22 November: The First Humans: a very remote period indeed, by Professor Clive Gamble, FSA, in the Thomas Davis Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin, at 7.30pm (Tercentenary Festival event in association with the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland).
When and why did we become the only human species to populate the globe? This lecture will reveal how the reappraisal of archaeological evidence in the last decade has dramatically changed the picture of human evolution and show how such essentially human traits as language, art and music first appeared.
Professor of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, Clive Gamble is a leading authority on the archaeology of the earliest human societies and a frequent contributor to national radio. He presented the six-part programme 'Where do we come from?' on Channel 5. His archaeological career has taken him all over the world, and won him many awards as well as international recognition.
29 November: Ballot with exhibits: Rick Turner, FSA, will talk about an architectural drawing by Thomas Telford and Sydney Anglo, FSA, will exhibit An enigmatic jousting cheque: Society of Antiquaries MS136/2.
13 December: Miscellany of papers and mulled wine reception. Tickets for the reception cost £15 a head and are available from Jayne Phenton.
Blue Papers for the 29 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.
The Society has appointed Heather Rowland, currently Librarian of the Religious Society of Friends, to succeed Bernard Nurse as our new Head of Library and Collections. Announcing the appointment, our General Secretary, David Gaimster, said: Heather comes to us with a great track record in the management and development of library and archive services, having previously headed the Art and Architecture Library for Westminster (known amongst art historians as the best public library for the field in London) and having worked at the Arts Council of England. Heather will join us on 7 January 2008. Though Bernard retires at the end of 2007, we plan that he will stay with us for a short time in January to provide a handover.
The Library of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), in Euston Road, London, is just thirty-four years older than our own Society, having been founded in 1673, with the aim of collecting two copies of everything written by Quakers and one copy of everything written against them. The library now has over 80,000 books and pamphlets, including a unique collection of seventeenth-century Quaker and anti-Quaker material.
As the Societys Royal Academy exhibition enters its final fortnight, positive reviews continue to appear. In the Guardian, blogger John Mullan loves the exhibition for its evidence that our predecessors as Fellows invented not just archaeology, but all sorts of amateur passions brass-rubbing, architectural history, every kind of yen to collect every kind of old clobber.
His only regret is that the exhibition doesnt make more of the sheer eccentricity of the early antiquarians. In Norwich the antiquarian society was the Fraternity of the United Friars, who had Gothick furnishings designed for their meetings. Stukeley formed the Society of Roman Knights, whose members adopted Romano-British sobriquets and included his future wife Frances Williamson (dubbed Cartimandua, after an ancient British queen).
Only such eccentrics could have stuck to their obsessions so heroically, he concludes.
Our Fellow Maev Kennedy also featured a gallery talk by Dai Morgan Evans in a recent diary piece. As far as Dai Morgan Evans, visiting professor in archaeology at Chester University, is concerned, she wrote, even Damien Hirst's maggot-ridden cows head, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1996, wasnt in the same league as Evans latest offering: a revolting lecture, given yesterday at the Academy as part of the Society of Antiquaries tercentenary exhibition. Potentially the most disgusting ever at the RA, he said proudly, adding a warning for those who had just had lunch.
The professor is a former General Secretary of the Society, whose exhibition of treasures from its normally private museum includes an engraving of various eighteenth-century antiquaries, setting about the newly discovered tomb of Edward IV at Windsor Castle. They applied what Evans insists was pioneering scientific rigour, tasting the brownish liquid which half filled the coffin: it resembled a walnut pickle. They concluded it came from the decay of human tissue, but found it odourless and tasteless, excepting a small degree of roughness or astringency like water which had remained some time in a rotten wooden vessel. The Society did have a phial of it, but Evans was disappointed to find it has all evaporated otherwise he would undoubtedly have offered his audience a taste.
The Russian Service of the BBC World Service would like to make a programme about the Making History exhibition. We therefore need a Fellow who speaks Russian and is willing to accompany a BBC presenter around the exhibition and explain some of the exhibits. Volunteers should contact Jayne Phenton.
ICON (the Institute for Conservation) has reacted with anger to the news that the Textile Conservation Centre at Southampton University is to close in 2009. ICONs Chief Executive, Alastair McCapra, described the closure as a serious assault on excellence, and a loss not just for the UK but on an international level, as there are so few centres of excellence in textile conservation anywhere in the world.
