Salon Archive

Issue: 174

Forthcoming meetings

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

1 November: Ballot with exhibits from the ‘Making History’ exhibition

8 November: Don Francisco’s nose-piece: forming new empires in Renaissance America, by Felipe Fernández-Armesto, FSA, at Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

15 November: ‘A decayed town on the spurs of the Pyrenees’: Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and antiquaries in Aquitania, by Simon Esmonde Cleary, FSA, and Jason Wood, FSA

This lecture will look at the visits of two eminent Fellows of the Society, Charles Roach Smith and M R James, to western and south-western France in the course of the nineteenth century and their value for the speakers’ more recent work at Larçay (near Tours) and Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. Smith’s drawings of the former proved remarkably accurate. At the latter, scene of one of James’s most atmospheric ghost stories, the speakers’ work in the 1990s revealed a unique late Roman wall-top and added substantially to our understanding of the shift from the open Roman town in the valley to the defended medieval town on the hill.

‘Making History’ evening lecture: ‘Why We Need to Collect’

Our Fellow Loyd Grossman, Chair of the Campaign for Museums, will give a lecture on 9 November in association with the Society’s ‘Making History’ exhibition at the Royal Academy. The lecture will look at the development of collecting from private individuals to public institutions, the changing role of collections and the continuing imperative to collect. For further information, see the Royal Academy website.

Ballot: 1 November 2007

Blue Papers for the 1 November ballot can be found on the website, where you can read the Blue Papers and vote online. Contact Christopher Catling if you have problems accessing the Fellows’ area of the site, or would like to register for a password.

Ballot of 11 October

The Society is very pleased to welcome the following new Fellows who were all elected in the ballot held on 11 October 2007:

• Simon Buteux, Research Fellow, University of Birmingham, former Director of the university’s field archaeology unit; now running the National Ice Age Network and working on a new research framework for the British Palaeolithic.
• Niall Brady, Director of the Medieval Rural Settlement Project, Discovery Programme, Dublin, who has published widely on medieval agrarian archaeology and medieval settlement.
• Sheila Raven, Archaeological Research Assistant, Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford, manager of the current Marcham (Frilford) training excavation, assistant to Rupert Bruce-Mitford, editor and contributor to his Corpus of Late Celtic Hanging Bowls (2005).
• Brigitte Bedos-Rezak, Professor of History, New York University, and a leading international authority on medieval European seals and their administrative, cultural and symbolic significance.
• Michael Anderson, numismatic scholar with a detailed knowledge of the currency of South America, particularly the social and economic background and with special reference to the coinage of Ecuador.
• Peter Didsbury, archaeologist, specialist in the Iron Age to post-medieval ceramics of East Yorkshire and the Humber region and a major contributor to Wharram Percy monographs.
• Fred Scott Kleiner, Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Boston University, specialising in the study of Roman architecture and art, notably on imperial votive and triumphal arches; author of A History of Roman Art (2007) and Art and Politics in Imperial Rome (CUP, forthcoming).
• Chris Gosden, Professor of European Archaeology, University of Oxford, author of important work on Pacific and European Prehistory, archaeological theory and the archaeology of colonialism; currently leading a major AHRC-funded research project on British Iron Age art.
• Ian Leith, curator and photographer with the National Monuments Record, a specialist in photographic history and in the study and conservation of public sculpture through his work with the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association and the Sculpture Journal.
• Friedrich Luth, Director, Romische-Germanishe Kommission of the Deutsches Archeologisches Institute, a leading authority on the north European Bronze Age, who has played a key role in the development of underwater archaeology in Germany.
• Philip Freeman, University Lecturer, University of Liverpool, with a distinguished record of fieldwork in the UK, Jordan, Turkey and the Crimea; co-organiser of the Limes Congress in Jordan in 2000 and author / editor of numerous publications.
• Martin Bridge, university lecturer and expert on the use of tree-ring widths as a means of dating historic timbers; author of numerous papers on dendrochronology in medieval archaeology and vernacular architecture.
• Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator, Historic Royal Palaces, architectural historian, author of The Architectural Patronage of William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle, 1593–1676 (2004) and Cavalier: a tale of chivalry, passion, and great houses (2007; see ‘Books by Fellows’ below).
• Nicholas Stoodley, archaeological consultant and a specialist in early Anglo-Saxon archaeology, in particular in the fields of gender and the life cycle.
• Jeremy Haselock, Clerk in Holy Orders, Residentiary Canon, Precentor and Vice-Dean of Norwich, specialising in medieval art and architecture, particularly medieval glass.
• John Reay, Senior Manager, Bodleian Library, historian, writer and lecturer specialising in naval history; author of works on the Royal Navy in Catalonia during the Peninsular War, Nelson and the Admiralty.
• Thomas Mannack, Reader in Classical Iconography, Beazley Archive, University of Oxford, internationally recognised expert in Greek vase painting and director of the database published by the Beazley Archive.
• Matthew Slocombe, Deputy Secretary, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, architectural historian and the SPAB caseworker since 1991; previously caseworker for the Georgian Group.
• Cyprian Broodbank, Senior Lecturer in Aegean Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, director of the Kythera Island Project, with extensive publications on Aegean prehistory, especially An Island Archaeology of the Early Cyclades (CUP 2001).
• Susan Hamilton, Reader in Later European Prehistory, Institute of Archaeology, London, specialist in landscape archaeology and in later British prehistory, especially ceramics; co-director of the Tavoliere-Gargano Prehistory Project, southern Italy.
• Stephen Bond, archaeologist and chartered building surveyor, joint course director of the postgraduate Conservation of the Historic Environment programme at the College of Estate Management, University of Reading.
• Gabriele Cifani, Lecturer, University of Rome, specialist in archaic and mid-Republican architecture in Rome, patterns of settlement in central Italy and the Romanisation of North Africa.
• David Wilson, Solicitor of the Supreme Court, Chartered Secretary, Director and Chief Executive, The Wordsworth Trust, author of seminal articles on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art and history, particularly sculpture.
• Madeleine Hummler, Reviews Editor, Antiquity, specialist in the European Iron Age and the prehistory of Sutton Hoo.
• Robert Hunter, former Curator of Ceramics, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Collections, now editor of Ceramics in America, proprietor of Period Designs and author of numerous papers on early American ceramics.

