Salon Archive

Issue: 243

Forthcoming meetings

Thursday 4 November: ‘Edmund Tyrrell Artis FSA: a curious polymath’, by Geoffrey Dannell FSA

Edmund Tyrrell Artis (1789—1847) was a self-taught prodigy, who rose from a rural background in Suffolk to become a Fellow of our own Society and of the Geological Society. His employment as House Steward to the Fitzwilliam family gave him the opportunity to collect fossils from the coal mines they owned in Yorkshire and to conduct excavations, with the encouragement of his employers on the Fitzwilliam estate at Castor. His two major works are Antediluvian Phytology, dealing with fossils of the coal measures, and The Durobrivae of Antoninus, a series of plates recording his excavations and the objects found in them. In the 1840s he published seminal papers on Romano-British pottery kilns. He also acted as owner and major domo of the Doncaster Race Club, where he entertained such notables as the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.

Thursday 11 November: ‘Excavating the Lapita cemetery at Teouma, Vanuatu, and the background to the current exhibition of 3,000-year-old Lapita pots at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris’, by Matthew Spriggs FSA

The Lapita culture (3350—2700 BP) represents the first human settlement of the South Pacific beyond the areas settled over 40,000 years ago in New Guinea and the Solomons. It represents the initial settlement of much of Island Melanesia and Western Polynesia. The discovery of the Teouma site in Vanuatu in 2004 was the first find of an early cemetery of this culture in the Pacific. Its discovery has allowed insights into the mortuary practices and beliefs of this culture. Bodies were associated with highly decorated pottery, with more than 100 complete vessels reconstructed. The display of the Teouma pots and others from New Caledonia and elsewhere at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris is the first major exhibition of Pacific archaeological material outside the region. One might ask why is this taking place in an ethnographic art museum?

Thursday 18 November: ‘The Jewish catacombs of Roman Melite’, by Mario Buhagiar FSA

York Antiquaries lunch 11 December 2010

The York Antiquaries will be holding a lunch in York on Saturday 11 December 2010. Fellows who are not also York Antiquaries members are very welcome to join in this festive occasion. Further details can be obtained from the Honorary Steward, Jim Spriggs. The closing date for bookings is 15 November 2010.

Newly elected Fellows

At the ballot held on 21 October 2010, the following were elected to the Fellowship:

Jane Wendy Laughton, independent historical consultant specialising in the history and archaeology of medieval towns, in particular Chester;
Max Donnelly, Head of Decorative Arts at the Fine Art Society, specialising in late nineteenth-century decorative arts, and contributor to the BBC’s ‘Antiques Roadshow’; Allard Wijnand Mees, Head Conservator at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz, specialising in the study of samian ware, including re-publication of the Pompeii Hoard and the creation of an online samian ware database;
Martin Charles Newman, responsible for managing heritage information at English Heritage, including the NMR, the record of Scheduled Monuments and the Listed Buildings System, council member and Honorary Treasurer of the IfA;
Aleksander Pluskowski, Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Reading, known for pioneering work on animals as material culture and the archaeology of the Teutonic Order;
Tomás Ó Carragáin, Lecturer in Archaeology at University College Cork, an established scholar in the archaeology of the Church in early medieval Ireland and Editor of the Journal of Irish Archaeology;
Marie-Louise Stig Sørensen, Senior Lecturer in Later European Prehistory at the University of Cambridge, author of numerous papers on the Bronze Age of temperate Europe, historiography and gender and heritage studies.

The next ballot takes place on 11 November 2010. You can vote online by logging into the Fellows’ Area; contact Jane Beaufoy if you need to register for a password.

Missing Fellow

Post addressed to Fellow John Leopold at his London address has been returned. Giselle Pullen would be very grateful for information about his new address.

Antiquaries Journal Vol 90

Fellows should by now have received their copies of this year’s Antiquaries Journal. If you have not done so, or if you have received a damaged copy and would like a replacement, please let us know by sending an email to the Editor, Kate Owen. Don’t forget too that Fellows are entitled to free access to the online version of the Journal, which you can access from the Fellows’ side of the website. You will need a password to do this, and if you have not yet registered for one you can do so by contacting Jane Beaufoy.

‘Units of account in gold and silver in seventh-century England’: corrigendum

Fellow John Hines, author of the paper ‘Units of account in gold and silver in seventh-century England: scillingas, sceattas and pæningas’ in the current volume of the Antiquaries Journal, has asked us to publish the following correction to his paper. ‘I have received a kind letter from our Fellow Dr Stewart Lyon drawing my attention to an error in the text of this paper. The sum paid by Wihtred of Kent in compensation for the death of the West Saxon Prince Mul was mistranscribed from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as ‘ccc mil.’ (300,000) rather than ‘xxx mil.’ (30,000) (page 156), and the incorrect higher figure is referred to on two further occasions for comparative purposes (on pages 161 and 169).

