Thursday 9 June: Romanticism and reconstruction: Alan Sorrell and his influence on archaeology, by Matthew Johnson, FSA, and Sara Perry, University of Southampton
Alan Sorrell (190474) was an artist best known for his reconstruction drawings of historic sites and monuments and his tableaux of ancient life. His distinctive style with contrasts of light and dark and threateningly stormy or unstable backdrops was carefully researched for accuracy, and has proven inspirational to both archaeologists and the broader public. During the mid-twentieth century, Sorrell produced defining images of many of Britains most renowned archaeological sites and, in so doing, helped to transform the institutional and intellectual dimensions of British archaeology. With a neo-Romantic sensibility and a career that included employment by the former Ministry of Works, he stands at the junction of a series of potent conceptual concerns in the discipline-between art and archaeology, academic and broader public consumption, discipline and imagination, scholarship and governmental establishment.
The archive of Alan Sorrell is currently on loan from the Sorrell family to the Society of Antiquaries of London. Never before subject to systematic investigation, the archive is populated primarily by artwork produced for Sorrells books (such as the reconstruction of a Mesolithic encampment, on the left), alongside accompanying sketches, correspondence and working notes and drawings. This lecture will discuss Sorrells work, and will be illustrated by a fascinating range of unpublished material from the archive.
Thursday 16 June: Summer Soirée: papers to celebrate the launch of our serial publications (Archaeologia, the Antiquaries Journal and the Societys Proceedings) online. Fellow Christopher Catling will give a general introduction to the history of the Society’s serial publications and pick out one or two recurrent themes, while Fellows Clive Gamble and Eric Fernie will discuss the abiding value of so many of the papers published over the last 260 years from the perspective of a prehistorian and a medievalist, respectively. Admission to the reception that follows the meeting is by ticket only (to book, contact the Societys Executive Assistant, Jola Zdunek).
The next tour of Burlington House for new (and not so new) Fellows will take place on 23 June 2011. The tour includes a welcome from the General Secretary, with an overview of the Society, and its current activities; an introduction by the Head of Library and Collections to the history of the Societys library and museum collections, followed by a tour of the library; a tour of the Societys pictures and museum collection given by the Collections Manager; and a display of items from the Library organised and introduced by the Assistant Librarian.
Tours will start at 11am and last about 90 minutes, followed by an optional light sandwich lunch, for which a charge of £5 is made. Numbers are limited to twenty-five Fellows per tour. To book a place please contact Jola Zdunek, the Societys Executive Assistant.
A few places remain for the visit to Charleston, where Fellows will be given a private tour of the house and a sandwich lunch, followed by a talk by curator Wendy Hitchmough on plans to use the barns as a visitor centre. Tickets (£15) can be booked by contacting Jola Zdunek, the Societys Executive Assistant.
The York Antiquaries will be holding their Summer Dinner at Grays Court, York, on Friday 1 July 2011. Any Fellows who would like to attend should contact the Hon Steward, Jim Spriggs.
The following were elected as Ordinary Fellows at recent ballots (short career summaries can be found on the Societys website).
On 26 May 2011: Jeremy William Huggett, Katherine Jane Peachey Lowe, Nigel Brian Israel, Jeremy James Lake, Ute Elisabeth Engel, Marc Marie André Georges Vander Linden, Michael Douglas Danti, Vivian Annette Carruthers and Leo James Webley.
On 2 June 2011: Tobias Emmanuel Capwell, Philippa Jane Bradley, Paul Richards, Nigel George Bumphrey, Grace Ioppolo, Ruth Harman, Francis Edward Basford, Nicholas Michael Cooke and Michael Potterton.
Six of the papers that will form volume 91 of the Antiquaries Journal have been published on the Cambridge Journals online website, which Fellows can access for free by using the link on the Antiquaries Journal Online page of the Societys website and selecting the First view tab.
Here you will find papers on the William Allen box, a collection of antiquities, mostly of Roman date, collected in the Victorian period and acquired by the British Museum; a group of wooden objects that have recently come to light in the Hungarian Central Mining Museum that shed light on the scale of salt exploitation in central and eastern Europe in prehistoric times; the imitation cameos placed around the frame of the Westminster Retable; RIB 1389 an inscription, found in 1751, that records building work on Hadrians Wall in AD 158; two early eighteenth-century accounts of the cave temples at Kanheri and Elephanta near Bombay in Volume VII (1785) of the Societys journal Archaeologia , presented as evidence of the Societys early interest in Indian antiquities; and a newly discovered manuscript by John Carter that throws new light on his sometimes caustic relationship with members of the Society of Antiquaries and his patrons, including previously unpublished sketches and caricatures of several of them.
Left: this reconstruction drawing of the Whitehawk causewayed enclosure, on the South Downs, Sussex, shows the typical form of a causewayed enclosure, made up of a series of concentric ditches interrupted by causeways. Drawing: Ian Dennis, Cardiff University
A ground-breaking scientific dating project led by our Fellows Alex Bayliss of English Heritage and Alasdair Whittle, of the University of Cardiff, has narrowed down the construction dates of a number of causewayed enclosures in Britain to a seventy-five year period, rather than the 500-year time span conventionally given for their existence as a monument type.
