster, Banqueting House, Southwark Cathedral and has been researching the royal palace in the heart of Sherwood Forest at Kings Clipstone for over twelve years.