Salon Archive

Issue: 134

Forthcoming meetings

16 February: Ballot

23 February: Thieves of Baghdad: the fate of antiquities in present-day Iraq, by Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, US Marine Corps (in association with the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group).

2 March: The Bishop’s Palace at Mirepoix (Ariége) and French Renaissance Panelling in Scotland, by Charles Tracy, FSA.

Elections to Council

Nominations are invited of Fellows willing to serve as members of Council or as Officers of the Society. The cut-off date for nominations is 1 March 2006.

As the statutes state (Cap VI sec Vi): 'Any five Fellows may nominate for election on the Council any other Fellow not of the existing Council by a writing signed by them and delivered to the Secretary on or before the 1st day of March. No Fellow shall sign more than one such nomination for any one election. Any five Fellows may nominate for election to the offices of President, Treasurer, Director or Secretary for the ensuing year any member of the existing Council by a writing signed by them and delivered to the Secretary on or before the 1st day of March. No Fellow shall sign more than one such nomination for any one office. Every such nomination to be valid must be accompanied by a writing to the Secretary from the candidate so nominated expressing his/her willingness to serve in the particular office to which s/he has been nominated.'

Feedback

Apologies to our newly elected Fellow Mark Maltby who, as John Collis has pointed out, was erroneously called John Maltby in the last issue of Salon. Claude Blair also pointed out that Salon's description of Duns Scotus as a poet was a little awry: Salon's editor pleads confusion with the Scottish poet Dunbar and is happy to set the record straight by acknowledging that Duns Scotus made many important contributions to theology and moral philosophy, but all of them in prose.

News of Fellows

Peter Davenport, formerly Director of Excavations at the Bath Archaeological Trust (BAT), writes to say that he is now working as a Senior Project Manager at Oxford Archaeology but is still dealing with some Bath projects. Many Fellows will be aware that Bath Archaeological Trust (BAT) began an orderly close down a year ago, in the face of a shrinking commercial workload, when Trustees chose to go into voluntary receivership to make sure that staff redundancy payments were covered. Last September saw the sad end to nearly thirty years of research and rescue activity in and around, Bath. BAT's archives have now been dispatched to museums and SMRs, and clients have found new service providers. Much remains to be published, however, and Peter hopes that ways and means will be found to get the most significant work into print over coming months and years.

Memorial Symposium for John Goodall, FSA (1930—2005)

As our Fellow Norman Hammond observed in his archaeological column in The Times a fortnight ago, it is not every antiquary who has a King of Arms speaking in his memory. Following John's funeral held at West Norwood Crematorium on the morning of Friday 27 January 2006, about seventy people came to Burlington House for a symposium in John's memory, including, as Norman said, Thomas Woodcock, FSA, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, who praised John's many contributions to heraldic research, and the unstinting help which he gave to others.

John had been a reader in the Society's library since 1953 and could be seen in his regular seat most weekdays during the last twenty years. Exactly what he was researching, and the great variety of arcane topics in which he took an interest, will shortly be revealed when a lengthy bibliography of John's writings (already amounting to six closely typed pages) is published in the next issue of The Coat of Arms, along with an appreciation. But as speaker after speaker at the symposium testified, all those who used the Antiquaries’ library remember John as a man who could help with the most abstruse enquiry on almost any topic since the Norman Conquest.

The Society is grateful to those who generously gave donations in his memory; over £500 has been received to date.

A CD of the Society's Illyrian Armorial (Ms 54) with John's notes from the Antiquaries Journal, has just been published by Academic Microforms and a few copies can be obtained from the Librarian at a special rate for Fellows of £25. It is hoped that John's work for Aspilogia IV (rolls of arms of Edward II's reign) and his catalogue of the Society's seals and related material will be completed by others.

Obituaries

From Malta, via Richard Reece, FSA, comes the following news: 'Friends in Malta have just told me of the death of Capt Charles Zammit a few days ago in his ninety-fourth year. He had been a Fellow for many years but resigned some time after he retired when his sight deteriorated. He deserves a mention in Salon because he was a living and vigorous link between the classical days of Maltese archaeology under his father, Sir Temi Zammit, and the post-colonial era. As Director of the National Museum he kept archaeology alive in a moderate, balanced and unpolitical way. Italian and British people (Evans, Trump) and projects came and went and he encouraged younger Maltese scholars to take an interest in the subject. Many of those now in positions of authority in Malta willingly acknowledge the debt they owe to his example and encouragement. A continuing memory of him survives already in the best-selling postcard showing the arms of the Grand Masters and in the illustrations to John Evans’ Malta Corpus for he was a stylish illustrator and calligrapher. It is to be hoped that a lasting memorial will be created in Malta.

