Salon Archive

Issue: 268

The Society of Antiquaries of London’s Online Newsletter (Salon) is a fortnightly digest of news from the heritage sector, focusing especially on the Society and its Fellows and the contribution that they make to public life through their many and varied activities. Like the intellectual salons of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, it aims to amuse and to stimulate debate as well as to inform. A copy of Salon’s editorial policy can be found on the Society’s website and feedback should be addressed to the Editor, Christopher Catling.

New Year Honours 2012

Our warmest congratulations to those Fellows whose achievements have been recognised in the 2012 New Year Honours List.

Knights Bachelor: Diarmaid Ninian John MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, University of Oxford, for services to scholarship; Paul Ruddock, Philanthropist, for services to the arts.

CBE: Andrew Burnett, Deputy Director, British Museum, for services to the British Museum and numismatics.

OBE: Paul Bidwell, Archaeologist, for services to heritage.

Ten years of Salon

Welcome to the tenth anniversary issue of Salon — an opportunity not for editorial self-indulgence, but rather for reflecting on the changes that Salon has seen over the last ten years.

Salon’s editor will forever be grateful to Dai Morgan Evans, then our General Secretary, and Rosemary Cramp, then our President, for supporting the idea of an online newsletter for Fellows back in 2001, long before such communications were commonplace. Both saw the need to remedy the fact that a significant number of Fellows had little contact with the Society except for an annual subscription demand and a journal. Postage costs meant that a printed newsletter was out of the question, so Dai suggested experimenting with ‘the new email service’ that people were beginning to use in preference to telephone calls and letters.

At that stage, only 40 per cent of the Fellowship admitted to having an email address (compared to almost 100 per cent today) and many had very slow dial-up connections and very basic email software. This meant that Salon had to be small and easily downloadable. Even so, publishing and distributing Salon has always been a technological challenge: not for our Society the flashy and expensive content management systems that are used by commercial organisations for sending out their marketing communications; we have a cheap massmail system, which is not only temperamental (hence those exclamation marks that appear at random in the text, or the issues of Salon that end up entirely in italic script, or those that simply end mid-stream): it also resembles the systems used by spammers the world over for spreading their pernicious messages; consequently, all sorts of methods have had to be devised to ensure that Salon gets through to its intended recipients — and that is before automated scanning systems reject Salon on the basis of its ‘inappropriate language content’ (such grossly offensive words, for example, as ‘nude’).

Those are but minor niggles compared to the warm response to Salon from Fellows and the steady stream of contributions, suggesting that Salon was meeting a need. The newsletter played a vital role in spreading information in the early days of heritage advocacy, when the sector was beginning to wake up to the need to lobby actively if it wanted a more benign financial and public policy framework within which to operate. Salon’s launch coincided with the formation of the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, with the appointment by English Heritage of its first Director of Public Affairs and the publication of such advocacy documents as ‘Power of Place’, with the formation of Heritage Link (now the Heritage Alliance), of the group that became The Archaeology Forum and of the Standing Conference of National Museum Directors. It also saw the formation of the Historic Environment Forum, and its annual publication of the ‘Heritage Counts’ audit, using a range of annual indicators to assess how well the sector was performing, and of the very valuable investment made by English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund in research to find ways of demonstrating to politicians, civil servants and policy makers just how valuable heritage is to society.

All of these movements were reported in early issues of Salon, a task made easier by the fact that Salon’s editor was deeply involved in most of these activities, and served for three years as the founder Director of Heritage Link, operating from Burlington House (again thanks to the support that Dai Morgan Evans and Rosemary Cramp gave to the fledgling organisation, which has become a powerful advocate for the voluntary heritage sector). This meant that for one mad eighteen-month period in 2003/4, Salon’s editor produced a newsletter every week, alternating Salon and Heritage Link Update, and trying not to repeat the same stories!

But the effort was worth it: Salon began to spread virally, passed on by Fellows to friends, quoted in both Houses of Parliament and from cathedral pulpits, in Private Eye, The Oldie, Country Life and in scores of local and national society magazines, newsletters, journals and websites. This account would be unbalanced if it did not also admit that Salon was regularly condemned for some of its more ‘extreme’ views (in fact, simply an amplification of the Society’s policies on, for example, the Stonehenge road tunnel — policies with which Salon’s editor did not necessarily agree, while being condemned as the messenger). Salon’s editor is again greatly indebted to Council for responding, on several occasions in the last ten years, to demands for the closure of the newsletter by saying ‘we are content that it does a good and necessary job’.

Today’s Salon reflects the biggest change that has occurred within the last ten years: it began as a newsletter that reported on heritage issues in general, but now there are scores of websites and newsletters offering such information. Instead, Salon has evolved as a newsletter that focuses on Fellows and their activities. And there is no shortage of such material: the Society’s Fellows around the world are all super-achievers, running the world’s top museums and galleries, presenting or participating in TV and radio programmes (and films) literally every day of the week, filling the opinion and review columns of our leading national papers, curating sell-out exhibitions, conducting ground-breaking research, teaching in and running universities, colleges and schools, caring for parishes and dioceses, leading national heritage agencies and national and local heritage societies and writing and publishing books — not just within the core antiquarian discipline, but also on every subject from theology to poetry and fiction, from science to fairy stories and folklore.

It is this rich mixture of creative activity, much of it selfless and undertaken without thought for personal reward (as is clear from the lives of former Fellows celebrated in the obituaries that form such a valued part of Salon), that sums up our most idiosyncratic Society. Salon’s editor hopes to be here for at least another ten years to continue to reflect that and, above all, to play a part in promoting the core values that are intrinsic to our Society and to the lives and activities of our Fellows.

The Ince Blundell Marbles

Having said that, there are sad occasions when Fellows do disagree, and a case in point is represented by the letter that was published in the Daily Telegraph on New Year’s Eve 2011, signed by the thirty-five members of the Society of Dilettanti, of whom a fair number are also Fellows of our Society. In that letter they call on another Fellow, Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, to reconsider urgently the advice that the agency has given to Sefton Council raising no objections to an application to remove 102 pieces of classical sculpture that are displayed in niches in the Pantheon and the Garden Temple, located in the grounds of Ince Blundell Hall, Merseyside.

The letter explains that the Garden Temple and the Pantheon were built (in 1775 and 1802—10 respectively) specifically to display the sculptures, which were bought from various Italian sources, including the owners of the Villa d’Este and the Villa Mattei, by the eighteenth-century connoisseur, Henry Blundell (1724—1810). Not only are the sculptures themselves of great importance, they also represent ‘that most rare thing — an intact collection of classical sculpture in its original eighteenth-century setting’.

