Salon Archive

Issue: 200

Forthcoming meetings

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

20 November 2008: The VCH England's Past for Everyone Project on Parham House, by Jayne Kirk

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.

27 November: Ballot with exhibits: Stephen Minnitt, FSA, of the Somerset County Museums Service, will exhibit the Shepton Mallet amulet, once thought to be fourth-century and worn by George Carey (now Lord Carey of Clifton) at his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1991 as a symbol of Britain’s important place in the history of early Christianity in Europe and now known to be a forgery; and Frank Meddens, FSA, will exhibit artefacts from excavations carried out by Pre-Construct Archaeology at Limehouse that uncovered the homes of known privateers, or licensed pirates, currently the subject of an exhibition, ‘Pirates of the East End’, at Sampson and Horne Antiques, 120 Mount Street, London W1 (to 19 December 2008, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5.30pm).

You can now vote in the 27 November ballot on the Fellows’ side of the website; apply to Christopher Catling if you would like a password or a password reminder.

Results of ballot held on 30 October 2008

All twenty-five candidates for Fellowship were elected in the ballot held on 30 October 2008. Among those we welcome as new Fellows of the Society are the historian and broadcaster Michael Wood, well known for such documentary series as ‘Alexander the Great’ and ‘The History of India’, Christopher Page, familiar to Radio 3 listeners as the founder and director of the early music vocal ensemble Gothic Voices and an expert on medieval music, instruments and performance practice, and Charles Jencks, one of the world’s most innovative landscape architects, whose sculptural landforms, such as that at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, are inspired by ancient earthworks and by shapes of DNA, human cells, black holes and other cosmic phenomena. For a complete list of all the newly elected Fellows, see the News and Events page on the Society’s website.

Avebury Reburial Consultation

English Heritage and the National Trust have jointly launched a consultation on the principles and issues involved in the excavation and study of prehistoric human remains. This follows a request from Paul Davies, Reburial Officer of the Council of British Druid Orders, seeking the reburial of human remains from archaeological excavations in the Avebury area, currently held in the Alexander Keiller Museum.

A letter inviting comments on the issues can be found on the English Heritage website, along with a questionnaire designed to elicit responses to a number of specific questions.

Both organisations are keen that a large number of people respond to the consultation, which will result in a report that will be influential in decision making with regard to Avebury but also to the study of excavated human remains in general.

New book on the Black Death

A sense of what we stand to lose if we can no longer study human remains comes in the form of the latest monograph from Museum of London Archaeology (MOL Archaeology; formerly known as MoLAS). The Black Death Cemetery, East Smithfield, London reports on the English-Heritage-funded excavations (1983–8) of one of the two emergency burial grounds set up at the height of the mid-fourteenth-century Black Death plague. The human bone assemblage derived from the excavation, consisting of the remains of more than 600 individuals, is of global importance, given the international reach of the epidemic, and it now forms a permanent research archive held by the Museum of London.

Study of the remains has provided scientific insights into an event that killed up to half of London's population; worldwide the death toll is estimated to be 75 million people, up to 50 million of which occurred in Europe (between 30 and 60 per cent of Europe's population). The authors conclude that Londoners organised themselves rapidly to deal with plague victims. Contrary to the popular belief that plague pits were dug in fear and desperation and the deceased simply tipped in, the East Smithfield cemeteries consisted of well-ordered individual graves and mass burial trenches (pictured on the MOL Archaeology website. One trench of some 125 metres in length was uncovered, where bodies were laid in an ordered line, facing east, as is normal in Christian burial. Others were buried in their clothes, a tradition known from many other medieval cemeteries. Fear of contact with the plague was evident from the fact that purses of silver coins, the largest of which had 181 coins dating from 1344 to 1351, were not removed by relatives nor looted by grave diggers.

Other findings include the revelation that young adults were particularly vulnerable to the Black Death and that men were more likely to succumb than women. Children accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the recovered bodies, but infants and the elderly were almost absent amongst the victims of the epidemic.

The Black Death Cemetery, East Smithfield, London, by Ian Grainger, Duncan Hawkins, Lynne Cowal and Richard Mikulski, is published by MOL Archaeology (Monograph Series 43), priced £10.95.

‘Heritage Counts’ stakes a claim for heritage in the battle to reduce carbon emissions

At the launch of ‘Heritage Counts 2008’, the annual historic environment audit, heritage bodies called on the Government and local authorities to recognise that the historic environment is part of the solution to tackling climate change. In particular, the sensitive re-use of historic buildings is crucial if the UK is to meet the new tougher target of cutting 80 per cent of all carbon emissions by 2050.

The focus on climate change comes at a time when conservationists fear that measures that are damaging to historic buildings and landscapes will be imposed in the mistaken belief that historic buildings are by definition inefficient. The Standard Assessment Procedure used in the UK to comply with the European directive on energy-labelling of domestic buildings is modelled for use in modern housing and automatically assumes that all traditional building types are less energy-efficient than modern ones, an assumption that English Heritage disputes; it has announced a research project that will, for the first time, find out the real scope for energy-saving from sympathetic adaptation of traditionally constructed houses.

Speaking at the launch of the report, our Fellow Sir Barry Cunliffe, interim Chairman of English Heritage, said: ‘The nation’s built heritage is a finite and precious resource and we must recognise that the re-use and recycling of older buildings is both responsible and sustainable. Although some older homes are currently less energy efficient than some newer ones, solutions do exist to make them more energy efficient. Rising to this challenge, however, demands care. We need to develop and share approaches that avoid unnecessary damage to the special value and qualities of the historic environment.’

