Salon Archive

Issue: 129

Forthcoming meetings

8 December: Perfectly Medieval and Perfectly Modern: Christopher Whall’s Arts and Crafts stained glass at Gloucester Cathedral, by Peter Cormack, FSA

Christopher Whall’s stained-glass windows in the fifteenth-century Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral, made between 1898 and 1910, are acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of the British Arts and Crafts movement. This lecture will examine the origins and history of the commission — including the significant involvement of the Society of Antiquaries — the innovative role of Christopher Whall as both designer and master-craftsman and the imagery and technique of the windows themselves.

15 December: A Miscellany of Papers, followed by mulled wine and mince pies

The papers to be given at this meeting will focus on the recent refurbishment of Burlington House, with Clerk of Works Ralph Bell talking about the exterior works, and former General Secretary Dai Morgan Evans talking about the Society’s apartments, their use and decoration over the years. General Secretary David Gaimster will conclude by unveiling future plans for the Society’s public areas and for the re-presentation of the Burlington House Courtyard.

Newly elected Fellows

The Society is pleased to welcome the following new Fellows, who were all elected in the ballot on 24 November:

Alan McGowan
Finbar McCormick
Michael Baillie
Audrey Gahan
Sinead McCartan
Michael Kerney
Keith Ray
David Chambers
Stephen Dunmore
Richard Morrice
Claudia Wagner
Ian Oxley
Nicholas Bennett
Nigel Llewellyn
Gwen Yarker
David Pearson
Huon Mallalieu
Ruth Brown
Kim Woods
Charlotte Gere
Oliver Creighton
Ian Barnes
Janet Lang
Linda Monckton
Nancy Netzer.

News of Fellows

Professor Matthew Spriggs, of the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra, writes to say that Fellows in Australia have been garnering funds for groundbreaking research programmes that will keep them busy for the foreseeable future. Matthew himself, along with Professor Rainer Grun and Dr I S Williams, has received a Discovery Grant from the Australian Research Council worth AUS$ 285,000 over three years for their project called the ‘Microanalysis of human fossils: new insights into age, diet and migration’. In the same funding round, Fellow Atholl Anderson, along with colleagues Dr Katherine Szabo and Dr Eric Conte, received AUS$ 195,000 over the same time period for their project looking at ‘The origins of human colonization in East Polynesia and their relevance to maritime migration’.

Anyone interested in Atholl’s work should turn to the latest issue of Antiquity, out this week, which features his article on the intrepid Polynesian voyagers who first discovered the Antarctic. Atholl’s research in the Auckland Islands, south of New Zealand, has unearthed ovens, middens and flaked stone tools dating to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries AD, indicating that Polynesians and their dogs survived on seals and seabirds for at least one summer, and constitutes the earliest human landfall in the islands of the sub-Antarctic. The new findings, part of a comprehensive survey of colonisation in the outlying archipelagos of South Polynesia, show that migration occurred contemporaneously, rapidly and in all directions from mainland New Zealand.

In the same issue of Antiquity, Fellow Peter Stone (University of Newcastle) gives a first-hand account of his unsolicited role as an archaeological consultant to the British military during the second Iraq war. In ‘Archaeology, the British Army and the Iraq war’, he shows that his attempts to win respect for sites and artefacts in a war zone met with eventual acceptance and good prospects for the future after a period of misunderstanding on all sides.

The occult world of the antiquary

Our Fellow David Sherlock has passed on copies of an amusing correspondence between himself and the Head Librarian at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council in which David complains that he is unable to consult the Society’s website at his local library because it is categorised as a banned site. When David enquired further he was told that it had been blocked under the heading of ‘Non-traditional religions, occult and folklore’. Quite why any of these topics is considered unsuitable for public consumption isn’t clear, but David has now managed to persuade the librarian that the restriction on the Society’s site should be lifted.

Meanwhile people of much sounder judgement have decided that the Society’s site is worthy of preservation in perpetuity. The Society is honoured to have been selected to take part in the British Library’s two-year pilot project to determine the long-term feasibility of archiving selected sites that it considers to represent important aspects of UK heritage and that should remain available for future researchers.


Responding to John Nandris's request for information on the distribution of European beavers, Adam Zamoyski writes from first-hand experience of their re-introduction to Poland some twenty years ago, using animals taken from Russia. Adam reports that they have multiplied at a staggering rate all over the country, and are now happily destroying what little remains of Poland’s natural woodland, which survives mainly along the banks of small rivers, the beavers’ preferred home. In the last couple of years, Adam says, ‘they have chewed their way through over fifty mature trees on a few acres of land I own outside Warsaw — a good example of a nice idea that has gone out of control.’

Apologies to anyone confused by references in the last issue of Salon to the National Art Fund, which was a total invention on the editor’s part: the excellent National Art Collections Fund is what was intended, a name that is occasionally shortened to ‘the Art Fund’, though this is a tendency that many NACF supporters are resisting as the fund is concerned with public collections of art, rather than art per se.


It is with sadness that we report the death of John Archibald Goodall, FSA, who was taken to hospital from Burlington House in early November after one of our Fellows — a retired medical practitioner — realised that John was in need of urgent medical attention. Although John appeared to recover and was looking forward to leaving hospital, he died of an infection on 23 November. For John, the Society was a surrogate family and a second home. He was a daily visitor to the Library, scarcely missed a meeting and was a frequent exhibitor at ballots. Our former President, Rosemary Cramp, once described him as ‘a man of extensive and erudite knowledge’. Salon hopes to publish a short tribute to John in the near future.

The Independent (on 2 December 2005) published an obituary for Professor Tahsin Ozgüç, Honorary Fellow of the Society, who died on 28 October 2005, at around ninety years of age (the lack of precision is because birth dates were neither registered nor remembered when Tahsin was born). Describing Tahsin as the ‘doyen of Anatolian archaeology in Turkey’, the obituary (written by J David Hawkins) recorded that he and his wife Nimet, also a professor of archaeology at Ankara University, formed a remarkable team, dominating Turkish field archaeology and its university teaching from the immediate post-war period until the present day.