The letter states that for English Heritage to allow the sculptures to be removed would be ‘in violation of its duty to ensure that historic fixtures and fittings are not removed from listed buildings’. Among the reasons given as a justification for their removal are ‘conservation problems and the danger of vandalism’, but the Dilettanti members say ‘as far as we are aware, no attempt has been made to establish the cost of conservation in situ or to explore other ways of keeping them in their original setting’. They call on English Heritage and Sefton Council to ‘work with interested bodies, including this society, to find a way of keeping this collection intact’.

For background to the Ince Blundell Marbles, we can turn to the January 2012 issue of the Art Newspaper, whose report says that the Augustinian nuns who own and run Ince Blundell Hall as a nursing home have been ‘in discussions with’ an independent dealer about selling the sculptures since last summer. The Art Newspaper also says that English Heritage has declined to comment on the advice it gave to Sefton Council in response to the application, but apparently its support for the sculptures’ removal was conditional upon the ‘attainment of the highest standards of recording and conservation and the replacement of the sculptures with replicas of the highest standard in their original positions’.

Fellow and architectural historian John Harris is quoted as saying that ‘English Heritage is providing a precedent for anyone with historical fixtures in their house to apply to have them removed and sold. This is one of the most disgraceful moves by English Heritage in memory and it’s been done entirely in ignorance.’ Fellow Tim Knox, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum, added: ‘What is to stop every church or country house from saying that their monuments are in danger of being vandalised and therefore, in the interests of preservation, should be removed and sold? None of us wants to be horrid to the nuns, but their objectives are not in line with running a Grade II-listed building.’

The legal ownership of the marbles remains a potential barrier to their removal and sale. According to John Harris, Henry Blundell’s descendant, Joseph Weld, donated Blundell’s ‘entire collection’ to what is now the National Museums Liverpool. Arguably that collection consists of the 102 sculptures at Ince Blundell Hall as well as the 400 further works that went to the museum in 1957: if so, the Hall sculptures may well belong to the National Museums Liverpool, rather than to the Augustinian Canonesses of the Mercy of Jesus.

Forthcoming meetings

The provisional meetings programme for January to July 2012 can be seen on the Society’s website.

26 January 2012: ‘The printing house of the Strawberry Hill Press: an account, an iconography and a survival’, by Stephen Clarke FSA
Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill Press is the most celebrated and best documented of the early English private presses. It is unique for its longevity and the significance of a number of its productions, and is also important for its role in the circulation of Walpole’s writings, and for the way in which it was presented in the theatre that was Strawberry Hill. A survey of the holdings of the Lewis Walpole Library, together with other material from private and public collections in England and America, has revealed a surprising richness of unpublished images. Some of these enable us to see and analyse the interior of the Printing House, and learn about the housing and equipping of Walpole’s Press. They also provide a framework for a study of its unfamiliar afterlife following Walpole’s death. These reveal the surprising (and previously completely unknown) fact that a large part of the printing house still survives.

2 February 2012: ‘The Roman legionary fortress at Caerleon: recent research and new discoveries’, by Peter Guest FSA, Andrew Gardner and Tim Young FSA
Caerleon, the base of Legio Secunda Augusta, one of the four legions that invaded Britain in AD 43, has been the focus of intensive study since the first antiquarian explorations conducted by John Edward Lee and Octavius Morgan (both Fellows of this Society) in the nineteenth century. As a result Caerleon is one of the best-known legionary fortresses of the Roman Empire, and yet, as this paper will demonstrate, it is still capable of revealing much that is new and unexpected. This paper will present a summary of the results of new research carried out since 2006, including extensive geophysical surveys inside and beyond the fortress walls, a major excavation of the legionary store-building in Priory Field, and the discovery of a previously unknown suburb of monumental buildings between the amphitheatre and the River Usk.

Burlington House lecture, 17 January 2012

Our Fellow Jon Cotton, formerly Curator of Prehistory at the Museum of London, will give a talk called ‘Ballast-heavers and battle axes: the “Golden Age” of archaeological finds from the Thames’, on 17 January 2012 at the Geological Society (tea at 5.30pm, lecture 6pm, reception 7pm; free admission by ticket only, available from the Geological Society Conference Office. The great haul of finds from the Thames includes some of the most iconic objects from British prehistory such as the Battersea shield, the Waterloo Bridge helmet and the Kew tankard. Less well known is the story behind their recovery, which, like any good whodunit, involves fallible heroes, intricate sub-plots and (maybe) a satisfying conclusion.

Making History: Antiquaries in Britain opening lecture 1 February 2012

Our President Maurice Howard will give a lecture on ‘Antiquaries and the British Past: locating and recording buildings’ to mark the opening of our Making History exhibition at the Yale Centre for British Art, in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, at 5.30pm on 1 February 2012. There will be further lectures and lunchtime talks for the duration of the exhibition, which ends on 27 May 21012. Further details can be found on the ‘Calendar’ pages of the Yale Centre for British Art's website.

Deep-sea fish found in East Timor cave

Fellow Susan O’Connor of the Australian National University has found evidence that the residents of an East Timor cave possessed the skills to catch fast-swimming pelagic (or deep-sea) fish species, such as shark and tuna, 42,000 years ago. Reporting in the journal Science, O’Connor’s team says they have found 38,000 fish bones from 2,843 individual fish dating, as well as a fishhook fragment made from a mollusc shell.

The finds help to support the idea that the early humans who migrated to south-east Asia and Australia 50,000 years ago had sophisticated boat-building skills. Even though sea levels were significantly lower at the time, the colonisation of Australia and nearby islands would still have required sea crossings of at least 30km. Whether early migrants could build boats or whether they simply drifted on logs or crudely made rafts, is still a matter of fierce debate.

Professor O’Connor admits to having been one of the sceptics herself at one time, simply because direct evidence for early boat-building skills has been lacking: the earliest surviving boats are a mere 10,000 years old, and no bones from deep-water fish have previously been found that are more than 20,000 years old. She now believes that the finds from the cave indicate that prehistoric migrants had high-level maritime skills and, by implication, the technology needed to make the sea crossings to reach Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Excavations halted by Syrian upheavals

Left: the Zalabiyeh fortress, built to control a key trading route on the Euphrates, and one of hundreds of sites that are threatened by the Halabiyeh dam project. Photograph courtesy of Emma Loosley, FSA

Several international teams working to record sites threatened by the Halabiyeh hydropower scheme have been forced to pull out of Syria because the town where they were based, Deir ez Zor, has seen some of the worst of the violence in recent unrest. Syrian troops have mounted several attacks on the town, which is seen as a stronghold of those opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Archaeologists fear that many important and little-explored sites will now be lost to flood waters if the Halabiyeh dam is completed on schedule and no more time is allowed for excavation. Opposition to the construction of the dam from cultural and environmental experts has been ignored by the Syrian authorities so far. Water levels will rise by 14m when the dam is complete, drowning the many Bronze Age, Roman and Byzantine sites lining the banks of the River Euphrates.