‘Despite the magnitude of the error, this does not undermine the central argument of the paper, although the implications concerning this particular transaction are, of course, quite different. If the figure represents a common sceatt/pæning unit between Wessex and Kent, as suggested, then it implies that a sum of 1,500 Kentish shillings, or 6,000 West Saxon shillings, was paid for Mul’s life. These sums are exactly five times the nobleman’s wergild in the two kingdoms, as is quite plausible for a cousin of the king. Compensation payments of thousands of solidi made in comparable circumstances in sixth-century Merovingian Gaul, according to Gregory of Tours, now look very much higher, however.’

A more detailed version of this notice will shortly be placed alongside the original paper on the Antiquaries Journal page of the Cambridge Online Journal website.

Comprehensive spending review: winners and losers

Everyone ended up with less money following the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, whose outcome was announced on 23 October, but the burden of cuts fell differently across the heritage sector as the Government honoured its manifesto pledge to maintain free entry to England’s national museums and galleries and so cut their budgets by ‘only’ 15 per cent, meaning that English Heritage, Visit Britain, Sport England and the Arts Council took the bigger hit of around one-third of their budgets over the next four years.

English Heritage Commissioners responded to the news that their current annual grant of £136 million would be cut by 32 per cent by defining core areas of their activity that would be protected. These are: planning advisory services, which become even more important in the light of likely cuts in local authority funding; designation activity, which English Heritage alone has the legal power to undertake; conserving English Heritage properties and collections; and opening sites for public education and enjoyment. In addition, Commissioners said they would seek a substantial increase in earned income and make savings through efficiencies, particularly by eliminating activities that duplicate those of other organisations, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Even so, Commissioners said that ‘the cuts imposed on us have required extremely difficult choices’ as they announced a one-third reduction in grants (the precise details yet to be discussed) and a reduction in staff of around 200 posts. Fuller detail is to be given when English Heritage publishes its Corporate Plan on 10 November 2010.

The hard road for heritage

Writing in Country Life magazine, our Fellow Loyd Grossman, Chair of the Heritage Alliance, described himself as a ‘deficit-reduction hawk’ but then said that he had doubts about ‘whether the process has been sufficiently considered and creative’. He felt that an opportunity had been missed to reshape the heritage sector and that the so-called ‘bonfire of the quangos’ was ‘hardly hot enough to toast a marshmallow’. In particular, Loyd said that he feels that the Government still doesn’t quite ‘get heritage’, seeing it as a minority interest, whereas the reality is that ‘millions of people actively support and benefit from our heritage’. Equally money spent on heritage is an investment that has a multiplier effect in the economy, creating jobs, skills and consumer demand. This aspect of heritage seems to have made less of a mark on politicians than the other side of the balance sheet — ‘they have been more terrified by the liabilities than inspired by the assets’, Loyd says.

The answer is that we have to continue to work hard to turn our heritage — ‘rich in meaning and inspiration and available to all’ — into political clout. And English Heritage is a key part of that process: ‘without doubt there are many improvements to be made to be made in the way that EH works and relates to the rest of the sector’, Loyd concludes, ‘but it is an organisation with an enviable and indispensable body of knowledge and skills, which the whole sector relies on.’

Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme to continue

One ray of light amidst the economic gloom was the announcement by the Department of Culture that the listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme will now continue until at least 2015. In a letter to Diocesan Advisory Committees, our Fellow the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, said that the value of the scheme, which reimburses VAT levied on repairs and maintenance to listed places of worship, will be enhanced in view of the increase in the rate of VAT in the New Year, though recent extensions to the scheme, to cover professional fees and work to organs and bells, have been withdrawn.

Even so, ‘I do very much welcome the Government’s recognition that church buildings make a large contribution to the community as a whole’, the Bishop said, adding that: ‘the argument we have been deploying is very simple. Abandoning the scheme which affects every part of the United Kingdom would be a tax on fund raising; a great disincentive to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who care for our churches and a blow to the credibility of the concept of the “Big Society”.’

The National Trust and the Disney debate

Key questions about how we fund the heritage are also being debated by critics and supporters of the National Trust. The debate is being couched in high-minded language as a question of how best to ‘bring houses to life’, but at rock bottom this is all about how you balance the books when it comes to meeting the costs of heritage stewardship — something that is of central concern to the Society, as custodian of Kelmscott Manor, and to the many Fellows who own houses that are open to the public (Owlpen Manor or Rockingham Castle, for example) or who work for the National Trust and English Heritage.

