Salon Archive

Issue: 220

Society news and events

The Society’s Apartments and Library reopen today (Monday 7 September 2009) after the summer break.

The first meeting of the new academic year takes place on 1 October when Dr Bruno Werz will give a paper on ‘Ship in the Desert: the Namibian treasure wreck’. Dr Werz (of the Southern African Institute of Maritime Archaeology and Department of History and Heritage Studies, University of Pretoria) will present the results of the excavation of sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest wreck yet discovered — the sixteenth-century Portuguese merchantman found in a Namibian coastal diamond mine last year — and explain how the vessel and its cargo give us a unique insight into inter-continental maritime trade during the Early Modern period.

The full programme of meetings for the period 1 October to 17 December 2009 is now posted up on the Society’s website.

The Society’s Apartments at Burlington House will be open for guided tours from 1pm to 4.45pm (last tour) on Saturday 19 September, as part of the Open House London 2009 architecture festival. For details see the News and Events page on the Society’s website. Also open on that day will be the Apartments of our sister learned societies, the Linnean Society, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry; for further information, see the Open House London 2009 website.

Four introductory tours of Burlington House will take place during 2009 and 2010. Designed primarily for recently elected Fellows, but equally relevant to any Fellow not yet familiar with the Society’s library and museum collections, the tours are very popular and are limited to 25 Fellows per tour, so book early (tel: 020 7479 7080; email: for tours that will take place on 10 November 2009 and 18 February, 29 April and 24 June 2010. Tours start at 11am (coffee from 10.30am) in the Council Room and will last about one and half hours followed, for those who wish to stay, by a sandwich lunch (for which a charge of £5 is made).

Visit to the Stonehenge Riverside Project

The Fellows and their guests who turned up for a tour of this year’s Stonehenge Riverside Project excavations on 31 August 2009 (Bank Holiday Monday) are bursting to tell the world what our Fellow Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues have found, but are under an oath of secrecy until January 2010 when Mike will hold a press conference to announce the results, under the aegis of National Geographic, sponsors of the excavation.

This year’s excavations are the last of this phase of the project and investigated the point at which the Stonehenge Avenue was predicted to meet the River Avon in a paddock south of West Amesbury House, a delightful spot where the sparkling trout-filled river is at its most scenic — and, as some of us now know, at its most archaeologically significant.

Much hinges on carbon dates to be obtained from antler picks found at the site, but if they confirm the team’s interpretation, the history of Stonehenge is about to be rewritten. Watch out for satisfied smiles or worried furrows on the brows of Mike and colleagues later in the year!

Orkney digs reveal Neolithic ‘cathedral’ and ‘first Scot’

There is a growing body of evidence, not least from dates obtained from samples of carbonised domesticated grain, that the Neolithic farming revolution in the UK originated in Ireland, Wales and the west of Scotland and spread eastwards and southwards, rather than the other way around. Whatever the reason (perhaps because these upland regions had more to offer Neolithic migrants by way of easily cultivated treeless landscapes), Stonehenge is far from being the only World Heritage Site in the UK with the power to yield new and surprising insights into the Neolithic.

This summer on Orkney, one excavation at the Ness of Brodgar directed by Nick Card has uncovered a massive stone structure of cathedral-like proportions while a separate Historic Scotland excavation at the Links of Noltland has produced Scotland’s oldest figure, dating back around 5,000 years, as well as several farmhouses, including one, with echoes of Çatalhöyük, containing ten cow skulls that appear to have been laid out ritualistically with their horns dug into the ground.

Nick Card has been directing excavations for ORCA (the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology) since 2003, and every year the Ness of Brodgar site, which covers 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, yields new surprises. This year it was the turn of the prosaically named Structure 10, glimpsed at the end of last year’s season, to reveal its true scale: with massive foundations, it turns out to have been a building over 20m long and almost as wide, with 5m-thick walls defining a central cruciform chamber.

The structure is aligned on Maeshowe and is built of contrasting courses of red and yellow sandstone, with a paved outer passage. The walls incorporate standing stones and stones with cup marks, cup and ring marks and a large multiple-lined chevron designs. The whole structure, says Nick Card, is ‘designed to amaze and create a sense of awe among those who saw it’ (see pictures on the Orkneyjar website website; Nick now wonders whether the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, which stand on either side, might have been peripheral features of Orkney’s Neolithic landscape, with this massive building serving as a ‘Neolithic cathedral’ for the whole of the north of Scotland.

Racing against time to save Links of Noltland site

The site at the Links of Noltland lies on the island of Westray, on the northern fringes of the Orkneys, and is being excavated by Hazel Moore and Graeme Wilson for Historic Scotland because of the rapid wind erosion that has stripped this dune system flanking Grobust Bay and revealed a rich archaeological landscape in which five Neolithic houses and six Bronze Age buildings have been identified, with several others still emerging from the sand, as well as field systems, middens and ceremonial buildings. Excavations going back a decade have revealed the lifestyles of a community that hunted deer, kept sheep, pigs and cattle, harvested shellfish, grew wheat using domestic waste and animal dung as manure, crafted tools, clothing pins and roof rafters out of whalebone, made beads and embellished their tools with carvings and lumps of ochre-coloured haematite imported from nearby Hoy.