The report highlights practical measures that are already being deployed by heritage bodies that are championing and experimenting with new technologies. English Heritage itself has launched ‘Climate Change and Your Home’, a website that contains guidance on how micro-wind generation and solar thermal energy can be successfully incorporated into older buildings. The National Trust and several members of the Historic Houses Association are installing boilers in historic properties that are fuelled by wood pellets and biofuels that release 90 per cent less carbon dioxide than the equivalent oil-fuelled systems.

Sam Howes, Chair of the English Historic Towns Forum, said: ‘The demolition of historic buildings not only reduces our built heritage but is also wasteful of energy and increases the call on new materials, which in turn need energy to produce them. By adapting old buildings to new uses and at the same time introducing more energy efficient ways of climate control we could be both preserving the character of areas and reducing our carbon footprint.’

‘Heritage Counts’ is published by English Heritage on behalf of the Historic Environment Review Executive Committee and the Regional Historic Environment Forums. It is a comprehensive annual overview of the key statistics, trends and research relating to England’s heritage. Copies can be downloaded from the Heritage Counts website.

Will we get a Heritage Protection Bill?

Also speaking at the launch of ‘Heritage Counts’ on 30 October 2008 was Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whose words were widely interpreted as an attempt to lower expectations that a Heritage Protection Bill will form part of the next Parliamentary session, which begins with the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday 3 December 2008. The next session, the Culture Secretary said, was likely to be dominated by legislation to support the Government's programme of tackling financial instability – involving a series of measures that were not foreseen at an earlier stage this year.

He did, however, point to the priority being given to new guidance for planning authorities being drafted as a new Planning Policy Statement to combine and replace the existing PPG 15 (Planning and the Historic Environment) and PPG 16 (Archaeology and Planning). While a new PPS would enable many of the reforms enshrined in the draft Heritage Protection Bill to be implemented without primary legislation, it is not clear what the fate would be of those measures in the bill intended to enact into UK law a legal regime to protect cultural property in the event of armed conflict (the obligations in the Hague Convention).

Responding to concerns that the bill might not form part of the business of Parliament next year, English Heritage has issued the following statement: ‘No one can pre-empt the Queen's Speech. We welcome the Government's firm commitment, given recently at the launch of ‘Heritage Counts 2008’, to the heritage protection reform programme, and to introducing legislation at the earliest opportunity. Government’s will to put heritage at the heart of the planning system means that many of the objectives set out in the White Paper could be taken forward by other means if a Bill were not to be introduced in the next session. We particularly welcome the Government's commitment to a revised Planning Policy Statement and believe that this, together with the continuation of the reform programme already underway, can achieve the key changes necessary for a more streamlined, simple and transparent heritage protection system.’

Commenting on the current state of uncertainty, Dr Seán O’Reilly, Director of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, said: ‘It would be unfortunate if the sector’s hard work to address conservation issues in the twenty-first century, including the Heritage Protection Bill, also succumbed to the credit crisis. We’re delighted that English Heritage sees the potential of progressing reforms even if the Bill cannot keep to its intended time-scale. We can all take the opportunity to look more carefully at how proposed changes can be implemented most effectively, both as regards resources and the need to make sure that we find the most sustainable future for our valued places.’

Historic Scotland launches new consolidated policy SHEP

In Scotland, Government policy on the historic environment has been gathered into a single document, known as SHEP (Scottish Historic Environment Policy). Readers of Salon will be aware that SHEPs were originally conceived as a series of free-standing publications on different aspects of the historic environment, but with the near-completion of the series, the amount of detail and duplication between the original publications has been reduced by bringing them all together in one document, covering policy on designation, consents and properties in the care of Scottish Ministers. The SHEP will continue to develop: policy on Historic Battlefields and the Marine Historic Environment will be included in later versions. See the Historic Scotland website website for further details.

Draft Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada

Canada’s Historic Places agency has published a draft of its revised Guidelines for Archaeological Sites, which forms part of the larger Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, originally published in 2003, when it formed the first pan-Canadian reference document for heritage conservation practice in the country.

Almost the day it was published, work began on the updating the Guidelines for Archaeological Sites ‘to reflect the great diversity of experiences in archaeological site conservation in Canada and to provide guidance on the preservation, exhibition and integration of archaeological heritage’. One aim of the guidance is to stimulate debate as to what constitutes good conservation practice. Another is to ‘nurture a culture of conservation in Canada … and further strengthen the pan-Canadian approach’.

There is a huge amount of well-expressed common sense in the document. Fundamental to the Canadian approach is the concept of minimal intervention to an archaeological site so as to limit negative impacts and protect the site’s physical integrity. The assumption is that all archaeological sites are significant until proven otherwise.

On the other hand there is some ambiguity and lack of clarity: the statement that ‘controlled archaeological investigation, applying the highest recording standards, is permitted only when the site is under threat from natural impacts’ is fine, but what are we to make of the puzzling clause that says that intervention is also justified ‘when it is demonstrated, after assessment, that there are unavoidable conflicts with a proposed project such as unreasonable costs and uses that would jeopardize the site’s heritage value’? Does this mean that archaeology will be sacrificed to development if the costs of archaeological mitigation are deemed (by whom?) to be too great? If so, it is an odd principle to find amongst much else in the document that tips the balance in favour of conservation.

