Salon Archive

Issue: 190

Queen's Birthday Honours

Celebrating the Queen's official birthday a week ahead of everyone else, Australia has just (9 June) announced its Queen's Birthday Honours list for 2008 (thanks to Vincent Megaw for this hot-off-the-press news). The Society congratulates our Fellow Professor Patrick Joseph O'Keefe, who is appointed Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to the protection and repatriation of cultural property and heritage, to the law as a lecturer and author, and to legal education.

Summer Soirée 11 June 2008

There is still just time to book tickets for 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, Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Margaret Hodge, the Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism.

The event takes place from 7pm to 9pm, with speeches at 7.15pm. Fellows and guests are welcome, and tickets cost £20, to include drinks and canapés. Places should be booked through the Society.

Arrive early for the Summer Soirée

If you are planning to attend our Summer Soirée, you should allow plenty of time for passing through the security checks at the public entrance to the Houses of Parliament. The timing of the Soirée coincides with the 42-days detention debate, and the Society has been warned that the numbers of people wanting to attend the debate combined with heightened security means that there could be longer queues than usual at the entrance. You are advised to arrive there not later than 6.30pm, and preferably to come without bags or briefcases.

Forthcoming meetings and events

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 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.

19 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 Bendall 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, David Starkey 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.

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 admin@kelmscottmanor.co.uk.

John Evans Centenary and Arthur MacGregor Study Day

Numerous Fellows gathered in Oxford over the weekend of 31 May and I June 2008 to honour our Fellow and former Director Arthur MacGregor whose retirement from the Ashmolean was marked by a study day in his honour – and to mark the centenary of the death of Sir John Evans (1823–1908) whose artefact collection and documentary archives form the foundation of the Ashmolean’s Department of Antiquities. Instituted in 2003, the Sir John Evans Centenary Project has been documenting and cataloguing that legacy, and one of the fruits of that project is the volume of papers edited by Arthur, and published by the Ashmolean, called Sir John Evans 1823–1908: antiquity, commerce and natural science in the age of Darwin.

This is a very handsomely produced volume, as is appropriate given that the underpinning to Evans’s antiquarian accomplishments was a business career as a paper manufacturer. Michael Stanyon, one of the contributors to the essay volume, reminded those who attended last Saturday’s launch, that the sixteen-year-old Evans had been due to attend an interview for a place at Brasenose College in 1839 when his mother intervened: married to an impecunious clergyman herself, and determined that John should not be condemned to a similar life, she arranged for her son to work in the accounts department of her brother’s company, the Hertfordshire-based paper manufacturer, John Dickinson. He eventually rose to be head of the company and presided over its very considerable expansion, and not the least of the remarkable facts about Evans’s life was that his many academic accomplishments were achieved without the benefit of a university training, and while he was pursuing a very busy commercial career.

And Evans was no mere figurehead: his commercial life and his academic life were so intertwined that his now-famous trip to Picardy in May 1859 – where he and his friend the geologist Joseph Prestwich verified the claims of the French archaeologist Boucher de Perthes to have found human artefacts and the bones of long-extinct fauna in the same geological contexts – was slotted in around business engagements in London, Wales and Ireland. The lecture that he delivered to the Society of Antiquaries on 2 June 1859 on the Somme gravels was thus written largely while pursuing a hectic business travel schedule, and throughout his life he maintained an extraordinary pace of work and achievement whithout ever seeming to be under strain.

Evans’s catalogue of achievements ranges over engineering, hydrology, geology, numismatics, archaeology, ethnology, anthropology, Egyptology, natural history, agriculture, chemistry and conservation. This polymathy was genuine: his fellowship of numerous learned societies was earned through primary research, new inventions and publications that had a profound impact on scholars in all of these fields (the bibliography of Evans’s works is fifteen pages long, and averages four major papers a year every year from 1850 to his death in 1908.

But he was not alone: Evans’s circle of friends included people of similar and greater talents and energy, including Sir John Lubbock, Colonel Pitt Rivers and Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks who together formed a secret society, the X Club, with the aim of taking over all the key institutions of the day and converting them to the empirical science that they believed characterised Darwin’s great work of that same momentous year, 1859, On the Origin of Species.