One of those forced to stop work was our Fellow Dr Emma Loosley, from the University of Manchester, whose team was working under licence from Syria’s Department of Antiquities to excavate Zalabiyeh, a Byzantine-era fortress that once controlled a vital trading route at the narrowest point in the Euphrates. The fortress, Emma said, provides a perfect time capsule of day-to-day life at the end of the Byzantine era and at the start of early Muslim expansion across what is now the Arab world. The whole area, she said ‘contains evidence of continuous human settlement through many civilisations including the Assyrian, Roman, Arab — it is an astonishing area to work in and one of the most important in the world.’

Dappled horses in cave art

Our Fellow Professor Terry O’Connor, from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology, is a member of the team that recently published evidence that the dappled horses of Palaeolithic cave paintings really did exist at the time, and are not purely imaginary — divine or mythological horses, perhaps, or the result of hallucinatory drug use. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Terry O’Connor’s team reports that six out of the thirty-one specimens of ancient horse DNA that they recently studied from across Europe had the gene group that causes modern horses to have white and black spots. Of the remainder, eighteen horses had the genes for bay coats and seven for black.

Horses were among the most abundant large mammals roaming Eurasia 25,000 years ago, and they make up a third of all the animals depicted in European cave paintings from this era. The degree of realism in cave paintings is a much-debated subject; Terry says ‘our research removes the need for any symbolic explanation of the horses. People drew what they saw, and that gives us greater confidence in understanding Palaeolithic depictions of other species as naturalistic illustrations.’

Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery

The glamorous world of Hollywood does not normally feature in the affairs of our Society, though we are linked to Elizabeth Taylor by a pearl that has just been sold at auction for the world record price of US $11,842,500. The pearl, known as La Peregrina (‘The Wanderer’), is worn by Mary I, Queen of England, in the portrait by Hans Eworth that hangs in our meeting room. Although the precise facts are elusive and disputed, it is said that Philip II of Spain gave it to Mary as an engagement present and that it was returned to Philip on Mary’s death, forming part of the crown jewels of Spain until Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother) took it to France in 1808. His nephew, Louis-Napoléon, later Emperor Napoleon III, sold it to James Hamilton, Marquess and later Duke of Abercorn, and the Hamilton family sold it at auction at Sotheby’s in London in 1969, at which point Richard Burton purchased it for US $37,000 as a Valentine’s Day gift for Elizabeth Taylor.

La Peregrina is one of the largest symmetrical pear-shaped pearls in the world and being so heavy it was prone to falling out of its necklace setting until it was drilled in 1913 in order to attach it firmly to a chain. Prior to that it was nearly lost twice when worn by Louisa, Marchioness of Abercorn, in a sofa in Windsor Castle and during a ball at Buckingham Palace. Elizabeth Taylor records in her book My Love Affair with Jewellery that Burton was ‘in one of his Welsh moods, very dark, so I knew not to be demonstrative’ on the day she received it, but that she really wanted ‘to scream with joy’. Burton ‘loved the pearl — anything historic was important to him’, so when she was unable to find the pearl on its delicate chain and thought it had been lost again, she expected that ‘he would kill me’. Fortunately, she spotted her dog chewing something, and realised it was the pearl, which emerged unscathed. The Burtons subsequently bought another Hans Eworth portrait of Mary I wearing the pearl, but then donated the painting to the National Portrait Gallery.

A white knight for the Wedgwood Museum

A white knight appears to have come to the rescue of Stoke on Trent’s world-renowned Wedgwood Museum after judges ruled in mid-December that the collection would have to be sold in order to pay off the creditors of Waterford Wedgwood Potteries. John Caudwell, the billionaire businessman who was born in Stoke on Trent, has said that he is prepared to intervene financially to save the Wedgwood Museum’s collection. ‘I passionately believe that the collection should remain intact and in place, and available for public viewing’, he said.

In mid-December, judges ruled that the necessary legal steps had not been taken by the museum to separate the collection from the assets of the company, and thus in law the collection would have to be sold. The collection includes the archive of the firm’s founder, Josiah Wedgwood, as well as a historic collection of china and paintings by Stubbs, Romney and Reynolds.

John Caudwell has a track record of philanthropy, having set up the Caudwell Children’s Charity to help children with muscular dystrophy or spina bifida. Earlier this year he made a ‘significant six-figure donation’ to The Prince’s Regeneration Trust to safeguard Burslem’s Middleport Pottery, the last working Victorian pottery in the UK.

Plans for Burlington Arcade watered down

Controversial proposals for the refurbishment of the Society’s neighbour, the Burlington Arcade, have been withdrawn by the owners or watered down by Westminster Council in what campaigners have described as a ‘moral victory’. More than 500 individual responses had been sent to the council, all but one of which opposed the planned changes. Prior to the council’s meeting, the owners withdrew their plans for art installations by Anthony Gormley and for mosaic marble flooring. The council rejected their revised plan for paving the arcade floor in neutral-coloured stone but approved applications to repaint some areas in off-white (deemed to be in keeping with the original colour of the Georgian building) and to incorporate concealed uplighting (judged to be of at least as much merit as the existing lighting design, which is not original).

No application was made to amalgamate shops to create a smaller number of large single units, something that would require listed building consent. Silver dealer Daniel Bexfield, who has led the campaign of opposition to the plans, declared himself ‘absolutely delighted’ with the results.

Stonehenge bluestones: natural or human transport?

Left: Craig Rhos-y-felin, viewed from the north east looking south west. Photo courtesy of Rob Ixer, FSA

In an important new paper published in the journal Archaeology in Wales, our Fellows Rob Ixer, of Leicester University, and Richard Bevins, of Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, report on the latest stage in their work to pin down the precise origin of the rhyolitic bluestones that formed the first stone circle at Stonehenge. Having already published a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggesting that the crags of the Pont Saeson area of Pembrokeshire (on the northern flank of the Preseli hills, some 6.5km from Newport) were the likely source, they have now refined their chemical and petrographical techniques to the extent that they have been able to identify a specific outcrop as the probable quarry site.

‘We assumed that we might be able to pin down the source to an area of several hundreds of square metres’, Rob Ixer said, ‘but we can now pin it down unequivocally to an area of a few square metres, namely to a small single outcrop or couple of outcrops at Craig Rhos-y-felin’. The outcrop is some 70m long and has many tall, narrow slabs up to 2m high as the dominant feature, splitting off from the parent rock in blocks that are reminiscent of the Stonehenge bluestones.

The site was found by comparing the chemical properties of stone taken from outcrops in Wales and the west of England with the distinctive bluestone debitage (the waste created by shaping and dressing the stones) excavated in 1947 and subsequently stored in a box at Salisbury Museum. ‘I have always wanted’, Rob Ixer told our Fellow Norman Hammond, Archaeological Correspondent of The Times, ‘ to tell this story under the tabloid heading “Old shoebox held key to Stonehenge mystery”.’

