Salon Archive

Issue: 223

Christmas closure

The Society of Antiquaries will close on Thursday 24 December 2009 and will reopen on Monday 4 January 2010.

2010 subscriptions

Council has decided that there should be no change to the level of subscription to the Society for 2010, which therefore remains at £140. Payment should be made in sterling by cheque drawn on a UK bank account, Direct Debit or credit card (Mastercard or Visa). Contact Giselle Pullen, in Accounts, tel: 020 7479 7087 to make payments or obtain Gift Aid forms and further information.

Forthcoming meetings

The next meeting will take place on 26 November 2009, when Caroline Knight, FSA, will give a paper on ‘The Country Houses of Greater London: past and present’. Caroline says that her paper is concerned with medium to large country houses, dating from the late fifteenth century to the nineteenth, set in their own grounds and within easy reach of London built for occasional use, especially in summer, and as retreats for affluent families from the heat of the city summer. Her paper defines the house type and discusses plans, before considering the main sources used in her research. These include maps, parish records, wills, inventories, architectural drawings, topographical paintings and drawings, guide books and letters.

On 3 December 2009, Tim Schroder, FSA, will give a paper on ‘Silverware in the Ashmolean Museum: cataloguing the collection’.

On 10 December, Peter Yeoman, FSA, of Historic Scotland will talk about ‘“Clothing for the soul divine”: burials at the tomb of St Ninian’. This paper will present the newly published results of major excavations that took place at Whithorn in 1957—67. Known as Scotland’s ‘Cradle of Christianity’, Whithorn is unique in its long and continuous history as a centre of worship, administration and, ultimately, of pilgrimage, dating back to the fifth century.

The excavations focused on the eastern end of the church of the Premonstratensian priory established here, on the site of the shrine of St Ninian, in about 1177. This is the only modern excavation campaign to focus on the high-status burials in the place of honour near the high altar within a major Scottish medieval church and the remains were recovered of some twenty individuals, including bishops of the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries, one of whom was buried with a fine gilded and enamelled floriat crozier.

Important work has been done to resolve the nature and date of the earliest graves, referred to by Charles Thomas and others, and to analyse the skeletal remains to understand more about their lives and deaths, to identify individual bishops and to provide an understanding of their diet and regional origins. The project has also retrieved rare evidence of the funerary practices related to this group of high churchmen. As complete a story as possible can now be told from one of Scotland’s most important ‘lost excavations’.

On 17 December 2009, the last meeting of the year will take the form of a Miscellany of Papers. Echoing the instruction issued by Fellows to the Director in 1718 ‘to provide us a box to lay up the books in’, the theme of the meeting will be: ‘From a box of books: a survey of the library’s historic interior through photographs and drawings’. Staff of the architects Wright & Wright will talk about how they used historic photographs of the library to chart changes in the physical appearance and use of the library over the years as part of their feasibility study for the library refurbishment; Toby Ward, the Society’s artist in residence — who has recently completed a watercolour painting of the Library — will talk about his residency; and Bernard Nurse, FSA, will give a short talk on the Society’s previous accommodation prior to moving to Burlington House.

The meeting itself is free, but Fellows wishing to attend the reception afterwards are asked to contribute £15, which covers the costs of the mulled wine and mince pies, and a contribution to the Society’s development fund. Tickets can be booked by contacting Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Administrative Assistant.

Introductory tours of Burlington House

You can find out more about the library and its holdings by joining the introductory tour of Burlington House that takes place on 18 February 2010. Designed for any Fellow not yet familiar with the Society’s library and museum collections, the tours start at 11am (coffee from 10.30am) in the Council Room and will last about one and a half hours followed, for those who wish to stay, by a sandwich lunch (for which a charge of £5 is made). Places can be booked by contacting Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Administrative Assistant.

Reading’s Department of Archaeology awarded Queen’s Anniversary Prize

Reading University’s Department of Archaeology was one of twenty-one research establishments whose names were announced at St James’s Palace on 18 November 2009 as winners of the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. The prestigious prizes — the educational equivalent to the Queen’s Award for Industry — are awarded every two years and are designed to recognise pioneering academic research, community education programmes and contributions to public policy reform. Prize presentations by the Queen will take place during a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace in February 2010.

The citation for Reading’s archaeology department singled out the excellence of its ‘teaching, research and enterprise work … including the integration of field-based practice into undergraduate programmes through their Silchester Field School and the contribution of its forensic services to law enforcement’.

Robin Gill, founder and chairman of the Royal Anniversary Trust, which runs the awards, said: ‘The prizes confer the highest national recognition on the work of our universities and colleges … and establish a benchmark for excellence that validates the UK’s contribution to innovation, knowledge and skills on the world scene.’

Most of the other prizes went to institutions involved in plant breeding, climate change research, language teaching, poverty alleviation, criminal justice and social policy, but the University of Oxford was also awarded a prize for the ‘research and outreach work of the university’s internationally distinguished cluster of museums, libraries and archives, including innovative educational programmes taking objects and artefacts to schools and the public’.

Expanding on the work of the Reading department, our Fellow Professor Grenville Astill, Head of Department, said: ‘The prize represents a real team effort by all the staff and students in the Department. To have such a major and influential endorsement of all our work in the areas of research, teaching and enterprise is a significant honour for us: it will spur us on to make an even greater contribution to the development and promotion of Archaeology.’

Our Fellow Professor Mike Fulford said that ‘the department’s emphasis on vocational training is unique in the UK, integrating field-based practice into all undergraduate degrees through the Silchester Field School. This provides students with the skill set they need to go into professional practice through the experience of working on one of the UK’s largest and most complex research excavations.’

Earlier this year, Reading’s Archaeology Department also celebrated becoming the only such faculty in the UK to boast five Fellows of the British Academy (needless to say, all are also Fellows of our Society: Professor Martin Bell, Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Professor Michael Fulford, Professor Steven Mithen and Professor Richard Bradley), and in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, the department had the highest proportion of world-leading research in its field (40 per cent at 4*), while 90 per cent of its research was assessed as being of international standing.

New listings

English Heritage has recently announced the designation of a seaside shelter in Margate, the US Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square and Marks & Spencer’s Pantheon Store on London’s Oxford Street, all listed at Grade II.

The shelter, to adopt the current M&S marketing slogan, is not just any seaside shelter: it is the seaside shelter overlooking Margate Bay where T S Eliot wrote much of Part III of The Waste Land. Part III is entitled The Fire Sermon: On Margate Sands and includes the lines: ‘I can connect / Nothing with nothing.’ Eliot was in Margate as part of a rest cure following a mental breakdown, spending three weeks at the Albemarle Hotel in 1921. In a letter dated 4 November he wrote to his friend, the novelist, Sydney Schiff, to say: ‘I have done a rough draft of part III, but do not know whether it will do, and must wait for Vivien’s opinion as to whether it is printable. I have done this while sitting in a shelter on the front — as I am out all day except when taking rest. I have written only some fifty lines.’