Obituaries have appeared recently in The Times and The Guardian reporting on the achievements of our late Fellow Basil Robinson, who died on 29 December 2005 at the age of ninety-three. B W Robinson, as he was known to his readers (and ‘Robbie’ to his friends), formulated the bases for the classification and chronology of Persian miniature painting upon which scholars continue to depend; he was also a world authority on both the arts of the Japanese sword and the work of the celebrated nineteenth-century print maker Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Robinson spent nearly all his working life at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he began work in the library in 1939, re-cataloguing the small collection of Persian manuscripts. After a few months he was transferred to the Department of Metalwork, with its extensive Islamic and Far Eastern collections. He returned to the same department after war service in India, Burma and Malaya and remained with that department until his retirement in 1972, after which he was retained until 1976 to help to set up the Far Eastern Department.

Robinson’s academic achievements were considerable. He was a Fellow of the British Academy, and at different times president of the Royal Asiatic Society and a member of the council of the British Institute of Persian Studies. His written contribution was of the greatest importance in his fields of interest. A Primer of Japanese Sword Blades (1955), The Arts of the Japanese Sword (1961) and Kuniyoshi (1961) have remained standard works in their fields. Kuniyoshi: the Warrior Prints (1982) won the Uchiyama Memorial Prize of the Japan Ukiyoe Society.

His pioneering Persian Miniature Painting From Collections in the British Isles (1967) was complemented by a series of catalogues of the main British collections, those of the Bodleian Library (1958), the India Office Library (1976), the John Rylands Library (1980) and the Royal Asiatic Society (1998). In other books and articles he explored, and in many cases defined for the first time, particular areas of Persian painting, for example, fifteenth-century Persian painting (especially the Turkoman style), the Indian Sultanate style and the Astarabad Safavid style, writing with equal facility on related subjects such as Qajar lacquer and enamel work. Robinson’s last work was The Persian Book of Kings: an Epitome of the Shahnama of Firdawsi (2002).

Through his work, especially the catalogues, Robinson laid secure foundations for generations of scholars in the field of Persian miniature painting. There could be no greater tribute to the wide esteem in which he was held than the festschrift edited by Robert Hillenbrand, Persian Painting From the Mongols to the Qajars: studies in honour of Basil W Robinson (2000). Here twenty-one scholars of international standing, from many different countries and institutions in the Western world, provided a fitting tribute to his scholarship.

During his long retirement Robinson shared his research work with his wife, Oriel, who provided photography of the miniature paintings in the collections they visited. He also passed on his love of culture to his two children, William, who for many years has headed the Islamic Department at Christie's in London, and Alicia, who, until recently, ran Apsley House for the V&A.

HMS Sussex: letter to The Times

A letter signed by four of our fellows, including our General Secretary, David Gaimster, was published in The Times on 11 February 2006 highlighting the chaotic state of law and practice with regard to underwater heritage. The letter was sparked by reports earlier in the week of the arrest of looters in Cádiz (see next story) and by the Spanish government's laudable demand that the ‘salvage’ operation currently under way to retrieve gold and silver from HMS Sussex be halted immediately.

Britain claims ownership of the ship, and has controversially, and in defiance of archaeological advice, given permission to Odyssey Marine Exploration, an American company, to undertake salvage work. But Spain objects in principle to all salvage work on historic wrecks and only permits work to take place under properly controlled archaeological conditions. The Spanish Foreign Ministry says that Odyssey Marine Exploration’s work is in breach of those conditions, and the Spanish government has demanded an immediate end to all salvage operations on the wreck.

Responding to this news, George Lambrick, Chairman of the Nautical Archaeology Society, Robert Yorke, Chairman of the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee, Mike Heyworth, Director of the Council for British Archaeology, and David Gaimster, General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London, wrote to say:

‘Sir, Your report (“Armed treasure gang arrested”, Jan 27) has highlighted the row that has re-erupted over the project to recover and sell off treasure from HMS Sussex. What the report does not mention is that the UK Ministry of Defence is party to the profit-sharing salvage contract, although undertaking archaeological investigations to recover cultural property for commercial sale is contrary to a Council of Europe convention that both the British and Spanish governments have ratified.

‘Meanwhile, the Dutch Finance Ministry has taken possession of a large hoard of silver ingots recovered from the Rooswijk, an eighteenth-century wreck on the Goodwin Sands, which may be sold. Despite it being in UK territorial waters, commercial confidentiality meant that the UK heritage authorities were given no opportunity to consider protecting the wreck or archaeologically vet the recovery procedures.