Drs Ixer and Bevins also say that their recent work is tipping the balance in the debate about whether or not the stones are glacial erratics. In the ‘nature versus human transport debate’, the higher the number of stones that can be demonstrated to have come from one site, and not from any other, the more likely it is that human agency accounts for their quarrying and transport to Stonehenge. Vice versa, the use of different rock types from disparate parts of Wales to create the first stone circle at Stonehenge would support the thesis that the stones were carried by natural means, such as the Irish Sea Glacier.

Rob Ixer told Current Archaeology magazine that ‘this is the first time that any lithics from Stonehenge have been so clearly provenanced but it will not be the last’. Meanwhile, the hunt continues for the source of four standing Stonehenge orthostats (SH38, SH40, SH46 and SH48) that have been tested and found not to have any petrographical match for any rhyolitic lithology at Pont Saeson — so the story of how and from where the bluestones got to Stonehenge still has some way to run.

News of Fellows

Fellow Patrick Greene (pictured left), Museum Victoria Chief Executive Officer, has been appointed the new Chair of the Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD). CAMD brings together the leaders of the major national, state and regional museums in Australia and New Zealand — a total of twenty-one museums operating in sixty-seven locations. Dr Greene was elected by his peers at the CAMD annual general meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand. His predecessor as Chair, Margaret Anderson, said that ‘Dr Greene is a highly respected figure in the museum world, both in Australia and internationally, and will bring a wealth of experience to the position’.

In addition to this appointment, Dr Greene was also recently announced as CEO of the Year at the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) Awards. The AHRI Awards recognise outstanding individuals and organisations that have demonstrated excellence in the contributions they have made to their business, as well as to the HR profession.

Dr Greene completed his Leeds University PhD in Archaeology in 1986, was created an OBE in 1991 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Salford University in 1997. Dr Greene took up the position of CEO of Museum Victoria in August 2001. Under his management, Museum Victoria has become Australia’s largest museums organisation, a major cultural tourist destination and a source of academic authority.

Fellow John Burton has announced his retirement from the post of Surveyor of the Fabric at Westminster Abbey. The writer, broadcaster and conservation architect Ptolemy Dean has been appointed as his successor, in a line that includes Sir Christopher Wren (Surveyor from 1698 to 1723), Nicholas Hawksmoor (1723—36), James Wyatt (1776—1813) and Sir George Gilbert Scott (1849—78).

Feedback

‘Jane Austen: the Unseen Portrait’ was broadcast on BBC2 on Boxing Day and as Salon anticipated, the identity of the church tower in the portrait proved to be the decisive cue in identifying where and when the portrait might have been made. Fellow Warwick Rodwell instantly recognised the church tower as the north face of the porch-tower of St Margaret’s Church, Westminster. ‘If the view from the window was true to life’, says Warwick, ‘we would see Westminster Hall to the left of the tower, but evidently the artist wished to introduce some sky, and so the palace was liquidated!’

Many art historians were invited to comment on the portrait during the course of the programme and not all of them convinced that the picture depicted Jane Austen (our Fellow Roy Strong was robustly dismissive, but Fellow Stephen Lloyd was more open-minded). Experts vouched for the fact that the sitter’s clothing was consistent with a date in the second decade of the nineteenth century, as was the chemical composition of the ink and paint, though the graphite on vellum plumbago technique was decidedly old-fashioned, having gone out of favour a century earlier.

Slowly a convincing scenario was built up. This argued that the portrait was the work of Eliza Chute, an acquaintance of the Austen family, who lived in Great George Street, opposite St Margaret's, and who was a gifted amateur painter. It is possible that the portrait dates from the period October to December 1815, when Jane went to London, staying with her brother Henry, to negotiate with John Murray, her new publisher. Her few surviving letters indicate that she had more money than at any time previously in her life and was full of confidence about the future as a published writer. She may well have decided that the time was right for a portrait. Many questions remained unanswered, but most viewers probably ended up convinced that a new Jane Austen portrait has indeed been found.

In response to Salon’s report on ‘Archaeology: the Musical’, based on Fellow Paul Bahn’s book, The Bluffer’s Guide to Archaeology, Fellow and maritime historian Ian Friel writes to say that he too is the author of a musical, co-written with the composer Andrew Fisher, of Southampton University. Called Billy Bow, the musical drama tells the story of Wilhelmina Standing, the daughter of a freed slave, who disguises herself as a man called ‘Billy Bow’ in order to escape her murderous husband, Robert, a Portsmouth inn-keeper. She enlists in the Royal Navy during the closing years of the Napoleonic War with naïve expectations of finding freedom, adventure and riches — instead she enters the harsh and dangerous world of HMS Cormorant.

‘Thanks to funding from the Creative Campus Initiative and the Music Department of the University of Southampton, and the very active collaboration of Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre’, says Ian, ‘we were able to stage Billy Bow in July 2010 as a workshop production with a cast of four professional actors and a supporting chorus of fifteen (mostly music and drama students). It played to enthusiastic sell-out audiences, and we hope to turn it into a full-scale production. Does any Fellow fancy being a theatrical “Angel”?’

Salon 267 omitted to say that Brendan O’Connor was amongst those Fellows of our Society elected to serve on the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland on the occasion of the Anniversary Meeting on 30 November 2011; Brendan performs the essential role of Treasurer.

Another Fellow who should be added to the list of those who Tweet is John Darlington, who has the enviable task of being the National Trust’s Regional Director for North West England, including the Lake District, which may well be designated a World Heritage Cultural Landscape before long: if so, John will no doubt be tweeting about it, as he does about conservation, access, landscape and environment issues.

And on the subject of World Heritage, our Fellow Peter Fowler is not willing to let Fellow Simon Jenkins get away with some of his more provocative statements, quoted in the last issue of Salon, roundly condemning everyone connected with World Heritage in an Evening Standard column. Peter does not share Salon’s relish for Sir Simon’s stylish invective: ‘the use of “muscular prose” often disguises the rattle of an empty vessel’, Peter writes, ‘like Jeremy Clarkson giving a “balanced” assessment of current affairs.’

Peter then goes on to say that ‘after twenty years as a World Heritage adviser, I recently retired after one too many long-haul flights in Economy class and one too many encounters with a loaded Kalashnikov. Of course much was rewarding and enjoyable but I never sensed I was exactly “living it up at some hapless taxpayer’s expense”, given that the fee/expenses throughout this period were of the order of US $100 to $200 per day. I recall along the way working with, not gravy-train freeloaders, but enormously knowledgeable and thoroughly professional colleagues, both full-time staff and part-timers like myself, from UNESCO, ICOMOS, IUCN and many national governments and quangos. I recall committees, individuals in ministries and journalists in particularly intense press conferences all wanting to know whether the “vagrant bourgeoisie” was giving them a brickbat or bouquet; and I especially recall crowds in squares, as recently in Bethlehem, celebrating some aspect of World Heritage. Many people around the world care very much what the experts think, even if such is not the case in London.

