Gas Stations of the Past - Part Six

Royston Cave's carvings depict the Hertfordshire town's market days. Tue 07 December 2021

Catherine, her wheel and a kid on a cross. Source: Mystery of The Royston Cave

The image comes from a Cambridge News article whose full title was: Mystery of The Royston Cave and why historians remain baffled.

Part of their bafflement is Catherine's wheel:

1743 depiction of Catherine's wheel. Source: Palaeographia Britannica: or, Discourses on Antiquities in Britain. Number I

Or - as it should probably be known - the sun wheel of Hathor, goddess of cattle and drunken raves. As Гathor's wheel.

From Hathor - Wikipedia:

she often appeared as the goddess welcoming the dead into the afterlife.

This image of Royston Cave's Catherine wheel was apparently sketched around October 1742 - two months after the cave's 1742 re-discovery.

Its rim was depicted true-ish to current form.

Later imagery simplified the rim:

1884 depiction from Beldam's 'Origins and Uses of Royston Cave', probably 1884 Source: Royston Cave - Wikipedia

Today, the original rim is still partially visible on the wall carving:

Toothed, not spiked. Source: Royston Cave - A Mystery beneath the Streets

Now take a look at the modern abattoir's favourite quartering tool:

Catherine wheels give no quarter. Source: AMI: Tour of a Pork Plant

No-one doubts that people were secured to crosses for execution.

No-one should doubt that people were left secured to crosses for skinning and jointing. See the evidence tagged 'Manimal Farm'. Or in Away in a Manger - Part Three: Stations of the Cross.

Today's historians are baffled because they focus on Catherine's martyrdom.

In contrast, Royston Cave depicts Catherine as the steady-handed enthusiast of many market day martyrdoms.

Technology of the sun wheel:

The worn-out components that powered Catherine's wheel are possibly the lost technology we call bronze 'cage amulets' and 'witch cakes':

The wise woman's rotor. Source: Decoding the Roman Dead

The upper face of this cage is missing some knobs.

From Decoding the Dead: The Discovery of a ‘Cage’ Amulet at Colchester Museums, Lucerna 62, January 2022, p17:

There was originally a knob between each bar on the circumference of the upper small ring, and a knob at each bar/ring junction. On the lower small ring these have either worn away or were never present. The same is true for the medium-sized rings, with the upper one having a knob between each of the eight bars that connect it to the central ring, and probably a knob at each bar/ring junction (although most of the latter are very worn, and in some cases they are missing, if they were ever there), while the lower medium-sized ring has no visible knobs.

Summary: there are knobs and remains of knobs on the amulet's upper face and no trace of knobs on the amulet's lower face. Its upper face is the unseen back face of the Royston Cave sun wheel. Its lower face is the face we can see.

Here's a smaller 'cage amulet' from Pompeii:

Source: Experts in Pompeii Have Discovered a Female Sorcerer’s Mysterious Arsenal of Charms

Before they corroded, the knobs on the upper face of Catherine's wheel probably looked more like these:

Holy Rome's magical mystery balls. Source: Mysterious 12-sided Roman object found

From Roman dodecahedron - Wikipedia:

They rarely show signs of wear.

That's because they weren't usually exposed. They were protected by something clamped tightly over those big bronze knobs.

What clamps tightly over big bronze knobs?

Semi-flexible substrates moulded from plant-based latex mixed with a plasticiser like 'bird-lime' (mistletoe sap). Early balloons were often made from a mix of rubber latex and mistletoe juice.

Semi-flexible substrates might also be made from caseins mixed with hardeners like corn-flour. Demand for caseins could explain folklore about the operators of pre-modern 'machines' demanding offerings of milk.

Similar designs are still used in modern grinder accessories. Though we add plastics to modify the rubber's properties:

4 Inch Rubber Backer Pad for Grinder. Source: Amazon

The technique is everywhere. Your smartphone's removable case is attached by tiny lugs moulded in the phone's body.

If required, the substrate can be locked more tightly to the knobbed device. You clip a spring around the waist of each knob:

Koh-I-Noor's magical mystery knobs. Source: Koh-i-Noor snap fastener catalogue

Bronze knobs are an old technique for making resistance attachments. What we call press studs and snap fasteners.

But Colchester's 'cage amulet' is missing more than its backer pad.

From Decoding the Dead: The Discovery of a ‘Cage’ Amulet at Colchester Museums, Lucerna 62, January 2022, p18:

Their many planes, openings and knobs might also be compared to dodecahedra, at least one of which held traces of wax


From His Bright Materials:

Electrets aren’t even very hard to make; one manufacturing technique goes about it in the same way magnets are made. Just melt something made up of polar molecules — wax, for instance — and allow it to re-solidify in a strong electrostatic field

According to folklore, bronze amulets were sometimes hung from nails above doors. According to folklore, so were witch-cakes:

The wise woman's stator. Source: The "Witch Cake"

After the wars, possession of an electret became an capital offence. Not just in the UK - America's Salem witch trials also turned on witch cakes.

From Is a moving electret considered a current, and would spinning one make a magnet?:

A moving magnet makes an electric field. A moving electret makes a magnetic field.

And vice-versa: a moving magnetic field makes a moving electret.

From His Bright Materials:

if you move a strong electret near a strong magnet, they’ll push each other around, but only when they’re moving relative to each other. And the force on the electret will be 90 degrees off from the direction you’d expect

It seems logical then that you don't need a magnet. If you pulse an electric field near an electret, the electret will move. How might Гathor and her pre-modern colleagues have obtained and pulsed an electric field?