Our Fellow Peter Beacham, English Heritage Director for Heritage Protection, said: ‘I am delighted that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has taken our advice to list [this] handsome late Victorian/Edwardian seaside shelter’; literary figures, including Alan Bennett, Sir Andrew Motion and Valerie Eliot (the poet’s widow), had all written letters in support of the designation.

The Twentieth Century Society also said it was delighted to hear that Eero Saarinen’s US Embassy building in Mayfair, London, has now been listed at Grade II. US-born Eero Saarinen (1910—61) is today considered one of the world’s foremost post-war architects, and the embassy is one of only three of his works to be built outside his home country: the airport in Athens is now disused and his Chancellery in Oslo is currently under threat of closure.

The Society said that the merits of the building were less easy to appreciate today because of the concrete blast barriers and 6-ft-high fences that surround the embassy, but that ‘a renewed opportunity for a celebration of Saarinen’s original architectural vision for the building’ would be available thanks to the US Embassy’s recent decision to move out to a new 2-hectare site in the Nine Elms regeneration area, near Battersea Power Station. When this new building is completed in 2017, the existing embassy is likely to be turned into a luxury hotel.

More questionable is the decision to list Marks & Spencer’s Pantheon Store, on London’s Oxford Street, with its highly polished black ‘ebony’ granite facade. The store was built in 1938 specifically for Marks & Spencer, to the designs of Robert Lutyens, the son of Sir Edwin Lutyens, who had been appointed consultant architect to the company in 1934. Emily Gee, English Heritage’s Heritage Protection team leader for the South region, said: ‘the impressive and decorative front is a fantastic and seductive part of Oxford Street’s heritage, and makes an invaluable contribution to London’s premier retail destination.’

Salon’s editor is less than convinced: the press release on the DCMS website suggests that the listing has as much to do with the 125th anniversary of the founding of M&S than it has to do with the architectural or historical merits of the building, which has lost the original interior, with its walnut counters and wall panelling, teak doors, oak block floors and coffered ceilings. M&S is also praised for developing a ‘one size fits all’ strategy for its stores in the 1930s. According to the DCMS press release: ‘M&S dispensed with the need for a new design for every store as the formula for a house-style could simply be applied to any site where a new store was being opened.’ Is it not for exactly that same reason that today’s chain stores and volume house builders are criticised: for turning towns into clones and for not adapting to local architectural traditions?

Saving ‘modern monsters’

On the other hand, it could be argued that the purpose of listing is to preserve a representative sample of the buildings of their time, even if the ideas that inspired their construction are not ones that we still support; and to preserve only the ‘correct’ or ‘pleasing’ buildings is not only to falsify the record and leave huge gaps, but also to undermine a system that depends on consensual judgements concerning architectural or historical significance, rather than subjective notions of ‘beauty’.

Heritage professionals may well have to work hard in the coming months to remind ministers of this fact, judging by a recent article in the Sunday Times headlined ‘Heritage chiefs in move to save concrete eyesores’. This report asserts that English Heritage is ‘on a mission to protect modern structures … from the wrecker’s ball’, and predicts a conflict with Culture Minister Margaret Hodge, who ‘regards many post-war buildings as “unfit for purpose”’.

The article went on to say that Hodge was likely to reject a recommendation that Birmingham’s Brutalist library, designed by John Madin in the 1970s, be listed, and that she would downgrade a proposed Grade II* listing for Milton Keynes shopping centre to Grade II. English Heritage might find a Conservative regime equally difficult to convince: at last month’s briefing for heritage sector leaders, Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Culture Secretary, expressed a personal distaste for modern buildings, singling out Centre Point as an example of what he did not like.

The Sunday Times article quoted our Fellow Roger Bowdler, Head of Designation at EH, who defended the listing of buildings of the 1960s and 1970s by saying that they were significant for ‘freeing up the architectural vocabulary and creating new forms of structure suited to the needs of modern society’.

More comment on Planning Policy Statement 15

That phrase ‘unfit for purpose’ was in use again this week in relation to the draft version of Planning Policy Statement 15 (PPS 15), which sets out national policy for the protection of the historic environment within the English planning system. Speaking at the launch of The Rose and the Globe, a new Museum of London Archaeology monograph on the archaeology of Shakespeare’s playhouses, our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, reminded everyone that it was the threat to the remains of the Rose Theatre twenty years ago that led to the promulgation of PPG 16, the Government guidance on the protection of archaeological remains, which PPS 15 is intended to replace.

Simon said that ‘the important discoveries that this book documents provoked passionate calls for their protection and helped usher in a planning framework that recognised the value both of new development and of the nation’s heritage buried in the ground. That system has worked exceptionally well for archaeology over the past two decades. It has been the driver for some extraordinary discoveries both here in London and elsewhere in the country, and has benefited developers and local communities alike, by showing that it is possible to manage change sensitively and reap the rewards for doing so.’ He then went on to say that English Heritage was not yet convinced that the draft PPS 15 would achieve the same objectives: ‘English Heritage cannot support the draft as it now stands’, he said, adding that ‘everyone in the heritage sector will have to work to persuade the Government to do better’.

John Healey, the Planning Minister, has responded to such criticism by saying that he would ‘redraft’ the rules. In response to the near universal rejection of the current draft as ‘fundamentally flawed’, ‘unfit for purpose’, a potential ‘charter for people who want to knock buildings down’ and ‘based on the assumption that heritage stands in the way of development and economic recovery, which is patently untrue’ (to quote the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Institute for Historic Building Conservation), Mr Healey said: ‘To put it beyond doubt, there is no question of downgrading the protection of historic buildings. The current language in the planning policy statement is not clear enough. We will redraft it to make clear that the protection of heritage buildings will not be reduced.’

Green belt threat

The same Planning Minister has questioned the inviolability of the green-belt boundaries that protect many English cities from expanding ever outwards to swallow surrounding communities. John Healey said last week that ‘the Green Belt principle is unchanged … but there may now be a case for reconsidering what those boundaries are’. Boundary reviews have been undertaken for a number of cities where the shortage of housing is most acute, including Bath, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cheltenham, Coventry, Gloucester, Guildford, Harlow, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Leeds, Lichfield, Maidenhead, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Nottingham, Oxford, Stevenage, Tunbridge Wells and Worcester. Details are contained in the development plans being prepared by Whitehall for each of the English regions, but publication has been delayed after court action by local councils and activists.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said that ‘every region has completed their plan following full public consultation’ and that ‘the regional plans remain on track to give communities their own long-term vision, joining up regeneration plans for new jobs, homes, transport and investment’.