Previously based at Hampton Court, the Textile Conservation Centre merged with the Winchester School of Art at the University of Southampton in 1998, and moved to a new purpose-designed building on the Winchester campus in the summer of 1999. Now Southampton has announced the closure of Winchester School of Art because it is not earning enough to be self-funding and to make a significant contribution to the central running costs of the university.
The Centre itself enjoys an excellent international reputation, attracting many students from outside the UK and sending 97 per cent of its graduates into conservation employment. ICON is supporting the efforts of the Textile Conservation Centre to find an alternative home.
ICON Chair, Simon Cane, said that: The need for textile conservation is clear. At the moment the Victoria and Albert Museum is running a high-profile exhibition called The Golden Age of Couture, Paris and London 194757. Princess Dianas gowns have just gone on display at Kensington Palace. The public want access to these fragile and perishable collections and unless they are stored, cared for and conserved properly, there will be nothing to see. If there are no skilled and trained conservators to do the work, public access will suffer.
As if to reinforce the point that the UK has some of the worlds best textile conservators, it was the work of the Scottish Conservation Studio at Perth Museum and Art Gallery in conserving a rare early seventeenth-century silk doublet that won top prize when the ICON Awards for Conservation 2007 were handed out last month at the British Museum. Also on the shortlist for the prize was the work of the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio in conserving a table cloth of 1579, elaborately embroidered with a Biblical scene Tobit and the Angel from Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. Full details of all the shortlisted projects and prize winners are on the Conservation Awards website.
Another triumph for the conservation movement was the reopening of Londons St Pancras Station on 14 November, leading our Fellow Sir Simon Jenkins to write in the Guardian that the station's rebirth is a slap in the face for the old-is-useless mob and all their claptrap about outdated structures.
Writing of the official opening, Simon reminded readers of all the unthanked and unmentioned heroes who battled to save St Pancras, including the stations elegist, John Betjeman, the members of the Victorian Society (which single-handedly fought not just ministers and railwaymen but self-styled aesthetes such as John Summerson, who declared the place nauseating), Lord Kennet (who fought the transport lobby and listed the building Grade I in 1967), British Rails Environment Director, Bernard Kaukas (who battled to win £3m from his board to prevent the collapse of the roof), and even an enlightened property developer, Trevor Osborne (the first to seek to restore the hotel).
Angrily, Simon denounced many of those who attended the launch as people who had actively sought to destroy this and other fine buildings in the past and probably hadnt learned anything from their mistakes, singling out Ken Livingstone (who recently championed the demolition of the Bishopsgate station complex), Gordon Brown and John Prescott.
He also referred to the fact that the same the old-is-awful mob are even now arguing at a public inquiry for the demolition of much of old Smithfield market to make way for more glass boxes. It is a bitter irony that they are fighting the same conservationist groups as fought to save St Pancras, employing the same claptrap about useless outdated structures. If they lose, they will doubtless hail a conserved Smithfield, like Covent Garden, as part of London's neighbourhood character, and invite the Queen to open it. They will forget they fought to have it razed. London is governed by hypocrites. They drink champagne at St Pancras, then go out into the night to find another building to kick in the guts.
Another important London building facing an uncertain future is Somerset House not that anyone is proposing its demolition, but the trustees of the Somerset House Trust will have to make a decision soon whether the New Wing, designed by John Pennethorpe and completed in 1865 along the western flank of the courtyard, adjoining the approach to Waterloo Bridge, should become a new home for Kings College Law School, or a luxurious hotel.
Other changes to the arrangements at Somerset House have already been announced. In the south wing, the Hermitage Rooms, displaying material from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, have already closed and the Gilbert Collection will move to the Victoria and Albert Museum when the current exhibition, on Seaman Schepps: Americas court jeweller, ends in January 2008. Neither was attracting sufficient visitor numbers to make them financially viable. The Somerset House Trust plans to use the vacated rooms for its own programme of contemporary art, design and photography exhibitions. Parts of the east, south and west wings will be used as offices, rented out as artists studios, or converted to shops and restaurants. The north wing of Somerset House will continue to be occupied by the Courtauld Institute and Gallery.
The Times reported last week that some users of the London Library are dismayed at the recent 80 per cent increase in annual subscription fees, from £210 to £375 a year. The worlds largest independent lending library has, in the past, relied on an endowment fund to subsidise the cost of membership for its 8,000 members. That fund has now been used to pay for a new £4.25m building to house the Librarys growing collection, leaving the Library with a £1.4m deficit. The Librarys president, Sir Tom Stoppard, the playwright, argued that the rises were exceptional, but necessary.
