Salon Archive

Issue: 189

Burlington House closure

The Society’s Library and apartments are closed today and tomorrow for the bank holiday; they will reopen on Wednesday 28 May 2008.

19 June ballot

An administrative error led to the wrong ballot being published on the Society’s website on 23 May, with the wrong date and the wrong list of candidates. The correct ballot has now been published (dated 19 June 2008) and is available for online voting. However, if you voted in the incorrect ballot during the course of 23 and 25 May, your votes will still be counted, and you should not vote a second time for any of the candidates for whom you have already cast a vote.

Secretary of State to attend our Summer Soirée

Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has confirmed that he will attend the Society’s annual Summer Soirée, to be held at the House of Commons this year, in honour of the Society’s Tercentenary, hosted by our Fellow Sir Patrick Cormack, MP. Also attending will be our Royal Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, and the Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, Margaret Hodge.

The event takes place from 7pm to 9pm, with speeches at 7.15pm (note the slightly later times than previously announced). Fellows and guests are welcome, and tickets cost £20, to include drinks and canapés. Places should be booked through the Society.

Forthcoming meetings and events

29 May 2008: The Cowdray Engravings and the Loss of the Mary Rose, by Dr Dominic Fontana, FRGS, Senior Lecturer in Geography, University of Portsmouth.

The Cowdray engravings record five large paintings that once adorned the dining parlour walls of Cowdray House, at Midhurst, in Sussex. The original paintings were probably made for Sir Anthony Browne between 1545 and his death in 1548. The Society of Antiquaries commissioned Samuel Grimm to draw the paintings and James Basire to create engravings for reproduction, work that was completed between 1778 and 1788. The original paintings were lost in 1793 when Cowdray House was largely destroyed by fire. This paper uses the Society’s drawings and engravings as evidence to help us develop a model of the events surrounding Henry VIII’s campaign in France in the summer of 1544, the French invasion attempt of July 1545 and the loss of the Mary Rose during her engagement with the French in the Solent on 19 July 1545.

5 June 2008: East Africa and the Trade in Medieval Luxuries, by Dr Mark Horton, FSA. Mark will be discussing recent archaeological discoveries made along the East African coast, and how these inform our understanding of the medieval world systems, especially in terms of the trade in high-value luxury commodities, such as ivory, crystal and gold.

13 June 2008: Burlington House Lecture: Archbishop Ussher (1581–1656) and the Age of the Earth. This public lecture, to be held at the Geological Society, in the Burlington House interdisciplinary lecture series, will be given by our Fellow Professor Graham Parry, FSA (University of York), and Dr Patrick Wyse-Jackson (Trinity College Dublin) at 6pm, preceded by tea from 5.30pm and finishing at 7pm. Entry to the lecture is by free ticket, which can be reserved by sending an email to the the Society.

Archbishop Ussher’s pronouncement that the Earth was created on the evening preceding Sunday 23 October 4004 BC has always been regarded with scepticism. Ussher’s chronology was, however, based on serious scholarship and it initiated a tradition of enquiry into geochronology at Trinity College Dublin that led directly to the radiometric dating techniques that have now established the Earth’s age at 4.567 billion years. The speakers will examine the man behind the legend, the great work he left behind, and his successors at Trinity College, including Professor John Joly (1857–1933), the scientist most famous for his development of radiotherapy in the treatment of cancer but who also used radioactive elements present in minerals to make estimates of the age of the major geological periods. A copy of Ussher’s Annales Veteris Testamenti (1650) (‘Annals of the Old Testament’), containing his chronology of Biblical events from Creation, will be on display.

9 June: Ballot: You can now vote in the 19 June ballot on the Fellows’ side of the website. Apply to Christopher Catling if you would like a password or a password reminder. At the meeting, Fellows Jenny Hall and Marit Gaimster will talk about the hoard of Roman bronze vessels recently discovered during the Drapers Gardens excavation in London and Fellow Simon Bendell will speak about early crotal bells (if you don’t know what they are, come and find out!).

24 June: ‘Getting to know the Society’ introductory tour. Please contact the Society to book a place.

26 June: The Future of the Past, the last of the Society’s Tercentenary Festival events. This will take the form of a debate, moderated by our Fellow Robert Key, MP for Salisbury, between members of the audience and a panel consisting of our Fellows Richard Bradley, David Cannadine and Carenza Lewis. The debate will take place in the BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum, London WC1, starting at 6.30pm, to be followed by a wine reception. Fellows’ tickets should be booked through the Society; members of the public should book online.

4 and 5 July 2008: Tercentenary Research Seminar on Westminster Abbey Chapter House: its history, architecture and context. There are no places left for this seminar.

12 July 2008: Tercentenary Fellows’ Day at Kelmscott Manor
A special programme is planned by the Kelmscott Manor team for this year’s Fellows’ Day, which will take place on Saturday 12 July and will mark the close of our Tercentenary celebrations. The event starts at 1.30pm, continues until 5pm and is open to Fellows, their families and guests at a cost of £17.50 per head (£7.50 children aged six to sixteen). Cheques should be made out to ‘Kelmscott Manor’ and sent in an envelope marked ‘Fellows Day’ with the names of the people in your party to Kelmscott Manor, Kelmscott, Lechlade GL7 3HJ. For further information, please contact Kelmscott Manor on 01367 253348 or email

Antiquaries in Europe: the role of national antiquarian societies today

The Society played host over 15 and 16 May 2008 to the Chairmen, Chairwomen, Presidents and Secretaries of sixteen antiquarian societies, travelling to London for the occasion from as far north as Norway, Sweden and Finland and as far south as Greece and Spain. The seminar explored the histories and roles of our various societies, the challenges ahead and the opportunities for collaboration.