The story of the X Club is told by Janet Owen in the new volume, and it builds on the riveting account of our Fellow Stephen Briggs in the Society’s Visions of Antiquity volume discussing the intellectual energising of the mid-nineteenth century Society of Antiquaries that took place with the introduction of concepts of prehistory and empirical science-based archaeology. Far from being converted en masse to the idea of prehistory on 2 June 1859, moved by the persuasive power of Evans's Somme gravels lecture, it took some three decades for the implications to be fully embraced by our Society. Evans, Lubbock, Pitt Rivers and Franks, along with other members of the X Club, played a key role by working together as a hit squad: at the Society of Antiquaries, as with the Royal Society, the Ethnological Society, the Archaeological Institute and others, they supported each other's candidacy for office and, having gained seats on Council, they then set about reforming the institutions by encouraging Darwinist ideas and scientific methodology.

To read this story, and several others equally fascinating (for example, on the emergence of modern archaeology out of geological concepts, on Evans’s contribution to distinguishing implements made by human agency from those whose tool-like form is a result of natural processes, on developing conventions for illustrating artefacts in printed publications, or on Evans’s role in promoting the three–age system), you need to buy the book: full details can be found on the Ashmolean’s website, and Fellows qualify for a 25 per cent discount (so £33.75 instead of £45, but then the £5 postage cost has to be added back in). To take advantage of the offer, send an email to publications@ashmus.ox.ac.uk. Of course, the Society’s own Visions of Antiquity makes an admirable and companion volume, and is also available to Fellows at the discounted price of £45.

Finally a date for your diaries: the Society of Antiquaries will celebrate the 150th anniversary of John Evans’s Somme gravels lecture on 2 June 2009 with an afternoon of research papers on the lecture, its reception and its consequences.

Fifty years of Cirencester’s archaeology

On the subject of celebrations, 2008 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the formation at the Society of Antiquaries of the Cirencester Excavation Committee and the occasion is to be marked throughout the summer and autumn by a series of events.

The Corinium Museum in Cirencester will host an exhibition celebrating archaeological exploration in the town, from 9 August to 21 September 2008.

On 15 October 2008, a reunion is planned at the Bingham Hall in Cirencester for anyone who has been involved in Cirencester’s archaeology over the last five decades (that includes a significant number of Fellows, amongst whom our Treasurer Martin Millett, our Publications Manager, Kate Owen, and Salon’s editor, all cut their archaeological teeth excavating sites in Cirencester in the 1970s). Former CEC Directors and Fellows Alan McWhirr, John Wacher and David Brown are being invited to the reunion, and the occasion will be used to launch Volume 5 in the Cirencester Studies series, with overviews of the last fifty years from Fellows Tim Darvill, Chairman of Cotswold Archaeology, David VIner, former Curator of the Corinium Museum, and Neil Holbrook, Chief Executive of Cotswold Archaeology, the CEC’s successor body.

Neil will start the evening with a lecture on the contribution that Cirencester has made to archaeological methodology (it was here, for example, that Steve Roskams developed the single context recording systems now widely used by field archaeologists, that Fellow Richard Reece developed his radical ideas for interpreting coin loss patterns, that our Fellow Tony King pioneered early studies in animal bones) – but he also promises a light-hearted look back at the past with some (potentially embarrassing) photographs of our younger selves. Further details from Cotswold Archaeology.

Finally the Society’s own Christmas Miscellany, on 18 December 2008, will include a paper on ‘Fifty Years of Cirencester Archaeology’, by Tim Darvill (Chairman of Cotswold Archaeology), Chris Catling (Deputy Chairman) and Neil Holbrook (Chief Executive).

A manual for archaeological activists

Our Fellow Jeremy A Sabloff (who is Curator of Mesoamerican Archaeology, Williams Director Emeritus and the Christopher H Browne Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum) has written a book that many Fellows have probably also written many times over in their head and in their encounters with those who do not share their passion: it is called Archaeology Matters, a good and assertive title (no messing round with equivocal titles like Does Archaeology Matter?), for Jerry is quite certain that archaeology has lessons that are relevant to some of the major problems facing the world today, including the sustainability of our planet.

Jerry argues that we need more ‘action archaeology’, meaning ‘engagement with the problems facing the modern world through archaeology’, and the book contains numerous case studies to illustrate the concept, including such very practical impacts as William Rathje’s Tucson Garbage Project of the 1970s, studying household rubbish and what happens in landfill sites, which has had a major impact on public policy with regard to garbage disposal in the US, or the re-introduction of ancient agricultural techniques (such as raised field systems) to southern American communities, which has significantly increased yields and soil fertility.