Lewis Golden, the Librarys former chairman, criticised trustees for presiding over the evaporation of the investment fund which was built up on his watch, and has argued that the Library needs to keep less and dispose of some of its holdings. David Faber, writer and former Conservative MP, told The Times: Nobody likes a big increase [in fees] but its been widely flagged for the past few years that weve been living beyond our means.
The announcement that St Bartholomew the Great, the fine Norman church in the City of London, is to charge visitors a £4 admission fee has sparked debate in this weekends papers in the UK and highlighted the crisis in church funding, whereby the rising costs of maintaining historic places of worship is falling on diminishing congregations.
Heritage organisations and church conservation groups have expressed concerns about the charges, but have yet to propose an alternative strategy for ensuring that the overwhelming majority of people who visit churches not to pray but as visitor attractions contribute to their maintenance.
Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, which looks after redundant churches, urged other churches not to follow suit, saying: We would be worried that charging visitors would put people off coming into our churches. We want the local community to feel a sense of belonging to their parish church and charging won't help achieve that.
Our Fellow, the Rector of St Barts, the Reverend Martin Dudley, defends the entrance charge, saying: We have doorkeepers who can differentiate between people who are praying and those who are there just to see the church.
Our Fellow David Starkey asked why tourists should not pay to see one of London's greatest buildings: The Church of England is facing dire straits and parish churches in this country are facing a death by a thousand cuts. Many will soon have no choice but to charge visitors to see them. If they don't there may soon be no architectural splendours to see.
England's 12,000 listed parish churches are estimated to be facing a £80m a year shortfall in funding for restoration and maintenance. A quarter of their repair costs come from Government-funded bodies such as English Heritage. The rest is raised locally by parishioners.
TV presenter Michael Palin will join Oxford University Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood, in opening the new £8 million extension to the Pitt Rivers Museum on 22 November, when the museum will also formally announce Phase II of its development plan, supported by a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The new extension provides major new research, teaching and public facilities, as well as enabling the museum's staff to work on site alongside the collections. The official opening is to be followed by a public Celebration Weekend with family activities on Saturday 24 November and talks and tours on Sunday 25 November (see the museums website for further information).
Phase II of the museum's development will improve the public entrance and restore the original gallery vista, including the spectacular totem pole. The 1960s exhibition gallery at the entrance will be dismantled and the original display cases will be returned to the front of the museum. The space created by the removal of these cases from the first floor will be used as an education area for schools and family activities.
The contents of the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, are to be digitised and placed online thanks to a partnership between Corpus Christi, the University of Cambridge and Stanford University. The Library contains the pick of the great monastic libraries, based on the collection of the Cambridge-educated Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker (150475). Parker was more or less the first serious collector of the Reformation, buying and commandeering books with virtually unlimited money and power, said our Fellow Christopher de Hamel, Chief Librarian at Corpus Christi.
A new website will eventually include high-resolution images of every page of the 538 manuscripts and books in the Parker Library, spanning the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. The version of the website currently online includes about a sixth of the total content, and the project is scheduled for completion in late 2009.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has placed a temporary export bar on a ledger kept by a seventeenth-century lead merchant in the Peak District so as to provide the opportunity for a UK buyer to make an offer to purchase the ledger at the recommended price of £3,770.
The 400-page ledger is of outstanding significance for the study of the lead-mining trade, the network of individuals involved and the history of the Peak District. The ledger records transactions made between 1668 and 1700 and it is the earliest surviving extensive record of the lead trade of the Peak District at a period when it played an important role in the countrys development as the first industrialised nation; at this time over half the nationwide production of lead, used for everything from domestic utensils to lead shot, originated in the Peak District.
For further information see the DCMS website.
A temporary export bar has also been placed on a rare copy of the warrant authorising the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. The original warrant, signed by Elizabeth I, was destroyed, probably shortly after the execution. This is one of five copies made for each of the commissioners charged with carrying out the execution; sent to the earl of Kent, it is the only copy known to survived. Offers to purchase the manuscript at the recommended price of £72,485 must be made by 13 January 2008.
For further information see the DCMS website.