In mid-August the Links of Noltland team revealed the discovery of a sandstone sculpture, measuring just 35 x 30mm, carved in the shape of a human figure with heavy brows, two dots for eyes and an oblong for a nose. A pair of circles on the chest is being interpreted as breasts and the arms have been etched to either side, along with cross hatching that might represent clothing fabric. Dubbed ‘The Westray Wife’ by the local press and the ‘Orkney Venus’ by the national media, the figure probably dates from between 4,500 and 5,000 years ago. It was hailed by Scotland’s Culture Minister, Mike Russell, as ‘the earliest known human face in Scotland’, while Historic Scotland’s senior archaeologist, Richard Strachan, said it was ‘the only known Neolithic carving of a human form to have been discovered in Scotland’, previous examples of Neolithic art from Scotland consisting entirely of abstract designs.

More was to come when Richard Strachan announced that the dig was to be extended for a month to the end of September because the area under excavation had produced not just the one expected structure, but three more, including one with around ten cow skulls inserted upside down into the earth packing within the foundation wall, with their horns dug into the ground, some of them interlocking. This structure measures some 22 x 21m and is square, but with rounded corners and massive walls.

Graeme Wilson describes it as the home of a powerful individual or a communal building, like a tribal longhouse: ‘The whole thing is major and “show-offy”, but the actual living space inside is quite small’, he said. The midden that covered the structure once it was abandoned not only yielded the figurine, but also Neolithic grooved-ware pottery, flint and fragments of animal bone, horns, shell and stone tools.

For pictures, see the Westray Heritage Centre website.

Genes reveal population replacement in the Neolithic

Analysis of ancient DNA from graves in central and western Europe suggests that Europe's first farmers were not the descendants of the people who settled the area after the retreat of the ice sheets but were migrants who brought domesticated plants and animals with them.

Researchers from Mainz University, UCL and Cambridge analyzed DNA from hunter-gatherer and early farmer burials, and compared those to the DNA of modern Europeans. They conclude that there is little evidence of a genetic link between the hunter-gatherers and the early farmers, and that they consist of two quite separate lineages. They suggest that migrant farmers from south-east Europe moved into central Europe bringing their culture, and that they co-existed with hunter-gatherers but did not interbreed.

They also found that the DNA of the hunter-gatherers has little in common genetically with the people who live in Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Russia today. On the other hand, the researchers say that ancient farmer group also lacks the ‘complete set of genetic material necessary to build the modern gene pool’, thus demonstrating that the modern European genetic structure has been shaped not by this one migration, but by a series of migrations or dispersals during prehistoric and historic times.

White skin evolved in the Neolithic

Another study just published by a team of biophysicist in New York and Oslo argues that white skin evolved in Europe in comparatively recent times as a response to a change of diet in the Neolithic that left humans deficient in Vitamin D. Professor Johan Moan, of the Institute of Physics at the University of Oslo, explained that light skin developed as a response to a move from a fish-based diet; food from farming is an insufficient source of Vitamin D and the low levels of solar radiation in the north meant that people with lighter-coloured skin, which is more efficient at producing Vitamin D from sunlight, had an evolutionary advantage.

New gallery for Britain’s richest Bronze Age burial

Zipping back to Stonehenge again, or rather to the Normanton Down ridge that overlooks Stonehenge 1km to the south, Wiltshire Heritage Museum is celebrating an award of £150,000 to help create a new gallery at the museum dedicated to the finds from Britain’s richest Bronze Age burial, found at Bush Barrow. The finds, described by the Daily Mail as ‘Britain’s first Crown Jewels’, will be displayed at the heart of a revitalised museum being developed in collaboration with the planned new Stonehenge Visitor Centre and Salisbury Museum.

Fellows heard an account of the latest research into the Bush Barrow grave goods last year from our Fellows Stuart Needham, Andrew Lawson and Ann Woodward, and we hope to publish the results of their re-evaluation in the Antiquaries Journal next year. The finds themselves (rather than the replicas currently on show) will soon be on permanent display for the first time in generations. Our Fellow David Dawson, the Museum’s director, said: ‘This is fantastic news and our new displays will encourage thousands of people to discover Devizes, home to one of the best Bronze Age collections in Britain.’

The award is of one of thirty-four grants totalling £4 million to come from the joint Department of Culture / Wolfson Foundation Museums and Galleries Improvement Scheme. Grants from the same scheme have gone to the Ashmolean for a new textiles gallery, to the Roman Baths in Bath for a new interpretation and access project, to a new entrance and gallery projects at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge, to Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service for a project on Changing Lives in Norfolk, to Sir John Soane’s Museum for the restoration of Soane’s Ante Room, to Tyne &Wear Museums for the redevelopment of the third-floor galleries at Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend, to the Victoria and Albert Museum for its displays of Sculpture in Europe 1300—1600 and (a must for Salon’s readers) to the Wallace Collection for displays on ‘Venetian Vision’ and on ‘The Nineteenth-century Salon’!

4,000-year-old grave of a Bronze Age ‘hero’ found in a Perthshire field

In pursuit of another spectacular Bronze Age burial, we now whizz north again, to Forteviot, ten miles south of Perth, where, quite unexpectedly, a team of archaeologists from Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities, working on the Strathearn Environs & Royal Forteviot (SERF) project, have found evidence that this site of great religious and political significance for Pictish royalty in the early medieval period had a much earlier ‘royal’ grave. When they lifted the massive four-tonne capstone of a cist burial discovered last year but not excavated until this summer, they were astonished to find a grave so well preserved that organic materials had survived, including large portions of a birchwood coffin, the leather sheath for a bronze dagger and the remains of floral tributes. The capstone itself has decorative carvings pecked into its underside, where only the deceased could ‘see’ them.