Many of the papers were variations on a single theme: a number of our sister societies are celebrating significant anniversaries (100 or 150 years) and many were born at a time of rising nationalism, often fostered by the achievement of independence from a neighbouring nation or another European power. Many too were inspired by the emergence of archaeology as a scientific discipline out of classical studies during the mid-nineteenth-century.

All agreed that the fostering of research and the publication of the results were their core activities, based in excellent library facilities, built up and maintained over long periods of time. England is not alone in having a fiscal regime that is not especially sympathetic to charities; fortunate are those countries that have a middle way between commerce and charity – the ‘not for profit’ enterprise; fortunate too those countries where research and publication are, by definition, regarded as charitable activities (certainly not ones from which anyone expects to make money) without the need to jump through other ‘public benefit’ hoops.

Some regretted that research was increasingly marshalled into themes approved by committees; such research strategies were often outmoded before they were published, and encouraged a homogeneity that was regrettable, not least in the growing emphasis on the use of English (in reality American) as the language of scholarly publication. ‘Our government is encouraging us to resist,’ said Joost Van der Auwera, Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Archaeology of Belgium. And quite right too: language is heritage and the degree to which language has its own archaeology is only slowly beginning to be appreciated. Having said that, few of the delegates to the seminar spoke anything less than perfect English (often grammatically superior to some of the native English speakers, judging by some of the PowerPoint slides), and some were impressively quadrilingual (Flemish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish or Greek plus French, German and English).

Another strength of all the societies was their mix of vocational and avocational (lay, amateur, volunteer) members, and their independence from government. As a congregation of experts we can speak with a critical and objective voice when politicians make short-sighted judgements. Summing up the seminar and opening the concluding debate, Willem Willems, Hon FSA, of the University of Leiden, argued that heritage protection was a democratic right, and that one of the roles of the state on behalf of the electorate is to protect heritage from those who would do harm in the name of ignorance or greed. On the whole, he said, governments in Europe had a poor record of defending the heritage: ‘Would that they protected heritage with the same eagerness with which they build motorways,’ he said.

So in looking for areas for closer co-operation, there was thus an important role for all European antiquarian societies to work together as a watchdog and critic of municipal, state and supra-national authorities on society’s behalf. It was proposed that a network of independent national antiquarian organisations be established, and an effort made to find analogous organisations in those European nations not represented at the seminar, especially in eastern Europe.

As a first step, the Society of Antiquaries of London has establised a new webpage where copies of the presentations made at the seminar will be posted, with links to the websites of all the organisations represented this first joint meeting. Initial thoughts are that the page could also be used to publicise research grants, meeting programmes and reciprocal access arrangements for each others’ libraries. Beyond that, the network might be built through the establishment of a regular cycle of joint meetings.

22 May 2008 ballot result

All the candidates for Fellowship in the 22 May ballot were elected, and the Society is pleased to welcome the following as Fellows of the Society:

• Scott Howard Mandelbrote, Director of Studies in History, Tutor for Undergraduate Admissions, Perne Librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge, specialising in modern intellectual history.
• James Russell Raven, Professor of Modern History, Department of History, University of Essex, specialising in the history of printing, publishing, bookselling and libraries.
• Robert Tittler, Professor Emeritus of History, Concordia University, Montreal, specialising in the history of English towns and the social context of urban life from the later Middle Ages to the early seventeenth century.
• Thomas Felix Marlborough Pryor, manuscript and archive consultant, assessor of manuscripts for the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art.
• Helen Walker, archaeologist, Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit, specialising in medieval and post-medieval pottery.
• James Robinson, Curator of Medieval Art and Archaeology, Department of Prehistory and Europe, British Museum, specialising in medieval ceramics.
• Stephen Giles Hudson Freeth, former Keeper of Manuscripts, Guildhall Library, specialising in monumental brasses and funeral monuments.
• Thomas E Russo, Professor of the History of Art, Department of Art and Art History, Drury University, Springfield, Missouri, USA, specialising in classical and medieval art.
• Gillian Swanton, Trustee of Wessex Archaeology, director of excavations in Wiltshire.
• Preston Miracle, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, specialising in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology, director of the Pupicina Cave excavations, Croatia.
• Robert Tear, internationally acclaimed operatic and concert tenor, conductor and writer on musical, archaeological and topographical subjects.
• Charles Peter Kendall, Team Leader for Kent and East Sussex, English Heritage, and Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Medway, an authority on Westenhanger Castle and Shurland Hall.
• Judith Alfrey, Historic Buildings and Landscapes Inspector, CADW, and authority on rural buildings in Wales.
• David Clark, Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, Oxford, director of courses in vernacular architecture, specialising in medieval shops.
• eorge Cunningham, Senior Lecturer, Department of History, University of Limerick, conservationist and winner of Ireland’s National Trust award for a lifetime contribution to heritage.
• David John Adshead, Head Curator and Architectural Historian, National Trust.
• Holley Martlew, archaeologist specialising in Bronze Age Cretan coarseware.
• Paul Pattison, Senior Properties Historian, English Heritage, specialising in landscape archaeology and post-medieval fortifications, especially the Western Heights at Dover.
• Christopher Brandon, architect and maritime archaeologist, specialising in Roman hydraulic concrete.
• P Maureen Carroll, Reader in Roman Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, specialising in Roman Europe.
• Gordon Leslie Higgott, architectural historian, English Heritage, specialising in British classical architecture, Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren.
• Penelope Jane Ellis Davies, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Art History, University of Texas, Austin, specialising in the art and architecture of the Roman republic.
• Gerard A A March Phillipps de Lisle, writer specialising in the history and antiquities of Leicestershire.
• Jeanne-Nora Andrikopoulou-Strack, Director, Prospektion, Rheinisches Amt für Bodendenkmalpflege, director of excavations on Roman military and civil sites.
• Neil Martin Faulkner, Features Editor, Current Archaeology, Director, Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project and co-director of the Great War Archaeology Group, specialising in late Roman Britain.

