Salon Archive

Issue: 117

Forthcoming meetings

9 June: Antiquaries and Players in Pursuit of Liturgical History, by Richard Pfaff, FSA. The study of medieval liturgical history in England began in the middle third of the nineteenth century, in contexts distinguishable as ecclesiological, confessional and antiquarian (eg John Gage’s Archaeologia papers of the 1830s). From 1890 on, the Henry Bradshaw Society provided a prime outlet for the publication of scholarly editions of liturgical texts. Though several of its most prominent figures were also Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries, the pursuit of liturgical history seemed to fall out of the range of matters understood as antiquarian, and by the mid-twentieth century its contexts had become very largely academic. Does it have any place in the ether of Burlington House?

16 June: The Goldsmith's Trade in Restoration London: its structure, products and services, by David Mitchell.

Summer Soirée

A few tickets still remain for the popular and sociable annual Summer Soirée that follows the Miscellany of Papers meeting on 23 June. Tickets (to include Pimms and strawberries) cost £5 and are available from Nina De Groote on 020 7479 7080.

Ballot result

Twenty new Fellows were elected at the ballot on 2 June 2005. Congratulations to:
Geoffrey Irwin
Jeannie Chapel
Simon Bradley
John Rhodes
Neil Rhind
Anne Mathers
Christian Dekesel
Philip Morgan
Beverly Straube
Eamon Duffy
John Thorneycroft
Sharman Kadish
John Sell
Glenys Crocker
Stuart Blaylock
John Baskett
William Mackay
Richard Peterson
Hugh Willmott
Jennifer Freeman.

President’s Anniversary Address

The text of the Address made by our President, Eric Fernie, at the Anniversary Meeting held on 22 April 2005 is now available to read and download from the Fellows’ side of the Society website.

Obituaries

Dan Hicks writes to say that ‘it is with great regret that I pass on the sad news that archaeologist Chris Currie, FSA, died whilst carrying out an archaeological survey on the Isle of Wight last weekend. Chris was a pioneer of gardens archaeology in the UK, starting from his excavations as Leverhulme Research Fellow at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens near Birmingham in the late 1980s. During the 1990s he developed this professional work further through his company, CKC Archaeology. Chris published extensively: in Post-Medieval Archaeology, the Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society and in many other local and international journals — on gardens archaeology, the archaeology of fishponds and even the archaeology of the flowerpot. Always an eccentric and outspoken figure, who passionately argued the case for post-medieval archaeology and for community archaeology, Chris will be missed by many who will fondly remember his many anecdotes, his energy for archaeology, and his company.’

Chris did at least live to see the publication of his Garden Archaeology Handbook (see ‘Books by Fellows’ below). Details of the funeral will be available in due course from Neil Rushton.

From Vanessa Doe we have learned that (Donald) Brian Doe, MBE, FSA, died on 5 May 2005, at the age of 84. Service in Africa and India during World War II interrupted Brian’s training as an architect which he completed after demobilisation in 1947, leading to his appointment as Government Architect in Aden in 1951 and Chief Architect from 1957, designing schools and hospitals. Pursuing his interests in archaeology simultaneously, he was appointed as Director of Antiquities, Aden, in 1960, with responsibility for the whole of southern Arabia. He helped to form a Museum Trust in Aden and he designed a new building to house the collections whose foundation stone was laid by Mortimer Wheeler in 1966.

On leaving Aden in 1967, he went on archaeological expeditions to Ras al Khaimah in Oman and Murzak in southern Libya. He then enrolled at St John’s College, Cambridge, and completed his doctoral thesis on ‘Monuments of southern Arabia’ in 1973. He was a member of the British team led by our Fellow Beatrice de Cardi to Ras al Khaimah in 1974—5 and 1976—7, and in 1979 he began a survey of forts in Oman, which he completed in 1985, by when he had begun to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease; thereafter he lived quietly at his home in Derbyshire. Among Brian’s many publications where Socotra, an Archaeological Reconnaissance (1967), Southern Arabia (1971) and Monuments of Southern Arabia (1983).

Lisa Jefferson, FSA, has added a further tribute to our late Fellow, Babette Evans, saying that ‘she will be remembered vividly by all who were at the September 2002 conference at Windsor, where she gave a riveting lecture on “Litigation for proprietary rights: the case of the obstinate vicar”, which had the entire audience spellbound. On tenterhooks as to what move would be made next by the litigants, we rocked with laughter at their antics (while learning much about the medieval legal system), and when she overran her time and wished to put a quick end to her lecture, roars of protest erupted and we begged for the whole — which she delivered splendidly. Babette was over eighty years of age at the time, and her performance was quite remarkable. Sadly, she did not quite live long enough to see the proceedings of that conference in print, but they will now appear very soon, edited by Nigel Saul, FSA, and the volume will be, appropriately, dedicated to her memory.’