Lined up on one side of the debate is our Fellow Sir Simon Jenkins, Chair of the National Trust, who has inspired a series of experiments designed to enhance the experience of visiting a National Trust property. Innovations include lighting fires in living rooms and allowing visitors to sit down in comfortable armchairs and read books, dressing room stewards as maids, butlers and cooks, piping artificial pipe smoke into the billiard room at Cragside, inviting visitors to rummage through Sir Bruce Chichester’s luggage at Arlington Court, Devon, or to peep into the bedroom of newly wedded Lady Rodney at Berrington Hall, Herefordshire, and even letting children bounce on an ‘antique’ bed at Lyme Park, Cheshire.

On the other side is cultural commentator Stephen Bayley who believes that the National Trust is at risk of crossing the boundary from responsible management of its historic properties into the world of entertainment. He is also concerned that these innovations are based on false and populist ideas of history: ‘trashy, lowbrow simulacra’ and ‘retro-kitsch fantasia’ are two of the colourful phrases used by Bayley to describe a process that he characterises as ‘Disneyfication’ and ‘Mills and Boon costume drama’.

Simon Jenkins remains unapologetic: ‘We can learn a lot from Disney. If it means making properties more profitable, I am unrepentant’, he told the media last week, and Fellow Sir Roy Strong last week added his support, saying ‘Everything has to change; life moves on’. The clinching argument would seem to be that Simon’s radical approach has boosted attendance numbers at National Trust properties, though Bayley disputes this, saying that visitor numbers to all historic properties rose by 10 per cent last year because of the ‘staycation’ phenomenon.

Other Fellows have been drawn into the debate: John Goodall, Architectural Editor at Country Life magazine, and Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, led a specially convened debate on the subject of ‘Bringing Houses to Life’ at the National Trust’s annual general meeting in Swindon on 30 October 2010.

John Goodall took the view that property presentation was at its best when it involved ‘researching the building, the documents, giving us a new insightful glimpse of the past … What you need to do is strip back layers, to get to the real meat of the history, which is engaging.’ ‘Good buildings are already alive’, he said, and do not need us to ‘apply layers of make-up … that is dumbing down.’

Lucy argued that the Trust’s future was at stake if it did not become more attractive to a younger generation. ‘There are not enough people out there supporting historic places’, she said, adding that: ‘The government isn't supporting us. Nobody would say there is too much money going in. It would negligent not to try to appeal to a wider audience. It's commercially important and morally important. If you don't open to the unconverted, as well as the converted, then financially you won’t be able to survive. My job as curator of history won’t be done until it’s as popular as the X Factor.’

Judging by those who attended the AGM, the Trust’s new approach is warmly backed by members, who overwhelmingly rejected the debate’s premise that ‘bringing properties to life means dumbing them down’.

The role of heritage in resolving poverty

The National Trust’s debate touches on the complex inter-relationship between heritage and tourism; a new report from the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) shows that something like 80 per cent of global tourism is heritage and culture related. While richer nations debate the question of just how far to go in the direction of ‘entertainment’ in order to grow that tourism income, poorer nations are seeing their heritage eroding for want of investment in basic protection and conservation. Heritage could play a central role in meeting the UN’s aim of eradicating global poverty, the report argues, if this position were reversed, and investment in heritage conservation became a core component of international development strategy.

Called Saving Our Vanishing Heritage: Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites in the Developing World, the GHF report assesses the condition of some 500 of the planet’s most threatened and significant cultural sites. It finds that nearly 200 are ‘At Risk’ or ‘Under Threat’ and that twelve are ‘On the Verge’ of irreparable loss and destruction, including the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, the ancient Greek and medieval port town of Famagusta, in eastern Cyprus, the ancient Greek city of Chersonesos, in Ukraine, and the historic city of Intramuros and Fort Santiago in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

Even in their less than pristine state, these 500 global heritage sites earned US$24.7 billion in 2009 from domestic and international tourism and the investment of relatively small sums by government aid programmes in conservation could help drive tourist income up to US$100 billion per year, bringing jobs, skills, regional growth, tourist revenue and foreign exchange earnings to some of the world’s poorest countries. In other words, heritage sites ‘offer the promise of being economic engines for their regions and communities if restored and managed responsibly’.

Our Fellow Ian Hodder, one of GLF’s founders, thus describes heritage sites as ‘important economic assets for sustainable development’ as well as ‘the basis for scientific and aesthetic inquiry’, and he joins the other authors of the report in calling for the establishment of a ‘Global Fund for Heritage’. Jeff Morgan, Executive Director of GHF, says that ‘funding for preservation remains anaemic … and is a fraction of what is needed’. The UNESCO World Heritage Center, for example, has less than US$30 million annually to provide training and support for World Heritage Sites, while the US government’s voluntary contribution to the UNESCO World Heritage Fund was just US$694,100 in 2009.

What is needed, the report argues, is a multi-billion dollar fund made up of contributions from governments, foundations and corporations that will be used for emergency intervention, training and conservation, specifically focused on the lowest-income countries and regions of the world, which can be achieved if leaders in industry and civil society can be persuaded to take more of an interest in heritage as catalyst for sustainable development.