The draft is currently being used in pilot projects, and comments and suggestions are welcomed. The document can be downloaded from www.historicplaces.ca/protect-proteger/arc_e.aspx.

£2 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant for Forty Hall

Grade-I listed Forty Hall in Enfield is to be restored thanks to a £2m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). A further £2.8m will be contributed by the owners, Enfield Council, who opened Forty Hall as a local history museum in 1966. Wesley Kerr, Chair of the HLF’s London Committee, said that: ‘Forty Hall has many outstanding features, with archaeology going back to Tudor times and royal history, as well as a substantially intact early seventeenth-century interior. It is a building of importance not only to Enfield but to the whole of London.’

Considered by English Heritage to be one of the most significant surviving buildings of its type in the country, Forty Hall was built in 1629 by wealthy merchant and Lord Mayor of London, Sir Nicholas Rainton, though it is named after Sir Hugh Fortee, the owner of the land prior to Sir Nicholas. The grounds, which include the site of a former Tudor hunting Lodge, Elsyng Palace, are the subject of another grant application currently under consideration by the HLF, under the Parks for People scheme.

Latest listing controversies

Not everyone will be unhappy if the Heritage Protection Bill bites the dust. Some organisations have never been happy with a bill that seems to tip the balance in deciding which heritage assets are worthy of designation away from expert opinion and into the hands of popular opinion. Worse still, the right of formal appeal against listing could be a lawyers’ field day – how long, if the Bill does go through, before there are so many litigious developers challenging listing decisions that the whole of English Heritage’s annual budget is taken up in legal fees?

And post-war architecture is the one area that is always controversial, as the recent press coverage of a proposal to designate parts of Milton Keynes illustrates. Milton Keynes has everything that the Daily Mail loves to mock: concrete, underpasses, flyovers, roundabouts and shopping centres. What is more, it was built in the 1970s – you can hear the sneer and the contemptuous cock of the head at the idea that anything good could have come of putting Milton Keynes on a pedestal, worthy of a Grade II* listing as ‘an architectural treasure’ on a par with ‘our best stately homes and cathedrals’.

The Twentieth Century Society set the designation process in motion late last year with a formal request for the complex to be listed, arguing that the half-mile-long covered retail area, called ‘The Centre’, is a landmark of post-war architecture, designed by the architects Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop and Chris Woodward in the minimalist style of the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as the centrepiece of the new town. Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth Century Society, said the complex was one of the first buildings in Britain which recognised shopping as an important leisure activity rather than a necessity. ‘I think it is really one of the most exciting buildings of the 1970s’, she said. Detractors say ‘it’s just a shopping centre’, and a spokesperson for the John Lewis Partnership, one of the main retailers at the site, said: ‘We believe the listing of such a key regional shopping destination will jeopardise the sustainable future growth of Milton Keynes which has been identified as one of the Government's key growth areas.’

This is not the only potential designation that is currently being contested. A scheme to build 1,075 houses, a primary school and retail and business units on the former Upper Heyford airbase are subject to a planning inquiry that has been adjourned until 16 December. In its evidence to the inquiry, English Heritage said that it wished to see the distinctive Cold War landscape conserved and the historic Hardened Aircraft Shelters used as a storage depot for paper records and archives. The Twentieth Century Society and English Heritage locked horns earlier this year over the merits of the Robin Hood Gardens Estate, which English Heritage said failed to meet its listing criteria (see the English Heritage website for the arguments in detail) but then proved how difficult it is to make judgements about recent architecture by arguing that the huge Park Hill council housing estate in Sheffield, designed by Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith and built between 1957 and 1961, was worthy of its Grade II* designation because it was ‘innovative … more accessible … more liveable’. At the other end of the scale, the Excalibur estate, at Catford, in south London, is likely to be designated soon as a Grade II heritage asset. The estate has the UK's largest surviving concentration of prefab housing, built to solve the post-war housing crisis in the bombed cities of the UK. Of the 160,000 prefabs built in the late 1940s, Catford has 185, along with a rare, tin-roofed ‘temporary’ church.

For once the residents are pleased with the prospect of listing because they have spent years battling official efforts to bulldoze the low-density estate, with its broad streets and generous front and rear gardens, in order to build denser high-rise housing. ‘Towards the end of the war there were a lot of surveys about what sort of housing people wanted to see’, says Brenda Vale, an architect and academic who has written a book on prefabs. ‘The answer was that they wanted a detached bungalow with its own gardens – exactly like a prefab. It is one of the only examples of council tenants being given what they actually wanted, and not what a planner thought was best for them.’

English Heritage offers grant to preserve Bletchley Park

Staying with twentieth-century heritage, campaigners for Bletchley Park are celebrating the award of a £330,000 grant from English Heritage to assist with the cost of urgently needed roof repairs. The Bletchley Park Estate was where World War II code-breakers cracked the German Enigma code; its significance, to use the current heritage jargon, is that it played a crucial role in the Allied war effort and the defeat of Nazi Germany, and hence in the history of the free world, and it witnessed the invention of the Colossus machines, whose technology underpins some of the world’s first computers.

Our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ‘English Heritage is committed to saving this fascinating group of buildings so that future generations can understand something of the enormous human endeavour which went on there.’ Simon Greenish, Director of Bletchley Park Trust, said: ‘This investment marks the start of a regeneration initiative on behalf of the Bletchley Park Trust to transform Bletchley Park into a world-class heritage and education centre.’