Corrections and apologies

Sharp-eyed Thomas Cocke, FSA, says he was ‘amazed to see in your latest edition that in your article on seventeenth-century Bolsover Castle, you appear to describe Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle (whom you familiarly call “Lady Madge”) as the first wife of the duke — to whom you refer as “Sir William” (knighted in 1610, earl 1628, marquess 1643), whereas, of course, she was the second (albeit his only wife post his elevation from marquess to duke in 1665)’.

Angela Howard, widow of the late David Howard, FSA, has contacted Salon to point out that the quotation attributed to her late husband in Salon 114’s obituary made no sense because some words had been omitted. The sentence should have said: ‘David’s own introduction to the book [Chinese Armorial Porcelain] helps to explain the appeal of the subject: ‘the problem has been to keep a balance between the romance of merchant adventurer, a glimpse of eighteenth-century history, the analysis of porcelain styles and people … and the cold classification of Chinese export painting.’ The obituary in Salon 114 might also have given the impression that this book, and a recently completed second volume, where David’s entire output, whereas he wrote several other seminal books, including China for the West (1978, with John Ayers of the V&A), a two-volume catalogue of the Mottahedeh Collection, New York and the China Trade (1984) and The Choice of the Private Trader (1994). He also curated three exhibitions: one for the New York Historical Society in 1983/4, another for the quincentenary of the College of Arms called ‘A pageant of heraldry in Britain and America’, and a third in 1997 — ‘A tale of Three Cities’, held to commemorate the return of Hong Kong to China — for Sotheby’s.

News of Fellows

Our Fellow Charmian Woodfield has sent out a cry for help in the face of ‘a rash of ill-considered developments proposed for the Tweed estuary at Berwick and Tweedmouth. One such scheme (05/B/0258) proposes forty-nine dwellings in three-storey blocks, set conspicuously in front of the famous Elizabethan walls, views much painted by artists including Lowry, and another (04/B/0337-0368) blocks the views from Tweedmouth, including the celebrated view from the Royal Border Bridge. These schemes, says Charmian, are ‘un-briefed and banal; they are just being considered piecemeal, without any overall plan for the estuary, and will destroy the very elements that attract the much needed visitors to this part of the north-east’. Berwick, one of Alec Clifton Taylor’s selected Six English Towns, much praised by Pevsner [and winner of a Country Life poll for the best town in England, as well as featuring in last week’s Country Life poll for the most scenic railway journey in England] is likely to be compromised unless a stand is made by those who appreciate the rarity of such fortified towns, where the sea still laps at the foot of the walls. Any intervention to help avert this impending disaster would be very welcome’.

Brendan O'Connor, FSA, writes to draw Fellows’ attention to his brief account of the Nebra sky-disc written for the Prehistoric Society and available to read online at www.ucl.ac.uk/prehistoric. The sky disk is currently on display in Halle where it is attracting record numbers of visitors. Meanwhile, the metal detectorists convicted of looting and then trying to sell the disc have appealed against their sentence, arguing that the disk is a fake! The claim has pitted archaeologist against archaeologist, with Professor Peter Schauer of Regensburg University saying in court that the disc is a crude fake, and Professor Josef Riederer standing up for its Bronze Age origins.

Our Fellow Graeme Barker is US$500,000 the richer following the award of the Dan David Prize for his work on fieldwork in Libya. The prize is worth US$I million but the judges decided that the award should be shared with the distinguished Israeli archaeologist, Israel Finkelstein. The Dan David prize was set up in 201 by the Romanian founder of the Photo-me International company, which installs photo booths in shops and railways stations. Three prizes are awarded annually, to people who have developed and advanced world knowledge in three time categories: Past, Present and Future.

Almost every story in the June/July issue of Current World Archaeology, edited by our Fellow Andrew Selkirk, features pioneering research being undertaken by Fellows of this Society. This issue has articles on the remains of some 700 ancient mine shafts and 200 silver and gold ore-processing works in south-east Attica, the source of Athenian wealth in antiquity; stunning ceramics, sculptures and houses from the Jomon culture of Japan; royal jewellery from the Assyrian tombs of Nimrud; fieldwork in Albania and the United Arab Emirates.

The magazine’s tailpiece consists of an amusing postcard form Florence contributed by Richard Hodges, FSA, concerning the medieval remains found on the site of a planned new entrance to the Uffizi gallery in Florence. The remains proved to be the perfect excuse that the Rome-based Minister of Culture, Giuliano Urbani, was looking for in order to scotch the Florentine mayor’s plan for a new entrance that, according to Richard, fully fitted Prince Charles’s famous carbuncle phrase, used to describe the aborted entrance to the National Gallery. Leaving aside the politics of contemporary architecture, Richard adds that the archaeology is fascinating and consists of far more than just medieval deposits: the deep excavations have produced the first dated sequence for key deposits that occur all over the city from its Roman foundation to the sixteenth century, when the Uffizi was constructed for Cosimo de’ Medici by Georgio Vasari.

