Salon Archive

Issue: 199

Forthcoming meetings

30 October 2008: 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. The exhibits for this meeting will include the Society’s new ‘Making History’ website, which David Gaimster, our General Secretary, will present; Fellows will be invited to comment on the iconography of the Society’s Roll Chronicle.

6 November 2008: Windows on the Past: new research on the long-forgotten sites of the central Nile Delta, by Joanne Rowland

13 November 2008: Archaeological Investigation in Historic Villages: new approaches and recent results, by Carenza Lewis, FSA

14 November 2008: Meeting of the US Fellowship at the Harvard University Faculty Club. The annual meeting of the American Fellowship will be hosted this year by our Fellow Professor William Fash, Director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. The speaker will be our Fellow Professor Norman Hammond and his topic will be ‘Discovering the Ancient Maya’. The reception begins at 6pm, the dinner at 6.30pm followed by a brief business meeting and then Norman’s lecture. Places for the dinner can be booked by contacting Monique Duhaime, who will also be able to answer questions about the event.

25 November 2008: Getting to know the Society: introductory tours for new Fellows. Coffee in the Council Room from 10.30am, tours start at 11am and end at 12.30pm; those who wish may stay for a light sandwich lunch, for which a charge of £5 will be made. Numbers are limited to twenty-five Fellows per tour. To book a place please tel: 020 7479 7080 or email: admin@sal.org.uk. You can also book now for the tour planned for 12 February 2009.

Stonehenge consultation

The Society’s response to the 2008 consultation on the Stonehenge Word Heritage Site Management Plan can be found on the Public Affairs page of our website. It says that the Society fully supports the Management Plan and endorses the Vision, Strategic Objectives and Aims contained within it, whilst also calling for ways to be sought to strengthen the sections on public access and education.

English Heritage publishes case studies of twenty exemplary development schemes

Following on from the publication last year of its Conservation Principles, English Heritage has now published a dossier of twenty heritage-led development schemes that show those principles in action. The twenty examples, which include the late 1950s Park Hill estate in Sheffield, as well as Gorton Monastery, Manchester (now a conference centre), and Liverpool’s former Bluecoat School (now an arts complex), are all chosen to exemplify modern conservation practice in which ‘progressive and imaginative developers and conservation experts work together as a team’.

Constructive Conservation in Practice is available free online or in hard-copy form from English Heritage Customer Services, tel: 0870 333 1181.

Institute for Archaeologists: the same but slightly different

As part of a programme of reform, many ambitious resolutions were debated at the IFA’s AGM on 15 October 2008 and all were passed by an overwhelming majority, including a decision to change the name from ‘Institute of Field Archaeologists’ to ‘Institute for Archaeologists’. Cunningly, the IfA short form of the name thus stays the same, but for the subtle shift from upper to lower case ‘f’; in a letter to members, the IfA’s Chief Executive, our Fellow Peter Hinton, says that though the Institute prefers the use of MIfA and PIfA as an honorific in future, ‘you are welcome to use the previous form for as long as you like – there is no need to update stationery’.

The Institute’s new strapline – ‘a professional institute for the study and care of the historic environment’ – is intended to signal a more inclusive institute, and this is echoed in changes to the IfA’s constitution to broaden the range of organisations that can join the Registered Organisation scheme. ‘We will’, says our Fellow Gerry Wait, Hon Chairman of the IfA, ‘increase our efforts to encourage membership applications from across the historic environment sector, particularly from those who have felt excluded by a narrow interpretation of “field” archaeologist.’

The post-AGM IfA statement says that the Institute has ‘created a more professional and coherent image for its output, which will be rolled out over the coming months. We hope that colleagues will embrace the broader, refocused IfA, which will work to strengthen its partnerships with other professional bodies in the sector.’

Protection for the wreck of HMS London

In one of her first acts as UK Minister for Culture, Barbara Follett has designated the remains of HMS London, which sank in the Thames Estuary in 1665. The remains of the ship were found by divers working for Wessex Archaeology only recently, during a survey to identify potential hazards to the increasingly large ships that use the Thames. Originally built for the Commonwealth navy at Chatham and launched in 1654, HMS London was a three-deck Second Rate warship; she participated in the First Dutch War (1652–4) and was one of the ships in the flotilla that escorted Charles II back from Holland to England at the Restoration. The ship sank after an accidental explosion in 1665; Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary that ‘above 300 drownd’, but that twenty-four men and women survived because the explosion blew them clear of the sinking ship.

Punctuation pedants vandalise historic signs

Two young Americans who founded the Typo Eradication Advancement League and went on a mission to correct errors on government signposts have been fined and given suspended sentences for damaging historic signs in the Grand Canyon National Park. Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson removed erroneous apostrophes and added missing commas on signs that they considered contained errors, not realising that the hand-painted signs were the original work of Mary Colter, the American architect who designed the protected hotels and lookout towers in the national park in the 1920s and 1930s. The pair were caught after boasting about their work on the internet; their fines will be used to pay for the signs to be restored.

Drunken vandals damage historic monuments

Damaging historic signs seems small beer compared to the drink-fuelled vandalism reported by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in its Cornerstone magazine, where Patrick Sawer writes about the cost of yobbery to English Heritage, the National Trust and other guardians of ancient monuments. Apparently the crackdown on city-centre drinking has led to bored and restless teenagers seeking out edge-of-town sites such as Thetford Priory, Bolsover Castle or Conisburgh Castle to use as places to meet for drinking sessions. Lighting fires, demolishing walls, spraying graffiti, smashing floodlights and churning up the ground with motorbikes, are among the problems reported. The cost of repairs, of extra security patrols, of security fencing and cameras is estimated to be approaching £100,000 per site.

