Congratulations to our Fellow Richard Brewer, who is to be the new chair of the Ancient Monuments Board for Wales. Richard is Keeper of Archaeology and Numismatics at the National Museums & Galleries of Wales. He has been a member of the Ancient Monuments Board for Wales since 1997 and takes over from Professor Sir Rees Davies, who died in May.
Announcing the appointment, Alun Pugh, the Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport, said that 'Richard Brewer has considerable expertise in the monuments of Wales and has contributed greatly to our understanding of the Romans in Wales, not least through his major programme of archaeological excavations at the Roman town of Caerwent. I look forward to receiving his advice in guiding the Assembly Government in its policies for the historic environment.
Geoffrey Stell writes to say that he has just been appointed Honorary Lecturer, Department of History, University of Stirling, for three years with effect from 1 September. Geoffrey says that it is most refreshing to have new horizons and not to remain simply as Head of Architecture, RCAHMS (retired).
A memorial service for Charles Sparrow will be held on 31 October 2005, from 5.30pm in Gray's Inn Chapel, High Holborn, London WC2. If anyone wishes to attend perhaps they could inform Mike Heyworth, FSA.
Reporters were at a loss last week for appropriately reverential terms with which to describe the Mesolithic cave-wall doodlings recently discovered in the Long Hole cave in Cheddar by the University of Bristol Speleological Society. The BBCs description of three abstract squares conjured up images of Braque; The Guardian chose to call them rare engravings, as if they were the work of Dürer or Rembrandt. More down to earth was the description of the Speleological Society 's team leader, Graham Mullan, who said: These engravings are not awfully exciting if you're into high art they are three bunches of straight lines.
Nevertheless, they are very definitely newsworthy as only the third example of Mesolithic cave art to be found in Britain, after the paintings at Creswell Crags and the inscribed crosses found in Aveline's Hole, also in the Cheddar caves complex, in February this year.
Three separate engravings of rectilinear abstract designs were found in the Long Hole cave. The designs appear to have been cut with stone tools and show a degree of patination characteristic of considerable age. Graham Mullan said: On stylistic grounds, we have attributed these engravings to the Mesolithic, rather than the Palaeolithic era because, as in the case of the Aveline's Hole panel, such abstract designs are more characteristic of that period. Although abstract designs are found in the Palaeolithic, they are almost always in conjunction with representational art.
The Speleological Society's research into the engravings is being carried out in conjunction with the British Museum's Department of Prehistory and Europe. Our Fellow Jill Cook, Deputy Keeper in the Department, said: Just when we thought there was not much more to find out about Long Hole, an excellent new discovery has been made which pulls it right back into research. The new engravings are clearly ancient and comparable to early post-glacial pattern panels found elsewhere in Europe. Their discovery will help to breathe new life into research on this period.
Full details can be found on the Bristol University website.
Fans of British rock art will be able to catch up on all the latest discoveries and the strategies being deployed by our heritage agencies for recording, preserving and presenting rock art at next years annual conference of the Institute of Field Archaeologists, to be held in Edinburgh on 11 to 13 April 2006. A call for papers has just been published (copies can be obtained from Alex Llewellyn) and sessions include a live debate on the big issues facing the historic environment, chaired by our Fellow Malcolm Cooper, a question and answer session on the future for the IFA with our Fellow Peter Hinton, IFA Director, in the hot seat, a session on the highlights of British archaeology in 2005 chaired by our Fellow Roger Mercer, an account of the Beaker Isotope Project (described in Salon 122), subtitled mobility and diet in the British early Bronze Age chaired by our Fellow Mike Parker Pearson, and (on a not-unrelated topic) a session on migration to be chaired by our Fellow David Miles.
The recently published edition of The Archaeologist contains a full account of last years conference. The magazine also has a thought-provoking article by Tim Malim on recent work in Nantwich, which challenges conventional wisdom on the places where waterlogged deposits are likely to be found. Naturally one thinks of deposits close to rivers in plains overlying clay and other alluvial deposits, but Tim and his team at Gifford & Partners have found deep waterlogged deposits on a steep hillside overlying sand; finds include Roman salt tanks and wooden tools, early medieval wooden barrels and the structural timbers of a twelfth-century workshop. Further information about subscribing to The Archaeologist is available from the editor, our Fellow Alison Taylor.