Using Bayesian statistical modelling, which allows carbon dating spans to be narrowed to precise points in time by drawing on other sources of information, such as stratified finds from the site, it now seems that only three generations separated the first and last causewayed enclosures to be built in Britain, starting with the Thames Estuary and spearheading through Kent and Sussex, and then westwards. The detailed results are to be published shortly in a new book, Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland, edited by Fellows Alasdair Whittle, Frances Healy and Alex Bayliss.
Dr Bayliss said of the findings: Until now, because of imprecise dates and long time scales, prehistory has been dominated by processes rather than events. By dating these enclosures more accurately, we now know that something happened quite specifically some 5,700 years ago; the speed with which it took place has completely overturned our perception of prehistory.
Professor Whittle said: This research fundamentally challenges the notion that little happened among our Stone Age farmers. We can now think about the Neolithic period in terms of more rapid changes, constant movement of people and fast diffusion of ideas.
A vast amount of labour was involved in constructing causewayed enclosures, which are encircled not by continuous ditches and banks, but by a series of short stretches of ditch and bank. It has been argued that each stretch represents the work of one group of people, and that the enclosures symbolically represent a shared community act at a time when society is evolving from egalitarian kin groups into something more complex, competitive and hierarchical. Finds from causewayed enclosures suggest they served as county show, with markets, entertainment, feasting and drinking, and for rituals cementing kinship and alliances, perhaps combining funerals and marriage ceremonies.
Conservation architects working for the practice founded by our Fellow Donald Insall have provided firm dating evidence for a tree-covered mound in the grounds of Marlborough College that was long thought to have been built as the motte for a Norman keep. In fact, the mound is exactly contemporary with Silbury Hill, having been built in 2400 BC. The dates were obtained from four samples of charcoal from different points in the 19m-high mound, extracted from soil cores. Our Fellow Jim Leary, who led the recent archaeological investigations for English Heritage at Silbury Hill, says this is an astonishing discovery … this is a very exciting time for British prehistory.
The Marlborough Mound, now a monument of international significance, was already 3,500 years old when the summit was modified to form a platform for the Norman keep, later used as a royal hunting lodge. When the Seymour family acquired the land in the seventeenth century, the mound was used as a viewing point for their lavish garden, with a spiral ramp cut into the flank and a water feature at the summit. Master of Marlborough College, Nicholas Sampson, says that the mound now offers opportunity for tremendous educational enrichment.
Culture Minster Ed Vaizey hailed the Portable Antiquities Scheme as a great success and the envy of Europe in launching the Portable Antiquities & Treasure Annual Report 2008 on 25 May 2011. Praising the team behind the British Museum-based scheme, headed up by our Fellow Roger Bland, the Minister said that making it simpler to report finds online had resulted in 90,146 archaeological objects being recorded in 2010, a 36 per cent increase on 2009. This included 859 Treasure cases, up 10 per cent on the previous year, along with a vast range of non-Treasure finds, from prehistoric flints to post-medieval false teeth.
Among finds singled out in the 2008 report was an enigmatic knife handle (left), from Syston, Lincolnshire; Roman in date, the object depicts an erotic scene involving two males and a female and a decapitated head!
Another find of a medieval gold locket from Rolleston, Nottinghamshire, dating from the second half of the fifteenth century, is so similar to one from the Fishpool Hoard (Nottinghamshire) that it might have been made by the same jeweller. This locket is inscribed cauns [sauns] repentir, meaning no regrets; an early reference to the song made famous by Edith Piaf, joked our Fellow Neil MacGregor, the British Museums Director.
The National Trust has launched an appeal to conserve Nuffield Place, the four-bedroomed home of William Morris (Lord Nuffield), the founder of the Morris Motor Company. Morris purchased the house in 1933 in the Chilterns village of Nuffield, near Henley-on-Thames, from whose name he took his baronial title. When he died in 1963, four years after his wife, Elizabeth, he left the house to the Oxford college that he founded also called Nuffield and the house has been opened occasionally by volunteers ever since. The National Trust aims to raise £600,000 for urgent conservation work so that it can be opened permanently.
Despite being the UKs richest self-made man, Lord Nuffield led a frugal lifestyle, as is evident from the house and its contents, which survive exactly as they were when Lord Nuffield died, and almost unchanged from when Morris bought and decorated the house in the 1930s.
An exhibition of photographs from the archives of Bedford Lemere & Co has gone on display at the V&A/RIBA Architecture Gallery (Room 128a; to 30 October 2011).
To accompany the exhibition, our Fellow Nicholas Cooper has written a new book The Photography of Bedford Lemere & Co featuring more than 250 examples of the work of the father-and-son team of Bedford Lemere and his son, Harry Bedford Lemere. The pictures in the book and exhibition have been selected from a collection of more than 21,800 glass negatives and around 3,000 unique prints, principally dating from the 1880s to the 1930s, that now form part of the English Heritage public archive.