Water seeping through the roofs of the Bletchley Park mansion poses a threat to the decorative plasterwork, timber panelling and fireplaces; work to make the roofs watertight is expected to finish by the end of March 2009. English Heritage has also promised help with the much larger job of conserving the derelict huts in the grounds of the mansion where much of the code-breaking work actually took place.

Boris backs call to list the Colony Room

And finally, in this review of recent listing proposals, The Times reports that Boris Johnson has added his voice to those calling for the booze-soaked bohemian drinking club called the Colony Room to be listed in order to protect it from redevelopment. The club is under threat because Michael Wojas, its secretary and chief barman, retires in March when the lease runs out. Those campaigning to keep the Colony Room open believe that listed status will help them to come to an arrangement with the landlord because it would be harder to redevelop the premises. In a letter to our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, wrote: ‘I hope that you would agree that it is important for London to preserve venues and collections that bring inspiration and artistic pleasure to local, national and international visitors.’

Campaigners say: ‘Set up sixty years ago by Muriel Belcher in Soho's Dean Street, [the Colony Room] has been a vibrant, unique and historical drinking den for artists, writers, musicians, actors and their acolytes. There is nowhere else like it in the world.’ Among the Colony Room’s claims to notoriety are its bilious green walls, its stinking staircase and its long list of celebrity regulars, from the late Dylan Thomas, Francis Bacon, George Melly and Jeffrey Bernard to Tracey Emin, Lucien Freud and Damien Hirst. Further information can be found on the campaign website.

Chester's Grosvenor Museum buys Bishop Lloyd’s portrait

With help from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund, the Grosvenor Museum Society and the Chester Civic Trust, Chester’s Grosvenor Museum has purchased the only known portrait of George Lloyd (1560/1–1615), whose claim to be the city’s best-known bishop is based on his construction of the flamboyant Bishop Lloyd’s Palace, in Watergate Street, one of Britain’s most decorative timber-framed buildings (now home to the Chester Civic Trust). Through his daughter Anne, who married Thomas Yale, George Lloyd became the great-grandfather of Elihu Yale, after whom Yale University was named.

The portrait, painted in 1606 by an unknown artist, is now displayed in the museum’s Stuart Dining Room. The identity of the sitter as George Lloyd, Bishop of Chester, was made by our Fellow Thomas Woodcock, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, on the basis of the arms depicted in the painting. A full description of the arms, and a biography of Lloyd, can be found on the Grosvenor Museum’s web page.

‘Byzantium 330–1453’ at the Royal Academy

‘Sensible and studious’ was one critic’s positive verdict on the RA’s new ‘Byzantium 330–1453’ exhibition, ‘sumptuous and dramatic’, another. Co-curated by our Fellow Robin Cormack, the exhibition has pleased even the sternest of critics by making sense of an under-explored part of European and Asian history that spans late antiquity to the early Renaissance and is simply so vast in scope that most of us have only the vaguest notion of its achievements and legacy. Writing in the Telegraph, Robin Cormack blames the Enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon for the doom and gloom that we subconsciously associate with Byzantium; in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), Gibbon portrayed Byzantium as ‘the triumph of barbarism and religion’, and so it has enjoyed none of the attention and affection inspired by ancient Greece and Rome or Elizabethan England and is seen as part of the Dark Ages, coming between the glories of Antiquity and the light of the Renaissance.

In place of this negative image, Robin says he set out to show that Byzantium was the heir of the antique, fostering the naturalistic style of classical art through and beyond the tenth century, a culture that valued Homer and pagan mythology, whose scholars and scribes copied the plays of the Greek tragedians and gave us the texts we use today and that this art and literature profoundly influenced the artists and thinkers of the Italian Renaissance – that, in other words, Byzantium should be restored to its rightful place as a beacon of learning, art and virtuosity, the means by which civilisation was kept alive: no decline and fall, then, but rather a thousand years of continuity and transmission, through whose capital also came a huge variety of influences from Asia.

The aim of the exhibition, Robin said, is to ‘unwrap the myth of Byzantium, the tired idea that it was a decadent culture producing static, repetitive works of art, and to show Byzantine culture in all its dynamism and beauty – to give a sense of what it was actually like to live in the world of Constantinople in the Middle Ages’. Reinforcing the point, Robin reminds us that Constantinople was ‘the most fabulous city of the Middle Ages, with its gardens, well-watered parks, colonnaded streets, palaces and monumental domed churches … as the ambassadors from Kiev said after entering the church of St Sophia in 988, “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth”.’

Routes out of Africa: which way and why

Several pieces of research have recently been published addressing the question of human migration out of Africa at the start of our long journey to populate the globe. A team led by the University of Bristol has, for example, challenged the widely held belief that the Nile valley was the most likely route out of sub-Saharan Africa for early modern humans. Finds of the remains of Homo sapiens dating from between 120,000 and 90,000 years ago from caves in modern-day Israel support the Nile River theory, but contradicting this are finds of similar date of human remains and stone tools from Chad, the Sudan and from Libya’s Mediterranean coast.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Bristol team, with collaborators from the universities of Southampton, Oxford, Hull and Tripoli (Libya), published new evidence for a wet period that began about 120,000 years ago and that brought heavy rainfall from Indian Ocean monsoons to the eastern Sahara. Satellite radar imaging has revealed a system of more than 800 kilometres of channels, some more than 5 kilometres wide, now buried under the sands. These ancient river beds may have provided a wet corridor for early human migrations through the Sahara and up to Libya.