The obituary said that ‘Ozgüç will be principally remembered as the excavator of the great site of Kültepe, ancient Kanesh, where his fifty-seven years of continuous excavation produced sensational architectural artefacts and texts, revealing in extraordinary detail the first historical period of Anatolia, that of the Assyrian merchant colonies, c 2000—1700 BC. This great site had been known as a source of cuneiform “Cappadocian” clay tablets since the nineteenth century and in 1925 was the subject of a somewhat destructive excavation by Bedrich Hrozny, the decipherer of Hittite. He discovered that the main visible feature, a huge flat-topped mound, was actually only a palace citadel and that the source of the tablets was an extensive lower town under the flat surrounding fields, and here he recovered some 1,000 tablets to join those already in European museums.

‘The tablets, when read, proved to be the commercial archives of a colony, the Karum of merchants from the city of Assur on the river Tigris south of Mosul who were conducting a long distance trade between Mesopotamia and Anatolia. The city of Kanesh was one of a number of such Assyrian emporia on the Anatolian plateau in the period 2000—1700 BC. Besides documenting this trade, the tablets also throw light on the native population and their rulers, who were the merchants' trading partners.

‘This was the site which Ozgüç took on as one of the major Turkish research projects of the second half of the last century. The results were richly rewarding. Working in the merchants' houses in the Karum, he established that there were two main levels of the period, each destroyed by severe fires which seem to have prevented the inhabitants from salvaging anything but their gold and silver. The houses thus retain in place their household inventories of pottery and tablets.

‘Excavating systematically from house to house, Ozgüç could be confident each season of a rich harvest and over the years he amassed museum-filling collections of the fine pottery of the period, elegantly shaped and beautifully decorated with red burnished slip and paint, including an extraordinary series of animal-shaped libation vessels, lions, bulls, deer, boar, hawks and others. Each house might yield tablets too, the personal archives of the owner stored in jars and bowls. Here Ozgüç was not so lucky, since his official epigraphist responsible for publication was unproductive and over 40 years allowed a backlog of some 20,000 tablets to build up, which only began to be published after his retirement, in the late 1980s.

‘Ozgüç also took in hand this palace mound, and attempted to clarify and rectify the ravages of earlier diggers. In the centre lay two superimposed palaces of the native princes, huge structures of beams and mud-brick which had burned like torches at their final destructions. In 1999, he produced Kültepe: Kanis/Nesa, a fine volume of the plans and archaeology of the palaces to add to the five occasional volumes of Kültepe dig reports. In his last years he was working on a final report of his work in the Karum and it must be hoped that this will appear posthumously.’

Lottery consultation: your vote is needed to maintain the HLF’s share

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has launched an online consultation whose results will help the Department decide what share of Lottery proceeds will go to heritage after January 2009.

At present, Lottery funds are split between four good causes. Heritage, sport, and arts and film receive 16.7 per cent each, with the remaining 50 per cent going to the Big Lottery Fund (BLF), which has a broad remit covering charities, environment, health and education.

To the great relief of everyone in the heritage community, the Government has decided that these causes will continue to benefit from the Lottery and that there will be no new good causes, apart from the time-limited cause of the 2012 London Olympics.

Even so, this consultation could make a vital difference to the relative shares that each funding stream will receive after January 2009. In monetary terms, heritage has benefited to the tune of £3 billion over the last ten years, a very substantial and entirely unforeseen sum that has transformed the state of the UK’s heritage, whilst still leaving a long shopping list of unfinished work and priority needs.

In a document setting out the background to the consultation (available from DCMS warns that there will be less money for all good causes from the Lottery in future because income tends to fall as lotteries mature, and because the Lottery will be ‘contributing a fair share’ to the cost of staging the Olympics. With this in mind, it hopes to tap into public feeling about future funding priorities and whether any changes are needed to the policy directions governing how Lottery money should be spent for each cause.

The consultation is not one that requires great time and effort and DCMS is therefore hoping to attract a high volume of responses. It takes the form of an online questionnaire that makes a series of statements about Lottery funding of heritage, sport, and arts and film and ask how strongly you agree or disagree. There is space for up to 500 words of text in support of your answer, so any qualitative comments have to be short and to the point.

Concerns have already been expressed that the consultation is a form of popularity contest and that orchestrated ‘write-in’ campaigns could bias the results. Critics argue that it would be doubly unfair if sport took a larger slice of the funding given the amount of Lottery money being creamed off for the Olympics. The tone and content of the consultation document nevertheless suggests that the Government is not looking for radical or controversial change, and that the current balance is about right.

Even so, HLF is making it clear that it wants all of its supporters and sympathisers to participate in the consultation, as a sign of the strength of support for heritage in the UK, which has in the past been characterised as a minority concern.

Meetings will be run by the Lottery distributors over the next three months to explain their visions for the future. They have also published advocacy documents setting out their achievements to date and their wishes for the future. Details of all these are available from the consultation website or, in the case of heritage, directly from the HLF website.

The consultation will run until 28 February 2006, and the Secretary of State will publish her decisions in June 2006.

Lottery news

Among recent grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is an award of £11,900 to enable the Bradford-on-Avon Preservation Trust Ltd to clean and conserve wall-plaster fragments recovered from the site of a Roman bath found on the hillside above the Wiltshire town during the construction of St Laurence School in 1976. Since then the fragments of the painted Roman plaster have been sitting in forty boxes in Devizes County Museum.

The Pumping Station at the heart of London’s historic sewage system is to be restored by the Crossness Engines Trust after receiving £99,000 in development funds and the provisional offer of a £1.4 million grant. Located on Erith Marshes in Bexley, Crossness Pumping Station was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette as part of a sewage solution to combat the cholera and typhoid outbreaks that crippled London during the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858. The system comprised 85 miles of sewers across London, and the Pumping Station was an engineering triumph, incorporating the four largest rotary beam engines in the world. Three Grade-I listed buildings will be restored, including the Boiler House, Beam Engine House and Triple Expansion Engine House, and a host of new facilities will be created, including an exhibition exploring the history of public health, pollution and the environment.