Launch of Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture

The Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture, based in the University’s School of Archaeology, officially opened on 21 October 2010 to become the only Asia-specialist centre in Europe devoted to the archaeological and cultural heritage of Asia. The Centre will train students in Asian archaeology, supporting major research programmes, workshops and conferences, visiting scholars and publication programmes. The Centre also aims to create academic links with Asian institutions in order to encourage further research collaborations and student exchanges. From October 2011 the Centre will offer new Masters’ degree courses in the Archaeology of Asia, Chinese Archaeology and the Palaeolithic of Asia.

Our Fellow Professor Chris Gosden, Centre Co-director, said: ‘Many of the major human developments are found in very early and sophisticated forms in Asia and these include the origins of modern human behaviour, the transition towards farming and settled life, the development of crafts such as pottery and metallurgy, the emergence of states and cities, the creation of empires and the rise of world religions. Asian archaeology and heritage studies are thus enormously important for understanding how the modern world was shaped, and there is a growing need for world-class expertise in this area.’

Chris Gosden’s co-directors are Fellow Professor Mark Pollard and Dr Michael Petraglia. Dr Petraglia was recently appointed to the School of Archaeology, in part because of his field projects in India, including an international study of the impact of the colossal Toba volcanic eruption (in what is now Indonesia) 74,000 years ago, which used the volcanic ash layers to show that humans were present in India prior to the eruption, 15,000 years earlier than expected based on some genetic clocks, and some people survived the eruption. Also associated with the new Centre is Dr Nicole Boivin, Director of the Sealinks project, which is exploring the origins and development of early seafaring activity and long-distance trade in the Indian Ocean.

FAME members point to storage crisis

Members of the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (FAME) have warned that museums have run out of space to store and preserve important finds resulting from the developer-funded boom of the last two decades. Crammed and over-stretched local museums in Cambridgeshire, Kent, Northamptonshire, Sheffield and many other areas are refusing to accept any more finds, they say. Local government cutbacks are likely to place even more pressure on staff and facilities.

It is estimated that the country’s leading archaeology practices are storing more than 15,000 boxes of archaeological finds and records on 5,000 sites at an annual cost to themselves of £0.25m. This is a major museum collection in its own right, and is not a sustainable solution, because archaeology unit stores are themselves now reaching bursting point.

Our Fellow Adrian Tindall, FAME’s Chief Executive, said: ‘This problem has been twenty years in the making. We would like to work with local museums and the Heritage Lottery Fund to set up resource centres, so that the public can see important local discoveries. But we must also look more carefully at whether keeping everything we find is really sustainable. For too long we have assumed that all finds must be kept, in case they’re needed for future research. Whilst this might occasionally be justified, we need to concentrate much more on the public benefit of what we keep.’

Fellow and FAME Chairman Roland Smith added: ‘It’s so important that the findings of archaeological digs are made available to the general public. This crisis is denying local communities, the wider general public and researchers the opportunity to see and learn from the discoveries that are being made in the towns and countryside in which they live. Archaeological practices do not operate as museums. At the moment they have no alternative but to hold this material, but in the long term there is a risk to these collections if museums — who have the appropriate expertise — are unable to find suitable space for them.’

UK Memory of the World Register: call for nominations

The Memory of the World Register is a UNESCO initiative to promote outstanding documentary heritage. Following the Register’s successful launch earlier this year, the second round of nominations has now opened. The Register features archive collections or documents that are considered to be culturally significant to the UK against a range of criteria including authenticity, rarity, integrity, threat and social, spiritual or community significance.

The ten items and collections currently on the UK Register can be seen on the UNESCO website. They include William the Conqueror’s Charter given to ‘William the bishop [of London] and Godfrey the portreeve’, guaranteeing the rights of ‘all the burgesses within London both French and English’ and the Peniarth Manuscript collection in the National Library of Wales, consisting of 560 works in Welsh, English, Latin, French and Cornish, dating from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries, the core of which was formed from the Hengwrt Collection, established at Hengwrt, Meirionnydd, by the antiquary Robert Vaughan (c 1592—1667), including significant Welsh language manuscripts, The Black Book of Carmarthen, The Book of Taliesin, The White Book of Rhydderch and The Chronicle of the Princes.

Anyone can make a nomination and all archive formats are eligible, including digital and audiovisual. The deadline for nominations is 31 January 2011. Visit the UNESCO website for application details and to apply.