The value of the photographs to historians is the exceptional quality, freshness and legibility of the pictures, which capture the scale of the buildings they depict, but also the minute detail of their decorative scheme (like the picture on the left of Eaton Hall, Cheshire (1883), designed by Alfred Waterhouse © RIBA Library Photographs Collection). The photographs tend to centre on London buildings often the work of leading Victorian and Edwardian architects, interior decorators, designers and artists but also take in country houses, hospitals, prison and power stations, shops, banks, hotels, railway stations, government buildings, cruise liners and, during the First World War, armaments factories throughout the British Isles.
Pictures such as this were one of the chief means by which architects, craftsmen and their clients kept abreast of the work of their peers, building up collections of visual sources for use in their own work. Copies were sold to architectural publishers, or sold singly or in sets of prints on English architecture, decorative and antique furniture, views of London, Classic, Romanesque and Renaissance details, English churches and English stately homes.
Nicholas Cooper will be giving a free lunchtime talk on the social and historical significance of Bedford Lemere & Co on 29 June 2011, at 1.15pm, in the Hochhauser Auditorium, Sackler Centre, Victoria and Albert Museum.
It is not only in Salon or in the blog of our Fellow Mary Beard that the role of scholarship in museums is being debated Scotland on Sunday devoted a leader to the subject on 22 May 2011 after four of Scotlands leading academics including our Fellow Anna Ritchie wrote to Scottish Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, to protest against about the extraordinary lack of an historian or an archaeologist on the board of the nations flagship National Museums Scotland (NMS).
History professors Tom Devine, Christopher Smout and Michael Lynch, plus Anna Ritchie, all of them former trustees of National Museums Scotland, pointed out that the NMS was in breach of its statutory obligation to appoint a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to the board, which has members with expertise in finance, law, architecture and property development, as well as the academic disciplines of ethnology and geology; but not in the crucial fields of history and archaeology.
Our Fellow Barbara Crawford, who is also President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, said the Societys candidates had been rejected by the appointments committee, and she questioned whether skills in management, industrial relations or administration are now more important than archaeological qualifications for museum trustees.
The joint letter pointed out that the deficiency was all the more extraordinary at a time when, it is often said, there has been a renaissance in the study of Scotlands past, led by a generation of scholars of archaeology and history … and it is all the more surprising that such a position has come about under a government of the Scottish National Party.
Michael Lynch, Professor of History at Edinburgh University, said it was almost unthinkable that there was no one on the board with an expertise in Scottish history or archaeology, but that the response of the Scottish Government so far, after an exchange of letters, was to fudge the issue.
A Government spokeswoman said: The Scottish Government and National Museums Scotland regularly review the balance of skills required for the board of trustees of the National Museums of Scotland, and reflect those requirements in the criteria for recruitment rounds. All appointments are selected on merit against agreed criteria under public appointments principles.
The European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA), the most prestigious prize of its kind in Europe, has been awarded to the Gallo-Romeins Museum, in Tongeren, Limburg, Belgium. Our Fellow Michael Ryan, who is on the EMYA jury panel, says that, despite its inherited name, the museum covers the archaeology of the region from early prehistory to early medieval times and places it in its wider context. As archaeological exhibitions go, it is exemplary. The displays engage superbly with visitors of all ages and cleverly deal with important issues of interpretation in an imaginative and scrupulously scientific manner.
Before creating their new exhibitions, the museum staff spent time discovering how people of different ages learn. The result is a layered presentation of objects, reconstructions, conventional information panels and multilingual interactives for adults and children, which is technically very good and also very enjoyable. It is very well worth visiting if you are ever in the neighbourhood. The museum has an important collection and has a number of valuable research collaborations and a long series of archaeological publications.
The EMYA jury said that the Gallo-Roman Museum does not shy away from the task of dealing with uncertainty, and the presentations guide the audience through the issues but do not assert firm conclusions. The exhibitions are authoritative but not authoritarian. They provoke thought and provide the visitor with the information needed to take a view. The museum is socially engaged not just with issues of heritage but also with its role in the local economy and in its commitment to education, for which it has provided excellent facilities and for which it works with a large number of teachers who are employed by the museum. The integration with the town of Tongeren is strong the museum is a meeting place available to all citizens groups.
Michael adds that the administration of the EMYA and of its parent, the European Museum Forum (EMF), is based in the National Museums, Liverpool, courtesy of David Fleming, Director of National Museums Liverpool, and its Board and Jury are drawn from a number of European countries. Our Fellow Neil Cossons is a recent past president of the European Museum Forum and a leading reformer of the organisation. The current Chair of the EMF is Mikhail Gnedovsky, of Russia, and the Chair of the Jury is Frans Ellenbroek, of Tilburg, in The Netherlands.
Writing in the May issue of the Art Newspaper, our Fellow Giles Waterfield asks whether the age of the blockbuster exhibition is over. He traces the origin of the term (derived from aerial bombardment by a bomb that could demolish an entire city block, transferred to the movie industry in the 1950s to describe a mega-successful popular entertainment, and adapted to the visual arts in the 1970s when Thomas Hoving initiated a series of high-profile temporary exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and the history of the genre, from the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, with its six million visitors, and the display of the Prince and Princess of Waless wedding presents at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in 1863, the most successful exhibition in the museums history, to more recent crowd-pleasers, such as the Tutankhamun exhibition of the early 1970s.
