Salon Archive

Issue: 18

Last week�s SALON

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Weekly meeting report

Two weeks ago, Dr Frank Salmon, FSA, compared the full-blown romanticism of eighteenth-century British artists in their approach to the reconstruction of lost or ruined buildings from antiquity, by contrast with the rigid and academic approach of the French. This week Professor Redford looked at a closely related area of artistic endeavour -� the recording of classical ruins in the Levant -� and came to the opposite conclusion: that British artists of this period prided themselves on accurate field measurements and emphasized the empirical nature of their quasi-scientific endeavours. By contrast, French artists were accused of distorting the evidence to enhance their picturesque visual effects.

Two such contrary conclusions reached from such similar material ensured that there was a wide-ranging debate following Professor Redford�s eloquent paper. Fellows produced examples from both sides of the English Channel to suggest that neo-classicism and romanticism flourished side by side in both nations and that it was difficult to characterize Britain or France as exclusively one or the other.

Professor Redford responded by saying that the painstaking field research undertaken by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett in order to create their portfolio of drawings can be seen as the artistic equivalent of the scientific procedures of Newton and Locke. Mid-eighteenth-century Britain was characterized by a number of interlocking enterprises, all to do with the acquisition of �truth� (including Samuel Johnson�s Dictionary, and the activities both of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries). The choice of rhetoric employed by the Dilettanti in publishing and justifying their work, with its emphasis on exactitude and rigour, suggested that Britain was in the vanguard of neo-classicism. And whether justified or not, the French were frequently berated by the same authors for lacking an equivalent sense of order and empiricism.

Professor Redford has kindly agreed to forward a copy of his paper on his return to the USA, so a full account of the meeting will appear on the Society�s website shortly.

Forthcoming meetings

The last meeting of the season will take the form of a Miscellany of Papers, to be presented at the Summer Soir�e on 20 June.

There will also be a Ballot, with exhibits, on Thursday 4 July

Fellows� news

We have learnt with regret of the death on 16 March of Arthur Hall, FSA. Having recently celebrated his 101st birthday, Arthur was the Society�s oldest Fellow. Arthur spent almost the whole of his working life at London�s Guildhall Library, where he eventually became Librarian. He also held numerous positions with, amongst others, the London Topographical Society, the Historical Association, the London and Middlesex Archaeological Association and the Enfield Preservation Society.

The Society does not have records of Fellows� dates of birth, so we do not know who succeeds Arthur Hall as the senior Fellow. Lesley Lewis, who was awarded the Society Medal at this year�s Anniversary Meeting and who is rarely absent from weekly meetings, celebrated her 90th birthday at the Society in March 1999, and may well qualify. The longest serving Fellow is Anna Chitty, who was elected on 13 January 1938 and is the only surviving Fellow to have been elected before the war.

Christopher Dyer, FSA, who is Professor of Regional and Local History at the University of Leicester and was until recently President of the Society for Medieval Archaeology, writes to say that he has been awarded a grant of �317,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Board for a three-year interdisciplinary research project into medieval settlements and landscapes in the Whittlewood area. The research staff are Richard Jones and Mark Page. The project is based in the Centre for English Local History at Leicester (founded by W G Hoskins), and is supported by the Universities of Belfast and Exeter. It is sponsored by the Medieval Settlement Research Group, and is conducted in partnership with Bucks and Northants County Councils. The research began with a two-year pilot project, also funded by the AHRB, which is coming to an end. In those first two years much progress was made towards understanding the settlement pattern and dating its development from prehistoric times to the present day. The research uses a range of techniques. It will be the subject of a lecture to the Antiquaries in next year's series.

Alan Johnston, FSA, writes to inform those Fellows who might be planning research trips to Greece in the near future that the National Museum in Athens and the museums at Olympia and Delphi are all going to be wholly or partly closed for long periods ahead of the Olympic Games in 2004. Further information can be had from the British School at Athens, by emailing the London office (bsa@sas.ac.uk) or the Athens office (secretary@sas.ac.uk).

In a wry afterthought he adds that you could add the British Museum to the list, though for different reasons: trade union members there have voted to hold a one-day strike in June to protest against planned cuts of �6 million in 2004-5, which will mean reducing staff numbers from 1,100 to 950. On a happier note, it was announced last week that the Great Court at the BM will host the prize-giving ceremony for this year�s MAN Booker Prize, which will take place on 22 October and will be televised live on BBC2.

Burlington House courtyard completed

The noise and mess of builders at work, which has disrupted life at Burlington House for many months now, came to an end last week when HM The Queen formally opened the Annenberg Courtyard, renovated thanks to the �3 million donation of art patrons Walter and Leonore Annenberg. Following the ribbon cutting, the new fountains in the courtyard danced to Handel's Water Music. The newly refurbished courtyard will be used for exhibitions of contemporary sculpture, and is part of a scheme that will eventually see the former Museum of Mankind integrated into the Royal Academy.

Job vacancies

Here is a selection of jobs advertised in the last seven days. Fellows are encouraged to pass details on to suitably qualified students, friends or colleagues.

Chair and Board Members, South West Museums, Libraries and Archives Council: funded by Resource, this newly formed body is seeking to recruit up to twelve board members and a Chair to direct the work of the Council and shape its strategic vision. No fees are paid, but expenses will be reimbursed. Further details from Karen Hopkins, South West Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Creech Castle, Taunton TA1 2DX, tel: 01823 259696.

