Salon Archive

Issue: 169

Library closure

The Library (along with the rest of the Society’s apartments) will be closed between 20 July and 3 September 2007 for the annual campaign of cleaning and conservation work. Fellows who need to use the Library over this period can do so by prior appointment: Library staff can be contacted by tel: 020 7479 7084 or by email.

Kelmscott Manor closure

Kelmscott Manor is currently closed because of flooding. If you were intending to visit the Manor in the near future, you should check the Society’s website for further announcements.

Forthcoming meetings

The full list of weekly meetings for the period September to December 2007 can now be found on the Society’s website.

The autumn lecture season begins on 26 September 2007 when David Starkey, FSA, will deliver the first of seven public lectures that the Society is hosting during the Tercentenary year. David’s paper, The Antiquarian Endeavour, to be given at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London, at 6.30pm, will argue that the Society’s collection is of immense importance as the only national collection of British (as distinct from classical) antiquities built up during the 150-year period between the Society’s foundation, in 1707, until the British Museum’s decision to collect British antiquities in 1856 – a period that is itself critical for the development of new ways of perceiving and understanding the past.

All seven lectures are free to Fellows but tickets must be booked in advance so that we can keep track of numbers. Where there is a wine reception after the paper, the cost to Fellows who wish to attend is £5. Tickets should be booked in writing: please remember to give your name, postal address, the name of the event, and the number of tickets required; cheques should be made payable to the ‘Society of Antiquaries of London’. Guests and non-Fellows should book online using the Society’s

Tercentenary Festival events

Fellows will shortly receive a mailing with full details of all the events planned for the Society’s Tercentenary Festival, along with booking details. Here is a quick summary of what you can expect in coming weeks.

12, 13 and 14 September: private viewing days for Fellows and Friends of the Royal Academy of the Society’s Tercentenary special exhibition, ‘Making History: Antiquaries in Britain 1707–2007’.
15 and 16 September: ‘Making History’ opens to the public; the Society’s newly refurbished apartments will also be open as part of the ‘Open House London’ festival of architecture, when over 600 buildings in the capital will open their doors, many of them not normally accessible.
21 September: the first of three ‘Making History’ exhibition breakfast tours led by our Librarian, Bernard Nurse, exclusively for Fellows, from 9am to 10am with breakfast afterwards at the Society (also on 15 October and 12 November).
26 September: ‘The Antiquarian Endeavour’: public lecture by Dr David Starkey, FSA, at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London, starting at 6.30pm (see above).
4 October: Evening reception in the Society’s original apartments at Somerset House, now part of the Courtauld Institute of Art, to mark the official launch of the Tercentenary Festival and of the Visions of Antiquity volume of Archaeologia.
25 October: ‘From the Devil to Chancery: following antiquarian routes’, the first of a series of walking tour of the sites and places in London associated with the Society led by our former General Secretary, Dai Morgan Evans, FSA (tours, starting at 2pm, will also take place on 27 October 2007 and 8 and 22 May 2008).
9 November: ‘Why we need to collect’: evening lecture at the Royal Academy by Loyd Grossman, OBE, FSA, Chair of the Campaign for Museums, on the history of private and institutional collections, in the Reynolds Room, Royal Academy, 6.30pm (Royal Academy event).
22 November: ‘The first humans: “a very remote period indeed”’: public lecture by Professor Clive Gamble, FSA, at Trinity College Dublin, College Green, Dublin, starting at 7.30pm.
30 November: ‘Every picture tells a story: words and paintings in early Tudor portraiture’: Dr David Starkey reveals the narratives behind portraits of Tudor monarchs, in the Reynolds Room, Royal Academy, 6.30pm (Royal Academy event).
5 December: Tercentenary gala dinner in the Long Room at Armoury House, London EC1, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Society’s first meeting; after-dinner speech by Simon Jenkins, FSA.

European Science Foundation’s index of archaeology and history journals

The European Science Foundation has published its ‘initial’ European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH), consisting of fifteen list of journals in various disciplines, including archaeology and history, ranking them as A (high-ranking international publications with a very strong reputation among researchers of the field in different countries, regularly cited all over the world), B (standard international publications with a good reputation among researchers of the field in different countries) or C (research journals with an important local / regional significance in Europe, occasionally cited outside the publishing country though their main target group is the domestic academic community).

The Antiquaries Journal has been ranked ‘C’ in the archaeology and history lists, and some highly regarded and long-established archaeological journals have not been graded at all, including the Royal Archaeological Institute’s Archaeological Journal and the Journal of the British Archaeological Association.

The ESF has 75 member organisations made up of research councils, academies and funding agencies from the science and humanities research communities in thirty European countries. Its remit is to fund pan-European scientific research initiatives that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.