Chatter and coffee shops are what libraries need, says minister

Perhaps the young yobs should be encouraged to try the local library instead. Only days after Salon quoted a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report saying that museums should be ‘seen as central spaces of mutual understanding and cohesion where cultural identity can be developed’, Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, launched a consultation into the future of public libraries, saying they ‘should be social places that offer an antidote to the isolation of someone playing on the internet at home’.

A Government spokesman said the aim was to make libraries more like a Waterstone’s store, with coffee franchises, book shops and film centres and computer games facilities. But Tim Coates, former managing director of Waterstone’s and a libraries campaigner, said: ‘This ought to be about getting more reading books, particularly for children, not about turning libraries into fish and chip shops.’

French museums branch out

France seems to have a far superior vision of the role of the museum, with institutions in the capital announcing ambitious plans to create provincial branches: the Centre Pompidou, which has Europe’s biggest collection of modern art, will create an outpost in Metz, the capital of Lorraine, and the Louvre is building an annexe in Lens, in the Pas-de-Calais, to host some 300 works from its collections. Both museums also plan annexes outside the borders of France: the ‘Louvre of the sands’ is being built in Abu Dhabi and a Centre Pompidou in Shanghai.

Spoiled for choice: London’s winter exhibitions

England’s national museums and galleries are quite capable of ignoring social scientists, thank goodness, and London at the moment offers as rich a choice as ever of top-quality exhibitions. The critics are unanimous in lavishing praise on ‘Cartoons and Coronets: the genius of Osbert Lancaster’ (to 11 January 2009), at the Wallace Collection, and on ‘Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian’ (until 18 January 2009) at the National Gallery, while still to open are ‘Byzantium 330–1453’ at the Royal Academy (25 October 2008 to 22 March 2009), co-curated by our Fellow Robin Cormack, and ‘Babylon: myth and reality’ at the British Musuem (13 November 2008 to 15 March 2009).

Of the four, the first has to be the most laugh-out-loud enjoyable – consisting, as it does, of the cartoons of Sir Osbert Lancaster, who so often seems like a character from one of his own works; yet his sharp wit, deployed as often as not in the cause of good architecture and against the third-rate, transcends time, nation and class. Lancaster’s anger at the wilful destruction of long-lived and much-loved townscapes by planners and developers began in the 1930s, and this reminds us that the destruction we sometimes attribute to the war or to the 1960s was actually several decades older: the medieval suburbs of Gloucester, for example, were destroyed well before the war as part of a misguided ‘slum-clearance’ programme.

Reviewing the exhibition, our Fellow Sir Roy Strong says he cherishes one of Lancaster’s cartoons ‘in which I appear as a dapper figure standing outside a pornographic bookshop being confronted by Maudie, Countess of Littlehampton, on the subject of the proposed introduction of museum charges in 1970: “Instead of charging us to see good pictures why doesn’t Lord Eccles tax filthy pictures?” she asks.’

That is typical of Lancaster’s ambiguous wit: it makes you laugh at the same time as making you think ‘what a sensible idea’. Equally his architectural satires on architectural styles – By-pass Variegated, Stockbroker Tudor (a term that has entered the language) and Wimbledon Transitional – are both mocking and affectionate. Highlight of the exhibition is the series of six drawings depicting the fictional ‘Poets Corner at Drayneflete’ at thirty-year intervals between 1800 and 1949, transformed from English village to traffic-torn city, with its only surviving historic building bearing a ‘For Sale’ sign and certain, one feels, to be demolished.

‘Renaissance Faces’ is illuminating because it brings together so many portraits that would not normally be seen together. Those from Tuscany and Flanders, set in close proximity, serve to remind us of the extraordinary interplay between the artists of the two geographically distant parts of the European continent, that were yet linked by banking, the cloth trade and by wealthy merchants happy, in the spirit of Renaissance humanism, to pay for pure portraits (marble busts and bronze medallions as well as paintings), rather than the religious paintings of the previous era that portrayed them as peripheral supplicants at the feet of patron saints. Tuscan merchants, such as the Arnolfini of Lucca and Tommaso Portinari of Florence, part of the expatriate community in Flanders, commissioned works from the likes of Jan van Eyck and Hugo van der Goes that must have astonished even the very best of Florentine painters, a reminder that not everything that we characterise as ‘Renaissance’ was born in Italy.

Dating Palaeolithic cave art

Much, much older paintings are the subject of a research paper published by Bristol University archaeologist Dr Alistair Pike on the Natural Environment Research Council’s new Planet Earth website. Dr Pike and his team have been trying to date Palaeolithic cave paintings using a technique which measures the ratio of uranium to thorium in the thin layers of calcium carbonate deposited on top of the cave art by the same process that leads to the creation of stalactites and stalagmites. Uranium trapped in this deposit decays to form thorium at a consistent rate. The Bristol team applied the technique to the engravings found in Cresswell Crags, and dated them to at least 12,000 years ago. They have now used the same technique on paintings in the Altamira cave near Santillana del Mar, in northern Spain, and found that the oldest date from 35,000 years ago and the youngest from 14,000 years ago, showing that the paintings were not all created in one campaign, but at intervals over some 20,000 years.

The next step, said Dr Pike, is to try and link specific paintings to the material culture of the people who created the art, which is possible given the greater precision of this dating technique over dating on stylistic grounds. ‘If we can date the art then we can relate that to the artefacts we find in the ground and start to link the symbolic thoughts of these individuals to where, when and how they were living’, he said.

