Salon Archive

Issue: 108

Forthcoming meetings

27 January: Ballot and exhibits: a new type of Anglo-Scandinavian strap-distributor, from Osbournby, Lincolnshire, exhibited by Helen Geake, FSA; some drawings of Romano-British antiquities in the Society's collections, exhibited by Elizabeth Lewis.

3 February: Acton Court: the archaeology of an early Tudor house, by Kirsty Rodwell and Robert Bell.

'Saturday, 21 Aug, Bristowe to Acton, Mr. Poyntz's place, and there Sunday, 7 m[iles]. Monday, 23 Aug, Acten to Mr. Walshe's, Œ.’ This is the only documentary record of the visit to Acton Court made by Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn in the summer of 1535, during a progress through the west of England. Until 1985 it was not appreciated that a much more substantial memorial to this event survives in the form of the standing building. This lecture aims to summarise the results of twenty years’ research into the history and archaeology of the house, instigated and recently published by English Heritage. The quality and complexity of the evidence revealed surpassed expectations and combine to make Acton Court a unique survival from a formative architectural period.

10 February: Poetry, Archaeology and Antiquarianism: a commentary and a reading, by Anthony Thwaite, OBE, FSA.

Anthony Thwaite, who has published fourteen books of poetry − most recently A Move in the Weather (2003) − introduces and reads from a selection of verse concerned with antiquities and archaeology. These will include Spenser, Cowper, Shelley, Hardy, Housman, Kipling and several poets of our own time.

News of Fellows

Congratulations to David G Woodcock, FSA, who was elected to the Association for Preservation Technology International’s College of Fellows during the Annual Conference held in Galveston, Texas, in November 2004. The Association for Preservation Technology International (APTI) is a cross-disciplinary organisation dedicated to promoting the best technology for conserving historic structures and their settings.

From Roland Smith, FSA, comes the news that the Institute of Field Archaeologists − ‘that august body that promotes professional standards and ethics for conserving, managing, understanding and promoting enjoyment of heritage’ − has recently elected a new Council, which is ‘liberally sprinkled with Fellows, who will all be aiming to make valuable contributions to the development and advancement of the Institute’. David Jennings, FSA, is now Honorary Chair, Roland Smith himself is Honorary Vice Chair, Standards, and our General Secretary, David Gaimster, is Honorary Vice Chair, Outreach. Beverley Ballin-Smith, FSA, Stephen Briggs, FSA, Patrick Clay, FSA, and David Thackray, FSA, also sit on Council, while Peter Hinton, FSA, and Alison Taylor, FSA, continue in their full-time roles as Director and Head of Outreach at the Institute.


The Society has been informed of the recent death of Henry Hallam, FSA, whose funeral took place on 18 January at Raydon, near Southwold, and of Jim Pickering, FSA, best known for his aerial archaeological work, who died before Christmas: by coincidence, both were elected Fellows in 1974 (in March and May respectively).

An obituary for our late Fellow Roger Moorey appeared in The Independent on 18 January 2005, describing him as the foremost scholar of his generation in the archaeology of the ancient Near East. Roger died on 23 December 2004, only two years after retiring as Keeper of the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, where he had spent his entire career, after joining the Department as a graduate in 1961. Roger contributed, as editor and as author, to a large number of the museum’s publications, his magnum opus being the work that drew on his interest in the techniques of production, called Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries (1994).

British Library website voted runner up in poll for best of 2004

The ‘Turning the Pages’ website, which gives public access to such works as Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks, the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Diamond Sutra, has come second in the Yahoo search engine poll to find 2004’s best site. Salon recently reported that the site had been selected as one of the year’s top ten by a panel of experts: website users were then asked to vote for their favourite from that list, and the BL site came in as the runner up. Top of the poll is a website for young people that features dancing badgers, a fish crossed with a loaf of bread and the surreal adventures of egg-shaped characters Weebl and Bob. A spokesman for Yahoo said: ‘Our winner and runner-up are so utterly different; it’s the perfect way to show the depth and breadth of the web’.

British Museum report says US troops have wrecked Babylon

In a week when heads of state around the world have seen fit to express their outrage at the evidence of prisoner abuse by US and UK troops in Iraq, evidence of the wanton destruction of Iraq’s archaeological heritage by those same troops has resulted in a deafening silence − despite the determined efforts of several Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries to draw attention to the trail of destruction and contamination that has been wrought upon the remains of the ancient city of Babylon.

Archaeologists feared the worst when US military commanders installed some 2,000 troops in the midst of one of the world’s finest archaeological sites in April 2003. Now our Fellow John Curtis, Keeper of the British Museum's Ancient Near East Department, has visited the 150-hectare site and his findings, reported in The Guardian last week, confirm that officially sanctioned cultural vandalism has occurred on a massive scale, and is every bit as damaging as the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq by local thieves and racketeers.

