Salon Archive

Issue: 41

Weekly meeting report

‘Butrint is a microcosm of Mediterranean archaeology’, Professor Richard Hodges told Fellows at this week’s Thursday meeting, as he outlined the evidence for urban continuity from the founding of the colony through to the sixth century, with a distinct change of architectural style and building type in the late fifth century, when the original theatre and other public buildings fell out of use and baptisteries, basilicas and a possible bishop’s palace came to the fore. As well as giving a full account of Butrint’s archaeology, Professor Hodges entertained Fellows with insights into Enva Hoxha’s love of archaeology and Nikita Khrushchev’s plan to build a submarine base in the Bay of Butrint from which to dominate Europe. Fellows also learned of the success of the Butrint Foundation in training a new generation of Albanian archaeologists and in fending off plans to build marinas and hotels on the site, which is now a protected archaeological park.

A full account of the meeting can be found on the Fellows’ side of the Society’s website at www.sal.org.uk.

Forthcoming meetings

30 January: Ballot

6 February: ‘Medieval landscapes and settlements at Whittlewood (Bucks/Northants): some preliminary conclusions’, by Professor Christopher Dyer, FSA, Dr Richard Jones and Dr Mark Page.

Fellows’ news

In some versions of last week’s SALON, we reported that a memorial service would be held for our late former President, Michael Robbins, on 9 March 2003. In fact the service takes place on 19 March at 3pm. Full details will be given nearer to the day.

Online Library Catalogue to double in size by Easter

Ortrun Peyn, the Society’s Library Cataloguer, has some excellent news for Library users. The Online Library Catalogue is set to double in size over the next two months, from 32,700 records to 72,200. Council agreed in July 2002 to a scheme that speeds up the conversion of the Society’s card index to digital form by matching the data on the cards to existing records on the RLIN (Research Libraries Network) database.

In less than four months MARC Link - the Utah-based bibliographical services agency undertaking this work - was able to match 70 per cent of the entries contained in the Author Catalogue, retrieving around 39,500 records. These are then supplied to the Society in the form of MARC records (machine-readable cards) for entering into our own database. Given the often very poor quality of the source data on the catalogue cards, the result is a considerable achievement.

These 39,500 records represent 70 per cent of all the pre-1988 accessions to the Library, and they will be added to the Online Catalogue over the next two months. Once all the records have been loaded, the catalogue will contain around 58,000 book entries, 12,000 periodical articles and 2,000 periodical and series titles.

Ortrun adds that: ‘Users will notice that the Subject Index now contains two different types of subject headings: (1) the Library’s own Thesaurus terms, assigned by in-house staff and used in the online catalogue since 1988; and (2) Library of Congress Subject Headings. There will inevitably be some inconsistencies concerning the names of individual authors, corporate bodies and series titles. This too will be rectified gradually. If you experience any difficulty using the catalogue, Library staff are always there to help you with your search, either in the Library or online via e-mail (using the address on the Catalogue home page).’

The Archaeological Institute of America’s Gold Medal

Colin Wells, FSA, who chairs the Gold Medal Committee of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), writes to say that the Institute has awarded the Gold Medal, its highest award for distinguished archaeological achievement, to David Brian Stronach, FSA, for the coming year. It will be formally presented at the next annual meeting of the AIA in January 2004.

Professor Stronach has been Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in the University of California at Berkeley since 1981 and Curator of Near Eastern Archaeology at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, since 1983. He was formerly Director of the British Institute of Persian Studies, 1961-1980.

Missing Fellows

Mailings and copies of the Journal sent to the following Fellows have been returned to Burlington House. If anybody can help by supplying a current address, please contact Lisa Elliott (lelliott@sal.org.uk): Christine Mahany, Lucy Wood, Christopher Dobson, Dr Trevor Hope, John Little, Christine Crittall, John Charlton, Dr John Chapman.

Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary

2006 marks the Tercentenary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin (1706-90). Franklin was elected a Fellow on 13 May 1773. We have been invited to join the celebrations and hope to mark the occasion in an appropriate way, both in America and in London. Any ideas or suggestions would be very welcome and should be addressed to the General Secretary, Dai Morgan Evans: devans@sal.org.uk.

Prague appeal update

Fellows will remember reading about the appeal for help from our Czech colleagues in the Institute of Archaeology following the disastrous floods last August. Among those publishers and learned Societies who have been generous in assisting the long, arduous (and very costly) task of rebuilding the Prague library have been – as well as the Society itself - the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Prehistoric Society, Antiquity, British Museum Press, Routledge, Tempus and Thames & Hudson. There is still a need for many more donations in cash or kind. If you can help please contact Sue.Cole@english-heritage.org.uk.