Prehistoric Britain

Another issue of The Archaeologist (TA) has just arrived form the Institute for Field Archaeologists, this one being dedicated to the latest thinking about prehistoric Britain (if you are interested in receiving copies, contact the Editor, Alison Taylor, FSA). One article, by our Fellow Richard Bradley, hides its light under the bushel of an uninspiring title: ‘Prehistory and the potential of grey literature’. Far from grey, the short article is nothing less than a summary of the many ways in which the picture of prehistoric Britain differs today from what we thought even ten years ago. For example, we now know that Neolithic cursuses developed in Scotland before many were built in England. On the other hand, some Neolithic traditions continued much longer in the north and in Ireland; in the latter case, stone circles were still being built during the Late Bronze Age.

Early Neolithic settlements, once rare, are now plentiful, especially in Scotland and Ireland, while in northern Britain, a number of timber halls are now recognised as dating from this period. We now have evidence for single burials in ‘flat’ graves from the Neolithic, though this appears to be a short-lived phenomenon, reintroduced during the Beaker period. The distribution of Early Bronze Age burials is no longer heavily weighted towards Wessex: rich sites are now known from Kent, the English Midlands, north-eastern Scotland and the east coast of Ireland.

There is much more; the article goes on to highlight new discoveries from the Middle and Late Bronze Age (associations between ringworks, field systems and metalwork deposits in rivers, for example) and the Iron Age (the use of storage pots for human burial now looks like a regional phenomenon that occurs on both sides of the English Channel). The author concludes that developer-funded archaeology has the potential to ‘revolutionise the study of prehistory’, and that (contrary to what is often alleged) PPG16 is yielding research dividends. Perhaps the worrying aspect of the article is that most of the data on which it is based are not readily accessible: instead, it exists in the form of so-called ‘grey literature’, outside the mainstream of journal and report publishing, and not accessible through libraries or online databases. The challenge, Richard concludes, is to make such reports more readily accessible so that the information they contain can be put to good use.

Dating Scotland’s past

Richard Bradley’s is not the only groundbreaking article in TA: Alison Sheridan has contributed an article that reveals some of the more intriguing results from the systematic programme of carbon dating being undertaken by the National Museums of Scotland (NMS) on objects from Scottish peat bogs. Salon’s editor has often been found guilty in the past of repeating unfounded claims from the media that something is ‘the first’ of its type, but this list comes with all the authority of the NMS archaeology department, and it includes: the oldest evidence for wheeled transport in Britain and Ireland (a disc wheel from Blair Drummond, 2810 BP); the earliest bow (from Rotten Bottom, 5040 BP); the oldest ox yoke (Loch Nell, 3420 BP); and the earliest swingletree, a crossbar that regulates movement during pulling by traction animals (White Moss, 3115 BP). Dates have also been obtained for a huge range of prehistoric objects, from clothing and food to mill-wheel paddles and boats.

There are plans to publish all the data on the NMS website, but most have already been incorporated into Historic Scotland’s radiocarbon date-list compiled by our Fellow Patrick Ashmore and available on the website at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk.

Scotland’s Carved Stones

TA’s front cover featuring prehistoric rock art coincides with the publication by the Scottish Executive of a guidance document called Protecting Scotland’s Carved Stones; not just prehistoric rock carvings but also Roman, early medieval, later medieval and post-Reformation sculpture, architectural sculpture and fragments and gravestones. The document concentrates on carved stones that are still physically associated in some way with their place of manufacture or one of their stages of use, rather than carved stones in museums. The guidance covers legal protection, conservation strategies and practice, and raising awareness. Launching the document, Patricia Ferguson, MSP, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, emphasised the cultural importance of carved stones and said that: ‘effective protection of carved stones will continue to be achieved most effectively through better understanding of the issues involved and collective effort to address them’. Copies of the guidance can be downloaded from the Historic Scotland website.

Most antiquities on sale in the UK are either stolen or fake: discuss

The front page of The Independent on 24 May made the bold statement that ‘most of the antiquities on sale in Britain are either stolen or fakes’, basing its claim on a paper given by our Fellow Paul Craddock to a national conference on art crime held in London and organised by the Fraud Advisory Panel. ‘The amount of legitimate material on the market is very, very small,’ Dr Craddock said, adding that international legislation had so far ‘proved toothless’ at fighting the burgeoning problem.

The newspaper went on to say that Dr Craddock’s claims ‘could prove highly damaging to the lucrative London market’. In response, our Fellow Norman Palmer, Chairman of the Illicit Trade Advisory Panel, wrote a robust rebuttal, published in the next day’s paper, saying that the UK’s ratification of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 had been successful in ‘defending the lawful market against infection by unlawfully removed material’ and had been supported by ‘the market’. Professor Palmer said that Dr Craddock’s remarks were ‘confined to Greek and Roman jewellery’, but invited him to submit evidence in support of the wider claim to the Illicit Trade Advisory Panel.

