Salon Archive

Issue: 195

Burlington House: extended closure

Work to replace the boiler and central heating system at Burlington House means that the Library will remain closed until Wednesday 1 October and the Fellows Room will not re-open until Monday 20 October. Objects held in the Museum Room will not be accessible again until Friday 31 October.

Forthcoming meetings

2 October 2008: Bush Barrow and Normanton Down Early Bronze Age Cemetery: a bicentennial appreciation, by Stuart Needham, FSA, Andrew Lawson, FSA, and Ann Woodward, FSA

9 October 2008: The Preseli–Stonehenge Bluestone Project: Stonehenge excavations 2008, by Timothy Darvill, VPSA, and Geoffrey Wainwright, PSA

16 October: The Society of Antiquaries’ 1896 Exhibition of ‘English Medieval Paintings and Illuminated Manuscripts’ and its role in the collecting of medieval manuscripts by private collectors and public libraries, by William Stoneman, FSA

23 October: Imported Images: Continental late Gothic sculpture in English churches, by Kim Woods, FSA

30 October: Ballot: you can now vote in the 30 October ballot on the Fellows’ side of the website. Apply to Christopher Catling if you would like a password or a password reminder.

‘Making History’ touring exhibition

Dates have now been fixed for the Society’s touring exhibition to visit four museums around the UK. The exhibition will open on 4 October 2008 at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, Salisbury, and close on 3 January 2009; move to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, from 17 January 2009 to 21 June; then visit the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens from 11 July to 4 October; and finally go on show at The Collection, in Lincoln, from 16 October 2009 to 3 January 2010, after which we hope the exhibition will tour North America.

As well as featuring rare objects from our collections, the exhibition will include material from collections local to each of the museum venues in exploring the creation of the nation’s heritage over the three hundred years since the Society was founded in 1707. Our Fellow Dr David Starkey, the exhibition’s guest curator, said: ‘This is an opportunity to show how history is made and why it matters’.

‘Making History’ exhibition posters; Tercentenary medals

Jayne Phenton has a number of surplus posters from the Society’s Tercentenary exhibition at the Royal Academy featuring Richard Tongue’s painting of the Chamber Tomb of Pentre Ifan. If anyone would like a poster, please let Jayne know (jphenton@sal.org.uk>). Stocks also still remain of the Society’s Tercentenary medals: again, Jayne can supply details.

Staff moves

Jayne Phenton is leaving the Society at the end of September, and the Society will host a party to say goodbye to Jayne on 26 September 2008. Fellows are welcome to attend and we would be very happy to receive contributions to a leaving present; so that we know how many people to cater for, please let us know if you are coming (admin@sal.org.uk).

Julia Steele, the Society’s Collections Manager, is taking a career break to live with her partner in Hong Kong from mid-October to the end of February 2010. Julia’s last day will be Friday 17 October. Until Julia resumes her role, key curatorial duties will be managed by a part-time collections officer (see ‘Staff Vacancies’ below).

Staff vacancies

The Society is currently recruiting for the following vacancies:

• Collections Manager (21 hours fixed-term post until 31 March 2010)
• Communications Officer (permanent part-time post, 2.5 days per week)
• Development Officer (three-year fixed-term contract)

The closing date for all three posts is 26 September 2008. If you know anyone who might be interested in these posts, job descriptions and application details can be downloaded from the Society’s website.

Memorial service for Thomas Cocke

The Society has just been informed that tickets are required if you wish to attend the service of thanksgiving for the life and work of Dr Thomas Cocke, FSA, that is to be held in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, at noon on Monday 6 October 2008. To apply for tickets, please write, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope, to Mr M Arnoldi, Room 6, The Chapter Office, 20 Dean’s Yard, London SW1P 3PA. Tickets will be posted by 26 September. All are welcome to attend.

Obituaries for John Barron

It was with great regret that the Society had to announce recently the death of our Fellow and recent Council member, John Barron, who succumbed to cancer on 16 August 2008, at the age of seventy-four. The following tribute is based on the two obituaries that have since been published in The Times and the Daily Telegraph.

John Penrose Barron was an only child, born in Morley, West Yorkshire, in 1934. He was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, where he first acquired a love of Classics, and went on to study at that Classics hothouse, Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1957 with first-class honours and a clutch of university prizes. He completed his doctorate in 1961 on the early history of Samos and this led to his most important publication, The Silver Coins of Samos (1966).

Towards the end of his doctoral research, when already a lecturer at Bedford College, London, he met an undergraduate historian from Somerville College, Oxford, Caroline Hogarth, and they were married on her graduation in 1962. As Caroline Barron, she became a leading historian of medieval London and held a chair at Royal Holloway College. Together they made a remarkable academic team, encouraging and inspiring their students and offering joyous hospitality to friends in London and Oxford. John’s support for Caroline’s career led him to take a lifelong interest in the promotion of academic opportunities for women, both as students and as lecturers.

Barron had wide interests as a classicist. His study of Greek Sculpture (1965, revised in 1981) was a distinguished introduction to the subject. His work on numismatics, concerning the ancient coins of Kos as well as Samos, demonstrated the significance of coins to the broader understanding of the ancient world. In Greek literature his focus was on the era from Hesiod to the early classical period of the first half of the fifth century BC, and he collaborated with Professor Patricia Easterling in writing on some of the authors of this period for the Cambridge History of Classical Literature in 1985. His interest in Greece extended to every aspect of its subsequent history and contemporary culture.

His career at London University lasted almost thirty years, and during his time there he taught across the Classics spectrum, a measure of his remarkable versatility. He began as lecturer in Latin at Bedford College before becoming Lecturer in Archaeology and then Reader in Archaeology and Numismatics at UCL. In 1971 he became Professor of Greek Language and Literature at King’s College, where he served as Head of the Classics department (1972–84) and Dean of the Faculty of Arts (1976–80) before becoming Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in London (1984–91) and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (1987–9). He was instrumental in setting up the University of London Institute for Advanced Study (now the School of Advanced Study) to pull together the research institutes in Senate House, and he served as Dean of ULIAS (1989–91).