Fish sauce used to date Pompeii eruption

A story in the press with the above headline promised an interesting new dating technique – garum pungency dating, perhaps – but it turns out that fermenting fish are not a reliable index of dates in general, but rather one specific date: that of Pompeii’s destruction. Italian researchers who have analysed the town’s last batch of garum, whose desiccated remains were found at the bottom of seven jars in the house of Aulus Umbricius Scaurus, Pompeii’s most famous garum producer, say that the garum was made entirely with little silvery fish known colloquially as bogues (botanical name Boops boops), a Mediterranean fish species that abounded in the area in the summer months of July and early August.

‘Analysis of their contents basically confirmed that Mount Vesuvius most likely erupted on 24 August AD 79, as reported by the Roman historian Pliny the Younger in his account on the eruption’, said Annamaria Ciarallo, Director of Pompeii’s Applied Research Laboratory.

Fitting the pieces back together

Griphos (Greek for ‘puzzle’) is the name of a new software program developed by Princeton computer scientists to automate the reconstruction of frescos, mosaic or pots from excavated fragments. The pieces are scanned in colour in three dimensions, then compared to find the best match based on a range of criteria, including colour, pattern, texture and flaws. The programme has been tested in the reconstruction of Late Bronze Age wall paintings excavated from Akrotiri, on Santorini. A video demonstration of the work can be seen on the Princeton University website.

Colossal statues from Sagalassos

The giant head of Hadrian from the ancient city of Sagalassos that featured in the just-closed Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum is now known to have been one of six monumental statues of Antonine dynasty emperors and their spouses. Rushed to the exhibition not long after it was excavated, the head of Hadrian emerged from the rubble of a collapsed frigidarium at the ancient site high in the mountains of southern Turkey. Subsequently, the Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project team, led by Professor Marc Waelkens, from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, recovered parts of colossal statues of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Elder.

Professor Waelkens predicts that more statue fragments could emerge, completing an imperial gallery filling six large niches in which Hadrian and his successors – Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius – were ranged on one side of the pool with their spouses – Vibia Sabina, Faustina the Elder and Faustina the Younger – opposite. For further information see the website of the Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project.

Looting has ceased at last in Iraq

Recent reports in a number of publications suggest that the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq has ceased. Dr Abbas al-Husseini, who took over from Dr Donny George as chairman of the state board of antiquities in 2006 but who is now a professor at Al Qadisiyah University, has told journalists that ‘professional looting has ended’. Dr al-Husseini cites several reasons for the improvement: ‘Religious leaders have issued fatwas against damaging our heritage; guards with proper facilities are protecting sites; Iraqi archaeologists have resumed excavating, which means the sites are better monitored.’ He also said that the black market is flooded with antiquities, whose monetary value had thus diminished.

Dr al-Husseini’s comments echo those made in a report by our Fellow John Curtis, of the British Museum, who visited southern Iraq to assess damage at a number of archaeological sites in June 2008, and reported little evidence of looting since 2003 (the detailed report, with photographs, can be downloaded from the British Museum’s website.

Meanwhile, the US Government has announced a US $14 million plan to help refurbish the Iraq National Museum. ‘This grant shows the great development that has happened in US–Iraqi relations,’ said Iraqi Minister of Culture, Mahier Ibrahim al-Hadithi. The looting of the museum has become a symbol of the inadequate planning for a post-war Iraq by the US and its allies. A US Embassy spokesman in Baghdad denied that the grant was an acknowledgment of failure or an apology for the looting, but Abdel Lahiqa al-Taliqani, a spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism, said: ‘It’s good for people to fix their mistakes, even if they were unintentional.’

Evidence that Neanderthals ate fish

Professor Chris Stringer, palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum, has published evidence that Neanderthals, like modern humans, foraged in coastal habitats to find sea foods such as shellfish and vulnerable seals. The evidence comes from the remains of food excavated from two coastal caves on the eastern side of Gibraltar – Gorham’s Cave and Vanguard Cave – which are being excavated by the Gibraltar Caves Project, a collaboration between London’s Natural History Museum, the Gibraltar Museum and the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid.

As well as the butchered bones of ibex, red deer, wild boar, bear and rabbit, the excavators found the remains of monk seal, dolphins, fish such as sea bream and mussel shells. ‘The seal bones we found have clear cut marks and peeling, from Neanderthals bending and ripping them from the body to remove meat and marrow. The mussel shells had been warmed on a fire to open them,’ said Professor Stringer.

The Gibraltar evidence adds to the puzzle of why Neanderthals became extinct by demonstrating that those living on the shores of the Mediterranean at least were adaptable and had access to a rich and varied diet not unlike that of modern humans living in similar habitats.

A pig or a hedge pig?

A new edition of British Archaeology is out, with a charming story of the discovery at Stonehenge of a child’s toy buried with the cremated bones of an infant, probably of Middle Iron Age date (450–100 BC). The toy, in the form of a carved chalk animal, with a snout and four stumpy legs, measures 55mm (just over 2 inches), and is described by editor Mike Pitts as ‘a unique carved pig’.

The media loved the story, naturally enough, and claimed that ‘Britain’s Oldest Toy’ had been found ‘buried with a Stonehenge baby’. But somewhere along the line the story got turned into a debate about whether the pig of the British Archaeology story was in fact a prehistoric hedgehog. ‘Whether it’s a hedgehog or a pig you can argue about, but I like the hedgehog idea myself,’ said the finder of the pig / hedgehog, our Fellow Josh Pollard of the University of Bristol. Mike strongly disagrees, according to National Geographic: ‘I would say it’s without doubt a pig’.