But Dr Craddock insisted the scale of the problem was such that he would want clear evidence of an object's history before he bought anything on behalf of the British Museum. Alexandra Smith, of the Art Loss Register, echoed his remarks by saying that the scale of looting was shrouded in mystery. ‘It is terribly difficult to tell how many works of art are stolen because a lot of people never report the theft,’ she said, while Mark Dalrymple, director of Tyler and Co loss adjustors, said that the black market had grown more sophisticated in response to changes to legislation and police crackdowns.

Looting in Iraq: UK government must act now says BM Director

The Art Newspaper has been doing its best to keep the issue of antiquities theft and destruction in the public eye, with a series of excellent (if depressing) first-hand accounts of the massive scale of looting in Iraq, Tuscany, Turkey and Russia. This week’s issue has an article () by our Fellow Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, in which he calls on the UK Secretary of State for Culture to seize the opportunity to help the staff of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad by ‘constructing a plan of co-operation, training and investment over several years, beginning with an intensive programme of training for Iraqis in Britain, and preparing for the moment when it will be possible for us to offer help of all sorts on the ground in Iraq. Throughout the UK, individuals and institutions are eager to do whatever they can, if the government will only provide the resources and the framework. It is hard to see what task could be more urgent for the new Secretary of State, or where more good will and energy could be counted on to produce results.’

In passing, he mentions the fact that looting is now a staple of the local economy in many areas, and he regrets the ‘systematic failure of the coalition forces to protect [Iraqi sites], in spite of the unequivocal obligation that international law imposes on occupying powers.

Court prevents return of art stolen by Nazis

The British Museum has been told that it is barred by law from handing back four Old Master drawings even though there is no doubt that they were looted by the Nazis. Sir Andrew Morritt, the head of the Chancery Division, has ruled that the restitution of objects in the museum's collection would be in breach of the law. The ‘moral obligation’ to return plundered works cannot over-ride the museum’s statutory obligations, enshrined in the British Museum Act of 1753, to preserve its collections ‘for public use to all posterity’. Later legislation allows the museum to sell duplicates, objects made after 1850 and others unfit to be retained but those exceptions do not cover the drawings, which are now known to have been stolen by the Gestapo from the home of Dr Arthur Feldmann in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1939. They were bought by the museum at Sotheby's in 1946.

The ruling means that the drawings cannot be returned without an Act of Parliament. A British Museum spokeswoman expressed disappointment that the pictures could not be returned in this exceptional case and said that this case represented ‘a unique moral claim, which they wish to meet’. The Government might now consider legislation specifically designed to ensure that families with a rightful claim to work stolen from them by the Nazis are not frustrated by existing legal barriers. A Department for Culture, Media and Sport official said: ‘We will now look seriously at the case for legislative action.’

Although the British Museum does not accept that there is a moral claim in the case of the Parthenon Sculptures, there was concern that if this case had gone the other way, it could have strengthened calls for the return to Greece of the Elgin Marbles.

Britain’s museums to share Thai and Burmese treasures

The British Library, the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum are to share a gift of one hundred rare and valuable Thai and Burmese treasures given by a charitable foundation set up by the will of the late Doris Duke. The south-east Asian treasures were part of an eclectic hoard amassed by Miss Duke after she inherited US$100 million (£550 million) from her father, James Buchanan Duke, the Lucky Strikes tobacco magnate.

Henry Ginsburg, a British Library curator, was called to help catalogue Miss Duke's enormous art collection, which was stored at her New Jersey ranch after her death. He told reporters that he found a barn, an indoor shooting gallery and an indoor tennis court full of objects and manuscripts. ‘The foundation was overwhelmed. They didn't know what they had.’ Much of the collection has been dispersed to American museums but the gifts to Britain’s top museums were made to repay the advice given by Dr Ginsburg.

Among the items coming to the British Library is an extremely rare eighteenth-century Thai ‘book’ with pages of ivory inscribed with text for the ordination of a Buddhist monk. The gift also includes eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Thai manuscript chests, decorated in red lacquer and gold leaf used in Buddhist monasteries to store sacred scriptures. Seven will be going to the British Library and one each to the V&A and the British Museum. ‘They will fill major gaps in British collections,’ said Dr Ginsburg.

£7 million for listed places of worship

English Heritage is seeking applications for Repair Grants for Places of Worship in 2005—6, with deadlines of 30 June 2005 for Grade I and II* and 30 September 2005 for Grade II-buildings. The programme supports urgent repairs to the fabric of listed places of worship and priority is given to single repair projects costing less than £200,000. There is a two-stage application process with development funding available after Stage 1 to help work up proposals. The grant scheme is jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage and administered by English Heritage on behalf of both organisations. Further details can be found on the English Heritage website.

