Salon Archive

Issue: 177

Forthcoming meetings

13 December: The Society’s final meeting of the year will provide an opportunity to see the newly refurbished ground-floor rooms in all their finery, adorned with newly conserved pictures and objects from the Society’s collections, rehung and redisplayed after their return from the Royal Academy exhibition. The meeting itself, beginning at 5pm, will consist of a short programme of presentations on the restoration and refurbishment of the Society’s public rooms. It will be followed by the Society’s annual mulled wine and minced-pie reception, which will have more than the usual luxurious flavour thanks to the sponsorship of Fortnum & Mason, who are supplying their very best seasonal pies and donating a hamper for the raffle. Tickets for the reception cost £15 a head and are available from Jayne Phenton.

Ballot: 29 November 2007

The Society is pleased to welcome the following, all of whom were elected as Fellows in the ballot held on 29 November 2007.

As Honorary Fellows:

• Arturo Carol Quintavalle: Director of the Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione at the University of Parma, author of books that have transformed our understanding of the architecture and sculpture of north Italy in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and organiser of annual conferences at the University of Parma that have become a fixture in the medievalist art historian’s calendar;
• Sir David Frederick Attenborough: Naturalist, broadcaster, trustee of the British Museum for over twenty years and an active member of the Sutton Hoo Trust.

As Ordinary Fellows:

• Caroline Shenton: Assistant Clerk of the Records, Parliamentary Archives, expert in the court of Edward III and the household and wardrobe accounts of the reign, currently researching book on the 1834 Great Fire of Westminster.
• Monica Mary Jackson: Archaeologist, Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney, New South Wales, author of Hellenistic Gold Eros Jewellery (BAR Int Series 1510 (2006) and The Amisos Treasure (forthcoming)).
• Robert Weaver: Senior Assistant Master and Keeper of the Fellows’ Library at Dulwich College (the Rare Book Collection), lecturing widely on manuscripts and mounting exhibitions of palaeographical material at Harrow, Dulwich, Guildford and Oxford.
• Nicholas John Cooper: Post-excavation Manager, University of Leicester Archaeological Services, author of The Archaeology of Rutland Water (2000) and an edited volume on The Archaeology of the East Midlands (2006). Co-ordinator of the East Midlands Archaeological Research Framework.
• Raimund Karl: Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Heritage, University of Wales Bangor, specialising in ‘Celtic’ social structures from the Iron Age to the early Middle Ages in continental Europe, Britain and Ireland, as well as Iron Age to early medieval chariotry, roads, travel and trade in central and western Europe, and central European Iron Age settlement archaeology.
• Gabor Thomas: Lecturer in Late Antique/Early Medieval Archaeology, University of Reading, an expert on Middle and Late Anglo-Saxon ornamental metalwork, and on early-medieval settlement studies, carrying out fieldwork projects at Bishopstone and Lyminge.
• Paul Raymond Latcham: Retired bookshop owner, editor of the Bookplate Journal, contributor to publications on bookplate art and history, author of DNB articles on military engineers.
• Fiona Macintosh: Senior Research Fellow, Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, University of Oxford, specialising in the reception of classical drama in the modern world, especially the impact of nineteenth-century excavations of ancient sites on the staging of ancient plays.
• Simon Robert Key: Member of Parliament for Salisbury since 1983. Minister for the Environment 1990–2 with responsibility for listed buildings and Founder Minister at the Department of National Heritage responsible for Heritage Lottery Fund legislation. Director and trustee of Wessex Archaeology involved in the campaign to improve management of Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
• Irene Stavros Lemos: Reader in Classical Archaeology, Oxford University, Director of the excavation of the major Late Bronze/Iron Age site at Lefkandi in Euboea with numerous monographs on Lefkandi and Ancient Greek topics.
• Francisco Estrada-Belli: University Professor, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA, specialising in the archaeology of his native Guatemala, director of a major project at the lowland Maya city of Holmul and its dependencies of Cival and Sufricaya, where he has brought to light important mural paintings, ritual deposits and architectural sculptures.
• Seiichi Suzuki: Professor of English and Germanic Studies, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan, author of books on Gothic philology, poetic metre and early Anglo-Saxon metalwork (The Quoit Brooch Style (2000) and Button Brooches (in press), both for Boydell Press).
• Sonja Marzinzik: Curator, Insular Early Medieval Collections, British Museum, with a specialist interest in the archaeology of the early Anglo-Saxon period, and dress accessories.
• Caron Egerton Newman: Archaeological consultant running her own archaeological consultancy, specialising in infrastructure projects and the application of GIS techniques to historic landscape analysis. Medieval period co-ordinator for the North West Regional Research Framework.
• Brian Vincent: Honorary Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Otago, a leader in the analysis of south-east Asian ceramics, author of volumes published by the Society on excavations at Khok Phanom Di, including the most comprehensive study of an Asian prehistoric pottery production centre ever published.
• Richard Walter: Archaeologist, University of Otago, prominent in the archaeology of the Pacific, with extensive fieldwork in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Niue and the Solomon Islands. His latest monograph on the archaeology of Watom Island, Papua New Guinea, with Professor Roger Green, is a landmark volume for Lapita studies.
• Mike Nevell: Archaeologist, with a special interest in new methodological approaches to the archaeology of industrialisation and standing buildings.
• Jackie Hall: Archaeologist, specialising in monastic and ecclesiastical building analysis, and the assessment and analysis of loose stonework. Council Member of the BAA, Assistant Editor to the Society for Church Archaeology and Consultant Cathedral Archaeologist at Peterborough since 2005.
• Hendrik Johannes Louw: Historian of architecture and construction, School of Architecture, University of Newcastle, former President, European Association for Architectural Education and Chairman of Construction History Society. Co-author of the definitive history of the origin of the sash window with major contributions to the history of building construction and the relations between Dutch and English architecture.
• Mark Wycliff Samuel: Architectural Archaeologist and an expert in recording and analysing British architecture of Roman to nineteenth-century date, with special expertise in medieval masonry.
• Michael Norman Morris: Chester City Archaeologist, whose work has resulted in the publication of a number of monographs on the archaeology of Chester and the recent successful joint excavation project of the Chester amphitheatre with English Heritage.
• Julian Stewart Thomas: Professor of Archaeology, University of Manchester, author of Rethinking the Neolithic (1991), Time, Culture and Identity (1996) and Archaeology and Modernity (2004). Director of archaeological excavations of Neolithic and later prehistoric sites in Dumfries and Galloway (published as Place and Memory in 2007) and co-director of the Stonehenge Riverside Project.