England gets coastal access

This week’s good news comes in the form of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, which has now received its Royal Assent, and that has the twin aims of protecting the best of our marine habitats and maritime heritage resources and of creating a continuous access zone around the coast. Greeting the latter news, Nicholas Crane, the travel writer and presenter of BBC’s ‘Coast’ programme, answered critics of coastal access by pointing out that enlightened Scotland has had such a right of access since 1973, and that there are no signs yet of the Scottish coastline being ‘trashed by millions of vandals wearing bobble hats’. He also points to the success of the coastal paths of Pembrokeshire and the Devon and Cornwall peninsula as demonstrating how long-distance walking generates responsible tourism and local employment.

The Coroners and Justice Act

Royal Assent has also just been given to the Coroners and Justice Act, complete with some vital amendments that our Fellows Lords Howarth, Redesdale and Renfrew have promoted successfully through the various stages of the bill’s passage through Parliament.

Already agreed in May this year was the establishment of the new post of National Coroner for Treasure, dedicated to adjudicating on treasure issues within the three months specified in the Treasure Act, in place of the lengthy delays that have resulted in the past from pressure of other business on the time of local coroners. Roger Bland, Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum, now reports on two further changes secured at the final third reading of the bill.

‘The first is a new clause that places a duty on those who acquire objects which they believe to be Treasure, and where there is no evidence that those objects have been previously reported to the Coroner for Treasure, to make such a report. This tackles the loophole whereby there is currently an obligation on the finder to report an object to a coroner, but not any subsequent owner, and it will help greatly with our monitoring of the many objects we find on eBay that we believe should be reported as Treasure but which we can do little about. It was a pleasant surprise that the Government also decided to include a presumption that, if there is no evidence to the contrary, a find will be assumed to have been discovered after September 1997 and to have come from England and Wales, thus removing the defence that an unreported object comes from elsewhere or was found before the Treasure Act came into force.

‘Another amendment takes the form of a gloss on the Treasure Act itself, to reflect the fact that, in practice, finders actually report Treasure to Finds Liaison Officers [FLOs], rather than to the coroner, as the Treasure Act currently requires. In the third reading debate, the Minister said: “Amendments 33, 34 and 35 allow the Secretary of State to designate persons to whom reports of treasure finds or acquisitions can be made instead of the Coroner for Treasure. We will need to consult in relation to this, but it is hoped that we will be able to designate Finds Liaison Officers as designated officers to whom reports may be made. Such officers will then inform the Coroner for Treasure of the report.” This was an unexpected success, as this comes as near as we could hope towards establishing FLOs on a statutory basis.

‘The Minister went on to summarise the intentions behind all these changes: “Taking all these amendments into account, we now have a comprehensive package of reforms to the treasure investigation system. The Coroner for Treasure will form the centre of the new system, and finders and acquirers can be sure that objects that may be Treasure will be investigated thoroughly. We believe that these improvements to the system will also show the public that the cultural heritage of this country matters to us. I repeat how grateful we are for the contributions of the three noble Lords [Howarth, Redesdale and Renfrew] who spoke today.”‘

Roger adds: ‘I don’t think these amendments would have got through without the raising of the profile of Treasure through the Staffordshire hoard. At present I do not know when these changes will come into effect. I believe that the Ministry of Justice wants to set up the new Chief Coroner first and then appoint the Coroner for Treasure after that so it is likely to be a year before that post is established. The DCMS is also moving ahead with its long-delayed review of the Treasure Act and I gather they may plan to publish a consultation paper (the first step in the process) in January.’

Staffordshire Hoard likely to be valued at £3m

Fundraisers will soon know the scale of the challenge they face in acquiring the Staffordshire Hoard for public ownership. The Government’s Treasure Valuation Committee will meet on 25 November 2009 to consider the advice of a panel of independent experts, who are reported to have recommended a figure in excess of £3m.

Finding such a sum to acquire the hoard — probably with the help of such bodies as the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the Museums, Archives and Libraries Commission, the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Fund and the Headley Trust — is only part of the story: additional funds will also be needed for conservation and display. The hoard itself is not yet fully excavated, as some artefacts were taken into the British Museum’s conservation labs in soil blocks: for that reason, the size of the hoard continues to grow, with some 1,800 individual items now having been excavated from the 40ft by 30ft find site — 300 more than previously stated.

Our Fellow Nicholas Brooks, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Birmingham, has come up with another theory to account for the hoard. He told the Sunday Times newspaper that the hoard could represent a royal treasury, pointing out that the Anglo-Saxon nobility paid a ‘heriot’, or tax, in the form of weapons or bullion to their king when they died. In return, the king would honour their wishes concerning the disposal of their property.

Should archaeologists ‘hang their heads in shame’?

In her keynote address to this year’s Museums Association conference, Diane Lees, Director General of the Imperial War Museum, gave a deliberately provocative speech on ‘where we might want to be twenty-five years from now, taking into account changing demographics, changing audience demand and issues of sustainability, governance and value-for-money service delivery’.

Among the issues she addressed was the question of museum storage and disposals, arguing that: ‘We should be concerned about our lack of progress in removing the barriers to sharing and disposing (by whatever means) of unwanted material or loan collections. We should hang our heads in shame at the amount of public money going on storing domestic rubbish (I know I will be lynched by social historians and archaeologists but if we’re honest …).’

Naturally enough, such comments have provoked considerable debate, not least in the form of a letter from Philip Wise, Chairman of the Society of Museum Archaeologists and the Archaeological Archives Forum, and our General Secretary, David Gaimster, that features in the latest issue of the Museums Journal. The letter’s authors argue that Diane Lees’s message ‘is not helpful in raising awareness of what is a significant challenge for museums … and may even be potentially damaging to the future of archaeological collections in museums by giving the impression that this material is of no merit in telling the stories of past communities. On the contrary, for much of the human past, even in comparatively recent centuries, our collections of domestic waste are irreplaceable sources of historical evidence.’

The letter went on to say: ‘We also take issue with the contention that nothing has happened to address the challenges of curating bulk archaeological collections. Leaving aside the pioneering work of the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre, there are several other examples of museums improving their storage and access to archaeological material in recent years. A visit to the stores at the Leeds Discovery Centre is very informative in this regard. There is also considerable work being done by the Archaeological Archives Forum (AAF) to encourage and share good practice in this area.’

Policy on scheduled monuments

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has published a new policy statement on the identification, protection, conservation and investigation of England’s scheduled monuments, setting out, amongst other measures, new procedures for applying for scheduled monument consent (SMC) that came into force on 2 November 2009. One major change is that responsibility for the administration of SMCs has been transferred to English Heritage from the Secretary of State. Full details can be downloaded from the English Heritage website.