Seaweed dates for first Americans

The last issue of Salon reported the dating of human faeces from caves in Oregon to 14,300 before the present; now similar dates have come from masticated seaweed found at Monte Verde, in southern Chile. The seaweed samples were dated to between 14,220 and 13,980 before the present. These and the Oregon dates confirm that humans were living in America more than 1,000 years earlier than Clovis-site dates would suggest, and that the Pacific Coast was an early migration route.

The site is being excavated by a team of anthropologists, geologists and botanists headed by Vanderbilt University’s distinguished Professor of Anthropology Tom Dillehay (see the Vanderbilt website). When Dillehay and his colleagues first reported in 1979 that bones and charcoal found at Monte Verde returned dates of more than 14,000 years before the present, sceptical archaeologists argued that the carbonised material resulted from a natural forest fire or lightening strike, because it contradicted the prevailing belief that human colonisation of the Americas began about 13,000 years ago, when groups of big game hunters, called the Clovis culture, after the distinctive spear points found at the Clovis type site, followed herds from Siberia to Alaska over the Bering Strait land bridge.

The Monte Verde dates are even more significant in that they come from a settlement, rather than a shelter; discovered in 1976, the Monte Verde site, 500 miles south of Santiago, includes the well-preserved remains of a dozen huts located along a stream. The implication is that this is a mature site, and that humans could have been in the Americas much longer, but that rising sea levels (up to 200 feet higher today) have drowned early coastal settlements.

Dillehay said the Monte Verdeans were exploiting marine and inland resources: a total of nine different species of seaweed and algae have been found at the site, as have shellfish, flat beach pebbles, water plants from brackish estuaries and bitumen; but the diet also included inland species, including the now-extinct elephant-like gomphothere, a species of llama, vegetables and nuts. Many of the seaweed fragments were found in areas used for cooking, suggesting that the plants were eaten. Others were mixed with plants and chewed into cuds, which may have been used as medicines.

Sea-level research in Orkney: first radiocarbon dates

Drowned prehistoric landscapes also feature in research being carried out by our Fellow Caroline Wickham-Jones and the University of Dundee’s Sue Dawson, as part of the Rising Tide project, looking at past sea-level change and prehistoric settlement around Orkney. Since 2006 a programme of coring has taken place and two dates have now been obtained which start to give a more precise idea of the period at which the sea reached its present level. In both cases, gyttja (a word from Swedish used to describe mud sediments rich in animal, plant and plankton residues) has been dated: in the case of Echna Loch to 3950±40BP (Beta 242126), or 2340–2570 cal BC, and in the case of Voy, Stenness, to 3090±40BP (Beta 242127), or 1440–1270 cal BC.

The Echna Loch date relates to a period of change in the diatom (microfossil) assemblages found in the mud from marine to freshwater conditions, brought about by the closure of the marine embayment by the storm beach barrier along which the present-day road runs.

The Voy sample, which comes from a point at the inland extremity of the loch of Stenness, similarly represents a change in salinity – in this case from freshwater/lagoonal to marine and brackish conditions as the sea level rose.

Archaeologically the dates are important because they indicate just how much the landscape of Orkney has changed since the monuments comprising the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site were built some 5,000 years ago. Around Orkney relative sea levels would have been lower for much of the Neolithic, raising the possibility of submerged Neolithic sites and landscapes in the shallow seas between the islands.

Environmental reconstruction from coring suggests that the loch of Stenness comprised a lake with reed beds at the time when the Stones of Stenness (c 3100 BC) and the Ring of Brodgar (2500–2000 BC) were first built, rather than being connected to the sea. Caroline Wickham-Jones commented: ‘The dates immediately raise a number of questions: if there was no loch, the theory that the stones were floated to their present site goes out of the window. Another casualty is the idea that the Standing Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar were erected where they are because of an interaction between the land, lochs and sky.’

‘The sudden ingress of seawater into the loch of Stenness, as it reached the level of the rock lip at the Brig o’ Waithe, must have been a notable event,’ Caroline said. ‘The subsequent flooding of the Stenness basin took place over the later life of the monuments, making this an area of dynamic environmental change which must have impacted on the lives of those living in the area.’ The time lag between Voy and Echna Loch ‘is likely to be due to the different geographical positions and sheltered nature of Voy, behind a shallow rock lip which may have allowed freshwater conditions to prevail for longer at the north-western edge of the loch,’ she added.