European landscape research

Fellow Graham Fairclough wishes to draw attention to the European Science Foundation’s new Science Policy Briefing paper on current landscape research and future themes and directions. Graham says ‘this is an important document that portrays landscape research as a wide-ranging field of study, crossing many disciplinary boundaries. Being published in a series that largely includes policy on the “hard sciences”, which are the ones that tend to get political and funding priority, is important symbolically for putting landscape research (and therefore large areas of archaeology) into the mainstream of the European science agenda.’ Graham adds that ‘whether it will be influential depends on how people use it; it will not release funding, but it is a very useful tool, which needs to be taken up and used, while it is new and visible.’

News of Fellows

Fascinating new information has just come to light about our former Fellow, the Finnish-born art historian Tancred (Carl) Borenius (1885—1948), who, it now turns out, was recruited by MI6 during the Second World War and played a pivotal role in luring Rudolf Hess to Britain in 1941. The revelation is contained in a newly published biography of Rudolf Hess by historian John Harris (Rudolf Hess: The British Illusion of Peace) and it resolves one of the enduring mysteries of the Second World War: why Hitler's Nazi Party deputy took off from Augsburg on 10 May 1941, flying solo to Scotland, where he bailed out of his plane and parachuted to the ground at Floors Farm near Eaglesham, in Renfrewshire.

Mr Harris says that Borenius was sent by MI6 to Geneva, Switzerland, to deliver a secret message to Hess via Carl Burckhardt, then the acting head of the Red Cross, making it clear that an alliance with Britain could be forged if Hess would come to Britain to meet representatives of the Royal Family. Mr Harris attributes this information to Peter, the late son of Tancred Borenius, who said that his father refused to discuss his wartime service until he revealed his involvement with the Hess affair on his deathbed. Harris himself believes that Hitler knew of the invitation and sanctioned Hess’s mission because he fondly believed that Churchill would be deposed and replaced by Hess as Britain’s new pro-Nazi leader.

The claim, if justified, will add an interesting new chapter to the life of a man better known to us as the friend of Roger Fry and his successor as lecturer in fine art at University College, London where he was appointed England’s first ever Professor of the History of Art in 1922. Borenius helped to found Apollo magazine in 1925, and was a prolific contributor to this and to the Burlington Magazine, where he was honorary acting editor and managing director from 1940 to 1945.

He is perhaps best known for English Medieval Painting (1927), which he co-wrote with Professor E W Tristram, and for St Thomas Becket in Art (1932), a major survey of the iconography of that saint. How he became involved in archaeology is unclear, but he was entrusted with the excavation of Clarendon Palace, Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1933, with John Charlton, and his interim report is in the Society’s manuscripts collection (MS 826).

Lives Remembered

A Memorial Service will be held on Tuesday 16 November 2010 at 3pm at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church for our late Fellow, former Garter Principal King of Arms, Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones. All are welcome to attend.

Obituaries appeared in the Guardian this week and in the Daily Telegraph paying tribute to Honor Elizabeth Frost, who was elected a Fellow on 6 March 1969 and who died on 12 September 2010 at the age of ninety-two. The Guardian’s tribute, written by John Carswell, hailed Honor as a pioneer of underwater archaeology. He said that she had developed techniques that are now widely used in the discipline, starting in 1956 with the recording of a wreck off the coast of Bodrum, off the south coast of Turkey, and moving on to ‘the spectacular excavation and reconstruction of a Carthaginian warship at Marsala in Sicily … and an underwater campaign investigating the ancient port of Alexandria’.

Having studied at the Central School of Art, in London, and at the Ruskin School of Art, in Oxford, Honor was already a skilled illustrator when she joined Kathleen Kenyon as an archaeological draughtsman at excavations in Jericho, drawing underground Bronze-Age tombs cut into the fractured rock of the rift valley in Jordan. After that dig was over, Honor moved to Lebanon where, under the wing of the Institut français d’archéologie in Beirut, she explored the ancient harbours at Tyre and Sidon. Here she developed her lifelong interest in the technicalities of ancient boat-building and nautical equipment, particularly the use of stone anchors: having spotted her first anchor built into the walls of the Bronze Age temple at Byblos, she became an international authority on their typology and, just before her death, was planning to visit India for the first time to see what she believed to be the largest stone anchor in the world.

A true antiquary, Honor pursued multiple interests throughout her long life; when she was not involved in fieldwork, she lived in London amidst a large collection of Regency furniture, antique glass, Chinese porcelain and contemporary paintings, including works by Graham Sutherland and Stanley Spencer. At various periods in her career, she worked as a designer for the Ballet Rambert, and as Director of Publications at the Tate Gallery.

Feedback

First, apologies to our long-suffering Fellow Aidan Dodson (correctly spelled this time), author of a new book on ancient Egyptian coffins in the collections of National Museums Scotland, whose name Salon has managed to mangle twice already. Fellow Lucy Worsley points out that Salon 242’s report on quangos reads as if Historic Royal Palaces receives funding from the DCMS: ‘we certainly don't!’, she says, ‘we're a financially independent charity’. Fellows Ian Ralston and Peter Yeoman were quick to point out that the jurisdiction of the English Ministry of Justice does not extend to Scotland, and that the burdensome decree that all excavated human remains must be reburied within two years applies only to England and not, as Salon said, to Britain as a whole.

