Salon Archive

Issue: 173

Forthcoming meetings

11 October 2007: Ballot. Ralph Jackson, FSA, of the British Museum, will give a paper entitled ‘Ribchester – not just a helmet’, and Julia Steele, the Society’s Collections Officer, will talk about ‘The Cotterdale sword and other chance finds’.

18 October 2007: New Light on the Black Death, by Mike Baillie, FSA

25 October 2007: The Romans and the Iceni: collaboration and conflict as seen through Iron-Age coinage, by Amanda Chadburn, FSA

Website downtime

We apologise to all those who have tried and failed to gain access to the website over the last week or so; the site has been unavailable for protracted periods, and we have expressed our dissatisfaction to the website hosts for this unacceptable performance. The IT company is in the process of upgrading its capacity to cope with the volume of traffic that the Society’s website now receives: the number of people using our website has doubled month on month since it was relaunched in April 2007. We hope that the website will be available on a more consistent basis from now on, but if you are unable to get through, or if you receive an error message when trying to use the balloting facilities, please do try again later in the day.

New on the website

The ‘News and Events’ page of the Society’s website now has pictures and short reports on the Royal Academy exhibition launch and David Starkey’s lecture on ‘The Antiquarian Endeavour’ given on 26 September 2007 to launch the Society’s Tercentenary public lecture series. Pictures of the refurbished public areas of our Burlington House apartments have been posted on the ‘Room Hire: Facilities’ page, along with downloadable information sheets on hiring the rooms for meetings, dinners or conferences. Don’t forget that Fellows and charities qualify for a special discount when booking the Society’s rooms.

Tercentenary launch

The Society met at Somerset House for the first time since 1874 on 4 October 2007 to mark the official start of our Tercentenary celebrations; some 200 Fellows attended the event, pausing to admire the Society’s former Library (now the Courtauld Institute’s shop) as they arrived and noting the Society’s name, carved above the door lintels of the entrance gate.

Our President, Geoff Wainwright, used the opportunity to announce that he would be writing to all Fellows shortly with news of the Society’s fundraising appeal. This aims to raise £11 million in new funds to enable the Society to expand its role and services into its fourth century of activity, principally through increasing the value of its research grants, enhancing its publications programme, undertaking much-needed work to renovate the library and create more study space and to conserve and provide enhanced access to its collections of books, manuscripts, art and antiquities.

The Society’s Royal Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, then congratulated the Society on the publication of Visions of Antiquity, the Tercentenary edition of Archaeologia, which, he said, was full of illuminating essays tracing the Society's contribution to knowledge and culture over 300 years. He likened history to a large jigsaw puzzle that lacked any of the straight-edged pieces to provide a framework: Visions of Antiquity showed how Fellows of the Society had worked out how to arrange the pieces in a way that connected and brought coherence to a jumbled picture.

Visions of Antiquity

Visions of Antiquity is a collection of essays exploring what it means to be an antiquary – to be what Sir Mortimer Wheeler characterized on the occasion of the 250th anniversary in 1957 as a part of a ‘tree with many branches’. Each of the seventeen papers addresses one of these branches, examining such themes as the development of archaeology as a scientific discipline, the depiction in paintings, engravings and literature of ancient objects, buildings and landscapes, and the philosophical issues raised by debates over the protection of ancient buildings and their restoration. Each paper reveals the intellectual milieu in which the Society operated and assesses the contribution that the Society and its Fellows made to the furtherance of knowledge.

The Society’s story is interwoven with those of other societies and other disciplines. Given its heterogeneous character, antiquarianism has been under almost constant attack. Some have condemned the Fellowship for not being specialist enough, and they have gone away to create new and more specialist societies of their own, concerned with geography, geology, history, anthropology and the natural sciences. Others have condemned the Fellowship for the opposite crime: of being far too specialist and particular, studying their dusty fragments and doting on ruins while lacking a proper sense of the larger context.

This book leaves you marvelling that the Society has survived at all to celebrate 300 years of achievement, and an unspoken theme of each of these richly detailed essays is the robustness of the founders’ original idea, that the Society should concern itself with studying the material remains of the past, and of the many creative ways in which the Society and its Fellows have renewed that mission over the last 300 years to keep it alive, academically meaningful and socially relevant.

Visions of Antiquity: the Society of Antiquaries of London 1707–2007, edited by Susan Pearce, is published by the Society of Antiquaries of London (2007) as Archaeologia 111, ISBN: 9780854312870, 451p, 116 photographs and line drawings in colour and b&w, hardback price £75, Fellows’ price £45, available from Oxbow Books (tel: 01865 241249; email: A flier providing details of how to order the book at the special Fellows’ price will be enclosed with the October issue of Fellowship News. Postage is £2.95 for one book within the UK (not including Highlands and Islands, which costs more), or £4.95 for two or more books. Overseas is charged at cost, and sent by the most economical method if not otherwise specified.

Excavations at Tintagel Castle

The second book to be published by the Society this month (details of which will also be sent with Fellowship News) is a summary of fieldwork that has been undertaken at Tintagel since April 1990, re-examining this very important site in Cornwall where our late Fellow, Ralegh Radford, found evidence for significant links with the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa during the fifth to seventh centuries.