A grant of £1,195,000 has also been awarded to the Spike Community Centre project in Guildford. The Guildford ‘Spike’ is one of the best-preserved vagrants wards in the country. Created as a result of the 1834 Poor Law to provide basic hostel accommodation for the homeless, it is one of only eight survive of the five hundred or so vagrants wards built during the Victorian period. When the Poor Laws were repealed in the 1930s, the majority were left to decay or were demolished.

The Guildford Spike is of particular historic significance because it is the only ward that retains an original cast-iron stone-breaking grill; in return for a bed, inmates were required to break stone into pieces small enough to be pushed through the grill; the stone was then used for road building. The Vagrants Waiting Room and Wash Room will be recreated and refurbished, and information boards and audio guides will be created to show how vagrants and casual workers were treated under the Victorian Poor Law system.

Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund consultation

The research group London Economics has been commissioned by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to canvas stakeholders on whether to continue the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) beyond its 2007 end date. Archaeology has already benefited from £16m of grants from the ALSF, distributed through English Heritage. Questionnaires are available from Richard Johnson and must be returned by 22 December 2005. Further information about the fund can be found on the English Heritage website.

Extreme conservation wins top award

One tends to associate physical conservation with small and precious museum objects but this year’s Conservation Award has gone to a fifteen-strong team from Context Engineering Ltd for its work in restoring abandoned mineral-mining machinery at Force Crag, a National Trust site in Cumbria. Presenting the award, our Fellow Sir Neil MacGregor, British Museum Director, said that Context Engineering had played a crucial role in fulfilling the National Trust's plan to open the site to visitors and let them experience the mine’s rugged working conditions.

Lead, zinc and barytes had all been extracted from the mine from as early as the 1600s. The machinery had been partly dismantled and left to the mercy of the elements after Force Crag mine was abandoned in 1991. The Context Engineering team identified, cleaned and treated the parts to protect them, while working out what went where inside the old mine buildings. Their success was confirmed when a party of former miners made a tour of inspection and were amazed to see that everything was back in place just as they remembered it.

The £10,000 Care of Collections award was won by the Museum of London for opening up the huge collections of objects held at the London Archaeological Archive Research Centre (LAARC) in Hackney. Stained-glass expert Mark Bambrough was the winner of the prestigious Anna Plowden Trust Award for furthering conservation research and innovation, awarded for his invention of a new kind of secondary glazing system for stained-glass windows that protects them from environmental damage but does not detract from the appearance of the original glass through reflection and glare.

Heritage will ‘save the Thames Gateway's soul’

Perhaps it is an apocryphal story, but a senior cabinet minister is reported to have expressed the view a couple of years ago that the Thames Gateway was a heritage-free area. Leaving aside the fact that the area is one of the richest in England for natural heritage and biodiversity, English Heritage has gone a long way to correcting such erroneous beliefs with the launch of a new publication, called Growing Places. This not only maps the historic environment of the entire Thames Gateway region, it also identifies more than 100 historic hubs — towns, cities and villages — that have historic assets with the potential to act as a catalyst for revitalising the whole area.

Speaking at the launch of the book at the Thames Gateway Forum in London on 23 November, our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ‘Heritage-led regeneration brings out the soul of a place by drawing out the features that make it loved, welcoming and unique. Identifying and then regenerating historic hubs provides an economic, geographic and civic focus for new places. Even more importantly, it prioritises improving quality of life for the communities that are already there. Instead of looking at the Thames Gateway as a blank canvas, we have to understand its historic context and recognise the historic assets that we already have. How could you successfully revitalise a place like Queenborough, for example, if you didn't know anything about its maritime heritage?’

Simon continued: ‘To get the most out of the Thames Gateway in the future, we must care about our heritage, and invest in it. Our heritage is a priceless heirloom. If you get a chip in a Ming vase, you don't just throw it away, and then nip out to Ikea for a replacement. You restore it. And the same should be true for urban and rural regeneration. English Heritage isn't interested in building film sets, or recreating Victorian high streets to the last detail. We want to strengthen the historic character of places, and use it to create a distinct focus for new communities. That means fixing up the heirlooms, weeding out the rubbish and then working together to fill in the remaining gaps in the built environment. The Thames Gateway's Georgian and Victorian high streets and medieval ports were all but lost under layers of grime and dereliction. But now, through investment in its historic hubs, the area is rediscovering its soul.’

Simon went on to cite Gravesend as an example of heritage-led regeneration: ‘Not so long ago, the centre of Gravesend was a grey area, a vacant, boarded-up space. Now, it has a lively high street which makes the most of its historic buildings.’ Likewise, ‘Rochester is also a beautiful historic city, yet until recently, the most memorable and distinctive thing about Rochester High Street was the thundering stream of traffic running through it. Six years of heritage-led regeneration has renovated more than seventy buildings on Rochester High Street and visitors to Rochester can now walk down a fascinating, welcoming and bustling street.’

Growing Places — Heritage and a Sustainable Future for the Thames Gateway can be downloaded from the English Heritage website.

RCAHMS signs co-operation statement with Scottish SMRs

The contents of some Scottish Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs) are now available on the internet, thanks to a Statement of Co-operation signed on 7 November establishing a framework for areas of co-operation between the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and the Scottish Sites and Monuments Records. In tandem with the launch of the Co-operation Statement, a new version of PASTMAP was unveiled. PASTMAP is a map-based query system for Scottish national archaeological and architectural datasets: as of November this incorporates information from some Scottish local authority SMRs alongside the national datasets from RCAHMS, Historic Scotland (Scheduled Ancient Monuments and Listed Buildings) and Scottish Natural Heritage (Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes). SMR records for about half of Scotland’s land area are already accessible on the PASTMAP site and more will become accessible in due course.