The blunt truth, he says, quoting Didier Ottinger of the Centre Pompidou, is that museums need large-scale exhibitions for the financial revenue an important source of income if the rest of the museum or gallery is free. Critics argue that the demands of temporary displays distract curators from their permanent collections, but our Fellow Charles Saumarez Smith, of the Royal Academy, says this is a myth: In my experience, able and energetic curators want to do both. What appears to be changing is the style of exhibition, from Treasures and Splendours and names guaranteed to draw the crowds, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo, the major Impressionists, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and Munch to exhibitions that seek to introduce the public to new areas of knowledge.
Our Fellow Mark Jones puts it thus: The V&As exhibition programme is predicated on the assumption that it will sustain and promote research and acquisitions, deepen understanding of such recondite figures as Thomas Hope and Athenian Stuart, and enable scholars to concentrate on subjects which would not otherwise be the focus of attention and which the public would not otherwise get to see, understand, and enjoy.
This approach is increasingly reflected in museum loan polices: Londons National Gallery is characteristic of most major galleries in choosing only to lend, and indeed borrow, when it is sure that the loan will contribute to art historical or scientific knowledge, Giles writes. That also encourages museums to create exhibitions using exhibits drawn largely from their own collections, like Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, the V&As major autumn exhibition of 2010.
Giles Waterfields review was written against the background of the new phenomenon of gallery rage, the anger that exhibition goers experience when they cannot see the works on display because of the crowds. Tate Moderns recent Gauguin exhibition is a case in point: the museum received so many complaints that curators have been debating ever since whether new forms of crowd control are needed for Britain’s major art shows.
The National Gallery has signalled its intention of limiting visitor numbers to its forthcoming exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, which opens in November. The gallery will admit 25 per cent fewer visitors than it normally would: 180 tickets will be sold at half-hour intervals rather the 230 permitted under the Gallerys health and safety rules. By the time the exhibition opens in November, it is very likely to have sold out: advance booking has already begun, and those hoping to buy tickets on the day are being told they face disappointment, despite extended opening hours (until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 7pm on Sundays, and later still in the last two weeks).
Even so, the exhibition will be still be crowded, and one reason is the slow pace at which people move through exhibitions listening to audio-guide commentaries and reading catalogues or labels. Controversially, our Fellow Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, has suggested that the use of such aids should be reduced, and that people should do their homework before visiting: It is very important that people study our website before they come to the exhibition. They can download all the information that people stand and read beforehand. The whole experience can be properly prepared for, he told the press when the show was announced. In an attempt to deter Dan Brown fans and those who might come expecting submarines and flying machines and embyros, Nicolas Penny also warned that this exhibition would be dedicated to Leonardos art and his aims and ambitions as a painter, and the paintings and drawings he made as court painter to Ludovico Sforza, ruler of Milan.
The shows centrepiece will be what the exhibitions curator, Luke Syson, calls one of the most beautiful pictures that was ever painted by anybody anywhere, the Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (1490), or The Lady with an Ermine, which is being loaned by the National Museum in Krakow. Our Fellow Adam Zamoyski, whose family foundation owns the painting, believes that Cecilia will replace the Mona Lisa as the icon for Leonardo, and is unquestionably the better painting.
Also in the May issue of the Art Newspaper is a review by Maurice Davies, Head of Policy and Communication at the Museums Association, of three books that address the question What are museums for? from different perspectives.
The review seeks to polarise those who believe that the primary function of a museum is the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and those who insist that it is more important to communicate with a wide audience. In reality, of course, these are not incompatible aims, and those who have contributed to the debate in Salon certainly believe that communication is the aim, but that the message has to be underpinned by scholarship.
This also seems to be the message of one of the books mentioned in the review: Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: the Crisis of Cultural Authority (Routledge), by Tiffany Jenkins, is based on her PhD thesis and it sets out to explain recent changes in attitude to human remains. She seems to believe that the blame rests partly with museum professionals themselves for succumbing to continued internal questioning of museums purpose and remit, instead of setting out confidently to demonstrate that the purpose of a museum is to construct and affirm knowledge, not facilitating audiences exploration of identity in a process of therapeutic recognition, which, put less jargonistically, seems to mean that museums should recognise that the reason why most people visit museums is to learn and to encounter something different, not to see a mirror reflection of their own lives and preoccupations.
That is an argument that our Fellow Catherine Johns would support. Catherine takes issue with Fellow Nick Merrimans comments on museum display in the last issue of Salon because of the implicit accusation that those of us who are not wholly enchanted by some of the current trends in labelling DO NOT wish to engage a wider public with museums. This is not true. Like Nick, we all went into museum work because we wanted to increase and to share our knowledge and enthusiasm, and to enable people to learn more about the past and how to enjoy and appreciate it. In order to achieve that aim, it is important to make museums into places where the public can not only see the actual material remains, but can learn more about them than they could discover simply by looking at a book, or these days, by googling a Wikipedia entry.