The new work (which includes a detailed appraisal of unpublished material in Radford’s private archive) has been no less exciting. Everyone will remember, for example, the media speculation that accompanied the discovery of an inscribed slate apparently bearing the name of ‘Arthur’. This book contains a definitive analysis of that inscribed stone – arguably an imperial inscription to Honorius, later the object of graffiti from three post-Roman individuals, Paternus, Coliavus and Artognou – demonstrating that the lack of an Arthurian locus does not make it any the less important as evidence of post-Roman literacy in sixth-century high-status Dumnonian society.

Excavations at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, 1990–1999, by Rachel C Barrowman, Colleen E Batey and Christopher D Morris, is published by the Society of Antiquaries of London (2007) as Research Committee Report 74, ISBN: 9780854312863, 370p, 125 b&w illus, 20 col illus, hardback price £40, Fellows’ price £26, available from Oxbow Books (tel: 01865 241249; email: A flier providing details of how to order the book at the special Fellows’ price will be enclosed with the October issue of Fellowship News. Postage is £2.95 for one book within the UK (not including Highlands and Islands, which costs more), or £4.95 for two or more books. Overseas is charged at cost, and sent by the most economical method if not otherwise specified.

Making History: Antiquaries in Britain 1707–2007

In the words of our President, Geoff Wainwright, this handsomely produced and copiously illustrated book is ‘the publication that our collections have always deserved but lacked until now’. Published to accompany the Society’s Tercentenary exhibition at the Royal Academy, it illustrates each of the 179 artefacts in the exhibition, along with a detailed commentary. Everyone will have their favourites, and Salon’s editor especially likes those objects that are associated with people. A simple Palaeolithic hand axe resonates with associations, because it was collected by John Evans at Abbeville when he visited Boucher de Perthes in 1859, a visit that led to the lecture at the Society that sparked the serious study of prehistory and the beginnings of the modern discipline of archaeology. Then there are the eight pieces of embroidered silk of late twelfth-century date taken from the tomb of Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury (1193–1205) when the tomb was opened in 1890. Described in the catalogue as ‘grave goods’ these are in reality the touchingly personal vestments of a man who was Richard I’s chief minister, a great European statesman and companion to the king on his crusades.

Studded with arresting images, the catalogue (and the exhibition itself) is a must. It can be bought in the Royal Academy shop or ordered online in hardback (£40) or softback (£22.95) editions. Because this is a Royal Academy publication, there are no discounts for Fellows, though Friends of the Royal Academy do qualify for a special discount, so you could become a Friend or befriend a Friend.

Exhibition reviews

The Society continues to receive plaudits in the form of favourable reviews of the Royal Academy exhibition, including a feature in last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph, describing this as ‘a delightful and rather brave show’, and saying that ‘however much the Fellows were driven by the Enlightenment spirit of rational enquiry, this is nevertheless a deeply romantic show; object after object must have made them pause in their quest to make the past less of a foreign country and more of a British one … a golden spur found at Towton in Yorkshire, lost in 1461 during the bloodiest battle of the Wars of the Roses, is engraved with the legend ‘you have all my heart with loyal love’; could [the Fellows] have passed it dispassionately from one to another without wondering what became of the lover and his beloved?’

Another very positive review comes unexpectedly from the Caldicott school magazine. A group of Year 10 pupils went to see the exhibition in September and thoroughly enjoyed it: ‘the things we saw in this exhibition were amazing and were lent to the RA by the London Society of Antiquaries, which is the oldest and best of its type in the world. It was found in 1707 by men who were interested in learning about the past from the old objects they excavated and collected. They commissioned the best artists of the day, including Turner and Constable, to make a record of these things by drawing and painting them. Some of the exhibits we saw included: a beautiful first-century Roman helmet found in Kent, by a boy playing in a field; a huge vellum scroll with tiny writing and illuminations, tracing the ancestry of Henry VI all the way back to Adam and Eve; and also a beautiful set of Anglo-Saxon jewellery’. The school magazine report concludes by saying ‘It was a very good trip and we would like to thank the Headmaster and the staff who took us’, adding that the adults seemed to enjoy it too!

The only gripe that visitors to the exhibition have been heard to express relates to the size of the caption text; the labels alongside the exhibit were never intended to be so small, and the firm responsible for printing them at the wrong type size have now replaced all the labels with new ones of the correct type size.

Theft of figurine from St Cross, Winchester

Dr John Crook, FSA, archaeological consultant to St Cross Hospital, Winchester, reports the sad news that an important wooden Renaissance corbel figurine has recently been stolen from the Morning Chapel of St Cross Church. This was one of a series adorning the pendants of a frieze from the early sixteenth-century choir stalls given to the church by Bishop Richard Fox. The corbels were illustrated by John Carter in his Specimens of the Ancient Sculpture and Painting in England (London, 1790). Measuring approximately 150mm in height by 55mm in width, the stolen figurine portrays the Tiburtine sibyl, holding the pillar of Christ’s flagellation, but a local tradition that it represents Anne Boleyn may have made it more attractive to the thief. Should any sharp-eyed antiquary spot the item for sale, John Crook would be delighted to hear.

All about piling

A new English Heritage guidance note contains all you need to know about piled foundations and their use in preserving archaeology in situ. The first section describes the main piling techniques used to construct foundations. The potential impacts of each pile type on archaeological deposits are then considered in section two, which is followed by discussion of how to mitigate the impact of piling, giving a range of options. These focus on the types of decisions that planning and archaeological officers, developers and their archaeological consultants need to consider throughout the design and construction process. Case studies are provided to demonstrate some of the mitigation suggestions, and future research priorities are also identified.

Copies can be downloaded from the HELM website.