‘Of course, much bureaucracy and, nowadays, far too much politicking are involved in the World Heritage process; and the whole concept can justifiably be questioned as we near the thousandth World Heritage Site. But it seemed unfair on a dedicated group of people working around the world on the identification, management and conservation of such sites to allow Sir Simon’s prejudice to pass unchallenged; even though I seriously doubt whether he, like Clarkson, meant his invective to be taken seriously.’

Events

19 January 2012: ‘The Determination of the Public Value of Heritage (and why we have to move beyond visitor numbers as a proxy for value)’, by Paul Jardine, 6.15pm at the JZ Young Lecture Theatre, UCL Anatomy Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT. This is a public lecture hosted by the UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage and all are welcome; please email Bethia Tyler if you wish to attend.

If we do not know what aspects of our heritage people value and how much they value it, how can we take informed decisions about what we do and, increasingly, what we decide not to do? This talk looks at the way of determining the public value of heritage and improving the allocation of resources within the sector both during and following the recession.

For further talks in the guest lecture programme, see the website of the UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage.

25 January 2012: ‘Building the foundations of empire’, by Emily Mann, a Soane Museum Study Group lecture, 6pm for 6:30pm, to be held in the Seminar Room of the Museum, at Number 14, Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Places must be booked in advance by contacting Beth Walker, Head of Education.

John Summerson began Appendix II of Architecture in Britain 1530—1830, headed ‘English Architecture in America’, with the lines: ‘The colonisation by Englishmen of the eastern seaboard of North America, in the seventeenth century, had the effect of transplanting English architecture to the new world’. This talk will offer an overview of architecture in the first century of English expansion in the Atlantic world, and the ways in which English models, practices and strategies were adapted to new conditions, as a fundamental and instrumental part of the process of claiming and maintaining possession of land.

28 January 2012: Early Applied Arts: Textiles, a study day at King’s College London, Strand WC2R 2LS, jointly organised by the Early Textiles Study Group and the Centre for Hellenic Studies, King’s College London, looking at the many new discoveries that have been made concerning textiles and clothing of prehistoric ancient and medieval date. Speakers include Margarita Gleba, of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, on what we learn from early textiles, Lisa Monnas on extant English medieval silks, Jane Bridgeman, of the Central Saint Martin’s School of Art, on teaching the history of early textiles, Elena Phipps, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on textile conservation, Fellow Hero Granger-Taylor on research into early textiles in uk institutions and Bysshe Coffey, of the University of Exeter, on William Morris and early textiles.

Tickets cost £15 including lunch. Further details are on the King’s College London website. Further study days take place on 25 February 2012 dedicated to ceramics and on 31 March 2012 on mosaics.

31 January 2012: ‘Blackheath: the nursery ground of organised sport in the UK’, by Neil Rhind, 5.15pm, Stewart House, Room 273, 32 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DN (adjacent to Senate House).

Our Fellow Neil Rhind is the leading authority on the architectural and social history of Blackheath and Greenwich. In this talk, with the 2012 Olympics in mind, he looks at Blackheath’s remarkable record in the development of sporting activity — golf, cricket, athletics, rugby football and hockey — all stemming from modest private club activity for the well-to-do.

Further papers in the VCH Locality and Region Seminar Programme for 2012 can be viewed on the website of the Institute of Historical Research.

15 and 16 February 2012: ‘Inigo Jones, the Queen’s House and the languages of Stuart culture’, a two-day conference organised by the National Maritime Museum at the Queen’s House, Greenwich.

The Queen’s House in Greenwich, often described as England’s first classical building, is acknowledged to be one of the most significant architectural sites in Britain and an outstanding expression of the cosmopolitan court culture of early Stuart England. The Queen’s House provides both the venue and the central intellectual focus for this conference, which brings together scholars working in a variety of disciplines to discuss the origins, meanings and legacy of the Queen’s House, and to deepen understanding of the cultural languages embodied within its fabric.

Our Fellow Dr Gordon Higgott will give the keynote speech, and themes addressed by papers include Inigo Jones and his collaborators, Inigo Jones and the historiography of English architecture, Jonesian performance: architecture, masques and courtly performance, Jonesian interiors: architecture, painting and the decorative arts and the culture of Catholicism in seventeenth-century England. Further details can be found on the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

22 and 23 February 2012: ‘Digital Past 2012: new technologies in heritage, interpretation and outreach’, hosted by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales at The Pavilion, Llandrindod Wells. Topics range from the use of social media for heritage organisations to the use of digital technologies in commercial archaeology, on archaeological excavations, in field survey work on land and at sea and for visualising archaeological sites. Further details from the conference conference web-page.

23 and 24 March 2012: ‘Gothic Ivory Sculpture: old questions, new directions’. Details of this two-day conference organised by the Gothic Ivories Project and Research Forum at the Courtauld Institute of Art in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum can now be seen online. Speakers include our Fellows Paul Williamson, the V&A’s Keeper of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass, John Lowden, of the Courtauld Institute of Art, and Mark Redknap, of Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales.

Books by Fellows: Perth High Street Archaeological Excavations 1975—7

TAFAC (Tayside and Fife Archaeological Committee) has published the first two of four fascicules reporting on the excavations that took place in 1975—7 on a major site in Perth stretching from the High Street to the medieval town wall. That this internationally important site is now being published in full, following the death in 2002 of Nicholas Bogdan, the original director of the excavations, is due to the efforts of numerous Fellows, led by Tom Beaumont James, the site’s Assistant Director. Tom’s historical essay, relating the High Street site to the more general history of medieval Perth, opens Fascicule 1: Perth High Street Archaeological Excavations 1975—7: the excavations at 75—95 High Street and 5—10 Mill Street (ISBN: 9780956178343; TAFAC).

The report begins with intriguing hints of Perth’s earliest origins: given its position on the west bank of the River Tay at its highest navigable point, just two miles from the Pictish ritual centre and later Scottish coronation site at Scone, it is very likely that the site of Perth was occupied early in the first millennium AD, and there is pottery evidence to suggest a settlement here in the eleventh century. Fragments from ninth- or early tenth-century cross slabs suggest an early church, while the position of the present church and castle in relation to the town pose problems that can only be resolved if you assume that there was an early settlement along the river bank by the late eleventh century that pre-dated the early twelfth-century castle.

It was the construction of that royal castle, one of the earliest to be built in Scotland, that led to the growth of the town, and the proximity to Scone meant that, as Tom puts it ‘many secular and ecclesiastical lords considered it expedient, during the Middle Ages, to have town houses in the burgh’. Indeed, from the twelfth to the late fifteenth century, Perth had some claim to be the de facto capital of Scotland, so often did the king, his court and later his parliaments and general and religious councils meet here.