The ESF’s determination to create a hierarchy of journalistic ‘excellence’ has been controversial from the start, with academics questioning whether the ESF has a remit to undertake such work, and arguing that such exercises are misleading, wrong-headed and impracticable. Previous issues of Salon have reported on deep misgivings amongst academic archaeologists in the UK about the ranking criteria, and about whether the same criteria are being applied consistently by national panels of adjudicators across all parts of Europe. In the UK, for example, the archaeological rankings show a clear bias towards science- and theory-based publications at the expense of those whose papers are based in more traditional archaeological or historical methodologies.

Our Fellow Mark Horton, of Bristol University, said that there are many risks inherent in such rankings: ‘It is crucial for the Research Assessment Exercise, as effectively only articles in 'A' journals will be submitted, it is crucial for the Society’s reputation in Europe as a serious academic institution and it could affect library purchasing decisions’, he said. The ESF’s own website clearly recognises that universities might also use the journal rankings as a guide to appointing or promoting staff or allocating research funding, and warns against this, saying that ‘the lists are not a bibliometric tool’.

There is an online feedback procedure for Individuals and organisations who wish to make representations to the ESF prior to the next revision of the listings in 2008. Full details are on the ESF website.

The future of the IFA

The IFA has written to its members asking for help with planning a major refocusing of the Institute’s policies, including a possible change of name. Signed by our Fellows Michael Dawson, Honorary Chair of the IFA, and Peter Hinton, the IFA’s Chief Executive, the letter says that the Institute’s twenty-fifth anniversary is a good moment for reflecting on how the membership profile has changed over recent years. In particular, many members are no longer purely field archaeologists, and the trend within the profession is towards integration and co-operation between the different specialisms within archaeology. The Heritage Protection White Paper, for example, is built upon the idea of the historic environment as a holistic entity and of character areas rather than as sets of discrete buildings, scheduled monuments, gardens, battlefields or maritime sites.

‘Our professional environment is becoming more integrated’, the letter says ‘and this is reflected in the way we work, how our workplaces are structured and in plans for legislative change. We believe that now is the time for professionals in the historic environment to have the opportunity to join an institute that embraces this revolution and aspires to work for all historic environment professionals’. The letter goes on to promise increased co-operation with other professional institutes through joint committees, groups and projects, and a reformed membership validation process that encourages applications from across the historic environment sector.

Other proposals include greater emphasis on professional training and practice qualifications, including Continuing Professional Development, refocusing the published output of the Institute and building on the Stewardship Standard and Guidance developed jointly with the Institute for Historic Buildings Conservation and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers.

Specific proposals will be put to the membership at the Institute’s AGM (1 October 2007, in the Society of Antiquaries’ newly refurbished meeting room) and the annual conference (18 to 20 March 2008 in Swansea). No doubt none will be as difficult nor as contentious as the issue of finding a new name!

APPAG inquiry into archaeological pay and conditions: call for evidence

The All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group has announced an inquiry into pay and conditions in archaeology. The original APPAG report on The Current State of Archaeology in the United Kingdom (2002), published shortly after APPAG was founded, stated that ‘There is an urgent need to improve pay and conditions for employment in field archaeology so that they are commensurate with graduate entry level in allied professions, such as local authority planning officers, civil engineers and university lecturers.’

Five years on, APPAG members say that they wish to assess how far recent initiatives to improve the pay and conditions of archaeologists have been acted upon, and they are seeking brief written submissions (up to 1,000 words) from people and organisations with an active role in setting pay and conditions,stating what they are doing and how they intend to implement any reforms. APPAG members stress that they are not interested in statements simply reiterating how little archaeologists earn; instead, they wish to hear about initiatives to tackle the problem.

Evidence should be sent to APPAG by 30 September 2007, after which APPAG will invite organisations or individuals to provide oral evidence at inquiry hearings during the autumn. APPAG will use the evidence to produce a report making targeted recommendations, and will promote practical solutions through parliamentary questions and debates.

Archaeology Labour Market Intelligence: Profiling the Profession 2007–8

Our Fellow Kenneth Aitchison, Head of Professional Development at the Institute of Field Archaeologists, has also just announced the inception of the third ‘Profiling the Profession’ data-gathering exercise, designed to compile comprehensive and up-to-date information about the size and state of archaeology as a profession. Previous ‘Profiling the Profession’ projects were carried out five and ten years ago (see the IFA website for the reports of these projects).

Questionnaires will be sent to all archaeological employers and self-employed archaeologists in the UK in September. Independent archaeologists (such as specialists) who want to be sure of receiving a questionnaire are asked to email the project consultant, Rachel Edwards, with their contact details to ensure that they are on the mailing list. Information gathered through the questionnaires will be analysed rapidly and final reports should be published in spring 2008.

