Salon Archive

Issue: 158

Forthcoming meetings

22 February: Ballot with exhibits: ‘Renaissance gardens in Oxford’, by John Steane, FSA, and ‘Drawings by George Vertue of a hypocaust found in Lincoln in 1740’, by Bernard Nurse, FSA.

1 March: Rocks, plants and antiquity: Sir Joseph Banks in Wales 1763─73, St David’s Day lecture, by Dai Morgan Evans, FSA, a joint meeting with the Geological Society and the Linnean Society, followed by a reception at the Geological Society. Admission is by ticket only, available from Jayne Phenton at the Society of Antiquaries. The lecture begins at 6pm, rather than the usual 5pm start.

This will be the first of a series of events at Burlington House which will bring together all the institutions around the Courtyard and explore the commonality between them. This lecture uniquely encompasses the interests of the Society of Antiquaries, the Geological Society and the Linnean Society who, in 2007 celebrate their Tercentenary, Bicentenary and the 300th birthday of Linnaeus respectively. Sir Joseph Banks was a geologist, botanist and antiquarian, and a seminal figure for all three of these Learned Societies.

Seminar on Heritage Protection White Paper postponed

Because of uncertainty about the precise publication date of the Heritage Protection White Paper, the Society regrets that the seminar planned for 16 March 2007 is to be postponed until later in the year. We hope to be able to provide further information in the next issue of Salon.

Online ballot: 22 February 2007

The Blue Papers for the ballot to be held on 22 February 2007 are now online on the balloting page of the Society’s website. Contact Christopher Catling if you would like a password or have forgotten your existing password.

Results of ballot held on 1 February 2007

The Society is very pleased to welcome the following new Fellows who were all elected in the ballot held on 1 February 2007:

Michael Alexander Smith, Nigel John Sunter, Mary Davis, Edel Bhreathnach, Adrian Green, Douglass Whitfield Bailey, Leslie Wilson Hepple, Samuel Charles Whitbread, Peter F Ryder, David Blayney Brown, Richard Henry John Ashton, Roland Benedict Harris, Richard Luckett, Gucha R Tsetskhladze, Diane Margaret Williams, Nicholas William Stewart Cranfield, David Nigel Sim, Richard Geoffrey Eales, Dominic Powlesland, Andrew Geoffrey Marvell, Evangelos Kyriakidis, Margaret Statham, David Charles Taylor, Godfried Luc Emmanuel Croenen and Teresa Sladen.


Alison Taylor, our Honorary Secretary, has read the whole of the Hansard account of the parliamentary debate on heritage held on 25 January and says that MP for Salisbury and Wessex Archaeology trustee Robert Key paid a handsome tribute to the Society during his contribution. Speaking about the need for the Department of Culture to be a more forceful champion of the heritage, he referred to the work of the Society in this respect, saying: ‘There is a huge debt of gratitude to be paid to a remarkable organisation which is about to celebrate its tercentenary and which I commend as a voluntary sector model for heritage. I refer of course to the Society of Antiquaries of London, which is a little-heralded organisation. We should pay more attention to what it has to say.’

Responding to the report in Salon 156 concerning the protection (or otherwise) of rock art in Australia, Vincent Megaw writes to remind the editor and any else writing on the subject that when using the word Aboriginal to refer to the Indigenous population of Australia you must use an initial capital. ‘It is true’, says Vincent, ‘that Indigenous Australians (who also include Torres Strait Islanders who strictly again should be referred to as such) have in more recent times regarded even the official capitalised noun or adjectival use as derogatory, and have borrowed from other indigenous peoples such descriptors as “First Nation”, but let’s keep it simple: use “Aboriginal” and you’ll be right at least some of the time ─ which is more than one could ever say for the Australian Federal Minister for the Environment!’

Salon’s hunch that there are plenty of folk-music fans amongst the Fellowship has been borne out by messages of support for the online petition calling on the Government to rethink its attitude to the licensing of live music. Two weeks ago, the live music/licensing e-petition on the Downing Street website had nearly 2,800 signatures. Now the tally is more than 10,000 and rising ─ the petition doesn’t close until 11 June 2007. Will anyone take any notice? Yes, is the answer: the Department of Culture has announced that it intends to commission research later this year into the impact of the 2003 Licensing Act on the frequency and variety of live music performance; DCMS says that it was planning this research anyway, but it now has added relevance, and a similar survey conducted in 2004 will be used as a baseline for measuring the degree of change.

Among those Fellows wanting to stress the importance of music rooted in traditional forms is Yvette Staelens, one half of a now sadly disbanded duo called the Somerset Sisters, who used to perform some of the 600 or so folk songs collected by Cecil Sharp on cycle rides around Somerset between 1903 and 1916 (Sharp published expurgated versions as part of a campaign to encourage folk singing in schools: the Somerset Sisters sang the original versions, with their tales of promiscuity and illegitimacy). Yvette has now (together with researcher C J Bearman) compiled a Somerset Folk Map for Somerset County Council tracing the biographies and pinpointing the homes of the singers from whom Cecil Sharp collected his remarkable archive of traditional song, dance, tunes and children’s games. The map is supplemented by a month-by-month guide to some of the calendar customs in the county, and by details of clubs, societies, Morris dance sides, festivals and other folk entities where the county’s traditions are still to be found. Copies of the map are freely available from Sheena Murray at Somerset County Council.