Against such a background, and given that much of the Perth High Street site excavated in the mid-1970s was waterlogged, it is not surprising that the site was rich in finds: from numerous wattle fences (pictured above left) that have enabled the medieval land divisions to be re-created with some confidence, to stone and timber walls, from which the houses have been reconstructed, and yards with barrel-lined wells, hearths, rubbish-filled middens (from which several intact hens’ eggs were recovered) and dumps of bracken, dung and straw. Much of the evidence relates as much to Perth as a trade centre as a centre for royal administration, with finds that are to do with the processing of hides, horn, wool, linen and salmon for export to the rest of Europe (and the Low Counties, in particular), and for the import of such luxury goods as wine, ivory, silk, fine pottery and religious artefacts.

Fascicule 4 (ISBN: 9780956178350) is called Perth High Street Archaeological Excavations 1975—7: living and working in a medieval Scottish burgh: environmental remains and miscellaneous finds. Still to come are Fascicule 2 (ceramics, metalwork, religious and wooden objects: early 2012) and Fascicule 3 (leather and textiles: mid-2012), and it is these that will contain much of the detail on which this broad outline is based. At £40 for all four substantial volumes plus CDs packed with data tables and further figures and a wallet full of site plans, this represents very good value indeed.

Books by Fellows: Thorps in a Changing Landscape

Thorps in a Changing Landscape (ISBN: 9781902806822; University of Hertfordshire Press), by Paul Cullen, David N Parsons and our Fellow Richard Jones, is a place-names study with a difference, in that it brings archaeological and topographical evidence to bear on the linguistic evidence for our current understanding of the meaning of ‘thorp’ (or ‘throp’ in some parts of England) as a place-name element. The standard explanation says that ‘thorp’ names indicate a ‘secondary settlement’ or ‘dependent hamlet’, subsidiary to more important places with names that include the element ‘ton’, ‘by’ or ‘ham’.

The broad conclusion of this multi-disciplinary study is that the linguistic and archaeological evidence seems to agree in that thorps begin as relatively small and insignificant settlements of rarely more than a dozen building plots arranged along a single street. Where they have survived to be mapped in the nineteenth century, they are still small: it is the rare and exceptional thorp that grows to any status or prosperity. Pottery finds support historical records in dating thorps to the second half of the ninth century, increasing in numbers into the tenth and the first half of the eleventh century.

So what does this growth in thorps in the later pre-Conquest period indicate? In very simple terms (the arguments presented by the authors are much more detailed), thorps are a new settlement type associated with the agricultural revolution of the mid-ninth century onwards that saw a reorganisation of the landscape from numerous small and dispersed farmsteads to nucleated settlements and large open fields, farmed communally. The authors offer several theoretical explanations for thorps as an apparent anomaly in a nucleated landscape: they might represent an interim stage between full dispersal and full nucleation; they might be temporary or seasonal settlements for workers in fields distant from the core settlement; they might be associated with the settling of slaves in the period 850 to 1050 on land that they farmed as tenants and the emergence of the servi casati (landed slaves) class. The authors end by setting out the many questions that remain, but end up convinced that thorps should not be considered marginal in any derogatory sense: they were integral to and active participants in landscape changes that swept the country during this period and helped to revolutionise farming methods and productivity.

Books by Fellows: Running the Roman Home

Fellow Alexandra Croom’s entertaining book, Running the Roman Home (ISBN: 9780752465173; History Press), sets in context all those finds that are familiar from museum displays where they are presented as dissociated objects hallowed and distanced from us by their age but that were originally just humble domestic tools and utensils. Alexandra takes us systematically through the necessities of life, such as water, fuel, cooking, cleaning, lighting, making clothes, disposing of waste and sewage, drawing her evidence for how it was done in the Roman world from archaeological finds, relief carvings, literature, ethnographical parallels and experimental archaeology.

Where more traditional books on everyday life under Roman rule emphasise trips to the baths, the forum, market, theatre or amphitheatre and long lazy banquets, this book, with its statistics on the amount of firewood that needed to be gathered to fuel an oven, the water that needed to be fetched or washing, cooking and cleaning and the hours of labour involved in grinding enough flour for a meal leaves you wondering when anyone had time for anything else.

Books by Fellows: Portrait Jewels

Portrait Jewels: opulence and intimacy from the Medici to the Romanovs (ISBN: 9780500515570; Thames And Hudson, by our Fellow Diana Scarisbrick, is all about a kind of object that is a hybrid between portrait and jewel: that is to say, a painting (for practical purposes, since such jewels were meant to be worn, this is a miniature) set not in a conventional gilt wood and plaster frame but in an almost shrine-like case of gold or silver, lavishly ornamented with gems and all the decorative glitter that the jeweller’s art could devise.

Not only does Diana’s book address that portrait / jewel dichotomy, but also the fact that these jewels tend to favour extremes: on the one hand, they advertise ostentatiously one’s loyalty to a particular courtly figure, be it the tsar of Russia, the king of France or a Stuart king in exile; on the other, they reflect the most private of passions, the most poignant example of which in this book is the miniature that the Prince of Wales (the future George IV) gave to Maria Fitzherbert, the pair of which, depicting Mrs Fitzherbert in miniature, was buried with him ‘close to his heart’.

In his Country Life review of the book, our Fellow Sir Roy Strong describes the book as ‘one of the most beautifully designed publications I have seen for some time … ravishing to look at, a cornucopia of spectacular images’. As well as tracing their history and explaining the often complex symbolism of the jewels and their settings, the book also breaks new ground in the final chapter, in which Diana Scarisbrick looks at the fashion for covering miniatures with ‘portrait diamonds’ from the eighteenth century onwards instead of the crystals of an earlier era. Especially cut for the purpose, such diamonds light up the features of the person depicted and draw the eye towards them, as we see from the examples given in the book of the Duke of Marlborough, Peter the Great and the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II. In the case of that private pair of images exchanged by the Prince of Wales and Mrs Fitzherbert, Diana reveals a deeper symbolism still in the fact that the diamonds covering these came from the two halves of one stone.

Books by Fellows: Bread for the People: the archaeology of mills and milling

Eliot Cecil Curwen (1895—1967), a pioneer in the field of the archaeology of mills and milling, and the person to whom this book is dedicated, wrote in Antiquity in 1937 that this is ‘an immense field of study … and a gap in our knowledge that is crying out to be filled’. The editors of the current volume, our Fellows David Williams and David Peacock, find themselves still having to make the same point: that mill stones, for example, are too often treated as ‘tedious lumps of stone with little significance’. Bread for the People: the archaeology of mills and milling (ISBN: 9781407308487; BAR S2274) proves how wrong that judgement can be with its studies of millstones, quarry sources and extraction techniques and mill design, from ancient Egypt to modern Greece.