The Society’s Tercentenary meetings in Boston and Dublin

The Society held its second Tercentenary public meeting at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, on 8 November 2007. Introduced by our Fellow Bill Fash, Director of the Peabody Museum, our Fellow Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Prince Asturias Professor of History at Tufts University, gave a lecture on ‘Don Francisco’s nose-piece: forming new empires in Renaissance America’, which provided fresh insights into the Spanish acculturation process in the New World.

Following the lecture, Fellows attended a reception in the museum galleries before dining at the Harvard Faculty Club, where five new Fellows were admitted. Our President Geoff Wainwright outlined what the Society stands for in the twenty-first century, where it is going and what it will cost! A silver Tercentenary medal was presented to our Fellow Norman Hammond, of Boston University, in recognition of his seventeen years’ service as the Society’s Secretary for North America. Our Fellow Bill Stoneman, of the Houghton Library, Harvard, will now take on this important role.

Two weeks later, at a meeting co-hosted by the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, a packed lecture theatre at Trinity College Dublin was the venue for a paper by our Fellow Clive Gamble entitled ‘The First Humans: “a very remote period indeed”‘. Clive’s lecture began by reconstructing the events leading up to 2 June 1859, when John Evans delivered his ground-breaking paper to the Society on worked flints and elephant and rhinoceros bones found in the same geological strata from the gravels of the Somme valley region of northern France. This, said Clive, ‘decisively broke the time barrier’ by replacing the Biblical timeframe for the age of the earth with a geological one, and by establishing our great antiquity as humans.

The new challenge of our age is to break the mind barrier: that is to say, to define what it is about the human mind that makes us uniquely human, and to identify the mechanisms that led to the development of those characteristics. Clive said that these were questions that divided archaeologists, who had moved on from the notion that humans were defined by tool use, but who held different views on time frames for the development of language, morality and complex thought.

He drew a distinction between primary emotions, such as anger, fear, happiness and sadness, that humans share with many other animals, and the second-order emotions of shame or guilt, for example, which imply shared moral or ethical norms that establish what correct behaviour should be and recognition that another person’s point of view might not be the same as our own.

Archaeologists can recognise the evidence for second-order emotions in the material remains of Neanderthals and modern humans, but we don’t yet know how early they developed. Some archaeologists argue for a Neolithic origin, while others consider that the settled social agrarian lifestyles of the Neolithic were one consequence of these developments, not their cause.

Clive himself argued that complex emotions originated much further back (perhaps as far back as Homo habilis, c 2.5 million to 1.6 million years ago) and that language, music, dance, ornament and dress worked as ‘amplifiers’ during the lengthy transitional period during which human emotions developed and intensified, leading to concepts of right and wrong and of the capacity to imagine other worlds than the visible one. The challenge now was to prove the antiquity of human morality and imagination, which meant rethinking material evidence, such as tools, and seeing them not as functional but as indicators of mental structures.

Commenting on the Boston and Dublin lectures, our President Geoff Wainwright said that both speakers demonstrated a similar virtuosity, an ability to think laterally about important issues and present archaeological evidence in flexible and imaginative ways. It was the mark of the modern antiquary, he said, to bestraddle multiple disciplines and multiple cultures and not to be constrained by their original specialism.