Locating aircraft lost at sea

Wessex Archaeology has been commissioned by English Heritage (with funding from the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund) to create a database of the many thousands of planes that have crashed into the seas around Britain, many during the Second World War. At the time the planes and their crew were presumed to be lost for ever, but many are now being found by companies dredging for gravel and other aggregates.

Euan McNeill of Wessex Archaeology explains that dredger crews and staff who work on the wharves where aggregates are processed have been trained to identify archaeological remains. A web-based reporting system means that there is prompt expert feedback from archaeologists when shipwrecks and other finds of interest are located.

One unexpected result of this scheme is the routine identification of plane crash sites, sometimes with human remains. When such discoveries are made, the crash sites are given automatic protection under the 1986 Protection of Military Remains Act, meaning they should not be disturbed. The British Marine Aggregates Producers Association follows a protocol that allows an Exclusion Zone to be set up around the site and dredging stops there.

The Wessex survey will attempt to map crash sites before they suffer possible damage from dredging, a challenge that is both ethical and logistical because, as McNeill says, ‘Many families today are still touched by this issue’. As part of the first phase of the study, Wessex Archaeology is asking anyone with records or specialist knowledge of aircraft crash sites or losses at sea to come forward and share the information. The deadline for this stage of the project is Friday 30 November 2007, and there is a project website, where you can read about the aircraft that have already been located.

Bodleian's plan for £29m store divides Oxford

Planning permission was granted last week for a new conservation studio and book store to be built by Oxford’s Bodleian Library on land that the university owns on an industrial park at Osney Mead. The plan has caused controversy because the site of the massive new building will eat up land on the flood plain that saved Oxford from inundation at the end of July, but the university was able to persuade the planning committee that not only would the building be equipped with its own flood defences, it would also be built above the flood plain in such a way as to be capable of storing flood waters to ensure that the flooding problem was not exacerbated elsewhere. The Oxford Preservation Trust remains implacably opposed to the location of the huge building, and says it would have a serious impact on the classic ‘dreaming spires’ view of the city – something the university disputes.

WWII prison camp had more than 100 tunnels

Archaeologists have found the remains of more than 100 escape tunnels at the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp, in Zagan, formerly in eastern Germany but now in Poland. Though the original buildings of the camp have since gone, archaeologists from Keele University and University College London (UCL) used ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry equipment to locate huts, entrance shafts and tunnels. When excavated, one of the tunnels was found to contain a lamp made from a cheese tin from a Red Cross parcel, a rubber stamp made from a boot heel, bearing a Wehrmacht eagle, and empty Red Cross milk cans used to make a ventilation system. An escape kit was also found within the remains of an attaché case, consisting of a civilian-style coat, a toothbrush and fragments of a German language book.

Escape attempts made by prisoners at Stalag Luft III formed the basis for the film, ‘The Great Escape’. Of the 76 PoWs who tried to escape from the camp, all but three were recaptured and fifty were executed. The finds suggest that the threat of execution did not deter prisoners from their tunnelling efforts, which were carried out on a scale that suggests that more than a third of the camp’s prisoners must have been involved.

Bronze Age mummification in Scotland

Salon has already reported on two of the papers in last month’s Antiquity (on the dating of the trilithon phase at Stonehenge and on the morphology of the world’s first cities) but there is much more still to report, including the evidence for mummification in Bronze Age Scotland that comes from the study of three bodies — an adult female, an adult male and an infant — buried underneath two Bronze Age roundhouses in South Uist, Hebrides, at a site called Cladh Hallan. The bodies date from between 1300 and 1500 BC and chemical analysis shows that the bones were not placed in the ground immediately after death, but were first wrapped tightly and immersed in a peat bog, as a way of preserving the soft tissue.

Equally remarkable is the burial of the three individuals right in the entrance to the houses. The authors discount the idea that the houses are built over a pre-existing cemetery, and argue that a transition occurred from previous collective burial rites to a new burial rite in which individuals were placed under houses or within their own burial mounds.

You can read the full story in Antiquity’s online Project Gallery Project Gallery.

Chinese farmers grew rice 7,700 years ago

Also in the Project Gallery is a paper by Li Liu, Gyoung-Ah Lee, Leping Jiang and Juzhong Zhang on the earliest rice domestication in China, in which they analyse the evidence for the habitual gathering and use of wild rice, its long and slow domestication and its eventual spread northwards from the Yangzi River region into the Yellow River basin and northern China. They conclude that the process of domestication took much longer than researchers previously thought, with a gap of 5,000 years between the exploitation of wild crops and the habitual cultivation of domesticated strains.

Elsewhere, in Nature, Zong Yongqiang of Durham University presents evidence for rice cultivation dating back 7,700 years at Kuahuqiao, a freshwater marsh about 200km south west of Shanghai. The very high concentration of charcoal there, and the decline of woody tree pollen, marks the start of land clearance using fire, followed by flood control measures to manage the resulting fields. Tools of bone, bamboo and wood were found at the site, including pigs’ shoulder blades adapted to form spades, along with postholes from the raised platforms on which the rice farmers lived and the remains of paddles and canoes.

Soils from the site were analysed to measure the diatoms (algae that live in saline conditions) as a mark of how successful these early farmers were in preventing seawater inundation; it is thought that rising sea levels eventually forced the rice farmers to abandon the site. ‘They abandoned the sites, which they occupied for 200 years, and moved on to other sites, with similar marshy conditions’, said Zong Yongqiang, referring to Hemudu, 120km east of Kuahuqiao, or Majiabang, which lies in between Shanghai and Kuahuqiao, both of which show evidence of rice cultivation beginning about 7,000 years ago.