The book is packed with further examples, and while Jerry is rightly cautious about the uses to which archaeology can be put in creating nationalist myths, he does want to promote archaeology as a tool for helping minority groups become more visible: for example, helping the indigenous fishing communities of Alaska to assert their rights over the North Pacific’s salmon resources against the depredations of commercial-industrial fishing fleets; or writing the hidden history of slavery in North America through the African Burial Ground project.

On the big question of the future of the planet, he rightly points out that archaeology is replete with examples of sustainable lifestyles, and of a more balanced relationship between nature and humankind and Jerry believes we should make common cause with the Green movement, believing that archaeology has much to offer to nature conservationists in the common battle for environmental protection.

This book is an archaeological activist’s primer, full of good arguments for enjoining the intellectual battle for a less rapacious society and more sustainable development. Jerry has rightly aimed it at the young (the book is ‘intended for students on introductory archaeological courses’) who are idealistic enough to want to see their archaeology having an impact on contemporary issues, but he does not underestimate how difficult it will be to get some of these messages across, noting wryly that the best known ‘archaeologist’ in America is an unrepentant looter called Indiana Jones – not exactly the role model archaeologists would choose for their caring profession.

(As an aside to the above, our Fellow Mary Beard might like to add Jerry’s book to her students’ reading list – a list that, according to the Daily Telegraph, currently includes ‘transcripts of the notorious “Squidygate” and “Camillagate” tapes, which disclosed details of the Prince and Princess of Wales’s extra-marital affairs’, and Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story’. Mary insists she is not dumbing down the academic value of a Classics degree, but rather finding ways to get very bright students to ‘think outside the box’, in the course called ‘The Roman emperor: constrution and deconstruction of a myth’.)

The threat to Numantia

As well as saving the planet, many archaeologists also have their hands full with more local battles to save particular monuments, and news has come in from Spain that the ruins of the ancient Roman settlement of Numantia, near the modern city of Soria, in Castilla y León, is threatened by plans to develop new urban and industrial zones nearby. The site has great resonance for Spain, as a city that resisted conquest by the Romans and only succumbed after a long and brutal siege. Several Roman historians of the Numantine War expressed admiration for the sense of freedom of the ancient Iberians and acknowledged their fighting skills; and Miguel de Cervantes’ play about the event, El cerco de Numancia (The Siege of Numantia, 1587), is his best-known work after Don Quixote.

Archaeologists at various Spanish academies have begun lobbying against the developments. For further details (in Spanish) see the Fundacion UNED website.

David Starkey says ‘Save our Rubens’

Closer to home, our Fellow David Starkey added his weight to the Tate’s campaign to raise £6m to save a sketch by Peter Paul Rubens that is ‘an integral part of Britain's history’. The sketch was made for the ceiling of the Banqueting House, the only remaining part of London’s Whitehall Palace, most of which burned down in 1698. Commissioned by his son, Charles I, the subject is the apotheosis of James I; the final work, based on the sketch, was installed in 1636.

‘Mostly it doesn't matter where a Rubens is, or where a Turner is,’ said David Starkey, ‘but when you have a concatenation of history, place and biography like this then yes, it really does matter’.

The sketch is being sold by the family of Viscount Hampden. So far, £1.56m has been raised of the £6m needed by the end of July before the work goes on the open market. For pictures, and details of how to make a donation, see the Art Fund’s website.

Apethorpe Hall goes on the market

Jacobean house for sale (51,000 sq ft), with fifty rooms, 45 acres of gardens and grounds, including stable block (13,000 sq ft), dovecot, eighteenth-century walled kitchen garden and greenhouses designed by Reginald Blomfield (who restored the house in the first decade of the twentieth century), located in a pretty Northamptonshire village, 11 miles from Peterborough, with trains to London’s King’s Cross (journey time 50 minutes). Sounds tempting? If so, you will need at least £5 million to buy the house (which has, according to the estate agent’s advert, state rooms that have seen fifteen recorded royal visits). In a market where London penthouses now sell for £50 million, and ordinary houses in the Cotswolds will give you little change from £10 million, this looks like a bargain. On the other hand, you will need untold millions to make the house habitable, and any improvements will have to meet the exacting standards of English Heritage, which has already spent £4 million on a programme of mainly external renovation to make the building weather proof, having compulsorily purchased it in 2004.