The History of My House

Here is an idea well worth copying and perhaps building into the national curriculum. With the astonishing growth in popularity of family history research, the next obvious step for archives and libraries is to encourage people to engage with the built heritage through researching the history of their own homes, or those of their parents, grandparents and even older generations. Edinburgh World Heritage, headed up by our Fellow Adam Wilkinson, has been doing just that throughout 2009, working with Edinburgh City Libraries and Edinburgh City Archives. Together they put together a Resource Guide describing how the city’s vast library, archive and online resources can be used to build up a detailed history of a house, building, street or neighbourhood. Edinburgh resident have been encouraged to get involved through public meetings, events and drop-in surgeries. For further information, see the History of your House website.

HLF celebrates 15th anniversary with £15m grants

19 November 1994 was the day on which the first ever draw was made in the UK’s National Lottery, and the Heritage Lottery Fund celebrated by setting aside some £15m in new funds for such projects as rejuvenating and opening up Birmingham Museum’s history collections, improving the setting of Stonehenge and providing a new visitor centre, transforming the Charles Dickens Museum in London, restoring the Art Deco/Moorish style pavilion, with its pinnacled Mughal-style roofs, in Penarth, South Glamorgan, refurbishing Colchester’s Castle Museum, which tells the story of the early development of Roman Britain’s first capital, and is particularly important for its collections of Iron Age and early Roman finds from Colchester and Essex, and restoring the complex of buildings at Torre Abbey, in Torbay, Devon, with its mix of medieval monastic buildings and gatehouse, its ‘Spanish Barn’, used to hold prisoners of war after the Spanish Armada in 1588 and Georgian country house.

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: ‘I can think of no more fitting way of celebrating 15 years of the Heritage Lottery Fund than by supporting some of our most precious heritage from Stonehenge and Colchester Castle to Charles Dickens. Over that time our £4billion investment has made a huge impact on the landscape of the UK’s heritage meaning there’s much to celebrate today!’

The National Lottery was the brainchild of former Prime Minister Sir John Major who used the anniversary to renew his criticism of the Labour government, accusing them of treating the Lottery as ‘a bran tub from which their sticky fingers have taken cash for their own purposes’, and of ‘diverting billions of pounds from grassroots projects to help fund Exchequer pledges to health, education, environment, transport and the Olympics’.

Sir John said he hoped a future Conservative government would place emphasis on school sports and the arts, adding: ‘The Lottery should continue to revolutionise grassroots provision as well as protecting vital national heritage.’

‘Big Bang’ launches £3.5m redevelopment of Fort Nelson

The Royal Armouries marked the start of its HLF-funded transformation of Fort Nelson, at Portsdown Hill, near Fareham, by blowing up a modern bungalow adjacent to the staff car park. The ‘controlled demolition’ at the Victorian fort, which is home to the national collection of artillery and historic cannon, will allow development of a new visitor centre, a new entrance gallery displaying the most dramatic and iconic cannons in the collection (including Saddam Hussein’s infamous ‘Supergun’) and a new entrance across the dramatic original drawbridge.

Acceptance in Lieu annual report for 2008/9

The newly published Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) report for 2008/9 records the transfer to public ownership of thirty-six paintings and archives, valued at £19.8 million, in lieu of £10.8 million-worth of inheritance tax. This is the highest number of cases settled for three years and includes (for the first time) paintings by three living artists: David Hockney, Frank Auerbach and Sir Howard Hodgkin. The assets saved for the nation comprise works by Titian, Van Dyck, Guardi and Millet, Reynolds and Gainsborough, and the correspondence of Henry Addington (later Viscount Sidmouth) who was Prime Minister from 1801 to 1804 and the papers of a Nobel Prize winner. Also included are two Roman 1st/2nd-century altars from Aquileia, one of which was acquired by the Grimani family, bishops of Aquileia for much of the sixteenth century and that was subsequently placed by Sir William Stanhope in the Grotto that Alexander Pope (1688—1744) created in the grounds of his Thames-side house at Twickenham.

Andrew Motion, Chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Commission, which administers the scheme, paid tribute to the work of the volunteer members of the AIL’s panel of experts, who include our Fellows Geoffrey Bond, Mark Fisher, Christopher Wright and Lucy Wood. Further details can be found on the MLA’s website.

Letter from Russia

In what exotic and far-flung places is Salon now read? Our Fellow Heinrich Härke says he read the last issue on a train between Kizylorda and Aktobe, in Kazakhstan, from where he now sends this second ‘Letter from Russia (and places beyond)’.

‘Russia has become a difficult environment for archaeology; it is as much in the grip of “The Crisis” as western countries, if not more so. The depressed state of the Russian property market and the general economic situation mean that there are fewer developments and building projects which, in turn, means less developer-funded archaeology. This is the negative consequence of the otherwise very progressive 10 per cent rule (introduced under Stalin, and confirmed by new legislation a few years ago) according to which one tenth of the development costs of any project has to be spent on recording the archaeological, historical and ethnographic heritage of the place which is about to be destroyed. One well-known rescue archaeology unit, run in a Russian form of public-private partnership, had excavation contracts up to May 2009 but nothing for the rest of the year. Few regional units have fared better, though the central Rescue Excavation Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences is one that has. At the same time, the perilous state of the Russian government budget (caused by the collapse of the price of oil) means not only fewer state-funded building projects with their own rescue funding, but also less money for research funds. Thus archaeology will be badly affected by the announcement made by the Russian Fund for Humanities that no new projects will be funded this year; the state of affairs at the Fund for Basic Research is not much better, though interdisciplinary research applications may still get lucky.

‘So, what advice for your roaming archaeological correspondent? “Go east, young man” (or old man, as the case may be). On arrival in Kazakhstan, in search of a new project, I am assured repeatedly that “There is no ‘Crisis’ here”, although the evidence offered for this confident statement, such as the observation that there are lots of new state building projects, including massively oversized schools in every village, fail to convince the sceptical visitor. More convincing is the existence of a class of newly rich Kazakhs, dubbed “Kazanovas”. Crisis or not, there is considerable interest in international co-operation, and we (that is, myself and two Russian colleagues) are well received at the University of Kyzylorda (in western Kazakhstan), and even granted a short audience with the Rektor, the equivalent of the Vice Chancellor at UK universities. I am intrigued to learn from my Russian colleagues that there appears to be a conflict over whether archaeological sites of “national interest” should be excavated by central institutions or by provincial Kazakh institutions intent on building their research profiles.

‘Kazakhstan is a pivotal point (if you can call a country the size of western Europe a “point”) in the Eurasian steppe belt, and this is reflected in the archaeological record. Some of the earliest evidence of the post-glacial colonization of Asia is found here. It is a centre of early horse domestication, with a proud tradition of horse-breeding up to the present day. There are outstandingly rich barrows of the Bronze and Iron Age steppe cultures, with one of them, the fifth-century BC Gold Man of Issyk (of the Saka/Eastern Scythian culture) immortalized in a monument in the centre of Almaty, the former Kazakh capital.