Anne Osborne, lead author of the paper, said: ‘Space-born radar images showed fossil river channels crossing the Sahara in Libya, flowing north from the central Saharan watershed all the way to the Mediterranean. Using geochemical analyses, we demonstrate that these channels were active during the last interglacial period. This provides an important water course across this otherwise arid region. These corridors rivalled the Nile Valley as potential routes for early modern human migrations to the Mediterranean shores.’

Supporting evidence comes from the isotopic composition of snail shells taken from two sites in the fossil river channels and from the shells of planktonic microfossils in the Mediterranean; both have a distinctly volcanic signature, very different from the underlying geology of the sites where they were found. The only possible source of this volcanic signature is the range of volcanic mountains in the central Sahara that form the watershed for rivers extending north to the Mediterranean Sea.

A separate study in the journal Science addresses the question of what drove early human migration out of Africa. By comparing episodes of migration with climatic variation (based on ice core data from Antarctica), the authors say that it is difficult to see ‘a unique correlation between migration and climate’, such as rainfall variation. Instead, they suggest that the closer match is migration and tool-making innovation. Zenobia Jacobs, lead researcher from the University of Wollongong in Australia, warned, however, that their work does not suggest a specific cause-and-effect relationship. ‘We see bursts of migration during a period with technological advances; it's like the chicken-and-egg argument — did migration lead to innovation or did innovation stimulate migration?’, Jacobs said.

12,000-year-old female shaman found in a Galilee cave

At the Society’s meeting on 2 October this year, our Fellow Ann Woodward introduced the thought-provoking observation that we should not automatically assume that the person buried at Bush Barrow on Normanton Down, one of the most prominent of the monuments on the southern ridge overlooking Stonehenge, was a man. Now archaeologists in Israel have excavated a 12,000-year-old grave where the sex of the interred person is not in doubt: not only was she female, she is being described as a ‘shaman’ on the strength of the ‘exceptional’ grave offerings. These include fifty tortoises, a leopard pelvis, the wing tip of a golden eagle, the tail of a cow, two marten skulls and the forearm of a wild boar which was directly aligned with the woman’s left humerus. A human foot belonging to an adult individual who was substantially larger than the interred woman was also found in the grave.

‘This is one of the earliest graves ever excavated in the region and the only shaman grave found in the Middle East’, said Leore Grosman, of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, who heads the excavation at the Natufian cave site of Hilazon Tachtit in the western Galilee. She suggested that the woman was perceived as being in close relationship with the spirits of the animals buried with her. Ten large stones were placed directly on the head, pelvis and arms of the buried individual at the time of burial, perhaps to protect the body from being eaten by wild animals or because ‘the community was trying to keep the shaman and her spirit inside the grave’.

Analysis of the bones show that the shaman was 45 years old and had a spinal disability that would have affected the woman's gait, causing her to limp or drag her foot and giving her an asymmetrical appearance. The tortoises appear to have been consumed as part of a feast surrounding the interment of the deceased; the limb bones were thrown into the grave along with the shells after consumption.

Japanese researchers find ‘world's oldest cremation site’ in Syria

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have uncovered the remains of a crematorium thought to be about 8,600 years old, at the Tell el-Kerkh complex in north-west Syria. Cremated bones have been found in the past that date as far back as 26,000 before present (in the Willandra Lakes region of Australia), but the previous oldest cremation pit, in northern Iraq, dates from 7,000 years ago, so the latest find is being claimed as the world's oldest cremation site with both cremated bones and the pits used for cremation.

Professor Akira Tsuneki, leader of the University of Tsukuba team, said that four pits had been found in total, measuring about 1m in diameter and 50 to 80 centimetres in depth, together with the remains of forty-seven people, of whom twenty had been cremated. He said that about a ton of wood was needed for cremation, and the fact that some people were cremated and others weren’t suggested that only people of a certain status were cremated. ‘The Neolithic age was a time when hierarchies started to appear and the elite emerged’, he said.

Archaeologists find thirteenth-century foundations at Hampton Court Palace

Archaeologists working for Oxford Archaeology at Hampton Court Palace have uncovered the stone foundations and walls of a substantial medieval structure measuring 10m by 25m in Base Court, the largest interior courtyard of the Tudor palace. Base Court is being restored as part of a project to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne in 2009.

In a press release announcing the find, the Historic Royal Palaces said: ‘There is much speculation by archaeologists and curators about what the buildings were and how they were used; one theory is that the larger and earlier structure might be a simple barn, or more tantalisingly a hall or residential building that was part of the large manor of Hampton Court.’

The residential theory concurs with a story of a visit by Edward III and his entourage to Hampton Court in 1353. During his stay a fire broke out – for which the King admitted blame – and he subsequently paid for the reconstruction work, bringing his carpenter from Windsor Chapel to oversee it. The evidence that the archaeologists have found for a fire in this large building suggest that it is the building destroyed by King Edward.

Mice genes used to track Viking migrations

Mice from Orkney with a distinctive DNA signature similar to that of their Scandinavian relations are being used to track patterns of migration during the Viking era and identify areas around the Atlantic coast of Europe reached by the Norse explorers. The research is led by Professor Jeremy Searle, from York University, whose paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London analyses the genetic make-up of house mice from more than 100 locations across the UK and shows that ‘much of Britain has a strain with genetic similarities to a type typical of Germany but that one particular genetic type of mouse is found in regions where the Norwegian Vikings operated’.