‘In a third current case, the Ministry of Defence has expressed no interest in protecting the wreck of HMS Fantome, sunk in 1814 off the Canadian coast, from treasure hunting, and neither the Foreign and Commonwealth Office nor the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have made any move to safeguard it.

‘In contrast to this, the UK Government, through the Department for Transport, has signed an international treaty to protect the wreck of the Titanic and is engaged in other bilateral agreements to protect historic wrecks. And not before time, the Government is reviewing the whole maritime heritage protection regime, including how it relates to salvage.

‘Britain used to be a leading light in maritime heritage. Now the competing interests of different departments have established a state of policy confusion that is eroding the UK’s international reputation. The UK has a great worldwide maritime heritage; are we going to protect it or just sell it off to the highest bidder?’

Spanish police arrest galleon plunderers

The civil guard in Cádiz announced last weekend that they had arrested three members of an alleged ring of looters who have spent the last two years plundering historic ships lying off the coast of southern Spain. The shallow waters in which the looters operated is the country's largest shipwreck cemetery, the site of an estimated 800 ships that went to the bottom of the Gulf of Cádiz during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The looters used expensive high-tech equipment, including an undersea robot, to identify and salvage artefacts from the wrecks. To hide their finds from the authorities at the Port of Santa Maria, where they had docked since 2004, the ring used oxygen tanks with hidden compartments, police said, adding that they hope soon to make further arrests.

Nelson caves to be turned into a car park

Our Fellow Marcus Binney, Architecture Correspondent of The Times, used his column last week to highlight the threat to a series of underground caverns built in Gibraltar in 1799—1804 to supply fresh water to Royal Navy ships.

Marcus reports that 'under heavy pressure from the Gibraltar Government and the Irish development company OEM International, the Gibraltar Heritage Trust withdrew last week an injunction delaying the construction of a block of 200 flats on top of the Rosia Water Tanks. Lionel Culatto, a local historian, says that the tanks are huge and awe-inspiring. “There are six parallel chambers dug out of the natural rock and vaulted in brick brought from Britain. They are about 30 to 40ft wide and over 150ft long. They are floored in flat bricks like Roman tiles. Each tank feeds into the next, so the water was steadily purified.”'

The developers plan to destroy the tanks to provide underground car parking for the flats. Ann Coats, of the Naval Dockyards Society, says that the tanks are 'a unique engineering monument to Royal Navy ingenuity and Gibraltarian craftsmanship, transforming Gibraltar into an invincible fortress. They enabled Nelson and Admiral Lord St Vincent to maintain their fleets in the Mediterranean, blockading Toulon and vanquishing the French at the Battle of the Nile.'

The Gibraltar government insists that the new flats will do 'no harm or damage' to the colony’s heritage, but they will be built next to the 1807 Victualling Yard, the earliest constructed outside Britain. Our Fellow Jonathan Coad, of English Heritage, the leading expert on the architecture of the Royal Naval Dockyards, says: 'The new flats will seriously affect the whole setting of this remarkable enclave and destroy the intimate scale of the area.'

Conservationists have appealed to Sir Francis Richards, the Governor of Gibraltar, to list the structure before the bulldozers move in.

Protestors hold up demolition of Derby bus station

In her speech to the Value of Heritage conference last month, Tessa Jowell demanded that the heritage community adopt the values of ordinary people in deciding what was worth conserving, implying her belief that the there is a big difference between what 'ordinary people' value from the past and what experts regard as significant. A recent rooftop protest in Derby provides an excellent illustration of the lack of any gulf between ‘expert’ and ‘popular’ views. In this case 'ordinary people' are campaigning to save their art-deco bus station, built in the 1930s to the designs of C H Aslin, which has been scheduled for demolition and replacement by the £90 million Riverlights leisure complex with cafes, bars, restaurants and shops (the trendy word for this is ‘regeneration’).

In a brave attempt to halt demolition of a much-loved local structure, Derby citizen Dorothy Skrytek set up home on the flat roof of the bus station, living in a plastic beach tent. Last week Miss Skrytek was visited by masked men who drove up in a lorry — but not, as one might fear, with violent intentions: instead they hoisted a caravan 30ft up on to the top of the roof as a gift from well wishers. ‘It was a whirlwind operation', Miss Skrytek said. 'They got in and hoisted the caravan up before security were called. They were in and out in seven minutes flat.’ Her new home has given Miss Skrytek extra resolve to keep up her protest to the bitter end, describing the whole Riverlights project as unsustainable.