Similar technology may explain the enigma of high-tech trepanning. Though you wouldn't use a spinning disk for trepanning.

You'd use a spinning barrel:

The head chef's trepanning tool. Source: Large Bronze Age 'Cage' Pendant/Amulet

The hole at the end shows manufacturers could create precise circles where and when they needed to.

Don't be surprised if you've never heard of electrets. Even your local electrician is probably less familiar with them than parts of the military.

The sustainable midden ages:

A second clue to un-baffling Royston Cave lay in the soil hauled out of it in the weeks after discovery. Or rather, the second clue wriggled in the soil hauled out of it.

From Royston Cave... and the Templars?, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, July 2020:

They removed 8′ (2.4 m) of soil, which was described as 200 ‘loads’. The volume can be calculated as about 50 m3, which would have weighed about 72 tonnes.

How did 72 tonnes of soil get into a cave whose only known acknowledged entrance was capped by a millstone? And why did it contain badly decayed human bones?

From Royston Cave: an holistic approach to conservation, Tobit Curteis, Naomi Luxford, 2014:

The larger, purple worms generally measuring up to 40 mm in length were identified as Eisenia fetida, known by a variety of common names, including the redworm or brandling worm.

And also known as 'the compost worm'.

Also from Royston Cave: an holistic approach to conservation:

The other large worms are Dendrodrilus rubidus, more commonly referred to as earthworms. These were found on the chalk surface but their main habitat appeared to be the compacted soil on the cave floor and in openings in the walls. Worms are thought to have been brought into the cave by flooding and with debris via the roof vent.

Yes, certainly a lot of debris entered the cave from above at some time. But when?

Inspecting the still soil-filled cave shortly after discovery, Rev George North said the cave was found capped as if its owners expected to come back. So the 'soil' was inside the cave before it was sealed and abandoned. With the owners expecting to come back to it in that condition. It was full before the ventilation grill was added to the dome-top early in the 20th century.

From Parishes: Royston - Victoria County History:

It seems probable that the cave was filled in during the 16th century when the lord of the manor 'buylded up in the myddest of Icknell Streate . . . a fayer House or Crosse . . . for a clockhowse and a Pryson Howse.'

To English speakers, 'myddest' sounds close to 'middle'. To Middle English speakers, it sounded close to 'mydden'. Which means 'rubbish heap'. Modern Gaelic still uses 'midden'.

Royston Cave's roof, its access shaft, disputes about its access shafts, the original shape of its base, and its 72 tonnes of worm shit containing decayed human bones... all of it points to how the compost worms got in and what Royston Cave was really for.

So, starting with its floor...

From The Origin and Use of the Royston Cave, Joseph Beldam, 1884 edition:

A kind of broad bench goes quite round the floor next the wall, broader than a step, and not quite so high as a seat. This bench is cut off in the eastern point by the grave, which is dug deeper into the chalk.

In plan, those features looked like this:

Octagonal pool in Royston Cave floor. Source: Royston Cave

The dark patch at the top (east to north-east) indicates the 'grave' - a pit in the side of the octagonal step.

He means the base of the railings. Source: Royston Cave - A Mystery beneath the Streets

The grave is a giveaway:

It's a sludge trap. A sump. Source: Royston Cave - A Mystery beneath the Streets

Note how the 'grave' has sloping ends. This made it easier to scrape out, sort and bag up rags, bones and teeth ready for hauling back to the surface.

William Stukeley reported that brickwork "of a very fine red sort, brought from some distance" was found at the grave, but taken away as 'a curiousity'. His description suggests red tiles rather than common brick, the implication being the grave was tiled for more efficient emptying.

Sludge that collected in the pool could be scraped into the grave, picked over, then shovelled into bags and hauled up the shaft above.

For sale as fertiliser.

In the wall high above the grave - and above the lamp - an odd horseshoe shape can be seen. An area of rock apparently painted to look like brick. Early visitors who saw it when the cave floor was high with soil hinted this area looked like repair work.

You can see where part of the roof around that shaft seems to have fallen away:

The shaft on the right. Source: Royston Cave - A Mystery beneath the Streets

Early visitors thought the repair closed a passage from the cave to the priory east of the cave. There is a lot of evidence for a hastily hidden passage from Royston Cave to priory lands to the east.

Royston Cave used anaerobic decomposition to extract re-saleable products from discarded body parts.

The stallholders and butchers in the market above the cave dumped hands, feet, forelimbs and other unsaleable parts into Royston Cave's shaft. After market the cave was flooded and the parts allowed to rot beneath the water.

The process is described in the Gas Stations of the Past series. The Philipson Mausoleum images in Gas Stations of the Past - Part Three show how modern technology helped maintain a consistent water level.

Royston Cave may also have had a drain near its 'grave' trough. A low arch can be seen in the wall on some early images.

Royston was also a fat and gas production plant. The anaerobic rotting pool released town gas - primarily methane and helium - which was collected in the domed ceiling. If the allegedly sealed roof tunnel did lead to the priory, it probably supplied methane to priory ovens.

A skim of fat - adipose - formed on the pool surface. Teeth and bones collected on the floor of the pool.

Much, much more can be deduced from the structure of Royston Cave, from the infrastructure around the town and from its wall carvings.

A good starting place is Location Analysis: Royston Cave - Part One.

Royston Cave location.


Royston Cave explained in orthodox terms:

Interactive virtual tour:

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