The Society of Antiquaries will play host to the IFA on 26 September 2005 for the Institutes annual AGM. As a bribe to ensure a good turnout, the IFA always sandwiches its (brief) AGM between a good seminar (starting at 2pm) and a drinks reception (from about 5pm). This years seminar is entitled Protect and Survive not an invitation to hide under the kitchen table (as was recommended as a defence against nuclear fallout in a similarly titled Government pamphlet of the 1970s) but a discussion about appropriate responses to the new heritage protection regime that the Government is introducing over the next two years to modernise the system for designating and managing the heritage. Our Fellow Peter Beacham of English Heritage will talk about the heritage white paper that is currently being drafted to introduce the reforms, and Andrew Wright will talk about the Scottish response.
The islands of St Kilda have continued to be in the news, with Scottish Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson unveiling a marker stone on the main island of Hirta on 31 August in recognition of the dual (natural and cultural) World Heritage Site status these islands now hold. The ceremony was timed to coincide with the seventy-fifth anniversary of the voluntary evacuation of the islands, when the thirty-six remaining occupants left their birthplace for good on 29 August 1930.
The anniversary and the WHS accolade have been good for our Fellow Andrew Fleming, whose new book, St Kilda and the Wider World: tales of an iconic island (published by Windgather Press) was profiled in the Daily Telegraph on 27 August. According to the Telegraph, Andrew challenges the view, portrayed by Tom Steels 1965 book, The Life and Death of St Kilda, that the abandonment of St Kilda was the inevitable result of a doomed population lacking the initiative to adapt and survive on the island. On the contrary, says Andrew, the islands archaeology tells a story of continual adaptation over a 2,000-year period; even in the late-nineteenth century the islanders supported themselves as Harris tweed weavers and one of their number opened a shop in Glasgow as an outlet for St Kildan products. The decision to leave the island could be interpreted as adaptation taken to its logical extreme: a difficult but rational decision that had more to do with external economic forces than their own weaknesses or perceived failings as a community.
St Kilda today is far from abandoned: as reported in Salon 122, it even has a pub, whose significant features have been recorded for posterity in the Western Isles SMR and the National Monuments Record of Scotland. Our Fellow Robin Turner, a frequent visitor to St Kilda in his capacity as Head of Archaeology with the National Trust for Scotland, says that a decision was made in 1999 to capture the unique cultural heritage of the Puff Inn. In the time-honoured tradition of remote community life, the pub had become a place of myth, legend, folklore and tradition, and there was a risk that some of this would be lost to the mists of time. A recording exercise was therefore undertaken to capture images of the objects, artwork and graffiti resulting from around thirty years of the pubs use by military personnel stationed at the islands missile tracking base. In addition some though by no means all of the traditions were also recorded, mostly relating to forfeits imposed on unwitting visitors for asking about some specific object or using a prescribed word.
Staying in Scotland, the September/October issue of Current Archaeology, edited on this occasion by our Fellow Jeffrey May, is devoted almost entirely to the archaeology of Orkney, which was designated as a World Heritage Site (entitled The Heart of Neolithic Orkney) in 1999. Various articles address the question of how far archaeologists have been right in attributing a ritual function to the islands monuments, suggesting that the extensive evidence for metal working demands a new interpretation of Orkneys prehistoric structures.
The latest issue bears the number 199 on its cover: the 200th issue is just around the corner to subscribe to what promises to be a bumper issue, visit the Current Archaeology website. Our Fellow Andrew Selkirk, Current Archaeology Editor in Chief, is also inviting readers who have been with the magazine since Issue 1, to write with reminiscences of the role that the magazine has played in their lives.
