Salon Archive

Issue: 28

Fellows’ News

Congratulations to our General Secretary, Dai Morgan Evans, at being elevated to the status of Honorary Member of the Institute of Field Archaeologists, joining the President, the Treasurer and the Chairman of the Kelmscott Committee (Tom Hassall) who are all now Hon MIFAs.

Congratulations also to Norman Hammond, the Society's American Secretary, who has taken over as Acting Chairman of the Department of Archaeology at Boston University from our Fellow, Professor Julie Hansen. The Boston Department is the largest archaeology department of any North American university, with specialists in almost every area of the world including China, South Asia and Ethiopia, as well as the more familiar territories of the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia and Egypt, and the usual American interests in Mesoamerica and Historical Archaeology. Eight members of the faculty are Fellows. Until his death earlier this year, our Gold Medallist, Professor Gordon Willey, was also attached to the department and contributed to the graduate seminar programme.

Professor Hammond would welcome a visit from any Fellows passing through Boston this academic year who might like to see a transatlantic Department of Archaeology in action and perhaps talk about their own research. He is also the organiser of the annual meeting of the North American Fellows. This year's will take place on 25 October, at Harvard University, with our Fellow Ian Graham speaking on Alfred Maudslay and the Discovery of the Ancient Maya.

Fellow Stuart Munro-Hay writes from Chiang Mai, Thailand to commend the website of John Shaw www.shawcollection.com, an elegantly designed and richly illustrated site devoted to the history of Thai ceramics. John lectured at Chiang Mai University and, on retirement, was awarded the MBE for his services as Honorary British Consul at Chiang Mai, where he still lives. He is the author of Northern Thai Ceramics, published by OUP in 1982, the first in-depth study of the subject.

Missing Fellows

Three more Fellows appear to have moved without letting the Society know their new address. Please send an email to Lisa Elliott lelliott@sal.org.uk if you know the whereabouts of John Hilary Little, Noel Percy Mander or Vera Dilys Neate.

Forthcoming lectures

The new season’s programme of weekly meetings begins again at 5pm on Thursday 3 October with a paper by Dr Silke Ackermann entitled: '1752 hath only XIX days this year’: The Introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in England 250 years ago.

Chalmers-Jervise Essay Prize

A prize of �500 is being offered for the best essay - illustrated where necessary - on any subject relating to the archaeology or history of Scotland before AD 1100. Essays submitted must be of the standard required for publication in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, to which it is expected that the winning entry be offered for publication. Entrants should submit their essays (three copies), with no distinguishing marks, together with a covering letter, to the Director of the Society by 5 January 2003. Visit the Society's website for more details: www.socantscot.org.

Prague book fund

Further to the item on Floods in Dresden and Prague in SALON 26, the CBA has generously agreed to act as a clearing house for donations to be used to restock the library of the Archaeological Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Cheques should be made payable to the ‘CBA Prague Account’ and sent to the CBA at Bowes Morrell House, 111 Walmgate, York YO1 9WA.

Church Ledgerstone Survey

The Church Monuments Society (CMS) has launched an ambitious plan to record all of the UK’s surviving church ledgerstones, the flat flagstones set into church floors inscribed with the name and dates of the deceased, and occasionally an epitaph, coat of arms or trade symbol. Fellow Julian Litten, CMS President, says that ledgerstones are little studied by contrast with memorial crosses or churchyard headstones. It is estimated that there are some 210,000 ledgerstones in England alone. Anyone interested in taking part in the survey should write to Dr Litten, c/o The Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BE.

Lectures and conferences

The CBA Mid-Anglia Region is holding a day conference on Late Iron Age Funerary Practice at Essex Record Office in Chelmsford on 12 October with contributions from Fellows Paul Sealey, Ros Niblett, Philip Crummy and Andrew Fitzpatrick. Further details from Sue Walford, CBA Mid Anglia, 34 Kingfisher Close, Wheathampsted AL4 8JJ.