‘The Silk Road ran the length of the country; and there are planned towns of the ninth and tenth centuries AD with walls that still rise up to 10m (30 feet) from the flat steppe. One of these towns, Dzhankent, which is the one we are eyeing for a collaborative project, was the reputed home of the Kazakh cultural hero, Korkyt Ata, who is believed to have invented the national musical instrument, the two-stringed violin (kobyz). This archaeological heritage is in danger from the decline in monument recording and protection since Kazakh independence from the disintegrating Soviet Union in 1991, and it is not helped by the parallel decline in excavation standards reported by Russian colleagues. It seems a worthwhile goal to help Kazakh colleagues recording this heritage, in spite of administrative obstacles, and of practical problems such as transport, accommodation, visa procedures, and border controls that are never friendly, and are occasionally close to hostile.’

Success for Australasian Fellows

Also from a train (this time somewhere between Berwick upon Tweed and Edinburgh), our Fellow Matt Spriggs, convenor of the Australasian Fellows Group, writes to say that Fellows in the region have been conspicuously successful in the recent round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery and Linkage Grant announcements. Among those Fellows who have secured funding for their research are Graeme Clarke, Tim Denham, Peter Hiscock, Heather Jackson, Tamar Lewit, Mike Morwood, Tim Murray and Gocha Tsetskhladze. Matt says that more than 20 per cent of Fellows currently have ARC grants, and some have the maximum of two, a pleasingly high success rate.

In search of Java Man

If you have a moment this week to listen to the radio via the internet, you can hear our Fellow Christine Finn on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From our Own Correspondent’ as she goes in search of Java Man in the Indonesian village of Sangiran, where the fossil remains were discovered 120 years ago: the BBC website also has a transcript of her contribution with pictures.

Parliament Rolls of Medieval England online

An important new addition to its Premium Content section has been announced by the British History Online website, in the form of the Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. This source consists of scholarly descriptions of every parliament held in England between 1275 and 1504. It covers ten monarchs, from Edward I to Henry VII (Edward V is excluded as no parliament was held in his reign). Though the rolls for some of these parliaments, particularly the earlier ones, do not survive, the extant rolls have all been transcribed and supplementary material about the business of the parliament is given in an appendix. Opposite the original text, which may be in Latin, Anglo-Norman, or Middle English, is a modern English translation. To make PROME easier to use, the text and translation have been put into tables, so that the corresponding paragraphs are simple to locate. This new content is available to current subscribers at no extra cost. Subscription details can be found on the subscription page.

Nominations to the UK Memory of the World Register

Nominations are now open for the first entries to the UK Memory of the World Register. The Register will be inscribed with archive collections or documents that are considered to be culturally significant to the UK. The Register is part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, which helps promotes preservation of and access to the world’s archive holdings and library collections. Anyone can make a nomination and all archive formats are welcome, including digital and audiovisual. Further information can be found on the Memory of the World website.


The Editor’s attempt to bypass spam filters looking out for ‘inappropriate language’ in the last issue by leaving it in French was foiled by at least one Fellow’s spam filter: sacrebleu! Are spam filters now multi-lingual? Some Fellows were also foxed by the literal English meaning of the phrase ‘Oh putain!’ and wondered how it might relate to the finding of the sculpted bust of Caesar on the bed of the River Rhone: dictionaries of modern French idiom tell us that this is a ‘reinforcing phrase’, not meant literally but more as an expression of surprise (like sacrebleu, Hercule Poirot’s favourite expression of surprise, which long ago lost its literal meaning as a corruption of ‘je sacre par Dieu’ (‘I swear by God’).

Fellow Robert Merrillees confirms that France has gone Astérix mad, and that the publication of the latest book in the series, Livre d’Or, has generated more press coverage than speculation about candidates for the post of European Union President. The English do not come off very well in the latest adventure, any more than the French take seriously Tony Blair’s aspirations to be considered for the Presidential post: Britannia is completely upstaged by Egypt (shades of Napoléon), not mention Rome, but heads the list of places in ‘Voyages à la carte’ that can be made with a ‘Ticket de Routiers Extra-muros Remarquables: titre de transport de la compagnie des chars en commun lutéciens’. Robert comments: ‘It is possible some Parisians really do think their city’s suburban railroad goes as far as London’.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, writes to clarify which buildings in the city’s graceful Charlotte Square are open to the public to save any embarrassment that might be caused if Fellows demand to be let in to see No 6 while Scotland’s First Minister is enjoying his breakfast: in fact it is only No 7 that is routinely open to the public, though Adam, based at No 5, says that ‘we welcome Fellows wishing to use our library and groups wishing to see the principal rooms by appointment’.

Recalling Oliver Cromwell, our Fellow Warwick Rodwell writes to say: ‘The Stuart Piggott story about a lady whose family recalled Cromwell with some affection is not apocryphal: I knew an elderly lady in Jersey (now deceased) who was a contemporary of Piggott’s and who was at the same dinner, where she too was party to the conversation about Cromwell … the maths will work if you realise that the final part of the chain was “my first husband’s, first wife’s, first husband’s mother”.’

Fellow David Wilson says that he first heard the Cromwell story from Glyn Daniel (a close friend of Stuart Piggott) in slightly different terms: ‘it is said that Freeman gave a lecture in Oxford on the Bicentenary of the Protector’s death and that a little old lady [why are old ladies always “little”] approached him with a similar story, which I seem to remember began, “Mr Cromwell was really rather a pleasant man. My first husband’s father knew him quite well”.’ Short as that chain sounds, it does work: if the father was thirty-five when Cromwell died in 1658, and became a father fifty years later, at the age of eighty-five (1708), his son could have been seventy-eight in 1786, when he married the ‘little old lady’, who was then eighteen, but who was ninety in the Bicentenary year, 1858.

In a similar vein, Fellow John Prost reminds us of the story told by the late Sir Maurice Bowra who went up to Oxford in 1919; there he met Frederic Harrison, who went up in 1848 and met Martin Routh, then still President of Magdalen, despite being born in 1755; as a child Routh met an old lady who, as a girl, saw Charles II walking his dogs. This, says John, ‘potentially takes “six degrees of separation” back several centuries’.

On the subject of dinner parties, Fellow Anthony Barnes shares a snippet that he heard from Fellow Neil Birdsall about a formal gathering that he attended recently in King’s Lynn when a lady with a cut-glass gentry accent silenced the room by asking ‘Did Laura Ashley influence William Morris or was it the other way round?’

And from neighbouring Suffolk, Fellow John Blatchly writes to say that ‘hot on the heels of the triumph of bringing Wolsey’s bells back into circulation [see Salon 222], we are now raising funds for a fitting tribute (probably a statue) to Thomas Wolsey, Ipswich’s most famous son. There is plenty of information on the project’s website, and we hope to choose the artist in early December. I would be grateful for the support of Fellows in this campaign. Donations are of course welcome, but just to have the names of those who feel that this tribute is overdue would encourage me greatly!’