The project is being funded by the European Commission, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw and the Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland).

John Tusa decides not to take up V&A post

John Tusa, recently appointed as Chairman of the Victoria and Albert Museum board of trustees, has decided not to take up the post after all. Sir John Tusa decided that there could be a conflict of interest between his chairmanship of the University of the Arts and the V&A appointment. He explained that the university had approached him first and he apologised to the V&A.

British Museum’s cuneiform tablet names Biblical official

Austrian Assyriologist Dr Michael Jursa has discovered a cuneiform tablet at the British Museum which names an official – Nabu-sharrussu-ukin – who is also mentioned in chapter 39 of the Biblical Book of Jeremiah. Dr Jursa, Associate Professor at the University of Vienna, said: ‘finding something like this tablet, where we see a person mentioned in the Bible making an everyday payment to the temple in Babylon and quoting the exact date is quite extraordinary’.

The tablet dates from the tenth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (595 BC) and its says: ‘[Regarding] 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.’

The tablet was originally part of the archive of the sun-worship temple at Sippar (about a mile from modern Baghdad), excavated in the 1870s. The museum acquired it in 1920, but it had remained in storage unpublished until Michael Jursa studied it.

The Biblical reference names Nebo-Sarsekim as one of the officials present at the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC. Though the names are spelled differently, Dr Jursa believes they refer to the same individual.

Irving Finkel, Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum, said that: ‘This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find. Here a mundane commercial transaction takes its place as a primary witness to one of the turning points in Old Testament history. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power.’

British Museum reveals new Viking treasure find

A spectacular hoard of Viking-Age silver and gold was revealed to the public by the British Museum last week (see the Portable Antiquities Scheme website for pictures). Described by the Museum’s Jonathan Williams as ‘the world in a vessel’, the hoard consists of a silver pot, decorated with incised lions and deer and with a gilded interior. The pot, possibly a communion vessel looted from a church in northern France, was packed with jewellery – including a gold arm ring possibly made in Ireland, silver rings and brooches, dress ornaments – and some 617 coins, some new and many rare, from as far away as Samarkand in central Asia, Afghanistan, Russia and north Africa.

The hoard was found in January near Harrogate by metal detectorists, whose prompt action in reporting the find was praised by staff of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and by the Heritage Minister, Margaret Hodge.

Our Fellow Barry Ager, of the British Museum, said the contents of the pot could be paralleled by similar hoards from Britain, such as the Cuerdale Hoard found in Lancashire in 1840, and that it demonstrated the extraordinary geographical spread of precious metal being used as currency in the ninth century.

It is thought that the hoard was buried during the unrest that followed the conquest of the Viking kingdom of Northumbria in AD 927 by the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstan (924–39).

The next stage of the Treasure process is for the hoard to be valued by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee. York Museum Trust, Harrogate Borough Council's Museums & Arts Service and the British Museum say they are now committed to working together to acquire, interpret and exhibit the hoard, and to making it accessible to the widest possible audience.

Ring inscribed to the god ‘Totatis’

A metal dectectorist has recently found a Romano-British finger ring inscribed with 'the legend: DEO TOTA FELIX, which Adam Daubney, Lincolnshire Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, translates as ‘To the God Totatis, use this and be happy’.

Found near Battlesden, in Bedfordshire, the ring is one of forty-four similar finger rings inscribed with the letters TOT, and abbreviation of the deity Toutates, mostly from Lincolnshire and dating from the second and third centuries AD. ‘When we map them they almost exactly mirror the limits of the Iron Age tribe Corieltauvi’, said Adam, who added: ‘This suggests that the Corieltauvi were active, with clearly defined borders, well into the Roman period, covering the area east of the River Trent through Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, and that native tribes may have had more freedom to pursue their own religions and lifestyle than previously thought.’

The Roman poet Lucan, who wrote from between AD 39–65, refers to the deity as the ‘dreaded Toutates’. Fans of the Asterix the Gaul comic books will be familiar with the name as being one of Asterix’s favourite curses.

Ancient coin finds from Wales

'The Archaeology Data Service/AHDS Archaeology and Cardiff University have recently published a major new numismatic resource: the IARCW (Iron Age and Roman Coins from Wales) database. The database and a book of the same name results from a project directed by our Fellow Peter Guest, of Cardiff University, funded by the University of Wales through the Board of Celtic Studies, whose purpose is to advance the knowledge and understanding of coin supply (particularly from Rome) and the impact of coinage (especially Roman) on the diverse populations of this part of western Britain from the first century BC to the fifth century AD.