News of Fellows

On 21 November, the evening prior to the Dublin meeting, our Fellow George Eogan, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology, University College Dublin, was presented with this year’s Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in the Humanities, Ireland’s highest academic award. George’s medal was presented at a special ceremony at Academy House in Dublin by the Irish Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, who described him as ‘one of Ireland’s foremost archaeologists’, and said that ‘Beginning over forty years ago – and internationally recognised as “one of the greatest pieces of archaeology of our time” – Professor Eogan’s momentous programme of work in the Boyne Valley has transformed our understanding of the passage tombs and the settlement history of the area. As a consequence, the Boyne Valley is now a national park and a World Heritage Site.’

Reports in the press say that our Fellow Nicholas Penny, currently Senior Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts, at Washington’s National Gallery of Art, is likely to be appointed as the new Director of the National Gallery in London, in succession to our Fellow Charles Saumarez Smith who took up his new post as Secretary of the Royal Academy in October 2007. A spokesman for the National Gallery said that the trustees had made their choice, but that the decision had yet to be ratified by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

It was Nicholas Penny’s analysis that led to the identification of the Madonna of the Pinks as a genuine work by Raphael, leading to the subsequent high-profile campaign mounted by the National Gallery to acquire the work. If confirmed in the post, he will be expected to lead another campaign to buy back five works by Poussin that have hung on the National Gallery’s walls for some years on loan, but which now face being sold.

Our Fellow Colin White, Director of the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, and one of Britain’s leading naval historians, has been appointed as a Visiting Professor at the University of Portsmouth. Dr White has worked at the Royal Naval Museum since 1975 when he joined as a research assistant. He was appointed Director of the Museum in 2006. His achievements include being seconded to the National Maritime Museum as director of the celebrations for the bicentenary of Trafalgar in 2005, whose highlights included a Fleet Review and sea battle re-enactment in Portsmouth. Dr White will give his inaugural lecture as Visiting Professor in January 2008. Dr White said: ‘Maritime history is an absolutely vital part of general historical studies and I look forward to playing a part in bringing this marvellous story alive to those who come to study here in Portsmouth and to sharing with them the riches of the Royal Naval Museum’s collections.’

‘Eggheads’ is a BBC 2 general knowledge quiz show in which a guest team is pitted against the resident team of people who have previously won such quiz shows as ‘Mastermind’ and ‘Brain of Britain’. Rarely does the guest team get the better of the resident team, but Salon is informed by Fellow Roy Stephenson that this rare event did occur on 20 November when a team from the Museum of London, captained by Fellow Bill White, emerged the victors.

'Making History' final reviews

By the time this issue of Salon is despatched, the doors will have closed on Making History, the Society’s Royal Academy exhibition, but reviews continued to be published right up to the final day. Urging readers to see it before it closed, The Times said that: ‘this bravely unfashionable exhibition shows how the work of these enthusiastic amateurs — much mocked, then as now — contributed to the creation of a national sense of the past … it shows how sites [such as Stonehenge] became central to the British idea of ourselves; and why Making History is of more than just antiquarian interest.’

A review of the exhibition by Nicholas James in Antiquity praised individual exhibits and the way that they documented the development of chronological and archaeological awareness, and showed how the recovery, recording and analysis of the material past has developed. But he subtly questioned whether in the past, the Society had shown sufficient awareness of the wider cultural context in which it operated and asked whether it could be expected of the Society that it could form an objective and critical assessment of its own role as the handmaiden of history. Of the modern Society, he concluded that ‘multidisciplinary research yields the surest results’, and that ‘Britain needs such alertness today’.

In his editorial in the same volume of Antiquity, Fellow Martin Carver regrets that the exhibition concentrates too much on a parade of ‘pre-Raphaelite underwear’ and does not tell as compelling a story as it might ‘of the intellectual successor to the antiquarian mission … archaeological inquiry – focused, conceptual, multi-disciplinary’. He feels that it is misleading to represent the recent Society through clips from recent TV programmes, when what Fellows these days really do is write books based on primary research. ‘It might have been worth reminding visitors that over the past 50 years, the Society of Antiquaries, led by its research committee, has initiated hundreds of modern scientific research projects and published dozens of meaty Research Reports. In this work lies the principal value of the Society for the public, and arguably its most useful legacy’, he says.

The future of the Textile Conservation Centre

Southampton University has pointed out some errors in the report in the last issue of Salon relating to the closure of the Textile Conservation Centre. Salon 176 said that the University had announced the closure of Winchester School of Art. In fact, it is only the Textile Conservation Centre which is to close. The University’s School of Art is thriving following a major restructuring of its academic programme, which, says the University, is ‘designed to meet increasing student demand for new courses in art and design, with a strong focus on commercial applications of art. School of Art student numbers are increasing, staff/student ratios among the best in the country, and the School is on target to eliminate its financial loss.’

Sarah Watts, Media Relations Manager at the University of Southampton, goes on to say that ‘the decision to close the Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) has not been taken lightly. It follows eight years of significant investment by the University. However, the University has concluded, with great reluctance, that the cross subsidy from other areas of academic endeavour can no longer be justified.

‘The University fully acknowledges the international excellence of the TCC and its significant achievements before and since becoming part of the University, but postgraduate conservation education is in itself a resource-intensive activity, and it needs also to contribute to central university services (such as library costs, computing facilities, the running costs of the building and student facilities), all of which are essential to the running of any academic activity and to which academic areas right across the University contribute.