Several Salon readers who have signed the music petition have pointed out that there is another petition on the site of even more central interest to Fellows: this simply says: ‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to remove all VAT charges on building repairs to listed buildings’. So far this petition has a mere sixty-four signatures, but with a deadline of 31 January 2008, there is plenty of time to get a bandwagon rolling.

Following the report in Salon 157 concerning threats to the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, a mass visit to the Gallery has been planned for Tuesday 13 February at 11am to raise public awareness and a campaign website has been set up explaining what cuts are proposed, why they will damage the ability of the Gallery to provide access to this internationally renowned collection and what steps supporters of the campaign can take to make their views known to Waltham Forest Council.

Meanwhile Mark Taylor, the director of the Museums Association, has written to Wandsworth Borough Council urging it to reconsider plans to close Wandsworth Museum and mothball the collections. The museum receives about 30,000 visitors each year and has fourteen staff, who will be made redundant if the council’s Executive Committee decides to confirm the museum’s closure on 19 February.

Never very far away from another threat to the historic environment, Londoners are also seeking support for a campaign to prevent the partial demolition of Borough Market, claimed as London’s oldest market, established by Roman Londoners on the southern end of the first London Bridge. Network Rail has planning permission to build a new concrete and steel rail viaduct through the Borough High Street Conservation Area, involving the demolition or part demolition of twenty listed buildings and part of the market roof structure. Full details are on the Save the Borough Market Area Campaign’s website.

Another petition highlighted in Salon 155, calling on the Greek government to take urgent steps to conserve the ancient diolkos of Corinth, the paved way that enabled Greek warships and merchantmen to be moved overland across the isthmus of Corinth, has now garnered support from archaeologists and institutions in forty-seven countries. The good news is that after some two decades during which the diolkos has been undermined by the wake of the vessels passing though the Corinth Canal, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture has accepted the need for urgent action and is planning to undertake rescue work.

Back in May 2006, Salon 139 reported on the imminent demise of Swan Hellenic Cruises ─ not because the company was not profitable, but that the fixed-price all-inclusive tours that Swan Hellenic Cruises developed to get round currency restrictions under the Wilson government in the 1960s is not as profitable as the modern cruise, where captive cruisers are encouraged to spend freely on board for heavily marked-up food and entertainment. Since last May’s news, fans of Swan’s have appealed through the letters pages of The Times for a tour operator to take on the mantle of providing quality cultural tours; last week The Times reported that cruise passengers will soon be able to sail again in Minerva I, the very first Swan Hellenic ship, which was sold by the company in 2003, but which has now been bought by Voyages of Discovery, a subsidiary of the All Leisure Group, and is undergoing a refit to prepare for a new season of cruises beginning in November this year. Roger Allard, Chairman of the All Leisure Group, said: ‘We promote our company as the affordable alternative to Swan Hellenic, offering quality, destination-intensive itineraries and the small-ship experience’.

Responding to the report on the burial found at Évreux, in Normandy, containing both human and horse bones, John Collis writes to say: ‘I am not sure where the Independent got the idea that the burial of humans and horses together was normal in the immediately pre-Roman period ─ with horse gear, yes, but horses are virtually never included in burials in western and central Europe, and I can only think of two or three examples off-hand, the best known being from the Auvergne, just outside the oppidum of Gondole, where a pit containing two carefully laid-out rows of men and horses was found (eight horses, eight men). More pits were identified, but not excavated, and similar finds seem to have been made in the nineteenth century when the nearby railway was constructed. But this is highly exceptional: it will be published in the proceedings of the conference of the Association Française pour l’Étude de l’Age du Fer held in Clermont-Ferrand in 2003 (out later this year).’

Neil Jackson writes to say that Ralph Erskine, whose Byker housing estate in Newcastle has been given a Grade II* listing, was incorrectly described in Salon 157 as a Swedish architect. Neil says: ‘Although Erskine spent the majority of his working life in Sweden, he was born in north London on 24 February 1914 and went to the coeducational Friends’ School at Saffron Walden near Cambridge (1925─31) before going on to the Regent Street Polytechnic to study first surveying and then architecture. Following qualification he worked for Louis de Soissons in London. In May 1939 he travelled to Sweden and found a job with Weijke and Odeen in Stockholm. With the outbreak of war he lost his job but, on being turned down by the Quaker Ambulance Corps, decided to stay in Sweden, eventually studying at the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm in 1944─5. At the war’s end he opened a practice in Drottningholm, on the outskirts of Stockholm.

‘When it came to working in Newcastle, he and his fellow architects actually lived on-site for the duration of the redevelopment and an “open house” policy encouraged people to drop in and talk with the design team, raising any neighbourhood issues of concern. Erskine’s team worked openly behind the large glass shop front of a former funeral parlour converted to form his former site office ─ now the Byker Community Housing Office ─ where he also held surgeries and group discussions, so that local people could really feel involved in the project.’ Neil adds: ‘As a teacher of architecture, it would seem to me that this was as a great an achievement as any of the bricks and mortar which resulted. If only more architects/clients/local government departments etc. etc. talked to the end users in this way!’