The dataset currently includes details of 52,813 coins (the vast majority of which are Roman) from 1,172 separate finds, including 217 hoards and 171 assemblages of excavated site-finds from 81 late prehistoric and Roman period settlements in Wales. This is the largest regional corpus of Roman coins from Britain and the first regional numismatic database from the Roman world to be made available online. Peter told Salon that: ‘the availability of the database puts a very substantial body of evidence at our fingertips, and should encourage the continued investigation of coin supply, circulation and use in western Britain during the later Iron Age and Roman periods’.

Supplementing the website is a published volume – The Iron Age and Roman Coins from Wales – by Peter Guest and Nick Wells (Wetteren: Collection Moneta, 66). This volume contains the corpus of all current ancient coin finds from Wales, with regional and site distribution maps, summaries of the coins from each assemblage and indexes of finds.

Theft of Fellow’s coin collection

Two thousand Scottish coins built up over a lifetime of collecting have been stolen from the home of our Fellow Lord Stewartby while he and his wife were on holiday. The collection includes examples of Scotland’s first coins, minted in the 1130s. The collection was not normally kept at Lord and Lady Stewartby’s home in the Borders, but had been moved there because the collection was about to be photographed and catalogued.

Sir Ian Stewart served as Conservative MP for Hitchin in 1974–83, and for North Hertfordshire in 1983–92. He took his seat in the Upper House as Lord Stewartby in 1992, having been Defence and Northern Ireland minister. As Economic Secretary to the Treasury in 1983–7 with responsibility for the Royal Mint, he oversaw the issuing of the first £2 coin, which was struck to commemorate the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

Lord Stewartby retired in May as Deputy Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank and was planning to spend his retirement writing a follow-up based on the collection to the seminal book he wrote at the age of eighteen on Scottish coinage. Lord Stewartby has offered a reward, believed to be a six-figure sum, for the safe return of the collection. Our Fellow
Nick Holmes, Curator of Numismatics at National Museums Scotland, described the loss as ‘a total disaster’ for the country. He said: ‘Lord Stewartby has been putting this collection together over decades. One of his main reasons for doing so was so it could be used as an academic resource. The collection is unique and important both for its quality and quantity.’

Irish minister to review heritage protection

Irish Minister for the Environment John Gormley says he is to review how the State protects its national heritage following the controversy over the planned construction of the M3 motorway over historic landscapes near the Hill of Tara. Mr Gormley said that Tara and ‘similar controversies’ of recent years raised the ‘valid question’ as to whether the current measures to protect archaeological and natural landscape in Ireland are adequate. ‘I agree with bodies such as the Heritage Council who have said that we do need enhanced measures. Therefore in the coming weeks I will begin a consultative process in order to bring forward a new National Landscape Strategy.’ However, he insisted he had no legal power to review the decision of his predecessor Dick Roche on the route of the motorway, and said that he had received ‘unequivocal’ advice from the Attorney General that it ‘is not open to him to review, or amend, the directions given by his predecessor in this case’.

The announcement from Mr Gormley comes after an undesignated ‘multi-period archaeological complex’ dating from the Bronze Age was destroyed by bulldozers during the night of 4 July 2007 to prevent road construction being held up. The Campaign to Save Tara group said the site had been recommended for designation by archaeologists working on the M3 project but former environment minister Dick Roche had rejected the application.

How Britain became an island

According to Jenny Collier, of Imperial College, London, and her colleague, Sanjeev Gupta, the English Channel was formed some time between 450,000 and 200,000 years ago, when a natural land dam at the Strait of Dover failed. The results of their research are published in this month’s Nature, and are based on a new high-resolution sonar survey of the Channel floor, which shows the deep gouges and scour marks in the bedrock at the bottom of the Channel caused by the inundation, which occurred when a lake fed by meltwater from the British and Scandinavian ice sheets and by the Thames and Rhine river systems broke through the chalk ridge that once ran continuously from the Weald into the Artois region of northern France and Belgium.

The Imperial College team has yet to explain what triggered the event. According to Jenny Collier: ‘It is possible that it was the pressure of rising water and that it would have happened anyway, but there are little earthquakes in that area — there was one recently in Kent — and it is a tantalising possibility that one triggered the flood.’

‘This would have been a torrent of water carving out a huge valley through this wild landscape,’ said Dr Gupta. ‘There would be powerful eddies, with huge boulders and chunks of chalk … thrown around in the surge.’ The team estimates the surge released between 200,000 and 1 million cubic metres of water a second, equivalent to one hundred times the discharge of the Mississippi river.

One result was to cut Britain off from the European mainland even during periods of heavy glaciation when sea levels were low, making it much harder for early humans to settle what was previously a peninsula. This, in turn, seems to have contributed to a population crash and may explain why early human occupation of Britain came to an abrupt halt for almost 120,000 years. Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, who heads the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project, said: ‘We know of ancient humans 700,000 years ago at Pakefield, 500,000 years ago at Boxgrove, 400,000 years ago at Swanscombe and 220,000 years ago at Pontnewydd, but there is no evidence beyond 180,000 years ago until around 60,000 years ago.’