An intensive programme of coring in the deeper Seatter embayment (nearer to the Brig o’ Waithe) is now under way, to refine the history of the loch of Stenness, with funding from Historic Scotland, the Crown Estate and the Orkney Islands Council.

Plan to prevent erosion of Orkney’s Neolithic sites

Rising sea levels continue to be a factor impacting on the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, and a consultation has just been launched into the proposals contained in a management plan for the protection, conservation and improved understanding of the World Heritage Site drawn up by Historic Scotland, the Orkney Islands Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Skara Brae is a case in point, and a Historic Scotland spokesman said: ‘When the settlement was built 5,000 years ago, it was at least 1km from the coast. The remains are now right on the edge of Skaill Bay, and there is evidence to suggest that the rate of erosion has accelerated in recent years.’

This consultation is available from Historic Scotland’s website. The consultation closes on 19 June 2008.

Lapita shell jewellery found in Fiji

Patrick Nunn, Professor of Oceanic Geoscience at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, announced last month that his two-month excavation at Bourewa Beach, on the south-western coast of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, has revealed stilt houses built out into the sea and quantities of Lapita-style decorated pottery, stone tools and jewellery.

The Lapita, the first colonisers of the South Pacific, are believed to have migrated eastward from the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and other Pacific islands from around 800 BC. The Bourewa Beach settlement dates from this migration period, and is the earliest yet uncovered in Fiji by about 200 years, said Nunn, who directed the project supported by Fiji Museum and researchers from universities in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and the UK.

The jewellery, a cache of nine shell rings of different sizes, four shell bracelets and six necklace pieces complete with drill holes, was found under an upturned pot. Peter Shepphard, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Auckland University in New Zealand, described the finds as ‘extraordinary’ and from ‘a very important site’ that might have been a manufacturing centre for shell jewellery.

Nunn said the Lapita disappear from the archaeological record as a distinctive cultural group on Fiji after about 550 BC, suggesting that early settlers brought sophisticated skills from their Bismarck Archipelago homeland area that were important to their identity, but that ceased to be so in the course of time.

Bust of Caesar found in the Rhône

French archaeological divers have found a marble bust of Julius Caesar on the bed of the River Rhône in Arles. They believe the lifelike head, showing a balding man in his fifties, dates from 46 BC, two years before his assassination.

Luc Long, the archaeologist who found the bust, said it was typical of the more realistic style of the republican period, before the conventional representations of a divine Caesar. ‘He has a long neck, wrinkles showing his age, the prominent Adam’s apple, the high and wide forehead and marked baldness,’ he said. Michel L’Hour, director of the underwater architecture institute at Marseilles, said: ‘It is very realistic. Not at all prettified. Caesar’s features are hard and ageing. That makes it remarkable. It is much more human than the stereotypical statues which show him with laurel crowns. It is the oldest bust we have of Caesar and it was doubtless sculpted to honour him as the patron and founder of the town of Arles.’

Mr L’Hour said that it was common for residents of ancient towns to throw unwanted goods into the river. ‘The Caesar bust may have been on display in a public institution or in a patrician villa. One can imagine that with the assassination of Caesar, they tried to get rid of it quickly by throwing it into the river because he had become an embarrassing person to venerate.’

The bust will go on display in Arles museum in September 2009, along with one hundred other objects excavated from the river, including a life-sized statue of Neptune and a bronze satyr.

For a photograph, see the Daily Telegraph’s website.

Vikings: not thugs but fishmongers

With her usual skill at turning a witty phrase, our Fellow Maev Kennedy has described recent research into the medieval origins of the North Sea fish trade as forcing us to revise our image of the Vikings – once thought of as longship ram-raiders, then as mainly traders and colonising farmers, they are now revealed in truth to be the ‘fishmongers of Europe’.

Maev’s report in the Guardian pointed to a study of collagen in ancient fish bones, which has enabled Cambridge University archaeologist, James Barrett, to demonstrate that cod consumed in Jorvik (Viking York) was caught off the Norwegian coast. Collagen carries chemical traces of the water the fish originally swam in, and shows that fish were being transported in large quantities and over thousands of miles, from AD 950.

The research, published in the May 2008 Journal of Archaeological Science, also shows the 1,000-year-old origins of the modern problem of declining fish stocks. The emergence of commercial fishing in the tenth century ‘may represent the point at which people started to have an impact on marine ecosystems,’ James Barrett said.

Waterford Viking site to be scheduled

Reports in the Irish press say that Woodstown archaeological site in County Waterford, considered one of the most important early Viking Age trading centres yet discovered in Ireland, has yet to be placed on the statutory record of national monuments, five years after it was found. The Woodstown working group, which includes senior archaeologists from the National Monuments Service and the National Museum, has ruled out large-scale excavation in the short to medium term, but recommends that the site be placed on the Record of Monuments and Places under the National Monuments Acts so as to give Woodstown a ‘basic level of protection’.

The Woodstown site was found in 2003 along the proposed route of the N25 Waterford bypass, which was rerouted further east to avoid harm to what was recognised as a site of international importance. Geophysical survey suggests that the major and central part of the site lies within two contiguous D-shaped enclosures, defined by concentric ditches. The evidence from some 5,000 Viking artefacts already found there points to Woodstown as a major trading site in the late ninth century.