The value of heritage

Albert Einstein once famously warned that ‘not everything that counts can be measured and not everything that can be measured counts’, but that is not a thought that cuts much ice with politicians, so expect to hear a great deal more over the next few months about methodologies for assessing the social and economic value of heritage.

Kicking off the debate is a forum to be hosted by Europa Nostra in Brussels on 5 December 2005, in which the principal aim is to persuade European Union member states that heritage is as much a mainstream political issue as, for example, the natural environment.

The position paper that will form the focus for the debate (available from the Europa Nostra website) argues that heritage is ‘central to the identity and quality of life [of EU citizens], to economic and social development and regeneration, to the cohesion and the liveability of their cities, regions and nations’, and that ‘an EU heritage strategy needs to be developed in close consultation with [organisations] committed to the safeguarding of our cultural heritage. These local, regional and national organisations represent — on the grass roots level — the mostly voluntary work of millions of Europeans who care for our common cultural heritage.’

The Council of Europe, meanwhile, has drafted a new convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage (CETS No 199; the text of the convention is available from and explanatory notes are available from

The convention is based on the notion that ‘knowledge and use of heritage form part of the citizen’s right to participate in cultural life as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’. The text presents heritage both as ‘a resource for human development, the enhancement of cultural diversity and the promotion of intercultural dialogue’, and as ‘part of an economic development model based on the principles of sustainable resource use’.

The Convention arose from the desire of the Committee of Ministers to provide a framework of reference for heritage policies, particularly in the context of rights and responsibilities in this area and the positive benefits, which can be drawn from the use of the heritage as cultural capital. The treaty now requires ten EU member countries to ratify it if it is to become official EU policy.

Here in the UK, Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, told her audience at the launch of Heritage Counts in mid-November this year that ‘we need to do more to quantify the public value of the heritage and to make sure that this evidence is presented in as accessible a way as possible; and we need the discourse to begin now, rather than waiting until the 2007 public spending round’. She also commended the initiative of the Heritage Lottery Fund in organising a two-day conference to be held at the Royal Geographical Society in London on 25 and 26 January 2006.

Tessa Jowell will herself be one of the keynote speakers at the conference, entitled ‘Heritage and Public Value’, to be chaired by the BBC arts and culture correspondent, Nick Higham. The first day will focus on the idea of Public Value, and on questions to do with the different ways in which different people value heritage, and what to do when values conflict (for example, where experts and the public have different views). The second day will ask what a values-based approach means for heritage organisations.

Among Fellows who will be speaking at the conference are Kate Clark, of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, and Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage; other speakers include the Sustainable Development Minister, Baroness Andrews, and Culture Minister David Lammy.

The conference programme and booking form can be downloaded from

Fairies stop developers' bulldozers

An interesting example of a different kind of heritage value was reported in The Daily Telegraph on 21 November 2005: villagers living in St Fillans, Perthshire, have halted a new housing development because it would harm a small colony of fairies believed to live beneath a rock in the middle of the affected field. Marcus Salter, head of Genesis Properties, told the newspaper that when his diggers moved on to a site on the outskirts of the village, on the eastern shore of Loch Earn, a neighbour came over shouting, ‘Don’t move that rock. You’ll kill the fairies’.

Mr Salter assumed that he was dealing with a small minority of villagers opposed to the development, but ‘we got a series of phone calls, saying we were disturbing the fairies. I thought they were joking. That didn’t go down very well,’ Mr Salter said. He then went to a meeting of the community council and it was clear that concern for the fairies was widespread and serious enough to halt the development. Jeannie Fox, council chairman, said: ‘I do believe in fairies but I can’t be sure that they live under that rock. I had been told that the rock had historic importance, that kings were crowned upon it.’ Her main objection to moving the rock was based on the fact that it had stood on the hillside for so long. ‘There are a lot of superstitions going about up here and people do believe that things like standing stones and large rocks should never be moved,’ she said. Apparently the significance of the rock as a home of the fairies has been handed down by word of mouth for centuries: ‘A lot of people think the rock had some Pictish meaning,’ Mrs Fox said. ‘It would be extremely unlucky to move it.’

The Planning Inspectorate has no specific guidelines on fairies but a spokesman said: ‘Planning guidance states that local customs and beliefs must be taken into account when a developer applies for planning permission.’ Mr Salter, the developer, has now agreed to redesign the housing estate to leave the rock in its original location.

Edward the Confessor's grave discovered

Archaeology made headline news on 2 December 2005 when the BBC and several newspapers reported that a ground penetrating radar survey of the area in front of the high altar in Westminster Abbey had located the site of Edward the Confessor's original grave, along with a series of royal tombs dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, including a line of what appear to be diminutive graves, possibly for children.

Edward's body was moved twice in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Until now archaeologists had assumed that the original tomb of Edward the Confessor was near the present high altar, because medieval records refer to him being buried there. It is now clear, however, that the position of the altar was moved by Henry III in the mid-thirteenth century. The archaeologists have located the original tomb 10 feet behind the present altar, under the shrine built by Henry III in 1269, which still contains the remains of the saint.

Our Fellow Warwick Rodwell, the abbey's consultant archaeologist, called it an ‘extraordinary discovery’ of ‘unparalleled historical interest dating back to the very founding of the abbey, over a millennium ago’. The archaeological team is now preparing further investigations to establish the purpose, history and content of the main tomb and the other chambers, graves and coffins tit has found, though it will use non-invasive techniques to avoid disturbing the abbey's cosmati-work pavement, which surrounds the shrine and that was laid in 1268.