Tribute to forgotten World War I volunteers from Africa

A wreath was cast into the waters of the English Channel on 21 July 2007 to commemorate 600 young African volunteers who drowned after their ship was sunk as they headed for the western front. The story of the sinking of the SS Mendi is well known in Africa, but almost unknown in Britain, though this could change as a result of the work undertaken by Wessex Archaeology, commissioned by English Heritage, to locate the wreck and tell the forgottem story.

It is not one that reflects well on English attitudes: the SS Mendi had sailed from Capetown with more than 800 African volunteers on board – mostly idealistic teenagers. Sailing in dense fog, the ship was rammed by the SS Darro, travelling at full speed, south of St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight. No attempt was made by the captain or crew of the Darro to rescue the drowning African teenagers, who went to their death singing and dancing barefoot on the deck of the sinking ship.

South Africa has long wanted a permanent reminder of the tragedy, which is why Wessex Archaeology has been commissioned to locate the wreck, and to map and film the remains using a remote-controlled submarine. Our Fellow Sue Davies, Chief Executive of Wessex Archaeology, said: ‘This is a powerful and tragic story, yet we know little about the shipwreck and it has not yet been afforded any statutory protection.’

The Mendi is not designated as a historic wreck, nor as a war grave, though the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has produced an award-winning educational CD, called ‘Let us die like brothers’, telling the story of the SS Mendi aimed at raising awareness of the sacrifices made by black service personnel during the First World War. Further information on Wessex Archaeology’s survey of the SS Mendi can be found on its website.

Reconciling physical anthropology and DNA studies

Andrea Manica and Bill Amos of Cambridge University have used a combination of genetic analysis and skull measurement in an attempt to show that these two different approaches to understanding human evolution tell the same story – which is that modern humans are all descendants of one group who colonised the globe from southern central Africa.

Some physical anthropologists have argued that separate populations of Homo sapiens arose independently in different regions and that interbreeding between these separate groups produced today’s human populations.

The Cambridge study, published in Nature, was based on an examination of genetic diversity in fifty-three human populations across the world and variations in the size and shape of 6,000 skulls from around the world. Both told the same story of variability in physical appearance and genetic make-up diminishing the further those populations were from Africa.

‘The origin of anatomically modern humans has been the focus of much heated debate’, Dr Manica said. ‘Our research shows the further modern humans have migrated from Africa, the more genetic diversity has been lost within a population. Some have used skull data to argue that modern humans originated in multiple spots around the world. We have combined our genetic data with new measurements of a large sample of skulls to show definitively that modern humans originated from a single area in sub-Saharan Africa. Indigenous people living in Australia and South America show the lowest amount of genetic variation as well as differences between the shapes and sizes of their skulls. Meanwhile, the genetic and physical variation between people living in Africa is the greatest anywhere in the world.’

Tests on 'Ice Maiden' reveal Pacific links

The results have been announced of DNA tests on the so-called ‘Ice Maiden’, a twelve- to fourteen-year–old girl who was apparently sacrificed by Inca priests on top of Mount Ambato near Arequipa in the Peruvian Andes in about 1480. Her frozen and well-preserved body was discovered in September 1995 by anthropologists Johan Reinhard and Miguel Zarate. Her DNA was now been analysed at the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Maryland, which reports: ‘We conclude from our analysis that the Ice Maiden’s mitochondrial DNA HV1 sequence places her precisely in the native American Indian Haplogroup A. Her HV2 DNA sequence represents a new HV2 variant not found in the current mitochondrial DNA sequence databases and is most closely related to the Ngobe people of Panama and to Taiwanese and Korean races.’

News of Fellows

Forty-eight new Fellows have just been elected to the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Among the thirty-eight UK-based academics honoured with election to the Academy for their academic achievements are our Fellows Professor Paul Binski (University of Cambridge; History of Medieval Art), Professor Bryony Coles (University of Exeter; Archaeology) and Professor Robert Foley (University of Cambridge; Human Evolutionary Studies). Among the ten overseas scholars elected as Corresponding Fellows is our own Fellow Professor Noël Duval (University of Paris, Sorbonne – Paris IV; Ancient History and Archaeology).

Robin Jackson, Chief Executive and Secretary of the British Academy, said that: ‘Election to Fellowship is the principal way in which the Academy recognises scholarly excellence. It comes as the culmination of a rigorous selection process in which each of the Academy's eighteen Sections, organised by academic discipline, is involved.’

The Academy also announced the winners of medals and prizes, awarded for outstanding work in various fields of the humanities and social sciences. This year’s winners include our Fellow Professor Andrew Fleming (Emeritus Professor of Archaeology, University of Wales, Lampeter), who will receive the inaugural award of the John Coles Medal for Landscape Archaeology.