Ancient manioc fields in Americas

A team from the University of Colorado at Boulder has found an ancient manioc field buried beneath three metres (ten feet) of volcanic ash while excavating the ancient Mayan village of Ceren, in El Salvador. Found in 1978, and considered the best-preserved ancient village in Latin America, Ceren’s buildings, artefacts and landscape were buried about AD 600 by the eruption of the nearby Loma Caldera volcano.

The fields, the first direct evidence of manioc cultivation to have been discovered at an archaeological site anywhere in the Americas, were located in June 2007 when ground-penetrating radar, drill cores and test pits led archaeologist to uncover several large, parallel planting beds separated by walkways representing a freshly planted 1,400-year-old manioc field.

Ash hollows in the planting beds left by decomposed plant material were cast with dental plaster to preserve their shapes and subsequently were identified as manioc tubers. The manioc bushes had been cut down not many hours before the eruption, most of the tubers harvested and the beds had been replanted with manioc stalks placed horizontally in the soil to regenerate bushes for the next cycle of growth. The planting beds were about three feet wide and two feet high. Each manioc cutting had been carefully placed in the ground with one growth node pointing upwards to generate a new bush and several nodes pointing down to generate roots and edible tubers.

Manioc (also known as cassava) remains an important, high-carbohydrate food source for Latin Americans today, and its cultivation by the Maya might help explain how they supported the large populations of such classic Mayan cities as Tikal in Guatemala and Copan in Honduras.

Twelve buildings have been excavated at Ceren so far, including living quarters, storehouses, workshops, kitchens, religious buildings and a community sauna. Several dozen other structures located with ground-penetrating radar remain buried under up to 6 metres (17 feet) of ash. Preservation of organic materials at Ceren – including thatched roofs, house beams, woven baskets, cloth and grain caches – is excellent.

A podcast on the ancient manioc plantation discovery at Ceren can be heard on the Colorado at Boulder website.

Switzerland’s ‘oldest known building’

Underwater archaeologists in Switzerland have found a structure dated by dendrochronology to 3863 BC in the middle of Lake Biel, north west of the Swiss capital, Bern. Divers working for the cantonal archaeological service came upon the site in the winter of 2006 when they were recording the lake’s prehistoric pile villages, which date mainly from the period 1750 to 1660 BC. This much older rectangular structure stood apart from the pile houses, some 200 metres from shore, and is surrounded by the remains of fish traps, suggesting that the building was used by fishermen to store equipment and perhaps to smoke fish. The Swiss government has announced that it intends to apply for the inclusion of its lake village sites on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

Inca child sacrifice

A team of scientists at the University of Bradford, including our Fellow Dr Timothy Taylor and led by Dr Andrew Wilson, have been studying hair samples from four children preserved in the ice of the Andes, aiming to build up a picture of how the children were prepared for sacrifice over a period of months prior to being exposed on the summits of the mountains that form the border between modern Argentina and Chile.

‘By examining hair samples from these unfortunate children, a chilling story has started to emerge of how the children were “fattened up” for sacrifice,’ says Dr Wilson, a Wellcome Trust Bioarchaeology Fellow. By analysing stable isotopes found in the hair samples, Dr Wilson and colleagues were able to see that the children lived mainly on vegetables, such as potato, suggesting that they came from a peasant background. However, in the twelve months prior to sacrifice, the isotopic evidence shows that the diet changed markedly to one that was enriched with plants such as maize, considered an ‘elite’ food, and protein, likely to have come from charki (dried llama meat).

‘Given the surprising change in their diets and the symbolic cutting of their hair, it appears that various events were staged in which the status of the children was raised’, says Dr Wilson. ‘In effect, their countdown to sacrifice had begun some considerable time prior to death.’

Whilst members of the team cannot be certain how the children died, it is believed that they were first given maize beer (chicha) and coca leaves, possibly to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness and also to inure them to their fate. This theory is supported by evidence of coca metabolites that the researchers found in the victims’ hair. ‘It looks to us as though the children were led up to the summit shrine in the culmination of a year-long rite, drugged and then left to succumb to exposure,’ says Timothy Taylor, adding that, ‘Some may wish to view these grim deaths within the context of indigenous belief systems, [but] we should not forget that the Inca were imperialists too, and the treatment of such peasant children may have served to instil fear and facilitate social control over remote mountain areas.’

Neanderthals roamed as far as Siberia

Up to now it has been thought that Neanderthals lived mainly in Europe: a Neanderthal skull from the Teshik-Tash cave in the south east of modern-day Uzbekistan has been taken as the most easterly evidence of their dispersal. Now Svante Pääbo and colleagues, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have managed to extract genetic material from fragmentary bones found in the Okladnikov cave in the Altai Mountains and they have found a close match with Neanderthal DNA from remains found in Belgium.

The match was ‘quite a bit of a surprise’, according to Pääbo, since the new evidence extends the territory of this hominid some 2,000 kilometres further east, into modern-day southern Siberia. The bones date from between 30,000 and 38,000 years ago and show that Neanderthals migrated very long distances, and were even more adaptable than some people give them credit for.

Eric Trinkaus at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, USA, has questioned whether the DNA match definitively proves the Okladnikov bones to be those of Neanderthals. He argues that other species of hominid could have had the same mitochondrial DNA sequence as Neanderthals and that the mitochondrial sequence found by Pääbo's team can only be used to identify individuals as Neanderthals if they can rule out a match with the mitochondrial DNA of other archaic hominids.