New study of conservation plans: how can we make them work better?

Our Fellow Ian Dungavell is inviting people to complete an online survey as part of his new study of conservation plans, aimed at capturing the perspectives of those who have commissioned them, those who write them and those who use them, either as property managers and curators or as regulators and grant givers. The project is limited to conservation plans for the built heritage in England but anyone who is interested in the project is invited to contact Ian (tel: 020 3006 2434) to discuss conservation plans further. The surveys will be online to 7 December 2009 on the Conservation Plans website.

Rescue has a new website

Rescue — The British Archaeological Trust has a new interactive website, designed to make it easier for users to ‘Report it online’ and thus inform Rescue of monuments that are under threat or about local heritage issues that need campaigning support. You can also find out about how Rescue is helping members to campaign on their local issues and read the latest heritage news stories and sign up for website updates by email.

Deaths and obituaries

New on the Society’s website is an obituary for our late Fellow John Mason, formerly Librarian at Christ Church, one of the two greatest college libraries in Oxford, and a specialist in the history of the Norman Conquest.

Though Claude Lévi-Strauss was not a Fellow, most of us have felt the influence of his thought, and it would be wrong to let his passing on 30 October 2009, a few days short of his 101st birthday, pass unmarked. Lévi-Strauss is such a mythical figure that it is worth reminding ourselves of a few biographical facts: he was born in Brussels on 28 November 1908, and so was technically Belgian. He entered the Sorbonne in 1928, studied philosophy and became a teacher in Laon, in Picardy. His interest in anthropology led him to seek a post in the new French-sponsored University of São Paulo, in Brazil, where he carried out fieldwork among the Nambikwara and other indigenous peoples of the Mato Grosso and Brazilian Amazon. Back in France at the outbreak of the Second World War, he did National Service, but escaped to New York in 1941, fleeing the Vichy regime’s growing persecution of Jews. There he was part of a group of French intellectuals who set up the École Libre des Hautes Études, a Free French university in all but name. It was during Lévi-Strauss’s time in the US that he developed the ideas that have come to be known as ‘structuralism’, or, more correctly, ‘structural anthropology’.

No attempt to define that term here in Salon can do anything more than scratch the surface, but archaeologists and anthropologists influenced by structuralist thought see all or most human activities (from food preparation to religious rites, and from the decoration of a pot to the disposition of dwellings or disposal pits in a settlement) as reflections of deeper structures of meaning. Claude Lévi-Strauss always insisted that he was ‘a technical anthropologist’, but his working out of these ideas led him into linguistics, social science and psychology, as he sought fundamental mental structures of the human mind that operate in us all unconsciously, and that we inherit through the structure and content of language itself.

He was not, of course, alone in this endeavour, and he himself often expressed surprise at being regarded as ‘the founder of the intellectual movement known as structuralism’; his obituarists all agree that he regarded with some suspicion the enthusiasm for structuralism manifested by students of literature, for example. He was right to do so: in Cambridge especially in the 1970s, but to a lesser degree in other universities around the world, students of English were caught up in battles between the old guard and the young Turks as they fought for the future of a subject — the study of literature — that has never been defined or codified as a discipline, and that the structuralists sought to control with iron discipline, imposing an analytical methodology that more resembled mathematics, in its love of signs and formulae, than the humanities.

For some students it was fun to be allowed to study the lyrics of Bob Dylan or the films of Stanley Kubrick as if they were on a par with the works of Shakespeare or George Elliot (and indeed, structuralism led to the creation of such new disciplines as media and film studies), but for many students of literature, structuralism was a reductive discipline, that diminished the achievement of the individual author, rather than seeking to elucidate it, and though structuralism won many short-term battles, it is now largely seen in literary studies as a passing phenomenon.

Unlike archaeology and allied disciplines, where it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that we are all, to a lesser or greater degree, structuralists, taking nothing at face value and seeking to question the meaning, in terms of human belief and behaviour, of the patterns of material culture that we study and record. For that we have to thank Lévi-Strauss who himself was always antagonistic to reductionist explanations of culture, and sought explanations for culture that remain true to the richness and specificity and intellectual achievement of the original material, but that could also be built upon to create meaningful and insightful generalisations — just as he taught us to ask not just why culture takes a particular form, but to understand the process of change and transformation that occurs as carriers of the culture solve problems that can be practical or purely creative.

Writing in the Guardian, Professor Maurice Bloch of the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, perhaps summed this up best when he said: ‘Of course, his theories have been much criticised, and few would now subscribe to them in the way that they were originally formulated, but nonetheless many anthropologists, including myself, are continually amazed and awed by the fact that, through the use of a theory that many consider flawed, or at least rather vague, Lévi-Strauss gained the most illuminating and unexpected insights in almost all fields of social and cultural anthropology.’

The Society of Antiquaries: ‘The Archers’ connection

If, like many Fellows, you secretly spend an hour every Sunday catching up with the latest events in Ambridge, you can always claim that listening to ‘The Archers’ is an exercise in social anthropology (and undoubtedly someone has done a PhD on just this topic). Radio 4’s long-running radio serial is so long running that it deserves to be considered a part of our heritage; and it is a programme that has often in the past presented archaeology and local history studies in a very favourable light (by contrast, for example, with Eddie Grundy’s comic attempts to get rich quick with a metal detector). Perhaps that is because Norman Painting, the actor who played Phil Archer from the first broadcast, on 1 January 1951, until his death at the age of eighty-five on 29 October 2009 was himself an amateur archaeologist.

Obituaries paying tribute to Painting’s achievements (he also wrote the scripts for 1,200-plus episodes and directed opera) all mentioned the fact that he was set upon an academic career until he was seduced into acting. After three months on the serial he was itching to get back to academia but Godfrey Baseley, who conceived the idea of ‘The Archers’, told him not to be such a silly young fool: ‘You’ve got a secure job here for life,’ he told Painting with great foresight.

But few of those obituaries revealed the exact nature of Painting’s interests: he was an Anglo-Saxon scholar who, after graduating from the University of Birmingham, went to Christ Church, Oxford, in the latter half of the 1940s to read for a DPhil. Here he came under the influence of Richard Atkinson and dug with him at Dorchester-on-Thames. Painting even became President of the Oxford Archaeological Society, and among his friends at Oxford was our late Fellow Donald Harden (1901—94), Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean, and Vice-President of our Society in 1949 to 1953 and again from 1964 to 1967. Cataloguing papers of Harden’s held in our library recently, library volunteer Dr Meryl Fisher came across a card from Painting, sent to Harden in January 1976, after Painting had just been appointed OBE for his services to broadcasting. ‘How obtuse life is,’ Painting wrote, ‘who would have thought in 1949 that the path would lead here?’