Further details can be found on the British Academy website.

The Times announced on 28 June 2007 that the newly appointed Peruvian ambassador to the UK, Ricardo Luna, had conferred Peru’s highest civil honour, the Gran Cruz de la Orden al Mérito por Servicios Distinguidos (Grand Cross of the Order of Merit for Distinguished Service), on our Fellow Dr John Hemming, on behalf of the Government of Peru, for services to Peruvian history and for furthering relations between Peru and the United Kingdom.

The citation said that: ‘Dr Hemming has contributed to a greater understanding of the singular role of Peru in Latin American culture as well as the effort of creative research that Great Britain continues to develop for that region. Dr Hemming’s accomplishments include contributions to a better understanding of the origins of the present Peru, particularly with the publication of The Conquest of the Incas, which led to a better perception of the conquest process, a perspective that influenced many generations of historians. He was also director and secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, 1975–96, and chairman of the Anglo-Peruvian Society for more than eight years.’

Our Fellow Dr James Whitley, Director of the British School at Athens, was among six directors of foreign Schools who were honoured for their contribution to Greek culture by the Ministry of Culture in a ceremony at the Stoa of Attalos in the Athenian Agora on 20 June 2007. Along with the Directors of the American School of Classical Studies, the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece, and the Norwegian, Dutch and Finnish Institutes at Athens, James Whitley gave short presentations in response to speeches from Mr Georgios Voulgarakis, Minister of Culture, Mrs Eleni Korka, Director of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, and Mrs Paraskevi Vasilopoulou, Director of Antiquities, and were presented with commemorative plaques.

Dr Whitley is Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Cardiff University and his book, The Archaeology of Ancient Greece, won the Runciman Prize in 2002. He is now directing his first season of excavations at Praisos in eastern Crete.

Our Fellow Tom James recently gave a lecture in Perth Museum and Art Gallery entitled ‘Hunting for Heritage: the Perth High Street Excavations of 1975–6’. Those of us who were also digging in 1975 and 1976 have memories of a never-ending summer that began on 1 June 1975 and worryingly turned into a prolonged drought that finally broke with torrential storms in late August 1976. It was also an era in which medieval archaeology made major strides, and Tom’s lecture was the last in a series of events across the UK to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Society for Medieval Archaeology.

In Perth, Tom was Deputy Director to the late Nicholas Bogdan (who died in 2002 from a heart attack at the premature age of 55), in what was then the largest medieval urban excavations in Scotland, unsurpassed in scale until the recent excavations for the new parliament house site in Edinburgh. The 1975–6 excavations uncovered the foundations of a house where the Scottish Parliament had met in 1606. Below this were metres of medieval material, including remains of early defences of the burgh, perhaps those slighted by Robert I in 1313, and a mass of many thousands of archaeological finds, including a wide range of ecofacts, leather and lace (paralleled in Spain), gold artefacts, pilgrim badges from Canterbury and St Andrews and much else besides, elements of which are on display in the Perth Museum and also in the National Museum in Edinburgh.

Though much of this has yet to be published, the good news is that Historic Scotland staff are working hard to bring all of the late Nicholas Bogdan’s texts to publication.

Obituaries on the Antiquity website

The question of balance in obituaries, which was raised in last week’s Salon, prompted a response from our Fellow Martin Carver who pointed out that Antiquity’s ‘In Memoriam’ section publishes tributes and comments on a wide variety of archaeologists.

Martin writes: ‘The advantages of our new service are: first, that anybody from any country may be remembered, not only those famous enough at the time of their death to be noticed by the Guardian or Times; and second, that once a preliminary tribute is mounted anybody may add their comments. The editor does reserve the right to moderate the intemperate (no unseemly dancing on graves is permitted). Please send your tribute or comment to .’ Martin adds: ‘My hope is that, in the long term, we shall be creating a veritable prosopography of those who gave their professional lives to find out about the past of this planet.’

As well as a number of tributes to the late Peter Ucko, the Antiquity site also has an appreciation by our Fellow Richard Hodges of the life of Professor Riccardo Francovich, who died on 30 March 2007 after a fall at Fiesole. Richard writes that Riccardo was ‘an immense figure whose passion, generosity and humour touched everyone who knew him … Riccardo was the force behind medieval archaeology in Italy as well as the great proponent of archaeological parks. Being a brilliantly creative academic and an exceptional manager with a richly charismatic ability to deal with people, he was able to pursue his projects on a great scale. By the time of his death he had more than a hundred young archaeologists either working on doctorates or on contracts in the University of Siena.’