The Twentieth Brixworth Lecture will take place on Saturday 2 November 2002, when Fellow Nicholas Brooks, Professor of History at Birmingham University, will speak on Church, State and access to resources in Anglo-Saxon England, at All Saints' Church, Brixworth, Northants, at 5pm. For further information see www.le.ac.uk/hi/news.html.

Tate heading for financial crisis

The British Museum seems not to be alone in facing a tough financial regime. This week the Tate fired the first shot in a campaign to persuade the Government to increase its grant when the Chairman, David Verey, admitted that the Tate would be in deficit by �1.5 million by 2003/4 if its income does not increase, and this despite record attendances at this summer’s two major exhibitions, Matisse Picasso, at Tate Modern and Lucian Freud at Tate Britain.

Like the British Museum, the Tate attributes its decline in income to the fall in visits from high-spending American visitors, following the 11 September attacks, and it is saying that the government’s �27.8 million grant falls far short of what is required to run the four acclaimed Tate galleries in London, Liverpool and St Ives. Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate, has added that the Tate’s acquisition budget has not kept pace with current prices and that it is a long time since the galleries had been able to afford to acquire a work by a living artist, such as Hodgkin, Riley or Auerbach.

The Tate’s annual running costs now exceed �55 million. The difference between its Government grant and its outgoings is funded by profits from its restaurants, shops and publishing activities, from ticket sales and sponsorship and from grants from charities such as the National Art Collections Fund.

Museums still seen as elitist

Much agonising has accompanied a recent MORI Poll highlighting the not-very-surprising fact that ‘the educated and cultured classes’ in socio-economic group AB make more visits to museums than those from socio-economic group DE. National museum visits have increased by 63 per cent since the abolition of entry charges last December, but the number of people visiting has only increased by 28 per cent because of the number of repeat visits by ‘traditional museum-going types’. Helen Wilkinson, of the Museums Association, points out that many of these people acquired their museum-going habits in childhood. If parents in recent years have been deterred by entrance charges from taking their children, it will take ‘take a long time to change their behaviour’.

�100,000 Museum Prize

New and innovative ideas are the answer to encouraging more people into museums, according to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which has just announced a new �100,000 museums prize, the largest ever offered in the UK for an arts project. The money will be awarded to the UK museum that presents ‘the most innovative and inspiring exhibition, new gallery, building or initiative’ developed during the year. The 2002 shortlist will be announced in spring 2003 and the first Gulbenkian Prize will be presented during Museums and Galleries Month in May.

Bamber Gascoigne will chair the panel of judges tasked with drawing up a shortlist of fifteen schemes. The panel will include a teenager ‘to counter the stuffy perception many people still have about museums ... and ensure the winning scheme is not seen as elitist’. Bamber Gascoigne says that he is confident that the size of this prize will ‘bring into the arena a wide variety of exciting projects, large and small. And a very important factor is that they will be competing on a level playing field. We shall be judging the results specifically in relation to the resources that were available’.

Lady Cobham, Chairman of trust that runs the Gulbenkian Prize, commented that ‘the millions of pounds spent recently on revitalising museums and galleries, making them relevant to the broadening twenty-first-century audiences, should be celebrated. This is what the Gulbenkian Prize will do for both large and small establishments’.

Gauging public enthusiasm for nominated projects will be a key part of the judging process. The prize money is to be invested in a project or activity at the winning museum or gallery that will benefit visitors.

Further information can be found at www.gulbenkian.org.uk/presst1.htm.

Bretons battle for Carnac’s soul

Farmers, environmentalists and Breton nationalists have formed a coalition called Menhirs Libres to oppose what they claim are the French Government’s plans to commercialise the Neolithic standing stones at Carnac. The principal group of stones has been fenced off since 1991. The Government says that unrestricted access by up to 1 million visitors a year was causing considerable damage. Menhirs Libres claims that this is hypocrisy, pointing to damage done to the stones by state employees who used bulldozers to move stones around in the 1980s.