Between 1989 and 1993 Barron was a member of the University Funding Council (UFC), established by the Conservative Government at the end of the 1980s to take the place of the old University Grants Committee and oversee changes to the British university system. The UFC included a majority of non-academic members drawn from business and public life and was unpopular with academics, some of whom questioned Barron’s decision to join it. Barron believed that it was better to influence an institution from the inside, protecting what was most valuable in the process, than to raise impotent opposition from without. Put honestly and straightforwardly, with the charm and courtesy that characterised everything he did, this argument was unanswerable. Using those same qualities he was able to persuade colleagues to accept the UFC’s decision to protect the study of Classics by concentrating it in fewer university departments, a move which was, in retrospect, undoubtedly correct. Barron also supported the overall expansion of the university system which was planned and set in motion while he was a member of the UFC, and which saw participation rates rise from under 10 per cent to more than 30 per cent in less than a decade.

At St Peter’s College, Oxford, where he became Master in 1991, he encouraged many different initiatives to increase access to the university, especially when he served as chairman of the Oxford Colleges’ Admissions Committee (1997–2000). He was keen on outreach work, and always ready to visit schools to encourage applications from state school pupils. During his mastership the proportion of women students at St Peter’s increased from fewer than 30 per cent to nearly 50 per cent and the number of female tutors and Fellows increased as well.

It was also during his mastership that it came of age: founded as recently as 1928 and with only limited resources, under Barron’s guidance St Peter’s became more self-confident and assured. He was passionately concerned to raise academic ambitions and the college’s academic position improved, not least because of his insistence that he meet every student at the end of each term to review progress. In reality these were often light-hearted conversations about books read and travels to be undertaken.

St Peter’s also expanded physically in this period. Barron had a sharp eye for architecture and design and was involved from the outset in plans to redevelop the site of the castle to the west of Oxford city centre, close to St Peter’s. He accepted that this was too big a project for the college to manage alone, but his interest led St Peter’s to build and purchase three elegant student residences, thereby contributing to the regeneration of this previously run-down quarter of the city.

He genuinely enjoyed ceremonial, but his sense of fun meant that he was never taken in by it. He revelled in Freshers’ dinners, where those attending would time his speeches to see how long he could hold forth. He loved church music and never missed Sunday evensong (which also appealed to his sense of community) unless he was away from Oxford. At the formal dinner in hall afterwards he would preside with great style. It was a mark of Barron’s success at the head of the college that the Fellows extended his term as Master beyond the usual retiring age. One of his high moments as Master was the re-inauguration of the Father Willis organ in 2003 after its restoration; when he stood down that year, it was fitting that his retirement was marked with a special performance of The Messiah, one of his favourite works, at a crowded event.

In retirement Barron served as president of Clifton College and as a very effective and committed chairman of the library committee at Lambeth Palace, playing a pivotal role in the cataloguing project of the Greek manuscript collection. At the same time he returned to London as Visiting Professor at King’s College and Senior Research Fellow at the School of Advanced Study. He became interested in the contacts between Greek Orthodoxy and Anglicanism in the seventeenth century.

Barron’s most recent publication, in the Bodleian Library Record 2008, was on the fourteenth-century Book of Hours from the very first institution of higher learning in Oxford, the house of scholars, situated in St George’s collegiate church in the castle, founded in 1074. He also found time to enrol in a graduate class in Greek manuscript hands, a measure both of his love of learning and lack of pomp.

Barron was one of those Hellenists who love Greece and Greeks in the present and not just as an abstract in the distant past. He had many Greek friends and loved to travel there, enjoying the food and drink as much as the monuments. Greece was also a source of surreptitious cuttings for his garden.

Tributes to the late Lord Bruce-Lockhart, Chairman of English Heritage

Sadly English Heritage has also lost its Chairman, Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, who also died of cancer on 14 August 2008 at the age of sixty-six. Lord Bruce-Lockhart’s appointment a year ago was acclaimed as highly appropriate at a time of new thinking on heritage protection because of his experience at the helm of the Local Government Association. As it turned out, few in the heritage got to meet Lord Bruce-Lockhart because he fell ill not long after being appointed. Having returned to work briefly this summer, he gave an interview to our Fellow Marcus Binney (published in The Times on 18 July 2008), saying how much he was looking forward to presiding over a more rational approach to designation and to the opportunity of becoming a champion for heritage in Parliament.

In his tribute to Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ‘Sandy made a great contribution to our work, battling hard for us in last year’s spending review and securing a reversal of our real-term cash decline for the first time in ten years. Recently, he also achieved a major breakthrough in our plans for Stonehenge, convincing Ministers that a new, affordable scheme was worth Government backing. The nation has lost a heritage crusader and the staff here at English Heritage have lost a respected leader.’

Smithfield saved

The long battle to save the integrity of London’s former Smithfield Market, the subject of a public inquiry last summer, came to an end on 7 August 2008 when Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, announced that she agreed with the Inspector’s recommendation that conservation area consent should be refused for the demolition of the General Market Building and that planning permissions should also be refused for the proposed replacement scheme. The Secretary of State accepted the evidence of English Heritage that the General Market Building could and should be re-used.

Welcoming the decision, Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ‘This is a fantastic day for London’s heritage and for all those who care about what makes this great city special. We are delighted that the Secretary of State has recognised the value of the Smithfield conservation area. This decision proves that the historic environment is about much more than just individual listed buildings – this is an acknowledgement of the many unlisted – but not unloved – buildings which collectively create a powerful sense of place and positively contribute to the fabric of the city. We are sure that local authorities across the country will take note of this important decision, which is a timely reminder of their duty to safeguard the special character of conservation areas in their care as well as historic buildings, listed or not, for the contribution they make.’

Simon added: ‘We now expect the Corporation of London to take the opportunity to bring forward a creative scheme for the repair and re-use of the General Market Building, Annex and Red House Cold Store, to enable them to fully contribute to the important conservation area in which they sit.’