Dr Gordon Noble, co-director of the SERF project, said it was ‘clear that this was the grave of a person of tremendous importance to the local community’. Professor Stephen Driscoll, another co-director, said: ‘This excavation is part of a long-term project to study the link between the emerging kingdom of medieval Scotland and its ancient prehistoric remains. This burial provides the strongest evidence of the presence of ancestral graves which may have been regarded as mythological heroes by the Picts who were also buried nearby in Forteviot, including Kenneth MacAlpine, who died in the palace of Forteviot in AD 858.’

Scottish coronation site is revealed

Moving only 15km from Forteviot, Scone, just north east of Perth, is where later generations of Scottish monarchs, including Robert the Bruce, were crowned. As almost nothing remains of Scone Abbey above ground, our Fellow Peter Yeoman has been working to recover the plan of the abbey using geo-physical survey and excavation. This year’s excavations, the second season at the abbey, have allowed the team to predict with some confidence the position of the high altar, where the coronation of Scottish kings took place, locating the coronation throne, the Stone of Destiny, in the middle of what is now a public footpath.

Where excavations have been conducted to check the accuracy of the geophysics, foundations of tightly packed masonry have been found, bound with lime mortar, massive enough to support a substantial structure, despite being built on sand. Other finds include a copper alloy parchment pricker, used for setting out illuminated manuscript designs. The team has also surveyed a massive ditch around the tree-covered Moot Hill to one side of the abbey, which Peter describes as ‘a prominent assembly mound where parliament sat and important proclamations were made’.

Music in code

From Scone we now go 50km south west to another Scottish royal palace at Stirling, where a piece of Renaissance music has been found carved into the border of a sixteenth-century portrait medallion, carved in wood. The notation was spotted by craftsman John Donaldson while carving a set of replicas of the large medallions. ‘This one really stuck out as being different from the rest’, he said, being carved round the margin with a series of 0s, Is and IIs ‘as if the pattern actually meant something and wasn’t just there to look attractive’.

Music historians have interpreted the notation as a series of chords, around which melodies would be improvised (the BBC website has a recording of the work. Barnaby Brown, a lecturer at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, who specialises in early Scottish music, said that ‘very little notation survives for medieval and Renaissance music other than choral work because instrumental music was transmitted orally’. ‘This discovery is potentially of great significance to our understanding of the normally “unwritten” practice of the elite court professional,’ he said, ‘and to explore what instrumental music may have sounded like at Scotland’s royal palace around 1540.’

London’s earliest timber structure found during Belmarsh prison dig

Now we dive to the other end of the social scale and treat of prisons, shackles and lice. First the prison where, ahead of the rebuilding of Belmarsh Prison in Plumstead, Greenwich, archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London have found the bog on which the well-named prison was built, and with it a Mesolithic trackway, buried beneath 2m of peat and a further 2.7m of overburden, adjacent to an ancient river channel.

Previously the oldest timber structure in Greater London was the trackway in Silvertown, which has been dated to 3340—2910 BC, but this one has been dated to around 4000 BC and is thus slightly earlier in date even than the earliest trackways in the Somerset Levels. At the time the track was laid down, the Thames was a braided river made up of numerous interweaving tributaries and channels, and the track, made from split alder and hazel logs of about 100mm in width, probably provided access to an area rich in fish, birds and edible plants.

Lice and their part in Napoleon’s downfall

Lice, rather than the weather, are being blamed for the terrible demise of Napoleon’s Grand Army and the failed French invasion of Russia in 1812. Stephan Talty reconstructs the medical history of Napoleon’s doomed campaign in his new book The Illustrious Dead in which he analyses the human remains from a mass grave found in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. When the grave, with the remains of 2,000 people, was found in 2001, it was assumed that they were Jewish victims of the German occupation or had died at the orders of Stalin or the KGB. Belt buckles and uniform buttons with regimental numbers on them revealed that they were, in fact, soldiers of Napoleon’s Grand Army, hastily buried and still carrying pathogens consistent with what was known in Napoleon’s era as ‘war plague’, but now known medically as Typhus exanthematicus.

The 600,000-strong Grand Army, sent to topple the Russian Tsar Alexander I, began to suffer casualties even in the spring of 1812, as they began the march on Moscow from which only one-third of that number would return. In the first week of the march, 6,000 men were falling ill every day, and many died by the roadside. Napoleon’s advisers blamed the problem on bad air, constant rain, physical exhaustion and ‘spoiled schnapps’, but poor hygiene paved the way for widespread outbreaks of body lice, the carriers of typhus, for which physicians of the time had no remedy.

Napoleon’s army was thus seriously diseased by the time it reached Moscow and in no shape to conquer the city, hence the decision to head for home, when even more soldiers died in the harsh winter conditions of 1812. Notoriously insensitive to the health of his troops, Napoleon issued a bulletin on his own return to Paris intended to spread reassuring news all across his empire: ‘His Majesty’s health has never been better.’

Ball and chain found in the Thames

Another insight into the grim side of life has come from the discovery of a ball and chain in the mud of the River Thames near Rotherhithe. The locked device, which would have been impossible to remove without a key, was probably attached to a convict who drowned trying to escape his captors. The design of the lock indicates that the find dates from the seventeenth or eighteenth century and was probably made in Germany.

Kate Sumnall, the Museum of London archaeologist who has studied the find, says that the lock design is of a type used for a prisoner rather than a slave. The ball and chain are on display in the foyer of the Museum of London Docklands for a limited period.