The working group report says there is evidence for ‘considerable on-site manufacturing activity, including iron, copper alloy, silver, glass and perhaps lead-working, woodworking, ship repair and textile production’. This makes it ‘one of the most productive unwaterlogged sites of early medieval date’ yet known. ‘The extraordinary assemblage of finds promises new insights into economic activity in this period and potentially into the origins of urban settlement in Ireland,’ it concludes.

Diamond miners find wreck

Bearing in mind the theme of Mark Horton’s paper to the Society on 5 June (‘East Africa and the trade in medieval luxuries’), it is timely to note the discovery off the south-western coast of Africa of a ship’s cargo consisting of thousands of Portuguese and Spanish gold and silver coins, bronze cannons, tons of copper ingots, more than fifty elephant tusks, pewter tableware and navigational instruments, all pointing to a wreck date in the late 1400s or early 1500s.

Dieter Noli, an archaeologist brought in to help excavate the wreck, said that the trade in ivory and copper was under official control at that time, so it is likely that there are records that could help identify the ship. He added that very little remains of the actual ship, which could be the oldest ever discovered south of the Sahara from the European Age of Discovery.

The wreck was found after Namdeb Diamond Corporation, a joint venture between the government of Namibia and De Beers, built a coffer dam round an area of the seabed that geologists then searched as a possible source of diamonds: instead they found cannon barrels and ingots.

Analysis of the ivory will eventually provide clues to the ship’s movements. Fragments of what appear to be human bones have also been seen in the concretions at the site and these will also be analysed for evidence of the origins of the people on board the ship, before being re-interred. Under Namibian law, the ship and its contents belong to the state and are protected under the National Heritage Act.

Spain claims shipwreck treasure

The controversy over Odyssey Marine Exploration’s secretive salvaging of some 17 tonnes of gold and silver coins from an unidentified shipwreck in the Atlantic off the Algarve coast has reached a head: the Spanish government is now suing the Florida-based company for the return of the ship’s cargo, saying that they have ‘multiple evidence’ that the vessel from which it came was the Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes. ‘The sinking of the Mercedes was a pivotal event in Spanish and European history,’ the Spanish government said in documents filed with a Florida court on 8 May 2008, and the site and its contents are the inalienable historical heritage and patrimony of Spain’. It was the sinking of the Mercedes by a British warship in 1804 that led Spain to declare war on Britain and re-enter the Napoleonic Wars.

Odyssey Marine Exploration has kept the exact location of the site and its identity secret, saying only that it lies in international, rather than Spanish, waters. Under Spanish law, Spanish military vessels, as distinct from privately owned commercial ships, remain Spanish property wherever they are found.

According to James Goold, attorney for the Spanish government, the wreck’s location and the coins recovered from it clearly point to the Mercedes. ‘We have been able to pinpoint Odyssey’s operations in international waters, and confirm that they were working where the Battle of Cape St Mary occurred,’ he said. Carmen Marcos, chief coin curator for Spain’s National Archaeology Museum, said that limited, preliminary evidence suggested that the coins recovered from the ship were minted in 1803 in the then Spanish colony of Peru. ‘The coins show us that the ship had recently left the port of El Callao in Lima,’ she said, which is consistent with historical documents showing that the Mercedes left El Callao in April 1804.

Records also show that some 200 sailors and members of their families were killed in the explosion. ‘Spain has denied authorisation or consent to the disturbance or salvage of the Mercedes because we consider the site an underwater cemetery,’ said José Jiménez, Director of Fine Arts for the Culture Ministry, countering one of Odyssey Marine’s arguments that Spain had abandoned the shipwreck site – a justification once used by another salvager, Mel Fisher, to lay claim to a pair of Spanish ships sunk off the coast of Florida.

Goldsmiths’ Company: Treasures of the English Church

The 2008 Summer Exhibition at Goldsmiths’ Hall, in London, will show more than 330 spectacular and rarely seen objects from cathedrals and parish churches all over England. The free exhibition – Treasures of the English Church: Sacred Gold and Silver 800–2000 – runs from Friday 30 May until Saturday 12 July and is well worth visiting both for the exhibition and for the building itself – Goldsmiths’ Hall, located at the junction of Foster Lane and Gresham Street, north east of St Paul’s Cathedral, opened in 1835 and remains pretty much as Philip Hardwick designed it as an ‘urban palazzo’.

Curated by our Fellow Timothy Schroder, the exhibition includes Archbishop Hubert Walter’s silver-gilt chalice and paten from Canterbury Cathedral, dating from about 1160, which also featured in the Society’s ‘Making History’ exhibition last year, having been discovered when the archbishop’s tomb was opened in March 1890 by the Society (at the invitation of the cathedral canons).

The exhibition also includes a spectacular display of seventeenth-century altar services brought together for the first time and illustrating the glories of post-Reformation church plate at its most opulent and flamboyant, including three magnificent alms dishes and a pair of flagons chased with feathers, dating from c 1660 and loaned by St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Examples of the Victorian church silver include a colourful display of Victorian Gothic revivalist works, designed by architects such as William Burges and Augustus Pugin to complete their architectural church commissions.

There is also recent church silver by members of the Guild of Handicrafts and other twentieth-century silversmiths, such as Omar Ramsden, C R Ashbee, Harold Stabler, Louis Osman and Leslie Durbin, and much work by outstanding contemporary British gold- and silversmiths, many of them members of the Goldsmiths’ Company, such as an altar cross and two candlesticks made by Michael Lloyd in 2000, and a censer completed in 2007 for Lincoln Cathedral by Anthony Elson.

