A letter to the publisher, written by the ingenious Mr. John Bagford, in which are many curious remarks relating to the city of London, and some things about Leland. In: John Leland, Joannis Lelandi antiquarii de rebus britannicis collectanea, ed. Thomas Hearne, I, pp. lviii-lxxxvi.Oxford: e theatro Sheldoniano, 1715.
Includes an account of the discovery by Bagford’s friend and fellow antiquarian John Conyers of a flint handaxe in London, unearthed circa 1680 near the bones of what was then thought to be an elephant, as neither the mammoth nor the entire concept of extinction existed, and there was no concept of prehistory. The illustration of the handaxe in Bagford’s letter is one of the earliest published images of a handaxe. Bagford called it ". . . a British Weapon made of a Flint Lance like unto the Head of a Spear, fastened into a Shaft of good length, which was a Weapon very common amongst the Ancient Britains. . . they not having at that time the use of Iron or Brass, as the Romans had" (p. lxiv).
What made this particular find remarkable to those at the time was the presence of the “elephant” bones, which Bagford attempted to explain this way:
"Mr. John Conyers, an apothecary . . . who made it his chief Business to make curious observations, and to collect such Antiquities as were daily found in and about London . . . discovered the body of an Elephant, as he was digging for Gravel in the Fields . . . not far from Battlebridge, and near to the River of Wells. . . .How this Elephant came there? is the Question. I know some will have it to have layn there ever since the Universal Deluge. For my own part I take it to have been brought over with many others by the Romans in the Reign of Claudius the Emperour, and conjecture . . . that it was killed in some Fight by a Britain" (p. lxiv).
Subjects: EVOLUTION › Human Origins / Human Evolution