A paper by Martin Watts caught the eye of Salon’s editor as an example of how a knowledge of the archaeology of milling can reveal new insights. Having read a paper on Roman milling by Dietwulf Baatz in the Saalburg Jahrbuch, Martin set out to look for similar evidence from Roman Britain. He finally found it in Joan Liversidge’s book, Furniture in Roman Britain (1955), where a length of iron labelled as a ‘Fragment of Iron Stool leg’ (but with a note expressing some doubt about this description) proved to be an iron feed cone, designed to direct grain from a suspended hopper into the eye of the upper millstone.

Books by Fellows: Mougins Museum of Classical Art

Our Fellow Mark Merrony (who also edits the archaeological journal Minerva) has the great good fortune to be the Director of the Mougins Museum of Classical Art, stunningly located in the Vieux Village at Mougins, in the Alpes-Maritimes district of France, about 15 minutes from Canne, 30 from Nice and 10 from Grasse. Mougins was Picasso’s last home and the spectacular views from the medieval house that has been extended to create the museum vie for attention with a choice collection of classical and modern art. The richly illustrated 356-page book, Mougins Museum of Classical Art (ISBN: 9782953935707; Mougins Museum), provides a catalogue to the museum, with sixteen chapters, written by experts in their fields, dealing thematically with different aspects of the collection.

Mark Merrony’s introduction explains that the museum was founded by British investment manager Christian Levett who wanted to share his passion for history and the arts and to give academics the chance to study the works, which include some stunning Roman bonzes, and a large collection of Graeco-Roman militaria, as well as many modern paintings: one theme of the museum is the ways in which classical art has influenced subsequent artists of the calibre of Rubens, Rodin, Picasso and Matisse or such contemporary artists as Antony Gormley.

Hailed as ‘Museum of the Year’ by Apollo magazine’s editorial board (most of whom are Fellows), the Mougins Museum was described thus by our Fellow John Boardman: ‘antiquities are displayed beside choice examples of more recent painting … in juxtapositions that wordlessly elucidate historical and aesthetic relationships. A Picasso drawing of the ancient sculptor in the company of his models and of an ancient demon seems to say it all’.

Books by Fellows: Western Illuminated Manuscripts

The title of Fellow Rowan Watson’s massive new work may give Salon readers a sense of déjà vu: Salon 256 reported on an equally large publication with exactly the same title in June 2011: that was the work of Fellows Paul Binski and Patrick Zutshi, and describes 472 manuscripts in Cambridge University Library. This 1,316-page catalogue concerns the 287 Western Illuminated Manuscripts (ISBN: 9781851776498; V&A Publishing) in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, produced mainly from the second quarter of the eleventh century, mainly European and courtly in origin, but stretching the definition of ‘western’ to include some works from sixteenth- to eighteenth-century Ethiopia and Iran.

Rowan Watson’s introductory essay on the history of this collection points to the invention of colour printing in the nineteenth century as marking the beginning of mass appreciation of illuminated manuscripts, along with major exhibitions mounted by the mid-nineteenth-century design reform movement, of which the V&A was very much part under Henry Coles, that led to a revival of interest in pre-printing-era book production, ornament and illustration. Having created a taste for such work, the V&A then benefited when collectors such as the self-made textile merchant George Reid (c 1841—1910) donated large numbers of works that they had collected during a lifetime of business travel.

Neither should we think of this as a purely medieval art form: the book reveals that Queen Victoria received no fewer than 2,000 illuminated addresses on the occasion of her Jubilee in 1887, and nearly as many again in 1897. While it is unlikely that Queen Elizabeth II will receive as many in her Diamond Jubilee year, the art is still alive, and this catalogue includes fine examples of the relatively recent illuminations that accompany grants of arms and patents of nobility.

The majority of the 1,200 illustrations in the catalogue are, though, of masterpieces of medieval composition and design, in which some of the most inventive and exuberant detail is to be found in the marginal decorations — teeming with scenes from everyday life, botanical illustration, real and imaginary birds and beasts, hidden jokes for the eyes of the few now available for all to see in this three-volume feast for the eye and mind.

Books by Fellows: Normandy and its Neighbours 900—1250

Edited by David Crouch and our Fellow Kathleen Thompson, Normandy and its Neighbours 900—1250 (ISBN: 9782503520629; Brepols) is a Festschrift for our Fellow David Bates, who has devoted his academic career to studying the relationship between Normandy and England and the outcome of that most familiar of events in English history, the Norman Conquest — but placing that event in a much broader European context, crossing national and linguistic boundaries. This approach has inspired the great range of topics covered in the volume; perhaps most quintessentially in Elizabeth van Houts’s fascinating paper on intermarriage in medieval Europe.

Van Houts’s research suggests that the numbers of people involved were not as large as one might expect: whilst William the Conqueror used his prerogatives of lordship to hand over English heiresses to his landless followers so that their offspring might hold land by hereditary right as well as by conquest, not everyone took advantage — not least because the wives of Norman soldiers also had some say in the matter! Certainly the evidence suggests that in peacetime, newcomers from Normandy, Brittany and Flanders preferred marriage amongst their own kind to marriage with the English. Those few examples that do occur of widows marrying their late husband’s successor (as Queen Emma did in marrying Cnut) suggest that such exogamous marriages were mainly between high-status individuals, seeking through marriage an alternative to war, and the sealing of a political and military alliance.

Books by Fellows: Canterbury Cathedral Priory in the Age of Becket

As Peter Draper said in his tribute to our Fellow and author Peter Fergusson at the launch of his new work, Canterbury Cathedral Priory in the Age of Becket (ISBN: 9780300175691; Yale Books), it is ‘good to have a book about Becket living rather than Becket dead for a change’. In this case, Becket alive refers to the design role played by Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral Priory during his years of flamboyant service as Royal Chancellor of England (1154—62) and before his elevation as Archbishop (1162—70).

The key role, however, was played by Prior Wibert (1153—67), who emerges in this book from a forgotten past as a patron on a par with the major figures of the period. Prior Wibert’s ambitious expansion and renewal of the conventual buildings, with their pioneering pressurised water system, can be seen as connected to the beatification in 1163 of the intellectual and spiritual giant of twelfth-century Canterbury, Archbishop Anselm (1093—1109), but also they are a manifestation of new ideas about hygiene, the care of the sick, hospitality, liturgy and administration that are intrinsic to the Benedictine reforms of the era. Also central to Peter’s book is an attempt to solve the many enigmas surrounding the famous contemporary drawing of the precinct, the bird’s-eye view dating from 1165 (and published by our Society in 1755) that is preserved in the Great Psalter in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and the only such image to survive from the high Middle Ages in Europe.

Books by Fellows: North Sea Archaeologies

At the heart of North Sea Archaeologies: a maritime biography (ISBN: 9780199566204; Oxford University Press), by our Fellow Robert van de Noort, is the thought-provoking idea of the ship (and the sea) as a heterotopia, a place that reflects society but lies outside society, an enclosed world with its own rules. The sea is dangerous and unpredictable; special skills and knowledge are required to survive in this environment. Those who possess those skills form their own communities and maritime identities. On the other hand, the sea is the means by which the exotic goods that are so important in the material culture of the land dwellers — the polished axes and the bronze, the gold and the jewels, the brandy, lace and perfume — reach their destination and enable the performance of acts symbolic of power and status. Archaeological research on land takes for granted the ability of people and goods to cross open seas, but this is one of the first books to address the practical questions of how this was achieved.