5 December 2009: ASPRoM (the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics) is holding its Autumn Symposium in the Sackler Centre (Seminar Room 1), Victoria and Albert Museum, from 2pm to 5pm. The speakers are Fellow Tessa Murdoch (‘Italian mosaics in the Gilbert Collection’), Alessandra Pompili (‘The mosaics of Ostia’), and Fellow Sue Pearce (‘Hinton St Mary: some implications’). All are welcome. For further details see the Association’s website.

8 December 2009: our Fellow Elizabeth Williamson, Architectural Editor of the Victoria County History, will lead a seminar on the subject of ‘Making places: planning , buildings and history after 1960’, exploring how far interest in the history of places has influenced the shaping of England’s built environment since 1960. This is one in a series of ‘Locality and Region Seminars’ on topics of local and national history drawing upon the long-established national resources of the VCH and co-operating with participants from universities, record offices, local history societies and heritage organisations, as well as with those engaged in independent research. The seminar meets at 5.15pm on alternate Tuesdays in the Ecclesiastical History Room in the Institute for Historical Research. If you would like to join the e-mailing list, please contact Elizabeth Williamson.

10 December 2009: Monuments tied to the sky: ancient astronomy and its global heritage, the ICOMOS-UK Christmas Lecture will be given by our Fellow Professor Clive Ruggles, Chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Astronomy and World Heritage, at 6.30pm in The Gallery, 77 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EL. In this lecture Clive Ruggles, Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester, will describe some major new discoveries made in recent years, focusing on his own ongoing work in Peru, Polynesia and prehistoric Europe on ancient monuments that provide tantalising glimpses of long-lost beliefs and practices relating to the sky.

For more information and a booking form, contact ICOMOS-UK.

16 and 17 February 2010: Digital Past 2010: New technologies in Heritage, Interpretation and Outreach, hosted by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales at St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff. Building on the success of the first Digital Past conference in Aberystwyth, Digital Past 2010 offers two days of events intended to guide heritage managers, education and outreach officers and museum and local government officers in Wales and further afield through some of the newest technologies available for researching and promoting heritage sites. Conference papers, seminars and practical training sessions will be combined to cover the latest technical survey and interpretation techniques and their practical application in heritage interpretation and education. For further information, see the RCAHMW website, under Events Diary.

18 and 19 February 2010: Commemorative Plaques: Celebrating People and Place, a national conference to be hosted by English Heritage at the RIBA headquarters at 66 Portland Place, London, to consider and celebrate the Blue Plaques scheme and the large number of similar commemorative schemes across the country, to share experiences, and to consider future developments. Delegates will look at the practical aspects of putting up a plaque, such as selection criteria, plaque design and inscription, historical research and the gaining of consents and promotion. There will be talks from people involved in running various UK schemes; workshops and panel-led discussions plus a series of walks exploring some of the plaques of central London. The outcomes of the conference — and the suggestions of conference attendees — will feed directly into a series of guidance documents to be produced by English Heritage, covering all aspects of plaques work, from the consideration of suggestions to the organisation of unveiling ceremonies. For further information see the English Heritage website.

16 to 18 April 2010: Wessex Culture: Revolution of Late Beaker Evolution; defining changes in the early 2nd millennium BC. This Bournemouth University and Prehistoric Society Weekend Conference, to be held at Bournemouth University, will address a problem that archaeologists of the Early Bronze Age have faced since William Cunnington and Sir Richard Colt Hoare first dug into the barrows of Salisbury Plain: what happened to Beaker burial practice in southern Britain between the late third and early second millennium BC? In cemeteries across Wessex burial practices changed from inhumation to cremation burial in a relatively short time.

This change was also accompanied by changes in barrow form, agricultural patterns, ceremonial monuments and artefacts, and archaeologists have struggled to characterise these different practices. Recent research calls into question whether the change should be seen as an evolution from the Beaker phenomenon or as a revolution. The conference will pool the knowledge of archaeologists working with early second millennium artefacts, burials and other evidence from Britain and the Continent to understand better the dynamics of this change termed the ‘Wessex Culture’.

For further information, see the conference website.

Books by Fellows

A visit to Hatchards bookshop on Piccadilly, almost opposite Burlington House, will reveal how industrious Fellows have been in the book-writing department; piled high in the history section on the first floor are copies of our Fellow Huon Mallalieu’s 1066 and Rather More: A Walk Through History (Frances Lincoln) in which Huon takes us on a 250-mile walk from the site of the battle of Stanford Bridge, in Yorkshire, to Battle, in East Sussex, where Harold Godwinson’s English army encountered William’s Norman army in the autumn of 1066 and, despite the exhausting journey, nearly won the day. Fifteen hand-drawn maps enable readers to follow Huon’s route, as he interweaves an account of his own journey through contemporary England with the story of Harold and his army. Country Life said of the book: ‘reading this is like going off for a week with a favourite uncle who can sing, drink and charm a smile from both a melancholic duke and a moody hoodie, while entertaining you with passionate stories about our island’s history.’

Close by, in Hatchards, is another pile of coffee-table format books with an enticing cover, edited by our Fellow Michael Snodin and called Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill (Yale University Press) This anticipates the major new V&A exhibition that will run from 6 March to 4 July next year, but also the re-opening of Horace Walpole’s magnificent house — Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture — in September 2010, following extensive restoration by the Strawberry Hill Trust. For Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill, Michael has assembled an international team of distinguished scholars to explore the ways in which the house and Walpole’s collections of rare books and manuscripts, antiquities, paintings, prints and drawings, furniture, ceramics, arms and armour and curiosities can inform us about the social, cultural and political life of his day.

To the left, as you then move round Hatchards, is a large display devoted to the Pevsner Architectural Guides to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and nestling among the glossy black covers is the latest edition to the spin-off series of city guides: Newcastle and Gateshead (Yale University Press), by our Fellow Grace McCombie, who also contributed to the Northumberland county guide, published in its new revised edition in 1992. A series of walks takes you round the city that straddles the Tyne from the medieval castle and cathedral to the spectacular new buildings that have gone up in recent years as part of the city’s rejuvenation.

Reviewing the book in The Times, our Fellow Marcus Binney compared ‘the soaring bow arch of the 1928 New Tyne Bridge’ to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and said that the succession of Tyne bridges lit at night was as thrilling a sight as any in England. He also praised the fact that the book (and the series) ‘allows us to feast on the ebullience and colour of nineteenth-century architecture — here the Ruskinian Gothic of the 1872 Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers (though Salon’s editor far prefers the sober and modest Greek Revival building alongside that houses the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, that powerhouse of intellectual and scientific self-improvement set up in 1793 by non-conformist citizens excluded from a university education).