Timothy Schroder summed up the exhibition as ‘a visual record of the entire history of the English Church and how the range and design of these precious objects reflect the politics and theology of their times.’

Trips abroad blamed for ignorance of British history

Writing in the Observer for 25 May 2008, historian Tristram Hunt argues that the accelerating trend for school trips abroad is one reason why only one-third of Britons can recognise the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

‘As this summer’s sky-rocketing GCSE results will no doubt confirm, this is the cleverest generation ever,’ he says, ‘but the awkward truth is that within our education system, there lurks a crippling ignorance of British history and our cultural heritage.’

‘In the old days, a geography field trip meant a wet week in the Brecon Beacons while a history excursion took in Hadrian’s Wall, HMS Victory and, if you were lucky, “the bloody meadow” at Tewkesbury. All of them are landmarks of our island story with multilayered meanings any decent teacher could interestingly draw out … [today] Barcelona, New York, Krakow and Lake Garda (for goodness sake) [are] firm favourites … a recent flight to Arizona echoed to the sound of a sixth-form geography class flying off for a mini-break – sorry, study trip – to the Grand Canyon. For all of five days. Whatever happened to a hike along the Jurassic Coast and an afternoon at Durdle Door?’

‘It is time for schools to stop appeasing the travel reps and reclaim the school trip as a learning journey rather than a mid-term jolly. In the process, they would help their pupils discover that Britain is not some flyover state, but that at the long gallery of Hardwick Hall, on the fields of Marston Moor, in the bow of HMS Belfast, down the coal mines of the Big Pit and staring at the Great East Window of York Minster is to be found a history as fascinating and enriching as anything New York or Barcelona can offer.’

Compensation culture leads to closure of tree-trunk bridge

But perhaps, in truth, such overseas trips are the luxury of a few; whereas once every school pupil might look forward to an annual school outing, bureaucracy has made such trips so difficult to organise that some schools have simply given up. And here is an example of why, reported in The Times: apparently a bridge over the River Bovey, at a point that has probably been used as a crossing since the Bronze Age, has been sealed off, and is due to be demolished, because ‘no one will accept ownership for fear of being sued if anyone falls off’.

Residents of Lustleigh – the location of the bridge – and of neighbouring Manaton are furious at this threat to Dartmoor’s heritage; more than 470 people have signed a petition to save the bridge, which is the last surviving example of a ‘clam bridge’, made of split tree trunks, and once a ubiquitous means of crossing Dartmoor’s rivers and streams.

Engineers from Devon County Council say the simple design and single handrail does not conform to British Standards. Last year they installed a new steel bridge, costing £35,000. The Council no longer accepts responsibility for repairs to the old bridge, and while the Dartmoor National Park Authority is willing to pay for repairs, it insists that the bridge must be closed because the Authority will not accept liability for its use.

Nick Hewison, a member of Lustleigh Parish Council who has campaigned to save the bridge, said: ‘We didn’t think there was a need for the new bridge but the county council say they have to comply with safety standards. They have changed fundamentally an idyllic corner of Dartmoor.’

The national park authority says: ‘The new bridge provides a safe, accessible route across the river which is appropriate to modern needs.’

Heritage Lottery Fund held up as a model of efficiency

The Conservative Party has promised to cut the costs administering the National Lottery to release an extra £100 million for good causes if they form the next government. Fifteen organisations distribute lottery money. The Big Lottery Fund, which hands out almost half of all lottery cash, spends 13 per cent of its budget on administration, employs 1,103 staff and spends £77 million a year on administration.

The Conservatives have warned that they will require all distributors to reduce their spending to the same level as the Heritage Lottery Fund, which spends 9 per cent of receipts on administration. This would save £80 million a year. Ed Vaizey, the Conservative Party’s lottery spokesman, said: ‘We think that we can reduce a lot of the costs and ensure that the money goes to good causes, which is, after all, where lottery punters think their money is going.’

Chesters Museum celebrates ‘the man who saved Hadrian’s Wall’

The museum at Chesters Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria reopened at the end of April 2008 after an English Heritage refurbishment ‘to bring it up to twenty-first-century standards of conservation, display and interpretation’. The museum first opened alongside the Roman fort site in 1903 and houses the Clayton Collection of more than 5,500 catalogued items from a variety of sites along the central section of the wall. The new museum celebrates the achievement of John Clayton, lawyer and clerk for the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, whose passion for archaeology led him to buy land containing stretches of the Wall to prevent its demolition as a quarry for building stone.

Clayton’s foresight helped preserve a large central stretch of Hadrian’s Wall that includes Chesters (Cilurnum), Housesteads and Vindolanda. His successful management of his estate and farms generated the wealth to fund conservation work and some of the first archaeological excavations on the Wall. He also brought early tourism to the area by displaying some of the finds at Chesters. ‘Without his foresight, there might not be a World Heritage Site,’ said Georgina Plowright, Collections Manager for the new museum.