Neolithic settlement found at Durrington Walls

The iconic status of anything to do with Stonehenge was once again underlined last week by the global media coverage for the news that huts of the henge builders had been found at nearby Durrington Walls. The story resulted from a video press conference given by our Fellow Mike Parker Pearson and hosted by the National Geographic Society, which is one of the sponsors (with the Arts and Humanities Research Council) of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, a joint initiative run by Bournemouth, Bristol, Manchester and Sheffield Universities and University College London.

Mike announced the discovery during the project’s 2006 season of excavation of eight Neolithic houses: subsequent geophysical work has located thirty more dwellings, and Mike believes these are just a tiny fraction of the hundreds of small dwellings that fill the valley around the Durrington Walls complex. The houses are square or sub-rectangular and vary in size from 5m x 5m to just 2.5m x 3m. They have chalk plaster floors and a central hearth. Slots in the floor held the timber supports for wooden beds and furniture. The house plans are reminiscent of Skara Brae and other Orcadian houses of the third millennium BC.

Considerable quantities of pig and cattle bones, pottery, flint arrowheads and lithic debris were found in nearby pits and on the floors of the huts. The National Geographic website has a video in which Mike explains this as the domestic debris left by hungry henge builders, who needed a high energy diet for their work in the construction of nearby Stonehenge. The dates for the village are ‘exactly the same time, in radiocarbon terms, as for the building of the sarsens’, Parker Pearson says in the video.

But elsewhere (for example, on the Sheffield University website) this assemblage is described as being different in character from normal occupation debris; instead it is interpreted as a feasting assemblage, associated with whatever rituals took place at Durrington Walls and Stonehenge. ‘The many articulated and unfragmented animal bones are likely to be debris of the wasteful consumption resulting from feasting. The small quantities of stone tools other than arrowheads, the absence of grinding querns and the lack of carbonised grain indicate that this was a “consumer” site’, the website says. Challenging the popular notion that feasting and ritual activity took place at the summer solstice, the website also reports that the pigs’ teeth from Durrington Walls suggest the animals were slaughtered when they were nine months old, which would put their butchering during the winter solstice period.

By contrast with these debris-strewn huts, two further houses were found this summer by the Manchester University team that are clean of debris and very different in character from the rectangular hits. These larger and more imposing structures are set within circular banked and ditched enclosures, surrounded by timber palisades. In one case the entrance, later blocked by stakes, is flanked by huge timber posts. This house was set centrally within its enclosure, suggesting a relationship of some sort between it and the surrounding monumental architecture. The positioning of both houses on a terrace with dramatic views down to the Southern Circle and the river suggests that they were highly significant structures ─ perhaps the dwellings of special people who lived apart from the rest of the community, perhaps shrines.

Mike has long believed that Durrington Walls and Stonehenge represent complementary monuments: the domains of the living and the dead, respectively, with the temporary wooden circle of Durrington Walls symbolizing life and ephemeral pleasures, and the permanent megaliths at Stonehenge symbolizing death, the river and the connecting avenues being used to symbolise the journey from one to the other. After big feasts at Durrington Walls, he theorizes, worshippers proceeded down the avenue there, which ends in a 4m-high cliff, where human remains were deposited in the River Avon. The river then carried the remains downstream to Stonehenge. ‘We think the river is acting like a conduit to the underworld,’ Mike says.

Others who are more cautious or who differ in their interpretation nevertheless say that the Stonehenge Riverside Project stops us thinking of Stonehenge in isolation and encourages archaeologists to think about the way in which it relates to a much larger religious landscape. ‘Durrington is almost a mirror image of its stone counterpart at Stonehenge,’ Parker Pearson says. ‘You can pretty much overlie the plan of Stonehenge on the timber circle and see they’re the same dimensions.’ While the Stonehenge avenue is aligned with the summer solstice sunrise, Durrington’s avenue lines up with the summer solstice sunset; likewise, Stonehenge is aligned with the winter solstice sunset, whereas Durrington’s large timber circle lines up with the winter solstice sunrise.

Of course, it is perfectly possible that during its long history and its many different phases of construction, the Stonehenge landscape was used in many different ways. Having studied the Preseli Hills quarry that was the source for the bluestones of Stonehenge, our Fellows Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright have recently suggested that there had to be something special about those stones that justified the effort of bringing them such a distance: arguing for an association between the stones and the healing properties of springs in and around the quarry site, they have theorised that Stonehenge was a surrogate for the Preseli Hills, a place associated with healing, like Lourdes or any number of other healing springs and rivers around the world.

On professional priests and Scottish connections

Following last week’s report on the archaeological excavations at Durrington Walls, our Fellow Euan W MacKie Euan W MacKie () has written to Salon with some thoughts on how our understanding of Durrington has been transformed by the new work.

‘Thirty years ago, in Science and Society in Prehistoric Britain, I offered a radical alternative to the then traditional view of such large henge monuments ─ which considered them to be open-air ritual sites standing alone and containing circles of free-standing posts or stones. I suggested that the really large henges ─ especially Durrington ─ were in fact major inhabited ceremonial centres ─ training colleges, perhaps, for a professional priesthood, and that the timber circles enclosed by the earthworks were actually giant thatched roundhouses (as suggested tentatively by the original excavator of Durrington, our Fellow Geoffrey Wainwright). For some reason the thatched house hypothesis has fallen by the wayside and is rarely discussed any more. Yet the remains of a type of mollusc which lives in reed beds were found on this site, surely indicating the importation of reeds for thatching.

