Salon Archive

Issue: 102

Forthcoming meetings

11 November: Excavations at Androna (Andarin) in Syria, by Marlia Mango, FSA. International excavation and survey work at Androna, a large village (kome) site, have since 1998 produced evidence from the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. The team from Oxford has concentrated on installations concerned with water use, notably a public bath built c AD 560 and two extra-mural reservoirs. Fed by qanats and provided with extensive outflow channels, the reservoirs at this desert site were used for the field irrigation involved in producing wheat, wine, olive oil and livestock and, perhaps, for fish breeding. The richly decorated bath, more urban than rural in character, was put to industrial use in the Umayyad period when it was replaced by a new bath.

18 November: Woodland Archaeology in the South East: an assessment, by Nicola Bannister. This paper consists of an assessment of woodland archaeology in the south east of England based on surveys whose objectives were to inform and assist woodland managers and owners in the preparation of conservation plans for woodland sites and as part of detailed historic landscape surveys of larger estate holdings. Examples of the range of archaeological sites from both large and small woodlands in Kent, Surrey and Sussex — counties with a long tradition of woodland management and exploitation — will be presented, together with thoughts on the implications of changes in land-use activities on the long-term preservation of archaeological sites in woodland settings.

25 November: The Archaeology of the Hansa: rediscovering cultural identity in northern Europe, by the General Secretary, David Gaimster.

News of Fellows

Anthony Cutler, FSA, has been named Evan Pugh Professor of Art History at Pennsylvania State University, the highest distinction the university can bestow upon a faculty member. Named after Penn State’s first president, this prestigious award is given to faculty members whose research publications and creative work are of the highest quality over a period of time, are acknowledged national and international leaders in their fields (as documented by pioneering research or creative accomplishments), are recipients of prestigious awards and demonstrate excellent teaching skills with undergraduate and graduate students. The citation acknowledged that Anthony Cutler has led the way in shaping the direction of scholarship in the field of Byzantine carved ivories and that he had more recently embarked on an investigation of gift exchange between Byzantium and Islam. He is currently completing The Empire of Things: gift exchange in Byzantium, Islam and beyond, and he is working on a book about the restoration of the mosaics at the monastery at Daphni.

Fellow Bill Putnam has been made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Bournemouth University. The citation refers to Bill's particular skill in teaching archaeology during his long career at Bournemouth University and its predecessor institutions, and the major part he played in the development of practical training in archaeology. His early years in archaeology were spent in mid-Wales, doing fieldwork on the Roman period with the late Professor Barri Jones. In recent years he has worked in Dorset, notably on Roman Dorchester and its aqueduct, and the Dewlish Roman villa. He was founding Chairman of Wessex Archaeology, a post he held for twenty-three years. Though he has now retired, he is clearly far from inactive!

Obituary

The obituary of our late Fellow, David F Grose, has just been published on the University of Massachusetts website from which the following extracts have been drawn.

David Grose, longtime professor of Classics, died at the age of 59 on 13 October at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge of cardiac arrest following complications from previous surgeries. Educated at St Olaf College and Harvard University, David trained in history and archaeology. He was a recipient of a Rome Prize Fellowship and a fellow at the American Academy in Rome. After serving as curator of ancient glass at the Toledo Museum of Art and as assistant professor of classical archaeology at the University of Missouri, David joined the Department of Classics at the University of Massachusetts (UMass), Amherst, in 1977. He served as chair of the department for eight years, during which time he was instrumental in strengthening the interdisciplinary program of study in classical languages and civilisations.

David Grose was an internationally renowned archaeologist with research interests in ancient, medieval and Islamic glass. While at UMass, David contributed significant scholarship to the field. He was the author of Early Ancient Glass (1989), The Pre-Hellenistic, Hellenistic, Roman and Islamic Glass from Tel Anafa (2003), and many articles, book chapters and excavation reports. Two excavation catalogues, The Hellenistic, Roman, and Medieval Glass from Cosa and Morgantina: The Pre-Hellenistic, Hellenistic, Roman, and Medieval Glass, will be published posthumously.

During his tenure at UMass, he pursued his lifelong interest in museum conservation. He was acting director of the Smith College Museum of Art during fall term 1986. Throughout his career he served as consultant to many major museums in the United States and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the British Museum. He also worked on numerous excavations at sites in Britain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Tunisia, Egypt and Israel.