Among beneficiaries of the most recent round of grants were a Sikh temple in Watford, a Moravian missionary church in Yorkshire and a Hackney synagogue. They were among eighty-three religious buildings that shared a total of £17.5 million handout for vital repairs.

The Sri Guru Singh Sabha Sikh Temple in Watford is housed in the town’s former County Court House, built in 1858 and now in receipt of £116,000 to repair the leaking roof, rainwater drainage system, eroding brickwork and pointing. Gomersal Moravian Church in Yorkshire was built by Protestant missionaries from what is now the Czech Republic as part of a network of settlement churches for cloth-weaving families throughout the West Riding. The foundation stone was laid in 1751 and the church was completed by 1755, at a cost of £347. The church, which is facing large bills for roof repairs, has been offered a grant of up to £79,000.

Egerton Road Synagogue, Hackney, is on the Buildings at Risk Register for Greater London. Built in 1914 in Edwardian Baroque style, it is based on an earlier synagogue on Bishopsgate built in 1838 by John Davies and incorporates some of the original fittings from its nineteenth-century predecessor, including a mahogany Ark. The fine interior has Italianate galleries supported on Doric columns and a panelled, barrel-vaulted ceiling. The grant of £62,000 will go towards major repairs to the roof and the damaged internal structure.

Fulford battlefield under threat

According to Snorri Sturlsson's Heimskringla, the chronicle of the kings of Norway, ‘streams of blood flowed over the plain’ when the battle of Fulford was fought in September 1066. Now a new battle is being fought to save the site in York from being developed by Persimmon Homes, which wants to build 700 new houses on the former swamp beside the River Ouse.

Michael Rayner, of the Battlefields Trust, which is objecting to the housing scheme, says that the battle was extremely important and ‘it's sad that so few people know about it; if Fulford had not taken place, or if the outcome had been different, the Battle of Hastings might well have been won by the Saxons.’ It was here that Anglo-Saxon troops were routed by an invading Norwegian army; the victorious Norwegians crossed the Ouse dry-footed by walking over piles of Anglo-Saxon bodies. To prevent the Norwegians taking control of the north of England, King Harold was forced to march north with his own elite troops to defeat the invaders at Stamford Bridge, before returning, victorious but exhausted, to face William of Normandy at Hastings in October.

Ian Hessay, managing director of Persimmon Homes, says that there is no evidence the battle of Fulford took place here: ‘We have spent more than £350,000 on surveys by independent experts which have failed to find evidence of a battle. The exact location is speculative and the real site could well be somewhere entirely different.’ Nevertheless, the Battlefields Trust and the Fulford Battlefield Society (FBS) are pressing for the site to be preserved for archaeological research and are pressing for an inquiry, and a halt to any development until English Heritage has been able to complete its own investigation into the archaeological potential of the site. Further details can be found on the Battle of Fulford website.

Off-road drivers threaten historic landscapes

The Council for National Parks (CNP) has called on the Government to give it the necessary powers to combat the use of motorbikes, four-wheel drives and other ‘off-road’ vehicles within park boundaries. The CNP’s press release was accompanied by photographs of motorcyclists using the ditches and banks of a hillfort (which is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest) as a scrambling track. Such activity is already illegal, and the CNP wants more effective policing, saying that little is done at present to enforce existing laws. An exception is North Yorkshire where Cleveland Police and the parks authority have successfully targeted hotspots of illegal motorcycle use.

But the CNP wants to go further and is calling for an outright ban on the off-road use of vehicles in national parks, saying that these are ‘places where we should all be able to enjoy a sense of wilderness and tranquillity, and escape from the ever present motor car, not places to be driven over in a four wheel drive’. CNP has backed up its call with a long list of examples of damage to wildlife and archaeology caused by ‘convoys of four wheel drives who go equipped to winch themselves out of ancient green lanes’ and ‘scrambler motorbikes who use open moorland rich in wildlife’.

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill, published on 19 May 2005, is designed to halt claims by motorists that they can use green lanes on the basis that vehicles (horse-drawn carriages, for example) have used them in the past. The CNP is calling for the Government to add a clause recognising the special purposes of National Parks and make all off-road recreational vehicle use illegal. These special purposes are: the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and the promotion of opportunities for public understanding and enjoyment of the park’s special qualities.

Big Pit wins Gulbenkian prize

Competing with the Coventry Transport Museum, Time and Tide: the Museum of Great Yarmouth Life, and Locomotion: the National Railway Museum at Shildon, the National Mining Museum of Wales at Blaenafon, universally known as the Big Pit (Pwll Mawr), was judged to be the most worthy winner of this year’s £100,000 Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year. The award is a vindication of all the effort that has gone into keeping the Big Pit open as the main visitor attraction of the Blaenafon World Heritage Site. Staffed by former miners, Big Pit was judged to offer ‘an exceptional emotional and intellectual experience’. Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman of the judging panel, said that: ‘it tells the individual stories of its community better than any museum I have visited and makes you contemplate the scale, and even the cruelty, of an industrial past that inspired a spirit of camaraderie and pride’. He added that all four finalists ‘clearly show that museums today are not solely about displaying objects but are about the exposition of history, told with real passion alongside a commitment to a community's heritage.’