‘The mass of artefacts and animal bones found in the nearby ditch terminal at Durrington seemed to me then to confirm that the great house (the “Southern Circle”) was inhabited, as did traces of hearths, pottery and so on within the rings of posts. A very similar situation was found at Woodhenge, a few yards away; here again the surrounding ditch was filled with debris which would unhesitatingly be called domestic refuse if it was found with an Iron Age roundhouse. Here too a study of the rings of post-holes made it clear that the site could as easily have been a complex thatched house on a large scale as a set of free-standing posts.

‘The new discovery at Durrington of an extensive external settlement with a few possible ritual buildings surely confirms that 1977 view; it seems even clearer now that the enclosed part of Durrington was a major ritual site with a surrounding settlement for visitors and pilgrims. It would be ungracious not to admit that the current excavators’ interpretation ─ that it was some kind of feasting and ceremonial centre, albeit with open rings of posts acting as temples of some kind ─ is far closer to my thirty-year-old view than it is to the view that prevailed in the 1950s and early 1960s. The difference between the current excavators’ views and mine really depends on one’s view of the mounting evidence for sophisticated geometrical and astronomical practices at these sites ─ particularly at Stonehenge. Most colleagues still do not accept it, so will probably stick with the feasting hypothesis than that of a training college for a professional priesthood.

‘Nevertheless one has to point out that not much more than two thousand years later a multi-talented priesthood ─ the Druids ─ existed in the same area. Julius Caesar, describing the Druids of Gaul, mentions that those there who wished to pursue their studies to a higher level usually went to Britain for the purpose. Finds like the Nebra disc are showing that the gap between prehistoric evidence for a skilled priesthood and the historically attested Iron Age one is now not much more than a thousand years.

‘In 1977 I also argued for a close link between the ceremonial sites of the Orkney Isles and southern England ─ based on the shared “national style” of grooved ware and on the major calendrical and ceremonial sites in the two areas ─ but this did not find favour; Fellows Clive Ruggles and Gordon Barclay in particular took me to task over this idea in Antiquity in 2000. It was therefore quite gratifying to read Mike Parker Pearson say that many of the wooden houses next to Durrington Walls have the same plan as those in the contemporary stone village at Skara Brae in Orkney.’

Appeal for missing artefacts from Bushy Park Water Gardens

Colin White, of the Twickenham Museum, is hoping that Fellows might be able to assist in locating the whereabouts of the finds from archaeological excavations at the Bushy Park Water Gardens in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. The missing finds were excavated by our late Fellow Christopher Currie during excavations in 1997─9 and a full account was published in Post-Medieval Archaeology, Volume 37, Part 1, in 2003. The artefacts themselves are listed on pages 118 to 122 and comprise tin-glazed tiles, pottery and animal bones (not listed). Christopher died tragically in May 2005 and his colleague, our Fellow Neil Rushton, checked Chris’s office and archive without success. Blanks have also been drawn at The Royal Parks, The Crown Estate, Priestmere Properties Ltd, The Museum of London (accession number BHY97) and The British Museum. The BM’s conservator, Maria Barlow, says that she handed the tiles to Christopher at the British Museum after conservation in August 1999, and that they were contained in a plastic ‘tuppaware’ box wrapped in acid-free paper.

The Royal Parks has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant to carry out a partial restoration of the Water Gardens and part of the award includes funds to mount an exhibition at the Twickenham Museum which is set to open in mid-April 2007. Clearly the finds from the dig are central to the exhibition, so anyone who might be able to help track them down is asked to contact Colin White.

Gulbenkian Prize longlist announced

The judges of Britain’s richest arts prize have announced their ten-strong list of museums in line for the title of Gulbenkian Museum of the Year 2006. The prize is for new projects and the list includes the Women’s Library in London’s East End, nominated for an exhibition comparing prostitution and sex trafficking in the Victorian period and today, the aquarium at the Horniman Museum in south London, the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the restoration of the 1935 De La Warr Pavilion in East Sussex, Kew Palace, King George III’s country retreat, which reopened in spring 2006, the new extension at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, Sheffield’s redeveloped Weston Park Museum, and Glasgow’s redeveloped Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

More modest in scale are the Warner Textile Archive, located in a nineteenth-century mill at Braintree, Essex, housing the only comprehensive record of hand-woven British jacquard cloth and a project to showcase the combined collections of Scotland’s medical schools.

The winner will be announced on 24 May at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London during Museum and Galleries Month 2007. Further details on the Gulbenkian Prize website.

Campaign to save nation’s £1bn paintings

Apollo, the art history magazine, has published a list of what it considers to be the twenty-five most important paintings in private ownership in the UK. In a campaign to ensure that none of them is sold abroad, former arts minister Lord Howarth is calling on the Government to revive its secret Paramount List — a list of works of art considered so important that the Government would step in to buy them for public collections if they ever came on the market.