The damage detailed in John Curtis’s report includes: vast amounts of sand and earth gouged from the site to fill thousands of sandbags and metal mesh baskets and trenches driven into ancient stratified deposits; cracks and gaps where relief-moulded bricks that once formed the dragons decorating the world-famous Ishtar Gate have been removed (John's own pictures of the damage can be seen on the New Scientist website; and brick processional pavements from the time of Nebuchadnezzar and earlier crushed by military vehicles. In addition, large areas of the site had been covered in compacted and chemically treated gravel brought in to provide the bases for helipads, car parks and accommodation and storage areas.

‘The status of future information about these areas will now be seriously compromised,’ John Curtis reported, and he called for an international investigation by archaeologists chosen by the Iraqis to record all the damage done by the occupation forces. In response, US military officials said all earth-moving projects had been stopped and that consideration was being given to moving troops away to protect the ruins.

Following the publication of the report, our Treasurer, Geoff Wainwright, wrote to The Guardian to say ‘We should feel outrage and contempt for the perpetrators whose actions have diminished our common inheritance’. The Guardian also published the letter of our Fellow, Mike Heyworth, Director of the Council for British Archaeology, saying that ‘Archaeological organisations on both sides of the Atlantic were warning British and American governments about these issues months in advance of the conflict, and we have repeated our concerns many times since … we must press ahead rapidly with the ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and we should use our influence to encourage the Americans to do the same … we must also do more to help the Iraqi authorities to prevent looting of their archaeological sites, and also to root out those illegally trading in antiquities that have been stolen from Iraq.’

Looted Mesopotamian stone seals returned to Iraq

Some small consolation came in the form of the news last week, sent to Salon by Paul Arthur, FSA, that three stone seals looted from Baghdad’s National Museum had been returned to Iraq. The seals had been sold on the black market for US$200 to Joseph Braude, the author of The New Iraq: Rebuilding the Country for its People, the Middle East and the World (2003). The seals were found in Braude’s luggage when he was stopped for a routine search at Kennedy Airport in New York. Braude pleaded guilty to federal charges of smuggling and making false statements and was sentenced to two years’ probation. Of the estimated 15,000 items stolen from the Iraqi National Museum after the US invasion began, roughly half have now been located.

Archaeological journals and the AHRB

The Arts and Humanities Research Board has caused puzzlement and concern after circulating a list of publications to archaeological academics, asking them to rank the ten most important journals for their subject area. Many individuals and institutions have threatened not to take part in the exercise, because they are concerned that it will lead to a ‘Top Ten’ list of ‘recognised’ journals, and that scholars who publish in non-recognised journals will suffer in their Research Assessment Exercise ratings. Some are opposed to the idea of a hierarchy of status, with the journals of local societies likely to end up at the bottom. Other say that the lists of journal titles submitted for ranking, drawn up from previous RAE returns, is muddled and Anglo-centric, with popular archaeology magazines listed in the same category as journals of international repute, and important European and international academic journals omitted.

Such is the level of concern that the AHRB has agreed to a meeting in early March with members of the Subject Committee for Archaeology (consisting of university heads of archaeology departments), to explain the rationale behind the exercise and to answer the charge that 'grading' of journals in this way is misguided.

Archaeology and Heritage Link

The Council of RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust has written to Heritage Link trustees to express concern at what it believes is a failure on the part of that organisation to address directly the many issues of concern to archaeologists. RESCUE’s aim is to raise the profile of archaeology within Heritage Link, and ensure that archaeological concerns are properly represented in future statements put out by Heritage Link, which issued a Statement of Concern on 8 December 2004 (see the Link website) listing seven priority actions for Government.

In particular, RESCUE feels that the statement put out by Heritage Link equates heritage with the built environment and overlooks the central place of archaeological research in our understanding of past human society. While endorsing the list of actions called for in the Statement of Concern, RESCUE regrets the absence of a call for Historic Environment Records to be made statutory, and for Conservation Officers to be appointed by every local authority. Rescue also wants new fiscal measures to support the work of local and regional museums in curating and conserving the archives generated by developer-funded excavation in Britain, and for archaeology to be accorded a specific place in the Land Use Planning strategies, given that protection for archaeological sites threatened by development work is likely to be weakened under new planning guidance.

Dr Chris Cumberpatch, the Secretary of RESCUE, said that the Council’s statement is ‘not intended to be negative or critical of the work of Heritage Link and its members, but rather to raise issues which are of importance to archaeology which RESCUE regards as a central element of national heritage and the historic environment.’