New chairman for the National Trust for Scotland

Shonaig Macpherson, mother of two and a former senior partner at Edinburgh law firm McGrigor Donald, has been appointed as the next Chairman of the Council and the Board of The National Trust for Scotland when Professor Roger Wheater completes his five-year-term as Chairman at the AGM on 24 September 2005. Ms Macpherson holds a number of other posts, including Cultural Commissioner for the Scottish Executive and Court member of the University of Edinburgh, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Commenting on her appointment, Shonaig said: ‘it is an exciting time for culture and heritage in Scotland, with increased recognition of their importance to our future growth and development as a nation. The Trust has an excellent management team lead by Dr Robin Pellew, an outstanding reputation for conservation and ambitious plans for the future.’

The press release issued by the Trust said that Ms Macpherson’s appointment was a ‘manifestation of the real change that is now taking place within the Trust. The Board has just agreed a new Corporate Plan that sets a new strategic direction for the organisation. Central to this plan is the commitment to widen the Trust’s programme from a primary focus on the management of its properties towards an equal recognition of the benefits that heritage conservation can generate for all the people of Scotland. The challenge for the Trust over the next five years is to bring heritage alive to all the people of Scotland’.

Archaeologists' intoxicating find

The BBC reported last week on a find that most archaeologists would regard as providing the perfect end to a long hard day’s digging: a cache of more than a hundred bottles of beer, buried beneath Southampton's Guildhall Square. The bottles, dating from World War II, were in good condition and were found in the cellar of an off-licence destroyed in the Blitz. Sadly the beer itself was undrinkable: Pete Cottrell, the excavation’s director, said that ‘you'd be very ill if you drank it; it's absolutely rank’. The excavation is taking place on the site of the city’s medieval leper hospital prior to the construction of a new arts centre.

The Lottery Bill: listen to the people

The Lottery Bill was published last week (available from www.publications.parliament.uk), and although the main purpose of the bill is to enable the creation of the Big Lottery Fund through the merger of the New Opportunities Fund, the Community Fund and the Millennium Commission, it also contains clauses designed to encourage Lottery distributors to take account of public consultation in making decisions on where Lottery good cause money will go.

According to a statement put out by Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, this could mean ‘the public voting on Lottery grants showcased through TV programmes in a similar way to the BBC programme “Restoration”’. Other aims include ‘simpler rules to ensure that Lottery money will reach good cause projects faster and make it easier for groups to apply for Lottery cash’, and a ‘new system of allocating investment income from funds held in the National Lottery Distribution Fund to encourage lower balances by ensuring that distributors successful in getting their balances down do not suffer a loss of investment income, and that those maintaining high balances do not benefit’ [this is ministerial spin for confiscating interest earned on funds allocated to approved projects but not yet drawn down].

Tessa Jowell’s statement went on to say that ‘Lottery money is not Government money. It's not distributors' money. It belongs to the people of Britain [Ms Jowell surely means UK; ed] who play the Lottery. It is venture capital for their communities. They need to feel a sense of ownership of the money and see the evidence that it is spent on their behalf and in their interest. In future the public will have a far greater say over where Lottery money goes. They will be able to get involved via public opinion polls, citizens' juries, focus groups, internet surveys, telephone, internet, text or television voting for individual projects or by joining a local or regional awards panel.’

The bill is potentially very important for the heritage because practices being pioneered through the Big Lottery Fund are very likely to be imposed on the Heritage Lottery Fund when lottery funding streams are reviewed later this year, so it is worth looking at this Bill in some detail.

First, any move to simplify the lottery application process has to be welcomed. HLF’s present application pack is intimidating and combative. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that people are put off from applying for HLF funding by questions on the application form that imply ‘if you cannot give the correct answer to this, then go away and stop bothering us’. The application process is bureaucratic and favours those who are already experts in charity law, fundraising and project management, working within an existing charitable structure and constitution. Some of these requirements are entirely legitimate for multi-million-pound applications but they are heavy-handed and anti-democratic when imposed on much smaller community projects involving sums of £50,000.

Despite this, HLF has no shortage of applicants, and it has a very proud record of distributing £3 billion in ten years very effectively to hundreds of truly transformational community-based heritage projects. And therein lies the main criticism of the new Lottery Bill: its measures, taken along with Tessa Jowell’s comments, imply a criticism of the current lottery, which is simply not justified. One is tempted to say that Ms Jowell and her civil servants need to get out more and visit a few HLF projects; they will then realise just how much community enthusiasm and energy is invested in them, and just how much the public already has a substantial stake in its lottery.