‘Highly recommended for the intelligent and aesthetically inclined Druid’

Such is the verdict of The Raven, the online newsletter of the Tamesis (London) group of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids on ‘Making History’, the Society’s exhibition at the Royal Academy. The Raven recommends a visit to anyone interested in ‘the antiquarian investigation of Druidic (Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age) remains’, and singles out ‘a Roman cavalry helmet with the face of a god for a visor’, saying ‘I know we don’t like the Romans but this is breathtaking!’.

The International Herald Tribune says that the exhibition demonstrates the way that the Society ‘laid the foundations of history as understood today, giving precedence to material evidence over theories, largely mythical, that had prevailed until then about the British past’.

The London Review of Books, in a review written by Rosemary Hill, draws a contrast between ‘the somewhat dowdy antiquaries, looking at best respectable in oils and at worst ridiculous in the hands of Rowlandson and Cruikshank, and the thrilling glamour of many of the exhibits’, and adds: ‘Gathered like anatomists around the Society’s table, they sifted and discussed each others’ finds, and through their researches and publications gave birth to local history, social history, the history of costume, oral history and archaeology’.

A lengthy review by Ferdinand Mount, in The Times Literary Supplement, characterises the exhibition as: ‘a rare show of the beautiful and the banal, the finely wrought, the falsely dated and other things that make the stuff of history’. Mount approves of the exhibition in the warmest terms, saying that ‘the delight of the show comes not just from the objects on display, but from the zest of antiquaries at work, their itch to see for themselves, to dig deeper, to retrieve, to record, restore and collect’.

‘If the exhibition has a gap’, he concludes, ‘it is in the natural bias of national organisations to undervalue the local. County organisations of archaeologists and antiquaries get only a walk-on part. Yet their contribution to both preservation and knowledge has often been formidable’. Among their transactions, he says, you will find ‘the scholarly and the fantastical … in the same room practitioners of the hardest science and of the most engaging fancy … it is in these obscure transactions that you can still recapture something of the old unity and uncertainty of human enquiry. Or, as a short cut, you can go to “Making History”.’

Better than expected result for English Heritage

English Heritage announced on 19 October that it was happy enough with the modest increase in funding that it will receive from central Government over the next three years as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Funding for the agency’s work will increase from its current level of £123.7 million in 2007–8 to £124.7 million in 2008–9, £126.7 million in 2009–10, and £130.7 million in 2010–11. This represents a rise in its baseline grant of £7 million by 2010/11 and a cumulative increase in funds of £11 million in total over the three-year period.

With retail price inflation currently claimed to be 1.8 per cent, and assuming that there is no increase over the period, the uplift keeps English Heritage only just ahead of inflation, but English Heritage Chairman Lord Bruce-Lockhart nevertheless welcomed the settlement as ‘reversing a decade of cash cuts’.

Earlier this week, before the settlement had been announced, Lord Bruce-Lockhart pointed to five years of progressive reduction in central Government funding for the heritage, amounting to £50 million and 13 per cent in real terms. Calling for a change of policy, he said: ‘Heritage is hugely popular with the public and the backbone of England’s multi-billion pound tourist industry. It is not, and should not, be a political issue but part of a nation’s self-esteem and pride, helping to define our national identity and sense of belonging.’ He challenged the Secretary of State to ‘seize this opportunity [and] go down in history as the first for a decade to be a heritage hero rather than a heritage hatchet man’.

Acknowledging that the Secretary of State’s announcement ‘will present considerable financial challenges’, and that further savings will have to be made in some areas of English Heritage activity, Lord Bruce-Lockhart said that priority would be given to implementing the new Heritage Protection legislation and to supporting the repair and maintenance needs of historic places of worship.