Architecture 08

The opening of the home of our Fellow Christine Finn from 22 to 29 May is being billed as one of the star events of this year’s Architecture 08 festival, the annual celebration of the best of the country’s architecture, organised by the RIBA. Not that Christine’s house, at 58 Golf Road, Deal, Kent, will conform to any ideas you might have about a double bay-windowed pebble-dashed late nineteenth-century seaside home; having inherited it from her parents, Christine has used it as a laboratory for exploring artistic and archaeological ideas – last year inviting visitors to look beneath the floorboards for the lost and forgotten history of the house, and this year celebrating the role of the mantelpiece as a domestic memory bank. ‘I am intrigued,’ says Christine, 'by the way that mantlepieces accumulate objects in a distinctive way as a visual biography of a home’. More information can be found on the Architecture 08 website.

The future of Somerset House

The future of Somerset House, the Society’s first permanent home, looks to have been decided, according to a news item in last week’s Sunday Times, which reports that the trustees of the Somerset House Trust are close to agreeing a £50 million sale of the lease to the westernmost part of the complex, the New Wing, which is to be vacated by the Inland Revenue and turned into a luxury 135-bedroom hotel, by the Sandelson group. The eastern side of the courtyard is to be occupied by King’s College London, while the Institute of Contemporary Arts, currently based in Pall Mall, is considering a move to the southern wing; the northern wing will continue to house the Courtauld Institute of Art.


The list of contributors to the Andrew Fleming tribute volume, Monuments in the Landscape, mentioned in the last issue of Salon was short of two Fellows: omitted from the line-up were Toby Driver and Stephen Briggs.

Fellow Andrew Pike points out that the same edition of The Times that carried the obituary of our late Fellow Thomas Cocke also had a belated obituary for our former Librarian, John Hopkins, graced by a photograph of John, which can now be seen on the ‘Obituaries’ page of the Society’s website.

Books by Fellows

‘Monks to Mariners’ is the alliterative subtitle of a book whose author bears the same alliterative initials: Sunderland and its Origins by Fellow Maureen M Meikle and co-author Christine M Newman, academics at Sunderland and Durham universities respectively, is published by Phillimore and chronicles the history of the two ancient parishes of Monkwearmouth and Bishopwearmouth, from their Neolithic and Bronze Age origins to the creation of the new Sunderland parish in 1719.

The book arises out of the Victoria County History’s ‘England’s Past for Everyone’ project, and, as such, includes contributions from local volunteers, who transcribed numerous wills and other documents relevant to the research, and from a number of academic specialists, including our former President, Professor Rosemary Cramp, as it tells the story of Bede’s scholarly world and the Wearmouth monastery and maps the history of the surrounding settlements, as Wearsiders carved a living from the sea, the river and the increasingly important coal trade.

Echoing the title and theme of Dodie Smith’s 1948 novel, I Capture the Castle, in which the eccentric Mortmains struggle to live in a decaying English castle in the 1930s, our Fellow Michael Saunders Watson is publishing his own memoir, I am Given a Castle, based on the adventure that began when, as an impecunious naval officer, he unexpectedly ended up the owner of Rockingham Castle, plus a village and 4,000-acre estate. Salon’s editor has not read it yet (publication is scheduled for 1 September, and a pre-publication offer is being mailed to all Fellows) but our Fellow Simon Jenkins has, and he describes it as ‘a charming book’.

The wide interests of Fellows never ceases to astound: Salon’s editor has only just realised that the much-praised book, Tree of Rivers: the story of the Amazon (Thames & Hudson) is the work of Fellow John Hemming, former Director and Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (1975–96). John says that there is one chapter on archaeology – the discovery of early Amazonian civilisations, bitter disputes about the antiquity of early man in Amazonia and the size and sophistication of pre-conquest chiefdoms – but that the book as a whole is a rounded portrait of the Amazon basin, its geography, anthropology, flora, fauna and natural beauty, ‘all now under threat as the forests are destroyed to feed our appetite for timber, beef and soya’ (see him talking about the conservation issues on YouTube.

Reviewers have heaped praise on the book: ‘At last, a book about the Amazon that generates more light than hot air … a book written from the heart and the head … lucid and learned … the definitive single-volume work on the subject,’ said the Daily Telegraph, while the Financial Times said: ‘John Hemming’s passionate storytelling sweeps you on like the irresistible river itself’.

Our Fellow Ed Harris, whose name will forever be associated with the Harris Matrix, the graphic system now used almost universally as a method for analysing and presenting the stratigraphic sequences of archaeological sites, is celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of his classic textbook on the subject, Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy, by giving it away free. The book, which has been out of print for a decade, can be downloaded from the Harris Matrix website, created by Dr Wolfgang Neubauer and Klaus Loecker, at the Vienna Institute for Archaeological Science at the University of Vienna.

The following comments, posted on the site, show just how much this gesture is appreciated: ‘many thanks for inventing this wonderful tool that so helps to sharpen the mind when interpreting, and avoid stratigraphical impossibilities in reconstructing a chronology’; ‘this is the book that brought order to the world of archaeological fieldwork’; and ‘a sacred text; absolutely indispensable!’.

Our Fellow Professor Alan B Lloyd has been honoured with a volume of papers written by colleagues and edited by Thomas Schneider and Kasia Szpakowska called Egyptian Stories. A British Egyptological tribute to Alan B Lloyd on the occasion of his retirement (published by Ugarit-Verlag). The title, Egyptian Stories, seems especially apt, with contributors vying to see who can come up with the most intriguing title for their paper: amongst leading contenders are A M Dodson’s ‘Legends of a Sarcophagus’, R Enmarch’s ‘What the Ancestors Foretold’, C Graves-Brown’s ‘Flint and the Northern Sky’, E F Morris’s ‘Sacred and Obscene Laughter’, P Thomas’s ‘The Barefoot Aristocrats and the Making of an Egyptian Collection’ and (surely the winner), Kasia Szpakowska’s ‘Flesh for Fantasy: reflections of women in two ancient Egyptian dream manuals’.