Professor Searle told the BBC that the house mouse originated in Asia and migrated on foot to the Middle East, becoming firmly established in the first agricultural settlements, but did not migrate into Europe at the same time as agriculture. Instead they became abundant about 3,000 years ago with the development of large settlements in western Europe. ‘The house mouse needs these large settlements in order to survive and out-compete the local field mouse’, he said. It was after the Iron Age that different strains evolved in western Europe.

Armadillo study wins Ig Nobel award

An archaeologist has been awarded an Ig Nobel Prizefor the first time in the seventeen-year history of the spoof awards. Astolfo Gomes de Mello Araujo, Professor of Archaeology at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil, was awarded his prize for his study of the devastating impact that burrowing armadillos can have on archaeological stratigraphy. The Ig Nobel Prizes, parodying the Nobel Prizes, are given each year in early October for ten achievements that ‘first make people laugh, and then make them think’. Organised by the humorous science magazine Annals of Improbable Research, they are presented at a ceremony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater. Astolfo Gomes de Mello Araujo found that armadillos can move artefacts up, down and even laterally by several metres as they dig their burrows, which can reach up to six metres deep, with networks of tunnels and multiple entrances. Astolfo Gomes de Mello Araujo said he was thrilled to win: ‘there is no Nobel Prize for archaeology, so an Ig Nobel is a good thing’.

Battlefield archaeologists investigate the underground life of First World War soldiers

Tunnels built by the Royal Engineers in the closing stages of the First World War have been surveyed by a team of battlefield archaeologists, led by Dr Tony Pollard, of Glasgow University, in order to understand the experiences of tens of thousands of soldiers who lived in similar subterranean workings along defensive lines that stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. Dug deep below the water table, some 50ft below the ground surface, the shafts and tunnels had to be pumped free of water and mud before the archaeologists could enter. The concrete floored tunnels were entered by two staircases and had recesses for bunk beds for around sixty men.

The tunnels, codenamed Vampire, were built close to the village of Zonnebeke at a time when the Flanders landscape was devoid of natural cover, so that tunnelling was the only way to escape the incessant shelling, the impact stresses from which could reach to 30ft below ground level. During 1917 and 1918, more people lived underground in the Ypres area than live above ground in the town today.

The uncovering of Vampire is the subject of a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary, ‘The Lost WW1 Bunker: a Time Team Special’ to be shown in 2009.

These are not the only wartime tunnels in the news at present: Caen University researchers led by archaeologist Laurent Dujardin have been mapping the underground caves in which 15,000 civilians took shelter from heavy Allied bombing in the build-up to D-Day, on 6 June 1944. Largely undisturbed since, the makeshift bunkers still contain packed suitcases, tins of syrup, decaying maps , children's magazines and toys, shoes, carbon lights, prayer books and makeshift beds. Some of the so-called carriers were created by linking up the 300 or so medieval quarries that lie beneath the city of Caen.

In London, secret Second World War tunnels for sale hidden beneath the streets of central London have been put up for sale for £5 million. The Kingsway Tunnels lie 100 feet below High Holborn and were built in 1940 as deep air-raid shelters for up to 8,000 people.Since the ear they have been used as a Public Records Office repository, and for the international telephone exchange that connected the Cold War hotline between the presidents of the US and USSR.

The tunnels belong to BT (formerly British Telecom), whose group property director said: ‘We are looking for a purchaser with the imagination and stature to return the tunnels to productive use.’

Obituary: Andor Gomme

The following obituary for our late Fellow Andor Gomme, literary critic and architectural historian, was written by Fred Ingles and first appeared in the Independent on 30 October 2008.

‘Andor Gomme was fired as a young undergraduate at Cambridge by the literary and moral criticism of F R Leavis and, equipped by that great tradition, became one of the best British architectural historians since John Ruskin.

‘At Clare College, he won a first in Moral Sciences while keeping up his prodigious familiarity with English literature. In 1956, after a year editing the Cambridge Review, he was appointed to a three-year fellowship at Caius College. He proved, to those of us lucky enough to be his students, an utterly inspiring teacher of English: open, ardent, egalitarian, cheerful, convinced and convincing about his mentor’s great lesson that the best literature is at once “the storehouse of recorded value” and our best bulwark against the depredations of both a demented commercialism and nerveless political reaction.

‘There was in his splendid teaching no taint of the narrowness and insularity of which Cambridge English sometimes stands arraigned. His father was A W Gomme, Professor of Ancient History at Glasgow. Andor (the name a family joke for the sexless baby not yet born) not only knew classical literature, he read and wrote French and Italian easily and was dauntingly familiar with the masterpieces of the European canon.

‘Indeed his first book, Attitudes to Criticism (1966), largely a critical celebration of the very similar sensibilities and minds of Leavis and the American Yvor Winters, is at pains to split open the notions of both a narrowly Anglophone and a merely literary conception of culture, and to replace it with a liveable definition of full lives, lived in all the variety, rootedness and glad reciprocity which the good society will make possible.