The Department of Classics plans to celebrate David Grose’s contributions to the department and UMass Amherst with an informal gathering in his honour on 12 November 2004. For more information, contact department chair Rex Wallace ().

Is Homo floresiensis really a new species?

There has been some debate this week concerning the hominid remains found in the Liang Bua cave on Indonesia (see Salon 101) and whether they really do represent a new hominid species. One contribution to the debate appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser and has been forwarded to Salon by our Fellow Vincent Megaw who reasoned that this particular newspaper was unlikely to be regular reading for most Fellows. It comes from an article written by Professor Maciej Henneberg, Head of the Department of Anatomical Sciences at the University of Adelaide.

‘The dimensions of the face, nose and jaws [of Liang Bua woman] are not significantly different from those of modern humans but the measurements of the braincase fall a long way below the normal range. The bell rang in my head … I remembered reading a report of a 4,000-year-old Minoan skull … this skull has been identified as that of an individual with a growth anomaly called microcephaly. This well-known condition has multiple causes and affects individuals to a varying degree. Its most severe congenital form (primordial microcephalic dwarfism, or PMD) leads to death in childhood. Milder forms of microcephaly allow its sufferers to survive to adulthood, although they cause some level of mental retardation.

‘My statistical comparison of fifteen head and face dimensions of the Liang Bua specimen with those of the Minoan microcephalic shows that there is not a single significant difference between the two skulls, although one is reputedly that of the “new species of humans”, the other a member of a sophisticated culture that preceded Classical Greek civilisation.

‘Deeper down in the Liang Bua cave a forearm bone (radius) was discovered. Its reported length of 210mm corresponds to a stature of 151 to 162cm, depending on the method of reconstruction used. This is a stature of many modern women, and some modern men — by no means of a “dwarf”.

‘Thus, until more skeletons of the purported “new species” are discovered, I will maintain that a well-known pathological condition was responsible for the peculiar appearance of the skeleton, so aptly described in Nature, and that we are still a single rational species.’

National Lottery Day

The Government wanted National Lottery Day (6 November 2004) to be a celebration of ten years of funding for good causes. Instead, it proved to be an opportunity for critics to express misgivings about the way Lottery funds are being used.

Former Prime Minister John Major wanted to remind the world that the Lottery was his idea, not Tony Blair’s. In interviews he said that he established the lottery in 1994 because he wanted the money ‘to go to art, sport and heritage because they would never compete with education, defence and pensions for funding’. He went on to say that: ‘While I don’t believe the original good causes have been entirely cast aside, they have been very badly treated; the lottery is being used blatantly for substitute funding’.

In response, the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, said that the Lottery had moved on: ‘Giving the public more say in how lottery money is spent isn’t grand larceny: it’s democracy’, she asserted.

This provoked a further reaction from charity leaders, who are concerned that proposals to be announced in the Queen’s Speech later this month will enable the Big Lottery Fund, which will distribute around £700 million a year — 50 per cent of Lottery proceeds — to divert funds into the Government’s pet projects, such as the 2012 Olympics bid and tackling youth obesity.

Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which represents 1,700 charities, told The Times that the creation of the Big Lottery Fund ‘is simply the latest step in a creeping government takeover of the National Lottery. Lottery money shouldn’t be used to prop up government programmes, but to provide extra money for good causes’.

Stuart Etherington, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, added his voice to those expressing concern about the use of Lottery Funds, calling on the government to make an annual report to Parliament on how the additionality principle has been applied.

Again Tessa Jowell was ready with an answer: ‘The new fund’, she said ‘was meant to complement taxpayers’ money’. A DCMS spokesperson added: ‘There is no question of ministers interfering to decide where individual grants go. We would only use these powers to set overarching priorities so that, for instance, money goes to groups serving young people or veterans.’

Even this statement caused concern from charities, including the Red Cross and Macmillan Cancer Relief, who felt that the Government had no right even to set ‘key priority themes’, as this was a power more properly exercised by Lottery trustees.