The tombstone of a man called Crescens, a bodyguard in the service of the governor who ran the province of Britain for the Roman Emperor, has been found at Carberry, near Inveresk, near the line of a Roman road. The incomplete red sandstone memorial dates between AD 140 and 180, and the inscription reads: To the shades of Crescens, cavalryman of the Ala Sebosiana, from the detachment of the governor's bodyguard [the Equites Singulaires]), served fifteen years; his heir [or heirs] had this erected.
Our Fellow Dr Fraser Hunter, Principal Curator of Roman archaeology with National Museums Scotland, said: Tombstones like these are surprisingly rare in Scotland, given that there was a garrison of several thousand men here over a period of more than fifty years. Only thirteen have ever been found. This is the first time we have found evidence of the governor's bodyguard in Scotland. The image is fairly typical in that it shows a so-called barbarian, displayed as being naked and hairy, being overcome by a noble Roman soldier. It is very much a work of propaganda. Stones like these were there to celebrate the achievements of individuals in the Roman army, but were also there to intimidate people and act as a warning.
The presence of the stone near Inveresk suggests that Crescens died while accompanying the governor on a visit to the fort there, and it provides strong evidence that Inveresk was a pivotal Roman site in northern Britain.
The stone was found by amateur archaeologist Larney Cavanagh at the edge of a field; it had been ploughed up and cleared from the field without anyone noticing its inscription. Cavanagh's attempts to alert archaeologists to the find were treated with scepticism until he sent them a series of images from his camera phone.
Our Fellow Mike Parker Pearson, of Sheffield University, was interviewed by another Fellow, Francis Pryor, on a special Radio 4 programme broadcast on 5 November called Secrets of Stonehenge. Mike gave an account of this summers work at Durrington Walls, saying that he believes some 300 or so Neolithic houses survive at the site, and that there might originally have been double that number: what is really exciting is realising just how big the village for the builders was, he said, adding that allowing four per house, there could have been room for more than 2,000 people.
Geophysical survey and excavation work have revealed that the ditch and bank at Durrington Walls was constructed in sections by separate work gangs. Dozens of antler picks found in one section of ditch gives some idea of the size of the work parties: From the number of antler picks left in the bottom of one section, if you allow two people with one pick plus a team of basketeers carrying the rubble away and youve got to have the sandwich makers as well, this suggests a minimum team size of 200. If the 22 sections of Durrington's ditch were all dug at the same time, thats a work force of thousands. Each team might have consisted of 200 to 400 people working under a clan head. It's possible that most of southern Britain may have been involved at one stage or another, Mike said.
Archaeologists from Serbias National Museum gave a press conference this week to present the results of recent excavations at a 120-hectare site at Plocnik, in southern Serbia, where they have found a Neolithic settlement of some sophistication, occupied between 5400 and 4700 BC. The site has yielded numerous clay figurines (pictures can be seen here), houses with stoves and evidence that the occupants slept on woollen mats and fur, made clothes of wool, flax and leather, kept animals and exploited local hot springs for bathing.
Evidence for metal working comes in the form of a sophisticated metal workshop of some 25 square metres, with walls built out of wood coated with clay. The furnace, built on the outside of the room, features earthen pipe-like air vents with hundreds of tiny holes in them and a prototype chimney to ensure air goes into the furnace to feed the fire and smoke comes out safely. Metal tools, including a copper chisel and a two-headed hammer and axe, were found alongside stone implements.
The Plocnik site was first discovered in 1927 when the then Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was building a rail line from the southern city of Nis to the province of Kosovo. Some findings were published at the time but war, lack of funds and objections from farmers meant it was investigated only sporadically until digging started in earnest in 1996.
Divers making a TV documentary have found an almost intact wooden sailing ship in clear water, at a depth of 410ft, near Gotska Sandon island, off the south-east coast of Sweden. The features suggest the ship is the work of Dutch shipbuilders from the first quarter of the seventeenth century. The 22ft wide and 65ft long ship is described by marine archaeologist Morten Manders as the best preserved of its type ever seen, so well preserved that you can hardly call this a shipwreck, with intact hull and carved figureheads near the ship's wheel (pictures can be seen here).
Analysis of more than fifty headless skeletons from one of the largest Lapita cemeteries yet to be excavated suggests that Pacific islanders regularly travelled between islands hundreds of miles apart. Durham-based Alex Bentley, lead author of a paper in the October issue of the journal American Antiquity, said that a key question was whether islanders lived in isolation or whether they maintained communication with the islands from which they might have come further back in their ancestry as they spread from west to east across the Pacific, or whether they interacted with other distant Lapita groups to find marriage partners, exchange information and maintain social ties.