For that reason, the heritage community need not fear citizens’ juries; where trials have been conducted by HLF, the result has been a resounding thumbs up for heritage: the citizens of Slough, Nottingham and Liverpool, when consulted, prove to be even more passionate about heritage than conservation experts.

But television polls are an entirely different matter. TV has its own values and to suggest that ‘Restoration’-style programmes will result in better lottery decisions displays a surprising naivety (from a department that is also responsible for the media) about the way that TV works. TV polls are not about choice: they are about TV values, as all of us who have appeared in ‘Time Team' and its clones know only too well. By the time programme producers have filtered out all the projects that don’t fit their criteria, the result is a small and very carefully pre-selected series of projects crafted and presented so as to ensure an entertaining show, an artifice that has little to do with heritage or democracy. As the fate of Manchester’s Victoria Baths shows, winning ‘Restoration’ type shows doesn’t mean that all the other common sense criteria for spending lottery money can be abandoned.

Not only do opinion polls and TV shows usurp the statutory role of HLF trustees and advisory panels, they are also part of the current trend for denigrating the expert. This is wrongheaded for several reasons. First, even cursory examination of any successful HLF project reveals that the involvement of an expert is the key to successful outcomes, whether the project is returning a set of historic church bells to community use, bringing a pre-war steam locomotive back into service or creating a new habitat for water voles. The involvement of experts is not at the expense of community involvement or decision-making: the expert is a facilitator and enabler, guiding community applicants along paths that ensure they achieve a good and effective result. Community applicants are usually full of praise for the experts who assist them and there is often an important transfer of knowledge and skills as a result of the interaction between expert and volunteer.

And who exactly are these experts? Are they Gollum-like figures who sit on their heritage assets and refuse to let anyone else play? HLF recently hosted a series of workshops to look at needs and priorities for the sector in the next fifteen years. When twenty-five acknowledged experts from leading conservation organisations get together, you might expect them to worry about buildings at risk and the maintenance and repair needs of historic houses, or the conservation needs of national collections. Not a bit of it; they talked about people and policies, because they recognised that the necessary pre-condition for the well being of the heritage is that people should care about it.

So experts are not asset-obsessed monsters: they are intelligent people who applaud the work of HLF in mobilising people and communities into active participation in their heritage, and who want to encourage the widest possible degree of community participation, so that communities work to understand, conserve and enhance their heritage rather than relying on a few activists or concerned individuals.

The workshop came up with scores of ideas for expanding community involvement: simpler application forms; mentoring and support for applicants to enable them to complete application forms; tutorials (run through FE colleges) to help applicants develop fundraising and project management skills; a national heritage news and information network providing a one-stop shop for everything you might want to know about participation in heritage projects; summer camps for 16-year-olds based around historic environment conservation; a national heritage volunteering service bringing together people who want to participate with volunteering opportunities; community involvement in the Heritage Protection programme being piloted by English Heritage, with community groups writing statements of significance and undertaking characterisation studies and conservation area statements; funding for regional and national community archaeology projects (such as, the award winning CBA Defence of Britain project); recognition of the entitlement of every citizen to learn about the heritage of their community; a well-funded system of Historic Environment Record Centres integrated into the community and education system, serving a genuine community function.

The message then to the Department of Culture is not just ‘listen to the people’, but also ‘listen to the experts’. And for the heritage community the message is that we must participate loudly and fully in the consultations that will take place later this year when HLF consults on its strategic plan and when DCMS consults on the future of HLF. Watch this space for further news in due course: we must not allow our voice, alone of all those being consulted, to be sidelined or ignored; after all, we are people too!

Australian government announces conservation review

They do things differently in Australia. In the UK, if a body called the Productivity Commission were to announce a public inquiry into the conservation of the built heritage, we might suspect hidden agendas and ulterior motives, but Australia has a strong tradition of Government support for the heritage, so the announcement of just such an enquiry by the Government Treasurer, Peter Costello, and the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Ian Campbell, promises to set in train a process that will very probably serve as an example from which other nations could learn a great deal.

The terms of reference under which the inquiry will operate include an examination of the economic, social and environmental benefits of conserving Australia’s historic built heritage. The inquiry will also look at the policy framework and incentives for the conservation of Australia’s historic built heritage and seek to assess the impact of regulations, taxation and institutional arrangements. It will also look at emerging technological, environmental and social trends that offer potential new approaches to conservation.

In announcing the enquiry, Heritage Minister Ian Campbell said that ‘Australia’s heritage is of great value to both the economy and our national identity. This inquiry will help identify the value of our historic heritage and determine how individuals, the private sector and governments can work together to conserve our historic heritage better. The inquiry will inform government on future approaches for managing the conservation and use of our historic heritage places'.

Further information can be found on the Productivity Commission’s website.