‘The conservation sector has been discussing this for some months, as conservation programmes elsewhere face similar pressures as the TCC. In order to raise awareness of this nationally significant issue and to seek some solutions, the University and the TCC Foundation are working together on an international summit on conservation education in the UK in 2008.’

Preliminary details of this international summit were announced last week. To be held in spring/summer 2008 on a date yet to be decided, it will address the topic of ‘Putting Conservation Education on the Policy Agenda’. As a starting point for the debate, the Textile Conservation Centre has commissioned research from the think-tank Demos to parallel its recently published report on ‘Capturing Cultural Value’. The goals of the summit will be to raise awareness among decision makers, stakeholders and opinion formers of the crisis in conservation education and, using the Demos report, to assess the impact of conservation education and the impact of any loss or significant diminution in that education.

The summit will form one part of a series of three linked meetings that will take place during the year designed to address issues in conservation education and training in the UK. The first meeting is to be hosted by ICON, the Institute for Conservation, and will be held at Tate Modern on 9 January 2008. Entitled ‘20:20 vision – the conservation workforce of the future’, participants will debate what museums and private owners will need from the conservators of the future, what implications that will have for conservators’ skill sets, what is the likely composition of the conservation workforce of the future and what will be the required balance between practice and research? This is an open meeting and all are welcome: for further information, contact ICON.

The final meeting – ‘The Global Perspective’ – will form part of the 2008 International Institute of Conservation Congress, to be held in London in September 2008, and it will offer an opportunity to discuss conservation courses around the world and the pressures they face within a global context.

The carbon cost of protecting our heritage

The Guardian newspaper published a scare story last week, claiming that English Heritage was frustrating Government energy-saving efforts by denying listed home owners the right to basic improvements, such as secondary glazing, leading to the production of unnecessary carbon emissions. The article claimed as typical the plight of Richard and Lydia Savage, owners of a seventeenth-century farmhouse near Painswick, Gloucestershire, whose central heating system burns twice as much fuel as the average house, produces twice the carbon emissions and has to be kept on almost all year round because the house is so cold – all the fault of English Heritage, of course, who will not let the Savages install secondary glazing. According to the Guardian: ‘They are not alone – some 450,000 people in England live in listed properties, and millions more face similar restrictions in designated conservation areas’ (the reality is that it is rare to find a conservation area that hasn’t been comprehensively wrecked by a tide of uPVC replacement doors and windows; local planning authorities in England rarely undertake audits and almost never enforce the rules).

The article quite rightly led to a response from Justin Ayton, Buildings Inspector at English Heritage, who pointed out that the agency has no over-riding objection to the use of secondary glazing, that every case is judged on its merits, and that ‘In the case of the Savages, whose house is listed Grade II*, our concerns were not over the principle, but were based on having insufficient information to give a full understanding of the potential impact; and that such information as was included indicated internal frames of such bulky dimensions that they would have had an unnecessarily harmful impact on the appearance of the historic stone mullions. These concerns were raised with the Savages, but no further details or revisions were submitted.’

English Heritage says that it has produced guidance on the energy performance of historic buildings, and will be producing more specific guidance on secondary glazing in the future.

Historic Scotland is a step ahead, meanwhile, with a suite of excellent guidance documents for historic building owners, published by the Technical Conservation, Research and Education Group. These include simple common sense guidance on maintaining traditional sash and casement windows, reducing heat loss and improving sound insulation, and installing effective and unobtrusive secondary glazing. Other titles in the series – called INFORM – range from ‘Damp: causes and solutions’ and ‘The use of lime and cement in traditional buildings’ to ‘Domestic decorative glass’, ‘Maintaining a pantiled roof’ and ‘Ceramic tiled flooring’. More information on all of these from the Historic Scotland website.

Humidity and temperature fluctuations threaten Westminster Abbey woodwork

Just how much damage dry heat can do in the wrong place was brought home by the story in the December issue of The Art Newspaper, saying that the 700-year-old Coronation Chair, commissioned in 1296 and used for virtually every coronation since 1308, had suffered from serious flaking of its gilded and painted surface because of fluctuating humidity caused by the central heating system at Westminster Abbey. Conservator Marie Louise Sauerberg said that environmental conditions inside the Abbey are now causing ‘serious concern’, and had already caused considerable damage to the early fourteenth-century painted sedilia, on the south side of the high altar.

The World Monuments Fund and the Kress Foundation are funding a full survey of the sedilia, including photogrammetry, x-radiography and infra-red reflectography, prior to light cleaning and the securing of lifting paint with adhesive. Monitoring devices have now been placed throughout the Abbey to record temperature, humidity and light levels and provide the data for devising a better environmental strategy.

Undercover restorers fix Panthéon clock

Perhaps what the conservation world needs is to spice up its image. In Paris, according to a report in the Guardian, ‘cultural guerrillas’ broke into the Panthéon, established a secret workshop and, working under the supervision of professional clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Viot, spent a year taking apart and repairing the building’s clock, which had last worked sometime in the 1960s.