Tory spending cuts

One proposal in last week’s Tory party report claiming to have identified £35 billion in wasteful and excessive Government spending provoked a swift and sharp response from one part of the heritage community: the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), Britain's leading waterways charity, told Conservative shadow chancellor, Oliver Letwin, MP, that his idea of selling off the assets of British Waterways to fund redundancy payments to 235,386 ‘superfluous’ civil servants was ill considered, and would undo much of the good work that had taken place in recent years to rebuild and regenerate Britain's waterways.

John Fletcher, the IWA national chairman, explained that British Waterways’ property portfolio consisted either of historic buildings that were integral to the waterways system and not suitable for commercial uses, or they were let to provide an income without which it would be impossible to sustain the waterways to minimum legal maintenance requirements. ‘If a future elected government were to confiscate these properties from British Waterways and sell them off’, John Fetcher said, ‘the move would simply backfire, since a much bigger annual government grant-in-aid would be required to fund the deficit.’

John Fletcher also said that associated organisations and waterways groups would strongly oppose such a policy and make it a major election issue: ‘I fear that Mr Letwin has been extremely ill advised on this issue, and I hope the suggestion will quickly be withdrawn as a misunderstanding’, he said.

Cathedrals share £1m repairs fund

Last week twenty of England’s sixty-one cathedrals were given grants of between £10,000 and £100,000 to carry out repairs ranging from masonry conservation to roof repairs. Altogether £1m was disbursed by English Heritage in maintenance grants, including £94,000 to Coventry Cathedral, built in 1962, to stop rain dripping on to the congregation from the leaky copper roof, and £107,000 to four Roman Catholic cathedrals, in Liverpool, Newcastle, Westminster and Southwark.

Our Fellow Richard Halsey announced the grants, saying: ‘I am proud that even against the difficult backdrop of ever-decreasing government funds, English Heritage has renewed its financial commitment this year to these great buildings.’

Nevertheless, the £1 million distributed this year represents a sharp drop from the £4 million that English Heritage allocated in 2004 and the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Colin Slee, responded to this year’s allocation by saying that the English Cathedrals Association was ‘deeply concerned’ about the Treasury's decision to cut English Heritage's budget. ‘Cathedrals do not receive any other Government support,’ he said, ‘and are spending £11 million on repairs and maintenance each year raised by their own initiative as well as generating £91 million for the economy every year, mainly in tourism.’ He added that proposals in the Lottery Bill could also affect the funds available to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which could reduce the money it makes available for capital projects. ‘Cathedrals, and the wider historic environment of which they form a part, need much more support, not less,’ he said.

More on forged Biblical antiquities

Robert Merrillees, FSA, writes to point out that Salon 107 was inaccurate in describing the so-called ‘James ossuary’ (whose inscription claimed that it contained the bones of James, the brother of Jesus) as a fake. ‘I actually saw the box on show in Toronto,’ Robert says, ‘and it seemed to me, as it looked to others better qualified than me, to be quite genuine. It belongs to a type of which many examples have been found in Jerusalem. What was dubious and now appears modern was the inscription, which, even then, given the commonness of the names, could not for certain be historically linked to Jesus. There are going to be some very red faces in the Biblical, archaeological and philological communities when all is finally revealed’.

Something of the scale of the deception emerged in The Guardian last week, in a report by Rachel Shabi on the investigations of the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA). The report described some of the more spectacular forgeries, including a tiny ivory pomegranate that had been on display at the Israel Museum in West Jerusalem since 1988 − still a very old and beautiful carving, the inscription denoting its First Temple origins is now known to have been forged − and a ninth-century BC stone tablet, again given a forged inscription in ancient Hebrew with instructions by King Joash for maintaining Solomon's Temple.

It was the latter that initially aroused the IAA’s suspicions. Following up rumours that an ex-Shin Bet (Israeli security service) agent was seeking a buyer for the stone, IAA investigators were led to the home of Oded Golan, a leading Israeli collector and one of the five men alleged by the IAA to be part of the forgery ring. Here they found not only the stone itself, and the James ossuary (which by now had returned from Toronto) but also all the tools and materials used in the fraud process for making inscriptions and patinas, and several artefacts in the process of being forged.

Regrettably, two of the four men alleged to have been involved in the fraud include respected academics: Robert Deutsch, an inscriptions expert who teaches at Haifa University, and Rafael Braun, former head of the antiquities laboratories at the Israel Museum. One of them (so far unidentified) has agreed to help the IAA and he has told them that thousands of artefacts have been faked over the last twenty years, including artefacts owned by British, American and German institutions.