One of the paintings ─ the Madonna of the Yarnwinder (1501), by Leonardo da Vinci ─ was stolen in August 2003 from Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire, where it was on public view, and has not been recovered. Another work ─ Joshua Reynolds’s Omai (c 1776) ─ was subject to a £12.5m public fundraising campaign when its owner, John Magnier, applied for an export licence in 2005. When the Tate then found a donor willing to provide the funds, Magnier refused to sell. Nearly all the other pictures in the list are already on public display at the National Galleries of London and Scotland, the National Museum of Wales, or in the publicly accessible homes of their owners, but art historians are concerned that rising auction prices might tempt their owners to sell.

Looking for a lost Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece

Art historian Maurizio Seracini has persuaded the Italian Culture Ministry to give him permission to resume work, suspended in 2002, to look for Leonardo da Vinci’s lost fresco, The Battle of Anghiari on the ceiling of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Described by contemporaries as ‘the best work of art, the greatest masterpiece of all’, this was painted in 1504, during Florence’s brief period as a republic. Leonardo says in his notebooks that he intended it to be a statement on the ferocious insanity of war, that ‘bestial madness’ as he called it. The work was never completed, and when the Medici returned to power, Giorgio Vasari was commissioned to replace the painting with the grandiloquent work glorifying Duke Cosimo de’Medici that visitors to the palace see today.

Maurizio Seracini, who specialises in using non-invasive technology to probe ancient paintings and reveal the underdrawings, believes that Vasari was such a great admirer of Leonardo that he would not have destroyed, damaged or removed Leonardo’s painting. Seracini points out that Vasari is known to have preserved Masaccio’s masterpiece in Florence’s Santa Maria Novella church by leaving a narrow void over the fresco rather than painting over it. And he has already established that a similar void exists under Vasari’s Palazzo Vecchio ceiling work. Seracini is further encouraged by what he says is an extraordinary hint on a banner carried by soldiers in the Vasari scene, invisible from floor level, which says ‘Seek and you will find’.

Archaeologists protest against impending destruction of Roman health spa

Archaeologist Ahmet Yaras, head of the Allianoi excavation team, is spearheading a campaign to save the site of a well-preserved Roman spa in western Turkey from being submerged. If they cannot halt the planned reservoir, they want to persuade the government to delay the flooding for another five years so that they can finish the excavations.

Allianoi is a hot-springs area 18 kilometres north east of the ruins of ancient Pergamon that was used as a spa in Hellenistic times. It was constructed under the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian during the second century AD. In addition to the spa, the Allianoi site includes public squares, streets, gates, bridges, fountains and buildings. Together, they encompass about 50,000 square metres, of which about 20 per cent has been excavated since archaeological work began in 1998. ‘Allianoi is in an absolutely astonishing state of preservation,’ says Felix Pirson, head of the Istanbul branch of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI).

The site is threatened by a reservoir to be created by the 700-metre-long Yortanli Dam, which was scheduled to start operation in 2005. Protests over Allianoi have postponed the planned flooding, says Mark Snethlage, policy and campaigns officer for Europa Nostra, the pan-European federation for cultural heritage, but the Turkish Parliament is said to be close to voting for the flooding to begin.

Reliefs depicting gladiatorial combat

Police in Italy have recovered ancient Roman marble reliefs depicting stunningly lifelike gladiatorial scenes (see the MSNBC website for pictures) from the garden of a private home near Fiano Romano, 25 miles (40 kilometres) north of Rome. The reliefs date from the late first century BC and are believed to have decorated a tomb, still to be located, in the nearby Roman settlement of Lucus Feroniae, according to Anna Maria Moretti, superintendent for antiquities in the area north of Rome. Made of high-quality Carrara marble, they are notable for their size and are among the finest examples from the period depicting one of Rome’s favourite blood sports, Moretti said at a presentation of the finds at Rome’s Villa Giulia museum. Police who found the reliefs said a three-year investigation led police to the cache; no arrests have been made, but the find is claimed as a major blow to the illegal antiquities market. The reliefs will be studied and restored before being shown to the public at Villa Giulia.

Stomach ulcer bacterium is the oldest known germ

A team led by François Balloux, of the University of Cambridge, has announced that Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, is the oldest known human pathogen. The latest findings ─ published in the journal Nature (see the Eureka Alert website ─ mapped the 370 strains of H pylori against human genetic diversity and found a close match, suggesting that the bacterium was already present in the first populations to migrate out from East Africa to populate all corners of the globe.

Until the early 1980s, when the Australian scientists Robin Warren and Barry Marshall proved that H pylori was the cause of peptic ulcers, the bacterium (which is present in the bodies of more than half the world’s population) has been intensively studied. Based on the theory of the genetic clock, which says that mutations in DNA occur at a steady and predictable rate, François Balloux and his team say the bacterium has been around for at least 58,000 years.

‘I’m not aware of any other human disease where there is any good evidence that it was infecting our ancestors more than about 10,000 years ago,’ Dr Balloux said. ‘The vast majority would not have been able to infect humans in the pre-agricultural age, when there were no dense settlements.’ Among other modern pathogens, only tuberculosis comes close to matching H pylori’s history of infecting people. Skeletal remains from 4000 BC have shown evidence of TB, and the bacterium that causes it is known to have been present in cattle 17,000 years ago.