Far from being thanked, the four members of the underground ‘cultural guerrilla’ movement known as the Untergunther – a group of intrepid ‘illegal conservators’, dedicated to restoring France’s cultural heritage – were prosecuted for breaking into a national monument. They were acquitted on Friday, but the building’s administrator lost his job.

‘When we had finished the repairs, we had a big debate on whether we should let the Panthéon’s officials know or not’, said Lazar Klausmann, a spokesperson for the Untergunther. ‘We decided to tell them in the end so that they would know to wind the clock up so it would still work.’

‘We would like to be able to replace the State in those areas where it is incompetent’, said Klausmann, ‘but our means are limited and we can only do a fraction of what needs to be done. There’s so much to do in Paris that we won’t manage in our lifetime.’

Talkative pale-skinned flame-haired Neanderthals

The latest news from two different teams working on the Neanderthal genome is that some Neanderthals probably had red hair, that some were fair skinned and that they possessed what is known as ‘the language gene’, FOX2P.

Though they are typically portrayed in textbooks on human origins as dark skinned and dark haired, molecular biologists Carles Lalueza-Fox of the University of Barcelona, Holger Rompler of the University of Leipzig and Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig have published evidence in Science magazine that the mutation in gene mc1r associated with fair skin and red hair has been found in two separate samples of Neanderthal DNA taken from bones found at Monte Lessini in Italy and from the El Sidron cave in northern Spain. They calculate that at least one per cent of the Neanderthals in Europe may have had red hair, compared with two per cent of the world’s population today. The resulting change in the protein caused by this mutation produces pheomelanin instead of the dark melanin in their skin, hair and eyes, resulting in light coloured skin and, in many cases, freckles as well.

The announcement that the so-called ‘language gene’ had been found in two individuals excavated from El Sidron cave in northern Spain was made by Svante Paabo, molecular biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, in an article in Current Biology. The precise role of the FOXP2 gene in enabling language is not fully understood, but it has been observed that people who suffer replication errors in that part of the genome display a range of abnormalities in the language-related cortical and basal/ganglia regions of the brain and suffer difficulty in controlling the speech organs, making speech sounds, forming words into sentences and controlling their breathing. It is thought that the proteins produced by the gene play a critical role in the formation of the links between lungs, larynx and brain.

Finding the gene in Neanderthals suggests that they had the mental and physical capacity for speech and Dr Paabo said it raised significant new questions about the development of language: previously it had been thought that language development might have been unique to modern humans and was accompanied by neurological developments that occurred around 100,000 years ago. The new evidence suggests that the language gene must date back at least 350,000 years ago, to the time when the Neanderthal and modern human lineages split.

Cave of the Lupercal located in Rome

If you were watching or listening to the BBC news on 21 November 2007, you might have seen or heard Andrea Carandini, Archaeology Professor at the University of Rome, describe the latest find in his project to excavate the north slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome where a series of important discoveries relating to the earliest city of Rome have been made. This time Carandini’s team believe they have found the fabled Lupercale – the sanctuary believed by ancient Romans to be the cave in which Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of the city, were suckled by a wolf after their abandonment.

The domed shrine was located by probe some 16 metres below ground, and is some 8 metres high and 7.5 metres across, with walls and floor embellished with seashells and mosaics. The mosaic of a white eagle at the apex of the vault corresponds to a sixteenth-century description of the cave, written when it was still accessible. Some archaeologists have argued for a more cautious interpretation, saying the appearance could suggest a Renaissance date, and Professor Carandini acknowledged the evidence was not totally conclusive, but said only ‘one doubt in thousand’ remains.

No one has yet been able to enter the grotto. Carandini’s team are now searching for the cave’s original entrance. More than three-quarters of its volume is filled with soil and part of the roof has fallen away.

Pictures and sections through the site can be seen on the BBC website.

Latest news on the ship excavations in Pisa

It is now precisely nine years since construction work on a site adjacent to Pisa Centrale railway station led to the discovery of a well-preserved Roman boat in the waterlogged remains of a silted-up river harbour. Last week’s Sunday Times reported on progress since that initial find and revealed that, far from this being a single vessel, the site is a ‘naval graveyard’, with a remarkable number and range of wrecked boats, ranging in date from the first century BC to the sixth century AD, and in size and shape from river craft to seagoing cargo vessels.

Altogether, the substantial remains of fifteen vessels have been found and the fragmentary remains of many others, along with ropes, anchors and cargoes that include figs and prosciutto (dry-cured ham) bones. Andrea Camilli, director of the excavations, says this is the largest number of ancient vessels that has ever been found in one place, and thereby hangs the problem: excavation and conservation work has already cost €13m (£9.3m) and Camilli says that budget cuts imposed by the Italian government are starving the site of much-needed funds, and threatening the future of the proposed museum due to open in Pisa’s Renaissance shipyard in late 2008.