Gifts to the Library

The Society is very grateful to the donors of the following books, given to the Society’s Library in the period from January to March 2008. Full records for all are on the library’s on-line catalogue and all these books are available in the Library.

• From Jill Franklin, Fellow, The Queen’s Pictures (1977), by Oliver Millar, late Fellow.
• From Conleth Manning, Fellow, Kells Priory, County Kilkenny: archaeological excavations by T Fanning and M Clyne (2007), by Miriam Clyne.
• From the author, Malcolm Wiener, Fellow, Palatial Potters in Mycenaean Greece (2007) and Homer and History (2007).
• From the author, David Howarth, Fellow, The Invention of Spain (2007).
• From Andrea Vignini, Mayor of Cortona, Il Museo della città etrusca e romana di Cortona: catalogo delle collezione (2005).
• From Andrew Lawson, Fellow, Scavi archeologici nella zona palafitticola di Fiavé-Carera (1984–94, 3 vols), by Renato Pesini.
• From the author, David Taylor, Fellow, An Estate for All Seasons: a history of Cobham Park, Surrey (2006).
• From Vincent Megaw, Fellow, L’âge du fer dans l’arc jurassien et ses marges (2007, 2 vols), eds Phillipe Barral et al and La necropoli di Monte Tamburino a Monte Bibele (2003, 2 vols), ed Daniele Vitali.
• From the author, Christopher Starr, Medieval Mercenary: Sir John Hawkwood of Essex (2007).
• From the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1845–59 (reprinted 1997, 5 vols).
• From Anthony Emery, Fellow, The Limbourg Brothers: Nijmegen masters at the French Court 1400–16 (2005) ed P Roelofs and R Dückers
• From Richard Hodges, Fellow, Venetian Butrint, by Andrew Crowson (2007).
• From T W Pritchard, Fellow, Ruabon Parish Church, Denbighshire (1998) and Manafor Church (1998).
• From Peter Thorogood, Fellow, An Introduction to the Life and Times of George Carew, Vice Admiral of the ‘Mary Rose’ (2007), by D R Banting.
• From the author, David J Breeze, Fellow, Roman Frontiers in Britain (2007).
• From the author, Barbara Yorke, Fellow, Alfred the Great. Warfare, Wealth and Wisdom (2008).
• From the author, Alistair Marshall, Guiting Power, Gloucestershire – an archaeological investigation (2008, 5 vols).
• From the author, Ellen Macnamara, Fellow, Prehistoric Metal Artefacts from Italy (3500–720 BC) in the British Museum (2007).
• From the editor, Alasdair Whittle, Fellow, The Early Neolithic on the Great Hungarian Plain: investigations of the Körös culture site of Ecsegfalva 23 County Béké (2007, 2 vols).
• From Steven Ashley, Fellow, Catàleg de xapes de guarniment [medallions] Fons del Museu Frederic Marès (1994) by M Luisa Martín Ansón and the staff of the Frederic Marès Museum.
• From the author, Denys Pringle, Fellow, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: a corpus. Volume 3: the city of Jerusalem (2007), with drawings by Peter E Leach, Fellow.


Among the fun-sounding jobs currently being advertised in the heritage field are the posts of Antonine Wall Enhancement Officer (sadly that doesn’t involve draping flowers over the Wall, or filling in the missing bits: rather more prosaically the job is to enter records into a database of information about the Wall), and Glenmorangie Research Officer (this post is being financed by the famous whisky maker, but the research does not involve imbibing its products – rather assisting National Museum of Scotland staff in researching and writing a major book on early historic Scotland).

On a more serious note, Salon has been asked to highlight the following vacancies:

Queen’s University Belfast, Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology
Salary £30,912–£36,912, closing date 6 June 2008

The holder of this lectureship will undertake undergraduate and graduate teaching and supervision in the archaeology of prehistoric Europe to AD 500, contribute to the teaching of archaeological field skills and undertake research (the area of research is open) commensurate with their experience to support the research profile of the Archaeology-Palaeoecology department (RAE grade 5), pursuing research grant funding and supervising postgraduate students as appropriate. Further information from the QUB website.

Historic Buildings Advisory Council for Wales, Members
Closing date 19 June 2008

The HBAC advises the Welsh Assembly Government on issues surrounding the historic buildings and structures of Wales and particularly whether the buildings being put forward for grant-aid meet the eligibility criteria of architectural or historic interest. As such, HBAC members largely comprise experts in the architecture of such buildings and their conservation. However, the Council currently has no expert specifically to advise on matters of historic interest nor, from summer 2008, an architect in the field of historic building repair. The Assembly Government is seeking to fill that gap and is looking to appoint a) a respected historian with a high level of professional or academic achievement who has expertise in the history of Wales across all periods from the medieval onwards to advise on a building’s particular contribution to the history and heritage of Wales when being considered for grant assistance, and b) a practising architect experienced in the field of historic building repair to advise on the appropriateness or otherwise of the proposed schemes of repair for the buildings and structures being considered for grant assistance.

Further information is available on the Welsh Assembly Government website.