Menhirs Libres members are concerned that recent moves to permit development near the main alignment is a prelude to the construction of hotels, a visitor centre, shops and a large paying car park. These and other proposals are contained in the Government’s official plan published in 1996 and rejected by 87 per cent of local people, who believe that they will destroy the mystery and spirit of Carnac. Worryingly, no attempt seems to have been made to assess the archaeological impact of the plans, and only �15,000 has been allocated to archaeological exploration.

Giotto fresco on view again in Assisi

Giotto’s fresco of Saint Jerome on the vault of the upper church of the Basilica di San Francesco at Assisi has been unveiled again after a five-year programme to restore the shattered fragments that were left on the basilica floor following the 1997 earthquake. Approximately 60,000 pieces have been reassembled and put back into place, but 35 per cent of the fresco is still missing – some fragments were crushed by the feet of rescue workers and others were taken by souvenir hunters.

For those who knew the frescos before the earthquake, the extent of the damage remains all too evident. Despite the best efforts of restorers, the fresco resembles a jigsaw with many missing pieces – a shadow of their former glory. At least the restorers have refrained from painting in the missing areas. Restorers are now using a computer programme to piece together Cimabue’s fresco from the centre of the nave of the upper basilica, which currently consists of 250,000 finger-nail size slivers of painted plaster. The programme will seek to match the fragments together by comparing them to colour photographs taken before the earthquake.

Lost Egyptian necropolis

Mark Collier of Liverpool University’s School of Archaeology, and Bill Manley, of the National Museum of Scotland, have returned from an exploratory trip to Moalla, 32km south of Luxor, to report that the rock-cut tomb they went to record has turned into a massive necropolis stretching for some 5km. They were authorised by the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt to survey a small tomb located by French archaeologists in the 1920s, known to be the grave of the provincial governor and warlord Ankhtify, who held power in the region in 2100 BC.

Ankhtify clearly had elevated ideas about his station, for the governor’s grave proved not to be a humble rock-cut tomb, but a pyramid burial (normally reserved for royalty) set within a ceremonial courtyard and surrounded by hundreds of tombs, raising hopes that Ankhtify’s lost city of Hefat might be located near by.

Dr Collier commented that ‘we went out there thinking it was a relatively limited project. It is now going to be much bigger’. He added that grave robbers are likely to have removed any precious grave goods a long time ago, but ‘they will have left behind all the intellectually interesting bits’.

Liberal Democrats debate archaeology

At their annual conference held in Brighton last week, Liberal Democrats heard Lord Redesdale (Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group) call on the party to promote and protect archaeology, declaring that Liberal Democrats were the first of the three big political parties to develop a policy on archaeology. Sheffield Hallam MP Richard Allan added his voice, arguing that archaeological sites need protection if the country's economic future is to be secured. ‘Promoting archaeology and promoting archaeological sites is an essential element of our heritage industry whose significance for British tourism and economic progress is consistently under-rated,’ he said.

‘Protection for sites of archaeological interest cannot be underestimated, particularly as building development intensifies in England and Wales and people increasingly encounter archaeological remains. It is essential that the public are aware of what to do and that processes are in place to help them deal with it,’ he said.

Political commentators were, as ever, polarised in their reactions to the debate. Some rather sniffily linked the debate on archaeology to that on pornography and dismissed both as ‘marginal’ while others saw the debate as a sign that Liberal Democrats were not daunted by difficult issues – such as whether a suitable and practical legislative framework can be put in place to give archaeology the protection it deserves.

Iron-Age jetties found in Poole Harbour

Fellow Tim Darvill has declared Poole Harbour to be 'Britain's oldest working cross-channel port', following the discovery of two jetties at the harbour dating back to 250 BC. One projects south-westwards from Green Island and is at least 55 metres long and 8 metres wide; the other projects north-eastwards from Cleavel Point and is 160 metres long and 8 metres wide. The jetties rested on timber piles driven into the harbour floor, built up by layers of clay, coarse sand and flint rubble and surfaced with slabs of Purbeck Limestone. Artefacts from the Iron Age settlement at Cleavel Point suggest that traders sailed into Poole Harbour at the time to purchase pottery and shale jewellery.