A slip of the typing finger caused great amusement to our Fellow Peter Draper recently when Salon reported that ‘aerial archaeologists from Cambridge University have spent hours flying over the Forest of Dean in a small plane mapping 280 square metres of forest’ as part of a Lidar survey which found hitherto unknown stretches of Offa’s Dyke. Peter writes: ‘How many hours does it take to survey 280 square metres? It conjures up a delightful picture of a quick glimpse each time they flew past’ (for the record, the survey actually mapped 280 square kilometres, well justifying its claim to be the largest purely archaeological Lidar survey to have been undertaken to date in the UK).

An article in The Times earlier this month, spotted by Fellow Henry Stapleton, explained that Lidar works by bouncing laser beams off the ground from an aircraft flying at an altitude of about 1,000m, using the minute differences in time it takes for the light to return to build up a three-dimensional picture of the landscape beneath the ground vegetation. Computer software can distinguish between the laser light bouncing off leaves and the light bouncing back from the ground. The technology dates back to the 1960s but it is only in the past five years that it has been sufficiently well developed to allow archaeologists to start mapping land covered by forests.

Since about 12 per cent of Britain is covered in woodland, Lidar has the potential to uncover many new archaeological features hidden by trees and undergrowth. Three forest regions have been surveyed so far: the 280 sq km of the Forest of Dean and 42 sq km of Savernake Forest in Wiltshire; data from parts of the Wyre Forest are still being analysed. Survey work is being carried out by scientists from the Forestry Commission in partnership with the University of Cambridge, English Heritage and local authorities.

Praise for English Heritage comes from Linda Hall who, responding to the news in last week’s Salon that English Heritage now has more paying visitors than the National Trust, says: ‘English Heritage is far more user-friendly. I have been told off in both Ham House and Knole for looking too closely at architectural features: “You don't go through there” rang down the corridor at Ham just because I stopped to look at the moulding on a doorway. And some friends with us on a visit to Waddesdon Manor were told off in no uncertain terms for peering too closely across the ropes at something that interested them. EH also scores highly for allowing photography and EH guidebooks are often far better, with ground plans and plenty of architectural detail.’ Linda concludes: ‘It would be interesting to know whether other Salon readers have had similar experiences.’

Fellow and Council Member Martin Biddle has suggested that an index should be compiled for Salon, so that readers can use the newsletter as a research tool: a straw poll suggests that other Fellows would also welcome such an initiative – Salon is not only valued as a source of information in its own right but also for the hotlinks to other websites where further information can be found on publications, consultations and reports. Salon will investigate and report back on the feasibility of an electronic index or search facility.

Mention of Linne Mooney in last week’s Salon as the researcher who had identified Adam Pinkhurst, a London scrivener, as Chaucer’s scribe prompted Richard Pfaff to write to say that Professor Mooney has been one of our Fellows since 1999: ‘I put her up, which is how I know’, says Richard (bad marks to Salon for not recognising this). Fellow Jane Grenville adds that Linne is no longer at Cambridge: she has been Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies, based at King's Manor, in York, since 2006, when she was also appointed by York as the university's first Professor of Medieval English Palaeography. Professor Mooney’s research focuses on the dissemination of late medieval English literature in manuscript and early print. Together with Dr Simon Horobin, of Oxford University, she has recently been awarded a major AHRC research grant aimed at discovering the identity of other scribes who made the first copies of Middle English literature in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Details of her research on late medieval scribes is posted on the ‘Medieval Scribes’ website.

Commenting on the inclusion of the Sydney Opera House in the listing of World Heritage Sites, Fellow Robert Merrillees says he hopes the irony of this designation is not lost on Salon readers: ‘The entire project was mired in philistinism, opposition and dispute, which led to Jørn Utzon's departure from Sydney before the building was finished, its completion, not according to Utzon's original plans, by a New South Wales architectural hack, and Utzon's refusal ever to set foot in Australia again. He must consider this tribute a mixed blessing for he never recovered from the humiliations to which he was subjected Down Under, even though he was aware that his unique and magnificent structure had become iconic not only for Sydney but for the whole of Australia.’

The report on the ‘Rotherwas ribbon’ in Salon 168 prompted Mike Hodder to ask if this wasn’t simply a large burnt mound. ‘As I'm sure many Salon readers will know, these sites are widely distributed throughout the British Isles and various interpretations of them have been put forward. Most burnt mounds are rather smaller than the Rotherwas site, but a large burnt mound was found by Oxford Archaeology at the Reading Business Park. The apparent size of the Rotherwas feature is in any case, from my viewing of it, illusory: the central part of the feature appears to consist of heat-shattered stones and charcoal, as in a classic burnt mound, but the rest consists of heat-shattered stones alone, presumably derived from and spread from the mound.

