Weekly meeting report

Dr Richard Miles told Fellows at the weekly meeting on 10 October that Vandal-epoch Carthage was not a place of decay, as has been traditionally asserted. Buildings and churches were created, reviving the city and respecting the existing Roman street grid. For the end of the classical antique city, we have to look to the post-Vandal era of the Justinian reconquest. Large churches were erected to signal that Carthage was now back in the hands of orthodoxy (the Vandals being Arian). These buildings redefined the city, blocking off the old streets. The topography of Carthage began to change as new streets and new circulation routes began to evolve around them.

A full report of the meeting held on 10 October is now available on the Society’s website at www.sal.org.uk.

New website

The new website is now up and running. We apologise to anyone who experienced difficulties in logging on last Wednesday when the changeover was taking place. New features will be added to the site over the coming months ‘ including, for example, the availability of all back numbers of SALON.

Forthcoming meetings

17 October: Mont Orgueil Castle, Jersey: Recent Work on the Medieval and Tudor Royal Castle, by Dr Philip Dixon, FSA and Dr Warwick Rodwell, FSA
24 October: Ballot
31 October: The Ancestry of the Medieval Great Tower, by Dr Edward Impey, FSA, to be followed by a presentation of prizes to GCSE and A-level archaeology students by our Patron, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Gloucester.

Fellows’ News

Our Fellow Ewart Oakeshott, who died on 30 September, aged 86, was the subject of an obituary in The Daily Telegraph on 12 October. The obituary described him as a leading authority on European arms and armour, especially the medieval sword. His expertise in the field was unrivalled, it said, but he always insisted he was a mere amateur. During his life he assembled a substantial collection of swords and armour which he bequeathed to the Oakeshott Institute of Arms and Armour, an educational and research centre based in Minneapolis ‘ insisting that they not only be displayed, but that they also be handled and swung. He himself loved handling swords and said this helped him understand how weapons were used on the battlefield.

CBA anger at treatment of wreck

The CBA (Council for British Archaeology) has voiced its extreme concern about a commercial treasure-hunting contract signed by the UK Government and an American underwater salvage company to recover bullion from the wreck of HMS Sussex off Gibraltar. HMS Sussex sank on its way to provide British financial support to the Duke of Savoy during the war against Louis XIV in 1694. The treasure that went down with her is alleged to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the open market. The wreck is also likely to contain human remains of the sailors lost with the vessel.

In a strongly worded press release issued on 8 October, the CBA said ‘Through this deal the British Government is engaged in a joint venture selling antiquities to pay for an investigation of doubtful archaeological feasibility, while also lining its own pockets and those of a foreign company. The CBA fears that governments all over the world will now be pressurised to sign up to similar or worse deals, putting their own underwater heritage, as well as Britain’s, at peril’.

Commenting on the deal, Dr Francis Pryor, FSA, and President of the Council for British Archaeology, said: ‘This contravenes UK commitments to international conventions, as well as basic principles of the Government’s own heritage policy. If you applied these principles to on-land archaeology it would drive a coach and horses through hard-won foundations of responsible heritage management’.

The CBA believes that instead of promoting – and benefiting from – commercial treasure hunting under the guise of archaeology, Britain should sign up to the UNESCO Convention on Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and use the nearby naval base at Gibraltar to develop and demonstrate ways in which governments might patrol and monitor their historic wreck sites in international waters. This would do far more to promote better international collaboration to protect the underwater heritage in international waters.

The full contents of the press release as well as background information can be read at www.britarch.ac.uk/conserve/sussex.html.

APPAG public meeting

Fellows are invited to attend a public meeting that is being convened by APPAG (the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group) at the Society of Antiquaries from 10am to 2pm on Saturday 7 December. Lord Redesdale, Secretary of APPAG, explained that the purpose of the meeting was to let everyone have their say before APPAG finalises its report.

The APPAG report will consist of recommendations and action points for resolving the problems facing archaeology in the UK, based on evidence submitted to the group through public consultation and through select committee sessions held in the House of Lords during July. The 135 MPs and peers who form the membership of APPAG will meet in December, after the public meeting, to finalise the report, which will be published early in 2003.

Liberal Democrat policy on archaeology

SALON 28 reported that the Liberal Democrats debated archaeology at their annual conference in Brighton. Fellow Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick (who declares an interest as Chair of the local party that submitted the motion to Conference and who spoke in support of it) adds: ‘The Liberal Democrats did not just debate archaeology. Conference voted unanimously to endorse the motion as policy in England’.