Bush fires in Australia

From one disaster to another: from Fellow Kate Clark comes the harrowing news of the destruction of large areas of protected natural and historic environment in the recent bush fires in Australia. More than half of Kosciuszko National Park - 690,000 hectares of bush wilderness and mountain meadows, home to 200 unique species of animal and plant – has been burnt, with great loss of biodiversity. Countless listed ‘heritage places’ have been destroyed in Australia’s Capital Region, many of which are vulnerable to fire because, built from 1840 onwards, when the area first began to be explored, they are mainly constructed of timber.

News from Somewhere: William Morris and the Kelmscott Landscape

Places are still available on the weekend conference on Kelmscott – house, village, people and historic environment – to be held at Rewley House from Oxford on 9 to 11 May 2003. The weekend will describe the results of the Society’s project to explore the landscape that inspired Morris’s poetry, prose, designs and conservation philosophy. For information contact the Day School Administrator at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education on ppdayweek@conted.ox.ac.uk.

National Monuments Record Centre workshops

The National Monuments Record Centre in Swindon is mounting a number of study days and workshops over the next few months. The workshop on using NMR resources for archaeological desk-based assessments takes place on 13 March and 1 May, and the workshop on NMR resources for local history takes place on 6 February, 3 April and 8 May. Further details from www.english-heritage.org.uk/nmr or email jane.golding@english-heritage.org.uk.

Victorian Society Study Day: All Saints’ Church and the Gothic Revival in

Speakers include Fellows Gavin Stamp (on ‘Gilbert Scott Senior and Junior at Cambridge’) and Michael Hall (on ‘Bodley, All Saints, and a turning point in English Architecture’). Details from Michael Pearson, Primrose Cottage, Catmere End, Saffron Walden CB11 4XG.

Controversy over cleaning at St Paul’s

Several leading experts have begun to express concern over the choice of chemicals being used to clean the interior of St Paul’s Cathedral. As part of a �40 million restoration programme, several thousand square metres of stonework are being sprayed with a paste (called Arte Mundit) that softens the dirt layer on the surface, then fixes into latex so that it can be pulled off the stone, bringing the dirt with it.

National museums and galleries have banned the use of Arte Mundit for cleaning sculpture, and ArtWatch, the organization that campaigns against the over-zealous cleaning of art and architecture, says that the substance can do damage to the stone it is supposed to be cleaning. John Larson, Head of Sculpture and Inorganic Conservation at the Museums and Galleries in Liverpool, says that the active chemical in the paste – ethylened-iamine-tetra-acetic acid – can remain in the surface of the stone and cause long-term damage.

Cathedral authorities have sought to reassure critics that the process will return the interior’s Portland stone to its natural cream colour and reveal lost carving details. The restoration programme is due to be completed by 2005.

Red House secured

Last autumn, SALON reported prematurely that William Morris’s Red House, at Bexleyheath, south-east London, had been purchased by the National Trust. In fact negotiations were then still taking place. Now it has been announced officially that the Trust has not only acquired the house itself, but also a substantial amount of built-in furniture, and a wealth of painted decoration, which will be conserved with advice from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Red House, designed by Philip Webb, is a pioneering example of the Queen-Anne style, in which naturalistic garden planting formed an important part of the whole effect. Tim Knox, the Trust’s head curator, says that the four-acre garden will now be restored and filled with the plants that Morris used for his textile designs.

Working with the Friends of Red House, the Trust will provide public tours for visitors from early summer 2003. The Trust also hopes to appoint a Learning and Community Officer who will co-ordinate school visits linked to the national curriculum, and there will be a study centre with facilities for research. There will also be a holiday flat, available for letting from summer 2003.

For full details, see the National Trust press release at: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/news/red_house.html.

Tyntesfield to open on 24 March

Tyntesfield, the Victorian Gothic country house and estate near Bristol acquired by the National Trust last summer, is to begin hosting regular guided tours from 24 March. The tours will be open to all on a first-come, first-served basis and will enable more than 50,000 people to see Tyntesfield during 2003, about 30,000 visiting the house, grounds and chapel and a further 20,000 touring the grounds and chapel only. They will take place up to five days a week throughout the year, with up to 18 two-hour tours per day. Booking will open at 9am on 1 March on a dedicated telephone line (0870 241 4500).

Roman building found at Shadwell, in London’s East End

Archaeologists excavating a site in Shadwell, east London, have found the five-foot-high walls of a substantial stone building with at least ten rooms, some heated by hypocaust, and one with a semicircular plunge pool. Frances Grew, of the Museum of London, said that it was not possible to say yet whether this is an isolated building, or part of a larger settlement, but the building stands alongside a filled-in side channel close to the Thames and could have been part of a small port. The building lies about a mile outside the walls of Roman London, which suggests that settlement may have extended for a considerable distance eastwards – just as Southwark, to the south of the Thames, seems to have been a thriving commercial centre.