Peter Mabler, one of the men who delivered the caravan, later told the Derby Evening Telegraph newspaper that ‘I am a big supporter of what Dorothy is doing. It is only the selfish who want Riverlights, not the majority’. According to the paper, there is widespread opposition to knocking the bus station down. Campaigners also fear the new development will attract extra traffic to an already congested area and affect wildlife on the nearby River Derwent. They want to see the existing buildings refurbished for community use.

Despite the controversy, City council leader Chris Williamson said: ‘We are determined to redevelop the bus station and continue with the Riverlights development.’

MP takes on 'garden-grab' developers

Greg Clark, Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, has introduced a private members bill highlighting the problem of ‘garden grabbing’, whereby developers acquire large detached houses in order to build a housing estate in the grounds. Local authorities say they can do virtually nothing to stop this happening as gardens qualify as brownfield (or previously developed) sites, which are favoured in planning guidance. Mr Clark says that the practice has substantially altered the character of suburbs in his constituency, posing a major threat to wildlife and heritage, as well as reducing the value of adjacent properties.

Mr Clark's ten-minute rule bill asks that designation as a brownfield site be removed from gardens. Proposals could then be considered on a case-by-case basis. Mr Clark said he did not expect his bill to succeed; his aim was to put the issue on the map and mark the beginning of a campaign.

Magnificent Roman tombstone found in Lancaster

The latest edition of British Archaeology, edited by our Fellow Mike Pitts, reports the discovery in Lancaster of the magnificent gravestone of a late first-century or early second-century AD cavalry officer. The 2.5m (8ft) tall carved stone depicts a mounted trooper in relief, holding the head of a man he has just killed, while the beheaded victim kneels on the ground, holding his sword. The inscription refers to a man called Lucius Nisus Vodvilleius, or Insus, son of Vodullus (the precise name is unclear as it is abbreviated), a member of the Treveri tribe, which occupied the area where Belgium, Germany and France meet and that provided Julius Caesar with his best cavalry. He served in the Ala Augusta, the Augustun cavalry stationed in Lancaster in the late 1st century.

Stephen Bull, curator of archaeology at the Museum of Lancashire, where the carving is being conserved, described it as ‘one of the sharpest and clearest I’ve ever seen’. The museum would like to display the find, but Christopher Tudor-Whelan, director of Tudor-Whelan Property Holdings, which owns the site where the tombstone was found, told The Times that he was in discussion over selling it through Sotheby’s, having had the find valued at around £57,500 if sold in New York.

Art Fund contributes to Wenlok jug and Saxon coin

The National Art Collections Fund has agreed to provide a £137,500 grant towards the £750,000 campaign being managed by the Luton Museums Service to help ensure that the medieval Wenlok jug (see previous issues of Salon) remains in Britain. A temporary export ban was placed on the bronze jug last year to allow time to raise funds to acquire it for the nation. Luton Borough Council is hoping that the bulk of the money will come from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Art Fund also contributed £60,000 to the British Museum's successful campaign to purchase a unique gold coin depicting Coenwulf, King of Mercia (796—821). The £357,832 cost of acquiring the coin makes it the most expensive British coin ever purchased. Additional funding was received from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (£225,000) and the Goldsmiths’ Company (£5,000).

The coin was discovered in 2001 by a metal detectorist near the River Ivel in Bedfordshire and is one of only eight mid- to late Anglo-Saxon gold coins ever to have been found, and is in far better condition than the other known examples. The British Museum says it is destined to be a star exhibit, along with the Offa dinar, in the HSBC Money Gallery. Gareth Williams, Anglo-Saxon coin curator at the British Museum, said that parallels between the Coenwulf coin and those of his contemporary, Charlemagne, suggest that Coenwulf 'was playing one-upmanship games with the most powerful ruler in Europe'.

Export licence deferral for medieval figure of a bronze equestrian knight

The Government has deferred the issuing of an export licence to give UK buyers an opportunity to purchase a medieval bronze figure at the recommended price of £34,000 (excluding VAT). The figure measures 49.5mm in height, 37mm in length and 16mm in width and was found by metal detection in Lindrick, Nottinghamshire. It is cast in bronze in one piece and represents a mounted knight holding, in his right hand, the reins of his horse, and, in his left, a kite-shaped shield without any obvious heraldic decoration. The exact function of the figure is at present unknown. It is believed likely it was made as decoration for a larger object, such as a candlestick, chalice cover or censor cover, but other suggestions have included a chess piece or toy. As a record of a knight equipped for battle, the figure provides a valuable insight into twelfth-century practices.