The house is unlikely to sell to a Sunday Telegraph reader, judging by the tone of the newspaper’s Blimpish report accusing English Heritage of ‘wasting public money by putting a majestic 15th century [sic] property on the market for £4.5 million after spending more than £7 million to save it for the nation’ (Colonel Blimp, aka Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, was never accurate about historical dates, though he no doubt rails against the decline of history teaching in our schools). In fact, the taxpayer could yet recoup the miniscule amount of money that has been spent on the house, because a buyer who wants to waive the requirement to open the house to the public on 28 days a year can do so by repaying in full the money spent on the compulsory purchase and emergency repairs.

The Times took a much more celebratory line, deploying our Fellow Marcus Binney, the newspaper’s Architecture Correspondent, to write a eulogistic account of a house that has ‘the timeless, ravishing beauty of an ancient Oxbridge College [and whose] long gabled fronts, bristling with urns and chimneys, enclose one of the most graceful country-house courtyards in all England.’

If you would like to see the house, you don’t have to pretend to be a potential buyer: tours take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays in June, July and August. Tickets are £7.50; pre-booking (tel: 0870 3331183) essential. On the other hand, if you are genuinely interested in buying Apethorpe, you need to contact Harry St John, at Smith Gore in Oxfor d (and if you are successful, Salon’s editor would like to apply for a job as your gardener).

Greenwich Hospital open to all

Another building being celebrated by Marcus Binney in The Times last week is Greenwich Hospital. Marcus reminds us that when the historic hospital, with its buildings by Wren, Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor, was taken over from the Royal Naval College thirteen years ago by the University of Greenwich, redoubtable Admirals predicted that scruffy students would cover the historic walls with graffiti. Instead, ‘nearly £40 million has been spent on putting these great buildings into first-class order’, Marcus reports, and some 300,000 visitors take advantage of the opportunity to visit what was once a closed institution, but is now open to all from 8am to 6pm, with free admission to Sir James Thornhill’s magnificent Painted Hall.

Marcus praises the work that has been done: the removal of unsightly car parks, the replanting of gardens following the Philip Hardwick layout of 1860, the opening up of walks and vistas and the removal of trees planted too close to buildings, resulting in the opening up of ‘glorious perspectives of all the grand but forgotten external frontages by Hawksmoor’. On summer days glorious music spills out of the great sash windows of the King Charles Block, now home to students from the Trinity College of Music, and you can lunch in the restaurant run by Leith’s or in the equally smart student café. There are plans next year for a micro-brewery, sited on the rediscovered brewhouse, and for a £5.7 million education centre for the entire Greenwich World Heritage Site with architects’ models, armour from the Royal Armouries and a reconstruction of the east end of Henry VIII’s Royal Chapel and its tiled floor discovered in 2005.

With guided tours, you can easily spend the best part of a day enjoying this newly accessible masterpiece of English baroque architecture; further details are on the Old Royal Naval College website.

Stonehenge ‘a royal cemetery’

Though rarely out of the news, there has been a particular flurry of media interest in Stonehenge this week following the broadcast by National Geographic of a TV programme on the findings from the 2007 season of work carried out by our Fellow Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues from the five universities (Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol, Bournemouth and Cardiff) involved in the Stonehenge Riverside Project (see the Sheffield University website).

The headlines focused on the carbon dates obtained from samples of bone from the Stonehenge area, five of which proved to date from the third millennium BC, and three of which dated from the Middle Bronze Age, Iron Age and late Roman period.

The earliest date of 3030-2880 BC came from the lower fill of Aubrey Hole 32, and provides a terminus ante quem for the Aubrey Holes, hitherto undated, placing them as part of the monument’s initial construction (3015–2935 BC). The second in chronological order dates from 2930–2870 BC, shortly after the initial construction. And two others date from 2890–2630 BC and 2880–2570 BC, falling within the period before the sarsen stones were erected. Stonehenge´s ditch was then partially re-cut during the period 2560–2140 BC and the third cremation burial was placed in this new ditch in 2570–2340 BC, within or after the period when the sarsens were erected.

Mike interprets this data as meaning that Stonehenge was in use as a burial ground throughout the third millennium BC, and not just in the early period (the 28th and 27th centuries BC). Forty-nine other cremation burials have been excavated from Stonehenge in the past and were reburied in 1935 (half of which came from the Aubrey Holes and half from the upper fills of the ditch) and the estimated total number of third millennium burials at Stonehenge is 240; that makes Stonehenge the biggest cemetery of its time, larger than fourteen other comparable cemeteries known elsewhere in Britain from this period. These figures represent an average of one person every two years for a period of around 500 years, suggesting that the people buried here might have come from a small and select population; burial at Stonehenge might have been reserved for members of an elite dynasty of rulers. ‘I don’t think it was the common people getting buried at Stonehenge,’ he said: ‘it was clearly a special place at the time’.