Cambridge researchers to record dying languages

The World Oral Literature Project based at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology aims to make records of the 3,000 languages that are at risk of dying out within a generation as a result of globalisation. Half of the world’s 6,000 languages are under threat, and the project aims to train native speakers as well as anthropologists to capture myths, folk songs, chants and poems so that the ‘nuts and bolts’ of culture are not entirely lost.

The £100,000 pilot project has already given grants for the recording of ceremonial chanting in the Barasana language of Colombia, spoken by just 1,890 people, and of the repertoire of Tashi Tsering, the last royal singer of the Lo Monthang region of Mustang, in Nepal. Project leader Dr Mark Turin, of Cambridge University’s Department of Social Anthropology, said: ‘When a language becomes endangered so too does a cultural world view. It is often the vernacular traditions of communities living on the margins of nation states that are most at risk. By supporting communities to document their own cultures for the future, and through working with engaged and committed scholars, our project is responding to this urgent challenge.’

The Witt and Conway Libraries at the Courtauld Institute of Art

Salon 218 reported on plans to cut staff and research facilities at the Witt and Conway Libraries and the Photographic Survey and freeze the collections. The Courtauld Institute has since issued the following statement.

‘The Courtauld Institute of Art is pleased to confirm that the Witt and Conway Libraries will remain open to the public five days a week and the Photographic Survey collections will continue to be accessible by appointment, contrary to concerns recently expressed by some members of the art community.

‘Like other higher education institutions worldwide, The Courtauld has had to review all its operational activities and services in the light of the current economic climate. This review has led to a decision to restructure the management of our image libraries in order to minimise their net cost to the Institute. To allow time to implement the agreed changes, these libraries will be temporarily closed from 7 September 2009 and will reopen on 2 November 2009. They will then be open to the public from Monday to Friday between the hours of 11am and 4pm (subject to usual Bank Holidays etc).

‘Requests for photographs, rights and reproduction rights from the Witt and Conway Libraries should continue to be addressed to Courtauld Images.'

Users of these libraries have said they are delighted at the news and the statement of continuing support for these facilities on the part of the Institute. Even so, five expert librarians have nevertheless been made redundant and will leave this week, while the question of future additions to the library and conservation of the current stock remains in doubt. Freezing the collections in their current state would, in the words of our Fellow Charles Tracy, ‘turn the Library from an organic adaptive collection into a museum’.

The libraries are heavily used by members of the London art trade who were among the loudest objectors to the proposed closures. Courtauld Institute Director, Professor Deborah Swallow, said that the response of the art trade, whose interests she respects, had been ‘a real eye opener’ to her, but that she doubted whether ‘the art trade is aware of the financial pressures on higher education’.

Titanic error threatens to sink Southampton City Art Gallery

Another storm of protest has greeted the proposal by Southampton City Council to sell two works of art — After the Race (1937) by Sir Alfred Munnings, valued at £4m, and a Rodin statue of Eve (1881), worth £1.5m — in defiance of Museums Archives and Libraries Council guidelines on the disposal of publicly owned cultural assets.

Fellows from the museums and galleries world have lined up to condemn the proposal. Charles Saumarez Smith, Director of the Royal Academy, says, for example, that funds raised by the sale of any work ‘should be applied for the benefit of the collections, which normally means the purchase of further acquisitions’.

In this case, the funds are earmarked for the City Council’s share of a proposed new Sea City Museum, devoted to the sinking of the Titanic and featuring ‘a walk-around replica of the doomed ocean liner’. The Heritage Lottery Fund, which has allocated £5m to the new £15m museum, has said that it would take ‘a dim view’ of any sale of heritage assets for use as match funding, and that such a sale could put their grant ‘at risk’.

These are mild words compared to those used by our Fellow Edward Cheney, Professor of Fine Arts at Southampton Solent University, who has described the City Council’s proposal as an ‘on-the-hoof policy dreamed up by a temporary regime to solve a self-inflicted problem’, adding that ‘whether or not Southampton needs a new Titanic Museum, it should not, under any circumstances, sacrifice its artistic legacy in order to pay for it’.

Edward describes the City Art Gallery as ‘one of the most distinguished collections in the country and, where twentieth-century British art is concerned, arguably the best outside London, and thus one of the best in the world’. He believes that the council’s failure to appoint a Director responsible for the gallery’s well being and future has left it vulnerable to political plundering.

A campaign — Save Our Collection — has been launched to try to prevent the sale, which critics fear could set an unfortunate precedent if it goes ahead.

In France you can now build what you like

In France (to the envy of those of us who value historic architecture on this side of the Channel) there is a powerful organisation known as L’association nationale des architectes des bâtiments de France (ANABF), whose word is law when it comes to any intervention affecting a listed building or a building set within a ‘zone de protection du patrimoine architectural urbain et paysager’, the French equivalent of a conservation area.

Or rather, the ANABF’s word used to be law, for our Fellow Tim Clough, who is lucky enough to spend the summer in the Côte-d’Or, has sent Salon a cutting from the local Dijon paper, Le Bien Publique, announcing that the French National Assembly has rescinded the law requiring the ANABF’s assent to a ‘permis de construire’; the ANABF’s role is now reduced to that of advising the maire.

Digging around on the internet reveals that this is indeed the case and that the ANABF’s President, Frédéric Auclair, has declared the new state of affairs ‘a catastrophe’ and says that local officials who will make such decisions in future are entirely lacking in the competence to make architectural judgements. Auclair speaks of impending conflict, if not of all out war!