Seaside heritage

English Heritage has been hosting a conference on seaside heritage this week, warning that ‘regeneration’ must not just mean ‘development’ under a more benign-sounding name. Its warning echoes the views of people in Whitstable who last week presented a petition, signed by 16,000 local people (out of a population of 30,000), protesting at the local planning authority’s proposals to ‘enhance’ the east Kent fishing port by demolishing quayside buildings to make way for a hotel, supermarket and ‘themed’ pub.

Local whelk and oyster fisherman, Derek West, told the Independent newspaper that the plans threaten the survival of one of the last small-scale working harbours in south-east England. Speaking in front of a large banner reading ‘Hands off our harbour – shipping not shopping’, he said: ‘Why on earth would you want to put a supermarket in a place like this? We have two huge supermarkets on the edge of town. If I want to go to the pub, there is one across the street. This is a working harbour with a fish market. These plans would kill this harbour off, not regenerate it.’

Canterbury City Council, which owns the quay, counters this by saying that £3m of maintenance work is needed to the quay in the next decade, that it must remain economically viable and that regeneration by a developer is the most obvious way of achieving this.

Putting a different perspective on the issue, our Fellow Simon Thurley, English Heritage chief executive, said: ‘People and businesses flourish in places where local character and distinctiveness are being revived, often through physical renewal and reuse of historic buildings’, adding that: ‘investing in the historic core of seaside towns is the essential first step in revitalising communities and giving residents a home with a soul’.

Clone-town Britain needs to break the monotony

Lazy ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions like those proposed for Whitstable were further condemned last week in a report from the Work Foundation Think Tank, which said that places that embraced their idiosyncrasies were more economically successful than monotonous clone towns. The Think Tank called upon planning authorities to demand creative new buildings from developers rather than identical houses and predictable shops, and to ‘break free from the tyranny of the chain store’ by setting aside low rent properties for the independent retailers and home-grown businesses that attract visitors.

Neil Lee, author of the report, called ‘Distinctiveness and Cities: beyond “Find and Replace” economic development’, said that: ‘People are beginning to realise that local identity matters. Place-making relies on using points of difference to competitive advantage, and the most economically and socially successful cities artfully use their distinctiveness to craft a compelling offer to people and companies; distinctiveness becomes a conscious, explicit strategy of redevelopment and works best when the unique history of a location is used to build a compelling proposition.’

Top ten Victorian ‘buildings at risk’

Sadly, there are plenty of unique and compelling buildings in the UK that are also on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register, and last week, the Victorian Society decided to highlight the plight of the ten most endangered buildings constructed between the mid-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

The list includes Sheffield’s Old Town Hall, described by the Vic Soc as ‘a distinctive landmark with huge potential to contribute to the redevelopment of its surrounding area’ that has stood empty for ten years; Crocker's, Aberdeen Place, London, a fine late Victorian pub with an opulent interior, which, like many other good historic pubs, stands boarded up and disused; and the Mechanics Institute, Swindon, Wiltshire, built by the Great Western Railway as a library and education centre for employees in the adjacent railway works, and potentially part of a future Great Western Railway World Heritage Site, but long neglected by its developer owner after plans to create a hotel and nightclub were rejected.

Ann Morgan, the Victorian Society’s community engagement officer, said the threat to historical buildings had not diminished in fifty years because though ‘we are not seeing the big applications to demolish Grade I listed buildings any more … what we are seeing are a lot of very good listed buildings which are locked up and left to rot … a slower, more insidious [form of] decline’.

Bronze Age rock art found on Whitby headland

English Heritage archaeologists working on the headland around Whitby Abbey have begun filling in the history of the site with the discovery this autumn of a stone carved with linear markings similar to those found on the North York Moors that date from the Bronze Age. They have also found evidence of an Iron Age enclosure and dwelling on the site, and signs of glass and lead-making from the Anglian period (seventh to ninth centuries AD), which is close to the date of the foundation of the first abbey in AD 657.

Our Fellow Sarah Jennings says that the rock art is ‘potentially a very significant find as we have hardly any material from this period in the headland’s past’, but that ‘we need to wait for detailed analysis before we draw firm conclusions. If it is Bronze Age, then it underlines that the headland has a long history of settlement, well before St Hilda founded the Abbey.’

North Wales weapons factory considered for listing

The Welsh Assembly Government confirmed last week that Cadw, the Welsh heritage agency, was considering a proposal to designate parts of the Rhydymwyn munitions factory, located near Mold, in North Wales, which was used to manufacture chemical weapons during the Second World War and for early work on the first atomic bomb. The factory is the only purpose-built facility of its kind in the UK: the other six big munitions factories from the period were based in existing ICI chemical factories.

Designation could cover the ‘Danger Zone’, where explosives were mixed, the welfare centre and the emergency treatment centre, as well as a vast network of underground tunnels, chambers and air-raid shelters, last used to store European Union food surpluses.

Officially the secret site did not exist, and to prevent it being located by German intelligence it was left off Ordnance Survey maps. The Government has spent some £3m on cleaning up the legacy of mustard gas and chemical weapons production at Rhydymwyn, which now boasts the award-winning Rhydymwyn Valley Nature Reserve, a wetland area and a field study centre for local schoolchildren housed in one of the former factory buildings.