What seems like a whimsical disagreement does of course matter: are we talking here about an appreciation of wildlife, and perhaps even the keeping of pets by Iron Age people, or is this a representation of a domesticated animal of great economic and symbolic importance? Perhaps we can look forward to a learned article on the topic in Antiquity some time soon. Meanwhile, make your own choice: you can see the pig / hedgehog on the National Geographic website (sorry Josh, Salon’s editor is with Mike on this: the big floppy ears are surely the clincher).

Drugs of the Stoned Age

Another example of media spin came from the revelation last week that ‘Stone Age man took drugs’. Probably the only part of that headline that an archaeologist might find revelatory is the apparent discovery that all prehistoric shamans were male. But no, that is just media sexism: the meat of the story was that Quetta Kaye, of University College London, and Scott Fitzpatrick, from North Carolina State University, had found paraphernalia for inhaling drugs, in the form of ceramic bowls and tubes on the Caribbean island of Carriacou. Again, no surprise to most archaeologists. So Salon’s editor tracked the story back to its original source: what Kaye and Fitzpatrick actually said in their original press release was that thermo-luminescence dating of the ceramic had produced a date of 400–100 BC, and that Carriacou was colonised in AD 400, so there is a gap of potentially 500 and as much as 900 years between the manufacture of the ceramic and its arrival on Carriacou. The real news then is not the (not very surprising) fact that people took drugs in the past but that these ceramics had been cherished as heirlooms for generations, and clearly considered important enough to be taken on long voyages of discovery.

Vikings are given a makeover

The cover of the latest edition of British Archaeology has a striking artwork from a 1972 Look and Learn magazine cover showing horn-helmeted Vikings with flowing hair and beards and ferocious features stealing gold and setting fire to a village of timber-framed and thatched houses with the white cliffs of Dover in the background. Several academics have recently sought to mitigate this traditional image of the Vikings as rapacious thugs. Writing in the latest issue of Antiquity, for example, James Barrett, of the McDonald Institute in Cambridge, argues that Vikings were really home-loving fellows who wanted nothing more than to marry, settle down and run a smallholding, but an imbalance in the ratio of men to women back home meant that they had to go and rob a few monasteries first in order to cope with the pace of bride-price inflation.

Now another group of Cambridge scholars has claimed that Vikings were really ‘new men’ with an interest in grooming, fashion and poetry. The university’s Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic department is worried that students are put off studying this period because of the image of Vikings as violent, hairy, dirty and illiterate thugs. It has published a guide revealing how much of the Vikings’ history has been misrepresented. Far from being obsessed with fighting and drinking, they were largely-peaceful and were even criticised for being too hygienic, the guide reveals: ‘A medieval chronicler, John of Wallingford, talking about the eleventh century, complained that the Danes were too clean – they combed their hair every day, washed every Saturday, and changed their clothes regularly.’

Dr Elizabeth Rowe, a Viking expert and lecturer in Scandinavian mediaeval history at the university, said: ‘their culture was very artistic and they were keen to make an impression because they want to cultivate a certain look. They were very concerned about their appearance.’

Our Fellow Neil Price, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, has provided further insight into Viking creativity by pointing to the sheer diversity of burial practice in the Viking world: having looked at thousands of excavated graves he has found that no two were the same. In his inaugural lecture, ‘Passing into Poetry: Viking funerals and the origins of Norse mythology’, he said that Viking graves were distinguished by the variety of objects found alongside the bodies, from complete longships and vehicles such as wagons and sleds, to animals of many different species and even sacrificed humans. Viking funerals, he argued, were theatrical events: ritual plays were literally performed at the graveside. Old Norse texts, combined with eye-witness descriptions of Viking burial ceremonies found in contemporary literature, reveal the significant role that storytelling and dramatisation played in the Viking disposal of the dead. ‘Vikings used these funeral stories as a way of connecting the world of the living and the world of the dead. It is likely that these dramas, which were created and acted out using objects that were placed with the body in the grave or on the cremation pyre, form the beginnings of what we know today as Norse mythology’, he said.

One hoary old myth does seem to have been confirmed by archaeology, however: the idea that timber-framed houses were often built of recycled ships’ timbers. The remains of a Viking home have been discovered by York Archaeological Trust archaeologists working at Hungate. The remains consist of the timber-lined cellar of a two-storey house built in the mid- to late tenth century, and it appears that ships’ timbers were used in the building’s construction. Hungate excavations project director Peter Connelly said: ‘To find these timbers so well preserved is very exciting. Viking cellars were used in different ways by different people, much in the same way as cellars are used today. Craftspeople appear to have worked out of their cellars as well as using them for storage, with the living quarters on the floor above.’

Update on stories reported in recent issues of Salon

The Parks Canada expedition to seek traces of two ships from the doomed 1845 Franklin expedition has found fragments of copper sheeting likely to have come from the vessels, says Robert Grenier, Chief of Underwater Archaeology at Parks Canada. The team found the fragments during a six-week trip in August and September to three islands near O’Reilly Island in the Queen Maud Gulf, close to where Franklin’s ships are believed to have sunk. Copper does not exist naturally in the region and the sheets could not have been made by the local Inuit, Grenier said. He added that the copper fragments showed signs that Inuit had used the sheets over the years to make traditional tools.

Having said no to the construction of a new archive by the Bodleian Library in Oxford’s Osney Mead, a planning inspector has also rejected proposals for modern canalside apartments on the site of the Castle Mill Boatyard in the city’s Jericho area, describing the proposals as ‘sterile’ and ‘uninspiring’. Campaigners in the city welcomed the outcome of the inquiry as a turning point in efforts to curb the fashion for building modern ‘commuter barracks’ along Britain’s inland waterways.