But English Heritage is ‘appalled’ by Doon Tower decision

But you can’t win ’em all, and triumph over Smithfield was counterbalanced by Hazel Blears’s decision to allow the controversial Doon Street Tower, on London’s South Bank, to be built. English Heritage opposed the development on the grounds that it would ruin historic views, such as those from the courtyard of Somerset House, our Society’s first permanent home, and from St James’s Park towards Whitehall. The tower will also overwhelm the Grade II* National Theatre and the setting of the Grade I-listed Royal Festival Hall.

An English Heritage spokesman said that: ‘We are appalled to learn that the Secretary of State has not only overturned the advice of English Heritage as her expert advisers, but she has also chosen to ignore the learned opinion of an independent inspector’. Philip Wilson, the planning inspector who presided over an inquiry into the 43-storey tower and leisure complex, recommended that consent be refused, but Hazel Blears decided that the drawbacks were outweighed by the ‘substantial benefits to the local community’ of the planned leisure centre, shops and residential tower.

‘Obviously we do not consider this matter closed and we are considering our next steps and the options open to us’, the English Heritage spokesperson said.

Controversial plans to list US London embassy

A report in The Times says that English Heritage plans to recommend that the US Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square should be given a Grade II listing, a proposal that seems to have angered everyone, but for different reasons. Londoners would be happy to see the building demolished. To many, the embassy is insensitive, intrusive, bombastic, and made worse in recent years by the desecration of Grosvenor Square by ugly concrete barriers that surround the already fortress-like building that was the scene of mass anti-Vietnam War demonstrations throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. The US ambassador, Robert Tuttle (famously described by former mayor Ken Livingstone as a ‘chiselling little crook’ for his embassy’s refusal to pay the congestion charge), is equally opposed to listing because he wants to move out and sell the building: listing would, it is claimed, halve the estimated commercial value of the Mayfair embassy, built in 1960 to the designs of the Finnish-born American architect Eero Saarinen.

‘This is not a straightforward case,’ said Robert Davies, head of planning at Westminster Council. ‘English Heritage knows there are political implications. They are dealing with the American government.’

Listings linked to slavery and its abolition

UNESCO’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, on 23 August 2008, was marked by the announcement that four historic buildings and monuments linked to the slave trade have been listed and six more have been upgraded, while another seventeen have had their list descriptions amended to ensure that their connection with the slave trade is adequately reflected.

The new listings are all tombs and monuments. The headstone of George Edward Doney (died 1809), in Watford, listed at Grade II, records that he was born in Gambia, West Africa, c 1758, sold into slavery and taken to Virginia, USA, where he then entered the service of the fourth earl of Essex in 1766, aged about eight years old. The tomb of Rasselas Belfield (died 1822) in St Martin’s Churchyard, Windermere, listed at Grade II, has an inscription that says: ‘A Slave by birth I left my native Land / And found my Freedom on Britannia’s Strand: / Blest Isle! Thou Glory of the Wise and Free, / Thy Touch alone unbinds the Chains of Slavery.’ The monument to Joanna Vassa in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, listed at Grade II, commemorates the daughter of Gustavas Vassa, better known as Olaudah Equiano, England’s foremost Black abolitionist. At Olney, Milton Keynes, the tomb of John and Mary Newton, listed at Grade II, commemorates John Newton, the slave trader turned cleric and abolitionist who wrote the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ with William Cowper.

Full details of all the new and revised listings can be found on the website of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Energy-saving tips from the Anglican Church

The Church of England has launched a new green guide for clergy and congregations, urging a more conservation-minded approach to church management. Parishes are being encouraged to reduce energy use by reducing the number of occasions on which floodlighting is used to light up the exteriors of ancient churches: instead, floodlighting should be made more of a special occasion, with community events and sponsored evenings. The guide also calls for churchyards to be used as plant and wildlife havens and for the revival of the practice of beating the parish bounds, using the annual procession round parish boundaries to highlight green issues.

Our Fellow, the Bishop of London, The Right Reverend Dr Richard Chartres, said: ‘This book offers us not just tips on energy saving but a reorientation. The intention is not to urge Christians to get measured for a hair shirt but to rediscover how good and joyful a thing it is to dwell together in unity with everything else that lives.’

Heritage wiped off the map

Anyone using a sat-nav system or computer-based map to find some parish boundaries to beat will search in vain, according to a speech delivered by Mary Spence, President of the British Cartographic Society, to the annual conference of the Royal Geographic Society last week. Ms Spence warned that internet mapping was wiping the rich geography and history of Britain off the map and destroying the user’s awareness of Britain’s heritage, leaving them with no sense of where they are. One example she quoted, of Tewkesbury, had golf courses prominently marked, but a blank where the abbey sits: ‘historic features have all vanished into the grey spaces between the roads’, she said.

Global surname maps

Several other papers delivered to the same conference made newspaper headlines. One was the announcement that you can now see where people who share your surname live not just in the UK but in many parts of the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US. The same team of geographers from University College, London, who created maps of UK surnames based on census returns, has now extended that mapping to 1 billion people in twenty-six countries, using data from electoral rolls and telephone directories. Their website allows you to investigate the distribution of any of 10.8 million unique surnames and track their spread around the globe, largely as a result of migration. Professor Paul Longley, a member of the team that created the maps, said: ‘A surname is now not just a statement of who you are but where you are’.

Canals for monks’ punts in the Fens

Another paper, given by Martin Redding, a member of the Witham Valley Archaeology Research Committee, revealed that an extensive network of medieval Fenland waterways, around 90km in extent, had been mapped using aerial photographs. The canals link a number of monasteries and monastic farms belonging to different religious orders and are typically 6m to 12m in width. All are now silted up and invisible in the existing Fen landscape.

Mr Redding said the canals were probably built to transport stone for rebuilding monastic buildings after ninth-century Viking raids, then subsequently used to transported commercial goods in Fen lighters – shallow, flat-bottomed boats. None of the canals overlaps and it is likely that each monastery had its own network of canals, connecting parts of its estate. Many also linked to natural rivers courses with access to the Wash and North Sea.