Our Fellow Maurizio Tosi wrote to endorse the views of our Fellow Sir George White that we should not neglect important aviation heritage in telling the story of the Stonehenge landscape; Maurizio says that aviation heritage pays a central role in Italy’s cultural itineraries, and that ‘English identity has, in Stonehenge and aviation history, two climatic expressions that deserve to be exhibited at the same level of presentation’.

No doubt both Fellows will be pleased to learn that key buildings at RAF Northolt have just been listed at Grade II for the role they played during the Second World War. The buildings comprise a C-type hangar used throughout the war to house Churchill’s personal aircraft in which he flew to many important meetings of the Allied leaders, the Squadron Watch office, which served as the Aircraft Readiness room during the war and was the building from which RAF Northolt’s pilots were scrambled, and the former ‘Z’ sector Operations Block, where the ‘Dowding System’ was first used, the world’s first air-raid early warning system to integrate radar and telecommunications.

Referring to the problem of badgers disturbing churchyard burials at Long Clawson, our Fellow Julian Litten commends to any Fellow faced with a similar problem the use of electronic deterrents that can be used to protect boundaries and dissuade badgers from entering the churchyard as a humane method of control.

Fellow Robert White says that Salon’s report on the public appeal mounted by the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle in the hope of securing the Crosby Garrett helmet understated the success of the fundraising campaign and the generosity of donors. ‘I understand from Hilary Wade, Director of the Museum, that in the three weeks available to them between Christie’s lifting an embargo on publicity they actually raised offers and pledges of over £1.9m towards the purchase of the helmet, through national grant giving organisations such as the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund, as well as £170,000 from the local appeal. The latter included contributions raised by fund-raising activities in primary and secondary schools as well as contributions from individuals and businesses. They were supported by an anonymous benefactor who offered to match any local fundraising by individuals on a £1 for a £1 basis, up to £50,000.

‘Because of the tremendous generosity of supporters Tullie House was therefore able to bid up to £1.7m for the helmet. They had also offered the vendors a private treaty sale. I understand the campaign was also actively supported by the local MPs; hopefully this will be followed by their active support for a revision of the Treasure Act.’

Fellow Jude Plouviez pointed out that Salon has twice now said that ‘the helmet would have been covered [by the Treasure Act] if it had been part of a hoard’, which is not in fact the case. ‘Roman base metal hoards are not currently Treasure’, Jude writes. ‘Only prehistoric hoards qualify. Thus, for example, the Icklingham temple bronzes, which were looted in the 1980s, would not have qualified as Treasure today, and this has been a problem with several interesting and significant groups of recent finds. I believe that making Roman base-metal groups of objects Treasure (and perhaps also Anglo-Saxon groups, which would include well-defined grave groups) would be a valuable next step in the reform of the Treasure Act’, she says.

Catherine Johns is less certain, however, that it would be a good idea to revise the Treasure Act in the ways that have been proposed by members of the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group. Stressing that she is ‘expressing a purely personal view here, not one that reflects the opinions of any of my colleagues in institutions with which I am or have been connected’, she says she believes that the current Act ‘strikes a delicate balance between the interests of the national heritage and the interests of individuals who love owning antiquities and who feel that they have a right to retain most of their finds and make small private collections.’

Catherine is as disappointed as we all are by the fact that the Crosby Garrett helmet was not offered by the finder to the Tullie House Museum, and that it was restored and reconstructed before it could be fully studied. It is a natural reaction to think ‘we should therefore amend the Treasure Act to cover a case like this’. But extending the Act could increase the level of non-declaration and illicit trading and export, as has been demonstrated in countries that have a blanket antiquities law. ‘At least in the case of the Crosby Garrett helmet we have been told where it came from, and archaeologists have had the chance to examine it, albeit briefly so far. It did not suddenly crop up in a dealer’s catalogue in Munich or Geneva or New York labelled “unprovenanced” or “from an old collection”.

‘Our aim, surely, should be to do everything possible to ensure that finds are shown to professionals as a matter of course, and that their finders are truthful about findspots, continuing with the non-statutory approach of praising and thanking finders for full and prompt disclosure of their finds, and showing how this leads to much more information about these finds being obtained than was the case in the past.’

Events

11 November 2010, Words about Things: Fellow Nigel Llewellyn, Head of Research, Tate, is guest lecturer at this event hosted by the UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage at 6pm in the Sir David Davies Lecture Theatre, UCL Roberts Building, Torrington Place, London WC1E 7JE.