In exploring the tensions between the land and the sea, Robert fetches most of his examples from North Sea archaeology, but the conclusions reach well beyond the bounds of that small stretch of water (so named by the Dutch at the dawn of the age of cartography, because to them the Channel was the Westzee, the Baltic was the Ostzee, while the shallow Zuiderzee now scarcely exists thanks to land reclamation). Neither is this a simple tour d’horizon taking in the latest finds from maritime archaeology: it is about the ways in which human behaviour and culture has been modified or influenced by the sea, and the creation of specifically coastal landscapes, communities and identities in all their fascinating difference.

There is a central difficulty in trying to write such a book. As Robert points out, the sea resists modification: whereas every inch of land is encultured (at least in those countries that surround the North Sea), water remains physically unchanged (even attempts to build artificial surfing reefs have failed). Fortunately, apart from the occasional wreck or submerged landscape, there is another source of information on which this book draws: the rich body of traditional practice, belief and skill that lies within the maritime community, and that has a very long history indeed.

Books by Fellows: Slavery in Africa

It is sad to reflect that maritime history is very much bound up with slavery, from the galley slaves so beloved of cartoonists to the African slaves on the backs of whose labour and suffering many a white man’s fortune was built. Edited by our Fellows Paul Lane and Kevin MacDonald, Slavery in Africa: archaeology and memory (ISBN: 9780197264782; Oxford University Press) examines what archaeology and anthropology can tell us about a trade whose violent and lawless nature means that few early records survive. It was only with the documenting of the slave trade in the eighteenth century by those determined to bring it to an end that we begin to glimpse the full story, and thus it is appropriate that this book (and the British Academy conference from which it arose) should add to our knowledge as a contribution to the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

The book presents a selection of recent studies from western and eastern Africa that tease out the many and complex histories of slavery on the African continent. It also looks at the fraught issues surrounding the ways in which slavery is memorialised in modern Africa, and the narratives of slavery that shape contemporary practice as well as the contexts in which such narratives become contested. All of the papers, say the editors, ‘break new analytical and theoretical ground and have the potential to set new research agendas for … cross-disciplinary research on … the multiple layers of meaning and legacies of slavery in Africa.’

Books by Fellows: Becoming an Archaeologist

Running through our Fellow Joe Flatman’s clear-sighted analysis of the options facing anyone wanting to pursue a career in archaeology are numerous sub-themes that make his book on Becoming an Archaeologist: a guide to professional pathways (ISBN: 9780521734691; Cambridge University Press) so much more than a careers guidance manual. The book begins with an attempt to define and justify archaeology, with such subheadings as ‘why archaeology matters’ and ‘archaeology in the real world’, and goes on to pour righteous anger on those who pursue archaeology for ‘short-term financial profit’, whether these be ‘lone individuals or small groups looting on single sites or across small areas’ or ‘well-financed commercial organisations’ often ‘working under the guise of what they would term legally legitimate salvage’. Archaeological ethics are thus a strong theme of the book, leavened by a self-deprecating sense of humour: thus Joe answers the accusation often made by salvagers and treasure hunters that they are being hampered in their legitimate work by the archaeological ‘mafia’ by saying that ‘if such a mafia existed, don’t you think we would have sorted out labour laws in our favour ages ago?’

For the book makes it quite clear that many archaeologists are ‘woefully underpaid’ and ‘insecure in their jobs’. The book includes a number of interviews with real archaeologists about the process of getting a job in archaeology, including the training that is required and the different types of positions available in the academic, commercial and government worlds. These interviews demonstrate that 70-hour working weeks are normal, that well-paid and secure posts are few and far between, that the people occupying such posts long ago ceased to be archaeologists in anything but name, and that to succeed at all in archaeology you need to have the range of skills that in some other professions (the law or finance, for example) would earn you an income beyond the dreams of avarice.

So why would you, knowing all that, still want to be an archaeologist? The archaeologists that Joe interviews say that it has a lot to do with the ‘thrill of discovery’, but that could also describe the motivation of the detectorist. Less explicit in the book, but nevertheless a constant presence, is the sense that archaeologists create knowledge; their expertise lies in their ability to reveal the significance of landscapes, buildings, objects and features — and the stories they tell are not the simple ones of the salvager (‘this haul of gold coins is worth £x million’) but rather the fundamental ones about human endeavour and achievement. It would be nice to be paid better for performing this essential service, but for many archaeologists, the process of snatching knowledge out of muddy holes before the evidence is destroyed is reward in itself.

Books by Fellows: Pinning down the Past: archaeology, heritage and education today

How we can most effectively create people with an archaeological cast of mind is the question addressed by our Fellow Mike Corbishley, in Pinning down the Past: archaeology, heritage and education today (ISBN: 9781843836780; Boydell Press). This book, volume 5 in the Heritage Matters series edited by Fellow Peter Stone, is a distillation of Mike’s nearly five decades of experience as a teacher, WEA tutor, CBA education officer, English Heritage Head of Education and now colleague of Joe Flatman at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, where he teaches the postgraduate course in Heritage Education. The book is thus packed with tried and tested exercises for integrating archaeology and heritage into all parts of the curriculum, at every level of education and in any part of the world (the latter sounds like a grand claim, but as Mike demonstrates, the ways in which the sciences and the humanities are taught in different parts of the world may differ in detail but not in core essentials), and the book’s front cover reinforces the point, with its picture of fourteen-year-old students in Turkmenistan on a visit to the medieval mud-brick city of Merv.

This is not just a book for teachers and those engaged in outreach, however. It is about the whole business of communicating archaeology to multiple audiences in such a way as to have an influence. Mike also shows how not to do it, pouring considerable scorn on examples of communication that play fast and loose with factual detail. Rightly he says that authenticity is a serious concern for archaeology and heritage educators — indeed, isn’t the aim of such education to help people to understand how archaeological knowledge is created and to discriminate between conclusions that are soundly based in the evidence and those that distort or ignore that evidence.

Vacancy

‘Old Newcastle’ Project Manager
Salary: £26,276 to £29,236, fixed-term post for up to four years, closing date 12 January 2012

The £1.67 million HLF-funded ‘Old Newcastle’ project will create a new interpretation centre in the medieval Black Gate (owned by the Newcastle Antiquaries) focusing on the city’s military, social and creative heritage, linking up with the gate’s medieval neighbours, the Castle Keep and the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas. The Project Manager will play a key role by leading and delivering all of the revenue-based objectives. For further information, see the ‘Old Newcastle’ website.