Chris Smith takes the helm at the Environment Agency

Baron Smith of Finsbury, better known as Chris Smith, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has marked the beginning of his term of office as the new head of the Environment Agency by saying that plans to prevent coastal erosion in large areas of the east and south coasts of Britain are futile, and that the Government should be investing in emergency help to families whose homes will be lost rather than wasting its resources in sea defences. He also warned that the Government is not taking the environment seriously and criticised a number of infrastructural projects championed in Whitehall, dismissing the Department of Transport’s insistence that building a new runway at Heathrow could be environmentally sustainable and arguing that a fixed Severn barrier would be environmentally disastrous, destroying the ecology of the whole river.

Andrew Motion appointed new MLA Chairman

The Poet Laureate, Professor Andrew Motion, has been appointed to succeed Mark Wood as Chairman of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). Announcing the appointment, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘Andrew has an obvious passion for the arts, and has been a most distinguished and successful Poet Laureate since 1999. I know he has some wonderful and exciting ideas about promoting the culture sector to Olympic spectators and visitors in 2012.’ Andrew Motion said: ‘I am greatly looking forward to helping the MLA continue their tremendous work in all areas of museums, libraries and galleries. It is an exciting time to be entering the heart of the cultural arena.’

Andrew Motion soon demonstrated his intentions as Chairman with a letter to the Daily Telegraph on 30 August 2008, commenting on the threatened closure of the Local History Library and Archive, at Bancroft Road, in Stepney. The archive, with its expert and dedicated archivists and librarians, is a key resource for East End history, and a collection of international standing for research into the stories of the Irish, Jewish, Huguenot, German, Chinese, Bangladeshi and British provincial immigrants, among many others, who came to the area to make their way in the world.

Motion’s letter first addressed the issues of archives in general, saying: ‘I fully intend using my new position as chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) to ensure that archives, which are currently only used by a small percentage of the population, are more accessible and better understood by many more people.’ He then went on to say that he was personally wary of intervening from on high in matters that ought to be resolved at local level, saying: ‘It is right that most archives are local resources, reflecting local history and therefore accountable to their communities through elected local government. National politicians and agencies should be wary about distantly informed interventions.’ He then qualified that by saying that the MLA’s task was to advise on ways that collections such as that at Stepney could be protected, appreciated and developed and that ‘I greatly look forward to seeing how Tower Hamlets council decides to make use of this wonderful resource, in partnership with its local people’.

How many hands painted Lascaux caves?

Our Fellow Norman Hammond reports in The Times that research is under way to analyse the pigments used to create the Lascaux cave paintings to distinguish different combinations of minerals and ground bone and antler, and thus to try and work out how many painting episodes there were, and how many different artists might have been involved.

The project is described in detail in Archaeometry 50 (516—34), in which Céline Chadefaux and her colleagues describe the challenge of sorting out groupings of animals from the many overlapping images and of answering the questions of what was painted when and what was contemporary with what.

They have already worked out that the presence of ground antler in the paint mix is an indicator of one group of paintings that were created contemporaneously, and is thus ‘a tracer of a specific ornamentation phase of the cave’.

Green beads herald the agricultural revolution

A group of Israeli scientists is arguing that the fashion for jewellery made of green beads coincides with the beginning of agriculture. Archaeologist Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer, of the University of Haifa in Israel, and geologist Naomi Porat, of the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem, say that beads in white, red, yellow, brown and black colours had been used earlier by hunter-gatherers; the occurrence of green beads is directly related to the onset of agriculture in the region 11,000 years ago. These ancient farmers also travelled greater distances — sometimes to sources located more than 100 kilometres away — to obtain green stone for their beads.

Milk processing dated to 6000 BC

Cattle, sheep and goats had already been domesticated by the eighth millennium BC but the earliest evidence for milk processing to make butter, yogurt, ghee and cheese previously came from the fifth millennium. Now a team led by Richard Evershed, of the University of Bristol, has found evidence for milk processing as far back as the seventh millennium BC in pottery from the Near East and the Balkans, which have been tested for the presence of the characteristic lipids that result from milk processing and that survive because they are hydrophobic, and so do not dissolve in water. Different dairy substances leave a different lipid signature.

Evershed and his colleagues found the biggest concentration of residues in sites in Anatolia (modern Turkey), which lies outside the traditional Fertile Crescent region where agriculture first developed. The team also found a strong correlation between the number of cattle bones present at a site and the prevalence of milk residues. Writing in the 7 August issue of Nature, Evershed said that the Sea of Marmara region of Anatolia had conditions that were just right for grazing cattle.

Antikythera mechanism used to calculate Olympic dates

The enigmatic Antikythera mechanism, found in 1900 off the island of Antikythera, in Greece, was probably made to calculate the timing of the various sporting events around ancient Greece that led to the climax of the games at Olympia. This is the latest finding from the research team that has been probing the decayed bronze and wood instrument with x-rays and CAT scanning to understand what its complicated dials and bronze gears were for. Writing in Nature, Tony Freeth says that the second-century BC device acted as a calendar and as an astronomical instrument for calculating the relative positions of the Sun, the Moon and the visible planets but also to show the four-year cycle of ancient Greek games. The discovery was made when the researchers discerned the words ‘nemea’ (site of the Nemean games), ‘isthmia’ (for the games at Corinth), ‘pythia’ (for the games at Delphi) and ‘olympia’ (for the Olympic Games) on subsidiary dials.

New villa discovered at Brading

Newspaper reports say that our Fellow Barry Cunliffe has found one of the largest and best-preserved Roman villas yet discovered in Britain, alongside the known villa at Brading, on the Isle of Wight. The existence of a building at the site has been known since 1879, but it was assumed to be a barn and of little interest to mosaic-seeking nineteenth-century diggers.

Pre-dating the already known villa by 150 years, it ‘would have sung out the status of the owner’, according to Sir Barry, who added that ‘it’s a very impressive building, absolutely magnificent. It could have been seen for miles around’. Measuring 50ft (15m) wide and 150ft long, the villa is similar in size to the hall of Fishbourne Roman Palace, near Chichester, and has a central nave and two side aisles.

Sir Barry likened the building to a medieval hall, with a communal space for the estate’s inhabitants at one end and a residential part with under-floor heating and walls plastered and painted with false marble patterns at the other.

The charitable trust that owns the villa is now appealing for funds to continue the excavation for another four years.