Stonehenge books

It would appear too that the appetite for books about Stonehenge is undiminished, judging by the publication this week of two more. One is by our Fellow Rosemary Hill, who won plaudits and prizes for her biography of A W N Pugin, called God’s Architect. Her latest book, Stonehenge perhaps wisely eschews any theoretical position, and simply takes the view that the meaning of Stonehenge is in perpetual flux and that part of its power is the significant role it has played in stimulating the creative thinking of artists, writers and archaeologists, not to mention Druids and members of the Earth Mysteries Movement. If you are an utter beginner in matters to do with Stonehenge, this is a good place to start.

By contrast, Anthony Johnson’s Solving Stonehenge claims on the title page to offer ‘The New Key to an Ancient Enigma), though the blurb simply promises ‘new insights into how the earthwork and stone circle were conceived and laid out’, a more modest and more accurate claim for what the book does, which is to demonstrate how the people who laid out Stonehenge might have set about their task of plotting the positions of the stones. Johnson shows that the Neolithic surveys did not need sophisticated equipment or a knowledge of geometry, and that elaborate astronomical computations are probably way off the mark: as our Fellow Norman Hammond put it, reviewing the book in The Times, ‘Anthony Johnson’s idea uses nothing more complex than two men, a few wooden stakes and a piece of rope’.

Indian rope trick or Stonehenge rope project?

Liverpool University archaeologists believe they have found an even simpler method for arriving at the complex design of Stonehenge; together with pupils from Northcote Primary School in Walton, Liverpool, they will test the theory at noon on 19 June, attempting to mark out the extant ground plan of Stonehenge using lengths of rope, the sun’s shadow and the simplest form of numeracy: finger counting.

John Hill, from the University’s School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, says: ‘This experiment will demonstrate how Stonehenge could have been designed by people with no greater scientific or mathematical ability … we believe that rope, shadows and basic counting were the key constituents of the Stone Age toolbox. We’re really going back to basics, using only the methods available to the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age people.’ There is, of course, potentially one vital flaw in this experiment: the chances of the sun shining in England in June are pretty minimal.

Morris dancing all the way to the London Olympics

A bandwagon is building in the letters pages of The Times, supporting the idea that folk dancing should form a component of the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Games in 2012. One of those supporting the move is our Fellow Lord Redesdale whose place in the history books is assured thanks to his amendment to the Licensing Act 2003 exempting morris dancers from the need to apply for a licence to do what they have done without asking anyone’s permission for at least 500 years. Redesdale calls on the Olympics Minister to ensure that morris dancing features in the ceremonies, but he is being uncharacteristically modest in his demands: surely the cloggies, rappers, mollies, ‘obby ‘osses and longsword dancers of England deserve nothing less than that morris should become an official Olympic sport!

New MA in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management

Salon’s editor is grateful to Fellow Philip Lankaster for drawing attention to the existence of Vidimus, the online magazine devoted to the topic of medieval stained glass, a brilliant publication (literally: the magazine is generously illustrated with close-up pictures of brightly coloured examples of the stained glass artists’ art) from which we learn that our Fellow Sarah Brown (currently Head of Research Policy for Places of Worship at English Heritage) has been appointed as director of the York Glaziers’ Trust and as director of a new MA course in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management at the University of York’s Department of History of Art, in partnership with the Department of Archaeology.

Sarah says the two-year course is the only one of its kind in the English-speaking world and is being developed to meet the international demand for trained conservators specialising in the field. ‘We aim to recruit up to eight students a year both from the UK and abroad, and wish to build on this by offering research degrees in the future’, she says. As part of their studies, students will have a five-month placement at conservation workshops in Britain, Europe or the USA. The course has been established thanks to generous grants from The Pilgrim Trust, the Samuel H Kress Foundation, the Headley Trust and the Glaziers’ Trust, the charitable arm of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers of London, whose funding will be used to establish scholarships.

Is there a British Chalcolithic?