The novelist Philip Pullman, who has campaigned for the ‘soul’ of one of England’s most architecturally important cities, says the decision by Government planning inspector Ava Wood was a vital first step in efforts to reinstate a full working canal boatyard to the 160-year-old site.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, subject of Martin Biddle’s talk at the Temple Church on 12 November (see ‘Feedback’), is going to fall down, destroying Christendom’s holiest site, if emergency repairs are not carried out soon, say engineers who completed an evaluation of the roof this month. Yigal Bergman, the engineer who led the investigation, reported that the church, situated in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, was in a dangerous state and that heavy autumn rains could bring about its collapse. Acrimonious relations between the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian congregations who use the church is apparently preventing conservation work from taking place.

Tiny gold studs from the handle of a Bronze Age dagger buried at Bush Barrow, Wiltshire, have been found in a desk drawer at Cardiff University. The hunt for the studs began after the lecture that Fellows Stuart Needham, Andrew Lawson and Ann Woodward gave to the Society on 2 October, in which Ann described the dagger as having originally had a hilt decorated with thousands of tiny gold wire studs, as fine as cotton thread, set in a herringbone patter. At the meeting, the whereabouts of the studs were discussed and some Fellows present remembered having seen them, but nobody present at the meeting seemed to know where they were.

After the lecture, Niall Sharples, Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University, returned to his desk and discovered them in a drawer in a film canister labelled ‘Bush Barrow’, where they had been placed by his predecessor, our late Fellow John G Evans, who had in turn received them from the late Richard Atkinson to whom they had been loaned in the 1960s.

Our Fellow David Dawson, Director of Wiltshire Heritage Museum where the Bush Barrow finds were on display this weekend, said: ‘It’s an unbelievable find. The gold studs are remarkable evidence of the skill and craftsmanship of Bronze Age goldsmiths – quite rightly described as “the work of the gods”’.

Finally, Salon has been keeping track, with the help of Fellow Randolph Vigne, of the excavation of the sixteenth-century Portuguese trading ship found in April this year off the Atlantic Coast of Namibia, and described as ‘one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries on the African continent in the past one-hundred years’. Excavation of the wreck, found in an area drained for diamond mining about 130km (80 miles) south of the Namibian harbour town of Luderitz, has revealed some 2,300 Spanish and Portuguese gold coins (the earliest of them first minted in October 1525), several tonnes of copper ingots (marked with a trident indent of the Fugger family of traders and bankers of Augsburg, suppliers of commodities to the Portuguese crown), hundreds of kilograms of ivory, parts from rare navigational instruments, a variety of weapons, and large numbers of pewter plates and jugs and other personal possessions of the sailors who were on board the ship when it foundered.

Bruno Werz, from the Southern African Institute of Maritime Archaeology, the archaeologist leading the excavations, said the shipwreck was particularly valuable because it had not been disturbed by human interference: ‘We are very fortunate to have found an untouched wreck with all the material that was on site still here in one collection’, he said, adding that ‘it represents a very interesting cargo, with goods from Asia, Africa and Europe’.

With the excavation over, the real work of studying this discovery is only starting now, Werz said. The ship’s Portuguese origin, and the fact that it had been on an outbound voyage from Portugal, has been confirmed so far, but its name and the date on which it met its end still have to be established

(The Society hopes that Bruno Werz will give a paper on this excavation at some stage in the future when he is visiting the UK.)

News of Fellows

Our Fellow Paul Cartledge, of Clare College, Cambridge, has been appointed to the A G Leventis Professorship of Greek Culture, the first chair in Classics to have been endowed at Cambridge since World War II. Paul, who proudly lists himself in the Fellows’ List as an Honorary Citizen of Sparta, is a leading authority on the history of Greek political thought and practice (especially democracy) and on the societies and economies of Classical Greece (especially Sparta). He has also studied the post-antique reception of ancient Greece and the Greeks, including the way in which they are portrayed in film and other media (he was even a consultant on the 2007 box-office hit ‘300’, a gruesome depiction of the Spartan stand at the Battle of Thermopylae, thanks to his (more accurate) book Thermopylae: the battle that changed the world. His other books include the Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece and The Greeks: a portrait of self and others. Forthcoming in 2009 are A History of Greek Political Thought in Action and Ancient Greece: a very short introduction.

The new chair has been endowed by a generous donation from the Cyprus-based Leventis Foundation. Established in 1979 as a result of provisions made by Anastasios G Leventis, the Foundation aims to support educational, cultural, artistic and philanthropic causes with an emphasis on Greek and Cypriot cultural heritage. The Leventis family has a special connection with Cambridge as the late Constantinos Leventis studied Classics at Clare College, where Professor Cartledge is a Fellow. The Foundation has also established a graduate scholarship fund for Classics at Clare.

Professor Cartledge said: ‘The culture of the ancient Greeks is a pillar of western civilisation; their political ideas, philosophy, scientific enquiry, historical writing and art not only broke new ground but have inspired those who followed in their wake, from the Romans through to the present day. A central part of my role will be spreading awareness of the rich heritage that they have passed down.’ Professor Cartledge will be giving his Inaugural lecture on 16 February 2009.

Our Fellow and former Librarian Bernard Nurse recently starred in the Saffron Walden Literary Festival which this year took as its theme A Sense of History and included such literary luminaries as Alison Weir on John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Mistress and Desmond Dingle from the National Theatre of Brent on The Complete History of the Whole World. Bernard spoke about Making History: 300 years of collecting by the Society of Antiquaries, linking the Society’s Tercentenary celebrations to the fine antiquarian collections at the Saffron Walden Town Library, which include all the Society’s recent publications as well as most of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ones.