‘He embodied these precepts by example. He was not only a fine teacher, he lived his allegiances in his everyday life. When he left Cambridge, he took a post as tutor in the extra-mural department at Glasgow, living in Wigtown, and committed himself to an arduous round of evening meetings and tutorials in village halls scattered across south-west Scotland. His students then were all volunteers, come not for any qualification but for the love of the learning, for the conversation and, when they hit lucky, the self-discovery and fulfilment they found in Hugh MacDiarmid or Bleak House (Gomme's second book, Dickens, published in 1971, is a far from partisan introduction beautifully judged for just these people).

‘In 1962 he made what was by then a rite of passage for British academics, and spent a year abroad, as Visiting Professor at the University of Montana, ribbing their house seigneur of literature, Leslie Fiedler, for some of his American excesses and winning great popularity with his sallies as a dandy at campus dinner parties, clad in sky-blue ski-pants and chased cowboy boots.

‘He came home in 1963 to a post at Keele University, finding in A D Lindsay’s democratic vision for the place a congenial home for his tranquil Fabianism and his excellent determination to make the life of teacher, scholar, cook, moral critic, lover, husband, father, gardener, musician, carpenter and collector into a single work of art. He and his staunch collaborator, co-scholar and wife, Susan, bought a beaten-up pile, Barleybat Hall, restored it mostly with their own hands and stayed there for nearly fifty years.

‘For most of the editorship of Arthur Crook at the TLS in the sixties and seventies, Gomme had been a favoured front-page and (in those days) anonymous reviewer. It is much to be regretted that those long articles remain uncollected, and here it must suffice to give their flavour, their handsome periods, and their great generosity of spirit by quoting the peroration to Gomme's review of one of Pevsner’s classic volumes: “As The Buildings of England continues to grow, so does the conviction of our good fortune that the undertaking has fallen into the hands of perhaps the one man in Europe capable of carrying it to a triumphant conclusion.”

‘Gomme himself wrote an incomparable quartet of architectural histories. In Architecture of Glasgow (1968, with David Walker but Gomme’s the lion’s share), Bristol: an architectural history (1979, with Michael Jenner and Bryan Little, but ditto), Smith of Warwick (2000) and, out this year in the nick of time, the magnificent Design and Plan in the Country House (with Alison Maguire), he completed an enviable and monumental statement on the nation’s architecture. It is much to the point of his life that architecture is the most public, political and commonly possessed of a people’s arts.

‘Naturally, his scholarly schedule was long filled with duties to the Society of Architectural Historians, which he chaired for years, whose journal, Architectural History, he edited, and which elected him Life Patron earlier this year. But in bidding him farewell, the emphasis must fall on the remarkable breadth of his accomplishments, whether of his writing, his absorbed and passionate interests (he reconstructed and published in 2004 a Performance Edition of the ‘St Mark Passion’ for the Cambridge Baroque Camerata), of his anxious commitment to the common good which so movingly transpired in his activity on behalf of a dozen third-world causes, or in his unlapsed Anglican faith.

‘Andor Gomme, English scholar and architectural historian: born London 7 May 1930; Lecturer in English Literature, Keele University 1963–74, Reader 1974–84, Professor of English Literature and Architectural History 1984–95 (Emeritus); Chair, Society of Architectural Historians 1988–91; married 1960 Susan Koechlin (one son, three daughters); died Church Lawton, Cheshire, 19 September 2008.’

Mary Cra’ster

Several Fellows spotted the notices in The Times and Telegraph last week announcing that Mary Desborough Cra'ster died on 4 November, after a short illness, at the age of eighty. Her funeral takes place at Holy Trinity, Embleton at 2pm on 14 November. Donations to Macmillan Cancer Care; enquiries to Alastair Turner tel: 01665 510699.

Mary was a Fellow for many years until her retirement, and many Fellows will remember her fondly for her many years as assistant curator at the Museum of Archaeology in Cambridge. The Cambridge Antiquarian Society is planning an obituary and would be very grateful for contributions from Fellows in the form of memories and reminiscences (to our Fellow Alison Taylor).

News of Fellows

It was with much relief that friends of Fellow Andrew Breeze learned that he and his students had not been injured in the car bomb attack on Navarra University that occurred on 30 October 2008. Here is Andrew’s own account of the explosion: ‘At 11 o'clock yesterday morning, as I was giving a class, an ETA bomb shattered the window of the room. After getting my students out from the building, I left myself, seeing cars ablaze and fire taking hold of the administrative block. Within minutes it was an inferno.’

The blast could have caused huge bloodshed because it went off in a busy part of the campus; in the event, seventeen people were wounded. There was no claim of responsibility but officials suspect that the militant Basque separatist group ETA set it off in retaliation for the recent arrest of suspected ETA members in Pamplona.

In a statement following the explosion, Ángel J Gómez-Montoro, President of the University of Navarra, wished a speedy recovery to those who were injured and thanked the university’s teachers and students for the calm they showed. At noon the following day a silent demonstration of rejection of the terrorist attack took place on campus, attended by 3,000 people, including the President of the Government of Navarra.

Mention was made in the last issue of Salon of the special conference organised recently to celebrate Charles Thomas’s eightieth birthday; now Salon’s editor learns that Charles has also been presented with the Jenner Medal for his personal contribution to preserving and promoting Cornwall's rich heritage. First awarded in 1936, the Jenner Medal was named after Henry Jenner (1848–1934), first Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorse and is given in recognition of ‘a serious body of work with Cornish history’.