The Guardian’s report goes on to explain how the black market in antiquities has made such large-scale fraud possible. These artefacts were sold ‘through the market’, meaning the objects carry no official documentation denoting their origin and are assumed to have come from looted sites. While there is always a question mark over the authenticity of any objects acquired ‘through the market’, museums all over the world still acquire antiquities in this way if they are sufficiently spectacular and likely to draw visitors to the museum.

Israel Finkelstein, archaeology professor at Tel Aviv University, is quoted as saying that the market depends on the naivety of museums and rich collectors, and their ‘wanting to believe’. Given that ‘most biblical land has been officially and rigorously excavated and has produced few relics’, it is hardly likely that ‘robbers going in with a flashlight at night’ could find such exciting antiquities.

Some have argued that the only way to stop antiquity fraud is to ban the sale of objects with unknown provenance. Others say that this would serve only to bury precious artefacts in the hands of private collectors, not evaluated by experts and not appreciated by the public.

Meanwhile, the Israel Museum is planning to celebrate its fortieth birthday by showing off its other collections − including the Dead Sea scrolls. The museum plans to turn its misfortune with the pomegranate into an opportunity to mount a display on antiquity dating methods.

More on the Nebra disk

Could the Nebra sky disk also be a hoax? Apparently not everyone in the archaeological community is entirely convinced that the disk does date from the Bronze Age. As Vincent Megaw, FSA, has written to point out, you can make your own mind up by visiting the excellent exhibition called 'Der geschmiedete Himmel' (‘The Forged Sky’), which is on at the Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte in Halle until 24 April. The exhibition features the Sky Disk in the context of similar archaeological finds from the Bronze Age, including the Sun Chariot from Trundholm (in Denmark). Further details (in English) are on the museum’s website. Later this year the exhibition moves on to the Nationalmuseet, in Copenhagen, from 1 July to 22 October 2005 and then to the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, in Mannheim, from 4 March to 9 July 2006.

RCAHMS and Scottish museums fear loss of charitable status

Several of Scotland’s most important cultural institutions came together last week to issue a warning that the Scottish Executive’s Charity and Trustee Investment Bill now before the Parliament at Holyrood would cost them millions of pounds a year, threatening key projects, including the purchase of the £35-million John Murray archive (see story below for more about this).

The National Museums of Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, and the Royal Commission on the Ancient Historical Monuments of Scotland all stand to lose charitable status and associated tax relief because they would fall foul of a proposal in the Bill that no third party can direct or otherwise control a charity’s activities: as non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), board members are appointed by ministers.

Yesterday Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the National Museums of Scotland, urged the Parliament’s Communities Committee to amend the Bill to ensure that the five bodies retained both public body and charitable status — as in England and Wales, where they are defined as exempt charities.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: ‘We will consider potential losses of income as we review the status of each NDPB.’

The John Murray archive

A controversy reminiscent of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s purchase of the Churchill archives is brewing over the decision to be faced by HLF trustees at their board meeting on 25 January over the purchase of the John Murray archive. Critics of the proposal to give £16.5m to the National Library of Scotland to help it buy the collection say that the current owner, John Murray, descendant of the eighteenth-century founder of the John Murray publishing company, should donate the archive.

Instead, Murray is asking for £32m. He argues that its sale will not enrich him or his family; if the sale goes ahead the proceeds will go to a new charitable trust, the income from which will help to support the library and archive. The documents have been valued on the open market at £45m.

The collection holds original drafts by many authors as well as files of correspondence and journals from 1768 to 1920, from such authors as Jane Austen, Lord Byron and Charles Darwin.

This is just one of the difficult decisions facing the HLF trustees at this week’s meeting. The Sunday Times reports that the fund has less than £40m to distribute, but faces nine bids totalling some £90m.

Creswell Crags gets £4.26 million HLF grant

The Heritage Lottery Fund has announced that it is giving £4.26 million to the Creswell Heritage Trust to fund a new museum and education centre, which will tell the story of the UK’s earliest known cave art. The British Museum is one of several museums that have already agreed to loan artefacts and special exhibitions to the new museum.

Further details from the Creswell Heritage Trust website.

£1.4m grant to find Bosworth battle site

Our Fellow Glenn Foard, archaeological adviser to the Battlefield Trust, is celebrating after the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed to fund a three-year archaeological and topographical research project to identify where the Battle of Bosworth was really fought in 1485, marking the end of the Wars of the Roses and the beginning of Tudor England.

Millions of people have visited the visitor centre at Ambion Hill, near Market Bosworth, believing it to be the spot where, in Shakespeare’s dramatic version of the battle, a desperate Richard III offered his kingdom for a horse. In reality the battle probably took place about a mile further away. Finding the exact spot will be just one part of the biggest battlefield study ever undertaken in this country, bringing together national experts from the fields of battlefield archaeology, military history and landscape studies.