The decision on the export licence application for the figure will be deferred until 5 April 2006 and could be extended until 5 July if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the figure at the recommended price is expressed.

Full details are available from the DCMS website.

Library report suggests creating national reserve collection

Proposals to create a central library to hold and distribute academic books and journals are being debated by leading librarians, some of whom fear that the scheme could lead to a catastrophic loss of academic publications in the event of fire, flood or some other disaster. The proposal to create a National Research Reserve collection is recommended in a report commissioned by the Consortium of Research Libraries in the British Isles, called Optimising Storage and Access in UK Research Libraries. The idea is to create one big reserve collection so that libraries wishing to dispose of books and journals could do so knowing that copies would still be available in copyright libraries and in the National Research Reserve. By disposing of older and little-used publications, libraries could save millions of pounds that they would otherwise have to spend in the next ten years to create 280 miles (450km) of urgently needed shelving.

Researchers would be able to visit the reserve, which would probably be built at the British Library’s premises at Boston Spa, in Lincolnshire, or they could ask for journals to be delivered to their local research library. Half of the thirty-seven libraries consulted about the scheme said they were close to exhausting their storage capacity, and Martyn Wade, of the National Library of Scotland, has spoken in support of the scheme, which would be backed up by digital scanning of the books to ensure the ready availability of their contents. But some librarians fear that throwing out duplicate copies risks losing decades of knowledge to fire or flood.

Helen Hayes, chair of the steering group set up to develop the proposals, said: ‘We think about half of research libraries will want in, and we hope more will want to come in at a later date.’

Fitzwilliam to review policies after loss of Qing-Dynasty vases
The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has said that it will review its policy of displaying unprotected objects after a visitor tripped on a loose shoelace, fell down the museum stairs and smashed three enamel-painted vases dating from the latter part of the reign of the Kangxi emperor (1662—1722) that were displayed on a window sill at the foot of the stairs. Duncan Robinson, director of the Fitzwilliam, said: ‘It was a most unfortunate and regrettable accident’, adding that ‘The method of displaying objects is always under review; it is important not to overreact and make the museum's collections less accessible to the visiting public, but an accident of this nature does, of course, bring the issue into sharper relief’.

Fiona Brown, head of media for the museum, said that conservators would try to restore the vases. ‘They were very seriously damaged, but conservators these days can do amazing things,’ she said. 'They were on a window sill and have been there for decades without incident.’

Funding for restoration of Chiswick House gardens

English Heritage has announced that it has secured funding of £7.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the £12.1 million project to restore the gardens at Chiswick House. A press release said that ‘the HLF money is vital if the sad decline of the gardens, a result of decades of wear and tear in this enormously popular public park, is to be halted’.

The gardens are an invaluable resource for local people, as well as being of enormous historical significance. The design of Chiswick House in the 1720s by Lord Burlington ignited international enthusiasm for its neo-Palladian style of architecture, and with his layout for the gardens, William Kent inspired the English Landscape style. After Burlington’s death the gardens at Chiswick continued to evolve through the work of some of the most significant garden designers of their time. As the home of successive members of Lord Burlington’s family, including Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Chiswick House welcomed scores of significant guests including the musician Handel, the politician Charles James Fox, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The project will revitalise and restore the historic gardens, landscapes will be replanted, miles of paths will be repaired, and access for the many people who visit every year will be improved alongside the provision of much better information about the site.

English Heritage launches consultation on conservation principles

English Heritage has launched a major consultation on the principles that underlie the practice of historic environment conservation. EH has tried to boil these principles down to seven core precepts, which together spell out in a comprehensive fashion the fundamental beliefs and assumptions that should underpin standard setting, practice and training in the broad field of conservation, whether it is related to the designated, the undesignated, buildings, townscapes, landscapes, archaeological sites or deposits, and even artefacts. These seven principles are:

1 The historic environment is a shared resource
2 It is essential to understand and sustain what is valuable in the historic environment
3 Everyone can make a contribution
4 Understanding the values of places is vital
5 Places should be managed to sustain their significance
6 Decisions about change must be reasonable and transparent
7 It is essential to document and learn from decisions.

Explanatory notes explain the meaning and implications of each principle and consultees are asked for views on a range of related questions. For principle one, for example, the questions ask whether it is right to define the historic environment in broad terms as being everywhere and not just confined to specifically designated places; and whether you agree that the historic environment is valuable for a range of reasons, and that it is a resource in which everyone has an interest.