Staffed by some of France’s leading conservation architects, the ANABF is one of the reasons why French villages and towns retain a historic character and an integrity in the use of local materials that is absent from so many UK communities. Critics say they are too powerful, and can dictate such details as the colour of your shutters, but most owners of historic buildings in France say that their advice is always sound — their one big criticism is how long the process of submitting plans and gaining approval takes.

Back in the Côte-d’Or, local ANABF architect Jean-Michel Marouze is quoted in the local paper as saying that: ‘This change to the law takes us back more than sixty years, to when there was no law protecting our patrimony; the architectural harmony and the heritage of a town are fundamental issues … fragile and irreplaceable … if a bad choice is made there is no going back. Furthermore, the move is paradoxical: there is strong social pressure from the public for the history of our land … whilst the parliamentarians have issued an edict which weakens these same values.’ Now where have we heard that before?

Death notices and obituaries

A number of new obituaries have been posted on the Society’s website. They include obituaries for our late Fellows Humprey Case, who died on 13 June 2009 at the age of 91, and who will be remembered for his contributions to the study of prehistory — particularly that of England, Ireland and France — made during a long career at the Ashmolean Museum; for Paul Cattermole who died on 31 July 2009, aged 67, and who was a leading authority on church bells and bell-ringing, demonstrating that the sound of bells was as characteristic and evocative of everyday life in medieval England as is the call of the muezzin of Cairo or Istanbul today; for Christopher Elrington, who died on 3 August 2009, aged 79, and who worked for the Victoria County History for four decades, revitalising, expanding and securing the future of the VCH during his seventeen years as General Editor; for Anthony Ray, Eton schoolmaster and renowned scholar of English delftware and Spanish maiolica, who died on 7 August 2009, aged 82; and for Michael Farr, former Warwickshire County Archivist, who died on 25 June 2009.

The Society has also been informed that our Fellow Paul Ashbee died on 19 August 2009. Paul is well known for his many barrow excavations and his long-term settlement excavation on the Isles of Scilly and for co-directing the 1964 to 1972 Sutton Hoo excavations with our late Fellow Rupert Bruce-Mitford; fewer Fellows are perhaps aware of his Presidency of the Just William Society, dedicated to the celebration of Richmal Crompton’s books. No doubt a suitable passage will be read at Paul’s funeral and Service of Thanksgiving, which takes place on 11 September 2009 at 1.30pm at All Saints Church, Chedgrave, Norfolk (the church is not very big, so early arrival is advised; family flowers only). After the service, Paul’s family will host a reception at the White Horse public house in Chedgrave (within walking distance of the church).

Obituaries for Paul will be posted on the Society’s website as soon as they are available. Meanwhile Antiquity is inviting tributes of 500 words or so (and a photograph, if one is available), celebrating Paul’s life and his many contributions to UK archaeology.


The story of Cromwell’s multiple heads in Salon 219 was appreciated by a number of Fellows, including Gavin Hannah, Head of History at Summer Fields, who says his pupils always relish the story of Cromwell’s remains being exhumed and hanged, with the head being placed on a spike outside the Palace of Westminster. The graphic picture in one of their textbooks (L E Snellgove, The Early Modern Age, 2nd edn, London 1989, p 230) ‘always draws much excitement and comment and certainly contributes to the fun of history lessons’, says Gavin, though the question inevitably arises of the practicalities of hanging, drawing and quartering someone who had been dead and buried for three years. ‘Sir, there can’t have been much left!’ is the very matter-of-fact response of Gavin’s pupils.

From Fellow Peter Armstrong (who writes from ‘the land of the mountie and maple syrup’) comes news that the Toronto-based Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, carried Maev Kennedy’s original Guardian piece about Cromwell’s grave on which Salon’s report was based and the story gave rise to several letters to the editor. One was from D W T Crompton, sometime Fellow and Vice-Master, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, who wrote: ‘Years before his meteoric rise to military and political power, Oliver Cromwell attended Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. I became an undergraduate member of the college in the late 1950s, and there was quite a buzz in the community because, around that time, Cromwell’s descendants had contacted David Thomson, then Master of the college, and presented him with a head they believed to be that of their illustrious ancestor.

‘In addition to their account of how their family had acquired the head, anatomical and forensic research established the identity of the head to the college’s satisfaction. A decision was made to rebury the head in secret to protect it from further desecration. Today, visitors to Sidney Sussex can see a plaque in the entrance to the college chapel informing them that the head of Oliver Cromwell is buried nearby.’

Richard Lock, of Westmount, Quebec, then wrote: ‘D W T Crompton must have been a contemporary of mine at Cambridge University’s Sidney Sussex College in the late 1950s. I was an undergraduate there from 1955 to 1958 and I was, in fact, the agent of the transfer of Oliver Cromwell’s head to the college.

‘It happened like this: the Wilkinson family who “owned” the head had bought it at a sale of curiosities in London in 1815. Its authenticity had been confirmed during the 1930s. One of the convincing factors was the skull’s cranial capacity — it was almost 3,000 millilitres, far more than that of the average human being and something noted at the time of Cromwell’s embalming.