Medieval astrolabe saved by the British Museum

The Canterbury Astrolabe Quadrant, another ancient object representing a triumph of applied mathematics and one of only eight instruments of its kind known to have survived, has been bought by the British Museum after the Export Review Committee placed an export ban on the device to provide the BM with time to raise the £350,000 purchase price. Deriving from Asian prototypes, the astrolabe came to the knowledge of European navigators as part of the transfer of knowledge between Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities in the early Middle Ages, and was used to calculate geographical latitude using the position of the sun and stars. This one came from an excavation at the House of St Agnes in Canterbury in 2005, is thought to date from 1388 and is the only one of its kind definitely known to have been made in England. The astrolabe will be a key exhibit in the museum’s new medieval gallery, ‘Europe 1000–1500’, when it opens in 2009.

Shetland revives Viking board game

The first world hnefatafl championship was staged in Shetland on 16 August, reviving international interest in an ancient Viking board game that has been played on the island of Fetlar since King Harald landed there in AD 800 (and that was the subject of a paper in vol 86 of the Antiquaries Journal (2006) by our Fellow Ian Payne). Hnefatafl, or King’s Table, is a strategic board game in which twenty-four attackers arranged in groups of six try to capture the king, while twelve defenders aim to guide him safely to one of the corners, known as ‘king’s squares’.

Henry VIII’s ‘collar of the Esses’ found in Devon

Gift giving at the court of Henry VIII was an elaborate business, as our Fellow Maria Hayward described in a paper on the subject in vol 85 of the Antiquaries Journal (2005). One of the rarer gifts bestowed by the king in return for services rendered was a golden livery collar engraved with a double S, for ‘Spiritus Sanctus’ (Holy Spirit). Some twenty such chains were awarded by the king but none was thought to have survived in its entirety. One worn by the Lord Mayor of London is only 20 per cent original; the others were all broken up or melted down.

Now, however, an intact original has been found at the family home of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Ottery St Mary, near Exeter, Devon. The collar was presented to Edward Montagu, then Lord Chief Justice, by Henry in the 1540s. A similar gold collar features in the portrait of Sir Thomas More painted by Hans Holbein. Metallurgic tests point to its being 100 per cent original: the type of gold alloy from which it is made was only used between 1546 and 1552. The find is to be sold in December at Christie’s auction house in London, where it is expected to fetch up to £1m.

The Theatre has been found

Not any old theatre, but The Theatre, one of London’s earliest playhouses, where Shakespeare’s early works were first performed in the sixteenth century, has been found by a team from the Museum of London Archaeology Service on an unremarkable plot of land at New Inn, Broadway, just north of London’s medieval city wall. Last month’s excavation of a large section of the original brick foundations of the theatre was described by the dig’s project manager, Jo Lyon, as ‘one of the most exciting finds of recent years’. The Theatre, built in 1576, was home to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the company in which Shakespeare first performed as an actor before his writing career flourished. Their occupation of the site came to an end after a dispute over the lease in 1598, as a result of which the actors’ company is said to have dismantled The Theatre by stealth overnight and salvaged the structural timbers for use in the construction of the Globe.

By chance the new building being erected on the site is a new playhouse for the Tower Theatre Company. Jeff Kelly, the chairman of the company, said they would design their modern playhouse around the remains of the original.

Ships’ logs studied for climate data

Thousands of Royal Navy logbooks dating from the seventeenth century onwards are being studied as a source of data on long-term climate trends. Dr Sam Willis, a maritime historian affiliated to Exeter University’s Centre for Maritime Historical Studies, says that logs were carried by every ship and contain daily records of air pressure, wind strength, air and sea temperature and other weather observations. British archives contain more than 100,000 Royal Navy logbooks from the period 1670 to 1850 alone. Most of the earlier documents contain verbal descriptions of weather rather than numerical data, but Dr Dennis Wheeler, a Sunderland University geographer, has found from a preliminary survey of some 6,000 logs that Royal Navy officers recorded weather in consistent language that can be turned into numerical values for wind strength and direction, temperature and rainfall. The information will ultimately contribute to the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set, a global database maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a US government agency.

European woman in New Zealand before Captain Cook

The skull of a woman discovered by a boy walking his dog on the bank of a river in the Wairarapa region of the North Island, New Zealand, has been the cause of much speculation since the results of tests were announced at an inquest last month in Masterton, the provincial capital. The inquest heard that the skull was definitely not Maori, was almost certainly that of a woman of European origin and that it dated from 1742.

The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman and his all-male crew visited New Zealand in 1642. No Europeans returned to New Zealand until British explorer James Cook arrived in 1769 – some twenty-six years later than the date of the skull. The first white women known to have arrived in the country were two convicts who escaped from a penal colony in New South Wales, Australia, in 1806; what is more, the area where the skull was found was not colonised by Europeans until 1840.

The finding is consistent, however, with the story that Captain Cook recorded in the log of his second journey to New Zealand aboard the Resolution in 1772–5, a tale told to him by a Maori chief of a ship having been shipwrecked many years earlier. Cook said the Maori told him that they gave the ship’s captain the name ‘Rongotute’. Early missionaries wrote of hearing the same story from Maori, who said that the survivors of the ship had been killed and eaten when they came ashore. They said that many Maori subsequently died, possibly as a result of exposure to a newly introduced infection from Europe. The wrecked ship had crockery on board, and pieces of it were worn by the Maori as pendants around their necks, convincing the missionaries that the vessel had been European.

Parks Canada to lead new search for Franklin ships

Climate change is not only opening the prospect of new year-round navigational routes via the Arctic, it also holds open the prospect of solving a mystery that is a key part of Canada’s history: what happened to Erebus and Terror, the ships lost in the Canadian Arctic in the 1840s during the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Believed to lie in waters off King William Island, the ships became locked in heavy ice that eventually doomed the entire crew of 129 men. A six-week search for the remains of the ships is now under way in the first season of what could be a three-year project headed by Parks Canada’s senior underwater archaeologist Robert Grenier and Inuit historian Louie Kamoukak. Grenier, the lead archaeologist in the discovery of two sixteenth-century Basque whaling vessels at Red Bay, Labrador, describes the Franklin vessels as the ‘Holy Grail’ of North American shipwrecks. The expedition intends to survey an area of between 400 and 800 square kilometres in the waters of Victoria Strait and the eastern part of the Queen Maud Gulf, including O’Reilly and Kirkwall Islands north of the mainland Nunavut coast.