Once it has received feedback, EH intends to publish completed principles in the autumn of 2006, heralding what it describes as a 'modern and consistent approach to the management of change in the historic environment that will complement the current legislative review into the practice of heritage protection being undertaken by the Government.' The Principles will be supported by a suite of detailed policies and guidance on how to reach decisions on a wide range of problems. Consultation on these policies and guidance will follow later in the year.

Launching the consultation, our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: 'The management of the historic environment ultimately depends on the quality of the decisions of individuals. The Principles, coupled with policies and guidance that support them, aim to enhance the quality and transparency of such decisions. Without a suitably updated common code of thinking, decisions can run into the dangerous extremes of unreasonable restriction and inappropriate permissiveness. Worst of all, they can be inconsistent, or perceived to be inconsistent and arbitrary.'

He added that 'The Conservation Principles are designed primarily to sustain or enhance the values of England's cherished historic environment. They are also here to protect that environment from irrational and harmful changes. They promote a way of thinking so that accommodating changes to the historic environment is managed logically and transparently.'

The consultation documents are obtainable from the English Heritage website. Responses should be made in writing and sent to Sally Embree by 21 March 2006.

Longlist for the £100,000 Gulbenkian museum prize

Britain's biggest arts award will go to one of ten museums and galleries in this year's long list, announced on 10 February, consisting of projects that judges believe to represent 'the most imaginative and inspirational idea' developed or completed in a museum during 2005.

The list includes the new £33m National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, whose Director is our Fellow Steph Mastoris, who said he hopes the museum's presentation of Wales's industrial past will prove to be the winner. The Swansea Museum will be competing for the honours with Cambridge's redeveloped Folk Museum, the new £12.5m art and archaeology museum in Lincoln, and the Cloister Gallery at Dorchester Abbey Museum in Oxfordshire, with its displays illustrating the craft of medieval stonemasons, which is entirely run by volunteers on a budget of £3,000 a year. The 2006 winner will be announced on 25 May.

Michelangelo at the British Museum

The current Michelangelo exhibition at the British Museum brings together scores of sketches that the artist made in preparation for his monumental sculptures and paintings, including the Medici Chapel tombs and the Sistine Chapel frescos. Not only is it the largest display ever assembled of Michelangelo’s drawings, including nearly a sixth of the known works, it is also the first time that the drawings have been reunited since the posthumous dispersal of his studio contents in 1564. Hugo Chapman, the curator, says the quality of the work is so good that we would consider Michelangelo a great artist even if this was all we knew of his work.

One aim of the exhibition, according to Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, is to highlight the ninety drawings by Michelangelo that the museum owns, the biggest holding outside the Italian collection once owned by the artist’s own family. Most of the British Museum Michelangelos were once owned by Sir Thomas Lawrence, a British portrait painter, whose impressive collection was offered to the nation when Lawrence died in 1830.

Back to the future

The Treasury’s Foresight team, which tries to predict what the world will be like in fifty years’ time, has come up with a fascinating portrait of a future Britain after measures are taken to cope with the problems of pollution, congestion, energy shortages and climate change. Air travel will become a distant memory, and most people will travel by bicycle or horse. Cities of the future would resemble the packed Asian model, rather than the American urban sprawl. The bulk of the population will live in ‘sophisticated urban colonies’, with plentiful rooftop parks and food supplied from the adjacent rural hinterland. Farmers' markets would be commonplace and legislation would require that all goods are repairable.

Ted Heath’s legacy

Sir Edward Heath, the former Conservative prime minister who died last July aged 89, has left most of his £5.4 million estate for the establishment of a charitable foundation dedicated to the conservation of Arundells, his eighteenth-century home opposite Salisbury Cathedral. As well as the house and its contents, Ted Heath has bequeathed all his papers to the charity, saying that he wanted to see ‘the advancement of education by the facilitation and encouragement of access to and the study and appreciation of Arundells and its contents by the public in particular, in relation to the study and research of my papers and the publication of the useful results of that research’.

Seventeenth-century French oak felled to make wine barrels

A tree that was planted during the reign of Louis XIV was felled last month because it was slowly being killed by the great capricorn boring beetle. The 120-foot-tall tree was planted in 1665 in the Forêt de Tronçais, on the edge of the Massif Central, as part of a project to develop the tall straight trunks needed for shipbuilding. French forestry experts decided to fell the oak before the timber deteriorated any further so that it could be used for wine making. The wood of the slow-growing sessile oak (Quercus petraea) is prized by wine-makers for the vanilla and coconut flavours it bestows during aging.