Magazine round up

The latest edition of Current Archaeology, published just this week, has a vertigo-inducing picture of the excavated floor of Canterbury Cathedral, showing the westwork of its Saxon predecessor. This is just one of many stunning pictures in the 200th issue, which is a real trip down memory lane: how many Fellows will recognise their younger selves in photographs of excavations dating back to the founding of the magazine thirty-eight years ago? CA was then the only ‘popular’ archaeology magazine and a must-read for anyone who wanting to know what was happening in the field up and down the country. We must all congratulate our Fellow Andrew Selkirk, CA’s founder and long-standing editor. Salon’s admiration for his achievement is all the greater for the picture on page 370, which shows the early ‘NewBrain’ computer on which the first issues were produced. Primitive as it now looks, using an old TV set as a monitor and saving data and programmes to a tape recorder, Andrew says ‘it was bliss’ compared to previous technology.

Bearing in mind the competing models for the introduction of farming to Europe discussed in Salon 128 (a recent DNA study has suggested that farming was adopted by Europe’s indigenous population, not introduced through mass migration from the Near East), it is interesting to read of several different perspectives in the latest edition of Antiquity. In an article called ‘Sexual roles in early Thailand’, Alex Bentley (University of Durham) and his team measured the varying signatures of strontium, oxygen and carbon isotopes in the teeth of a sequence of people buried in Thailand during the period of the introduction and intensification of agriculture. Preliminary results point to the arrival of immigrant men, followed by a change in the relationship between the sexes: the women grow up on local food, while the men have access to more widespread resources. The author says that this perhaps implies a matrilocal system, where forager men raised elsewhere married into farming communities.

Dorian Fuller (University College London) writes of his work in tracking changes in cuisine in Neolithic India using evidence from cooking pots, seed residues and words for food, showing that the horsegram and mungbean appear to have moved from south to north together with their pots (and probably the appropriate recipes), bringing social as well as dietary changes. Richard Evershed (University of Bristol) and his colleagues have studied fat residues in Neolithic cooking pots from sites in Britain and have discovered that dairy products are more likely to be found in small pots while carcass fats occur in the larger. Correlation with faunal assemblages showed a good match between ‘dairy pottery’ and milking herds, as implied by the animal bones. The method has demonstrated dairying in England from the fifth millennium BC.

The autumn 2005 issue of The Archaeologist (for copies contact Alison Taylor) reports some rather worrying trends in the field of finds work, kicking off with an article by Kate Geary warning that there are too few finds specialists in the world, too few training opportunities and even ‘a lack of interest in finds work’, which has a reputation for being ‘uncool’. The rest of the magazine belies that accusation, and could be used as a recruiting aid for potential finds specialists and conservation experts in the way that it illustrates the sheer variety and quality of the objects that members of the IFA’s Finds Group deal with on a daily basis, and the discoveries that add human (or animal) interest, such as graffito on a Roman amphora, the maker’s mark on a sherd or a dog’s footprint on a tile.

£6m buys a nunnery with 55,000 books

The Daily Telegraph reported on 3 December that the Victorian neo-Gothic Stanbrook Abbey, located in the heart of the Malvern Hills, has been put up for sale along with its printing works and a library containing 55,000 books. The 49,000 sq ft abbey is on the market for £6 million and comes with a Grade-II listed church and four houses set in 21 acres.

Though called an abbey, Stanbrook is a Benedictine nunnery, built for Roman Catholic nuns from an English order founded at Cambrai in 1625 and expelled from France in 1808. Settling first at Salford Priors, they bought the Stanbrook estate in 1838, reputedly by persuading a monk to pose as a country gentleman so that he could buy the property on their behalf.

The abbey consists in part of the house and octagonal lodges that already existed when the nuns arrived in 1838, plus the Gothic cells, dormitory, church and cloister designed for them by E W Pugin in 1878. Pevsner described it as ‘externally interesting because of the high square tower with higher stair turret, striped in the Sienese-Ruskinian way’. Little inside has changed since the nunnery was built.

The nuns decided that they should leave after the costs of maintaining the place became too high. They intend to move to a purpose-built convent under construction near the ruins of Byland Abbey in North Yorkshire.

Battle of Britain buildings listed

Historic airfields linked to the First World War, the Battle of Britain and the Dambusters are among 255 buildings to be given listed status, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced on 2 December.

The 1939 underground operations bunker at Uxbridge, from where the 11 Fighter Group was commanded in during the Battle of Britain, is given Grade-I listing. Three sites given Grade-II* listings are the 1910 hangars at Larkhill and the operations blocks at Debden and Duxford, both fighter stations vital to the Battle of Britain. Eight buildings already listed are to be upgraded to Grade II* and 160 buildings are to be listed at Grade II. Nineteen of the thirty-one sites with newly listed buildings are still owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

These listings are the result of a thematic survey of military aviation sites carried out by English Heritage, and it follows a long process of evaluation and consultation with the MoD, military historians and the private owners of some of the sites. The survey highlighted the importance of focusing on the protection of airfields, which have a historical importance on an international level.

Announcing the listings, David Lammy, Culture Minister, said: ‘It is important for younger generations to remember and learn from the past, and the courage of our veterans. I hope the protection of these historic sites will help to ensure that. These sites and the buildings on them are testimony to generations of heroes.’

Don Touhig, Under Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans, said: ‘The protection of these important sites, which include Larkhill — our first military airfield used by the early flying pioneers of the Royal Flying Corps — as well as famous RAF sites such as Scampton — associated with the Dambuster Raids — and Biggin Hill — Britain's most celebrated fighter station — demonstrates our commitment to protect our Defence heritage. The listings announced today reinforce our commitment to investing in the future of our Forces, while never forgetting the past. I hope that many of the sites and building will be enjoyed by generations to come.’

A full list of newly designated sites, along with statements of significance, can be found on the DCMS website.

Site of ‘pagan’ well to be restored

The BBC reports that one of Wales' oldest wells, thought to be a pagan site rededicated by early Christians, is to be restored. Ffynnon Rhedyw in Llanllyfni, near Caernarfon, is believed to be older than nearby St Rhedyw's Church, which dates from AD 600. Gwynedd Archaeological Trust hopes the project will set a precedent for similar projects around Wales.

‘This site is an interesting example of a class of little-understood monuments which are numerous across Wales, but which are often overlooked,’ said David Thompson, the Trust's head of heritage management. The well's restoration is one part of plans by the Menter Llyfni community group to create a network of footpaths in the area to commemorate important people or events from the past.