At the risk of making her blush yet again, our ‘poshly blushing’ Fellow Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, was singled out for mention in a couple of TV reviews this week for her part in the BBC2 ‘Timewatch’ programme on the young Queen Victoria. The Guardian's critic said that the programme ‘was full of posh girls with big brains – I suppose a subject like the young Queen Victoria attracts them. I particularly liked Lucy Worsley, chief curator of the Historic Royal Palaces. “There’s one poem I really like,” she says. “It’s by Peter Pindar, do you know it? It goes: ‘Hot and hard each royal pair/Are at it hunting for the heir’.” And then she blushes, deeply and poshly.’

The New Statesman went further still and compared our Lucy to Anne in The Famous Five: ‘I was particularly beguiled by Lucy Worsley, chief curator of historic royal palaces, who had an old-fashioned bob and rosy skin, like Anne in The Famous Five, but who made everything that Victoria did sound so very naughty.’ The same review went on, however, to describe ‘dear old Roy Strong, diamond stud sparkling merrily in his ear. Delightful’, from which one might conclude there was an element of fantasy in this critic’s review: can it be true that our Fellow Roy Strong wears an ear ring? Surely not: Sir Roy is a dandy, not a chav.

Obituaries

Further to the announcement of the recent death of our Fellow Tom Braun, we have now been informed that a memorial service will be held for him at Merton College, Oxford, on the afternoon of 31 January 2009. Further information will follow in due course.

Via Vincent Megaw comes the news that Andrée Rosenfeld died on 2 October 2008 in Brisbane at the age of seventy-four. Dr Rosenfeld was the partner of our late Fellow Peter Ucko, a world-renowned rock art researcher who taught for many years at the Institute of Archaeology in London before moving to Australia, where she taught at the Australian National University. Dr Rosenfeld’s publications include the seminal work Palaeolithic Cave Art (with Peter Ucko), Early Man in North Queensland: art and archaeology in the Laura area (with David Horton and John Winter) and Rock Art Conservation in Australia.

Sadly, our Fellow Bill Putnam died on 14 October 2008. Our Vice-President Tim Darvill has provided the following appreciation.

‘Bill had a long and influential career in archaeology that spanned a period of great change in the discipline. His ever-cheerful approach to life did much to stimulate archaeological interests amongst the many hundreds of students who attended his classes. He always looked for long-term solutions rather than quick fixes, worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that things happened smoothly and was always ready with an amusing story to illuminate situations and illustrate possibilities [on this see more below].

‘Bill started as an undergraduate at University College London in 1948, reading classics. He chose the ‘Archaeology of Roman Britain’ as his special subject, and this brought him into close contact with Mortimer Wheeler. As a result Bill spent much time working on the Cripplegate Roman fort in London, where he also got to know Grimes and Richmond, and developed a life-long passion for practical field archaeology.

‘Following university he trained as a teacher and, after completing National Service, taught English at Newtown Grammar School in Montgomeryshire. Much archaeological work in Wales followed (including excavations at Pen y Crocbren, Lanfair Caereinion and Carno). He became secretary of the Cambrian Archaeological Association and was closely involved in the development of CBA Wales.

‘In 1967 he answered an advertisement for an archaeologist to join the staff of Weymouth College of Education. Duly appointed, he immediately set about establishing a small archaeology department and developing an interest in Dorset’s archaeology with field work at Dewlish Villa and many other sites. In 1975 he established Britain’s first Certificate in Practical Archaeology, later to become the Higher National Diploma in Archaeology. The programme was taught at Weymouth through to 1985 when it moved to Bournemouth, where it stayed, while the Dorset Institute became Bournemouth Polytechnic and, from 1992, Bournemouth University. It is a testament to Bill’s vision that the course is still running and still popular, albeit now in modified form as the Foundation Degree in Field Archaeology.

‘Outside higher education, Bill was active with CBA Group 12 through the late 1970s and beyond. He was founding chairman of the Dorset Archaeological Committee and succeeded Colin Renfrew as the Chairman of the Wessex Archaeological Committee as it changed from a purely advisory body to become The Trust for Wessex Archaeology (now Wessex Archaeology).

‘Bill was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1971. He retired from his full-time post at Bournemouth University in April 1995, but remained active in the university and in Dorset archaeology until shortly before his death. A festschrift entitled Communicating Archaeology (edited by John Beavis and Alan Hunt: Oxbow Books) was published in 1999, following a conference at which many of his former students and colleagues paid tribute to the great breadth and depth of Bill’s contribution to archaeology. In 2004 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for his work on Roman archaeology in Dorset and beyond. For many years fascinated by Roman Dorchester, his last major fieldwork project was tracing the line of the aqueduct supplying water to the town, and cutting several trenches through its line to establish its date and structure.’

The following anecdote from Paul Spoerry, of Oxford Archaeology East, perfectly illustrates what Tim means about Bill’s tireless behind-the-scenes work and love of an amusing story. ‘I had lunch with Bill one day and I casually asked how his week had been. At that time he was Chair of Wessex Archaeology and they had been trying hard to leave Salisbury Cathedral Close for more appropriate accommodation. He turned to me and asked “Is £xxx,000 a lot of money, Paul?” (I can’t tell you the actual figure); “Well, I’ve just put my house on the line for some sheds on a defunct airfield and that’s what they are costing”. He went on: “I’m assured that this is a wise course of action, and people seem to think I’m a wise man, but if you find me sleeping in the department in a few months time you will know why!”