Computer modelling and scientific techniques will be used to determine the location of fields, roads, marshes and woods that would have dictated battle tactics. Metal detectors will then help to pinpoint the spot where the armies met, known as the ‘clash point’. Researchers hope that they can uncover the route along which the defeated army fled and even the final resting place of Richard III.

Glenn Foard describes the battle as ‘a fundamental punctuation mark in our history’ and believes that its significance fully justifies the £990,000 that HLF will invest in the project, plus the almost £400,000 that will come from Leicestershire County Council and from private donors.

Britain has 270 identified battlefields, of which about 220 are in England, at least 40 in Scotland and fewer than 10 in Wales. Only in England is there an official register of battlefields, compiled by English Heritage. The Battlefield Trust has long argued that battlefields are neglected within the hierarchy of heritage sites in terms of funding, compared with castles, stately homes and Roman sites, though now battlefield archaeologists can no longer complain of being off the radar of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

HLF grant for Lincolnshire Limewoods

The Heritage Lottery Fund is to give £700,000 to the Lincolnshire Limewoods Partnership to help its work in maintaining the biodiversity of Britain's biggest concentration of ancient woodland, in which the small-leaved lime occupies a large percentage of the canopy and shrub layer. Lying to the east of Lincoln, this lime woodland is a remnant of the so-called ‘wildwood’ that covered Britain until large-scale woodland clearance began in the Bronze Age. An area of 140 km² of woodland has survived, some of which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The woods are home to many rare plants and animals, including the green man orchid, the white admiral butterfly, and the recently reintroduced doormouse. The HLF money will be used to create new woodland linkages between the existing Limewoods, and to increase public awareness of the Limewoods, their management and ancient rural crafts such as coppicing.

Further HLF news

£775,000 has been awarded by HLF to Cyfeillion Cadw Tremadog (Friends of Historic Tremadog) for the restoration of St Mary’s church and the Coadestone gateway to the churchyard, both of which are listed Grade II*. Tremadog is an exceptionally fine and unaltered example of a planned town near Porthmadog (in Gwynedd, North Wales), founded by William Alexander Madocks, who bought the land in 1798 and tuned into a port for the export of Welsh roofing slates. Saint Mary's church and the Coadestone gate were both completed in 1811. The church was built from brick rendered with Parker's Roman Cement to look like Bath stone on the upper tower and spire. The arched gateway to the churchyard was made of Coadestone imported from the Coade Factory in Lambeth, London – a very fashionable material, given that the Prince of Wales, later George IV, had just completed a conservatory at Carlton House using Coadestone and cast iron.

The National Archives is to get a £772,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a nationwide project called Routes to the Future, which will capture and record the experiences of first- and second-generation settlers in England. The new project builds on the success of Moving Here, launched in 2003, which helps members of the Caribbean, Jewish, Irish and South Asian communities to trace their roots in England, going back two hundred years. The new funding will enable information to be added from Turkish, Yemeni, Chinese, Eastern European, Ugandan, Asian and Portuguese migrants. The two-year data-gathering exercise will involve some 800 people across England documenting their experiences of moving to this country. The information they provide will be collated by museums working with communities in London, Leicester, Coventry, Liverpool and Yorkshire. It will also provide training opportunities for community groups in recording skills as they interview and collate stories, and provide educational materials for use in schools.

Rock art website celebrates work of Stan Beckensall, FSA

Newcastle University has launched a splendid new website celebrating the work of our Fellow, Stan Beckensall, who has spent the last forty years finding and recording rock carvings made by Neolithic and Early Bronze Age people in Northumberland between 6,000 and 3,500 years ago. ‘Web Access to Rock Art: the Beckensall Archive of Northumberland Rock Art’ was funded by an AHRB Resource Enhancement Grant and can be accessed at

In launching the site last week, project leader Aron Mazel announced that more than 250 new examples of prehistoric rock art carvings have been found in the region during eighteen months of recent research. Among the discoveries is a collection of fourteen carved stones at Goatstones, near Wark, Northumberland. A farmer in the region also showed the project team seven panels on his land that had not been previously recorded. Another group of carvings, at Ketley Crag on the edge of Alnwick, was ‘discovered’ by cattle who chose the same cave shelter as the rock artists had 4,000 years ago. It is among a handful to escape destruction by erosion or quarrying.

Aron Mazel said: ‘The Beckensall archive gave this project a head start but we've also been very excited to find new specimens of this very special art. There are likely to be more carved stones under the undergrowth so we're sure this is not the end of the story.’