Vacancies

Save Our Parsonages, Director
No�l Riley, current Director of Save Our Parsonages, is looking for a successor to run this small but interesting pressure group. Formed in 1994, SOP provides support to parishes all over England who are striving to preserve their traditional parsonage as a valuable centre of church and community life. Further details from No�l Riley, Save Our Parsonages, Bulmer Tye House, near Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 7ED.

National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, Chief Executive
Closing date 31 January 2003. Salary �70,725 to �148,625.

This five-year fixed-term appointment (with the possibility of conversion to permanency) involves running the National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland, comprising the Ulster Museum, the Armagh County Museum, the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, the Ulster American Park, and W5, the science discovery centre in Belfast. Further details from: www.nics.gov.uk/recruitment, or email recruitment.cpg@dfpni.gov.uk.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Research Fellow and Curator (Renaissance)
Closing date 7 February 2003. Salary �20,500 to �25,735 (three-year fixed-term contract).

An outstanding Renaissance scholar is required to join the team shaping the new galleries for the medieval and Renaissance collections in a way that will reflect new thinking about the material and visual culture of those times. Further details from www.vam.ac.uk, by clicking on ‘About Us’ and looking under ‘Job Opportunities’. Alternatively, email: e.scott@vam.ac.uk.

Ministry of Defence, Conservation Officer
Closing date 14 February 2003. Salary up to �48,000.

The responsibilities include leading the development of an updated ‘Policy and Strategy on Rural Issues and Conservation’ for the MoD, embracing bio-diversity, geological and landscape features, archaeology and public access, and developing a strategy for communication with internal and external stakeholders. The post will initially be based at Durrington, near Salisbury, but will move to Bath. For an information pack, email: cpm1-bandb@defence.mod.uk.

Assistant Directorship (Humanities), British School at Rome
Closing date 14 February 2003. Salary on Lecturer Grade A scale.

The British School at Rome requires an Assistant Director to be responsible for the resident scholars, to organize the Humanities activity programme and to develop research in their own area. The post is open to specialists in any relevant field, but applicants must have completed a doctorate and have experience of research in Italy. For further details, see www.bsr.ac.uk.

British Library, Head of Conservation
Closing date 28 February 2003. Salary �32,094 to �47,348.

This new post involves managing a staff of 200, and a budget of �9 million, and covers the care of both traditional and digital records, from conservation studios based in the St Pancras building and at the British Museum. For an informal discussion, contact Helen Shenton, Head of Collection Care, tel: 020 7412 7594, or email: helen.shenton@bl.uk. For an application pack, see the BL’s website at www.bl.uk/about/vacancies.html, or email bl-personnel@bl.uk quoting ref: PO2 20-2002.

University of Oxford, University Lectureship in Palaeolithic Archaeology
Closing date: 3 March 2003. Salary on a scale up to �42,900.

Applications are sought particularly from those with an interest in Africa, although those interested in other areas that complement existing strengths within the School of Archaeology are also encouraged to apply. An ability to situate teaching and research within the broad field of anthropological approaches to archaeology would also be an advantage. Further details from: www.arch.ox.ac.uk.

The sword of El Cid

While British art lovers worry about the possible export of Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks and other works, and Reynolds’ celebrated Portrait of Omai, Spain is facing a legal battle over the future of El Cid’s sword. For sixty years the sword has been on display in the Army Museum in Madrid, but its owner, the Marquis de Falces, now wants to sell it to an overseas buyer for �4 million. The Spanish government has offered �400,000, arguing that the sword may not be authentic, but has nevertheless used its heritage laws to ban the export of a sword that has enormous historical and symbolic value. Tradition says that El Cid (1043-99) took the sword in battle after he killed the Moorish King Bujar of Andalucia. Experts have confirmed that the sword is eleventh century and was forged in Andalucian workshops. The Marquis de Falces is appealing against the export ban, but is facing another challenge to his ownership: two seventy-year-old family servants are claiming that the sword was bequeathed to them.

Huxley was wrong: we are aardvarks, not apes!

Much fun was had by journalists this week declaring that human beings are descended from aardvarks. At least, that is what the headlines said. Delve deeper and the truth emerges, which is that all mammals – not just homo sapiens sapiens - are probably descended from a creature that had a genetic profile similar to that of the modern aardvark.

Research carried out by an international team of geneticists from Stellenbosch University in South Africa and the Chinese Academy of Sciences has found that the African aardvark has the most genetic features in common with other mammals. That makes it likely that the aardvark is the closest living relative of the first ever mammal – our common ancestor - which probably lived 100 million years ago.

The scientists warn that: ‘the ancestor was not necessarily morphologically similar: chromosomal evolution and morphological evolution are not always parallel’. In simple terms, having a genetic profile similar to that of the modern aardvark doesn’t mean that our common ancestor looked like an aardvark. So the headline should have read ‘scientists have no idea what our mammalian ancestor looked like at all’. But then, nobody would have bothered to read that story.