Bentley and colleague Stuart Bedford of the Australian National University studied tooth enamel from skulls buried at a 3,000-year-old site on Efate Island, part of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, and found four Lapita individuals who were buried facing south, unlike the others, and whose isotope levels were significantly different from the rest, possibly indicating a small group of immigrants who travelled from hundreds of miles away. These individuals had isotope levels that matched a more terrestrial diet, as opposed to the marine foods eaten by the other islanders buried.
In typical Lapita burial style, none of the buried individuals had a skull attached to the skeleton, though one male (TEO 10E) was buried with three skulls on his chest and was himself one of the immigrants, though the skulls on his chest were of the local community. It is a sign of veneration of the senior individual. The skulls of all those buried were removed during the mortuary process and presumably curated somewhere, Bedford said. Upon the death and burial of TEO 10E, these three skulls were retrieved and placed on his chest. The curious burials among the identified group of prehistoric Pacific mariners, who were among the best navigators on earth for the next 3,000 years, indicate they were admired by the locals for their amazing long-distance travelling abilities, Bentley added.
Our Fellow Professor Glenn Summerhayes, Head of Archaeology at Otago University in New Zealand, said that there might be other explanations for the separate treatment of TEO 10E and the other north/south burials: The million-dollar question is: who are these people? Are they the people who made the pottery? Or people they've killed, slaves they've brought in? We don't know. Are we looking at two different populations, or a single population with different food taboos within it? We don't know what the answers are, but these results mean we can start asking the right questions.
Further evidence of the navigational skills of early Polynesians and Melanesians comes from the recent discovery of a stone adze, found on a coral atoll in what is now French Polynesia, but quarried from volcanic rock in Hawaii, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. It was transported about 1,000 years ago by Polynesian voyagers in wooden canoes, either as a chunk of uncut rock used for ballast, or as a gift or memento.
The adze was found by an archaeologist in the 1930s on a coral island in the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia, but has only recently been subjected to chemical testing which placed the origin of the rock on Kaho'olawe island in Hawaii. Dr Marshall Weisler, of the University of Queensland, said the journey between Hawaii and Tahiti now stands as the longest uninterrupted maritime voyage in human prehistory. He said it was mind-boggling how Polynesian settlers found their way from one speck of land to another and back again, colonising the last uninhabited parts of the planet.
Archaeologists in Peru claimed this week to have found the oldest murals yet found anywhere in the Americas, dating from 2000 BC on the walls of a pre-Incan temple in the Lambayeque valley, close to the Pacific Ocean in the north of the country. In the same week, archaeologists at Cornell University in New York announced that pottery from a site in what is now Puerto Escondido, Honduras, has residues of a cacao-based drink dating to 1150 BC, pushing back the earliest known use of chocolate by 500 years.
The carbon-dated murals have been found on the walls of a brick-built temple named Ventarron, which features a staircase rising to an altar for the worship of fire gods. One wall painting depicts a deer being hunted with nets (pictures can be seen here).
Excavation Director Walter Alva argues that temples of the pre-Incan period were deliberately buried and revered as sacred sites, which explains why many are found in a surprisingly good state of repair. This discovery shows an architectural and iconographic tradition different from what has been known until now, Mr Alva said. There is no other monument in existence in the north of Peru that has these characteristics. The temple is close to the larger excavation at Sipan, which has been under Mr Alva's supervision since the 1980s. Most of the structures unearthed at Sipan, including three adobe pyramids, ramps and platforms, have been traced to the pre-Incan Moche civilisation, which is believed to have occupied the region from AD 200 to 800.
The news of the cacao find was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Professor John Henderson of Cornell University, Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, and Hershey Foods analysed residues in ten clay vessels, and all gave a positive signal for theobromine, the fingerprint compound for cacao in Central America.
The cacao residues were probably the result of fermenting the sweet pulp surrounding the seeds to make an alcoholic drink, similar to the South American drink chicha. This development probably provided the impetus to domesticate the chocolate tree and only later, to prepare a beverage based on the more bitter beans, Dr McGovern suggests. The fermented cacao was probably served at important ceremonies. Previously, the oldest evidence for cacao consumption came from 2,600-year-old Mayan vessels from Colha, in what is now northern Belize.