National Trust joins the critics

National Lottery Day also coincided with the National Trust’s Annual General Meeting, which Fiona Reynolds, the Trust’s Director General, used as an opportunity to call on the Government to be more supportive of the heritage. ‘We need the Government’s policy regime to be sympathetic to what we are trying to do, rather than undermine it’, Ms Reynolds said. ‘Please give us more evidence that you care, that you will give us your support.’

In an interview prior to the AGM, Ms Reynolds told The Times that the Government was undermining the preservation of historic treasures and destroying the peace and beauty of the landscape. She said that National Trust properties were already under threat from the Government’s planning policies: ‘If the plans for the expansion of Stansted go ahead, the National Trust Hatfield Forest will certainly be damaged,’ adding that the Government’s house-building programme for the south east would leave Sheffield Park and Ightham Mote as ‘little oases, the only thing of beauty, and everything else a sea of mediocrity’.

Fiona Reynolds also hinted at her fear that the Government might try to abolish heritage as a ring-fenced lottery good cause when lottery funding for the heritage is reviewed after the next election. ‘We face ongoing questions about the future of the lottery, which raises enormous issues for the future of the nation's heritage’, she said.

If Ms Reynolds’s attack on the Government took some Trust members by surprise, her AGM speech reminded them that political campaigning was very much in the spirit of the Trust’s founders, who repeatedly took on the governments of their day.

Ms Reynolds’s comments betrayed some of the frustration felt by many in the heritage at the lack of a more positive response from Government to the sector’s transformation from an inward-looking elite to a sector that now plays a major part in generating prosperity and social cohesion — values ostensibly at the heart of the New Labour programme.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport would only confirm that a review would take place, saying that: ‘The heritage will have its share until 2009. After that the shares of all good cases are under review. We have to leave open the possibility of improving the way our money goes.’

Brace yourselves for lean times ahead, warns chairman of Arts Council England

Earlier in the week, Sir Christopher Frayling, the chairman of Arts Council England, warned arts and heritage bodies to brace themselves for lean times ahead, saying that he feared that sports organisations would take an increasing share of government funding channelled through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Sir Christopher’s warning was made in anticipation of the DCMS announcement of the apportionment of its Treasury budget for the next three years.

Sir Christopher said he feared that London's Olympic bid would take funds away from the arts. He asked why ministers were happy to be photographed at football matches, but ‘afraid of being seen at any remotely controversial arts event’.

Join them if you cannot beat them

One wonders whether life would be any different under a Conservative government, given that Michael Howard chose to celebrate the anniversary of his appointment as Tory party leader on 6 November by going to a football match (ludicrously claiming that Liverpool FC is ‘my team’, a demonstrably untrue statement since he neither owns them nor plays for them).

But English Heritage might have found a shrewd answer to all this faux laddishness — by setting out to colonise sport as part of our heritage. Last week saw the publication of Played in Manchester, written by Simon Inglis, the first fruits of an English Heritage survey looking at historic buildings associated with sport.

Launching the book, our Fellow, Malcolm Cooper, EH’s Planning and Development Director for the North, said: ‘At the moment we don’t understand the true nature and scale of our sporting heritage’. Nevertheless, the Manchester survey reveals that the city was home to the world’s first greyhound track, and one of the first ice rinks in the world, the Manchester Ice Palace. Numerous historic swimming baths dot the city (such as the Victoria Baths, winner of last year’s BBC2 Restoration contest), as well as billiard halls, lidos and bowling greens, historic grandstands and a factory where ‘rush-preventative turnstiles’ were made and exported to sports stadia around the world until 1963. EH characterised many of these as ‘neglected grounds and spaces that are of national, and even international, significance’.

National Trust publishes new strategic plan

To everyone’s surprise, the National Trust announced in the build up to this week’s AGM that it is facing financial difficulties, caught in the mire of insufficient operational funds and cash-flow shortages, leading to possible redundancies and project cutbacks. The news was released simultaneously with the publication of the Trust’s new strategic plan The National Trust — Looking to the Future 2004—7.

Elaborating on the need for more cash, the report says: ‘The Trust has untapped potential to bring even greater benefits to both people and places. In some areas — such as the backlog of maintenance and repair — our needs far outstrip the available funds. In others — such as education and lifelong learning — we provide a ready-made infrastructure that could achieve much more. This potential will only be realised if we can find more partners, build more support and attract more funds … the National Trust is rich only in liabilities: four in five properties are unable to generate enough income to pay for their conservation, and our backlog in building maintenance and repair exceeds £200m. The backlog in our countryside and coast runs to millions of pounds more. We do not own the contents of some of our houses and we need to invest in improved facilities for our visitors and volunteers’.