Tim Darvill, head of Bournemouth University's Archaeology and Historic Environment Group, and chairman of the Poole Bay Archaeological Group, said: 'It has long been recognised that later prehistoric communities living on Britain's southern coast were heavily involved in cross-channel and along-shore trade of various kinds. Excavations at Mount Batten, Devon and Hengistbury Head, Dorset, show these and other sites like them were important ports. Less attention has been paid to Poole Harbour, despite numerous finds recorded since the 1950s. Present evidence suggests that at Cleavel, jetties were built out from the shore to a deep-water channel, thus allowing boats to sail through into sheltered water and tie-up alongside at a well-built quay.’

Fellow wins award for the Presentation of Heritage Research

Fellow Harold Mytum has been awarded top prize in a new competition, run by the Royal Archaeological Institute and English Heritage, to encourage the presentation to the wider public of new research on British archaeology, historic buildings and heritage conservation. Dr Mytum won the �1,500 prize by describing his twenty years work as director of a field school at Castell Henllys, the Iron-Age settlement on the Pembrokeshire coast, training volunteers and supervising the reconstruction of period houses, allowing over 15,000 visitors each year to gain a vivid insight into life before the Romans arrived.

Dr Mytum, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at York, was one of five finalists who delivered 30-minute talks to a packed audience at this year's British Association Festival of Science at the University of Leicester. The panel of judges was chaired by Julian Richards, presenter of BBC TV's Meet the Ancestors. The audience took part in the judging process. Dr Mytum said: 'It was one of the most daunting lectures I've ever delivered, but the audience was very responsive. I'm delighted it went so well and I'll be ploughing my �1,500 prize money back into research.'

Liz Worth won the second prize of �500 for her work exploring the many different and not always complementary approaches to the conservation and reconstruction of historic buildings. Other finalists in the competition were Nathalie Cohen of the Museum of London, who presented the Southwark Cathedral Archaeological Research Project which has compiled inventories of the building fabric of the cathedral, Dr Robert Prescott of the University of St Andrews, who spoke on the part played by a water mill in a Hampshire village in preserving evidence about the construction of the USS Chesapeake, the late-eighteenth century American warship, and Dr Jim Williams of English Heritage's East Midlands Region, who explained how construction can affect buried archaeology and how these effects can be kept to a minimum.

�7 million funding for Hadrian's Wall

The new revised Management Plan for Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site, published on 25 September, reveals that more than �7 million is to be spent over the next six years to create world-class visitor facilities in the central sector of Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site. Funding will be directed at the conservation and interpretation of the Housesteads and Chesters forts. There will also be a new youth hostel and visitor centre within the Northumberland National Park at Once Brewed. Repairs will be undertaken at the romantic ruined castle at Bewcastle, built within a Roman outpost fort, which is on the Buildings at Risk Register. The castle was partially damaged after the Civil War, but the last recorded repairs were undertaken in the fifteenth century by Richard, Duke of York, later Richard III.

Two of the major achievements of the first Management Plan were the opening of Segedunum Roman Fort, Bath House and Museum at Wallsend, a �9.5 million project which has attracted over 135,000 visitors so far, and the restoration of fourteenth-century Thirwall Castle, now removed from the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register.

Speaking at the launch of the new plan, Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: 'The Management Plan was designed to ensure that the Wall's conservation and management was undertaken sensitively and appropriately. The Government is accountable to UNESCO and the wider international community for the future conservation and presentation of this important site. It is a responsibility we take seriously.'

A summary of the Hadrian’s Wall Management Plan 2002-7 can be downloaded from the News section of the English Heritage website at www.english-heritage.org.uk.