Landscape Regeneration Manager, Peabody Trust: The Peabody Trust has committed �15 million to improving the 30 hectares of open space that it owns in central and inner London and is looking for someone to lead an ambitious programme of environmental regeneration. Further information from response@peoplemedia.co.uk quoting ref no 67060. Salary �34,300. Closing date 19 June 2002.

National Trust for Scotland, Head of Gardens: to manage and present the Trust�s 30-plus gardens, which together portray the evolution of Scottish garden history. Further details from www.nts.org.uk.

English Heritage: new maritime responsibilities

Last week English Heritage launched its new policy document for marine archaeology, at the same time drawing attention to the vast scale of its new responsibilities. Under the terms of the new National Heritage Bill, English Heritage's remit now extends to include ancient monuments in, on or under the seabed to the twelve-mile limit around England. At a stroke that adds a further 18,000 square miles of seabed to the 50,000 square miles of dry land for which English Heritage already has responsibility. Launching the document, David Miles, FSA, English Heritage Chief Archaeologist, ruefully acknowledged that it will be a major challenge for the organization to fulfil its programme of work on the basis of a budget of around �250,000 a year.

He added that �the seas around Britain contain a wealth of archaeological sites potentially without equal elsewhere in the world in terms of their number and diversity. These remains include submerged landscapes, primarily relating to the earlier prehistoric period, as well as remains deriving from Britain�s history as a major naval, mercantile, industrial and imperial power. The history of Britain �- and the everyday experience of many of its inhabitants �- has been inextricably linked to its surrounding seas�.

The new policy document, Taking to the Water: English Heritage's Initial Policy for The Management of Maritime Archaeology in England (written by Paul Roberts and Stephen Trow), considers how English Heritage can fulfil its new obligations to achieve a better understanding and management of this maritime archaeological resource. A pdf version of the document is available from the Archaeology pages of the English Heritage website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/default.asp?wci=mainframe&URL1=default.asp%3FWCI%3DNodeContent%26WCE%3D4969.

Catterick Camp

The archaeological story that captured the public imagination this week concerned the Yorkshire priest and devotee of Cybele described in most reports as �a cross-dressing transvestite�, though in reality he was probably a victim of ritual self-castration. For those who missed the story, it�s prosaic origins lay in the publication of a CBA Research Report �- not normally the sort of thing to make the pages of the tabloid press -� concerned with the results of rescue digs carried out in the late 1950s at Cataractonium, the Roman town near modern-day Catterick. The report included an account of a skeleton that was first assumed to be female from the quantity of jewellery found in the grave, including a jet-bead necklace, shale bracelet and bronze anklet. Further examination revealed the grave to be that of a man who died in his early 20s.

Ritual instruments and found nearby suggested that he was a devotee of the Anatolian cult devoted to the worship of the goddess Cybele, the mother goddess whose young lover was so guilt-ridden at having betrayed her that he castrated himself and died. Newspaper reports described ritual self-castration in detail, stating that it was performed in a state of dance-induced ecstasy using a sharp fragment of pottery and ritual clamps to staunch the wound.

Commenting on the find, Senior English Heritage Archaeologist Pete Wilson said: 'It just shows how cosmopolitan the North of England was then' �- a statement that was chosen by The Observer as its �Quote of the Week�. And when 13.5 million people tuned in to watch Angus Deayton face humiliation on Have I Got News For You last Friday, they heard Ian Hislop suggest to the red-faced presenter that he might like to show remorse for his alleged infidelity by following the example of the Cybelean priests of Catterick.

The Villa of the Papyri, Herculaneum

Controversial excavations have begun at the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, where disagreement has surfaced between archaeologists who argue that conservation should be the main priority, and a group of distinguished classicists who believe that buried vaults within the villa could contain lost works by Livy, Sophocles and Euripedes.

The villa, buried by lava from Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, was the home of Lucius Calpurnius Piso, father-in-law of Julius Caesar. Discovered in 1752, it remains the largest villa ever excavated and later inspired the design of the Getty Museum in Malibu. Some 1,800 papyrus scrolls were found at the time, mostly philosophical tracts in Greek by Philodemus of Gadera.

The new excavations are designed to find a second library of Latin texts, believed to lie within the unexcavated parts of the villa. Critics say there is no evidence that such a library exists, that earlier excavations on the site have been carried out in an unscientific manner and have led to flooding problems, and that the scrolls recovered in the 18th century have not been studied or conserved.

Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, FSA, Director of the British School at Rome and Chairman of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, says that any papyri left in the villa are in a stable state and cannot deteriorate further, and he argues that conservation of what has already been unearthed should be the priority: �The existing excavations at Herculaneum are in a critical state�, he says, �The archaeological, historical and decorative evidence is crumbling before our eyes�.

Despite this, excavation is going ahead, at a cost of �3 million and over two years, using tunnelling techniques to get round the problem that more recent buildings overlie this site, including Herculaneum�s modern town hall.

Bournemouth leads in Forensic Archaeology

It is a grim but little known fact that archaeologists make up a large proportion of the teams of investigators who visit the trouble spots of the world in order to excavate the sites of mass murder and genocide, thus assisting in the task of bringing the perpetrators to justice by compiling forensic evidence. Quite a number of them are graduates of Bournemouth University�s world-leading MSc in Forensic Archaeology. Running since 1995, the course adapts archaeological methodology to the legal framework of crime investigation. Last week saw the final stages of the course as students were let loose on a Dorset farm with instructions to survey the site, find hidden graves and recover the evidence they contain. Paul Cheetham, one of the course leaders, said that it attracted students from all over the world wanting to develop skills in the recovery and interpretation of human remains.