Nick also referred to the importance of working as part of a team, to which Catherine responds by saying: All curators work with designers, conservators, scientists, editors and others, and always have done in the larger institutions. Theres nothing new in this. What is new, and dangerous, is trying to exclude curators from the team. Neither is the use of modern media along with traditional labelling a problem: My concern rests with what the labels say and how they say it, whether the medium happens to be parchment inscribed with a quill pen, an iPad, or anything in between. I want the information to be reliable, up to date, full, not copied down from Wikipedia, and expressed in clear adult English that does not patronise museum visitors by assuming that they cannot understand words of more than one syllable. Museum displays and information specifically aimed at primary-school children are another matter entirely. My objection is to treating the adult visitor as though he/she were six years old.
Another response to the points made by Fellow Nick Merriman in Salon 255 comes from Fellow Stephanie Dalley, who says: of course we all agree that the intellectual background underpinning museum interpretation is a vital component of museum display this is true regardless of how many objects are on display. But I must take issue over the displays at the new Ashmolean, because, contrary to Nicks impression, several galleries have around one-third as many objects on display as they had formerly, and some posts at Assistant Keeper level have either been abolished or reduced from being permanent to short-term (three years). The reduction of such posts inevitably affects knowledgeable intellectual input. The thinking behind the latter is perhaps that the education department and the exhibition / display specialists (who are hired only for a particular job) can fill the void, but this is much mistaken. Some of the information panels in the new displays are evidence of this.
There has been a fair showing of Fellows in the media in recent days, starting with the BBC TV news at 9pm on 24 May, when our Fellow Jane Roberts, Curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle and Royal Librarian, was shown giving President Obama a guided tour of items with an American connection from the Royal Collection during his visit to Buckingham Palace.
Then, on 26 May, our Fellow Nigel Saul was interviewed by John Humphrys on the Today programme on the question of chivalry in modern warfare. Nigel made the point that the chivalric code not only led to the Geneva Convention, enshrining medieval ideas about the humane treatment of combatants, but also, by laying down the rules of proper behaviour in war, the idea of war crimes was made possible. Fellow interviewee Doug Beattie, former army officer and author of a number of books on Afghanistan, agreed that though the word chivalry might not form part of the twenty-first-century soldiers vocabulary, the ethos continues, even in the height of battle.
Battles specifically the Battle of Stamford Bridge, but also the consequences for the Battle of Hastings were the topic of Radio 4s In our time, in which Fellow John Hines managed to get the last word in a discussion with Elizabeth Rowe, Lecturer in Scandinavian History of the Viking Age at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, and Stephen Baxter, Reader in Medieval History at Kings College London. John is just the most recent in a long list of Fellows who have appeared in a series.
A more inspiring presenter was our Royal Fellow, HRH The Prince of Wales, whose 90-minute documentary on the life and music of Hubert Parry on BBC4 was much liked by critics. Even the waspish and anti-royal A A Gill, the TV critic of the Sunday Times, called for more programmes like this, devoted to in-depth musical analysis. The joy of this programme was the deconstruction of the music by choristers and musicologists, he wrote.
Pianist David Owen Norris was one of those, explaining why the melancholy and searching harmonies of Jerusalem so perfectly match the spiritual yearning of Blakes poem: the melody is based on a folk-like pentatonic scale with five notes per octave instead of the more normal seven, and we are kept in suspense as we listen for the missing notes, which Parry cleverly withholds until the climactic points in the hymn. Mind you, attempts by Prince Charles to characterise Jerusalem as quintessentially English were rebuffed by more knowledgeable musicians who said that Parry was steeped in the music of Schubert, Brahms and Wagner now there is a subject for several more follow-up programmes for Prince Charles to present, including one on the role of Prince Albert in forging the very close relationship that existed between Britain and Germany until the First World War.
Someone else fond of Blakes poetry is our Fellow Charles Jencks, who was interviewed by Andrew Marr on Radio 4s Start the Week on 30 May about his latest book, whose title, The Universe in the Landscape: Landforms) echoes Blakes poem, To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower. Charles Jencks is an exception amongst Fellows in that many of us study landscapes and monuments, but he creates new monuments in the landscape ones that will quite possibly last for millennia and be studied by the antiquaries of the future.
Talking about his latest landform project, Northumberlandia, a giant green goddess whose limbs will stretch for 500m and whose nose will be 30m in the air (see picture above), Charles said that standing on the tip you will feel as if you are on the edge of a cliff. The largest human figure ever made, Northumberlandia will be the centrepiece of a 25-hectare public park near the town of Cramlington, and is being created out of two million tonnes of soil and clay from the Shotton surface mine.
He called Northumberlandia an exercise in alchemy, turning coal into energy and landscape into art; it offers us the opportunity to create art from the necessity of extracting coal. Charles also spoke about his passion for archaeology and science, twin sources of inspiration for his work: just as prehistoric cultures created monuments and landscapes such as Stonehenge imbued with cosmic symbolism, so his work tries to reflect the universal patterns in nature: cell forms, DNA, the space-time continuum and black holes.