King Herod’s Second Temple quarry found

Israeli archaeologists believe they have discovered a quarry that was used as a source for the stone used in renovating Jerusalem's Second Temple during the reign of King Herod. The limestone quarry still has massive blocks of stone weighing up to 20 tonnes, one of them retaining an iron stake used to split the stone. Coins and pottery found in the quarry confirm the stone was being extracted at the right date to have been used in Herod's expansion of the Temple Mount in 19 BC and the stones found at the quarry are of the right size for use in this massive public project. The Second Temple was levelled in AD 70, and the Western Wall, the holiest prayer site in the world for devout Jews, is the best-known surviving remnant.

The stones of Paris

On a similarly lapidary theme, the Independent recently ran an interesting feature on the limestone quarries used as a source of the stone that lends the French capital its homogeneity.

The ‘Paris stone’ used for the post-1860 Haussmann era rebuilding of the city comes from half-a-dozen limestone quarries in the Oise, 25 miles north of Paris. The same stone is in great demand all over the world and is being used to construct new buildings at the University of Stanford in California, for the Nevada desert mansion of eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, and for lining the floors and walls of all the Giorgio Armani shops around the globe. Several prestigious new buildings in London have used Paris limestone, including Trevor House, an office block opposite Harrods on the Brompton Road.

The southern Oise, around Saint-Maximin and Chantilly, has applied to the French state to become the first place to be granted a building stone Appellation Contrôlée – a badge of official regional excellence – like that given to a wine or a cheese. The southern Oise is also developing a tourist heritage trail to encourage visitors to explore the rich history of the ancient underground quarries in the area, some of which date back to the Roman period.

Until the seventeenth century, Paris was constructed from stone excavated through tunnelling underground just outside the city itself. The old quarries were later strengthened and turned into the catacombs that survive under large parts of Paris to this day. In the second part of the seventeenth century, Louis XIV's chief minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, created a commission to decide which stone would best replace the local building material. The commission identified the stone from the southern part of the Oise – conveniently linked to Paris by river – as an almost perfect match for the city's existing monuments, such as the Cathédrale de Notre Dame.

Conservationists fear that the quarries could be threatened with exhaustion, however. At the present rate of extraction, each of the existing quarries has about thirty years' supply of the harder, more expensive stone used for cladding and a century’s worth of building stone.

Battersea power station promoted to Grade II*

London’s Battersea Power Station, previously a Grade II listed structure, has been upgraded to Grade II*. The red-brick building with its characteristic corner chimneys was designed by the architect J Theo Halliday in 1929. Giles Gilbert Scott was brought in as consulting architect to refashion the exterior when public concern was expressed at the building’s scale and bulk: it is still one of the largest brick-built structures in Europe and is notable for its original and lavish Art Deco fittings and décor.

The station ceased electricity-generation in 1983 and is now on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register, and our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, welcomed the upgrading as a move that ‘can only put extra emphasis on the importance of the regeneration process and help to speed it along’. He added that ‘Battersea’s outstanding exterior has a grandeur and scale more like the ruins of a Roman basilica’.

‘Antiquaries and Archaists: explorations of cultural memory’

Our Fellow Megan Aldrich, of Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and Dr Robert J Wallis, of Richmond: the American International University in London, are organising this one-day conference on Friday 26 October 2007 at the Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, as part of the Society’s Tercentenary to consider the ways in which the past is mediated across and between cultures, engaging with the role of cultural memory in constructing and negotiating multiple pasts, through antiquities, art, monuments and architecture. Interdisciplinary in scope, the papers consider a broad range of visual and material culture, from southern African rock art, the court art of Benin and Japanese antiquities to British prehistoric monuments, Gothic architecture and Chinese printmaking.

Speakers include Thomas Dowson (Independent Scholar), Anne Farrer (Sotheby’s Institute of Art), David Haycock (London School of Economics), Simon Kaner (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures), Sarah Semple (University of Durham) and Simon Watney (City & Guilds of London School of Art). Tickets are available on the day (cash only, including morning coffee and afternoon tea: £10 / £5 concessions). Further details from Megan Aldrich.

Kelmscott ‘All Lit Up’

Kelmscott’s Morris Memorial Hall is the venue for an evening of Victorian visual fun on Saturday 24 November, when ‘Professor’ Mervyn Heard presents a traditional Magic Lantern Show. This pre-cinema experience starts at 7pm and is being organised as a fundraiser for Kelmscott Manor’s education programme. One of the leading exponents of the Magic Lantern, Mervyn Heard has revived the art of the showmen, or ‘Professors’, who toured Europe with their spectacular animated slide shows throughout the nineteenth century. Tickets cost £10 for adults and £6 for children and students in full-time education. The price includes a glass of wine or juice. Advance booking is advised: contact Kelmscott Manor, tel 01367 253348 or email

As a prelude to the show, Kelmscott Manor will be running two workshops in lantern making, using willow and other materials, for children aged six to twelve years. These will take place on 10 and 17 November, from 10am to 1pm, in Kelmscott Manor’s Brewhouse. Children, families and friends will come together at 6.30pm on 24 November for a lantern-lit procession to the Memorial Hall for the Magic Lantern Show. Children are asked to attend both workshops if possible. Places are limited and must be booked in advance. The fee of £6 covers both workshop sessions and includes materials and refreshments. Children attending the workshops are also eligible to a special £4 concession for admission to the Magic Lantern Show.