‘I am glad to say that Bill was not found sleeping in the department and Wessex Archaeology is still in those same buildings (although they are rather nicer than Bill made out). Those of you who knew Bill will know the twinkle in his eye as he made those remarks; he got things done and always with the right intentions, often for the benefit of others, and with a regular dusting of good humour.’

Feedback

The last issue of Salon described our new Vice-President Stephen Johnson as the former Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. In fact, Stephen was Head of the Fund; Liz Forgan was, until recently, the Chair.

A slip of the typing finger resulted in the wrong date for Martin Biddle’s lecture at the Temple Church on ‘The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem: investigations and influences’. Martin’s lecture is on 12 November, not 2 November: further details from the Temple Festival website.

Following up the news that the Bancroft Library in Stepney is to stay in its current premises, our Fellow David Mander, Chair of Archives for London, writes to say that it was the proposed separation of the archives and local studies services that many campaigners were concerned about, rather than a move from the present library premises, and that what is urgently needed now, in the light of the decision to leave the library where it is, is a service review so that Tower Hamlets Council can establish what service it ought to provide, building on the consultation exercise it carried out in the summer of 2007. ‘There is an urgent need to make improvements to the archive and local history service’s premises’, David says, ‘and there are areas where resources could be directed to bring in new audiences and improve the uptake from areas under-represented in current users.’

On the question of bluestone origins, Fellow Robin Milner-Gulland offers the observation that ‘I have noticed that on Sark there are seams of dolerite within a few yards of the landing-place at the north of the island. I’m not enough of a geologist to know if they’re sufficiently spotted, but the voyage from there (or maybe from other Channel Island locations) to the mouth of the Avon would be far shorter and simpler than from Preseli; there is reason to think Sark itself may have been a sacred place, if not necessarily therapeutic!’

Events

30 October 2008: ‘Pirates of the East End’, St Ethelburga’s, 78 Bishopsgate, London; associated exhibition 1 October to 19 December 2008
This intriguingly entitled lecture will be given by our Fellow Frank Meddens, who will speak about excavations carried out by Pre-Construct Archaeology at Limehouse that uncovered the homes of known privateers, or licensed pirates. The lecture promises insights into a period from the reigns of Elizabeth I to Queen Anne when the foundations for London’s dominance of world trade were established. This is the second annual lecture of the Guild of Art Scholars, Dealers and Collectors; lecture tickets costing £25 are available from the Clerk of the Guild, tel: 07708 114224. The talk is given in association with an exhibition of artefacts recovered from the Limehouse residences, ‘Pirates of the East End’, at Sampson and Horne Antiques, 120 Mount Street, London W1, from 1 October to 19 December 2008, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5.30pm.

6 November 2008: ‘St Francis and the Moslem World’, The Lincoln Centre, 18 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2
Our Fellow Pamela Tudor-Craig will be giving this lecture under the aegis of the Temenos Academy. Doors open at 6.15pm; the lecture begins promptly at 7pm.

Greening your Victorian House; seminar at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on Tuesday 11 November 2008
The Victorian Society is hosting this seminar to help owners of Victorian and Edwardian homes (which constitute a very high proportion of historic housing stock in most UK towns and cities) meet the challenges of climate change without compromising the historic character of their properties. Speakers will include Caroline Gunn, Senior Building Services Engineer at English Heritage, John Doggart, Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Academy, and Sarah Harrison, who has cut the emissions from her nineteenth-century Camden home by 80 per cent whilst preserving the character of the conservation area in which it stands.

For further information about Greening your Victorian house or to book a place on the seminar, see the VicSoc’s website or call Catherine Dorrington on 01462 896 688.

20 November 2008: ‘Interpreting Architectural Drawings and Maps’, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA
Forming part of the Professional Training in the Historic Environment short course programme that Oxford University Department for Continuing Education runs in collaboration with English Heritage, this day school will be led by our Fellow Gordon Higgott. The course will examine the many types of visual archival material from the sixteenth century to the present day that can provide valuable evidence for dating and interpreting historic buildings and sites, including architectural drawings, plans and related visual records, estate maps, topographical views and early photographs. The course is relevant to historic building consultants, conservation architects, archaeologists, students of architectural history and those involved in the preparation of conservation plans. Booking details can be found on the Department for Continuing Education website.

5 and 6 December 2008: Early Textiles Study Group’s Twelfth Biannual Conference, Textiles in Art from the Bronze Age to the Renaissance, London
This two-day conference will consist of seminar-style papers by specialist textile historians based on new research and focusing on the representation of textiles in works of art. Among Fellows due to give papers are Hero Granger-Taylor, on ‘Textiles in Early Mesopotamian Art: finds from other areas (Egypt and the Levant) as a guide to their technique and original appearance’, Maria Hayward, on ‘Fact or fiction? An analysis of two portraits of Elizabeth I at Jesus College, Oxford’, and Lisa Monnas on ‘Problems in the Chronology of Fourteenth-century Italian Textiles with Reference to Paintings’.

Several papers address textile-related topics in Renaissance Italian art, but the conference also includes contributions on textiles in ancient Mycenae, late fifth-century India, migration-period Scandinavia, fourteenth-century Korea and China and the contemporary southern Andes. For the full programme and a booking form see uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/textilesinart/.

Index to Wills at Salisbury 1464–1858

The British Record Society is about to publish two substantial volumes of well over 800 pages each of nearly 100,000 Salisbury wills, dating from late medieval to mid-Victorian times. The wills includes testators from Wiltshire but also from large parts of Berkshire and Dorset, and small areas of Devon and Hampshire. There are full supplementary indexes to places, subjects and trades and occupations.