David Musgrove, the editor of BBC History magazine and of a new BBC book on 100 Places That Made Britain, has nominated Sutton Hoo as his personal favourite from a list compiled by leading archaeologists and historians. Our Fellow Julian Richards, Professor of Archaeology at the University of York, nominated Sutton Hoo, saying Until the discovery, historians and archaeologists had taken rather a dim view of the Anglo-Saxon barbarians who had stepped into the power vacuum after the departure of the legions.
Also featuring among the 100 sites nominated by historians as the places that made the modern nation are Iona, a key location for early Christianity, Battle Abbey and the site of the Battle of Hastings, Tolpuddle and Liverpools Cavern Club. The latter was nominated by Peter Catterall, of Queen Mary, University of London, as being emblematic of Swinging London and the cultural transformation wrought by the Beatles.
Gerard De Groot, Professor of History at St Andrews, chose the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews on the grounds that historians have ignored the significance of sport and its associated package of cultural values that have been exported along with the other elements of civilisation that the British feel they have given to the rest of the world. John Morrill, Professor of British and Irish history at Selwyn College, Cambridge, chose Rushton Triangular Lodge, built by Sir Thomas Tresham as a symbol of his belief in the Holy Trinity, to stand for the religious passion and the religious obsession that was to dominate the whole of the political and social life of people in Britain and Ireland over the early modern period. The gable with the painted slogan You are now entering Free Derry was chosen by Claire Fitzpatrick, of Plymouth University, to stand witness to the wars that have been fought in the name of religion. Other nominations included Putney church, site of passionate debates on the human rights of man during the English civil war, Blaenavon, a key site in the industrial revolution, and the Belfast Titanic Footprint, the site in Northern Ireland where the transatlantic liner was built.
A familiar face has been missing from the Fine Art Society: our Fellow Max Donnelly until recently the Bond Street gallerys expert on Gothic Revival and Arts and Crafts art has now joined the Victoria & Albert Museum as curator of furniture, with special responsibility for nineteenth-century furniture.
We wish many happy returns to Fellow Beatrice de Cardi, who celebrated her ninety-seventh birthday on 5 June 2011, and is probably the UKs (the worlds?) oldest working archaeologist; and to Fellow Thurstan Shaw who turns ninety-seven on 27 June. After John Erik Scott (elected on 9 March 1944), Thurstan is now the Fellow with the longest record of Fellowship (elected on 9 January 1947), followed by Beatrice (2 March 1950).
Thurstan recently attended this years Personal Histories seminar in Cambridge, organised by his wife, our Fellow Pamela Jane Smith, on the subject of Primatology, with Jane Goodall as the guest speaker. A record of the event in pictures, sound and video can be found on Facebook. Details of the preceding six Personal Histories seminars can be found on the Cambridge Department of Archaeologys website.
Further to David Bird’s nomination of Wilfred Owen as a potential lost Fellow, our Fellow Martin Brown writes to say that Owens connection with archaeology has continued post-mortem. In 2003 I was contracted by the BBC to lead an excavation at Serre on the Somme, searching for German dug-outs that had been occupied, after their capture, by Owen and his men from the Manchester Regiment. The project formed part of a show broadcast in the Ancestors series (distinct from Julian Richards excellent Meet the Ancestors). We failed to identify the dug-outs but did uncover the trenches and found evidence of fighting for the period of Owens presence in the area. During the course of the excavation we found three sets of human remains. One was a German NCO killed in 1915 and identified as Albert Thielecke. Amongst the possessions that had been buried with him was a Bronze Age scraper struck from the local flint and presumably picked up during trench digging.
Fellow David Gurney writes to follow up on the report in Salon earlier this year on the great success of the Save our Forests campaign and the Independent Panel on Forestry set up by the Government to hear views on forests and woods in England as part of an ongoing dialogue with everyone who is interested in forests and woods. There does not seem to be a formal consultation but the Panel has put out a call for views and readers of Salon might wish to respond to this in the absence of anyone on the panel to speak up for the historic environment in Englands forests, which, David says, in many places (for example, Thetford Forest in Norfolk and Suffolk) is better preserved, better managed and more accessible than the landscape around it.
Some of the questions are a mite touchy-feely (Question 1: What do forests and woods mean to you?), but Question 3 asks: What do you feel to be the benefits of forests and woods to society as a whole and Question 5 asks: What do you see as the priorities and challenges for policy about Englands forests and woods? Responses have to be in by 31 July 2011.
The Society has been informed of the death of our Fellow Philip Rahtz on 2 June 2011. Our sympathies are with Philips wife, our Fellow Lorna Watts, and the children.
Philip, who celebrated his ninetieth birthday in March, as well as the forty-sixth anniversary of his election to the Fellowship (4 March 1965), will be buried at St Gregorys Minster, Kirkdale, North Yorkshire, at 2pm on Friday 10 June. You can find the church on Google Maps and read about it on Wikipedia. Philips son, Sebastian Rahtz says that everyone is welcome to come and help celebrate Philips life and works; if you are thinking of coming, it would be useful if you could let me know for planning the catering.