After felling, the tree was sold by auction for £25,500 to Jean-Luc Sylvain, whose firm will make sixty traditional 225-litre (300 bottle) Bordeaux barrels. Advance orders for barrels have already been taken from the owners of the Château Angelus and Château Latour vineyards, as well as from Californian, Chilean, Spanish and Italian winemakers. Only thirteen oaks now survive of the 50,000 that were originally planted under the supervision of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s Financial Comptroller.

While Germany's oaks are dying

A report published last week by Germany's agriculture ministry said that one in every two oak trees in the country is officially sick. The phenomenon of waldsterben, or forest death, is attributed to the combined effects of pollution and climate change. The report says the state of the nation's forests has improved marginally since last year because fewer oaks have actually died, but that they are nevertheless still dying off at an alarming rate. In Baden-Württemberg three-quarters of the oaks are showing damage.

Ancient Rome’s even more ancient necropolis

Archaeologists have found evidence of a late Bronze-Age necropolis underlying the Roman Forum: one tomb, that of ‘a clan chief’, according to Alessandro Delfino, the archaeologist leading the dig, dates from the end of the ninth century BC. Eugenio La Rocca, the Superintendent of Archaeology in Rome, said that the tomb appeared to be one of a number from the same period. A funerary urn, ceramic vases, bowls and bones were found in the tomb. Professor La Rocca said that the tomb showed that there had been organised habitation close to the Tiber at least 100 years before the supposed founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus in 753 BC. Andrea Carandi, Professor of Archaeology at Rome University, said that Romulus and Remus could be said to have ‘founded Rome’ in the sense that they had created the first cohesive walled city.

Launch of Romany language website

The University of Manchester has launched a website allowing people to locate different Romany dialects on a world map and listen to examples of spoken Romany. The website is part of a larger project to record the endangered language and culture of Romany people, which is largely oral and under threat because those who are conversant in it are stateless and scattered. Professor Yaron Matras, who heads the Romany linguistics project at the university, says he hopes to encourage the Romany people to codify their language and agree on how words are spelt, as well as provide a resource ensuring the language is eventually included in mainstream media and school curriculums.

Many Romany lack access to computers, but those who do have discovered that they may at last communicate with compatriots as far apart as Norway and eastern Russian. Chatrooms for speakers of the language are beginning to flourish. Analysis of the Romany language has shown that it is closely related to those spoken in northern India, Punjabi in particular, which is a reflection of the people's geographical origin. Loaned words also make it possible to trace the pattern of their migration west and some of these remain in common parlance, including posh, pal, lollipop and slang words such as shiv or chiv (knife) and cooshtie (good).

English Heritage holiday cottages

English Heritage has joined the National Trust, the Landmark Trust and the Vivat Trust in offering self-catering accommodation on the historic properties that it owns. Booking for the first five properties opens on 27 February. They include a three-bedroomed Georgian house in the grounds of Dover Castle and Pavilion Cottage, built for officer cadets attending the Royal Naval College, in the grounds of Osborne House (here guests will have access to a private beach once reserved exclusively for the use of Queen Victoria). Other properties include a one-bedroomed apartment in the Custodian’s House at Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall, and a cottage at St Mawes Castle, Cornwall, both with stunning sea vistas, and Abbey Cottage at Riveaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire.

Prices start at £230 for a three-night weekend break, including a hamper of local produce, EH toiletries, discount vouchers for EH shops and property entrance. Further details are available on the English Heritage website.

A further twenty-five properties will open by 2008 (including on located in the former police station in London’s Marble Arch) and the long-term aim is to have one hundred properties in total. EH says that guests will enjoy five-star luxury: a £100,000 renovation budget has been allocated to each property, with the promise of modernist interiors and handmade English furniture and hi-tech facilities such as wireless internet access, digital radios and flat-screen TVs.

The Future of the Parish Church in England

Anyone who is in the Cirencester area on 20 February might like to go and hear our Fellow Sir Simon Jenkins deliver the 38th annual Croome Lecture, organised by Cirencester Civic Society and Cirencester Archaeological & Historical Society, on the very topical subject of The Future of the Parish Church in England, at the Bingham Hall, starting at 7.30pm (free admission). Enquiries to 01285 643101 and 651513.

IFA Conference 2006

The impressive list of topics at this year’s IFA Conference, to be held in Edinburgh on 11 to 13 April, ranges across the principles and practice of archaeology. Representing theories, principles, visions and strategies is an opening session chaired by Fellow Malcolm Cooper on the Big Issues facing the Historic Environment — with horizon-scanning papers from all four parts of the United Kingdom, and the Isle of Man. On the very practical side, Fellow Mike Parker Pearson will present a session on mobility and diet in the early Bronze Age, based on isotope analysis of teeth and bones and on dental micro-wear and tooth formation.