Cornish language experts cannot agree on a single written form

Unless you are a Cornish speaker, you are probably unaware that there are at least four different forms of the language, and the 300 or so people who can claim to be fluent Cornish speakers have long debated the merits of Unified Cornish, Modern Cornish (also known as Revised Late Cornish), Revived Cornish (also known as Common Cornish) and Unified Cornish Revised.

In practice, the differences between these four main forms relate primarily to the written, rather than the spoken, language, but with European Union funding now available for the development of the language, agreement on what is being called a Single Written Form is seen as critical to the future of the language as a medium for education and for public communication in everything from street signs to newspaper reports.

The Guardian reported last week that the linguists meeting under the aegis of the Cornish Language Partnership have now decided that, such is the level of animosity shown by supporters of the different systems to each other, the only possible way forward is to ‘appoint an independent arbitrator, advised by a small ad hoc group reflecting different viewpoints, whose ultimate decision would be binding’.

Giving a flavour of the passion that the issue generates, the Cornish Language Partnership says in its recommendation that: ‘attacking other persons will not help the Cornish language nor will it contribute to a constructive debate’, adding that ‘very many committed speakers, from all camps, are thoroughly disillusioned and disheartened by the current controversy, and feel that almost any decision, even if it means they themselves having to make a special effort to relearn the written language, would be better than the current chaos’.

One wonders who (out of the very small pool of linguists capable of acting as arbiter) would be brave enough to take on the task; and if they don’t like the result, will the 300 Cornish speakers simply all end up not talking to each other?

Robert Hooke’s papers on the internet

The Royal Society has announced that the 520-page Hooke folio, consisting of manuscript notes and minutes kept by Robert Hooke (1635–1703) between 1661 and 1692, while he was Curator of Experiments and then Secretary of the Royal Society, can now be read on the internet. The remarkable folio records many of the scientist’s own experiments and others conducted by figures such as Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren, as well as the disputes and rivalries that arose among the founders of British empirical science.

Hooke’s minutes formed the only part of the Society’s records to have gone missing since it was established in 1660. Early last year the documents were rediscovered in a cupboard at a house in Hampshire, and put up for auction. The Royal Society initially sought to have them returned as stolen, but eventually raised £940,000 to buy them with a grant from the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s biggest biomedical science charity.

Professor Lisa Jardine of Queen Mary, University of London, who is also adviser to the Royal Society’s collections and Hooke’s biographer, has led the team transcribing the work. She said that the document would give historians, scientists and the public a unique opportunity to understand the beginnings of modern science. ‘Hooke’s manuscripts give us an insight into the intellectual wonder and excitement during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries’, she said. ‘Scientific knowledge and understanding was on the cusp of discovery and “science”, in the modern sense, was about to be born.’

Project to publish the Banks archive

The project to publish the archives of Sir Joseph Banks has reached its first major milestone with the publication of The Scientific Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks, 1765–1820. This six-volume work is described by its editor, our Fellow Neil Chambers, Research Curator of the Banks Archive Project at the Natural History Museum, London, as ‘a continuous record of fifty years of intellectual and technological activity [providing] a unique insight into the development of science and discovery from the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century and linking British science and society to developments on the continent of Europe, the West Indies, North America and to countries farther afield.’

The correspondence starts when, in 1761, the eighteen-year-old Banks inherited several estates in Lincolnshire, providing him with a substantial income for the rest of his life, enabling him to finish his studies at Oxford and move to London where he became a member of the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries and spent much of his time in the reading room of the new British Museum. Rather than undertake the conventional Grand Tour, he embarked on the more ambitious project of seeing the whole world, and so boarded Captain Cook's Endeavour. Three years later, he had collected 3,600 species of plants in Tahiti, Australia and South America, 1,400 of which were new to English botanists, and he returned to his house in Soho Square in London, which became a de facto Academy of Natural History, where scientists met weekly for working breakfasts and dinners, while the library and natural history specimens were accessible to scholars from all over the world.

Until now scholars have had to rely on original manuscripts when writing about Banks, a process that involves deciphering his difficult handwriting, which deteriorated badly with age and gout. The complete six-volume work costs £595, but some of the more important letters from the 6,000 or so that Banks wrote have been brought together in The Letters of Sir Joseph Banks: a selection 1768–1820, also edited by Neil Chambers, for a more modest £33.

South Africa: origin of Homo sapiens?

In the 18 October issue of the journal Nature, an international team of researchers at Arizona State University have said that, in default of any other sites that can demonstrate earlier evidence of human behaviour, then Cave 13B at Pinnacle Point in South Africa has the best claim to being the birthplace of the human species.

Palaeo-anthropologist Curtis Marean, co-author of the report, says that the evidence from Cave 13B – which includes ochre lumps with scrape marks, indicating the use of the red pigment in symbolic behaviour, along with complex bladelet tools and food harvested from the sea – all dates from 164,000 years ago and is thus the earliest dated observation of human behaviour.