The latest issue of British Archaeology magazine, published by the CBA and edited by our Fellow Mike Pitts, has a major feature on the question of whether the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age in Britain should not be redefined as the Chalcolithic, or Copper Age. The question was considered at a major international Prehistoric Society conference held at Bournemouth University in April 2008, and the debate was led by our Fellow Stuart Needham who argues that we have yet to define the complex period from around 2450 BC to 2150 BC when copper and gold first begin to appear in the archaeological record in Britain as evidence of the development of metallurgical skills, and when two ceramic traditions co-exist, in the form of an indigenous Grooved Ware culture and a continental-inspired Beaker culture. Other changes of this period include the demise of the ‘grand construction projects of the later Neolithic tradition – enormous timber-palisade or big stone or timber circles’ in favour of an agglomeration of barrows, and radical changes in the treatment of the dead: people are now buried in individual, rather than communal, graves, clothed and laid in a crouched position with possessions, such as beakers, copper knives or flint arrowheads.

To call this period of unusually dynamic change a ‘transition’ argues Stuart, ‘would be a travesty’. He favours a model based on a small number of migrants with metallurgical skills (like the Amesbury Archer) living largely autonomous lives in a landscape otherwise populated by Grooved Ware communities. With ‘very different outlooks on the world’, the two groups form ‘cross-cultural alliances’ based on the ‘complementary features that each culture could offer the other’ – metal was desired by the Grooved Ware elite and security by the tiny Beaker groups, who ‘would also have been overawed by the spectacle of the ceremonial theatres – the henge monuments – by the performances enacted there and by any grand construction projects they witnessed’.

A complex mix of processes led, Stuart believes, to the ‘demographic pendulum swinging in favour of Beaker-acculturated groups’. But he doesn’t believe that Grooved Ware culture just dies: Beaker culture never achieves dominance and there is no homogeneity, no ‘single umbrella culture’ at the end of the British Chalcolithic; instead, we see the creation of new group identities, ‘supported by new or modified ideologies’, which, concludes Stuart, ‘is the story of the ensuing early bronze age’.

Feedback

An earlier issue of Salon reported that a task force of archaeologists, anthropologists and mountain climbers had been set up in the Italian city of Trento to respond to reports of archaeological remains revealed by the melting snows of the Alps. Our Fellow Mark Milburn says that he was involved in a similar project some years ago, which aimed to preserve war relics. One problem in the past, he says, was that the context for archaeological material was often lost when glaciers carried it down hill, but today the glaciers are melting so fast that some material might be found on hard ground rather than in the moving ice, or where objects beneath a glacier are protected from movement and destruction by rock outcrops or caves. Mark says that archaeologists are not the only ones looking for newly revealed material, as war relics are highly saleable.

Like every other report in the media, Salon simply accepted at face value the claim by French archaeological divers that the marble bust they found on the bed of the River Rhône in Arles depicted the city’s founder, Julius Caesar. Our Fellow Betty Arndt draws attention to an article in Germany’s Sued Deutsche newspaper, in which Paul Zanker, former head of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Rome, says that this is a misidentification, and that the bust does not depict Caesar (though he doesn’t know who it does portray).

Chesters Roman Fort and Museum has not moved across the county boundary as part of its recent makeover by English Heritage, as might have been thought from the last issue of Salon; it is not located in Cumbria but is, of course, still in Northumberland.

The last issue of Salon described Robin Stummer as an architectural historian and said that he was being backed by English Heritage, CABE and others in a campaign to prevent the building of a skyscraper on land near Liverpool Street station. Robin says that ‘it is nice to be referred to as an architectural historian, but the sad truth is that I am a Fleet Street journalist who writes about architecture (and the Editor of Cornerstone, the SPAB's magazine); I have never claimed to have any support from EH, CABE, etc, on the Norton Folgate campaign. The chap who is claiming this support (correctly, I believe) is James Goff, the owner of the Victorian building known as The Light, which is facing demolition to make way for the planned tower.’

Robin adds that ‘the campaign to prevent the skyscraperisation of the area needs to build up a detailed understanding of the past of Norton Folgate, beyond even the superb 1950s Survey of London volume. Perhaps a Fellow has come across the Liberty, and its history and could help in clarifying the status and legislative history of Norton Folgate?’ If so, Robin can be contacted at editorial@florincorp.com.

Mention of Indiana Jones in the last issue prompted our Fellow Neil Holbrook to admit that not only has he seen the film, but that Gloucestershire (where Neil is based, as Chief Executive of Cotswold Archaeology) even gets a mention: in the scene where Indy is lecturing to a group of archaeology students, the character played by Harrison Ford says ‘Let's get back to Turkdean barrow near Hazleton; it contains a central passage and three chambers, or cists …’.