To find Fellow Mary Beard’s latest book involves a return to the ground floor of Hatchards, or you can visit Mary’s blogsite to see (tipsily angled) photographs of the launch party, in which you will recognise the Society’s Council Room and entrance hall as the venue. The book, It’s a Don’s Life (Profile Books), draws together a selection of pithy posts from Mary’s blog of the same name, along with responses from her readers as they engage in boisterous debate with the author on such diverse topics as whether A levels are easier today than forty years ago (‘different, not easier’ is Mary’s view) and what a well-brought-up Roman wore under his toga (sadly, nobody knows).

Diana Birch, Professor of English at the University of Liverpool, says in her Guardian review that Mary is ‘an exuberant communicator’, who has ‘come to value the sustained interaction with readers as the “most positive” aspect of her blog’, which Mary uses to crusade for her fierce belief in the value and relevance of classical studies in the twenty-first century.

And now for something completely different: our Fellow Ray Howell, Director of the South Wales Centre for Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Wales, Newport, has made a video — Reclaiming King Arthur in the Digital Age — showing how central the historic landscape of Gwent is to the later medieval tales of King Arthur. Dr Howell’s video journey takes us from Iron-Age hill forts to Carleon — the possible inspiration for the Round Table — and to the riverside pub where Alfred, Lord Tennyson was inspired to begin his Arthurian epic, Idylls of the King. Dr Howell says the purpose of the video is use new media as part of the study experience of students on the BA (Hons) History programme at Newport and ‘to inspire visitors to explore — both physically and digitally — the cultural and historical wealth of our country’. To watch the video, go to the university’s website.

From the mythical past to the archaeology of the modern world: Defining Moments: dramatic archaeologies of the twentieth century (Archaeopress: BAR International Series No 2005), edited by Fellow John Schofield. John says in his preface that his aim is to ‘change the way some archaeologists think about their subject’, and what he and his fellow contributors have tried to do is to examine the archaeological legacy of key moments and events in twentieth-century history — key moments being those after which the world was never quite the same again. Hence the papers have such intriguing and irresistible titles as: ‘Marconi’s first transatlantic wireless message’ (Cassie Newland); ‘The case of the RMS Titanic’ (Fellow David Miles); ‘From Ally Pally to Big Brother: television makes viewers of us all’ (Fellow Martin Brown); ‘The introduction of compulsory driving tests in the United Kingdom: the neglected role of the state in motoring’ (John Beech); ‘The Library of Babel: origins of the World Wide Web’ (Paul Graves-Brown); ‘The Murder of Matthew Wayne Shepard: an archaeologist’s personal defining moment’ (Thomas Dowson); ‘Three, two, one …?’: the material legacy of global millennium celebrations’ (Rodney Harrison); and Conservation and the British (Fellow Graham Fairclough). Along the same lines is John’s joint paper with cultural historian Louise Purbrick in the latest volume of Landscapes: ‘Brixton: landscape of a riot’, 10 (1), 1—20; and you can read more about the archaeology of the recent past on the blogsite of our Fellow Dan Hicks, called ‘We Were Modern: archaeological/anthropological writing on the remains of the modern’

From modern to medieval: Mortuary Practices and Social Identities in the Middle Ages: essays in burial archaeology is a newly published Festschrift in honour of our Fellow Heinrich Härke, edited by Duncan Sayer and Fellow Howard Williams (University of Exeter Press). Heinrich says he is, naturally, ‘chuffed and flattered’ to be the recipient of a series of thirteen essays (many by Fellows) exploring genetics and migration, cultural, social and gender identity, the choice of burial site, cemetery structure and organisation, burial rites, post-mortem skull modification and beliefs about the after life.

Nicholas Orme, best known for his studies of medieval schools and children, describes his new book, Exeter Cathedral: the first thousand years, 400—1550 (Impress) as a personal endeavour, for he and his wife, Rona, were married in Exeter Cathedral twenty-eight years ago. During the course of his research and teaching career at the University of Exeter, he made frequent use of cathedral archives, and came to realise how rich they are, and so he returned to them for this book, which he describes as being less about the architectural history of Exeter Cathedral and more of a religious and social history, written for the general reader to explain why Exeter became the ecclesiastical centre of Devon (though far from being the geographical centre), why the cathedral is like it is, what went on there, and how its activities changed at the time of the Reformation.

Salon’s editor hears on the grapevine that the recent launch of the latest publication of the British School at Athens was quite an event, with the London fire brigade in attendance when a guest accidentally set off the fire alarm at the launch venue, the apartments of our neighbours at Burlington House, the Royal Astronomical Society. It proved to be a night not easily forgotten for the editors — M Llewellyn Smith, P M Kitromilides and E Calligas — of Scholars, Travels, Archives: Greek history and culture through the British School at Athens (Oxbow), which analyses the contribution of British scholars to the study of Byzantine and modern Greek culture, art and architecture, anthropology, geography, folklore, history and language and especially archaeology and anthropology, in the years in and around the First World War. The book is richly illustrated with material from the School’s photographic archive.

Also newly published by the British School at Athens is Sparta and Laconia: from prehistory to pre-modern (Oxbow), edited by W G Cavanagh, C Gallou and M Georgiadis, being the proceedings of the conference held in Sparta in 2005 to celebrate 100 years since the beginning of work in Laconia by the British School. In his introduction, our Fellow Paul Cartledge (himself an Honorary Spartan) discusses the different images we have of Sparta, and the deep influence those images have had on the European classical tradition (a subject on which he was also speaking on Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In Our Time’ programme on Radio 4 in mid-November, in a discussion entitled ‘Sparta: the anti-Athens’). ‘Sparta’, he writes, ‘lives in the mind’s eye and is constantly redrawn in the light of new discoveries and new insights’, a suitable summation of the contents of this multi-period, multi-theme and multi-disciplinary work.

Finally, the UCL Institute of Archaeology has published a special issue of the journal Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites guest-edited by our Fellow Joe Flatman and dedicated to the theme of ‘Conserving Marine Cultural Heritage’. Abstracts (and some open-access papers) can be viewed online on Maney’s Ingenta website.


English Heritage is looking for a London-based Senior Historic Buildings and Areas Adviser: salary up to £40,000, closing date 30 November 2009. Further information from the English Heritage website.

National Museums Liverpool needs a Curator of Maritime History and Deputy Head of Merseyside Maritime Museum; salary £38,458, closing date 30 November 2009; for more information see the Liverpool Museums’s website using ref 9059.

The British Museum is recruiting a Keeper of the Department of Coins and Medals: salary £56,766, closing date 7 December 2009. Further information from the British Museum website.

The post of Reader or Senior Lecturer in the University of York’s Department of Archaeology is being advertised at a salary range of £44,931 to £52,086, rising to £55,259 for a Reader; closing date 7 December 2009. For further information see the York jobs website.

The University of Melbourne has a number of vacancies for lecturers in Indigenous Culture and Heritage and Social Anthropology: see ‘Job Search’ and look for position nos 0022301, 0022315, 0022316 and 0022294.