Examples of figurative art among graffiti corpora are relatively common but no more straight forward to interpret than some of the more enigmatic ‘abstract’ symbols often found carved into church masonry. A face emerges from the tower crossing of St Clement’s in Sandwich with the application of raking light to bring out the detail. Sometimes there are tantalising clues in the apparel; is the line around the back of the skull meant to represent a hair style or the outline of a cap? Is the second arc above it showing a similar detail? Is that a central parting? Frustratingly, many of these graffiti images were only ever partially executed or have been weathered or eroded over time. The MGS Volunteer hand book suggests that many such images are, ‘stylised to the point of caricature’ – this could be also said of this face – which is almost cartoon-like in appearance. The figure was noted by Tatton-Brown during his survey of the church in 1993 which suggested that the lines may have been preparatory drawings for paintings below the Rood. The idea that the graffiti figures represent outlines for future painted decoration was taken up by Scott (2018) during a survey of pictorial graffiti recorded in Rochester Cathedral. However, close examination showed that there was no evidence for ochre or paint caught within the grooves of the graffito. His study also made the argument that it was possible to see a ‘cohesive’ 13th century ‘figurative scheme’ among the Cathedral corpus which showed close affinities with those at St Clement’s and other churches in the south-east England, perhaps stretching as far north as St Albans (Scott 2018).
Published by Wayne Perkins
I am an archaeologist with over twenty years of experience. After a decade or so working as a volunteer on excavations in the 1990’s, I undertook my degree in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham. In the last year of my degree I helped to supervise the university’s annual excavations. Directly after my exams I began my career in Commercial Archaeology as a Field Archaeologist with Oxford Archaeology and remained there for four years. Anticipating a career in archaeology in France I volunteered on excavations at Rom and at Prisse-la-Charriere, Niort (for Poitiers & Rennes University respectively). In due course I worked for the States’ premier scientific organization, I.N.R.A.P. (Institut Nationale des Récherches Archéologiques Préventives) as well as for a number of private companies. I returned to the UK in 2013 and resumed my role as a Supervisor, undertaking projects around Oxfordshire with John Moore Heritage Services before moving to London in 2014. I now undertake Historic Building Surveys and supervise urban excavations in the City of London as well as overseeing rural excavations in surrounding Sussex, Surrey & Kent. Wayne Perkins BA Hons (Archaeology) ACIfA (Associate Member, Chartered Institute for Archaeologists) View all posts by Wayne Perkins