The report also contains an interesting catch phrase (borrowed from Coca Cola), which indicates the way that the Trust intends to brand itself and emphasise its distinctiveness in the years to come. The Trust, says the report, ‘offers visitors the “real thing” — direct contact with the past in the places where it happened’. It’s a neat idea: given the popularity of virtual history on TV, the National Trust is encouraging everyone to get off the couch and go and see the places where our history was forged.

Beauty, the Roman way

Puns abounded in last week’s reports on the analysis of the 2,000-year-old beauty cream found by archaeologists working at the site of a Roman temple near Guy's Hospital in London last year. The Guardian headlined the story ‘ The Maximus factor’, while The Times called it ‘the London makeover’. More prosaically, Nature simply reported that the cream was made of refined animal fat, most probably from a sheep or cow, with starch from boiled grains or roots and white tin oxide mixed in as a pigment. Scientific tests on the cream were led by Richard Evershed, Professor of Biogeochemistry in the school of chemistry at the University of Bristol. ‘It makes your skin look subtly paler,’ he said, adding that ‘starch is still used for this purpose in modern cosmetics.’ Francis Grew, the Museum of London’s curator of archaeology, said that there had been numerous finds of make-up jars and spatulas for mixing and applying make-up in the past, but that this was the first time that the contents had survived.

Hindu deities entrusted to the Thames

Last week’s Times carried a report by our Fellow Norman Hammond, the newspaper’s Archaeology Correspondent, on the apparent deposition of Hindu deity figures in the Thames, some of which are more than one hundred years old. Statuettes of stone and metal have been found representing Ganesh, Hanuman, Vishnu and Durga. Metal plaques called yantras have also been found, bearing a geometrical design that acts as a talisman to ward off evil spirits. These and other finds are described in an article by Nikola Burdon, of the Museum of London, in the London Archaeologist, Vol 10, No 10.

Consultations with the Hindu community suggest that the objects were made in India. Their deposition in the Thames seems to have been connected with the Hindu veneration of rivers. The Ganges, deified as the goddess Ganga, is an important place of pilgrimage. ‘As the Ganges is not very accessible to the Anglo-Hindu community, it could be that they are utilising the next best thing — a river that has an impact on their lives and their surrounding landscape,’ Burdon suggests. ‘Another explanation is the disposal of damaged religious objects. A Hindu has a responsibility to dispose of them in a respectful way, by returning them to the earth: this is often done by submerging the object in running water that flows to the sea,’ she says, though ‘not all the Hindu objects found on the Thames foreshore are broken or damaged.’

Historic Raj bungalows face the bulldozers

The Sunday Telegraph and the Independent both carried a story last week on the proposal to demolish more than 1,000 houses of the colonial era in New Delhi’s so-called Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ), an integral part of the imperial capital designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens between the two world wars. Professor Kallyat Ravindran, head of urban design at the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi, is quoted as saying that: ‘This is a national space of real historic importance. We desperately need a conservation policy for the zone’. India's cultural watchdog, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, wants the lavish gardens and homes to be a World Heritage Site. A model of twentieth-century garden city design, the LBZ has housed most of the country's leaders since independence in 1947. The former Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, lived in one of the bungalows, and was assassinated in the garden.

But planners at Delhi’s Central Public Works Division (CPWD) say that the stately white bungalows are falling apart and beyond repair. They want to replace them with modern condominiums built around swimming pools equipped with such modern conveniences as video-conferencing systems and jacuzzis. They insist that the new development would respect the heritage of the area while meeting contemporary needs. If approved by the municipal authorities and the Office of the Prime Minister, the first phase of the redevelopment could be completed within three years, say the city's planners.

For further information, see the Lutyens Trust website.