DNA evidence suggests that the modern human species evolved in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, but archaeological sites of this period have proved elusive. Marean’s team used palaeo-environmental data to find sites to explore where humans could have survived the harsh weather conditions of the glacial stage of 125,000 to 195,000 years ago and picked on the Cape of South Africa at Pinnacle Point as a place to look for the material evidence of human progenitor populations.

Marean claims his dating is secure, ‘because of the use of two advanced and independent techniques’, namely uranium series dates for the stalagmite material covering the cave deposits and optically stimulated luminescence for dating thousands of grains of sand from the shellfish remains found in the cave.

‘This evidence shows that Africa, and particularly southern Africa, was precocious in the development of modern human biology and behaviour. We believe that on the far southern shore of Africa there was a small population of modern humans who struggled through this glacial period using shellfish and advanced technologies, and symbolism was important to their social relations. It is possible that this population could be the progenitor population for all modern humans,’ Marean concludes (read the full Arizona State University press release on this subject on the Eureka alert website.

New interactive digital map of Australasian archaeology

A new interactive digital map has been developed by Matthew Coller, of the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University, to model changes in the Australian coastline with the rise and fall of sea levels over the past 100,000 years. Accompanying the map are images and text showing key archaeological sites and the possible routes that were undertaken by humans in their journey to Australia during the last Ice Age.

Coller, who presented his map at the recent Australasian Archaeological Conference at the University of Sydney, used sea-floor data and changes in sea level around Australia and Asia derived from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Geoscience Australia. He hopes that his mapping of the continent of Australia and New Guinea will be useful to archaeologists in visualising their data and testing theories. ‘It puts archaeological discoveries into their geo-morphological context’, he said.

Four waves of human migrations in the circum-Pacific Region

The Journal of Biogeography has published a comprehensive review of human genetic, environmental and archaeological data from the so-called circum-Pacific Region (land masses bounding the Pacific Ocean) to examine the evidence for human migration into the region. The study, by Kevin Pope of Geo Eco Arc Research and John Terrell of The Field Museum, Chicago, argues that the expansion of modern human populations into the circum-Pacific region occurred in at least four waves, in part controlled by climate and sea-level changes in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene epochs. An initial ‘out of Africa’ migration was halted by dramatic changes in both sea level and climate and extreme drought in the coastal zone. A period of stable climate and sea level 45,000–40,000 years BP gave rise to the first major pulse of circum-Pacific migration, when modern humans spread from India, throughout much of coastal south-east Asia, Australia and Melanesia, extending northward to eastern Russia and Japan by 37,000 years BP.

The northward push of modern humans along the eastern coast of Asia stalled north of the 43 degrees latitude, probably due to the inability of the populations to adjust to cold waters and tundra / steppe vegetation. The ensuing cold and dry Last Glacial period, from 33,000 to 16,000 years BP, once again brought dramatic changes in sea level and climate, which caused abandonment of many coastal sites. After 16,000 years BP, climates began to warm, but the sea level was still 100m below modern levels, creating conditions amenable for a human migration into North America across an ice-free coastal plain now covered by the Bering Sea.

The stabilization of climate and sea level in the early Holocene (8,000 to 6,000 years BP) supported the expansion of coastal wetlands, lagoons and coral reefs, which in turn gave rise to a third pulse of coastal settlement, filling in most of the circum-Pacific region. A slight drop in sea level in the western Pacific in the mid-Holocene (6,000 to 4,000 years BP), caused a reduction in productive coastal habitats, leading to a brief disruption in human subsistence along the then densely settled coast. This disruption may have helped initiate the last major pulse of human migration in the circum-Pacific region, that of the migration to Oceania, which began about 3,500 years BP and culminated in the settlement of Hawaii and Easter Island by 2,000 to 1,000 years BP.

On Aboriginal architecture

Anthropologist and architect Dr Paul Memmott, of the University of Queensland, has published a book in which he discredits the widely held belief that Australian Aborigines were completely nomadic before the arrival of Europeans. This belief was used by white settlers to claim that Australia belonged to nobody because there were no permanent habitations. Dr Memmott said the myth arose because early explorers made their observations in good weather, when indigenous people were more mobile than at other times. His work, based on oral histories, explorers' diaries, paintings and photographs held in the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre collection, at the University of Queensland, shows that a variety of sophisticated architectural structures were built, and that Australia’s indigenous peoples lived in villages.

Dwellings were constructed in various styles, depending on the climate. Most common were dome-like structures made of cane reeds with roofs thatched with palm leaves. Some of the houses were interconnected, encouraging interaction during long periods spent indoors during the wet season. In the rainforest area around Cairns, in Queensland, where there was heavy rain for much of the year, people would occupy such villages for up to a year; villages were built near a staple food source, such as rainforest trees. Dr Memmott also found evidence of dome housing on the west coast of Tasmania, with triple layers of cladding and insulation, while in western Victoria, Aborigines built circular stone walls more than a metre high, constructing dome roofs over the top with earth or sod cladding.