Salon reported last summer on the project, directed by our Fellows Margaret Snape and Paul Bidwell, along with Terry Frain, all of Tyne and Wear Museums, to record and display remains of the Roman bridge at Corbridge, Northumberland. The project arose from the urgent need to protect the remains from river erosion. An excavation, on the south bank of the River Tyne, was completed in late autumn 2004 and revealed a road ramp, nearly 12m wide, built of earth and boulders to carry Dere Street on to the bridge.
Also found were the dressed stone blocks, each weighing about 1 tonne, of a massive retaining wall, over 17m long. The remains of the four lowest courses, each three blocks deep, were found still in situ, with at least four more collapsed courses lying in a spectacular tumble beyond them. In total there were over 300 blocks.
The elaborate decoration of the bridge was apparent from architectural fragments found amongst the tumble. The more spectacular was a decorated octagonal capstone, 1m in width, which must have fallen from a stele or column standing at the point where the road ramp rose on to the bridge. Also fallen from the superstructure were moulded cornice blocks which had carried a parapet.
Subsequent to the excavation, consent was obtained to raise the masonry blocks from the excavation trench on to the modern ground surface, where they can eventually be displayed. All this was completed before the major floods of early January 2005, and the blocks, safe in their compound, survived the flood with no significant damage.
Project Director Margaret Snape now reports that post-excavation work has begun with an attempt to recreate the history and original appearance of the bridge. We know there was an earlier ramp on the site, because moulded stones derived from some other structure were re-used in the core of the road ramp. The last days of the bridge are even more dramatically clear. Our excavation revealed the deep scour pit created by the river, which had undermined the retaining wall of the ramp, causing its collapse, presumably at some time in the early post-Roman period. There was also clear evidence that this was followed by stone robbing.
May 2005 saw the start of a new phase of the project when a small team from Tyne and Wear Museums went to Hexham Abbey to make a new survey of the masonry in the crypt, which is a surviving part of the church built by St Wilfrid in AD 674. The crypt at Hexham is formed from huge Roman blocks, many of them decorated, and including parts of inscriptions. It has long been recognised that these stones were probably derived from the ruins of Roman Corbridge. Our aim was to see if any of the crypt stones were the same as our newly uncovered road ramp blocks. If we can show that these were the stones taken by Wilfrids masons, then we will know that the bridge had already collapsed by AD 674. This is the first time the Roman stones in the crypt have been quantified there are over 500 in all!
Margaret suggests that this number of stones might have been sourced from more than one location and possibly more than one bridge perhaps that at Chesters as well as Corbridge. The inscriptions and decorated stones in the crypt might also have come from buildings on the main Corbridge site that were still standing in the seventh century one inscription has been identified as coming from a granary. Some of the decorated stones in the crypt might even have come from a monumental arch associated with the Roman bridge at Corbridge.
Further details of the project can be found on the Tyne and Wear Museums website.
Another milestone on the near horizon is the 150th anniversary next year of the discovery Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, named after the Neander valley near Düsseldorf where the first Neanderthal fossil remains were found in 1856. According to our Fellow Norman Hammond, writing in The Times on 29 August, international specialists are preparing for next years planned celebrations of the discovery by assembling a New Neanderthal, a composite male skeleton built up from casts of the best-preserved parts of half a dozen skeletons found at sites from France to northern Iraq. The new model disposes of the traditional cartoon image of Neanderthal as a slouching, brutish figure; the original reconstruction which inspired this subhuman vision was made almost a century ago using a complete skeleton from La Chapelle aux Saints in France, which is now known to have been that of an arthritic Homo sapiens sapiens, and not a Neanderthal at all. Equally the current reconstruction disproves the revisionist myth that a Neanderthal in a jacket and tie could easily be mistaken for a front-row forward on an evening out. Instead, our closest ancestor had thick bones supporting a powerfully muscled body, beyond anything achieved by any modern rugby player.
Another popular myth has it that Neanderthals and modern humans cohabited and even interbred. A more serious line of speculation has emerged in recent years concerning the possibility that modern humans and Neanderthals might have co-existed for a period of time, and might even have interacted, observing each others behaviour and perhaps even copying each other. Now, according to a report in Nature, our Fellow Paul Mellars and two colleagues (Brad Gravina, a student of Pauls at the Department of Archaeology at Cambridge University, and Christopher Bronk Ramsey of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit) have discovered evidence that Neanderthal man and modern humans did indeed coexist in Europe.