Concern for historic colonial graves

Another distressing story to come out of India this week is the news that British High Commission officials in New Delhi are worried about the state of historic graveyards containing the remains of soldiers, officials and adventurers who served in British India. Vandalism, theft and the encroachments of developers have all contributed to the parlous state of some 700 to 1,000 British-era cemeteries across India. Typical of the threat is the fate of the Rajpura Cemetery in Delhi, where British casualties of the 1857 Indian Mutiny were buried. Only the gateway arch and a granite memorial survive. All the marble headstones were stolen and sold to make benches and bathroom floors and houses were built over the land’.

The plight of India’s historic cemeteries has been highlighted by Theon Wilkinson, a retired Gurkha officer, who formed Bacsa, the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia, thirty years ago and works hard for their conservation. ‘The reality is that we have only limited resources,’ Mr Wilkinson said. ‘And this is a vast problem. We rely on volunteers and donations and do what we can.’

Mark Runacres, the Deputy High Commissioner, said it was impossible to ignore the appalling state of many cemeteries: ‘We recognise this as a genuine issue,’ he said. ‘These cemeteries are part of the history and heritage of both countries and we need to find a sustainable way of preserving key sites.’

Avebury World Heritage Site Management Plan consultation

The revised Avebury World Heritage Site Management Plan for the period 2004 to 2010 (replacing the 1998 version) has been published for consultation, along with the Avebury World Heritage Site Research Agenda. Both can be accessed on the English Heritage website. Comments are requested by 30 November 2004.

The Friends of Thornborough supported by top lawyer

In their campaign to halt further quarrying in the landscape around the Thornborough Henges complex near Ripon, the Friends of Thornborough have taken on a top heritage lawyer. Leeds-based Jerry Perlman is national solicitor of both the Ramblers’ Association and the Open Spaces Society, as well as being Deputy Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

On behalf of The Friends of Thornborough, he has submitted to North Yorkshire County Council a ten-page document demonstrating why Tarmac’s current application to extend its Nosterfield Quarry to Ladybridge Farm should be rejected. In it, he suggests that North Yorkshire County Council should treat this special area as though it were a national park by attaching greater weight to conservation of the natural and cultural heritage than to the commercial needs of the mining company.

Mr Perlman insists that the landscape around the henges deserves physical preservation because, under the law, the setting is of equal value to the scheduled monuments themselves. The application, he says, breaches the principle of sustainable development by failing to protect an internationally important historic landscape for future generations.

Rabbit invasion puts Roman forts under siege

Even when human agencies do their best to protect the heritage, natural forces do their best to frustrate their best efforts. In Scotland, rabbits are being blamed for undermining some sixty defensive structures, some of which are said to be in danger of collapse. One of the worst-affected sites is the fort at Ardoch, near Braco in Perthshire, established about AD 80, and the earliest example of a Roman frontier fort in Britain. Hundreds of rabbits have now created burrows inside its defensive dirt ramparts.

David Woolliscroft, of Liverpool University, who has been working on the site for more than fifteen years, said it was ‘only a matter of time’ before it was damaged beyond repair. ‘The earliest forts were made of timber and turf’, he said, ‘so they are ideal for rabbit warrens … rabbit holes open up the insides of the structure to the elements, which dramatically increases the damage done by wind and rain erosion.’ Mr Woolliscroft said that unless the population was brought under control, Ardoch would become ‘virtually useless’ as an archaeological site.

Historic Scotland recently conducted an investigation into the damage done by rabbits and other mammals, and a spokesman said it was in negotiation with the owners of the fort in an attempt to reduce rabbit numbers.

Impenetrable Scottish forest is Roman spin

Ardoch fort was built after the defeat of the Caledonii at Mons Graupius as part of an attempt to consolidate control over southern Scotland —an attempt that, according to Tacitus, was frustrated because the Roman army had trouble flushing the enemy out of the impenetrable forests of Caledonia. Now, however, Professor Chris Smout of St Andrews University, the Historiographer Royal, has accused Tacitus of making up the story of Scotland’s vast and impenetrable forest.

Professor Smout, author of A History of the Native Woodlands of Scotland (with Dr Alan MacDonald of Dundee University and Dr Fiona Watson, of Stirling University), says that the pollen evidence proves that the so-called Great Caledonian forest had been cut down centuries before the Romans arrived. Professor Smout points to the fact that this same excuse had been used to explain the Roman army’s defeat against the German tribes. He concludes that the existence of Scotland’s forests was an idea invented by Roman writers to preserve the image of the empire’s ‘invincible’ legions.