Wills at Salisbury is being produced in a limited edition of 300 copies for subscribers to the British Record Society. Anyone who joins the British Record Society in time for their application to be processed by 31 December 2008 will receive both volumes and the Society’s edition of Westmorland Hearth Tax, for a membership fee of £28. Alternatively, non members can purchase copies of Wills at Salisbury at the special pre-publication price of £45, including postage, if the order is placed before 15 January 2009. The full retail price of the work thereafter will be £75. For membership or order forms, please contact Mr Mike Tittensor, Hon Treasurer, British Record Society, 15 Ann’s Road, Cambridge CB5 8TN.

Books by Fellows

Four Fellows – Jacky Nowakowski, Henrietta Quinnell, Charles Thomas and Nicholas Thomas – are among the authors of Return to Gwithian: shifting the sands of time . This special volume of Cornish Archaeology dedicated to the Gwithian project was published to celebrate the eightieth birthday of our Fellow Charles Thomas and it was launched at a mini conference held in Truro on 11 October attended by many original members of the Gwithian project team, including our Fellows Vincent Megaw and Peter Fowler.

The book represents a milestone in recent work to publish the rich archive of a coastal site in west Cornwall that has a special place in British archaeology, with national and international significance for the study of coastal settlement. Over seventy sites of all periods, from the Mesolithic onwards, were investigated by the project during the 1950s and 1960s, revealing localised sequences of undisturbed land surfaces. Directed by Charles Thomas, fieldwork at Gwithian became a major fixture in the digging calendar and provided an exceptional training school for the many archaeology students who came here to learn the techniques of their profession.

The massive archive (approximately 24,000 finds, 45 boxes of paperwork, 10 portfolios of field drawings and more than 1,000 black-and-white negatives and colour slides) has been deposited in the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro, ands since 2003 a team from the Historic Environment Service has been working to make the archive accessible for future research with funding from the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund.

The new book consists of an illustrated summary of the Gwithian story, incorporating the results of the recent archive work, supplemented by the results of a new campaign of dating, using samples collected in 2005 from the excavation of earlier trenches and using them for Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating, which is particularly suitable for dating sandy sediments.

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be anything new to say about Stonehenge, along comes Volume 9 of the excellent Landscapes journal, edited by Fellows David Austin and Paul Stamper with an intriguing picture on the cover of a snowy Stonehenge under a lowering sky, and a paper by Fellow Mike Pitts on seven Stonehenge photographs published here for the first time by Picture Post photographer Bill Brandt. Analysing these austere pictures, imbued with a sense of foreboding – they were taken during the war and in the aftermath, at a time when Britain was battling exceptionally harsh weather, fuel and food shortages and economic exhaustion – provides Mike with the opportunity to reflect on the differing reactions of visitors to Stonehenge from 1562 (the first known description of a visit, that of Herman Folkerzheimer, who travelled to the remote and unvisited monument on horseback in the company of Bishop Jewel of Salisbury) until more recent times, when cars and coaches began to bring a quarter of a million visitors a year. The same volume of Landscapes (published by Windgather Press) has exemplary papers on water-meadow morphology, and on landscape development in the Ribble Valley and a review article by Fellow Dan Hicks on twentieth-century landscapes in the light of our Fellow Trevor Rowley’s recent book.

For his latest book, David Shotter has picked on one of the most controversial of Roman emperors, Nero Caesar Augustus (Longman). The bull-necked Nero is an icon of callousness, a man without a human emotion in the popular imagination, but the truth is always more subtle and elusive, as David suggests in a book that promises an unbiased account of Nero’s reign, from its optimistic beginnings to its infamous end, examines the effect of the emperor’s personal life on his government, and shows how his fear of potential rivals drove a wedge between him and Rome’s senators.

Kate Taylor’s The Making of Wakefield 1801–1900 is just out from Wharncliffe Books, and as the date span in the title suggests, this covers the history of the borough when it developed rapidly into a centre of textile, glass, coal and brick production, not to mention the home of the famous Wakefield rhubarb sheds, which once produced more than 90 per cent of the world’s forced rhubarb crop, grown on soil improved by shoddy and other by-products of the flourishing textile industry. Kate modestly says: ‘it is only local history, but it is the first study of Wakefield for more than seventy years (apart from the usual books of photos) and it has been commended by the archivist at the Yorkshire Archaeological Society and the Principal Cultural Officer at Wakefield Museum’.

Vacancies

Professor of Classical Archaeology, Boston University
The Department of Archaeology at Boston University seeks a distinguished senior Classical archaeologist to fill the James R Wiseman Chair of Archaeology, an endowed professorship created at Boston University in honour of the founding chairman of the Department of Archaeology. The ideal candidate, who will be hired at professorial level with tenure effective from 1 September 2009, will have substantial experience in field research and a commitment to excellence in teaching; areas of regional and other specialisation are open. An application letter, curriculum vitae, published paper or sample of writing and the names of three referees should be sent by 1 December 2008 to our Fellow Professor Ricardo J Elia, Boston University, Department of Archaeology, 675 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites (ACHWS): two posts, application deadline 14 November 2008
Following the passing of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, the ACHWS was set up to advise Ministers on the suitability of wreck sites for designation, the issue of licences for the surveillance and excavation of designated sites and other general underwater archaeology issues that might affect historic wrecks within UK waters. Two new members are now being sought: one with specific knowledge of the trends and issues related to UK wreck-based recreational diving; the other with specialist knowledge of UK naval/maritime history and the technological development of watercraft within that history. For details see the DCMS website.