Work at the site is expected to continue for at least another eight years. Our Fellow Simon Keay said that each of the thirty boats so far identified at the site ‘is a snapshot for trading links in which Pisa was involved’. Camilli is calling for the Pisa harbour area to be declared a World Heritage Site: ‘Special status as recognised by Unesco would give us international recognition and publicity, and that is the first condition necessary for obtaining extra funds’, he said. The excavations are open to the public and there is a well-illustrated website with photographs and drawings of the ships and of the restoration centre and proposed museum.

Historic Patients’ Database now available online

A new research tool was launched on 1 November by the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, London, England’s first in-patient children’s hospital. The ‘Small and Special’ collection of resources allows users to search historic admissions registers (1852 to 1914) by name and date of birth to trace patient records. As well as providing resources for family history research, the database contains much information on childhood diseases and a collection of articles on the early history of the hospital, pen-portraits of the hospital’s medical staff and other personalities and a gallery of images.

The project was directed by our Fellow Dr Andrea Tanner, and drew on a team of local history experts from Kingston University working with the hospital’s Archivist, Nicholas Baldwin. One of the challenges faced by the team in transcribing records was to develop standardised spelling for the many childhood conditions and diseases whose descriptions, diagnoses and treatment were pioneered by the hospital and its practitioners.

British Academy offers research conference venue and funding

To underpin its support for the dissemination of advanced research, the British Academy is offering to co-host academic conferences using the British Academy as a venue and employing organisational assistance from the Academy’s conference team. It is also inviting conference convenors to apply for funding of between £1,000 and £20,000 to help meet expenses, including bringing key speakers to the UK (or to another location if the event is to be held abroad) and for publishing the proceedings of Academy-hosted events. Conferences attracting the higher levels of financial support should be aimed at least partly at disseminating the results of research to a broader public, and the Academy particularly welcomes applications that show how public interest might be engaged in the topics discussed. Further details and application form available from the British Academy website.

Lectures, conferences and seminars

Two evening lectures hosted by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings take place in December: today, 3 December, Jeremy Musson will speak about ‘Country House Visiting’, based on his experiences as presenter of the BBC’s ‘Curious House Guest’ series; on 17 December, Oliver Leigh Wood will speak about ‘Spitalfields and Beyond: thirty years of rescuing wrecks’, on the work of the Spitalfields Trust. Both lectures are at 6.15pm for 6.30pm at the Art Workers Guild, 6 Queen Square, London.

Our Fellow Jonathan Alexander is giving the annual Panizzi Lectures next month at the Conference Centre, British Library, Euston Road, London, on the theme of Italian Renaissance manuscripts in the collections of the British Library. The lectures (starting at 6.15pm) are on Tuesday 8 January 2008 (‘The formation of collections’), Thursday 10 January 2008 (‘The illumination of choral manuscripts’) and Monday 14 January 2008 (‘Patronage and portraiture’). Tickets are free but should be booked in advance using the British Library website.

Obituaries

The Society has been informed of the recent deaths of Peter Llewellyn, Lord Nathan and Allan Probert.

Peter Llewellyn had been ill for some time with cancer but died rather suddenly of pneumonia on 17 October 2007. He had been a Rome Scholar at the British School in 1961–4, working on the early history of the papacy and on the papal estates. He did a good deal of the historical and documentary research for the School’s South Etruria Survey. His main published work is Rome in the Dark Ages (1971), an account of the transformation of Rome from the fifth to the tenth centuries. For most of his career he lectured in early medieval European history at the University of Wales, Bangor. After retirement he was General Secretary of the Cambrian Archaeological Association for several years.

Lord Nathan, who died on 19 July 2007 at the age of 84, was a prominent City solicitor who sat on the crossbenches when he succeeded his father as the 2nd Baron Nathan in 1963. He was Chairman of several select committees of the House of Lords, and heavily involved in environmental issues. His obituary in the Daily Telegraph describes him as a hard-working and far-seeing environmental campaigner, President of the UK Environmental Law Association and of the National Society for Clean Air as well as Chairman of the Society of Sussex Downsmen and of the South Downs Conservation Board. Always mindful of his Jewish heritage, he was also President of the Jewish Welfare Board from 1967 to 1971, and chairman of the Central British Fund for Jewish Relief and Rehabilitation before becoming its Honorary President.

Informing Salon of the recent death of Allan Probert, Fellow Stephen Briggs says that ‘Alan was one of the most remarkable self-educated archaeologists in Wales, who was long ago proposed FSA by the late George Boon’ (elected 5 May 1977).

Feedback

Salon invented a fictitious architect in reporting on the future of Somerset House in the last issue: the designer of the New Wing was not John Pennethorpe, of course, but the rather better-known pupil of Nash, Sir James Pennethorne (whose entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography was researched and written by our Fellow Geoffrey Tyack).