Edinburgh’s crumbling sandstone architecture

The consequences of a quarry closure that took place in the early 1900s are only just beginning to be realised in the heart of the Edinburgh New Town World Heritage Site, where distinguished Georgian buildings are beginning to crumble because they were repaired with the wrong sort of stone. The problem first came to light after the death of an Australian waitress, who was killed in 2000 by falling masonry outside a bar in Edinburgh. Geologists who have studied Georgian buildings in the Edinburgh New Town area have concluded that decay dates from the closure of the city’s Craigleith quarry, the only source of the original sandstone. Subsequent repairs were made using a less porous sandstone from the north of England. The two stones looked alike, but their different structures meant that water seeped between the old and new stones, eventually making them unstable.

Craigleith quarry is no longer available for stone, but preliminary excavation has identified that the mineral content of stone from the Cullaloe quarry in Burntisland, Fife, is almost identical. Though closed for more than fifty years ago, the Cullaloe quarry is now likely to reopen, and up to 40,000 tonnes of stone could be quarried for repairs to Edinburgh’s historic buildings over the next ten years.

Best new classical building award

Tusmore House in Oxfordshire was declared to be the ‘best new building in the classical tradition’ at the annual Georgian Group awards last week. Built for Wafic Said, the Syrian-born millionaire, the house has a dramatic six-column portico with finely carved Ionic capitals to rival that of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. The design, by the architects Whitfield and Lockwood, was judged to create an appropriate focus for its 3,000-acre park, which has been extensively restored to the designs of Colvin and Moggeridge, with thousands of new trees and the addition of a lake. The ambition evident in the portico is continued inside the house, which is built around a top-lit central circular rotunda ringed with giant Corinthian columns.

Chinese treasures stolen

Ten objects dating from the seventh to fourteenth centuries (including a crown, mirrors, earrings and hairpins, a fingernail guard, a lion statuette, a pair of bronze belt plaques and a pair of armlets of coiled gold wire) were stolen from a cabinet in the British Museum’s gallery of oriental antiquities on the evening of 29 October. The thief forced the lock of the waist-high, glass-topped cabinet. The museum said the cabinet did not have an alarm. At 110 metres (360ft), this is the longest gallery in the museum and it has a number of blind spots. The thief might have escaped via the museum's back door, which is close to the gallery, or through the busy Great Court. The theft was not noticed until Saturday morning. Police are investigating possible links with the theft of nine jade cups and bowls stolen last month from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Pub names have gone to the dog and bucket

Mike Hammerson of the Civic Trust is campaigning to stop the trend for replacing historic pub names with names dreamed up by international brand managers. In London, he points out, ‘buses still go to Nag’s Head in Holloway, though bemused passengers now alight at O’Neill’s. The Old Farm House in Kentish Town, recording a lost landmark, is now O’Reilly’s (this stereotyping of the Irish as a people addicted to the bottle is surely unacceptable today)’.

In launching a campaign to stop this impoverishment of the urban landscape, Mike argues that names are too often changed in ignorance, or contempt, of their meaning and value (J D Wetherspoon’s, for example, unwittingly upset the people of Saltaire when they named a pub after Sir Titus Salt, renowned as a zealous teetotal). Why not, asks Mike, keep the old names and follow the example of Paris, where street signs give a short note on the origin of the name?

The news is not all bad, however. The Pickled Newt in Croydon reverted, after twelve years, to The Albert (by which name locals had continued to call it). In Highgate, The Wrestlers, thus called since 1547, was changed back after a few weeks as a ‘Slug and Lettuce’ bar, while the nearby Duke of St Albans enjoys his own name again after a year as a Platinum Bar.

Luther’s lavatory seat

Archaeological story of the month has to be the reported discovery in Wittenberg of the lavatory on which Martin Luther is reputed to have written many of the ninety-five theses that he nailed to the church door at Wittenberg, attacking the corrupt state of the Catholic Church and launching the Protestant Reformation.

Luther, who was professor of biblical theology at Wittenberg University, suffered from chronic constipation and he says in his own notebooks that the idea for the theses came to him in cloaca (das klo, as the Germans now call it).