Remembering Robina McNeil

Salon 171 published John Walker’s obituary for our late Fellow Robina McNeil, which was primarily concerned with the work she undertook in Manchester from the late 1980s. The following memories of Robina have been contributed by Bevis Sale and help to fill in the details of her early archaeological career.

‘Prior to her success in Manchester Robina had already acquired a solid grounding in archaeology, starting with her first dig at Carn Euny as a teenager in 1968, where she met and later married the artist and archaeologist Bevis Sale. Her degree at the Institute of Archaeology produced her first publication, on the Stogursey hoard. Later, with her husband, she ran excavations in the Po valley foothills for Stanford University on Bronze Age terramare settlement sites, with occasionally spectacular results. In Britain they both worked for the Clwyd-Powis Archaeological Trust in its early years of establishing excavation as a profession.

‘After some years working in Chester, she became freelance, building up a body of published sites in North Wales and Cheshire, ranging from later prehistory to post-medieval, and including the Wilkinson cannon foundry at Bersham, medieval salt houses in Nantwich, and the Pool of Liverpool. She was modest about her abilities, rarely mentioning her part in the excavation of Lindow Man. For many years she lectured for Liverpool University Extra-Mural Department, and for a time organised its archaeology classes. Her marriage ended in the late 1980s, at about the time she started her work in Manchester; nevertheless, with characteristic strength and optimism she created the lasting memorial that has already been described.’


Gale Sieveking’s no doubt benign and friendly ghost continues to haunt the pages of Salon: Vincent Megaw says he hopes his old sparring partner John Collis (‘last seen besporting himself amongst the flesh pots of the Dalmatian coast’ [the reference is to the recent highly successful European Association of Archaeologists conference held in Zadar, in Croatia]) will not mind being corrected in the matter of the origin of the alternative title of Stuart Piggott’s seminal work, Neolithic Cultures of the British Isles.

According to Vincent, who heard it from Piggott himself when studying at Edinburgh in the 1950s, the infamous misprint – actually ‘Neolithic Vultures’ rather than ‘Niolotic Vultures’ – appeared not in Gale Sieveking’s Cambridge thesis but in the bibliography of an Edinburgh PhD thesis submitted by a then Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments. ‘I haven't forgotten his name’, says Vincent, ‘but it is true that I have forgotten whether or not he was awarded the degree.’

The colloquium that Pamela Jane Smith is organising on 22 October in Cambridge on the origins of post-processual archaeology has already exceeded the 200-seat capacity of the Biffen Lecture Theatre, and so the event has been shifted to the larger Physiology Lecture Theatre, on the same Downing Street Site. The event is also turning into an informal reunion for people who read Archaeology at Cambridge in the latter half of the 1970s and the early 1980s, so if you are one of these, do please try and attend and also pass on information to anyone of your contacts from that era – Pamela is particularly keen to track down Alice Welbourn, Andy Mawson and Mary Braithwaite, so if you can help please send an email to You should also let Pamela know if you wish to attend; tea will be served at the Downing Street museum at 3pm (home-made lemon Madeira cake is promised), and a wine reception will follow.

Salon’s story about the sale of hundreds of Bibles and manuscripts by the Church of England Diocese of Truro described the collection as having come from the ‘John Thornton Library’. In fact, as our Fellow Paul Williamson, Keeper of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass at the Victoria and Albert Museum, points out, John Thornton is the name of the Chelsea book dealer (he was until recently based in the Fulham Road near Chelsea football ground) who bought the library, and managed to make such a handsome sum from its sale that he has now retired from the trade. The actual founder of the Truro library – now much diminished – was Henry Phillpotts, a nineteenth-century Bishop of Exeter, who left 2,000 books to serve the clergy of the diocese.

Fellow Paul Bahn writes to say that we should treat with the greatest caution the report in the last issue of Salon that prehistoric cave art has been found in the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset. The rock art at Aveline's and Long Hole is not Palaeolithic, he says: ‘Aveline's is at best Mesolithic, and quite possibly eighteenth century; while the Long Hole marks look like modern alphabet to me’. As for the ‘mammoth’, this discovery dates from 2003, and it has never been presented for publication in a refereed journal. Cave art experts who have seen the photos do not believe that it is a figure at all, let alone the figure of a mammoth.

On the subject of peer review, our Fellow Alan Johnston refers to the British Academy’s report on the subject, and the finding that ‘the expansion in research and the sheer scale of publication means that it is difficult for experts to stay sufficiently on top of their subject to be able to give a balanced view’. Given this, Alan wonders whether other Fellows were as puzzled as he was by the proposed solution: ‘to introduce a further administrative task, by way of compulsory training for experts in embryo’?

Fellow Henry Cleere has written to throw more light on the Roman bath house at Beauport Park, in East Sussex, which is currently up for sale, as reported in the last issue of Salon. Henry says ‘Perhaps you will allow me to make some comments on this piece, as current chairman of the Beauport Park Archaeological Trust. The excavator, the late Gerald Brodribb, is described as “an amateur archaeologist”, a correct description in that he was not paid to excavate. However, it should not be overlooked that he was in fact a Fellow of this Society (and for that matter, so was I even in those distant halcyon days when I was co-director of the excavation). The initial reaction of the then Ancient Monuments Inspectorate of the Department of the Environment was to take the site into Guardianship, at the urging of the Chief Inspector of the time, but financial constraints led to this proposal being dropped. Funding was instead made available to cocoon the building in sand and to erect a cover over it. Gerald was assiduous in ensuring the maintenance of this protection, with the help of local volunteers, but deterioration was inevitable.