Professor Llewellyn will ask ‘how do art historians write about the physical and material properties and qualities of the works of art that they identify, classify, describe and analyse? What does the language they use tell us about their skills, interests and prejudices? What does it tell us or not tell us about the objects themselves, their constituents, their histories and the way that their fabric and appearance has changed over time? The expression of different views about the importance (or unimportance) of “the physical” and “the material” help us distinguish the competing tribes within the field — the curators, the theorists, the conservators, the connoisseurs, the historians and the practitioner-critics.’ Exploring case studies from many different periods and cultures and taking examples from a broad range of visual media, Professor Llewellyn will reflect on his own experience of working as an art historian in both the academic and museum sectors.

Please email Bethia Tyler, the Centre for Sustainable Heritage Administrator, if you would like to attend.

Books by Fellows

In his foreword to The Story of Silbury Hill (ISBN: 9781848020467; English Heritage) our Honorary Fellow Sir David Attenborough writes about the development of archaeology on TV, from early quiz shows to documentaries and then to the ultimate in archaeological broadcasting, the live excavation, filmed as it happens. The media whipped up a frenzy of expectation when Silbury Hill was excavated in 1968, then judged the whole exercise ‘a failure’ because no gold was found at the heart of the mound. Far from being a failure, Sir David argues, ‘millions of people, for the first time, had watched an excavation in detail as it proceeded and had been able to understand the complex techniques of modern archaeology’.

In a real sense that televised excavation mirrors what we are now encouraged to believe was the intention of those who constructed Silbury Hill. Fellows Jim Leary and David Field, authors of the new book, argue that it was the process of construction that mattered, not the final outcome. Detailed analysis of the composition of the hill has revealed that those who constructed the mound were experimenting with different combinations of chalk, stones, gravel and antler picks, which were consistently used in an ordered fashion and combined in different ways to yield discrete patterns, textures and colours as the hill was slowly modified over a period of 100 years, involving some three generations, between 2400 and 2300 BC.

Silbury Hill is thus not architecture, in the sense that it was built to a preconceived design, remaining, like Gaudi’s Sagrada Família, unfinished until the day that the final piece was put in place. Instead, in common with other monuments of the Neolithic, such as long barrows, causewayed enclosures and henges, Silbury Hill has to be thought of as an activity whose purpose and outcome changed and developed over time.

This is a difficult concept for many of us to grasp — we instinctively want a single, simple explanation, like the TV viewers who hoped that Silbury Hill might cover the rich Sutton Hoo-like burial of a powerful leader. The authors indeed refer to examples of the new ‘folklore’ that has emerged in recent years, reverencing the mound as a symbolic pregnancy at the site of life-giving springs. In reality, the construction of Silbury Hill is not that far remote from the constant digging up and re-arrangement of bones and continual renewal of chalk floors at Çatalhöyük. The story of Silbury Hill, so vividly told in this book, leaves one wondering how many other human innovations — language, art, tool making, pottery making, cooking and weaving, plant and animal domestication — are the result not of one person’s eureka moment, but of repetitive activity carried out over many years with slight modification.

As well as raising this intriguing possibility and planting new ideas in the reader’s mind, this attractive and mould-breaking book is packed with pictures that enrich the text, including stylish reconstruction drawings and effective use of colour for interpreting section drawings — not to mention many atmospheric views of the hill, such as David Inshaw’s painting, Silbury Hill by Moonlight, used as the cover image.

You could read social and political messages into the current thinking about Silbury Hill as a community construction: arguments that might equally favour current Conservative ‘Big Society’ thinking, or Labour’s traditional emphasis on egalitarianism and co-operative endeavour. One archaeologist who has recently dared to draw explicit lessons for contemporary society from the evidence of past lifestyles is our Fellow Caroline Wickham-Jones, whose Fear of Farming (ISBN: 9781905119325; Windgather Press) traces the origins of many of the planet’s pressing environmental problems to the changes that took place at the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer lifestyles, basing her analysis on an account of the landscape of the British Isles during the 500-year period from 4500 to 4000 BC.

Caroline’s book is a must read for anyone who wants a clear summary of our latest thinking about the prehistory of the British Isles, drawing on the research of numerous Fellows and on ethnographic parallels. She tends to be sunnily optimistic about the Mesolithic and though admitting that we cannot get back there and should not over-romanticise, she describes a demi-paradise in which the wild woods are full of food, a natural harvest that was irremediably lost when the landscape was cleared for crops during the Neolithic. She also gives a balanced account of the pros and cons of farming and of the great changes that settlement and domestication brought about, leading to the development of society as we know it today.