Saxon whip goes on display in London

The mere mention of a whip seems to induce nods, winks and titters, so it was no surprise that several journalists chose to highlight this particular artefact in last week’s reviews of the newly opened medieval gallery at the Museum of London. Could it be a sign that Saxons indulged (nudge, nudge) in sexual hanky panky or could it be a relic of early religious fanaticism? Probably not: the small leather whip with wooden handle and knotted leather thongs found in a 1,000-year-old rubbish dump is more likely to be the first physical evidence of slavery in Saxon London, according to John Clark, curator of medieval collections at the museum. The whip was discovered in a house dating from between 900 and 1050, on the site of a new development at the corner of Cheapside and Queen Street — which is, as the newspapers could not resist telling us, near a former narrow alley known as Grope Street.

Also on display in the new gallery is a range of pottery mugs and rare enamelled wine goblets. Again journalists found it impossible to resist a contemporary reference. ‘As England and Wales prepare for relaxed licensing laws this week, the museum will show that binge-drinking is not a new phenomenon,’ said The Times, adding that ‘Seven hundred years ago, London had 1,300 alehouses, one for every fifty citizens. “Most people, including children, drank ale. They even drank it for breakfast, and got through up to a gallon a day each,” Mr Clark said’.

Hexham is deemed to be England’s best market town

Country Life magazine has awarded the title of ‘England's Favourite Market Town 2005’ to the Northumbrian town of Hexham (population 11,300). Other contenders nominated by readers were Framlingham in Suffolk, Stamford in Lincolnshire, Alresford in Hampshire and Marlborough in Wiltshire.

The judges described Hexham as a ‘place where people matter … [and] traditional values are understood and preserved’ and added that the town's Saxon abbey, founded by Bishop Wilfrid in 674, the fourteenth-century Old Gaol and the sixteenth-century Moot Hall all helped to make Hexham ‘a place its inhabitants clearly love’.

But the local newspaper, the Hexham Courant, pointed to some less traditional aspects of the town, saying that pollution from the Egger chipboard factory, located on the town’s bypass, was the source of environmental debate about its impact at the gateway to the town, while others were concerned that the newly opened Tesco supermarket would take trade away from independent shops in the town centre.

The judges of the Country Life award were asked to rate competing towns according to how well new housing blended in with older period homes, the vibrancy of high street shops, independent traders, restaurants and bars, the accessibility of public transport and provision of parking, the existence of sports clubs, theatres, cinemas and local societies, as well as playing fields and open areas for walking.

An important criterion was the ability of a town to support itself without having to rely too heavily on tourism. Tourism is now a major part of Hexham’s local economy and the industry employed more than 2,300 people last year and visitors spent almost £80 million in the area. The heart of the town, however, is the regular livestock market, which brings together traders from the hundreds of surrounding sheep and cattle farms of Northumberland and beyond.

Battle of cottage door ends in fine for Oxford don

The Times reported on 24 November 2005 that Professor Alison Brading, who spends most of her time in a wheelchair because of polio, was facing a possible prison sentence for replacing the wooden front door of her Grade-II listed eighteenth-century cottage with what the newspaper described as ‘an authentic-looking uPVC one’. Magistrates have fined Professor Brading £330 (and ordered her to pay £1,797 costs) for altering the appearance of her home in Thrupp, in Oxfordshire, without listed building consent. Professor Brading, a professor of pharmacology and tutor in physiology at Lady Margaret Hall, has declared that she would rather go to prison than pay up. She told Bicester magistrates that the old wooden door to her cottage was difficult to open, and that she often suffered the humiliation of having to telephone her neighbours to let her out.

Cherwell District Council first raised the matter of the door (and other unauthorised changes) with her in 2001 and she failed to get retrospective planning permission. A planning inspector dismissed Professor Brading’s appeal on the basis that the new door was ‘an alien feature’. Since then she has ignored court fines and summonses, saying ‘I would rather go to jail. It might be an interesting experience’.

Divers face prison over claims they pillaged wreck of Spanish galleon

Also facing prison are three British divers arrested three years ago for allegedly trying to pillage a Spanish galleon, according to a report in The Independent on 2 December 2005. The men, commercial divers based in Cornwall, learnt this week that they are to face charges of theft and damaging Spain's historic heritage after a three-year inquiry. The group were arrested in Galicia, north-western Spain, after winning a contract from the Spanish authorities to salvage 220 tons of tin worth up to £650,000 from the Friesland, a Dutch cargo vessel which sank in 1877. Prosecutors allege that as well as diving on the Friesland, the Britons illegally disturbed the remains of an adjacent vessel, the Dom Pedro, a seventeenth-century galleon laden with gold and diamonds. Investigators found the wrecks had been minimally disturbed and no valuables taken, but the men, who were found in possession of objects taken from the vessel, nevertheless face a possible sentence of three years' imprisonment on two charges each of theft from the wreck and damage to the historic environment.

British warship sunk during war with US may hold lost treasures of White House

American divers claim to have located the wreck of what many believe is HMS Fantome, a British Navy brig sunk in 1814, The Independent reported on 27 November 2005. The British warship was a victim of the almost forgotten war of 1812 between Britain and the then fledgling United States. It was wrecked off the coast of Nova Scotia at the head of a convoy of ships fleeing Washington for Halifax after British troops had stormed the American capital and burned down the White House. Divers believe the ship could contain precious artefacts hauled from the sacked White House in Washington.

The discovery of the wreck has caused controversy, however. Under Nova Scotian law, anyone can explore wrecks such as the Fantome and make off with whatever booty they find, provided they pay 10 per cent of the value of their finds to the government. A Halifax-based marine explorer, John Chisolm, has launched a campaign to petition the Canadian provincial government in Nova Scotia to rescind the permit it has already given to a Massachusetts marine exploration company to explore the wreck, on the grounds that its divers are plundering important treasures.