British Archaeology March / April 2007

A new issue of British Archaeology was published last week, with its usual mix of thought-provoking news, interviews, reviews and features. One news story that caught the eye of Salon’s editor (partly because the headline has a word missing ─ but let’s not be smug; plenty of similar errors can be found in Salon) asked ‘Why did hunter-gatherers dig a row of pits in Scotland?’ and explained that twelve massive post pits at Warren Field in Crathes, south west of Aberdeen, identified as Neolithic (3800 to 3700 BC) in 2004 have now been firmly placed in the Mesolithic (8000 to 7500 BC). The first set of dates came from material in the upper fill, while the revised dates come from seventeen carbon samples from the bottom of the pits (the Society played a role in this by awarding a minor research grant of £2,500 to the project). The dating of the site not only challenges the idea that Mesolithic people did not build significant structures; it also raises the question why the pits were re-used in the Neolithic, and for what purpose.

Our Fellow Ian Hodder, interviewed for the back page of the magazine, might well be able to come up with some ideas to explain the mindset of Neolithic people reworking the past but he warns that the more he learns from excavating the classic Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük the more he realises that there are no simple answers. He also speaks eloquently about the act of excavation. ‘Digging is not a simple, transparent process,’ he says: ‘It’s very complex and interpretive … as the trowel moves over the ground, it’s making all sorts of interpretive decisions. That bodily engagement with the ground is a very complex process that needs a lot of skill … the contract system forces people into seeing excavation as a technical process that just produces data that other people interpret. I feel very strongly that that’s wrong; it just leads to bad archaeology.’

New Arts, Buildings & Collections Bulletin from the National Trust

Issue 2 of the National Trust’s digital newsletter called the ABC (Arts, Buildings & Collections) Bulletin has just been published, showcasing curatorial and conservation projects and research at the National Trust. What comes across loud and clear from this issue is that the Trust is at last beginning to recognise the scale and richness of its museum collections, library holdings and archives, and is embarking on a programme of cataloguing what it owns and making it accessible to researchers.

Thus David Adshead, the Trust’s Head Curator, tell us that the Trust’s status as an accredited museum authority (with a potential 149 accredited museums amongst its properties) brings with it ‘a new sense of responsibility for providing intellectual as well as physical access’, one result of which will be the formation of a ‘new Specialist Publications Group to identify the priority areas in which catalogues and other academic titles might be produced, while an electronic bibliography, designed to record material already published (books and articles) and unpublished (“grey literature”) about the Trust’s properties will be built and put on-line’.

Mark Purcell, the Trust’s Libraries Curator, says that ‘the Trust’s holdings represent what is probably the single largest assembly of historic libraries in the hands of any organisation in the world. Recognising this, we have embarked on a major curatorial programme … and on the creation of an online catalogue’, and on the archives front, Iain Shaw, Records Manager, says: ‘Organisational Memory [is a] long-term and wide-ranging project [that] aims for the first time at collecting together in one place complete collections of documents and publications crucial to the Trust’s history and expertise.’

The ABC Bulletin is published four times a year. To subscribe you can send an email. You can also download copies of Issues 1 and 2 from the National Trust’s website.

Cultural Campus events

Anyone planning to visit Burlington House in coming weeks should be prepared to be greeted by the unnerving sight of two concrete towers measuring 14 and 16.5 metres high respectively, located in the centre of the courtyard, which defy the normal rules of architecture by appearing to be in a state of imminent collapse. The ambiguity of whether this is a decaying work or one still in construction is just one of the thought-provoking features of a work that is obviously contemporary, while having features reminiscent of a classical ruin. Created especially for the courtyard by Anselm Kiefer, Hon RA, the sculpture, called Jericho, continues the Royal Academy’s practice of using the Burlington House courtyard as a location for monumental sculpture. Photographs of the work can be seen on the RA’s website website.

The Geological Society is marking its Bicentennial year with a series of public lectures, including several that might be of interest to antiquaries: on 20 March, Mike Hambrey of Aberystwyth will lecture on ‘Climate change: a geological perspective’, looking at the natural causes of climate change, past glaciations and their impacts on the global environment. On 20 September, Bob Spicer will address the same subject of climate change, but from a fossil plant perspective. On 13 December, Stephen Oppenheimer, of Oxford University School of Anthropology, and author of the book that recently started the debate about the languages spoken in pre-Roman Britain, addresses three questions that geneticists still argue about in exploring the ‘Out of Africa’ theory of human development: how many successful exits were there; which route or routes were taken; and when exactly did we leave Africa and when did we reach the far corners of the Earth? Further details are on the Geological Society’s website.

Finally, the Linnean Society celebrates its Tercentenary with a series of joint lectures including one by our own Dai Morgan Evans ─ see ‘Forthcoming meetings’ at the top of the page. Following on from Dai’s 1 March lecture will be one on 22 March given by Graham Jefcoate, Director of the Nijmegen University Library, The Netherlands, called ‘Discovering the Forsters’, which is an account of the huge archive of documents, letters, printed books, drawings, paintings, cultural objects and natural historical specimens made by father and son John and George Forster who accompanied James Cook on his second circumnavigation of the world in the Resolution in 1772─5 and the importance of this source material for Pacific studies. Further details are on the Linnean Society’s website website.