Franklin’s disappearance made him the most famous in a long line of British explorers who attempted to find a North-west Passage sea route from Europe to Asia across the top of North America. The fate of the expedition was eventually confirmed with the discovery of the graves of several sailors and a single page from a log book placed in a cairn at a site called Victory Point. The log recorded Franklin’s death aboard Erebus in June 1847 and the abandonment of the two ships, which had become stranded in the ice near King William Island.

Berlusconi’s cover up

Italy’s playboy prime minister is no friend of the heritage but his latest exploits demand reporting because they are so rich in unintended irony. The media mogul, whose fortune is built on broadcasting images of scantily clad female flesh, has outraged art historians and conservationists by interfering with a painting by the eighteenth-century Venetian master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. To be precise, he has had the painting, which hangs behind the table at which Berlusconi holds press conferences in the Palazzo Chigi, over-painted so as to cover with an extra fold of clothing the naked breast in the painting that used to ‘float above the prime minister’s head like a halo’. Berlusconi’s spin doctor, Paolo Bonaiuti, told journalists last week that the breast kept intruding into news bulletins and had to go.

There are many reasons why one might think that the association of Berlusconi and a bare breast might be appropriate, but that is not the main point: rather, it is the fact that the lady’s nudity is central to the meaning of the work, which is entitled Time Unveiling Truth: painted around 1743, Tiepolo intended it to be a metaphor for ‘truth stripped bare’. Berlusconi thus stands accused of literally covering up Truth; but probably not for the first nor the last time in his career.

Feedback

Mention of HARN (History of Archaeology Research Network) in recent issues of Salon prompted our Fellow Tim Murray to remind us of the long-established Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, the twice-yearly peer-reviewed journal that provides a way in to the international network of people interested in this field. Tim says he has recently overhauled the website so that subscribers can pay by credit card and a feature of the new site is the bulletin board, where you can promote items of interest, such as meetings, books and dissertations, that do not fit the bulletin’s current publishing cycle. ‘You can find us at www.latrobe.edu.au/bha’, says Tim, ‘and I encourage you and other FSAs to subscribe.’

Salon’s editor occasionally imagines that people are Fellows who are not, and that is why the last but one issue incorrectly described Simon Townley, of the Victoria County History, as a Fellow (perhaps because Simon has contributed much to our knowledge of the early history of Kelmscott Manor through his archival research); on the other hand there is no excuse for omitting to mention that David Clark, who wrote the illuminating architectural material in ‘Burford: buildings and people in a Cotswold town’, written by David Clark, Antonia Catchpole and Robert Peberdy, and produced by the Oxfordshire office of the Victoria County History, definitely IS a Fellow.

Perhaps the last word on old doors comes from Fellow Frances Lynch who takes the topic into new realms by pointing out that there is a Neolithic door in the museum in Zürich: a famous nineteenth-century find from Robenhausen, the lakeside settlement on the Pfaffiskersee, south of Zürich: the door (illustrated in The Oxford Illustrated History of Prehistoric Europe (2001) by our Fellow Barry Cunliffe) is 1.45m high, dates from c 4000 BC, is made from a single piece of split timber and was originally attached to the door post by four rope or leather hinges. ‘Of similar antiquity is a stone door on one of the megalithic tombs in the Charante, where the hinge system consists of a tenon top and bottom’, Frances adds.

Quite by chance, during his summer holidays in Brittany (they still have summers there, unlike our side of the Channel), Fellow Robert Merrillees came across an exhibition in the new cultural centre in Rennes that he warmly recommends to Fellows with an interest in Welsh and Breton myths. Called ‘Le roi Arthur: une légende en devenir’, it comes to Paris in 2009 and Troyes in 2010. ‘The exhibition was delightfully done. Accompanied by all the latest audio-visual aids, including clips from various English-speaking films, it gave an honest, balanced and light-hearted account of the origins, elaboration and contemporary apotheosis of the Arthurian legends, illustrated with paintings, engravings, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, ivory carvings, stone sculptures and ceramics from Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland.’ Robert adds that the catalogue, which has a section on Monty Python, was a bargain at 15 euros.

News of Fellows

Because Salon was away last month, we couldn’t mention Fellow Christine Finn’s recent Proms interval talk on Radio 3 in which she looked through an archaeologist’s eyes at the home of the late photographer Fay Godwin (‘The Final Exposure’, broadcast on 14 August), but we can hear Christine again in her new four-part Radio 3 essay, ‘It’s Big And It’s Beautiful: the rise of retro tech’, from 11pm on Monday 8 to Thursday 11 September (just before the excellent ‘Late Junction’).

The advance publicity for the first programme says: ‘This year, the Vintage Computer Festival in the United States marks its eleventh successful year: archaeologist Christine Finn argues that this is more than nostalgia: it is, in part, a backlash against the “small is good” aesthetic whereby technology becomes ever smaller and more capable. As she uncovers the appeal of large and redundant technology and looks at the significance of old technology in modern lives, she considers the various generations of computers and the range of people who collect them, from the pioneers who developed the models, to the new generation of programmers and designers who are fascinated by the look of old machines.’

Fellow Philip Crummy is working with the University of Essex to create a website devoted to archaeological publications about Colchester. ‘At the moment we are posting all the client reports which we have produced – so-called grey literature – and we hope soon to extend the content to include all the reports and other material which the Trust has published over the years. Progress will be slow because the bulk of the work is being done by volunteers and there is no funding for the project, but the site is up and running at

Adrian Tindall writes to say that ‘after thirty years in local government archaeology – uniquely, I believe, as County Archaeologist in three different counties (Hereford and Worcester, Cheshire and latterly Cambridgeshire) – I have decided the time has come for a change, and am therefore leaving local government to work as a freelance consultant’. Adrian can be contacted in future at adriantindall@btinternet.com .