Now archaeologists working for the Luther Memorial Foundation believe they have found the very seat whilst excavating the remains of an annex to Luther’s house in Wittenberg, south west of Berlin. The 450-year-old lavatory is made out of stone blocks and has a 30cm-square seat with a hole. Underneath is a cesspit attached to a primitive drain. Other interesting parts of the house remain, including a vaulted ceiling, late-Gothic sandstone door frames and a floor-heating system.

Europe's oldest wooden staircase found in Austria

Fellows who have read the article on the Dürrnberg in Antiquaries Journal 83 will know that pit-props, shoring, textiles, bandages, meal remains, human parasites and faeces are among the many organic remains found by archaeologists exploring the Iron-Age salt mines in the Dürrnberg region. Now Vienna's Natural History Museum has reported the discovery of a wooden staircase from a salt mine at nearby Hallstatt in northern Austria, dating from the thirteenth century BC. Hans Reschreiter, the museum’s director of excavations, dubbed it ‘the oldest wooden staircase discovered to date in Europe, maybe even in the world’.

‘The staircase is in perfect condition’, he added, ‘because the micro-organisms that cause wood to decompose do not exist in salt mines’. The staircase was found some 100 metres (300 feet) below the surface and is about one metre (three feet) wide, made of pine and spruce. A seven-metre length of staircase has been recovered, but more is believed to have survived further up and down the mine, which lies about 200 metres from the world-renowned Hallstatt Iron Age necropolis.

Unesco’s ‘blue berets’ to protect cultural treasures

The United Nations announced last week that it was creating a rapid reaction force to step in wherever art treasures are threatened by war or natural disaster. Unesco, the UN arts and sciences agency, said it had signed an agreement with the Italian government for the ‘safeguarding, restoration and protection of the natural and cultural heritage of countries affected by conflict or natural catastrophe’. The ‘cultural blue berets’, as they are being called, will initially be formed of Italians, and will include engineers, architects, archaeologists, art historians, restorers, geologists, seismologists, book conservation specialists and experts in the illegal trafficking of art works.

The move follows international outrage over the looting of antiquities during the US-led coalition's invasion of Iraq last year. Under the terms of the plan, the government of the affected country will first contact Unesco. If officials in Paris judge the case to be sufficiently serious and urgent, they will then get in touch with Rome and ask for the setting up of an ad hoc emergency action group to deal with the damage or threat. Critics of the scheme say that these terms of reference mean that the emergency action group would have been unable to prevent the looting in Baghdad, however, since at the time there was no functioning government able to call on Unesco to act.

Books by Fellows

Our thanks to Mary Hodges, FSA, for contributing this account of the recent posthumous publication of Early Anglo-Saxon Buckets: a corpus of copper alloy and iron-bound, stave-built vessels, by our late Fellow, Jean M Cook (Oxford University School of Archaeology Monograph 60, 2004, ISBN-947816-64-X).

‘When Jean Cook died in July 2001 the community of Anglo-Saxonists lost one of its eminent members. Her research on grave goods of the pagan period, specifically “buckets”, was a project she began in 1953 and which she diligently pursued through a busy professional life in museums and university administration. In retirement her interests in teaching adult students and in participating in Oxfordshire historical and archaeological projects still allowed her to become the first woman Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. When her term of office came to an end she turned almost her whole attention to her research on buckets, intending to bring the work to a conclusion with a database and a monograph. Her copious notes and drawings over years, together with a database planned and operational, were in the files in her study when she died. Four of her friends and colleagues met to discuss how the work, so close to completion, could be brought to publication. They were Dr Birte Brugmann, German archaeologist and friend; Dr Helena Hamerow, FSA, archaeologist and at that time Director of the University of Oxford Institute of Archaeology; Tom Hassall, FSA, archaeologist, friend and colleague over many years; and Mary Hodges, FSA, friend and colleague in many joint projects.

‘Permission was obtained from Jean Cook’s family to place the whole archive at the Institute of Archaeology and copyright to any material published was also vested in the Institute. Dr Brugmann prepared a detailed plan showing how the archive could be completed and published, and this plan was submitted to the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Marc Fitch Fund asking for financial support. The support was generously forthcoming and work began in May 2002. The Institute of Archaeology provided the venue for the archive and for the work itself, including an office. The Aurelius Charitable Trust provided the financial support needed for the actual publication. An updated version of the database planned by Jean Cook is now available on-line thanks to extensive work by Debi Harlan in her capacity as archivist and web manager at the Institute.