Our Fellow Sir George White Bt, Keeper of the Clockmakers' Museum, Guildhall, Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ, responded to the mention of the summer exhibition at Goldsmiths by saying that any Fellow who cares to walk across the road to the Guildhall and visit the Clockmakers' Museum, of which he is Keeper, is assured of a warm welcome. ‘People endlessly write in the visitors book that it is one of “London's best kept secrets”’, writes Sir George, adding that ‘It has been open to the public (free) since 1873, is an exceptional collection, recently re-displayed, including much of the work of the celebrated John Harrison and it was visited by 10,500 people last year, but is always delighted to receive more.’ The museum is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm from Monday to Saturday throughout the year (except Bank Holidays); see the museum’s website for further information.

Obituaries

Via Fellow Vincent Megaw comes the belated news that our Honorary Fellow Jan Jelínek died on 3 October 2004. An obituary by David Frayer, Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas, published in the Journal of Human Evolution 49 (2005), pages 270–8,described Jan as ‘built in the mould of a Renaissance scholar. He spoke and wrote in multiple languages, was well versed in various aspects of contemporary and prehistoric anthropology, contributed important descriptions and analyses of Central European Neanderthal and Upper Paleolithic fossils, made documentaries of his ethnographic research in Australia, collected images of rock art in Australia and North Africa, was an accomplished wood carver and painter, a gifted museum designer, an avid bird watcher and rock climber, and a talented baritone singer of Moravian folk songs. He was full of energy and enthusiasm about life and accomplished so many things in one lifetime, it is hard to imagine that only one person was responsible. Even in his final days, racked with pain from the complications of multiple myeloma, he was happy to be alive and worked daily on his last book.’ For the obituary in full, see the Society’s website.

On a personal note, Vincent adds: ‘He was quite some guy. I met him first in the early 1960s when he showed me the treasures of the Anthropos Museum in Brno of which he was then Director. These included the Upper Palaeolithic finds from Dolní Věstonice and Predmost, especially the oldest baked clay figurines in the world. Jelínek also led a joint anthropological and archaeological expedition to Arnhem Land, quite a feat in the days of rampant anti-Communism Down Under. After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, when in Moravia as elsewhere many academics were dismissed from their posts, Jelínek's reputation as a resistance hero in World War II made him untouchable.’

Also from Australia, via Fellow Matthew Spriggs, comes news of the tragic and untimely death of Roxanna Brown (aged 62) who attended the same classes as Matthew on Chinese archaeology given by William Watson in 1975 at SOAS, having previously been the youngest war correspondent working in Vietnam in the late 1960s. ‘My next encounter with her was in Chiang Mai in Thailand in 1994, along with Fellow Ian Glover, where she was running the Hard Rock Cafe, helping to save local “fallen women” by offering alternative employment opportunities’, Matt writes. ‘She had lost a leg in a horrific motorbike accident in Bangkok in the 1980s but wasn't letting that slow her down. Subsequent to that she re-entered academia, got a PhD from UCLA in 2004 and became the curator of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum at Bangkok University. She was the author of The Ceramics of Southeast Asia: their dating and identification, published by Oxford University Press in 1977 and revised in 1988. I last saw her at the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists Conference at the British Museum in 2004, striding around with great determination with her walking stick.’

According to newspaper reports, she was arrested while attending a conference at the University of Washington in Seattle where she was one of the keynote speakers. Dr Brown was charged with offences relating to a federal investigation into illegal trafficking of Southeast Asian antiquities. It was alleged that she had allowed her electronic signature to be used on documents later used in fraudulent transactions. She died in a Federal Detention Center in Seattle of an untreated perforated ulcer.

Matt adds: ‘There have been many web tributes posted by international colleagues who find it extremely unlikely that she was involved in anything illegal. Her legacy will be the substantial contribution she has made to the understanding of Southeast Asia’s past.’

Events

ASPRoM Summer Symposium, Fishbourne Roman Palace, from 2pm to 5pm on 14 June 2008
The speakers are David Rudkin, FSA, on ‘Fishbourne Roman Palace’, Carol Edwards on ‘Conserving the Fisbourne mosaics’, and John Manley, FSA, on ‘Roman mosaics and demon traps: fact, fiction, or fantasy?’ All are welcome. For further details see the Association's website.