Fire at Allerton Castle

Allerton Castle, north Yorkshire, was gutted by fire during the night of 22 January 2005 after a chimney fire turned into a devastating blaze. Fortunately nobody was injured, but the roof and first floor of the Grade-I-listed building, which lies close to the A1 between Harrogate and York, has collapsed. English Heritage has sent structural engineers to the site to advise the owner on the extent of the damage and how the building might be restored. A spokesman said: ‘Now and in the weeks to come we will be offering our support and expertise to assess the nature and extent of the damage, and the best way to bring the building back into full use.’

Allerton Castle dates largely from 1848–51 in its present form, but it incorporates parts of an earlier Gothic Revival structure and of the house built by Prince Frederick Augustus, the Duke of York, the brother of George IV, in the late 1780s (some people believe that the nursery rhyme, ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’, was partly inspired by the construction of the hilltop temple in the grounds). The house is best known for the 80-foot-high galleried Great Hall, whose panelling seems to have survived the fire. The castle is now run and maintained by the US-based Gerald Arthur Rolph Foundation for Historic Preservation and Education, which is a registered charity.

Pressure group to campaign for excavation of the Villa of the Papyri

The Herculaneum Society, which met in Oxford last weekend, has pledged to raise some £10.6m in order to excavate the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, in the belief that lost works by such authors as Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus could lie buried in the burned and waterlogged ruins of the library. A newly developed technique called multi-spectral imaging (MSI) enables carbonised papyri to be read, hence the zeal for revisiting the villa. Members of the Society also believe that renewed seismic activity, detected recently around Vesuvius, makes it imperative that the villa is re-entered soon and any surviving papyrus rolls removed to safety.

Our Fellow, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Director of the British School at Rome, is one of those opposed to the excavation because he believes there is nothing new to be found at the site, and because he believes greater priority should be given to the conservation of Herculaneum as a whole, given its current ‘scandalous’ state of neglect and ‘lamentable’ condition.

Further information can be found on the Herculaneum Society’s website

Gulbenkian Prize shortlist announced

Industrial archaeologists have been heard to complain that their work in protecting the UK’s industrial heritage is often derided and misunderstood. Not any more: six of the ten projects shortlisted for this year’s Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year come from the industrial, marine and transport (IMT) sector. Candidates for the UK’s largest single arts prize (worth £100,000 to the winner) include the National Railway Museum at Shildon, the Coventry Transport Museum, the Big Pit National Mining Museum of Wales, the Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life, the Museum of Barnstaple & North Devon Life for its Shapland & Petter project concerned with the archives of a local furniture-manufacturing company and the National Trust for its Back to Backs project, in Birmingham.

The shortlisted non-IMT projects are the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Courtyard Development, Compton Verney, in Warwickshire, the Foundling Museum, in London and the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Art Gallery, Lochmaddy, North Uist. The latter wins the popular vote, if newspaper reports are any indication. This small community museum, largely created by volunteers, has been shortlisted for its Carn Chearsabhagh Project, an exhibition curated by fourteen local groups on North Uist, including youth and athletics clubs, a women’s group and local businesses, who each researched the history of a particular artefact from the museum collection store and how it related to their own community story.

The four finalists for the 2005 prize will be announced on 18 March and the winner will be announced on 26 May during Museum and Galleries Month 2005.

Lord Nelson’s eye-patch is a myth

Our Fellow Colin White, a leading Nelson expert and Curator of Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, has challenged the popular image of Admiral Lord Nelson by proving that Nelson would not have needed to wear an eye-patch over his blind eye because there was no disfigurement. On the contrary, Nelson experienced great difficulty in persuading the Navy Examining Board to award him a pension for the loss of his sight because there was no visible evidence of damage.

The black patch myth seems to have arisen in the mid-nineteenth century, and then popular image was probably cemented into popular iconography by the eye-patch worn by Laurence Olivier in Alexander Korda’s 1941 film about Nelson’s affair with Emma Hamilton, That Hamilton Woman.

Nelson lost the sight in his right eye after the Battle of Calvi, in 1794. Dr White, who is planning to publish a new volume of Nelson’s letters in April 2005, has found letters written in a shaky script, when Nelson was recovering from the loss of his arm and still learning to write with his left hand, in which he expresses pain at the thought that the Navy Examining Board could think him capable of lying. Nelson goes on to say that ‘I have asserted to the Navy Board that I have lost my right eye, and in addition have sent proofs that none can doubt … hope on second consideration, the board will think different’.

Dr White suggests that the myth about the eye patch stems from records showing that Nelson wore an eye shade attached to his hat to shield his good eye from the glare of the sun. ‘So the new evidence has both corrected the old myth and offered an explanation of how it arose,’ he said. The letter will be exhibited alongside other rare and unseen material at an exhibition entitled Nelson and Napoléon at the National Maritime Museum from 7 July until 13 November this year.