And not for the first time, Peter Fowler has had to correct Salon because ‘like most people south of York, you referred to my beloved county of Northumberland as “Northumbria”. The latter has of course its own significant history a thousand and more years ago but, except in the perspective of modern tourist promoters, has not been much of a viable geo-political entity since. Northumberland, admittedly a remnant of that entity, is nevertheless one of England’s larger counties stretching, contrary to popular metropolitan perception, from well south of the River Tyne to that curious tongue of England-in-Scotland north of the Tweed, some 70 miles north of Hadrian’s Wall (which is nowhere near the English/Scottish border in Northumberland).’ Peter adds words of support for the efforts of our Fellow Lord Redesdale ‘in trying to keep the grey squirrel from crossing that Wall: its design, facing south according to urban Geordie myth, should help’.

Salon omitted the name of Fellow Matthew Spriggs from the report in the last issue on the excavation of the 3,000-year-old Lapita cemetery at Teouma, on Efate Island, part of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Matthew, along with our Fellow Stuart Bedford, both of the Australian National University, are joint directors of the excavation, and their report on recent work there was published in the October issue of the journal American Antiquity, co-written with Durham-based Alex Bentley. Matthew reports that further research will be carried out at this Lapita cemetery site and at other sites in Vanuatu of Lapita age (c 3000 BP) over the next five years, thanks to the award of an Australian Research Council ‘Discovery’ grant of just over Australian dollars 1.3 million, announced in October 2007.

The Centre for Archaeological Research at the Australian National University has an extraordinarily generous policy of allowing monographs in its Terra Australis series to be downloaded for free in the form of an e-book. Number 26 in the series, Oceanic Explorations: Lapita and Western Pacific Settlement, edited by Stuart Bedford, Christophe Sand and Sean P Connaughton, includes several papers by Fellows on the latest Pacific discoveries (including a paper on the six complete Lapita pots from the Teouma cemetery site featured in the last issue of Salon) and derives from a conference on the Lapita culture held in Nukualofa, Tonga, in 2005.

Commenting on the news that visitors to St Bartholomew the Great will be asked to pay a £4 admission fee in future, one Fellow who attended the Society’s Boston meeting recently wondered whether the church could follow the practice adopted by the Clark Institute of Art, in Williamstown, of charging admission during the late spring to early autumn high tourist season, but having free entry from November through to May. Admission charges are, he says, a serious deterrent to the visitor who might want just to spend five minutes in quiet contemplation of a single monument or detail, en passant; he has not been inside St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Ely or any other churches that charge entry for a decade. Many historic places in Europe and the US open free for a day a week, or for the last two hours of the day. A little-known fact that he confides is that anybody wishing to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey does not have to pay the considerable admission charge: they can apply to the guard at the West Door, who will admit them to the west end of the nave.

Referring back now to the item in Salon 175, which reported on Fellow Colin Renfrew’s desire to see clear ethical guidelines established for researchers asked to work with unprovenanced antiquities, Stephanie Dalley, of the University of Oxford’s Oriental Institute, has written to say that she would like to ensure a balance of opinion in Salon by making clear the view of many who study the inscriptions of the Ancient Near East. ‘Lord Renfrew’s current attempt to influence the policies of UCL, while understandably aimed at discouraging the looting of antiquities, has the unintended consequence of censoring scholarship’, Stephanie writes, adding that: ‘We feel that freedom of access to material, and freedom to publish the results, are paramount, and should be defended, as Lord Renfrew would surely agree.’

Books by Fellows

Spotted in the current issue of the Times Literary Supplement (30 November 2007), Margaret Drabble writing about her three Books of the Year, says: ‘I read Matthew Johnson’s Ideas of Landscape (Blackwell) with intense interest. It discusses the theory and practice of landscape archaeology and the Romantic English landscape tradition, boldly taking on received opinion about figures such as Wordsworth and W G Hoskins, and making us think hard about what we can know about the past, why we want to know it, and how we may be misled about it. It’s an original, informative, and well-argued work, accessible to the general reader, and both worrying and illuminating.’

Several other good Christmas book ideas are to be found in the latest Current World Archaeology, where editor Nadia Durrani has persuaded a cast of high-profile archaeologists to nominate their ‘books of the year’. Well done to our President, Geoff Wainwright, for shamelessly plugging the Society’s two Tercentenary publications, the Royal Academy exhibition catalogue, Making History, edited by our Fellows David Gaimster and Bernard Nurse with Sarah McCarthy, which Geoff describes as ‘the permanent record that this unique assemblage [the Society’s collection] always deserved but never possessed until now’, and Visions of Antiquity, edited by Susan Pearce, which traces the development of the various disciplines embraced under today’s heritage umbrella, and ‘serves notice that the Society will build on its past achievements to forge an equally influential future’ (for details, see the Society’s website).

One of the many books that Salon’s editor has enjoyed reading recently is called Waterways and Canal Building in Medieval England, edited by Fellow John Blair, Professor of Medieval History and Archaeology at Oxford, with papers by Della Hooke, Mark Gardiner, James Bond, Stephen Rippon and Christopher Currie, amongst others. This is a book that opens your eyes to a hitherto unrecognised feature of the English landscape, and shows that canal building did not begin with the Industrial Revolution – on the contrary, the papers in this book show that Britain had a more extensive canal network during the Roman occupation than any other part of the Roman Empire and that canal building was a major activity from the tenth century. Once you read this book, you will never again naively assume that any water course is ‘purely natural’.