‘The generous support for the project from all sides and the dedicated work done by Dr Brugmann are a fitting memorial to the memory of a scholar whose work now becomes available to all, as its author intended it to be.’

Conferences

The London Branch of the Institute for Historic Buildings Conservation and English Heritage are hosting a one-day conference on Historic Suburbs: their current and future state, at the Society of Antiquaries on 23 November 2004. Further details are available from Nick Collins at EH.

What promises to be the most enjoyable conference of the year is to be held in honour of our Fellow Professor Michael (Mick) Aston on 10 and 11 December 2004 at the University of Bristol’s Centre of the Historic Environment. Don’t be deterred by the official title (Perception, People and Places: approaches to European landscapes(): a quick glance at the speakers and titles tells you that this is a conference that reflects Mick’s special enthusiasms, including Landscape, French Wine and Vans (Dr Christopher Gerrard, FSA) and Of Naked Venuses and Drunken Bacchanals (Dr Paul Stamper, FSA).

Other papers include Conflict in Landscape History (Professor Christopher Dyer, FSA), Perceptions of Landscape (Christopher Taylor, FSA), the Premonstratensians in Gascony (James Bond, FSA) and Obscure Characters: thegns in the landscape of Wessex 900 to 1066 (Dr Michael Costen, FSA). Such riches are not to be missed: details from Julie Shackleford Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol.

Vacancies

Renaissance in the Regions, Senior Policy Adviser (Ref: SP/74/04)
Temporary Contract (approximately 9 to 16 months), salary £41,400 to £53,200, closing date 19 November 2004

The Senior Policy Adviser plays a leading role in the management and development of some of the key strands of the Renaissance in the Regions programme for implementation post-2006. The requirement is for someone who understands the developmental needs of the museums’ domain and the political and professional context in which it works. Well-developed project management and analytical skills are also required. For an application pack, see the MLA website.

Historic Scotland, Chief Inspector (ref: IMM/6966)
Salary c £54,000, closing date 25 November 2004

This new influential appointment will play an integral part inachieving Historic Scotland's key aim of protecting and enhancing the nation’s historic environment. The role is to manage and motivate a highly professional, multi-disciplinary team; providing advice and maintaining high standards on all aspects of repair, protection and conservation of the historic environment; ensuring that sound policy advice is given to Scottish Ministers and that effective collaboration is achieved internally; advising on a £60-million budget and grants programme; and contributing to the overall strategy of the Agency.

The candidate must be professionally qualified in one of the disciplines associated with the historic environment, with sound management and leadership skills gained in a professional environment, able to influence fellow professionals and the Agency's key stakeholders, with sound judgement and a knowledge of how government works.

For further information about the post, email quoting reference IMM/6966, or see the Odgers website.

British Waterways, Chairman
£70,000 per annum for two to three days a week, closing date 3 December 2004

Last week, Salon reported on Tim Eaton’s concerns that there are no heritage professionals at board or executive level within British Waterways (BW). Now is the chance to rectify that: DEFRA is seeking a new Chairman of the British Waterways Board with a track record of operating at main board level within a large corporate environment and ‘an empathy’ for BW’s role as guardian of our environment and heritage. For further information on British Waterways and its board, see the BW website and for details of the post contact Simon Page at the search consultants, Egon Zender International.

National Heritage Memorial Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund, Trustee to represent the interests of Wales
£1,567 per month for two to three days per month, closing date 9 December 2004

The National Assembly for Wales has been asked to recommend a candidate to represent Welsh interests on the Boards of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Trustee will be required to engage with stakeholders in the heritage and cultural sectors in Wales and with the Welsh Assembly, to chair the HLF Committee for Wales and to speak at events to the Welsh press. Suitable candidates will be able to demonstrate a broad appreciation of the heritage of Wales, a commitment to the aims and strategic objectives of NHMF and HLF and an understanding of the public and legislative environment within which lottery distributors operate, both in Wales and across the UK. They will also have a successful track record in a significant public or private sector role in Wales, with experience of leadership and evidence of good communication skills.

For an application pack and further details, see the Public Appointments Unit website or e-mail the Public Appointments Unit.