Meeting of the William Shipley Group for RSA History

Moving away from Burlington House, but only a slight distance, Fellows who are also members of the RSA (the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce) might be interested in a lecture to be given by Dr David Allan, Honorary Historical Adviser to the RSA, on the Founders of the Society of Arts, who held their foundation meeting at Rawthmells’ Coffee House in 1754. The lecture takes place on 22 March 2007 at 12.30pm at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London. Further details from the RSA website.

An evening with Griff Rhys Jones

SAVE Britain’s Heritage is hosting a lecture by Griff Rhys Jones at the Cadogan Hall, London, on 11 April 2007, starting at 7pm. Tickets are available from the Cadogan Hall Box Office ─ 020 7730 4500 ─ priced £15 (£12 for Friends of SAVE). A former comedian, more recently the presenter of BBC2’s ‘Restoration’ series, Griff Rhys Jones has been active in the field of building conservation for many years, and was one of the key figures in the campaign to restore the Hackney Empire. His talk will be based on his experience as a fundraiser and what he has learned about conservation from rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty.

Antiquaries Journal copies available for swap

Bournemouth University Library has a fairly complete run of Antiquaries Journal volumes (from No. 1: 1921 to No. 58: 1988), some of them bund, that is surplus to requirements and which they would be very willing to swap for publications that would complement their existing collections, especially runs of local journals that would fill gaps (eg Archaeologia Cantiana 1983─2001; Proc Hampshire FCAS 1981─91; Wiltshire ANHM before 1984). All offers considered! Please contact Penny Dale, Subject Librarian for Archaeology.

Unquiet Lands: people and landscapes in prehistoric north-west Europe

This joint meeting organised by the Prehistoric Society and Bournemouth University Archaeology and Historic Environment Group takes place from 20 to 22 April 2007, and reviews the results of a decade’s worth of research aimed at understanding what the landscapes of north-western Europe can tell us about prehistoric peoples and the worlds they created, their relationships to the natural world, the role of monuments and material culture, and the experiences people had whilst living in these lands. Our Fellow Professor John Barrett, University of Sheffield, will give the Friday night keynote address on ‘Finding a Place: alternative approaches to landscape interpretation’, while other Fellows presenting papers include Tim Darvill, Mark Bowden, Miles Russell and Andrew Fitzpatrick. Further details from the Bournemouth University website.

2007 IFA conference

The 2007 IFA Annual Conference for Archaeologists is being held at the University of Reading from 2 to 4 April. As usual the conference will have a range of informative and topical sessions as well as a number of exhibition stands and bookshops, a conference dinner, excursions and 25th anniversary party. Further details and a copy of the provisional programme can be found on the IFA website. Hard copies of the programme can also be requested from the IFA office.

Salon confidently predicts that one session will prove very popular, with standing room only. Wittily entitled ‘Great Excavations’, and organised by John Schofield, of English Heritage, this asks what are the factors that make some excavations so special that they contribute to the social history, folklore and mythology of contemporary archaeological practice. Seeking to address that question will be Fellows Martin Carver, on Sutton Hoo, Tony Wilmott, on Birdoswald, Whitby, Richborough and the Chester amphitheatre, Stephen Briggs taking a look at the ‘prehistory’ of British excavations from 1729 to 1826, Francis Pryor on ‘Sometimes I think, “Why did I bother?”. The Flag Fen saga continues’, Bob Croft on Wharram Percy, Dominic Powlesland on West Heslerton, Niall Sharples on Maiden Castle and Tim Schadla-Hall on Star Carr.

Eighth Cambridge Heritage Seminar: call for papers

For nearly ten years the Cambridge Heritage Seminars have brought together researchers, policy makers and practitioners to explore some of the more pressing issues concerning cultural heritage today. This year’s seminar ─ to be held at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research on 12 May 2007 on the theme of ‘Re-visioning the Nation: cultural heritage and the politics of disaster’ ─ focuses on the uses and abuses of heritage by states and societies as they emerge from natural disasters, armed conflict or acute social and economic crisis.

Contributions are welcomed that address the complexity and nuances found in these and related processes. The deadline for proposals is 15 February 2007. For further information visit the seminar website.

The Association for the History of Glass study day

A study day to be held at Royal Asiatic Society, 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 on 6 March 2007 will consider ‘The Glass Industry: constraints and controls from the medieval world to the twentieth century’. Specific papers addressing this long date range will include ‘The Guild System in the Islamic Middle East’ and ‘Venetian Glassmakers and the Venetian Government 1200-1500’ at one end of the scale and ‘The Impact of World War II on the West Midlands crystal industry’ at the other. Further details from our Fellow David Crossley.

Spotted in Private Eye

Eye readers will be familiar with a long-running column in the satirical magazine that lampoons the fashion for renaming commonplace objects or services as ‘solutions’, so that (to take some examples from last week’s issue), a gym becomes a ‘corporate health solution’, pre-cooked meals become ‘chilled food solutions’, student flats become ‘accommodation solutions’, delivery vans become ‘outsourced vehicle movement solutions’ and an Ann Summers bra becomes ‘a cleavage solution’. Perhaps in view of this it was unfortunate that Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust should have dropped its time-honoured name for the modishly commercial ‘Archaeological Solutions’, with the inevitable result that it featured in the Eye’s ‘Solutions’ column in the 16 January issue ─ something for the Hertfordshire team to hang on their office wall.