‘Canon Horace Wilkinson, who died in 1957, left the skull to his son, who was a colleague of my father at Kettering, Northamptonshire. One day, he asked my father what he should do with the family heirloom. “My goodness, where do you keep it?” asked my father. “In a hat box under my bed,” was the reply. My father then had a flash of inspiration. “My son Richard is at Cromwell’s former college at Cambridge. Perhaps the college would be interested.” My father spoke to me, I spoke to David Thomson, Master of Sidney Sussex, and the rest is history.’

As a postscript, it is worth adding that Cromwell’s skull is now in the safekeeping of two Fellows — the current Vice-Master of Sydney Sussex is our Fellow Christopher Page, while Andrew Wallace-Hadrill has just become the twenty-fifth Master in succession to Professor Dame Sandra Dawson. One wonders whether, as part of the handover, the secret of the precise whereabouts of Cromwell’s remains are passed from Master to Master.

Advice continues to pour in regarding the correct way to address members of the clergy. Ia McIlwaine notes that, nowadays, ‘vicar’ and ‘rector’ are more likely to be ‘priest in charge’. She also notes that, very broadly speaking, rectors have parishes that have greater antiquity and that the majority of nineteenth-century livings (and onwards) have vicars. Both benefit from tenure for life, unlike priests in charge who can be evicted with three months’ notice.

Our Fellow Jeremy Haselock, formally known as The Reverend Canon J M Haselock FSA HonFGCM, Precentor and Vice-Dean of Norwich Cathedral, says he is happy to be addressed as Canon Haselock, Fr Haselock, Mr Precentor or even Mr Vice-Dean! ‘All problems are solved,’ he says, ‘regarding acceptable current usages on an envelope, in starting a social letter, in speech and when referring to a member of the clergy for every degree from Deacon to Archbishop in a three-page section at the beginning of the clerical directory known affectionately and accurately as Crockford’s (although now published by Church House Publishing, the publishing arm of the Church of England). A laconic note in Crockford’s observes: “The form ‘Reverend Smith’ or ‘The Reverend Smith’ should never be used this side of the Atlantic. If the Christian name or initials are not known the correct forms are (a) The Reverend Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms Smith; (b) Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms Smith; (c) The Reverend Mr etc at the first mention and Mr etc Smith thereafter.”’

Our Fellow Canon William Price endorses the advice given in Crockford’s Clerical Directory, which includes, inter alia, guidance on how to address the Bishop of Meath and Kildare and on the difference between addressing a priest who was knighted before ordination and a priest who was knighted after ordination.

Crockford’s states that: ‘the form “Reverend Smith” or “The Reverend Smith” should never be used this side [sic] the Atlantic’. Between The Reverend and the surname one should put Christian name(s) and/or initial(s) or Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms/Fr/Dr/Canon, etc’. Reverend should always be preceded by the definite article.’

But, Canon Price says, Professor Rastall is right in his view that the ‘battle for the correct use of “the Revd” was lost long ago’, and a major part of the reason is that many clergy themselves ignore, or are ignorant of, correct usage, and speak of themselves as, for example, ‘Revd Jones’.

Our Fellow Tim Clough says that his late father, The Reverend Richard Clough (1898—1982), was fortunate to be a Perpetual Curate (rather than Vicar or Rector) of two of the chapelries in the great parish of Kendal in Westmorland. ‘He was always insistent that, in conversation or correspondence, he should be addressed as “Mr Clough” and not “The Rev. Clough”. On an envelope it should be “The Rev. R. Clough”, unless it were addressed to him and my mother, in which case it should be “The Rev. R & Mrs Clough” and not “The Rev. & Mrs R Clough” which, he said, would have meant that the person addressed was an ordained woman — to him an incongruous concept if not an impossibility. For the benefit of editors, he also insisted that “Rev.” (an abbreviation) should have a full point, whereas “Rev’d” (a contraction) should have an apostrophe but no full point. Oh, and he also insisted that a lich gate was not a lych gate: not that I wish to start another hare!’

With some embarrassment, it has to be admitted that Salon 219’s paean for a review article by our Fellows David Gill and Christopher Chippendale in the American Journal of Archaeology (‘The Illicit Antiquities Scandal: what it has done to classical archaeology collections’) was misplaced. The one that should actually have been the object of Salon’s praise as one of the ten most frequently cited articles in the field of classical studies was a different paper (though in the same journal and on the same topic), called ‘Material consequences of contemporary Classical collecting’ (American Journal of Archaeology 104: 463—511). ‘This,’ says David Gill, ‘is a closer examination of the same issues raised in the Salon report, but published in 2000, when it was less clear how big and sad a scandal illicit antiquities would become.’

News of Fellows

Cuts in staff, services and opening times at the Kew reading room of The National Archives continue to cause distress to Fellows, but with no evidence that the protests of those who value the archive are being heard. Time to be more strident, perhaps: our Fellow John Moore of Bristol University certainly thinks so and his letter, published in the Times Literary Supplement last month, points out that the thirty-five redundancies announced by TNA will not affect those at management level or in the press and marketing departments. ‘If this scheme is the best so-called management can evolve,’ he writes, ‘perhaps we should keep the archivists (cheap) and jettison the managers (clearly overpaid).’ John adds that the total anticipated saving of £4.2m is ‘a mere pimple in Gordon Brown’s mountain of debt!’