Friends and former colleagues are invited to a service of thanksgiving for the life of our Fellow Judith Scott, OBE, which will be held at Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk, on Friday 10 June at 2pm. Judith died on 22 May 2011, at the age of ninety-four. There will be light refreshments after the service at Abbotsford, Vicar Street, Wymondham (a short walk from the Abbey), to which everyone is welcome.
Our Fellow Michael Silverman died on 12 May 2011, at the age of sixty-one, after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage. Michael began his bookselling career with Sotherans in 1984, becoming their specialist in autograph letters and manuscripts, and in 1989 he set up in business on his own. A committee member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA), and Chairman of the Trustees of the ABA Educational Trust as well as editor of its Handbook and, for eight years, of its Newsletter, he was an expert adviser on manuscripts to the National Heritage Memorial Fund, a Patron of the Friends of the National Libraries and a member of the New York Grolier Club.
Salon 255 announced the death of our Fellow Kathleen Maxwell-Hyslop unaware that she was known to one and all by her second name, Rachel. Writing to point this out, our Fellow Nicola Coldstream adds: she was a most lively, life-enhancing person, who pursued her scholarship with expertise and huge enjoyment. Her most characteristic comment on anything she had found out anew was: Isnt it fun? It was a privilege to be in the stimulating company of Rachel and Nancy Sandars, her neighbour in Little Tew. Of the many stories Rachel told about the Institute of Archaeology in the 30s, one of the best was when she and a fellow-student (possibly Peggy Drower or Barbara Parker) were asked by Wheeler to clear out the contents of a shed at Maiden Castle and found a stuffed alligator. They didnt know what to do with this, so they buried it on the site, only for it to be carefully excavated many years later when some conservation work was being done. The excavators were not amused!
Fellow Robin Derricourt writes to pass on the news that one of the towering figures of African (and specifically Nigerian) archaeology, Ekpo Eyo, died on 28 May 2011, in Maryland, USA, where he taught African Arts and Archaeology at the university until his retirement in 2006. His obituary describes Professor Eyo as an institution in Nigerian culture, who spent a lifetime promoting knowledge of the sophisticated culture of the early peoples of Nigeria.
13 June 2011, 4.30pm: Selling silver: three centuries promotion by goldsmiths of their trade, from the late seventeenth to the twentieth century, by John Culme, silver consultant and author. Fellow Philippa Glanville commends this talk, which is part of the lecture programme at the annual Haughton International Fair, held in a pavilion on Albert Memorial West Lawn, Kensington Gardens, London (opposite the Royal Albert Hall), from 9 to 15 June.
The fair and its lectures, Philippa says, are a highlight of the year for decorative arts curators, and John Culme, longstanding silver expert at Sothebys and author of the standard works on nineteenth-century silver, is well worth hearing. His talk explores the manner in which the makers and sellers of silver and silver plated wares reached their market and how the many branches of the trade connected and kept in touch with each other through the agency of specialist publications and travellers in a way quite unsuspected by the buying public.
From now to 16 July 2011: The Corieltavi Silver Bowl: 2000 years old. To celebrate British Silver Week, the beautiful Iron Age silver bowl, named after the Corieltavi people of modern day Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire, is on display at Goldsmiths Hall, Foster Lane, London, to emphasise how important the ancient craft of silversmithing was and remains today. The bowl forms part of the Hallaton Treasure, excavated at the site of a late first-century BC / early first-century AD shrine at Hallaton in Leicestershire and has been loaned for the exhibition by Harborough Museum in Leicestershire. It is being displayed alongside a modern copy made by Alex Brogden using the same silversmithing techniques as the original maker of the bowl, many of which are still used by contemporary silversmiths. For more information, see the Goldsmiths website.
It is quite extraordinary to realise that not only do the Cambridge colleges, the University Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum together have a collection of medieval manuscripts of international quality to rival those of the Vatican or the British Library, but that there is no up-to-date catalogue of that rich resource. Fellows Paul Binski, Professor of the History of Medieval Art at Cambridge, and Patrick Zutshi, Keeper of Manuscripts and University Archives at the University Library, have begun to fill that gap with their compendious Western Illuminated Manuscripts: a Catalogue of the Collection in Cambridge University Library (ISBN: 9780521848923; Cambridge University Press; on offer at £150 until 30 June, thereafter £175).
The catalogue takes in 472 manuscripts that are illuminated or decorated, from the ninth-century Book of Cerne to Italian Renaissance books of the sixteenth century. Many of them found their way to Cambridge after the Dissolution, having come from such great and wealthy monastic libraries as Canterbury, Bury and Norwich.
Writing in the Cambridge University research bulletin, Professor Binski nominates some of his favourites: the beautiful early thirteenth-century Bestiary, a compendium of fabulous and real beasts; the only surviving copy of the Life of St Edward the Confessor by the great chronicler Matthew Paris; the tiny Breviary that belonged to Marie de St Pol illuminated on parchment so white and thin as to be like the finest kid glove; the stunning fifteenth-century Douze Dames de Rhetorique, with tiny paintings of the canals of Flanders; the first complete illustrated Chaucer; and beautifully illustrated scientific manuscripts … a book drawn up in the early fourteenth century, which contains an early diagram of the human brain and its ventricles following the theories of the Arab Avicenna.