How quickly the past now becomes history! All those many Fellows who (like Salons editor) first got bitten by the archaeology bug in the 1970s will be astonished to discover that our childhood and student years are now to be the subject of a Twentieth Century Society conference on 23 and 24 November 2007 at the Architectural Association, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1. Under the title The Seventies in Britain: the best of times, the worst of times?, speakers will debate the architecture of Britain in the 1970s, and recent threats to demolish or transform important buildings of the decade, including the Milton Keynes Shopping Building and the Inner Court, Chelsea. The publicity for the conference promises lively conversations and new understanding of the complexity of the decade which shaped the architectural world we still inhabit today. Speakers will include several influential architects of the decade, including Frank Woods (the Barbican Centre), Charles Jencks and Joseph Rykwert; further information from Cela Selley, Coordinator, The Twentieth Century Society.
ASPRoM (the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics) is holding its Autumn Symposium at Kings College London (Strand Campus Room 2C), from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday 1 December 2007. The speakers are John Allen (Early Roman mosaic materials in southern Britain), Shelley Hales (Venus and mirrors) and Ruth Leader-Newby (Always read the label: inscribed Roman mosaics in the late Empire). All are welcome: for further details, see the Associations website.
Hal Moggridge OBE, Past President of The Landscape Institute, will deliver the ICOMOS-UK Christmas lecture on Historic Urban Landscapes and Views in London, on 17 December 2007, at 6.30pm at the Gallery, 77 Cowcross Street, London EC1. Hal has recently directed an ICOMOS-UK photographic documentation project of views around the two World Heritage Sites of the Tower of London and Westminster and will discuss the role of skylines and views in our perceptions of places and their cultural value. Further information from email@example.com.
First Contact: Rome and Northern Britain is a Tayside and Fife Archaeological Committee special conference in which key invited speakers will gather to debate the timetable, nature and significance of Romes first contact with Scotland. The conference will be held at the Dewars Rinks conference centre, Perth, Scotland, on 31 May 2008. For further details and to book a place (£15) please contact Mark A Hall at Perth Museum & Art Gallery.
Salons praise for the Heritage Counts speech made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was spoiled for some Fellows by the editors misspelling of the Culture Secretarys name, which should have been James Purnell, of course, and not James Parnell.
And other Fellows pointed out the editors weak grasp of South American geography, which led to Guyana being described as a Caribbean island, whereas it is, of course, on the mainland of South America, bordered by Suriname, Brazil and Venezuela.
Vincent Megaw, FSA, rose to the challenge of supplying Molly Myers memories with the following anecdote: She was always very kind to lesser and much younger mortals as indeed, to be fair, was Sir Mortimer; I recall, when I was working at Thames & Hudson on a number of projects that included REMW, going on several occasions to his Burlington House rooms and being softened up with tea and biscuits. Once, when REMW was very late, owing to a British Academy function away from Piccadilly, he really had no time for me but I had some urgent proofs in which I had had the audacity to correct some of his English. Molly, tea cup at the ready, said That's alright, Mr Megaw; just leave the proofs with me; I always correct them in any case.
A number of Fellows responded with scepticism to the report in Salon 175 which said that National Trust Chairman, Sir William Proby, had delivered a strong message at the Trusts AGM on the need to protect the UKs green belt and open spaces from the threat of development. Several Fellows pointed to the fact that the National Trust had itself twice developed green-belt land in the face of strong local opposition at Cliveden and at Erddig, near Wrexham and that it had sold 45 acres of green-belt land at Colehill, on the outskirts of Wimborne, Dorset, to developers in 2001 under a deal whereby the Trust will split the profit with the developer if green-belt status is removed at some stage in the future. Other Fellows said that this was simply a fund-raising ploy: the National Trust was no doubt hoping that the perceived threat to the green belt would lead to a flood of donations.
Some people are taking the National Trust Chairmans speech at face value, however: a number of newspapers reported last week that the Charity Commission would be scrutinising the National Trusts intentions after receiving a written complaint to the effect that the Trust was in breach of charity law because it was engaging in political campaigning. The Trust doesnt seem to have much to fear, however: a spokesman for the Charity Commission said: If there is an issue we would contact the charity and give them an opportunity to respond. We might ask them for more information or we might give them advice or guidance.