‘A charitable trust was set up in the 1990s and plans were made to carry out a full conservation and restoration project, so as to permit this remarkable building to be opened to the public, and a full feasibility study was carried out. It was recognized that the site of the bath-house, deep in woodland and far from main roads and services, would require considerable investment. Accordingly, an application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund, but this proved unsuccessful and so, after consultation with English Heritage, it was decided reluctantly that the only practicable course was to rebury the bath-house.

‘The notion of this monument, one of the most complete Roman buildings in Britain, being sold to “a discerning purchaser … to display the Bath House for their own satisfaction and interest, but with some limited access for interest groups”, or to build “a permanent bespoke, open or enclosed cover … thereby creating what would in effect be an independent Roman archaeological visitors’ centre on the site” (to quote the egregious estate agent) is a chilling one. It is to be hoped that English Heritage will use its powers to impose sufficient constraints deriving from the fact that this is a Scheduled Ancient Monument to deter all but the most responsible potential purchasers.

‘For Fellows concerned about the archaeological detail given in the Salon report, the bath-house in its present form dates from the second century AD and does not have three plunge pools as reported, only a very small cold plunge and two even smaller “hot tubs”. The full excavation report is ‘The Classis Britannica Bath-house at Beauport Park, East Sussex’ by Gerald Brodribb and Henry Cleere, Britannia, 1988, vol XIX, pp 217–74.’

Books by Fellows

Graham Parry’s pioneering study of Camden, Cotton, Selden, Spelman, Ussher, Dugdale, Aubrey and other less well-known antiquaries of the seventeenth century, The Trophies of Time (1996), will cost you £68 to buy in hardback, but to coincide with the Society’s Tercentenary exhibition (to whose catalogue Graham contributed the essays on the earliest antiquaries), Oxford University Press has wisely decided to bring out a paperback reprint at the more affordable price of £19.99.

This is a book that our Fellow Dan Woolf reviewed in Renaissance Forum, saying: ‘there is much information to be gleaned from Parry's close reading of many of the printed texts he discusses, and from his working out of relationships between those texts' authors. This latter feature is the book's greatest strength … The study of early modern English historical thought appears to be attracting renewed interest, and in providing an illuminating synthesis of our knowledge to date, The Trophies of Time will undoubtedly assist further endeavours.’

Our Fellow Graham Connah, of the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University in Canberra, has just published a study of pioneer life in Australia called The same under a different sky? A country estate in nineteenth-century New South Wales (British Archaeological Reports, International Series 1625, Oxford, ix + 269 pages, 174 figures, 48 tables).

The book follows the fortunes of Archibald Clunes Innes, a prominent free settler and agro-pastoral entrepreneur who settled at Lake Innes, near Port Macquarie, and created a large rural estate that was apparently modelled on what he would have liked to have owned, but could not afford, in his native Scotland. Graham surveyed and excavated the building remains and associated sites from 1993 to 2001, testing the archaeological evidence against the substantial documentation that has survived, and looking especially at the people of different classes who lived and worked at the estate, which thrived in the 1830s, with the aid of unpaid convict labour, but failed during the economic depression of the 1840s, leading to the abandoning of the estate by the early 1850s. ‘The resulting archaeological and documentary record’, says Graham, ‘sheds light on the frustrated ambitions of a privileged rural elite in Australia prior to the discovery of gold in the 1850s’.

The Tomb of Edward II: a royal monument in Gloucester Cathedral, by Fellows Richard Bryant and Carolyn Heighway with Gemma Bryant (Past Historic, 16pp, 77 illustrations, ISBN 9780955709302, on sale at Gloucester Cathedral Bookshop, price £4.95, or by post at £6 (cheque payable to Past Historic) from 6 Church Street, Kings Stanley, Stonehouse GL10 3HW) is a brilliant little book that will make you stop and study this stunning Gothic monument in detail. Using drawings, photographs, and a sequence of three-dimensional reconstructions, the authors unpick the monument to show us how it was constructed between 1327 and 1337, with its astonishingly ornate canopy intended to represent the halls of heaven into which the king (in effigy) is gazing – sadly, minus the hordes of saints and angels that once filled the now empty niches.

By coincidence the three Fellows who were instrumental in the founding of SAVE Britain’s Heritage in 1975 – Sir Roy Strong, Marcus Binney and John Harris – all have books out this autumn. The main themes of Roy Strong’s Book, A Little History of the English Country Church (Cape £16.99), have already been rehearsed in Salon: Sir Roy believes that churches must be restored to full community use if they are to have a sustainable future, even if that means making a bonfire of ecclesiastical clutter, such as Victorian pews, to make way for yoga classes (it might also mean defying vicars who want to ban yoga from churches on the grounds of its association with non-Christian religions). By saying ‘restored’ to community use, Sir Roy argues that churches once performed a much wider function within the community than today’s hour-a-week religious service, and his book charts what he regards as the privatisation by the Anglican church of churches that were once village halls but are now locked private chapels.