The first humans to reach the New World from Siberia

The precise number of America’s founding mother and fathers has been quantified in a new DNA study published last week in the US journal PLoS Biology. In the article, Jody Hey, of the Department of Genetics, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, argues that surviving populations of Amerind-speaking Native Americans originated with a group of ‘fewer than eighty’ individuals who travelled to the Americas from Siberia about 14,000 years ago. Small as that figure seems, Jody Hey further suggests that it represents 1 per cent of the ‘effective’ population of Asia at the time (the number of reproducing adults), which he estimates to have been around 9,000.

Hey’s conclusions are based on population divergence models used to analyse the point at which people split from their ancestral group, carrying with them genetic characteristics inherited from that group, but also beginning a new genetic line. Hey analysed data from DNA samples from Amerind-speaking Native Americans and from populations in north-east Asia, comparing the amount of variation in nine sections of their DNA to estimate the size of the founding population. Though controversial and by no means accepted by all demographic historians, the model also works on the belief that DNA changes at a constant rate, thus providing a genetic clock that can be used to date genetic divergence.

Hey hopes that his model can be used to investigate other situations in which a human population broke off to colonize a new area, such as the peopling of Australasia, so as to provide a detailed portrait of historical populations.

Bronze Age aristocrat found mutilated in Germany

News agencies reported last week that government archaeologists working in the Nebra area, in eastern Germany, have uncovered the skeletal remains of a Bronze Age leader and his retainers. The remains were found in one of eight barrows within view of the site that yielded the 3,600-year-old Nebra sky disk. Excavation director Olaf Schroeder said that ‘the skeleton of a sentry’ was found at the outer edge of the barrow, while ‘deep in the barrow, we found the Bronze Age burial chamber. It was two metres square and the roof had sagged to about half-a-metre high. It was fully lined with sandstone slabs. In the middle lay the lord, but his upper body and legs were missing. There was a precious bronze knife and a bronze needle next to him, and the remains of his court lay in a circle round him. The skulls were deformed. These people had died violently. They were put to death with a blunt instrument. Three were children, aged four, five and ten. The eldest child, a girl, still had her spiral-shaped bronze earrings lying by her skull.’

Roman statues go on show after forty years in store

Hundreds of Roman statues from the world's greatest private collection of its kind are to be put on public display in Rome after forty years in storage. The owners of the Torlonia statues have agreed to sell them to the city for £100 million. The collection is named after the aristocratic Roman family that acquired it almost two centuries ago as security for a loan it made to the Giustiniani family, who then defaulted. It comprises 620 marble and alabaster statues and sarcophagi. The collection was consigned to storage in the early 1960s when the family's stately residence-cum-museum on Rome's Via Lungara was transformed into flats. It is possible that the collection will go on display at a palace on Via dei Cerchi currently used to house municipal offices.

The Friends of the City Churches Annual City Churches Walk

The Annual City Churches Walk, on 7 and 8 June 2005, starting at 10am, will again provide an opportunity to explore the unique assemblage of historic churches to be found in the City of London, many of which are not normally open. Application forms for the walks can be found at www.london-city-churches.org.uk.

Books by Fellows

In the same week that we learned of the untimely death of Chris Currie, FSA, the CBA has published his handbook on Garden Archaeology (CBA Practical Handbook 17, ISBN 1 902771 48 6; 140 pages, 67 illustrations, £12.50). This traces the origins and development of garden archaeology as a discipline over the last twenty years, presents a summary of the historical background to gardens and designed landscapes, explains the use of fieldwork, geophysical survey, air photographic interpretation, excavation and environmental sampling in relation to garden archaeology, and summarises the latest thinking on the subject by reference to recent projects.

Roland Smith, FSA, is one of the team of authors behind the latest report from Wessex Archaeology on The Origins of Mid-Saxon Southampton: excavations at the Friends Provident St Mary’s Stadium 1998—2000 (Vaughan Birbeck with Roland J C Smith, Phil Andrews and Nick Stoodley). These excavations represent the single most extensive investigation ever carried out within the centre of the mid-Saxon town of Hamwic, an important manufacturing and trading centre from the late seventh to mid-ninth centuries. The most important discovery was an early mixed-rite cemetery, particularly the presence of cremation burials dating to the late seventh/early eighth centuries, a practice not previously thought to continue beyond the late sixth century. The excavations also uncovered a street of at least ten buildings, as well as evidence of small-scale industry and a large quantity of imported pottery. This and much more has added greatly to our knowledge of life within the town. Copies are available (price £15) from Diane Pitcher.

‘Small can be beautiful’ says Vincent Megaw in announcing that the latest addition to the deservedly popular Shire Archaeology series is a new and enlarged edition of his and Ruth Megaw's Early Celtic Art in Britain and Ireland, worth buying if only to admire how the Megaws manage to cram so much information and nearly one hundred illustrations into a mere eighty pages, including several pictures of newly discovered or little-known objects. Vincent asks ‘how many Follows can, without cheating, identify the cover subject?’ (Answer: apparently it’s an enamelled quadrilobate harness mount.)