Very little indigenous architecture in Australia remains after local authorities burned or bulldozed the structures in the belief they were health hazards.

‘The world's oldest wall painting’

An 11,000-year-old mural, consisting of red, black and white rectangles and recalling the work of Mondrian, has been discovered at Djade al-Mughara, a Neolithic settlement on the Euphrates river north east of the city of Aleppo in the Syrian countryside. Eric Coqueugniot, the leader of the French archaeological team which unearthed the mural, claimed it as the world's oldest wall painting and told reporters that: ‘Through carbon dating, we established it is from around 9000 BC’, adding that: ‘We found another painting next to it but that won't be excavated until next year. It is slow work.’

The wall painting, measuring 2m by 2m, formed part of the circular wall of a large house. Its red tint came from burnt hematite rock, while crushed limestone formed the white and charcoal provided the black. The wall will be moved and put on display at Aleppo Museum next year. Eric Coqueugniot said: ‘There was a purpose in having the painting in what looked like a communal house but we don't know what it was. The village was later abandoned and the house stuffed with mud.’ For a picture, see the Reuters website.

Unearthing Rome's king

Italian archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a 2,700-year-old sanctuary dating from the eighth century BC. This was the time when, according to Plutarch, Rome’s legendary second king, Numa Pompilius, elected at the age of forty to succeed Romulus, the founder of Rome, established religious practices and observance in the emergent city state, instituting the office of priest or pontifex and founding the cult of the Vestal Virgins.

The wall of the temple was found seven metres below the modern ground surface, together with a street and pavement and two wells, one round and one rectangular. Both wells were ‘full of thousands of votive offerings and cult objects, including the bones of birds and animals and ceramic bowls and cups’, said Clementina Panella, the archaeologist from Rome’s Sapienza University who is leading the dig.

Last year Dr Panella, who has been excavating in the Forum for twenty years, discovered the sceptre of the Emperor Maxentius, wrapped in silk and linen in a wooden box together with battle standards and lance heads.

The Stained Glass Museum’s 2007 autumn lecture series

Now in its third year, the Stained Glass Museum’s autumn lecture series for 2007 features talks on Georgian architecture, millefiori glass paperweights, William Morris and heraldic devices in stained glass. Lectures are held at the museum in Ely every fortnight in October and November, with a post-lecture supper available through advance booking. For further information, see the museum’s website.

The use of metal for the building of cathedrals and other medieval monuments

The Material Culture and Data Science Research Group at the UCL Institute for Archaeology is hosting a free lunch-time lecture (1pm to 2pm) entitled ‘Stone Skeleton or Iron Skeleton?’, to be given by Philippe Dillmann of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France, on Tuesday 30 October 2007, in Room 410 at the Institute of Archaeology. The lecture will argue that it is impossible to try to understand the structure of such buildings as the cathedrals of Rouen, Bourges, Beauvais and Amiens, the Donjon of Vincennes castle or the Pope’s Palace in Avignon without taking account of the several tons of metal used in their construction, and that ferrous clamps, rods and reinforcements were widely used in religious and military buildings during the Middle Ages. The paper will also examine the important advances from the use of bloomery forges to the blast furnace and refining hearth for producing iron, along with the use of the hydraulic hammer, which enabled this major change in construction technology during the medieval period.

Further information is available from Dr Xander Veldhuijzen.

‘Childe Fifty Years After’

The History of Archaeology Research Grouping in Durham, with the financial help of the Prehistoric Society, is organising a free conference on the legacy of Gordon Childe, who died fifty years ago, on 19 October 1957. The conference will take place on 1 December 2007 in the Archaeology Department, Dawson Building, Durham University (further details from the departmental website, or from Margarita Díaz-Andreu, and will include papers on Childe at Oxford, the Edinburgh years, Childe at the London Institute of Archaeology and the international context for the reception of Childe’s ideas.

Fellow Paul Stamper writes to say that: ‘In the last Salon, you give a date of 1692 for the Pitchford tree house in Shropshire [in the review of Marcus Binney’s book, In Search of the Perfect House]. No one, I think, disputes this is the oldest tree house in Britain, and a rare survival of the vogue for quietism in late Elizabethan England, providing, as it did, a contemplative view over Pitchford’s woody deer park. I am not sure where 1692 has come from; as far as I am aware 1714 marks its first documented appearance. However, I am minded to date it to the second quarter of the seventeenth century, broadly contemporary with a tree house (or ‘arber’ as it is annotated) shown at Dothill, subsumed in present-day Telford (also in Shropshire), on a map of 1626.

‘Perhaps as remarkable as the tree house itself is the lime tree in which it is perched. As far as I am aware this has always been its location, so the tree must already have been sturdy when the tree house was built and was presumably at least a century old. Thus it may now be 500 years old; the late Alan Mitchell reckoned it probably England’s oldest. The Pitchford tree house thus becomes a sort of built and natural heritage Double First. I wonder if Fellows are aware of any analogous examples?’