The full text of the policy motion may be found on the Liberal Democrat website at www.libdems.org.uk/policy/conference/agenda/Thursday26th September/F19 Archaeology. Key points are the calls for:

1) archaeological Sites and Monuments Records and their successors to be adequately funded as a statutory function;
2) a comprehensive and fully funded Portable Antiquities Scheme;
3) damage to Scheduled Monuments to be included in a criminal justice bill and for the laws relating to archaeological sites to be reviewed and strengthened.

Dr Fitzpatrick continued: ‘As the Liberal Democrats are a federal party, the decision to adopt this policy more widely is for the Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats respectively. I am optimistic that, subject to appropriate modification, this will follow.’

Moving the motion at the conference, Lord Redesdale said: The Liberal Democrats are the first major political party to have a policy for archaeology. I hope that the other parties will follow suit. Listeners to Radio 4’s Today programme a fortnight ago will have heard spokespersons at the Labour party conference being asked what their policy on archaeology was. The Conservative party was asked the same question at their conference in Bournemouth last week. Neither has admitted to having a party-endorsed policy as yet.

Threatened closure of Gloucester Archaeology Unit

The Gloucester City Branch of Unison organised a demonstration in the city on 2 October to protest against proposed cuts of ‘500,000 in the Culture, Learning and Leisure budget. If implemented by Gloucester City Council at their 16 October meeting, this will mean the closure of the Gloucester Archaeology Unit, with the loss of seven staff and the end of fieldwork, research, events, training digs and work experience opportunities in one of the foremost cities of Roman Britain. The city’s museum services are also under threat, with the proposed merger of the Folk Museum and the City Museum & Art Gallery.

Campaign organisers are asking supporters to email Kevin Stephens, Leader of Gloucester City Council, at [email protected] to make their views known.

Museum and gallery heads lobby Government to ‘think again’

Senior figures in the museums world, including Lord Evans, Chairman of Resource, were reported by The Guardian last week to be lobbying the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to provide the money needed to implement the recommendations of Renaissance in the Regions, the Resource report on the future for regional museums. This report identified the need for a minimum of ‘100 million ‘ and ideally ‘167 million — to set up a system of regional hubs for sharing curatorial and management expertise, and to resolve the chronic problems of decaying buildings, understaffed museums and inadequate acquisition budgets. In addition, national museums and galleries, such as the British Museum and the Tate, are arguing for a significant investment in order to wipe out projected deficits.

Hope that the money would be forthcoming were raised in the Chancellor’s spending review speech in July when he promised ‘to end two decades of decline and neglect in the regions, which have left galleries across the country in a parlous state’. Now it appears that the Chancellor will only come up with ’40 million of extra spending. A spokesperson for DCMS has said that no announcement will be made until the end of October, but that ‘a significant amount’ of new funding would be forthcoming.

Hominid from Chad could be an ape

SALON 23 reported the discovery of a new hominid species, claimed to be our oldest ancestor and named Sahelanthropus tchadensis after its find site, in Chad. The find was also significant for its location, some 1,000 miles east of previously known early hominid populations.

Now, scientists writing in Nature, Britain’s leading scientific journal, have suggested that the excitement caused by the find was premature, and that the skull may well be that of an ape after all. Milford Wolpoff, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, one of the four authors of the new report, says: ‘There’s conclusive evidence that it’s not a biped, and therefore we conclude it’s not a hominid’. He added that: ‘We think it’s an ape … it could be an ancestor of both chimps and humans before the species split, and probably this is an extinct branch’.

The fall of Adam

Tullio Lombardo’s renowned statue of Adam, two metres tall and carved in 1490-5 for the tomb of a Venetian doge, fell off its pedestal in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art on 6 October and shattered into a number of pieces. The accident occurred when the base buckled and on a Sunday night, when the gallery was closed. It is expected that it will be two years before the repaired statue ‘ claimed as ‘the first monumental nude after classical times’ ‘ goes on display again, this time on a solid base.

Courtauld Institute to gain 105 new paintings

The Courtauld Institute announced this week that 105 works of art by late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century painters and sculptors had been given to them on indefinite loan. The works went on display at the Institute’s Somerset House Gallery on 10 October, and include paintings that helped to revolutionise art in the twentieth century by Derain, de Vlaminck, Dufy, Kandinsky, van Donken and Jawlensky.

Rather than showing the loaned works on their own, the Institute plans to integrate them with its existing collection, to show how artists influenced each other through a period of radical change in art at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Dr Ernst Vegelin, senior curator at the Courtauld Institute, said the loan ‘carries forward the story of the Courtauld’s existing collection. Previously we were only telling half the story, whereas now the gallery is able to show historically coherent groups of works representing key developments in the art history of the twentieth century’. The combined collection will move to a new and expanded exhibition space in the South Block of Somerset House within the next three years.