Mr Chisolm argues that before anything else is taken, he or someone else should be authorised to visit the wreck and properly photograph it and determine what remains.

David Christianson, of the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, says that no one is certain that the wreck is the Fantome, but that it seems increasingly likely. ‘I am convinced from the finds that they do have a vessel from that period and that it's a British military vessel,’ he said.

Iranian farmers accused of plunder at ancient site

A report in The Guardian on 14 November 2005 says that the authorities in Iran are threatening farmers with jail and eviction if they continue to cultivate and plunder the land that archaeologists believe is the site of Jondishapour, the city where the Persian King Shapour I vanquished the Roman emperor Valerian. Cultivation bans have been issued and one farmer has already been jailed for destroying parts of the archaeologically sensitive 300-hectare (741-acre) site. Iran’s cultural heritage department is planning a series of excavations as the first stage in a project aimed at resurrecting Jondishapour as a symbol of national achievement — part of a broad effort to revive Iran's age-old Persian heritage neglected in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Situated in Khuzestan province, southern Iran, Jondishapour became the capital of the Sassanian dynasty after it was built by 70,000 Greek soldiers captured in the Roman defeat. Its university was renowned for science, astronomy and philosophy, while its medical centre has been credited with establishing the modern hospital system.

Officials want to broaden their focus to other parts of archaeologically rich Khuzestan where looting is rife and irresponsible farming and development widespread. The province has some of the world's oldest signs of civilisation, thought to date to 7000 BC. However, Iran's Islamic rulers may be reluctant to risk provoking unrest in a province sensitive because of its oil wealth and Arab-speaking majority, many of whom harbour separatist sentiments.

Plumbing to prevent the fall of Rome

The Sunday Telegraph reported on 20 November 2005 that an urgent rescue operation is being launched to save some of Rome's most important ancient ruins from the ravages of increasingly violent rainstorms that are undermining their foundations. Archaeologists fear that buildings on the Palatine Hill are becoming dangerously unstable. A 15-ft section of a wall, one side of a passageway along which visitors walk to the Forum, has already collapsed. Violent storms, thought to be caused by rising temperatures in the Mediterranean, caused flooding and landslides in the north of the city only last week.

In the first stage of the restoration drive, a team of Italy's foremost archaeological engineers has been set up to conduct a nine-month survey and search for underground weaknesses and fault lines. Professor Giorgio Croci, the chief engineer on the project, led the team which stabilised the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, following the 1997 earthquake. ‘We have to go carefully as these remains need to be treated very delicately indeed,’ he said, adding that: ‘At least the Palatine is finally being treated as a priority.’

A maze of 2,000-year-old irrigation tunnels runs beneath the hill, but they are largely unmapped and have become blocked or have broken in many places. Carlo Giavarini, a conservation engineer at La Sapienza University who is involved in the rescue plan, says that: ‘the first thing we have to do at the Palatine is understand how to divert the water that is undermining the walls. The ancient Romans knew how to do it, but not us.’

British Museum returns African treasures for Kenyan exhibition

An unprecedented collaboration has been announced between the National Museums of Kenya and the British Museum, according to The Independent (30 November 2005). In a groundbreaking deal which could resolve decades of bickering over Britain's colonial plundering, 140 items from the British Museum’s collections will go back to Africa for a special exhibition that will open in Nairobi in March 2006.

Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, said: ‘We hope it will be a model for the future. The British Museum is committed to developing these kinds of collaborations across the world to generate a deeper understanding of a global citizenship.’

With increasing numbers of claims for the restitution of cultural objects to the Third World, the museum has been rethinking its role to emphasise that it holds such heritage in trust. The new approach means there will be more loans and exhibitions, as well as training programmes for curators and support for conservation and research.

A conference for museum professionals from across sub-Saharan Africa will take place in Mombasa next week with backing from the British Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which between them have pledged a total of £1m towards the African initiative.

Dr Farah Idle, Director General of the National Museums of Kenya, said the deal was ‘an important stepping stone’ which would help build a sustainable museum sector in Africa. ‘Rather than view the collections as belonging to one institution, the museum community should instead consider them as global heritage. This is the future for collaboration.’ The exhibition, Hazina: traditions, trade and transitions in Eastern Africa, was ‘greatly awaited’ in Nairobi, he added, explaining that hazina is a Swahili word for treasures, encapsulating ideas of beauty and value.

Plans are underway for an exhibition with the National Museum of Ethiopia to celebrate the Ethiopia Millennium in 2007—08. The British Museum is also working with Mali on plans for an exhibition on gold in West Africa, and a show exploring Asante funerary practices is being planned with the National Museum of Ghana.

Music inspired by medieval art

Music-loving Fellows might like to attend a concert on 5 December, at 7.30pm, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, in which the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Oliver Knussen, will perform a new work by the composer Julian Anderson inspired by the Duc de Berry’s Tres Riches Heures. According to the programme notes, Anderson ‘uses electronics to create an extra sonic orchestral colour rather as gold leaf might enrich an illuminated manuscript’. See the London Sinfonietta’s website for further details.

Seminars, lectures and conferences

European Association of Archaeologists (EAA)
After a successful 11th Annual Meeting in Cork this year, the EAA has announced that the 12th Annual Meeting will take place next year in Krakow, Poland, from 19 to 24 September 2006. The first announcement and call for session papers is now up on the EAA website.

Archaeology bestsellers

David Brown, Fellow and proprietor of Oxbow Books, has just published his year-end ‘Top Five’ bestseller list based on orders from Oxbow customers. In fifth place is Historic Oxford by David Sturdy, which celebrates the history, architecture, myths and hidden treasures of the city. At number four is Gavin Lucas’s Archaeology of Time, a study of the concept of time in archaeology. At number three is The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization by Bryan Ward-Perkins, and at number two is Archaeological Finds: A Guide to Identification by Norena Shopland. But this year’s bestseller (as perhaps for several years past) is the textbook that tells you everything you have ever wanted to know about the subject: Archaeology: The Key Concepts by Fellows Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn.