Presenting the medal to Charles, Lady Mary Holborow, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, said: ‘There can clearly be no better candidate for the medal. As a native Cornishman, a bard, founder of the Institute of Cornish Studies, author, researcher, excavator and member of many learned bodies, advisory committees and trustee bodies, Professor Thomas’s contribution to Cornish life and understanding is unparalleled. History, language, archaeology, folklore, art, place names, dialect, military history, landscape, Methodism – these and much more have come under his scrutiny. He truly is the Cornish polymath.’

In response, Professor Thomas made an appeal for funds to support the work of the Royal Institution of Cornwall (RIC) and in particular, the Courtney Library. He said: ‘We need cash, endowments, legacies, underlying funds, a reserve. The RIC is going to transform itself into a People’s Museum for Cornwall and be considerably more than just an array of showcases. More money is desperately needed.’

Feedback

Responding to the sad news of Andrée Rosenfeld’s death in Salon, Catherine Johns remembers that Andrée was the Senior Research Assistant in the British Museum’s Palaeolithic section from 1964 to 1972, and that her calm and discreet personality provided an elegant counterpoint to Gale Sieveking’s vivid and flamboyant style. Catherine writes: ‘I admired her scholarship in a field that was, and remains, pretty arcane to me, and also her patience and unfailing courtesy, in which I tried to follow her example. I remember one occasion, probably around 1969–70, when Andrée had been dealing with a rather loud and imperious elderly lady who had brought in some flints for identification. At that time, members of the older generation often found it hard to believe that young women were real, professional archaeologists and curators, rather than clerical staff. Apparently this visitor, after listening suspiciously to Andrée's detailed and erudite comments for a while, fixed her with a gimlet eye, and asked, “Have you got a degree, dear?”. I was indignant on my colleague’s behalf when she recounted this on coming back into the Students' Room, but Andrée was merely amused, and had simply answered “Yes” in her usual quiet way.’

Apropos of attempts to polish the tarnished image of the Vikings, Ian Burrow writes to say ‘thank goodness the past wasn't so unpleasant after all!’, and wonders if we can expect to see the establishment of a Vandal Anti-Defamation League (‘Vandals aren't Vandals’) sometime soon, and perhaps the rehabilitation of Tamerlaine as a harmless, if exuberant, tourist. Will we soon be told that ‘Aztec human sacrifices were really just an elaborate piece of theatre, complete with artificial blood, hearts and screaming?’.

Events

11 to 13 December 2008: Culture Wars: heritage and armed conflict in the 21st century; Fitzwilliam Museum/Gonville and Caius, University of Cambridge
This conference examines issues raised during and after the Gulf, Balkan, and Afghanistan Wars, with a focus on what (paradoxically) is known as ‘immovable’ heritage: historical monuments, archaeological sites and cultural and human landscapes. It asks why sites are destroyed, how effective international conventions are, what forms of intervention are ethically justifiable, what are the appropriate uses of expertise and what role can heritage play in conciliation. Further information can be found on the website of the organisers, CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities).

Books by Fellows

Pre-Columbian Jamaica, by Philip Allsworth-Jones, is the first substantial attempt to summarise the evidence for the island’s prehistory since Duerden’s 1897 account (reprinted in this volume as an appendix) and it makes good use of the archives of James Lee, a geologist by profession, who worked on the island from 1951, founded the Archaeological Club (later Society) of Jamaica, kept records of all its activities (most of which he seems to have been responsible for) and then donated everything to the University of the West Indies Mona Campus in Kingston in 2000. Not only is the book (and the accompanying CD) packed with information on some 271 excavated sites, it is exemplary in its multi-disciplinary approach to the interpretation of human interaction with the landscape, geology, flora and fauna of the island.

The Library of Leander van Ess and the earliest American collections of Reformation pamphlets, by Milton Gatch (Director, The Burke Library, and Professor of Church History Emeritus Union Theological Seminary, New York City), is published by the Bibliographical Society of America, and brings to attention the large collection of Flugschriften given to the Union Theological Seminary in New York around 1838 by the German scholar/collector, Leander van Ess. Flugschriften (‘pamphlets’ or ‘broadsheets’) date mainly from the sixteenth century, usually comprise fewer than 100 pages and were a powerful form of propaganda deployed by all sides in the great theological debates of the Reformation, often political or polemical (and occasionally satirical) in content, but also homiletic, exegetical, liturgical and pastoral.

To recreate the original Leander van Ess collection, and the history of Reformation pamphlets in America, Milton Gatch has tracked down pamphlets that the Union Theological Seminary sold, exchanged or dispersed to such libraries as the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Morgan Library and the Library of Congress. The search continues for pamphlets in private hands or in public/academic libraries in North America: you can read all about it on Milton’s own website.

Sir John Boardman, Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology and Art at the University of Oxford, is joint author with the Italian scholar Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti, Director of the Museo Stibbert in Florence, of a truly sumptuous book on the Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, to which Martin Henig and Beatriz Chadour-Sampson have also made a major contribution. Published by the Royal Collection, the catalogue presents new photography and extensive research on the history of 328 cameos, intaglios, jewels and insignia in the Royal Collection, spanning over 2,000 years of jewellery history. Among the highlights are the magnificent Claudius cameo (AD 43–5), which once belonged to Charles I, the great Tudor portrait cameos, and – two of the most famous items in the collection – the ‘Henry VIII’ hat badge and the intricate Darnley Jewel.