The evidence comes from a securely stratified sequence of tools and bones that Brad Gravina found in store at the Cambridge faculty, excavated by Henri Delporte in the 1950s before the availability of radiocarbon dating. The oldest tool assemblage consisted of distinctively Neanderthal flint flakes. Above this was an assemblage of parallel-sided blades, typical of the so-called Aurignacian toolkit developed by Homo sapiens sapiens. A third assemblage overlying this consisted of flakes clearly developed from Neanderthal tools but influenced by the Aurignacian. Radiocarbon dating of this interstratified Neanderthal and early modern human occupation at the same cave site (the Grotte des Fées de Châtelperron, in east-central France) not only provides the earliest secure date for populations of anatomically modern humans in France, it also suggests that Neanderthal flintworkers absorbed technical innovations from contact with newly arrived Aurignacian tool users.
The raw dates put the older Neanderthal levels at about 41,000 to 39,000 years ago, the Aurignacian between 39,000 and 36,000 and the later Neanderthal at 36,000 to 34,000. Refinement of the dates by correlation with climatic change shows that the three periods of occupation actually occupied a much shorter time, little more than 3,000 years, between about 43,000 and 40,000 years ago. They give us the first unambiguous proof that Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans overlapped for at least a thousand years in western Europe, the authors write. During this time the climate got colder and then warmed: the first Neanderthal occupation ended as the weather got worse, then modern humans came, only for their predecessors to return as things improved. This demonstrates that modern people were better able to cope with the extremely cold glacial conditions than Neanderthals, probably because they had better technological or cultural ways of coping, especially more efficient cold-weather clothing but possibly better shelter and better control of fire as well.
Another report by our Fellow Norman Hammond in The Times says that houses built from mammoth bones have been found beneath vineyards in southern Moravia, in the Czech Republic. Dating from up to 30,000 years ago, these shelters were built by hunters following mammoth and reindeer northwards at a time when the climate in Moravia was considerably colder than now. Evidence has also been found for craft activities, such as clay modelling and weaving, all carried out around a central hearth.
More information about the site is promised once the full range of modern archaeological techniques has been deployed to study biological remains and molecular traces in soil deposits from the hearths. The project is being led by our Fellow Martin Jones, Professor of Archaeological Science at Cambridge, and Professor Jiri Svoboda, Director of the Palaeolithic and Palaeoethnology Research Centre at Dolni-Vestonice.
Spare a thought for archaeologist Mark Goodall, curator and property manager at Chedworth Roman Villa, whose water supply has run dry. For 1,800 years at least, the shrine to the nymphs of the spring at the villa has produced a steady flow of pure water, which not only supplied the Roman bath house but also the modern curators house. But this summer the water table has dropped so low that the spring has dried up. The National Trust, which owns the villa, has called in dowsers and engineers and is planning to sink a bore hole deeper into the ground to find other reserves or a new source to tap.
A silver huntsman's whistle has been unearthed during a metal-detectorists gathering on the Isle of Wight, according to the Daily Telegraph, which went on to report that the 66mm- (2.5 inch-) long silver whistle resembles a toy cannon and is engraved with roses and pomegranates, the latter being the emblem of Henry VIIIs first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The whistle is being studied at the British Museum amidst speculation on the Isle of Wight that the object could have been dropped by Henry on a hunting trip to the island, which he visited in 1540 (by when he was married to Anne of Cleves).
Our Fellow Percival Turnbull has drawn Salons attention to an article that appeared in Aljazeeras online magazine concerning the conviction by a Cairo court of three men for smuggling thousands of antiquities out of Egypt. Judge Gamal Eddin Safwat, who presided over the country's biggest antiquity trial to date, sentenced the three men to life imprisonment (twenty-five years in Egypt), saying that: This is an important step toward protecting Egypt's antiquities from being looted by gangs. Smuggling antiquities abroad is one of the most dangerous crimes because of the negative impact it has on the country's economic interests.