Books by Fellows

Martin Carver’s book on Sutton Hoo — subtitled A seventh-century princely burial ground and its context — has just been published by the British Museum Press and is available until the end of December at a special introductory price of £75 (the regular retail price is £95). At 672 pages, including 16 pages of colour illustrations and 124 black and white illustrations, the book provides a complete scholarly companion to the archaeological research and interpretation of Sutton Hoo and a full description of all the investigations undertaken since 1983, including studies by contributing experts of the early medieval artefacts, the landscape and the environmental and the prehistoric sequences at the site.

In time for Christmas, Boydell & Brewer is offering 25 per cent off five of its most recently published books, including Norwich Cathedral Close: the evolution of the English cathedral landscape, by our Fellow Roberta Gilchrist (reduced to £22.50 from £30), and St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in the Fourteenth Century, edited by our Fellow Nigel Saul (from £45 to £33.75). Also reduced are Julian Luxford’s The Art and Architecture of English Benedictine Monasteries, 1300—1540 (from £45 to £33.75), Lucien Musset’s The Bayeux Tapestry (from £25 to £18.75) and English Medieval Alabasters by Francis Cheetham (from £90 to £67.50). Further details from the Boydell & Brewer website.

Rob Poulton, FSA, Manager of the Surrey County Archaeological Unit, has just published a detailed report on the 1990—4 excavations carried out at the medieval royal castle and palace at Guildford (the Society was among those who gave grants towards the excavations). A Medieval Royal Complex at Guildford (A4, xiv + 155pp (plus index), 79 illustrations including 20 in colour, price £17.95; published by Surrey Archaeological Society, includes an account of all archaeological work carried out here since 1887, and a summary of the castle’s extensive documentary history, setting the entire story of the castle and palace from their origins until the present in their local and regional context.

The 1990s work showed the small scale of the original castle bailey, and revealed that its later expansion resulted in the burial of an early thirteenth-century tile kiln, which thus survived in an unusually complete state. The enlarged bailey provided accommodation for the royal household and family, and the buildings identified included a chamber built for Lord Edward in 1246. Small finds and building materials are described in detail; the animal and fish bones give evidence of high-status living, and a new picture of medieval deer hunting practices in England is presented.

From Alan Bell, FSA, comes an edition of the unpublished letters of the Scots advocate and judge, Henry Cockburn (1779—1854): Lord Cockburn: selected letters, is published by John Donald of Edinburgh (price £25, ISBN 0 85976 630 6). Cockburn was a leading Whig reformer and an early advocate of historic buildings conservation in Edinburgh and the historic towns of Scotland. The Cockburn Association (Edinburgh's civic trust, founded 1875) is named in his memory.

Matthew Spriggs, FSA, is joint editor with Sue O'Connor and Peter Veth of The Archaeology of the Aru Islands, Eastern Indonesia (Terra Australis Series No. 22, Pandanus Books, Canberra). The book describes the results of the first archaeological survey and excavation in the Aru Islands, Eastern Indonesia, carried out between 1995 and 1997. It details a complex and fascinating history covering the last 30,000 years, from hunter-gatherers and the late Holocene arrival of Austronesian agriculturalists to later associations with the bird-of-paradise trade and the expansion of the Dutch trading empires.

Gifts received by the Library in November

The Society’s Library continues to benefit greatly from the gift of books and other research materials from Fellows and supporters, including the following recent donations:

From the author, Christian Dekesel, Fellow: A Bibliography of Seventeenth-century Numismatic Books (CD-ROM, 2005)
From the author, Dr Helen Carron, Fellow: Clemens Saga (2005)
From the author, Philip Sykas: The Secret Life of Textiles (2005)
From Dr Arthur MacGregor, Fellow: 805: Liudger wird Bischof (exhibition catalogue, Munster, 2005)
From Mrs Audrey Tait: Royal Glass (exhibition catalogue, Copenhagen, 1995)
From the author, Dr Pamela Jane Smith: A Splendid Idiosyncrasy: prehistory at Cambridge 1915—50 (PhD thesis with audio tape recordings, 2004)
From the author, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos: Thieves of Baghdad (2005)
From the Leicestershire Archaeological Society: Index to volumes 21—74 (1940—2000)
From the author, Tony Rook, Fellow: The Story of Welwyn Roman Baths (2002) and I've come about the drains (2005)
From the author, Jack Lucas, Fellow: Tripontium Corieltauvorum: final report (2005)
From Professor Vincent Megaw, Fellow: Hallstatt-und frulateneezeitlicher Anhangerschmuck, by Thilo Warneke (1999)
From the author, Professor Peter Fowler, Fellow: Cultural Landscapes: the challenges of conservation (2003)
From the author, Robert Hardy, Fellow: The Great Warbow, by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy (2005)
From contributor Dr Kim Sloan, Fellow: From William Morris, edited by Chris Miele, Fellow (2005)
From the editor, Dr Kate Tiller, Fellow: Dorchester Abbey: church and people 635—2005 (2005)
From Michael Borrie, Fellow: Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 2002
From Fr Jerome Bertram, Fellow: Medieval Epigraphy in the City and University of Oxford (2005)
From the author, Dr Paul Cattermole, Fellow: Church Bells of Norwich (2005).


Professorship of European Archaeology, University of Oxford
It is perhaps too late now to apply for this post (applications have to be in by 5 December) but Fellows who are not already aware might like to know that our Fellow Professor Barry Cunliffe, the second holder of the post of Professor of European Archaeology (established in 1946), will retire in December 2007 and a successor is being sought to fill the post from October 2006. The University is seeking a replacement with an outstanding record of research and scholarship, as well as a vision for the development of archaeology as a discipline within the University of Oxford. The post is defined as covering European Archaeology from the introduction of agriculture to the death of Charlemagne. The university is particularly encouraging applications from later prehistorians, but outstanding scholars from across the range specified have been encouraged to apply.