Full details are on the IFA’s website, along with booking details (with a discount for early-bird bookings made before 11 March 2006).

CBA Winter General Meeting 2006

The Winter 2006 General Meeting of the Council for British Archaeology will be devoted to discussion of the links between the disciplines of archaeology and geography. It will take place at The British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1, on Thursday 9 March 2006, between 11am and 5pm. The meeting is open to all, although only CBA members may vote during the formal business meeting, which takes place between 12 noon and 12.30pm. There is no charge for attendance. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided during the afternoon. All queries relating to the meeting should be addressed to Dr Mike Heyworth, FSA, CBA Director.

Among speakers at the meeting will be our Fellow Professor Clive Gamble, on 'Archaeology and Geography: time, brains and bodies', Dr Andy Howard, on 'Unravelling the human history of British river valleys using combined geographical and archaeological approaches', and Dr John Carman, on 'Landscapes of battle'.

Books by Fellows

A warm review appeared in this week’s Sunday Times ‘Culture’ magazine for the timely work of our Fellow Barnaby Rogerson entitled ‘The Heirs of the Prophet Mohammed’ (Little Brown £17.99). ‘In this follow up to his highly readable biography of the Prophet Mohammed’, the review said, ‘Barnaby Rogerson offers a vital service to western readers by exploring the origins of the Shia—Sunni schism that has afflicted Islam (almost) since the time of its origin. A natural storyteller … he sets the scene in an absorbing narrative that captures the epic quality of an era [the mid-seventh century] to which Muslims of all persuasions look for inspiration.'

Not a million miles away in theme is the volume of essays published in honour of our Fellow Alan R Millard called Writing and Ancient Near East Society, edited by Piotr Bienkowski and Fellows Christopher Mee and Elizabeth Slater. You will search in vain for details on the website of Continuum, the publisher, but Salon’s editor finally tracked down a full contents list illustrating the variety and extent of Alan R Millard’s interests and scholarship on the Biblical Studies weblog.

Books donated to the Society’s Library in January

The Society is grateful to all of the following for their donations of books to the Society’s Library:

from the author, Janne Harjula, Sheaths, scabbards and grip coverings (2005);
from the author, Anthony Harding, FSA, Sobiejuchy: a fortified site of Early Iron Age in Poland (2004);
from the author, Silvia Mazzucchelli, Paolo Vimercati Sozzi (1801—83): collezionista e antiquario (2004);
from the author, Roberta Gilchrist, FSA, Norwich Cathedral Close (2005);
from the author, David Breeze, FSA, The Challenge of Presentation (2005);
from Graham Fairclough, FSA, The Palazzi of Florence: history and art by Leonardo Ginori (1985) and Pathways to Europe's Landscape (2003);
from Martin Stuchfield, FSA, The Monumental Brasses of Gloucestershire (2005);
from Derek Renn, FSA, The Mary Rose by Margaret Rule (1982);
from the author, Judith Cannell, The Archaeology of Woodland Exploitation in the Greater Exmoor Area in the Historic Period (2005);
from the author, Peter Lynam, Charles Lynam [FSA] and his family (2005);
from Claude Blair, FSA, and John Blair, FSA, in memory of John Goodall, FSA, four sketchbooks containing drawings of cross-slabs by the Revd W D Sweeting, c 1860—87.

Vacancies

McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge: Deputy Director
Salary £25,565 to £39,452, closing date 28 February 2006

To replace our Fellow Chris Scarre, who was recently appointed Professor of Prehistory in the Department of Archaeology at Durham, the McDonald Institute is seeking someone to join the academic staff as Deputy Director to oversee the administration and research activity of the Institute, including its grant, monograph publication and conference programmes. The post-holder must have the proven ability to undertake research of international significance and impact, a strong research agenda including the ability to obtain significant research funding, and the ability and aptitude to disseminate good practice in research design and management.

Informal enquiries should be directed to our Fellow Professor Graeme Barker, Director, McDonald Institute, tel: (01223) 339284.

Further particulars and an application form (PD18) may be obtained from Mrs Deborah Parr, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, tel: (01223) 339284.

Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge: Director
No salary details given, closing date 10 March 2006

Applications are invited for the Directorship of the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology to take up appointment on 1 October 2006 or as soon as possible thereafter. The Director will have an academic background in one of the subjects covered by the museum and relevant museum experience. The post may be tenable concurrently with a Professorship for a candidate of the necessary academic standing.

Informal enquiries can be made to Dr Robin Boast, Acting Director. Further details from the academic jobs website.