Privatisation of church furnishings is the theme of John Harris’s Moving Rooms: the trade in architectural salvages (Yale University Press, £30), a book in which he looks at the origins of the antiques trade in post-Revolutionary France, when a mass of woodwork stripped out of churches in France and the Low Countries during the turbulence of the late 18th and early 19th centuries ended up in the shops of Continental brokers, to be snapped up by London-based dealers and used to lend period details to churches and houses all over England – some of which, like Berkeley Castle, were genuinely medieval but needed period furnishings to dress their bare walls. Lest we think of such savagery (which the antiques trade prefers to call ‘salvage’; Salon’s editor knows of one such ‘architectural salvage’ firm in the Cotswolds that hangs a banner outside the buildings that it guts with the words ‘Saving Britain’s Heritage’ emblazoned over it) as a phenomenon of the bad old past, John Harris’s book makes it plain that the trade reached its peak in the 1920s and 1930s, when hundreds of country houses fell to the demolisher’s pickaxe, to feed the fashion for ‘period rooms’ in America: William Randolph Hearst alone acquired the products of no less than a hundred thousand such demolitions to furbish houses in New York, California and St Donat’s Castle in Wales.

If you would like to know more, John Harris is giving the Annual Soane Lecture on this theme at the Sir John Soane Museum, 35–43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2, on 21 November 2007 at 6.30pm. Tickets cost £10 (£5 for students) and are available in advance from Bethany Kingston.

Marcus Binney’s book, In Search of the Perfect House (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £30), looks at the houses that survived the great wave of destruction that he himself did so much to halt with the ‘Destruction of the English Country House’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1974, and the formation of SAVE the following year. Mostly Marcus prefers the buildings whose appeal lies in their authenticity and whose quirks are sui generis rather than those that were decked out with borrowed finery from the salvage trade, and he states a personal preference for ‘English country house baroque’, as exemplified by Holliday Hall in Kent, built in 1719 as a country pied-à-terre out of plum-coloured brick with window and door details of rubbed pink brick, though his eclectic taste ranges from the clean rectangles of interwar Modernist (Woodside House, Bath) to the dizzying herring-bone timberwork of Tudor Pitchford Hall (with its own listed tree house of 1692, with later Gothick interior plasterwork). Marcus animates his choice of 500 candidates for the title of ‘perfect house’ with personal anecdotes, sharing with the reader his first encounters with each house, and how, in many cases, past neglect has been reversed by today’s sympathetic owners.

Library gifts

The Society is very grateful to the following for the gifts they have made to the Library during the period from June to September 2007:

• from the Geological Society, Whatever Is Under The Earth: the Geological Society of London 1807–2007 by Gordon Herries Davies, 2007
• from the author, Professor Temma Berg, The Lives and Letters of an Eighteenth-Century Circle of Acquaintance, 2007
• from Professor Vincent Megaw, Fellow, I Veneti by Lordana Capuis, 2004
• from Michael Corfield, Fellow, Qanats of Bam, by the UNESCO Tehran Office, 2006
• from Philip Allsworth-Jones, Fellow, Über Grossformen des quarzitischen Aurignaciens der palaeolithischen Station Ondratice in Mähren, by K Absolon, 1935–6
• from Mike Allen, Fellow, Upper Wylye Valley Worthies by Maria Mayall (no date)
• from Elizabeth Danbury, Fellow, Images du pouvoir royal, by Ghislain Brunel, 2005
• from the author, James Wilkinson, four pamphlets on Westminster Abbey, 2006–7
• from the author, Paul Rainbird, Fellow, The Archaeology of Islands, 2007
• from Sarah Brown, Fellow, Fairford Parish Church: a medieval church and its stained glass by Sarah Brown and Lindsay MacDonald, 2007
• from Carolyn Heighway, Fellow, Missione archeologica italiana a Malta, by Guiseppe Busuttil and others, 1969; The Offerings of Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan, by Leonardo L Lujon, 1994; and The Athens of Alma Tadema, by Richard Tomlinson, 1991
• from John Blatchly, Fellow, My Personal Bookplates, by Brian North Lee, 2001; and The Bookplate Library of Brian North Lee, Claude Cox catalogue 128, 2007
• from the author, Mark Hall, Fellow, Playtime in Pictland, 2007
• from Alison Taylor, Secretary, Majolica and Glass from Italy to Antwerp and Beyond, edited by Johan Veeckman, 2002
• from the author, Alastair Maxwell-Irving, Fellow, Family Memoirs, 2007
• from Joan Alcock, Fellow, The Horace’s Villa Project, 1997–2003, edited by Bernard Frischer et al, 2006
• from the author, Bernard Morris, Fellow, George Orleans Delamotte: a South Wales sketch book, 2007
• from the author, Philip Higson, Fellow, The Singular Lords Willoughby, 2007


Museum of London: Head of Development
Attractive package, closing date 22 October 2007

This is essentially a fundraising post, involving the management and leadership of a team devoted to a major fundraising campaign for the Museum of London Group. Further details from the Odgers website.

Museums, Libraries and Archives Council: Director of Programme Delivery (£85k) and Programme Manager (£55k) for the 2012 Olympic Games, closing date 22 October 2007
Both posts are to help the MLA develop a national programme of events and exhibitions as part of the Cultural Olympiad associated with the 2012 Olympics. Further information from the Odgers website.

RAF Museum: Director, Collections Division
£60,000, closing date 9 November 2007

The post reports to (and deputises for) the Director General of the RAF Museum, dedicated to the history of aviation and of the Royal Air Force. The museum is looking for a motivated individual with a proven record of achievement in a senior operational role with a major museum. For a full job description, contact Personnel Assistant Pauline Shepherd.