The same issue of Salon reported on the discovery of a freshly planted 1,400-year-old manioc field preserved under volcanic ash at the ancient Mayan village of Ceren, in El Salvador. Fellow Norman Hammond says this might well be the first field of its type, but is far from being the first evidence of manioc cultivation, which he and Jon Hather reported in Antiquity in 1994 as dating from 1200 BC, at the Pre-classic Maya site of Cuello. Since then, Norman writes, there has been identification of manioc pollen dating perhaps as far back as 2500 BC in the same area, which suggests that Maya might have grown it from the beginnings of their settled village life onwards.

John Coales, OBE, FSA (1931–2007)

Readers of Salon will be sad to learn of the passing on 6 October 2007 of John Coales, who was elected a Fellow in 1974. Salon’s editor is very grateful to our Fellow Martin Stuchfield for help in compiling the following appreciation of John’s life and achievements.

In the 2007 New Year Honours List, John was appointed OBE for his services to conservation, and especially for his work as founder, and lately chairman, of the Francis Coales Charitable Foundation. This was established in memory of his grandfather by John in 1975 following a disastrous fire at the corn mill at Newport Pagnell which Francis Coales established in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Following the fire, the business was wound up and the proceeds used to establish the Foundation whose main objective is ‘to assist with the repair of old buildings open to the public … preference [being] given to churches and their contents in Bucks, Beds, Northants and Herts’ (these being the four counties in which Francis Coales & Son once traded).

The Francis Coales Charitable Foundation also provided grants or loans to meet the cost ‘of antiquarian research by archaeological or other methods’ and to assist with the conservation of monuments and monumental brasses ‘without territorial restriction’. The Society of Antiquaries was a regular recipient of generous financial assistance for publishing, library and collections projects, as was the Monumental Brass Society, of which John was a founder member.

John served the Monumental Brass Society as Honorary Secretary from 1966 to 1974 and as Vice-President from 1974 to 2002. In 1987 he edited The Earliest English Brasses: patronage, style and workshops 1270–1350, published in 1987 to mark the centenary of the Society, and in 2002 he was appointed Patron in succession to Dr Michael Ramsey, the one-hundredth Archbishop of Canterbury.

John also served on the council of the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society, and was an honorary member of the Northamptonshire Record Society and the Wolverton & District Archaeological Society. He was especially pleased that the British Archaeological Association acknowledged his contribution with a Vice-Presidency.

His funeral, followed by committal in the family grave, took place at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, on 17 October, with many Fellows present.

Late Fellows

Our Fellow Christopher Young writes to let us know of the sudden death of his aunt, Joan Radcliffe Clarke, on 13 October 2007. Joan had been a Fellow of the Society since January 1952, at which time she was an Assistant Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum and had published articles on Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon topics in Oxfordshire. She dug for Kathleen Kenyon at both Sabratha and Jericho, and was also responsible for the museum displays at Chedworth Roman villa. She is survived by her husband, David T-D Clarke (also a Fellow), and by her four children.

Salon has also been informed of the deaths of our Fellows Ralph Hoddinott, who died on 29 September, aged 94, and of Irene M Gray, of Stoke St Milborough, near Ludlow.

Books by Fellows

Salon is a little like a radio programme: it doesn’t have any images, so the editor has to work a little harder to paint pictures in words. But if Salon were a TV programme it would aspire to resemble the latest Thames & Hudson archaeology book, called Discovery!, in which page after gorgeous page is filled with arresting photographs of archaeological finds from all corners of the world – all of them made within the last fifteen years.

Thus you can see the tiny skull of Homo floresiensis, gaze down at what a team of Wessex archaeologists saw as they cleaned up the grave of the Amesbury Archer, admire life-like feathers on golden ducks from Syrian tombs of the 2nd millennium BC, or wonder at the near-perfection of golden bowls and ewers inscribed with the names of eighth-century BC Assyrian queens; marvel at the human ingenuity represented by the lengths of knotted cord that add up to an Inca balance sheet – imagine if today’s accountants had to learn to deliver their audits in the form of bundles of knotted string – or speculate over the meaning of such enigmatic discoveries as the tenth-century BC T-shaped pillars of Göbeki Tepe, in south-eastern Turkey, carved with wild and dangerous animals (snakes, scorpions, lions, wild cattle and wild boar) on the eve of the Neolithic agricultural evolution, the Nebra Sky Disc, the Stanton Drew stone circle, Seahenge or the hoard of swan- and boar-headed bronze helmets and war trumpets from a third-century BC ritual deposit from Tintignac, in the Massif Central.

The book not only appeals because of the freshness and immediacy of these recent discoveries (some of the sites described within its pages have yet to be published and some have been kept secret to prevent looting) but also because the authors of the accompanying texts are, in nearly every case, the directors of the excavation and / or the world expert on the subject (that means that many of them are also Fellows, and those contributors who are not probably ought to be!).

Rather than list them all (there are sixty in total), it is perhaps better to credit the one person whose name does not appear anywhere on the book, our Fellow Colin Ridler, long-standing editor of Thames & Hudson’s award-winning archaeology list, whose commitment to archaeology publishing has resulted in another book that seasoned archaeologists will learn from and enjoy, but which you could also give to any non-archaeological friend as the perfect answer to why people like us bother with stuff that is old, broken and buried.