Two of our fellows, Richard Osgood and Martin Brown, have spent the summer on an archaeological landscape project in the UK and Belgium to examine the training of soldiers in the Great War, their deployment in battle and the effects on the local populace, through archaeology, anthropology, history, art and other disciplines. Richard reports that this summer’s fieldwork was more than especially poignant because the multi-national No-Man’s-Land Archaeology group that he and Martin direct found the body of an Australian soldier of the Great War whilst excavating German trenches near St Yves in Wallonia, Belgium.

The battlefield casualty was buried where he fell, in full kit, with well-preserved equipment, medical kit, weaponry and parts of his uniform. The shoulder and collar titles identified him as an Australian. The area was attacked by the Australian 3rd Division on the morning of 7 June 1917 as part of the Battle of Messines, a prelude to the better known battle of Third Ypres (Passchendaele). The remains and all of the artefacts have been handed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who will attempt to identify the soldier prior to reburial.

Events

There is still just time to book a place on the CBA’s Archaeology and Education 2008 conference, which will take place on 5 to 7 September 2008 in York. Further details from the conference website.

‘Britishness: a values-based approach is not enough’, 9 September 2008: Liz Forgan, who will retire from the post of Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund on 30 September 2008, is giving this valedictory speech at the RSA, 8 John Adam Street, London WC2, on 9 September, looking back over her seven years at HLF and arguing that heritage and culture have the power to bring communities together and foster a strong, inclusive national identity, rather than the values-based concept of Britishness (the notion that there are certain core values that define what it means to be ‘British’), which the Government favours. The event starts at 6.30pm, is free and can be booked via the RSA’s website.

Scotland in Later Prehistoric Europe, 19 to 21 September 2008: This major international conference exploring the later prehistoric archaeology of Scotland in its British and European contexts will be held in the National Galleries of Scotland’s Hawthornden Lecture Theatre in Edinburgh and includes a keynote lecture by our Fellow Barry Cunliffe entitled ‘Facing the Northern Ocean: the British Late Bronze and Iron Ages in their continental perspectives’, papers from twenty speakers from across Europe on the themes of ‘The People and the Period’, ‘The Changing Societies of Later Prehistoric Northern Europe’, ‘Landscape and Settlements’ and ‘Artefacts, Beliefs and Society’. Places are still available: further details from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Launch of the Sloane Printed Books Project, 15 October 2008: British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road, London NW1, from 5.30pm to 8pm. To mark the launch of this new online catalogue listing books that belonged to Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753), presentations on the historical background to Sloane’s book collection will be given by our Fellows Arthur MacGregor, on ‘Sir Hans Sloane and the collection of knowledge’, and Giles Mandelbrote, on ‘Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum Library’, amongst others. Attendance is free but please register your name with Teresa Harrington at the British Library.

Roman north-west England: hinterland or ‘Indian country’?, 18 October 2008: Was the Roman north west a region occupied by forts and small industrial settlements surviving in cultural isolation from an unchanged rural population that rejected ‘Romanisation’? Or were all sectors of society remodelled and integrated into an economy that supported the army? Why do many settlements in the region seem to decline in the third century, at a time when those in Yorkshire were flourishing? These and other questions posed in the recently published Regional Research Framework for Archaeology in the North West will be discussed at the 2008 autumn conference of the Council for British Archaeology’s North West Regional, to be held at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum. Download a booking form from www.britarch.ac.uk/cbanw.

Glass at the British Museum: current research, science and conservation, 25 October 2008: this meeting of the Association for the History of Glass takes place in the British Museum’s Clore Centre and ranges over such diverse topics as Roman cameo glass, Sasanian-Islamic glass and post-Renaissance French glass in the British Museum, and includes diverse poster presentations on recent glass-related research carried out by British Museum staff. Full details from Fellow Sandra Davison.

‘Monumental Industry: carved tomb production in the fourteenth century’, 25 October 2008: This event, at the King’s Manor, York, from 10am to 4.30pm, is organised jointly by the Church Monuments Society and the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York. Sally Badham, Tim Palmer, Marie Louise Sauerberg, Jane Crease, Brian and Moira Gittos and Rhianydd Biebrach are the speakers. For further details, including a booking form, see the CMS website.

World Monuments Fund autumn lectures: Fellows feature among the lecturers in the autumn 2008 programme of the World Monuments Fund: Martin Biddle will give a paper on ‘The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem: investigations and influences’ in the appropriate setting of the Temple Church, on 12 November at 7pm; Julian Richards will talk at 7pm in St George’s, Bloomsbury on 2 December on how Stonehenge has evolved to mean different things to different generations; John Julius Norwich (a lapsed Fellow) will share anecdotes from his autobiography at St George’s, Bloomsbury on 13 October at 7pm. The admission price of £14 for WMF members and £19 for non-members includes a voluntary donation to the World Monuments Fund. Tickets can be booked online at www.wmf.org.uk/activities/.

Celebrating the centenary of the Old Edinburgh Club

Our Fellow Iain Gordon Brown, Principal Curator of Manuscripts at the National Library of Scotland, has the honour of being President (2007–10) of the Old Edinburgh Club, one of the UK’s leading local history societies, during its centenary year. The event will be marked by a major conference on 4 October at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh at which eight distinguished speakers will talk on aspects of development and change in the life of the city (the law, medicine, religion, the visual arts, literature, science, national politics and demographics) during the one hundred years of the Club’s existence. This is a real bargain at £15 for members of the Club, £20 for others, to include refreshments, lunch and a drinks reception generously sponsored by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, which body also celebrates its centenary in 2008. Details from, and bookings to, the Secretary of the OEC, Alan Borthwick.

Iain says that the Club was ‘founded as something between a conservation watchdog (the original inspiration for the establishment of the Club came as a result of the widespread destruction of many of the buildings of the Old Town during the later nineteenth century) and a normal local history society. It soon found its true métier in the collection, interpretation and publication of documentary evidence for the history and life of the city in all its aspects: events, people, institutions, buildings and localities, and in the promotion of the city’s past through historical research founded on the major collections of the city. Perhaps the Club’s greatest contribution has been the publication of The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, of which forty-five volumes appeared in the First Series. Volume 7 of the New Series is in the press and will appear in time for the centenary conference, the proceedings of which will form volume 8 of the BOEC.