Another good read is Felipe Fernández-Ernesto’s Amerigo: the man who gave his name to America, now out in paperback (£5.99 from Amazon), which, according to a review in the New York Times, ‘uses the bare bones of what is known about Vespucci to expatiate on subjects as diverse as the brutal world of Renaissance Italy, the importance of trade winds to world history and the poetics of travel writing’, the result of which is ‘a provocative primer on how navigators like Columbus and Vespucci set loose the cultural storm that eventually created the world we live in today’.

The many music lovers among the Fellowship will enjoy the latest book from the mind and pen of Jeremy Montagu, former curator of the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments and lecturer in the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford. Called The Origins and Development of Musical Instruments, this delves as far back as the Palaeolithic in search of the origins, uses and development of musical instruments, from simple whistles to the most complex organs and digital synthesizers, including the transmission of instruments from one culture to another. Prodigious of output, Jeremy also has an article on ‘Musical instruments in Hans Memling’s paintings’ in the November issue of Early Music.

Musical instruments display one aspect of human ingenuity and inventiveness, but they are surely matched, if not exceeded, in complexity by the looms that our ancestors created for turning wool, silk, hemp and flax into cloth. More on this in a future issue of Salon, when we will review Patricia Anawalt’s lavish Thames & Hudson book on The Worldwide History of Dress, but many interesting aspects of the history of textiles can be found in the new CBA Research Report 145, Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450–700, by Penelope Walton Rogers. The very existence of such a book is the more remarkable for the fact that, as the cover blurb says, ‘there are no pictorial sources and no surviving garments’. Overcoming such minor inconveniences, this well-illustrated and very readable book draws on ethnographic parallels, experimental archaeology and later manuscript illustrations, along with tools and surviving scraps of fabric, to paint a picture of an activity that is almost as basic to human survival as food and cooking, but that equally has much to tell us about society, trade, gender, pregnancy, children, death, class, style, fashion, religion, politics and ethnicity.

Vacancies

Heritage Planning Positions in London
A well-established and highly regarded West End planning and surveying consultancy is expanding its capabilities in planning and the historic environment, and is offering opportunities for staff at all levels, with an excellent package and prospects of advancement. Working on high-profile projects with leading design practices and clients, you will provide advice on listed buildings, developments in conservation areas and undertake townscape and visual assessments. The work includes site appraisals, research and advice in relation to a range of developments, with a focus on urban schemes in London and southern England. Full-time or consultancy arrangements are available on flexible terms for the right candidate, with entry level and salary depending on personal skills, abilities and experience. Town planning background or degree, or similar, desirable but not essential. Contact our Fellow Chris Miele with CV and an expression of interest.

IFA Workplace Learning Bursary in Post-Excavation Management
Salary: £16,621 (£17,120 from April 2008), closing date 13 December 2007

Applications are invited for a one-year HLF-funded IFA Workplace Learning Bursary at Birmingham Archaeology, University of Birmingham, in Post Excavation under the supervision of Post-Excavation Manager Dr Amanda Forster. This is an excellent opportunity to receive training in all aspects of post excavation management within a commercial unit. Training will focus on the development, maintenance and management of the process that takes archaeological sites from excavation to publication. For further details and application information, please visit the vacancies page on the Birmingham Archaeology website.

IFA Workplace Learning Bursary in Historic Buildings Survey, Research and Archaeology
Salary: £16,621 (£17,120 from April 2008), closing date 20 December 2007

Applications are invited for a one-year HLF-funded IFA Workplace Learning Bursary at Peterborough Cathedral in the field of buildings archaeology under the supervision of our Fellow Dr Jackie Hall, Cathedral Archaeologist, in partnership with Peterborough City Council and Oxford Archaeology. This is an excellent opportunity to gain training in many aspects of buildings archaeology, including digital survey, documentary research, understanding buildings within the wider historic landscape and the use of GIS as both a research and management tool. The successful candidate will gain valuable skills working on a new survey, archival research and the creation of a GIS for the historic precincts of Peterborough Cathedral. For further details and application information please contact Sarah Brown.

IFA Workplace Learning Bursary in Graphics for Archaeology
Salary: £14,462 pro rata, closing date 20 December 2007

Applications are invited for a six-month HLF-funded IFA Workplace Learning Bursary in the Archaeology Department at the University of Reading. The successful candidate will receive training in archaeological illustration and graphics work under the supervision of Margaret Mathews, the department’s Graphics technician. The successful candidate will also attend the Masters module in graphics taught in the department, receiving training in core archaeological illustration techniques and Adobe graphics software. For further details and application information, go to the News page on the IFA website.

Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth
Appointment of Trustees; closing date 11 January 2008

The Royal Naval Museum is seeking three people with a developed interest in the Royal Navy to join its Board of Trustees from April 2008. Candidates are sought who have experience or knowledge of one or more of the following: business management and administration, charitable fundraising, the management of major heritage development projects, education and lifelong learning, human resources, museums and/or the heritage sector. Further details from Julian Thomas, Secretary to the Trustees.