Where this book then departs from normal archaeological narrative is in the brave attempt to connect hunter-gatherer lifestyles with today’s environmental politics and issues relating to sustainability. This is a difficult exercise, because to persuade people to learn lessons from the past, such as the idea of greater self-sufficiency, depends on the assumption that people are thoughtful, that they are prepared to scrutinise their own lifestyles, and that they are prepared to modify their behaviour in the light of knowledge. Most people are more instinctive than that and politicians, even when they are not acting out of corrupt or self-interested motives, tend to side with the majority who want gratification today without thought for the future of the planet.

Caroline is probably writing for the converted: those who already listen to Radio 4’s ‘Costing the Earth’, cycle or walk rather than using the car, grow their own food on allotments, and eat foods that are in season (even if the resulting diet is a bit restricted and repetitive) rather than demanding asparagus and strawberries in the depths of winter. Sadly, the percentage of the planet’s population prepared to give something up for the planet, to modify their consumption, to think about their carbon footprint, to strive for zero waste and to reject rampant consumerism is probably very small. All the same, Caroline might just add one or two to their number having written such a clear and readable book on British prehistory, and one that deserves to be widely read as a primer on the subject.

From the politics of today we move on to the politics of the Middle Ages as represented by The Medieval Castles of Wales, the subject of the latest book from our Fellow John Kenyon (ISBN: 9780708321805; University of Wales Press). The book begins with an account of the development of castle architecture in Britain as a whole and of the distinctively Welsh character of the castles that he then describes in five regional chapters, ending with a chapter on post-medieval castle-like structures. John is honest enough to admit that he doesn’t approve of the likes of Castell Coch or Cyfarthfa Castle, because ‘there is something cold and clinical about the pastiche’. Instead, he maintains that ‘a modern and confident Wales can be proud of its medieval heritage, even if the country’s most Welsh town has to suffer having Edward I’s brooding citadel dominating its streets’. No castle lover should visit Wales without this book: you will not find such up-to-date accounts of the history, development and phasing of the castles accessible to the public in Wales, complete with phased plans of the most significant, anywhere else in a single pocket-sized volume.

When Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle died earlier this year, Salon’s editor was able to write an appreciation of her life and work by drawing on a forthcoming Festschrift that has now been published in the BAR British Series, called Intersections: the Archaeology and History of Christianity in England 400—1200; Papers in honour of Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle (ISBN: 9781407305400; Archaeopress BAR 505), edited by Fellows Martin Henig and Nigel Ramsay with contributions, help and funding from scores of Fellows and a commendation from our Royal Fellow, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who studied archaeology with Birthe at the University of Århus and with Martin at Cambridge, and who says that they ‘richly deserve this tribute’.

The title ‘Intersections’ refers to the work of the Biddles in those areas where archaeology and history meet. Many of the papers show that historical sources are essential for the understanding of the results of archaeological excavation, and vice versa. This approach is exemplified, for example, by our Fellow Kenneth Painter’s exposition of the ways in which the Roman silver jug decorated with Biblical scenes from the treasure found at Traprain Law might have been used, drawing on a huge range of historical references to silver vessels in both secular and religious contexts in late Antiquity; or by Fellow Christopher Brooke’s ‘Reflections on tithes and the formation of parishes’, in which he asks what we can learn from medieval laws governing tithes and what the documents in which wealthy landowners grant land for the endowment of churches can tell us about the period between the tenth and twelfth centuries in England when the landscape was transformed by the provision of parish churches and clergy, supported by such tythes and donations, in just about every tiny settlement in the land.

Fellow Tim Clough, former Curator of the Rutland County Museum and Oakham Castle, and the Rutland Local History and Record Society’s Honorary Editor, has written a book that looks at land ownership at a much later date: Who Owned Rutland in 1873? (Rutland Local History and Record Society) is a transcription of the 564 entries in the Rutland section of survey instituted by Parliament known as the Return of Owners of Land in England and Wales 1873. Commissioned at a time of serious social concern that too much land was in the hands of too few landowners, the survey records all owners of more than one acre of land, their addresses, the extent of their lands and the estimated rental value.

‘Even though the Return records details of only some 2.5 per cent of the county’s total population at the time, it affords a fascinating view of the landowning element of its society, and can be used alongside other sources, such as Census returns, trade directories and parish records, to build up the wider picture’, Tim says. In the case of Rutland, four principal landowners owned over half the county. Twelve others owned more than 1,000 acres, leaving just 25 per cent of the county divided between the remaining 1,400 owners, of whom 861 had less than 1 acre and so do not appear individually.’ For those who love a mystery, Tim also notes an unexplained connection between a group of minor landowners with strong associations with Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire who apparently held small plots of land in Whissendine.

Vacancies

Conservation Research Fellowship: the Clothworkers’ Foundation
A grant of up to £80,000, over two years, is available to a UK institution to enable an experienced conservator (employed by that institution) to pursue a research project. During their sabbatical their post will be covered by an externally recruited junior conservator. The deadline for applications is 4 March 2011 and there are further details on the website of the Clothworkers’ Foundation.