Books by Fellows

Edited by Yannis Hamilakis and our Fellow Nicoletta Momigliano, the intriguingly titled Archaeology and European Modernity: producing and consuming the ‘Minoans’ is about the many ways in which people have integrated the archaeological discoveries made by Evans and his contemporaries in Crete one hundred years ago into diverse areas of life, from the tourist industry to Freudian psychology. The book’s sixteen essays, first given at a workshop held in Venice in 2005, highlight factors, events and political agendas that have influenced the way in which the Minoan past has been written, from the reception of the Minoans in modern European artistic movements and literary works to heritage management and pedagogy. For further details see the Oxbow website.

Hierapolis-Pamukkale is a World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1988, famed since classical times for its calcite-laden springs. Tourists flock to Pamukkale (Cotton Palace), with its terraced basins and petrified waterfalls, but less attention is paid to the ruins of the baths, temples and other monuments of the Hierapolis thermal spa, founded at the end of the second century BC under the Attalid dynasty. Following fifty years of archaeological excavation by the Italian Archaeological Mission in close collaboration with the Turkish authorities, it is possible now to describe and illustrate these and the post-classical remains at Hierapolis, which Paul Arthur has done in Hierapolis Pamukkale Bizantina e Turca (published in Italian and Turkish), the first modern study of the Byzantine and Turkish archaeology of this ancient spa city. The book approaches its subject thematically, with sections on the environment, agriculture, religion and daily life. It also includes an itinerary, guiding visitors to such substantial post-classical monuments as the cathedral, the martyrium of St Phillip and the fortress, and to more modest tenth-century Byzantine houses and Turkish farms in the hills above the city.

Deep pockets are required if you want to own a copy of The Luttrell Psalter: a facsimile priced at £350 (but currently on offer from Oxbow Books at the special offer price of £295, though for that you do get the full 624 pages of original manuscript, plus a 50-page introduction by Michelle Brown. For the impecunious amongst us, Michelle has also produced a £9.99 paperback called The World of the Luttrell Psalter, tracing its history, highlighting its artistic models, exploring its patronage, purpose and audience, and unravelling the manuscript’s uniquely fanciful imagery and humour.

Three Fellows ─ Stuart Needham, Keith Parfitt and Gillian Varndell ─ collaborated to write The Ringlemere Cup: precious cups and the beginning of the Channel Bronze Age, which gives an account of the British Museum’s excavation of the Ringlemere Farm site near Sandwich, Kent, where metal detectorist Cliff Bradshaw found the crumpled gold cup in November 2001. Looking at fifteen comparable cups in gold, silver, amber and shale from Britain, Brittany, Germany and Switzerland, the authors ask what part they might have played in cementing bonds between different groups of people involved in an extensive trading network that in turn influenced the development of Bronze Age culture in north-western Europe.

Moving closer to the present in time, Matthew Johnson, in his Ideas of Landscape, compares English and North American approaches to landscape studies and finds that the distinctive English landscape tradition gains both strength and weakness from being embedded in cultural traditions that were formed by the malcontents of English Romanticism and transmitted to the present discipline by the ‘father of landscape history’, W G Hoskins. English landscape studies need to be freed from parochial connotations of place and nationhood and develop along more empirical lines if they are to become part of a wider international and comparative approach, he argues.


Chair of the Board of the Victoria and Albert Museum
Closing date 28 February 2007

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is seeking a new Chair of the Board of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The post is not remunerated but reasonable expenses are paid.

In close collaboration with the Director, the Chair provides effective strategic leadership to the V&A Board, represents the museum at the highest levels nationally and internationally and leads the museum’s fundraising efforts in sponsorship, donations, grants and developing new income streams.

The successful candidate will have a proven track record of strong leadership, extensive experience of strategic development and a demonstrable capacity for strategic vision, significant business experience, commitment to supporting fundraising, the ability to understand the user/customer point of view and to inculcate within organisations a customer focus, excellent communication skills with the ability to act as an ambassador for the V&A, a strong grasp of the principles of charity law and public sector propriety, regularity and accountability, and appreciation of the distinct roles of the executive and the board, and an understanding of the diverse communities in the UK and a commitment to improving diversity on the board and in the museum.

Further details can be found on the DCMS website.

Council for British Archaeology, Conservation Co-ordinator for Wales
Salary range £19,000 to £23,000 (pro rata for a three-day week), closing date 9 March 2007

The CBA invites applications for the new part-time Cardiff-based post of Conservation Co-ordinator for Wales to develop the CBA’s work as a national amenity society in Wales, advising on applications for listed building consent, and to expand and support the CBA’s network of knowledgeable volunteer caseworkers. The officer will also have a role in encouraging public involvement and community engagement with the heritage in Wales, acting as a focus for CBA’s wider outreach activities in Wales.

Further details are available from Gill Chitty, the CBA’s Head of Conservation ().