Hindus want to reclaim their swastika

In the wake of royal misbehaviour at fancy dress parties, Ruth Gledhill, the Religion Correspondent at The Times, reported last week that British Hindus have started a campaign to reclaim the swastika as their symbol of life and fortune, rather than the Nazi symbol of anti-Semitism and inhumanity.

Hindus have used the right-facing version of the swastika as a good fortune symbol in jewellery and on doors and buildings for more than 5,000 years. The Nazi Party adopted it in 1920 at Salzburg: Allied wartime propaganda spread the false belief that the swastika was later reversed at Hitler’s insistence to the left-facing version, meaning ‘death’ in Hindu mythology.

Ramesh Kallidai, of the Hindu Forum, is concerned that a symbol of great antiquity and resonance to Hindus could be banned under European law because of its association with the Nazis. His organisation is planning pro-swastika awareness workshops for every region of Britain with a large seminar in London, the distribution of an information booklet to faith communities and the lobbying of MPs.

The swastika, formed from a cross, with the arms bent to the right or left, is a symbol that has been invented and reinvented by many different cultures at different times: it is found in a Palaeolithic cave painting, on pottery and coins from ancient India, China and Greece, and on Native American blankets. In Germany the swastika was popularised after Heinrich Schliemann found numerous objects with swastikas on them at Troy and Mycenae. The word itself is made up of two Sanskrit words: su, meaning ‘good’, and asti, meaning ‘to exist’. The last part changes the infinitive to the imperative so that the literal meaning of the term swastika is ‘let good prevail’.

English Heritage Funding for National Capacity Building

English Heritage anticipates that around £500,000 a year will be available to heritage bodies over the next three years for funding national capacity building (the old Heritage Grant Fund programme). Of this sum, around 8 per cent will be absorbed by existing commitments to fund programmes of work being carried out by the likes of the CBA, the Victorian and Georgian Societies, Heritage Link and so on. This still leaves £100,000 per annum unallocated, and English Heritage has decided to invite themed bids, normally for three-year funding, as follows: Conserving the Historic Environment (bids being sought now), Managing the Historic Environment and Providing Access to the Historic Environment (bids will be sought in winter 2005).

Organisations wishing to bid for support should in the first instance contact Bharti Mehta at English Heritage. Completed application forms must be submitted by 28 February 2005.

Clore Leadership Programme

Applications for the second round of Fellowships under the Clore Leadership Programme are now being invited. The programme is designed to help develop potential leaders across a cultural sector. Each Fellow will follow an individually tailored programme lasting a year or longer, starting in September 2005. For further information and guidance in using the online application form, see the Clore Foundation website. The closing date is 25 February 2005.


The Historic Farm Buildings Group Conference 2005 will take place in Herefordshire on 16 to 18 September 2005 and will combine lectures and visits to traditional farmsteads in the county, including hopyards, cider orchards, mixed farms and farms dedicated to the breeding of pedigree Hereford cattle. Further details from Joan Grundy.

Books by Fellows

A weighty and compendious 630-page volume concerned with Knossos: Palace, City, State has just been published by the British School at Athens (BSA Studies Volume No. 12, ISBN: 0904887 45 6299; £96 plus post/packing). The volume brings together fifty-four papers by leading scholars in the field who took part in the Conference for the Centenary of Sir Arthur Evans’s Excavations at Knossos, held in Herakleion in November 2000, organised by the British School at Athens and the 23rd Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Herakleion. Edited mainly by one Fellow (Gerald Cadogan) and with several other Fellows among the contributors, the book is packed with new information and insights concerning not just Knossos itself, but also many other aspects of Minoan and Cretan studies.

Full details can be found on the BSA website. E-mail orders can be addressed to Sue Sadler.

Archaeological study tour of Ireland

Niamh Whitfield, FSA, will once again be leading her annual study tour of Ireland, this year from 13 to 21 June. The aim of this year’s trip, organised in conjunction with Morley College, London, is to see the most interesting archaeological sites and early medieval monuments in the north west of Ireland, set in magnificent scenery on lake islands and rugged coastline. The emphasis is on monasteries, castles, stone forts, sculpture and the pilgrimage sites of the early medieval period, including places associated with the founder of the monastery of Iona, St Colum Cille. Other places of interest to be visited include the walled city of Derry, Castle Coole (designed by Wyatt), Glenveigh Castle (owned by Arthur Kingsley Porter), the Giant’s Causeway and Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in Europe. If twenty people sign up, the cost will be £799 (including flights and almost all evening meals; single room supplement £110); if twenty-five or more, the cost will be £759. For more information contact Niamh Whitfield.