Iain hopes that under his presidency, ‘the Club can play more of a part than it has recently done in heritage, conservation and planning matters. At a time when the heritage of the city is again under threat, with intrusive and destructive modern development schemes, more could be done in conjunction with the Cockburn Association (the Edinburgh Civic Trust) and the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust. This would be true to the aims of the Club’s founding fathers, who included the first earl of Rosebery, art collector, historian, bibliophile and former Prime Minister. Rosebery it was who famously stated his ambitions as being to marry an heiress, to win the Derby, and to become Prime Minister, in that order. Although he did not include the foundation of Edinburgh’s principal local history society in his career wish-list, that nevertheless remains one of his minor legacies to posterity!’

Church Archaeology: contributions sought

Fellows Evelyn Baker and David Baker, Editors of Church Archaeology, the annual journal of the Society for Church Archaeology, are seeking contributions to the next volume.

Contributions for the News section are particularly welcome in the form of reports on significant work undertaken and not previously notified to the journal during the latter part of 2006, 2007 and the first part of 2008. They can draw attention to new projects, discoveries, conservation and management issues, events and experiences and be up to 2,000 words in length; photographs or illustrations are welcome. They should be sent to the Assistant Editor, Dr Jackie Hall, by 30 November 2008 at the latest. Proposals for longer articles (4,000 to 9,000 words, with the same copy deadline) should be sent to the editors as soon as possible. Books for review should be sent to Dr Duncan Sayer, SHES, Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 227, Reading RG6 6AB.

The life and travels of William John Bankes

Norman Lewis, the great authority on William Bankes, has just completed a transcription of the journals written or dictated by Bankes during his journeys to and from Petra in 1818, a copy of which he has generously donated to the Society’s Library (copies can also be consulted at the British Library, the Bodleian, Cambridge University Library, the library of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London and the library of the Council for British Research in the Levant, in Amman).

The original journal remained at Bankes’ family home, Kingston Lacy in the county of Dorset, until the house was given to the National Trust in 1981 when, together with many of Bankes’ papers, it was given to the Dorset History Centre, Dorchester, where it now remains. The journal records the expedition of 1818 when, unlike Burckhardt, who ‘rediscovered’ Petra in 1812 but spent little time there, Bankes and his companions were granted two days in which they could freely explore and record as much as possible. They used the time to the full, and with great energy and skill produced an astonishingly large collection of information, as well as a record of the journey from Jerusalem around the southern end of the Dead Sea to Petra, and then their journey north through Transjordan as far as Zerka Ma’in, where the journal abruptly ends.

Books by Fellows

Martin Carver’s new book, Portmahomack: monastery of the Picts (Edinburgh University Press), was featured in the Independent last month under the headline: ‘The truth about the Picts’. According to the article, we are all wrong in thinking the Picts were ‘enigmatic savages who fought off Rome’s legions before mysteriously disappearing from history, wild tribesmen who refused to sacrifice their freedom in exchange for the benefits of civilisation’. Perhaps the real truth is that most of us don’t have any views on the Picts at all; they are, Martin told the Independent, ‘one of the most interesting lost peoples of Europe; the big question is what happened to them and did they ever really make a kingdom of their own’.

To answer those questions, Martin has spent his post-Sutton Hoo years digging at Portmahomack, a fishing village on the western side of the Tarbat peninsula in the Moray Firth, north-east Scotland, the heartland of the northern Picts. Here he has found evidence that the Pictish culture was as advanced as any in the latter half of the first millennium AD: Portmahomack was similar to Iona in having a large community of up to 150 monks engaged in making gospel books and chalices to supply numerous daughter monasteries. They were, says Martin in his book, ‘the most extraordinary artists. They could draw a wolf, a salmon, an eagle on a piece of stone with a single line and produce a beautiful naturalistic drawing’.

The real ‘Dark Ages’ for the monastery began in AD 820 when the monastery suffered a major fire and several stone sculptures were smashed. ‘I think Portmahomack was captured by the Men of Moray’, Martin says: ‘The Norse wanted it badly but they didn’t get it. There is no Norse material there. There was no more vellum-making and sculpture and it stopped being a monastery.’

Tim Darvill is the author of a perennial classic in the form of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (Oxford University Press), but don’t be misled by that word ‘concise’: this wide-ranging and comprehensive work is packed with more than 4,000 entries, and this new second edition, hot off the press, includes much new coverage of archaeological theory and archaeologists, as well as illustrated definitions of key archaeological principles, techniques, artefacts, materials, places and monuments – not just a resource then for students, but one that all of us, no matter how experienced, will value as a reference.

Vacancies

Heritage Lottery Fund, Expert Panel members
Closing date 15 September; appointments commencing 1 November 2008

The Heritage Lottery Fund is recruiting up to eleven members to its Expert Panel, which provides advice to the Board and Committees. The panel meets seven times a year under the Chairmanship of our Fellow Richard Morris, and members serve for two years in the first instance, being paid a fee of £4,500 a year, plus expenses. HLF welcomes applications from individuals of senior standing with substantial experience in their heritage sector, and especially from those with expertise in learning, interpretation, training and skills, community participation, audience development and volunteering, and environmental and financial sustainability.

Information on how to apply can be found on the HLF website and our Fellow Bob Bewley, the HLF’s Director of Operations, is happy to provide more information on the role of an Expert Panel member.

Historic Royal Palaces: Trustee; application deadline 19 September 2008, interviews 3 November 2008
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is seeking a trustee with expertise and a track record of achievement in the fields of building conservation, architecture and history to succeed our Fellow Bridget Cherry who steps down from the board of Historic Royal Palaces in December 2008. Trustees play an essential role in the success of HRP by ensuring good governance and contributing expertise to major projects and working groups; they attend ceremonies and special events across all the palaces and participate actively in the life of the organisation. For further information contact Mark Greenwood, Public Appointments, Department for Culture, Media and Sport.