‘Although there are several examples of burnt mounds like this, two Birmingham examples will suffice. At Woodlands Park, in south Birmingham, a burnt mound is visible in a stream bank as an exposure of heat-shattered stones 60m long, but close inspection shows that only 20m of this is actually the burnt mound – the other 40m consists of stones that have been washed from it and redeposited along the stream bank. In north Birmingham, a site straddling the border with Warwickshire was excavated by Oxford/Wessex Archaeology as part of the construction of the M6 toll motorway. Again there was a clear burnt mound of normal size consisting of heat-shattered stones and charcoal but there were also areas of charcoal-free stones extending along and beside the stream for a considerable distance downstream. So the Rotherwas Ribbon does seem to fall within the known sizes and forms of burnt mounds.’

In Hereford itself, local protestors have enlisted the assistance of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in their call for a halt to road construction work at the site. A CPRE press release issued on 23 July argues that ‘time is needed to allow the site and its context to be fully surveyed and interpreted’. The press release goes on to say that: ‘this processional serpentine path is on the brink of being severely mutilated by construction damage. It is probably of international significance and gives its surrounding landscape sacred importance … it is crucial that [Herefordshire Council] suspend construction of the road, so that a careful assessment of the value of this extraordinary monument can be made … the context of the landscape, which may well have been sacred to those who built and used this monument, is crucial to its integrity and our appreciation of it in the future’.

Campaigners for the Rotherwas Ribbon have already garnered 800-plus signatures on their petition on the Downing Street website calling on the Prime Minister to ‘Save the Rotherwas Ribbon’. Meanwhile in Wiltshire, according to our Fellow Andrew Fitzpatrick, frustration at the lack of progress on the Stonehenge roads scheme has prompted yet another petition on the Downing Street website. This one urges the Prime Minister ‘to come to a speedy decision on the proposed options for improving the A303 and so protect the Stonehenge World Heritage Site’.

Such a decision might be imminent: the Sunday Times reported (on 22 July 2007) 'a senior government source' as saying that the Government had rejected the tunnel option as being too expensive and were looking at a northern bypass route – this seems to be the route championed by the National Trust last year, but, as the Sunday Times report says, this route would require the consent and co-operation of the Ministry of Defence, as the road would run through Larkhill military camp – and it is difficult to see how this might prove any cheaper than the tunnel option.

Buildings on Paper: architectural archives – the resources and their uses

The British Records Association is hosting this conference on 4 December 2007 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in association with the Royal Institute of British Architects: British Architectural Library. Several Fellows are among the contributors, including David Robinson, Chairman of the British Records Association, speaking on ‘The Need for “Authentic Records”: architectural archives up to the 1950s’, Charles Hind, on ‘Breaking the Records: three million and counting – architectural archives at the RIBA’, Martin Stancliffe on ‘St Paul’s Cathedral: the fabric archive’, Simon Bradley on ‘Archives and the Pevsner Architectural Guides’, Malcolm Airs on ‘The Lamport Hall that Never Was’, and Nicholas Kingsley, giving the concluding Maurice Bond Lecture on ‘Architectural Archives: challenges and opportunities’. For further information, contact the British Records Association, tel: 020 7833 0428.

Books by Fellows

Gordon R Willey and American Archaeology: contemporary perspectives is a new volume from the University of Oklahoma Press, whose editors – Jeremy A Sabloff (who is Christopher H Browne Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Curator of Mesoamerican Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum) and William L Fash (Bowditch Professor of Central American and Mexican Archaeology and Ethnology and the Howells Director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University) – are both Fellows, and it gauges the contribution and impact of the late Professor Willey, who was also a Fellow.

A pre-eminent archaeologist and New World theorist, Willey made innumerable contributions to our understanding of the prehistory of the Americas and helped establish the methodological and theoretical paradigms used today in American archaeology. The volume is based on a series of ten assessments by well-known archaeologists of the lasting influence of Willey’s key publications. These works cut across geographic regions and areas of inquiry and represent some of the most challenging intellectual questions in archaeology, explaining Willey’s methods while revealing how greatly his work shaped the field. The volume also shows his human side, placing his writing in historical context and offering a unique overview of the growth of American archaeology over the past six decades.

Irish Furniture, by our Fellow Desmond FitzGerald, The Knight of Glin (President of the Irish Georgian Society) and James Peil (Director of Christie’s Furniture Department), with a foreword by our Fellow Sir Nicholas Goodison, is published by Yale University Press and is the first volume to be devoted entirely to the subject of Irish furniture and woodwork, from medieval choir stalls to the work of the many furniture-makers and craftsmen working in eighteenth-century Ireland.

That, in the authors’ words, ‘there never existed a taste in Ireland for preserving papers’ makes the writing of the chronological history that fills the first part of the book all the more of an achievement, and the second half has a comprehensive pictorial catalogue of different types of surviving furniture.