At the meeting of the Society held on 4 March 2004, Fellows were treated to a paper on Eight thousand years of history in eighty hectares: the interpretation of the past at Terminal 5, Heathrow by Fellows John Lewis and Ken Walsh, and this book, edited by the same two Fellows with contributions from a number of other Fellows, is a much expanded version of that lecture, being the second of two volumes that have since appeared with exemplary speed on the results of one of the largest area excavations ever conducted in the UK.
The first volume, published in 2006, concerns work carried out at the Heathrow Terminal 5 site between 1996 and 2000, and this volume, Landscape Evolution in the Middle Thames Valley: Heathrow Terminal 5 Excavations Volume 2 (ISBN: 9780955451928; Framework Archaeology, continues the story through to the completion of the excavations in 2007 and by integrating the main conclusions from Volume 1, with helpful cross-references, it presents an overview of the entire excavation campaign.
What emerges is a gripping and well-told story of the evolution of a relatively ordinary landscape over the millennia separating the Mesolithic era from our own, a tale that is brought to life by some excellent artists reconstruction drawings of the landscape at key moments in the past. What also emerges is the lasting impact of the earliest users of the landscape: slight they may be, but Mesolithic feasting sites are respected and incorporated by their successors, whose bigger cursus monuments in turn fix the landscape in ways that determine the orientation and layout of field systems and trackways and access to grazing and water for centuries to come.
Big discontinuities, when the landscapes existing form is ignored and rewritten, occur infrequently, but are equally revealing: the reorganisation of the landscape that occurs in the second century AD, and the virtual abandonment that occurs in the fifth century, and the subsequent drifting that eventually settles into the beginning of the villages that survive to this day in the late Saxon period.
The above photograph, taken at the launch of the book, shows some of those involved in the excavation: Gill Andrews, FSA (Archaeological Consultant to BAA, formerly the British Airports Authority), Ken Welsh, FSA (Oxford Archaeology), Niall Donald (Wessex Archaeology), Lorraine Mepham, FSA (Wessex Archaeology), John Lewis, FSA (Society of Antiquaries and formerly of Wessex Archaeology), John Barrett, FSA (Academic Adviser, University of Sheffield), and Alex Smith (Oxford Archaeology). Photo: Kate Brady
A stream of excellent excavation reports continues to flow out of Museum of London Archaeology, this one being the work of Tony Dyson, FSA, Mark Samuel, FSA, Alison Steele and Susan Wright, FSA. The Cluniac Priory and Abbey of St Saviour Bermondsey, Surrey: Excavations 198495 (ISBN 9781901992960: MOLA Monograph Series 50) is an account of the priory (an abbey from 1399) that was re-founded in the 1080s on the south bank of the Thames, opposite the White Tower, on the site of the Saxon monastery at Vermundesei to which privileges were granted by Pope Constantine (AD 70815).
At the height of its fortunes, Bermondsey Abbey owned much of modern Southwark, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, and its miraculous Holy Rood made it a major centre of pilgrimage. This wealth was put to good use when Sir Thomas Pope acquired the buildings after the Dissolution and used the salvage proceeds to found Trinity College, Oxford. The excavation revealed parts of the early priory church and cloister, and traced its subsequent remodelling, examined the monastic cemetery and 193 individuals buried there, and recovered many artefacts from the systematic stripping that took place at the Dissolution, along with the plan of the mansion constructed by Thomas Pope around the former main cloister, reusing parts of the monastic buildings.
As well as editing the Heathrow Terminal 5 book, Fellow John Lewis found time to complete another monograph before joining the Society as General Secretary last year. Written with Fellow James Rackham, Three Ways Wharf, Uxbridge: a Late Glacial and Early Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Site in the Colne Valley (ISBN 9781901992977: MOLA Monograph Series 51) examines lithic and faunal remains from five in situ scatters in the Colne Valley and detects two main phases of hunter-gatherer activity: the earlier, dating to c 8000 BC, defined by late glacial bruised-edge long blades associated with reindeer and horse bone, and the second, dating from c 7200 BC, by early Mesolithic broad, obliquely backed flint points predominantly associated with red and roe deer.
Because so much of that late glacial and early Mesolithic recolonisation of northern Europe took place on landscapes that are now, at least partially, underwater, prehistorians have been in the vanguard of adopting the techniques of underwater archaeology, and this volume, edited by Fellow Clive Bonsall along with Jonathan Benjamin, Catriona Pickard and Anders Fischer, consists of twenty-five peer-reviewed contributions from leading authors on the results of recent research on three continents and the application of methodologies and techniques for site discovery, investigation and interpretation: Submerged Prehistory (ISBN: 9781842174180; Oxbow Books.
The British Museum, Keeper of the Department of the Ancient Middle East
Salary £57,907£74,902, closing date 10 June 2011
Further details from the BM website.