The 105 works have been loaned by the Fridart Foundation, set up in 1960 by Dr David Josefowitz, who made a fortune as one of the inventors of the modern long-playing record, which owns paintings on its own behalf, and acts for anonymous private owners who are willing to loan works for public enjoyment. The Fridart Foundation also owns an important collection of period string instruments which it has lent indefinitely to the Royal Academy of Music for use by young musicians.

CBA workshop on ‘Archaeology in Education’

Don Henson of the CBA is organising one of his popular workshops on Archaeology in Education at the Museum of St Albans on 15 November 2002. The theme of this workshop is Everyone included: archaeology for specialised audiences, and the speakers will look at examples of best practice in social inclusion and community archaeology. A few places are still available: contact [email protected] for a registration form.

Victorian Society’s autumn lecture series

There are a limited number of tickets left for the Victorian Society’s Autumn 2002 lecture series on the Victorian House and its Interiors. The lecture series marks the publication of the Victorian Society Book of the Victorian House, a comprehensive guide to the care and conservation of Victorian and Edwardian houses, by Kit Wedd. The seven lecturers have chosen themes that illustrate how houses were used, furnished and decorated in the nineteenth century. Kit Wedd himself starts off the series on Wednesday 23 October when he looks at the reluctant modernisation of the Victorian home, examining the impact of new technology on domestic interiors. Other lecturers look at taxidermy, textiles, colour schemes, wallpaper, conservatories and plants and Victorian dining.

Tickets have sold extremely well and may not be available at the door. Download details of the lectures and a booking form from www.victorian-society.org.uk/downloads/victorianhouselecs.pdf or telephone 020 8747 5890.

Vacancy for Head of Stonehenge, English Heritage

This post has to be worth considering on the basis of the job title alone ‘ not quite King of Stonehenge, but the next best thing. On the other hand, you will be responsible for the total operation of Stonehenge, a job guaranteed to earn brickbats, which is why the job description requires someone who is ‘adaptable and flexible, able to handle many diverse situations with tact and diplomacy, with exceptional communications and negotiating skills, and an ability to handle sensitive issues discretely’. The job promises ‘unusual working hours’ (that includes managing the Solstice and Spring and Autumn Equinox operations). In return for all this you will be paid a salary of c ‘40,000.

For further details and an application form, send an A4-sized self-addressed envelope to Glenda Turbett, Human Resources Department, English Heritage, Room 409, 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET, quoting Ref: R/86/02. Closing date: 25 October 2002.

Vacancy for Senior Cultural Partnerships Officer, Milton Keynes

The post involves developing key partnerships in the cultural sector, locally, nationally and internationally, so as to make the most of the facilities within the arts, museum and heritage areas. Salary ‘27,363”31,737, closing date 25 October. Details by email from [email protected] quoting reference LO2567/GRD.

London’s name confirmed

Archaeologists excavating a site in the Southwark area of London say they have unearthed the oldest known plaque inscribed with the earliest known physical proof of the capital’s original Roman name. The 12-inch-by-16-inch Italian marble plaque, found at the junction of three key Roman roads, is dedicated ‘to the spirits of the emperors and the god Mars Camulos’ and was set up by ‘Tiberinius Celerianus, moritex [or chief negotiator] of the traders of London’.

Francis Grew, curator of archaeology at the Museum of London said the plaque probably dated from between AD 50 and 150, would have been placed prominently either on a building or in a shrine. ‘The purpose of this was to advertise the importance of the man who, by his name, was from northern Gaul, probably from the Champagne region of Rheims, and who in Rome would have been treated as a yokel but who had made it in London,’ he said.

He added that in the French river port of Lyon there was plentiful evidence from inscribed plaques of the important merchant classes. ‘This is in part what makes it so important. It is clear evidence of the emergence of the merchant class in London.’

World-shattering events

If you ever need a lunch venue in York, you could do worse than try the cafe in the cellars of the National Trust-run Treasurer’s House, immediately east of the Minster. While you wait for your home-made soup or salads to be prepared, you can read the eighteenth-century calendar on the wall. This Chronological Table of Remarkable Events from Creation to the Present Time published by John Knox of 148 The Strand in 1774, lists around 150 world-shattering events — such as the Creation, the Fall of Troy and the Birth of Christ. Tucked in amongst these momentous events is: 1751: Antiquarian society at London incorporated. Also, apropos of last week’s lecture, 1754: The new stile [sic], 3rd Sept being counted the 14th. Curiously, the event given for AD 915 is: ‘University of Cambridge founded’. Nowhere else in the calendar is another university mentioned. Clearly John Knox was a Cambridge man, but what is the origin of this idea that Cambridge is a Saxon foundation and England’s oldest university?