Among those convicted was Abdel Karim Abu Shanab, the former director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Department, responsible for regulating registered antiquities traders. He was charged with forgery, taking bribes and profiteering from his position by supplying smugglers with certificates that said genuine antiquities were fakes. Abu Shanab claimed that the charges against him were fabricated. This is all because of personal problems between myself and the antiquities bureau of investigations to remove me from my position, he said. Two of the defendants were convicted in absentia, and are thought to be living in Switzerland or Germany.
The accused were part of a group that officials believe has stolen about 57,000 artefacts and smuggled thousands of them abroad. Egypt has stepped up efforts in recent years to stop the trafficking of antiquities and to get countries to return them. It has warned foreign museums that it will not help them mount exhibitions on the Pharaonic era unless they return smuggled artefacts.
France, meanwhile, has seen a huge increase in robberies from rural churches, according to OCBC (the Office Central de lutte contre le trafic des Biens Culturels), the French agency responsible for counteracting the traffic in cultural goods. According to recent figures, more than 450 chateaux and 227 religious places, mainly churches, have been robbed of more than 20,000 objects and works of art in the last twelve months twice as many as in the year before. The OCBC says that most of the looted works were smuggled out for resale in Belgium, Holland or the UK, where penalties for receiving stolen goods were much lighter.
Churches are increasingly a target because of their low levels of security. Under French law, central government is responsible for cathedrals but local communities pay for the upkeep and protection of smaller religious sites, and they dont have the means to protect works of art. Some churches have installed glass cases to protect paintings and statues, but that has upset worshippers, who do not want the objects of their veneration put in a museum.
Italian bureaucracy is being blamed for the parlous state of Romes Castel SantAngelo, built by Hadrian as his own mausoleum on the banks of the Tiber and later fortified by medieval popes, which is reported to be in such a poor state of physical repair as to be close to collapse. According to the newspaper Corriere della Sera, ancient frescos are falling off the walls, ancient woodwork is rotting, and an air of seedy neglect hangs over the citadel. In true Roman style, the state of the iconic building is being turned into a political battle, with the castles two directors blaming the Government for removing their autonomy: When we had our own budget, they said, we could take care of electricity, carpentry work and exhibits. Now just to change a lightbulb, we have to hack through miles of red tape, and then the money never turns up. One of the directors, Ms Di Mattia, warned that the Castel would have to shut if the situation did not change, and if that happened it might never open to the public again.
Further thoughts on King George IIIs disabling porphyria were published in the US medical journal Cell last month, blaming the royal illness on the monarchs frugal lifestyle.
A team of biochemists, led by Bruce Spiegelman of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, has recently identified a protein known as PGC-1a as playing a critical role in the development of porphyria. When the body becomes starved of glucose as a result of malnutrition, PGC-1a can become overactive in the liver. This starts a biological cascade which interferes with the production of haem, the iron-containing pigment that is a building block of the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin found in red blood cells. If haem fails to form normal haemoglobin, it becomes toxic, causing the classic symptoms of porphyria, including abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, weakness of the limbs, nausea and a characteristic dark-coloured urine; in severe cases it can lead to confusion, fits and hallucinations. According to Dr Spiegelman, patients suffering porphyria can be treated quite easily by feeding them with carbohydrates and glucose, but George IIIs near starvation diet and the use of arsenic as medicine to control his madness (as reported recently in The Lancet) simply aggravated the problem.
The Gothic Revival Toddington Manor, located just north of Winchcombe in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, has been bought by the artist Damien Hirst. Hirst says he intends to turn the 300-room property into a museum to house his collection of his own and of other people's art. The house and its park are both listed Grade I. The house has been empty since 1989, when it closed as a school, and conservationists have long feared for its future. An attempt by the Warner Hotel group to obtain permission to convert the house into a hotel with a 200-bedroom extension and parking for 300 cars was turned down last year. Geoff Smiles, a Toddington resident who campaigned against the hotel proposal, welcomed the news that Hirst had made the purchase. We've got someone who is personally going to take an interest in the manor rather than some big corporation that would exploit it. It's the jewel of our village, he said. A spokesman for English Heritage said: We are looking forward to working together with the new owner and securing the future of this magnificent Grade I building.