Brasses Revisited, 27 September 2008, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London
In recent years the study of monumental brasses has attracted a new generation of scholars and in particular from postgraduate students examining, and questioning, their context as a source of historical study. At this one-day Monumental Brass Society conference speakers will reflect on the iconography of brasses, including their design, function and composition, and also how they were used to promote the role of lineage and family in medieval England. Papers will also be offered on their role and place within the community and also examine their use in expressions of piety and salvation. A downloadable programme and booking form can be found on the society’s website.

Books by Fellows

Our Fellow Peter Cormack has written an illustrated catalogue to accompany an exhibition of more than thirty stained-glass windows made by Morris & Co, from designs by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, that were formerly located in the Chapel of Cheadle Royal Hospital, Manchester, and are now being sold by Haslam & Whiteway Ltd. The exhibition is being held at the Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair which runs until 15 June.

Oxford University Press has published A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450 to 2000, by our Fellow Peter Beal, who is Senior Research Fellow, at the Institute of English Studies, University of London, and English manuscript expert at Sotheby's, London. Surprisingly, this is the first dictionary of English manuscript terminology ever to be published and it looks likely to become an indispensable reference for anyone involved in archive, manuscript, book, historical and cultural studies, taking as its theme the very many forms of manuscript that exist in archives, from letters, notes, inventories, accounts and shopping lists to legal instruments and the autograph versions of literary masterpieces. Some 1,500 terms are explained, defining types of manuscript, their physical features and materials, writing implements, writing surfaces, scribes and other writing agents, scripts, postal markings, and seals, as well as subjects relating to literature, bibliography, archives, palaeography, the editing and printing of manuscripts, dating, conservation and such fields as cartography, commerce, heraldry, law and military and naval matters.

Britons in Anglo-Saxon England, edited by our Fellow Nick Higham, Professor of Early Medieval and Landscape History at the University of Manchester, brings together a formidable team of Fellows and other scholars to consider the linguistic, onomastic, legal, literary, archaeological and genetic evidence for the character of Anglo-Saxon England. During the seven centuries covered by the term ‘Anglo-Saxon England’ was the population predominantly Germanic or British, what was the extent of migration into England from the near continent, what was the relationship between the two groups, and who was dominant? What languages did people speak and was there an apartheid system that cast one group as legally inferior to another? These fascinating questions are thoroughly discussed by contributors who include our Fellows Richard Coates, Heinrich Harke, Catherine Hills, Christopher Lewis, Oliver Padel and Howard Williams.

In many ways a complementary volume, with an equally distinguished list of contributors from the Society’s Fellowship, is Myth, Rulership, Church and Charters, a volume of papers published to honour our Fellow Nicholas Brooks, edited by Fellow Julia Barrow and Andrew Wareham. The book brings together leading scholars in the field of early medieval English history to consider four themes that Nicholas Brooks has made his own in his more than forty years at the forefront of research into early medieval Britain. Reviews and lists of contents and contributors can be found on the publisher’s website.

Vacancies

Among the organisations recruiting staff this week is one called Past Pleasures Ltd, which does evoke a rather sad vision of someone whose best years are behind them, leaving only memories to feed upon: a little like Sir Andrew Aguecheek recollecting in Twelfth Night that ‘I was adored once, too’. Far greater dynamism will no doubt be required by the Head of Steam Manager being recruited by the museum of the same name in Darlington.

On a more serious note, English Heritage has announced a new Historic Environment Traineeship (HET) Scheme, which will provide a small number of two-year professional work placements designed for individuals with the appropriate academic background who wish to pursue a career in historic environment management, or who wish to extend or change the direction of their career.

Trainees will receive high-quality training from English Heritage in a range of historic environment management activities, including the possibility of secondment or work-shadowing to another relevant organisation. In the second year, trainees will undertake a project, the content of which will be agreed by English Heritage. If you wish to express an interest in receiving further information about the HET Scheme when it is formally advertised in October 2008, please send an email with your contact details to train@english-heritage.org.uk.

IFA Workplace Learning Bursary for the Preparation of Desk-based Assessments
Hosted by the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust
Duration: 6 months; start date: July/August 2008; salary: £16,536 pro rata

Applications are invited for an HLF-funded IFA Workplace Learning Bursary based at the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust’s Swansea office. The post is designed to provide the successful candidate with the knowledge and skills necessary to produce effective desk-based assessments. For further details and information, please contact Dr Edith Evans, Heritage and Outreach Manager.