A major new book by our Fellow David Watkin, Professor of the History of Architecture at Cambridge and Head of the History of Art Department, is concerned with the life and work of the distinguished architectural painter, Carl Laubin. Published by Philip Wilson, Carl Laubin: the poetry of art and architecture follows the development of Laubin’s work from his earliest Realist landscape painting, influenced by nineteenth-century French painting, to his later and more elaborate architectural compositions based on the buildings of Wren, Hawksmoor, Cockerell and Ledoux. In particular it explores the artist’s use of capriccio, combining features of imaginary and real architecture in a picturesque or dramatic setting.

Sometimes such caprices can lead to something more solid than a painting, as is the case of a painting by Carl Laubin which our Fellow, Peter Boughton, Keeper of Art and Architecture at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, has recently been able to commission for the museum. That painting depicts a real house – Henbury Hall, built in 1984–6, inspired by Andrea Palladio’s Villa Rotonda and its eighteenth-century English variants and described by Peter Broughton as ‘the most beautiful Classical country house to have been built in the British Isles since 1938’.

But Henbury Hall was itself built in imitation of a painting; in 1981, the artist Felix Kelly produced a picture of a Palladian temple for Sebastian de Ferranti, who liked the building so much that he commissioned the architect Julian Bicknell to design and build the house.

Carl Laubin’s recent painting thus has as many mirrored layers of meaning as a film by Peter Greenaway – see it for real at the Grosvenor Museum, or in virtual reality on the museum’s website.

The blurb for Cavalier: a tale of chivalry, passion, and great houses (Faber and Faber, 2007), a new book by our freshly elected Fellow, Lucy Worsley, also reads like the plot for a Greenaway film, promising: ‘a picture of conspiracy, sexual intrigue, clandestine marriage and gossip’, and a cast of characters that includes ‘Ben Jonson and Van Dyck [and] a savage, knife-wielding master-cook’. Yet this is no work of ‘upstairs–downstairs’ fiction, but rather a portrait of William Cavendish, famously defeated at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, who then escaped to live in Antwerp, where he set up his famous riding school, specialising in the arts of manège and dressage, then returned to England at the Restoration to lavish what remained of his fortune on building projects, such as Welbeck Abbey and Bolsover Castle. Positive reviews in the heavyweight newspapers bode well for Lucy’s future as a best-selling author.

A short distance from Bolsover is Creswell Crags, and it is with justifiable pride that Paul Bahn opens his new book on Cave Art: a guide to the decorated Ice Age caves of Europe not with well-known examples, from France, Portugal or Spain, but (surely for the first time ever in a cave art guide) with England’s own cave art, in whose discovery Paul himself played no small part. Paul says this is ‘the first such guidebook in English since the one by the Sievekings (1962)’, adding that ‘it contains all the Ice Age art open to the public in Europe, including the open-air sites and the major museums, as well as all the relevant caves and rock-shelters’. Practical visitor information is provided for each site (dates, hours, prices, websites, facilities, rules, etc).

Adomnan and the Holy Places, by Thomas O’Loughlin, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Wales, Lampeter, is subtitled ‘The perceptions of an insular monk on the locations of the Biblical drama’ (T & T Clark [aka Continuum], London 2007, ISBN 987-0-567-03183-9), and concerns that fascinating treatise, De Locis Sanctis (‘On the Holy Places’) written by Saint Adomnan (627–704), Abbot of Iona, recording the eyewitness accounts of the Frankish bishop Arculf who made visits to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and other places in the Holy Land around AD 680. Such was the success of this early travel guide that it influenced subsequent accounts of the Holy Land for nigh on 1,000 years. Tom’s new book shows how Adomnan’s work can be used to study the nature of scriptural studies in the Latin world of the time – and perceptions of space, relics, pilgrimage and Islam – while his study of how the work was used by others, transmitted and reworked (for example, by the Venerable Bede), throws new light on the theological world of the Carolingians.


Edinburgh World Heritage, Director
Salary c £40,000, closing date 2 November 2007

Applicants for this post must be able to demonstrate a strong background in conservation and architectural heritage. The task is to implement the World Heritage Site Management Plan and promote public awareness and understanding of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site. Details from the Edinburgh World Heritage website.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage, part-time administrator (two days per week)
Salary £17,500 pro rata, closing date 2 November 2007

To help ensure the smooth day-to-day running of SAVE’s small, slightly unconventional office and to provide administrative support to the SAVE team. Please contact either Catherine or Adam at the SAVE office for a copy of the job description and application form (tel: 020 7253 3500).

Heritage Lottery Fund, Regional Committee members
Closing date 5 November 2007

There are vacancies on HLF regional committees in the East Midlands, East of England, West Midlands and South East England. Committees make decisions on grants between £50,000 and £2 million in value and advise on priorities for the region, as well as representing HLF at project-related events. For further information, see the HLF website under 'Vacancies'.