Festooned with gargoyles and grotesques, Toddington Manor was built by Charles Hanbury Tracy to his own designs from 1820. It is a remarkable blend of elements inspired by Hampton Court, Westminster Abbey, Magdalen and Christ Church College, Oxford, as well as castles and flamboyant Gothic cathedrals all over Europe. The manors picturesque qualities were enhanced by landscaping designed by Hanbury Tracy and carried out on his death by his son, Thomas. Hanbury Tracys interest in the Gothic led to his appointment as Chairman of the Commission to judge the designs for the new Houses of Parliament after the Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834. In 1838 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Sudeley of Toddington.
A spokeswoman for Damien Hirst said that he regarded the restoration of the Manor as a lifetime's work a long-term project working in co-operation with English Heritage. He is interested in saving threatened buildings and he is really happy to have bought this one.
The Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) is inviting applications for the 2005 distribution of grants from the Maltwood and Gray Funds for work in antiquarian and archaeological studies. Details and application forms can be downloaded from the SANHS website.
Conservation in Architectural Education: making a case
15 September 2005, University of Bath
Over a third of building contracts in the UK involve existing building stock and many architectural practices have a large workload relating to old buildings. A growing commitment to sustainability also means that many new developments are no longer taking place on greenfield sites. Yet the current architectural education system continues to focus on new buildings and conservation rarely makes an appearance in the design studio. The ICOMOS-UK Education & Training Committee, in collaboration with the University of Bath and in association with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and UK Schools of Architecture, is organising a one-day workshop to address these issues. Speakers will include representatives from UK government agencies, university departments, the RIBA, the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Education and Training, and US ICOMOS. For further information visit the ICOMOS-UK website.
5 October 2005, Wallace Collection, London
A study day on Princely Collecting is to be held at the Wallace Collection on 5 October 2005 to complement the Gilbert Collections Princely Splendour exhibition of over 200 works of art from the Dresden State Museum. The day will examine how such princely collections were created and how they inspired future collecting, as well as the development of the modern museum. Speakers include our Fellows Arthur MacGregor, Bet Macleod and Jeremy Warren. Booking and enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roger Ling reports that he has achieved the rare feat of publishing two books on the ancient city of Pompeii in the last two months. The first is a general textbook entitled Pompeii: history, life and afterlife, published by Tempus Publishing, Stroud. The second The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii II: The Decorations, co-authored with Lesley A Ling and published by Oxford University Press is part of a five-volume monograph series focused on the city-block containing the House of the Menander, famous for its silver treasure and for its fine mosaics and wall-paintings (including the portrait of the Greek playwright Menander after which the house is named). This sets out to republish, according to modern standards, a group of Pompeian houses originally excavated in 192633; more importantly, for the first time it treats these houses globally, exploring the interaction between them and seeking to reconstruct the historical development and social structures of the whole block. The new volume joins two already published: Vol. I, The Structures, by Roger Ling, and Vol. IV, The Silver Treasure, by Kenneth Painter. Currently in the press is Vol. III, The Finds, by Penelope Allison (Australian National University, Canberra), and nearing completion is Vol. V, The Wall Inscriptions, by Antonio Varone (Deputy Director of the Archaeology Superintendency at Pompeii).
Heritage Lottery Fund, Regional Committee Members
Daily fee of £80 plus travel and expenses; closing date 30 September 2005
A number of HLF regional committee members will complete their term of office in spring 2006, so HLF is looking for new members for each of its nine English regional committees. Committees meet four times a year to decide on grant awards for projects up to £2 million and advise HLFs UK Board of Trustees on heritage priorities for their region. Committee members are also required to represent HLF by speaking at project openings, visiting projects seeking funding and others that have already been funded, and taking part in community events to encourage new applications from under-funded areas. Members are required to commit on balance one day per month to committee business.