The Trust responded by saying that protecting land threatened by development was what they had been doing for more than 100 years; what the AGM speech amounted to was a shift in policy away from preserving stately homes towards protecting the countryside from wholesale housing development, signalling a return towards the founding principles of the Trust, set up in 1895 to protect the countryside against the destructive effects of industrialisation.
Phyllis Starkey, the Labour Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, described the National Trusts speech as unhelpful and irrelevant. Nobody is talking about wholesale change to the green belt, but there is a debate about whether the existing green belt should be completely sacrosanct, she said.
Congratulations to our Fellow Robert Dunning, who has been commissioned as a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Somerset. Dr Dunning lives in Taunton and, until his retirement in September 2005, was Somerset's official historian, involved in compiling the Victoria History of the county for publication by London University and in many activities concerning the county's heritage. He now serves as Chairman of the Trustees of Glastonbury Abbey, Chairman of the Friends of Wells Cathedral and a Trustee of the Friends of Somerset Churches and Chapels. He is currently writing a history of the Diocese of Bath and Wells to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of its foundation in the year 909.
Congratulations also to our Fellow David Robinson, whose book, The Cistercians in Wales: architecture and archaeology 11301540 (2006: Society of Antiquaries of London Research Report No. 73) has been awarded the Alice Davis Hitchcock Memorial Medallion by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. The award will be presented at the Societys annual lecture, on 26 November 2007, at the Courtauld Institute, in London. The Medallion is given annually to the author of the best architectural history book published in the previous four years.
Most of us know Fellow Rupert Redesdale as the founder and Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, and some Fellows will remember that he fought a doughty campaign four years ago to exclude folk dancers from the Governments entertainment licensing provisions, thus ensuring that Morris dancers can continue to do what they do without having to ask for Government permission but now he has been revealed in another light: as the successful scourge of grey squirrels in Northumbria.
In a nature programme on BBCs Radio 4 last week, Rupert was interviewed on the subject, in his capacity as the recipient of a DEFRA grant to develop ways of controlling grey squirrels, with the ultimate aim of eradicating them entirely from the county, thus creating an environment in which red squirrels can survive without food competition or the risk of contacting the viral diseases carried by greys.
According to Lord Redesdale, greys are so greedy that they will fight each other to get inside a hazelnut-baited trap. Although the spread of greys has been likened to a tidal wave, Rupert revealed that they are really creatures of very strong habits and travel by very limited migration routes: keeping them out of Northumbria is a simple matter of placing traps beside a particular oak tree on the county boundary, which nearly all the greys go past on their attempted journey north.
One distinguished scholar affected by the closure of the Textile Conservation Centre is our Fellow Dr Maria Hayward who is Reader and Head of Studies and Research at the Centre. Maria has just celebrated the launch of her book on Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII, covering the clothes worn by the monarch and by his immediate family, the royal household and the court circle. Given that none of Henry VIIIs clothes survive, Maria has done a remarkable job in detailing the kings personal wardrobe, the clothing used to define status at court, the clothing used at coronations, marriages and funerals almost entirely from the evidence from paintings, inventories, accounts and narrative sources, including observations on childrens dress, laundry, the cut and construction of garments and the network of textile craftsmen working for the court.
Our Fellow Lin Foxhall has written a book that demonstrates, inter alia, that decent olive oil was as much of a status symbol in Classical Athens as modern day Notting Hill. Olive Cultivation in Ancient Greece: seeking the ancient economy examines the archaeological evidence for olive cultivation and the pressing of olives for oil and seeks to link technological advances into the wider context of the Ancient Greek economy.
Oxbow Books is currently selling its top ten bestsellers for 2007 at a discount as part of its Christmas marketing campaign. Four of the years bestsellers are by Fellows: topping the list is The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland, by Richard Bradley, followed closely by David Breezes Handbook to the Roman Wall (Fourteenth Edition). Hilary Cools Eating and Drinking in Roman Britain is in fourth place and John Blairs The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society in seventh.
Two bestsellers of the future were published this week, by Carola Hicks and Mary Beard, both Cambridge-based Fellows. Carola Hicks book, The Kings Glass (Chatto, £18.99), which recounts the history of the stained-glass windows of Kings College Chapel, received a very positive review from Peter Ackroyd in The Times, who writes that by concentrating her gaze upon one of the outstanding buildings of England, Carola Hicks provides a history of an entire culture . Begun during the reign of Henry VI, in 1441, the chapel took so long to complete that by the time Henry VIII inherited the great project, the religious imagery was out of date, the scholastic pairing of scenes from the Old and New Testaments was being replaced by the more rigorous principles of Renaissance humanism and many reformers were opposed to the very existence of stained-glass windows, as an intolerable obstacle to the true understanding of God.