Staying with The Times, it is well worth bookmarking the blog of our Fellow Mary Beard and returning at regular intervals to read her take on ‘A Don’s Life’. Recently she wrote about the project that she and our Fellow Lucilla Burn are undertaking to re-display the Greco-Roman collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Leaving aside the regrettable fact that it now seems to take ‘a substantial AHRC grant to get a dialogue going between the local academic classicists and the museum professionals (including conservators) … the idea being to “inform the new display”’, there is much to enjoy in Mary’s wry account. How do you explain on a museum label, she asks, ‘why sex between mature men and under-age adolescents was [thought to be] a jolly good thing and to be positively encouraged’? That is indeed a considerable challenge, even though, as Mary points out, ‘we are a university museum, so we can escape the usual modern museum Stalinism … nothing over 75 words, reading age of 11 and no more than three syllables’.

Also worth reading is Mary’s take on A levels. They are not easier, just different, she argues. Back in the 1970s, when only a few thousand people a year took A levels, you could set open-ended essay questions and expect your cadre of experienced examiners to read them and recognise originality of thought and sound argument; today’s exams are designed for an age in which hundreds of thousands of papers have to be marked by relatively inexperienced examiners who need clear criteria. And once you establish clear criteria, it is easier for teachers to ‘teach for the exam’.

As for all those wunderkinder with multiple A levels, all at grade A, Mary is not impressed: ‘this is the A level equivalent of stamp collecting’, she says: ‘No one ever needs more than four A levels — and if that leaves any free time, it would be the best thing intellectually to read novels, go to the movies … and grow up.’

Finally, let us hail a Fellow who only recently claimed the title of Oxford’s oldest student when four years ago, at the age of eighty-six, Gertrud Seidmann embarked on an MLitt thesis on the life and achievements of the nineteenth-century Egyptologist, Greville Chester, supervised by our Fellow Michael Vickers (about whom Gertrud said ‘these days the tutors do appear a little younger than they once were’). Gertrude celebrates her ninetieth birthday on 16 September and her Oxford friends are hosting a lunch for her at Wolfson College. Gertrud sends a message to anyone who might be wondering why she has not been to London for quite a while to say that she is physically well but is less mobile now, and finds it difficult to make phone calls or use e-mail.


10 to 13 September 2009: Heritage Open Days. Some 3,500 properties of every style, period and function will be open over the four days of England’s largest voluntary heritage event, celebrating England’s archaeology, architecture and history. The properties open this year include 9 Dudley Court, Oxford — a two-bed 1970s flat at Dudley Court that has been transformed into a low carbon eco-home — and the magnificent Morecambe Winter Gardens, with its spectacular oriental ballroom, which has been closed to the public since 1977, but is now being restored by the Friends of the Winter Gardens. For further information see the HODs website.

2 and 3 October 2009, ‘Is England’s Past for Everyone? Learning and Outreach in the Historic Environment’, Armada House, Bristol. Confirmed speakers now include our Fellows Michael Wood and Lucy Worsley, as well as English Heritage Chair, Baroness Andrews at this two-day conference on running successful outreach projects, identifying local funding partners and working with schools, organised to mark the conclusion of the Victoria County History’s, ‘England’s Past for Everyone’ project. To find out more visit the EPE website.

28 October 2009: David Starkey, ‘History and Things’, 7pm, Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR. Our Fellow David Starkey kicks off the World Monuments Fund’s autumn lecture programme with a paper on a theme central to the antiquarian enterprise, on how things — buildings, paintings, weapons, textiles and landscape itself — are just as important as written evidence for our understanding of the past, in this case exemplified by Henry VIII and the extraordinary revision that occurs when things are put back into the history of his reign.

Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, will then discuss her new novel Remarkable Creatures, about the pioneering nineteenth-century fossil hunter, Mary Anning, on 4 November 2009 (same time and venue).

Both lectures can be booked online.

31 October 2009: CBA Wessex Autumn Open Meeting 2009, to be held at St Nicolas Church Hall, Newbury, from 10am to 4.30pm. Speakers include Julian Richards (of Meet the Ancestors), John Schofield (English Heritage’s military expert), Dick Greenaway (woodland specialist), Anni Byard (Portable Antiquities Scheme) and Duncan Coe (West Berkshire archaeologist) and more. The 30-minute talks will cover reminiscences of past fieldwork, ancient woodland, the archaeology of contested space at the former airbase at Greenham Common, spectacular recent finds and sites and some of the issues currently facing archaeology within the region. Further information from Andy Manning; cheques for £10 per person, made payable to CBA Wessex, should be sent to John Winterburn, CBA Wessex Treasurer, South Farm Cottage, Ypres Road, Chiseldon SN4 0JF, to secure a place.

5 to 7 November 2009: ‘Back to the Future: digitising and revising museum archaeology’, the Society of Museum Archaeologists’ Annual Conference will be held in Winchester Guildhall, with sessions on museum archives, digital technology, data management, forensic archaeology and visits to the Winchester City Museum storage facilities and Chilcombe House, the headquarters of the County Museums Service. Further information from the SMA’s website or from the SMA’s Secretary, Caroline McDonald.

3 to 4 June 2010: ‘World Heritage and Tourism’, call for papers in advance of this conference to be held in Quebec; the organisers wish to receive papers from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives on the themes associated with the management of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and especially in relation to managing tourists, funding World Heritage, community involvement in site management, the role of the private tourism sector, the nature of tourist experience and behaviour at World Heritage Sites and the management of World Heritage ‘values’, spiritual values and biodiversity. 500-word abstracts should be submitted to Professor Maria Gravari-Barbas or Laurent Bourdeau no later than 15 December 2009.