English Heritage, Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Bristol
Salary c £27,000, closing date 26 January 2005

To provide technical advice for statutory scheduled ancient monument casework, grants management systems for historic buildings and churches and general conservation and promotion of the cultural heritage. Candidates need a sound knowledge of the prehistory of England and its physical remains, supported by a specialist focus in industrial archaeology, gardens and landscapes or urban/planning archaeology. For an application form email Anne Hewitt quoting ref: H/02/05.

Archbishop’s Council Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division, Research Assistant
Salary £22,550, closing date 26 January 2005

Key projects include development of the ChurchCare website into a one-stop shop for guidance on care, maintenance, use and funding of church buildings, the preparation of toolkits for use by those involved in church buildings, co-ordinating the production of publications and acting as the central contact point for the national network of DAC Secretaries. For an application form and job profile see the website at

Woodchester Mansion, Director
Salary £25,000. Closing date 31 January 2005

An exciting opportunity to take charge of a major programme of Heritage Lottery funded restoration in one of the country’s most celebrated Gothic Revival buildings. In addition to supervising this demanding project, the challenge is to implement the expansion of the established training programme and to grow income through fund-raising programmes and increasing visitor revenue. For a full job description, see the Mansion website or send an email. For an informal chat ring Christopher Catling at the Mansion on 01453 861541.

Museums Association, Head of Publications
Salary £37,080, closing date 31 January 2005

To edit the Museums Journal and to oversee the Museum Practice magazine and the Museums Association’s website. Further information and job description from the MA website.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Senior Curator, Textiles
Salary up to £47,225, closing date 31 January 2005

A textiles expert with an established international reputation (including publications) is required to take responsibility for the historic textiles collection. Further details from the V&A’s website under ‘About the V&A’, ‘Job Opportunities’.

Victorian Society, Southern Architectural Adviser
Starting salary £19,000 + pension, closing date 2 February 2005

Due to the resignation of Richard Holder, the Victorian Society has a vacancy for a London-based Southern Architectural Adviser, educated to degree level or equivalent, with an enthusiasm for Victorian and Edwardian architecture, excellent written and oral communication skills and knowledge of the planning system, to start mid-July or soon after.

For a job description and application form email

English Heritage, Senior Curator: Special Projects
Salary c £29,000, closing date 3 February 2005

To develop presentation plans and display schemes at English Heritage properties based on scholarly research, starting with Apsley House. For an application pack, send an email to Carole Arjoon quoting ref: LON/1/05.

Edinburgh World Heritage, World Heritage Site Co-ordinator & Deputy Director
Salary c £34,000, closing date 7 February 2005

Responsible for implementing the World Heritage Site Management and Action Plans, monitoring the Site, engaging with and influencing strategic city development, planning and policy issues and deputising for the Director. A relevant professional qualification and a highly developed understanding of conservation within a dynamic, urban environment are required plus management experience and strong verbal and written communication skills. Application forms can be downloaded from

Institute of Conservation, Chief Executive
Package up to £45,000, closing date 11 February 2005

The Institute of Conservation is a new body being created by merging five national and specialist organisations to create a new, effective, influential organisation representing upwards of 3,500 individuals. A dynamic and articulate individual is needed to lead this change, unifying the many different interests at stake, and to be a strong public advocate for conservation. Among the required attributes are leadership, management and communication skills, an empathy with the arts and heritage sector, and a commitment to the value of conservation. Experience of charities and not-for-profit membership organisations and of issues affecting small businesses will be an advantage.

An application pack can be downloaded from quoting ref: IOC01/G.

Cornwall and Scilly, Historic Environment Planning Advice Officers (two posts)
Salary £19,578 to £25,407, closing date 9 February 2005

This is an exciting opportunity to join a dynamic Historic Environment team in one of the most culturally distinctive and attractive areas of the country, delivering an integrated approach to the management of the historic and natural environments of Cornwall and Scilly. You need at least five years’ experience in a local authority or other professional archaeology unit and experience of the planning system in relation to the Historic Environment. It is also essential that you have a degree in archaeology or equivalent, and hold Associate Membership of the Institute of Field Archaeologists or equivalent. Good communication and advocacy skills are essential to your role in the team. The service is IT driven and familiarity with GIS, as well as knowledge of the Historic Environment of Cornwall and Scilly, would be an advantage.

If you would like an informal discussion about the posts please contact Veryan Heal, Historic Environment Advice Manager, tel: 01872 323623. An application form and further details can be obtained by visiting our website and quoting ref: 502

Dulwich Picture Gallery, Director
Salary c £50,000, closing date 18 February 2005

Dulwich Picture Gallery is seeking a Director to succeed Desmond Shawe-Taylor, who is to become Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures. Candidates need to be able to demonstrate sound financial experience and the ability to lead a busy multi-disciplinary team as well as a reputation for sound scholarship. Full details are on the Gallery’s website.