Like that other great work of the same Southwark glaziers workshop, St Marys Church, in Fairford, Gloucestershire, the Kings College Chapel glass survived subsequent iconoclasm and, as Carolas book reveals, was not actually completed until the last window was installed in the spring of 1879, the entire project having taken 438 years.
A triumph, we are apt to call the glass at Kings, but perhaps without fully understanding the meaning of the word. Our Fellow Mary Beard got the chance to explain on Radio 4s Start the Week just what a Roman triumph involved cartloads of loot, exotically costumed prisoners and, in the case of Pompey the Great, a chariot drawn by elephants which then got stuck passing through a triumphal arch reducing the triumph to a farce. More entertaining anecdotes of this kind enliven Marys book, The Roman Triumph (Harvard, £19.95), which, according to Tom Holland, writing in the Sunday Times, subjects our sources for the Roman triumph to merciless dissection, exposing with a pathologists scalpel how, beneath all its outward sheen, there lurked profound insecurities and ambivalences, perhaps best summed up in Senecas claim that triumphs are nothing more than sacrilege on a grand scale.
On a less grand scale, but nevertheless making important contributions to our knowledge of the respective counties, are books on the archaeology of Kent and Cornwall. The Archaeology of Kent to AD 800 highlights the latest findings from excavations along the route of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and from other major development sites in the county. With chapters on Palaeolithic, Prehistoric, Roman and Anglo-Saxon Kent contributed by Fellows including Tim Champion, Martin Millet and Martin Welch, and edited by Kent County Councils Head of Heritage Conservation, our Fellow John Williams, the book emphasises how Kent's proximity to the European mainland has meant that the county has served as a conduit for trade and new ideas and as a symbol of defiance, with the White Cliffs of Dover being the front line of Englands defence.
Cornwall and the Cross, by Fellow Nicholas Orme, is an account of Cornish history and archaeology told from the perspective of the arrival and development of Christianity from about AD 500. Something of the obdurate character of the Cornish comes across from the request of archdeacon Adam Carleton to be allowed to move to a post in Huntingdonshire, because his health wasnt up to dealing with a people so extraordinarily rebellious and difficult to teach and correct, and Nicholas Orme himself says in his preface that the Cornish are a critical people where their history is concerned. Not all will be happy that this volume appears in a series called Englands Past for Everyone. Evidence of a determination to be different is traced in this Christianised landscape of Cornwall in the hundreds of churches, shrines, memorials, chapels and wells dedicated to saints unique to the county.
Finally, news of two books on Scottish archaeology: Bill Hansons Elginhaugh (Tempus, £17.99) reports on the only completely excavated timber-built auxiliary fort in the Roman Empire. As well as looking at how the fort was built and what life was like for soldiers and civilians based at the garrison, the book assesses the impact of the military presence on the environment and on the local population.
If Bill Hansons book looks at military life on the edge of the empire, our Fellow Fraser Hunter takes a step or two out from that border and looks at life Beyond the Edge of the Empire Caledonians, Picts and Romans in a book published by Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie (a snip at £5; see the museums website for ordering details.
IFA Workplace Learning Bursary in Historical Archaeology
Salary £14,436; closing date 26 November 2007
Applications are invited for an HLF-funded Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) Workplace Learning Bursary in Historical Archaeology within ARCUS (Archaeological Research and Consultancy at the University of Sheffield). This is an excellent opportunity to receive training in archaeological fieldwork and post-excavation activities within a commercial archaeological consultancy, working under the supervision of Anna Badcock, Assistant Director of ARCUS, with Richard ONeill acting as mentor. For further details please visit the Sheffield University website, quoting Ref: R05749.
Assistant County Archaeologist, Wiltshire County Council
Salary range £18,907 to £25,320; closing date 30 November 2007
This is an exciting opportunity to work in one of the most archaeologically rich counties in the country. You will be helping to record and protect the county's archaeological resource, advising on the management of archaeological sites, and dealing with enquiries from the public. For full details go to www.wiltshire.gov.uk/jobs. For informal enquiries contact Wiltshire County Archaeologist, Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger, tel: 01249 705511.