7 and 8 June 2010: Sir Hans Sloane, The Greatest Physician-Naturalist of his Era, call for papers in advance of this international conference commemorating the 350th anniversary of his birth to be held at the British Library. A project generously funded by the Wellcome Trust to re-create electronically the bulk of Sloane’s voluminous but now dispersed library is now online and is being continuously updated. The project’s two host institutions — the British Library and the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL — are sponsoring this conference on Sloane and his collections and the organisers now invite proposals on any aspect of the history and significance of Sloane and his activities; papers on the development of the Sloane collections after his lifetime will also be considered. Preference will be given to studies that make use of the new online catalogue. Please send proposals of no more than one page in length by 15 December 2009 to Lauren Cracknell to whom enquiries may also be directed.

Books by Fellows

Elected a Fellow in February this year, Boston University’s Chris Roosevelt, Director of the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey, has distilled his knowledge of The Archaeology of Lydia into the first overview of the regional archaeology of Lydia in western Turkey under Lydian and Achaemenid rule (roughly between the seventh and fourth centuries BC), including a fresh synthesis of the archaeology of Sardis, the ancient capital of the region.

Combining data from regional surveys, stylistic analyses of artefacts in local museums, ancient texts and environmental studies, he presents the archaeological evidence within frameworks established by evidence for ancient geography, environmental conditions and resource availability and exploitation. The book also considers the significance of settlement and burial evidence at Sardis and beyond for understanding Lydian society as a whole and the continuity of cultural traditions across the transition from Lydian to Achaemenid hegemony.

When our Fellow Terry (Terrence Alan) James died early in 2007, Salon noted that he was born in Carmarthen, where he lived most of his life, researching and publishing archaeological and topographical surveys of the town and the county, its rivers and coastline. Now that love of Carmarthen has been considerably fleshed out by our Fellow Heather James in her account of Terry’s life that forms the introduction to Carmarthenshire and Beyond: studies in history and archaeology in memory of Terry James (edited by Heather James and Patricia Moore and published by Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society to whom cheques should be made out for £19.95 plus £4.45 p&p when ordering from Carmarthenshire Archives, Parc Myrddin, Richmond Terrace, Carmarthen SA31 1DS). This reveals the many facets of a man who trained as a letterpress printer, then gained a union-funded scholarship to study history at Ruskin College before joining the newly formed Dyfed Archaeological Trust in 1974. Beaten to the post of Head of Aerial Archaeology at the Welsh Royal Commission by our Fellow Chris Musson, Terry ended up running the Commission’s IT section under Fellow Peter White, where he played a major role in the creation of the Welsh national heritage database, drawing together records from Cadw, the Welsh archaeological trusts and the Commission.

This brief description only skates across the surface of his many research interests which are reflected in a volume that ranges over industrial archaeology, place-name studies, maritime history and archaeology, topography, aerial photography and more, all firmly anchored in Carmarthenshire, but with the occasional foray across the Bristol Channel in the form of a paper by Frances Griffith on the development of aerial reconnaissance, illustrated by Devon and Somerset, or even further afield, as in the case of Simon Taylor’s piece on deer parks in Fife (medieval deer parks being another of Terry’s interests).

The book is handsomely designed, as befits a letterpress typographer, crisply and copiously illustrated and printed by the Dinefwr Press, a co-operative enterprise, which would have pleased Terry, who once contemplated standing as Labour candidate for the seat of East Carmarthenshire — Parliament’s loss was archaeology’s gain.

Two books have been published recently by Boydell and Brewer giving us an insight into the lives and times of lesser-known kings, queens and princes. The first is Edward the Confessor: the man and the legend, edited by Richard Mortimer. This includes Richard’s own reassessment of the man, his life, reign and cult, a paper on Edward’s chosen heir, Edward the Ætheling, by Simon Keynes, and others on Edward’s Westminster Abbey (foreshadowing the Society’s own forthcoming book on the Westminster Abbey Chapter House) by our Fellows Eric Fernie, Warwick Rodwell and Richard Gem.

The second book is called Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales: life, death and commemoration. Edited by Steven Gunn and Linda Monckton, the front cover will be instantly recognisable to Fellows as the Society’s own portrait of Prince Arthur, again foreshadowing the publication in the near future of the Society’s picture collection. As well as being co-editor of the book, Linda Monckton is the author of a chapter on the architecture of Prince Arthur’s chantry chapel, while there are chapters by John Hunter on Prince Arthur’s chapel and tomb, by Phillip Lindley on the figure-sculpture of Prince Arthur’s chapel, by Julian Litten on the re-enactment of Prince Arthur’s funeral and by Frederick Hepburn on the portraiture of Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon.


Edinburgh World Heritage: World Heritage Site Project Manager
Salary £32,000; closing date 25 September 2009

Edinburgh World Heritage, the charity responsible for co-ordinating the implementation of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site Management Plan, is seeking a dynamic and enthusiastic individual with experience in project delivery and a demonstrable understanding of conservation as its World Heritage Site Project Manager to build on EWH’s successful programme of projects for the repair and enhancement of the World Heritage Site, develop and encourage new initiatives, raise funds for their implementation and oversee their execution, working in partnership with EWH’s sponsors, the community and other organisations. Further information from the EWH website.

University of Cambridge, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Open competition for a two-year Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship; closing date 30 September 2009

The McDonald Institute invites applications for a two-year Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship for a research project in any branch of archaeology that will complement and enhance Cambridge’s existing world-class portfolio of archaeological research activity. The Fellowship will consist of a two-year stipend at Research Associate level (£27,183—£35,469). Further particulars from Sara Harrop.