Salon Archive

Issue: 47

Weekly meeting report

Museums in Chester, Liverpool, Birkenhead, London and Warrington have rich collections of material from Meols, on the Wirral Peninsula, collected by antiquaries in the nineteenth century as coastal erosion revealed extensive areas of ancient landscape. Recent cataloguing of the Meols material shows that it is exceptional in the range of exotic material, indicating extensive long-distance trade, not only within the North Sea margin, but as far afield as North Africa. In the medieval period the metalwork assemblage is second only to that of London in its quantity and diversity. This suggests that Meols served as a beach market and transhipment point for an extended period, from the late Iron Age to the medieval period.

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

20 March: �Museums and National Identity in Post-Devolution Wales� by Paul Loveluck. Fellows are reminded that this meeting is to be held at the National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff.

27 March: �Discovering the Past: Online Research and Publication� by Dr Julian Richards FSA and Ortrun Peyn

Fellows� news

Fellows were concerned to learn the news this week that Mick Aston, FSA, was admitted to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol on 10 March, having suffered a brain haemorrhage, though it was reassuring also to learn that Mick was not in any danger and that he does not appear to have sustained any lasting damage.

In the same week, Fellow John Hurst was seriously injured in an apparently random attack that took place on 9 March near his home in Great Casterton, Stamford. John is now in Peterborough District Hospital where his condition was described as serious but stable. Stamford Today reported that another man was also assaulted in the attack, and two men have been remanded in custody charged with grievous bodily harm.

Good wishes have been sent to Mick and John on behalf of Fellows, with the hope that both make a full and speedy recovery.

Dorchester�s Roman aqueduct

Fellow Bill Putnam writes to tell us that a summary of his ten years� work spent disentangling the complex story of the Roman aqueduct at Dorchester in Dorset has been published on the internet at www.roseivy.demon.co.uk. Bill says that, far from being the large open leat of earlier accounts, the aqueduct was an underground channel built entirely of wood in a so far unparalleled design. Evidence for the source of the expertise involved in its construction came in the form of a small military labour camp at Frampton, where the water originated in a tributary of the Frome. Presumably the hydraulic engineer of Legio II Augusta was responsible.

The aqueduct first fed the baths of the Roman fort at Dorchester (so far unlocated) and was in due course diverted into the newly built Durnovaria, tribal capital of the Durotriges. The aqueduct was derelict by the middle of the second century AD, leaving the interesting question of where the Dorchester baths got its water after that.

Friends of the Newport Ship day school

The Friends of the Newport Ship are planning a day school in Caerleon on Saturday 10 May 2003 in conjunction with University of Wales College, Newport, entitled �The Newport Medieval Ship in its Context - Research, Conservation and Display�. Details from the Friends� new website at www.thenewportship.com.

SAVE Britain's Heritage Annual Conservation Bookfair

The year has flown by and it is nearly time yet again for SAVE�s annual conservation book fair, to be held on 22 May 2003, from noon to 7pm at The Gallery, 77 Cowcross Street, Farringdon, London EC1M 6EL. Over twenty historic buildings charities and publishers will be attending, including The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, The Georgian Group, SAVE Britain's Heritage, The Cinema Theatres Association, The London Society, the Construction History Society, the Twentieth Century Society and the Ancient Monuments Society.

SAVE can be contacted on tel: 020 7253 3500, website: www.savebritainsheritage.org.

Launch of EnrichUK by the New Opportunities Fund

The New Opportunities Fund (NOF) is claiming a world first in internet access with the launch of the www.EnrichUK.net gateway, which gives one-stop access to a panorama of culture, history and community resources held in museums, archives, libraries and galleries in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The EnrichUK portal draws together 150 websites created as a result of the NOF initiative that has made �50 million available to enable local museums, libraries and archives to digitize their collections � especially those that �explain the special character, history and geography of their community�.

Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, Chair of the New Opportunities Fund, said: �The launch of EnrichUK is a cornerstone of the most radical and exciting development in public access and common ownership of culture these islands have seen in many years�.

Viewfinder launch

On a similar theme, English Heritage has just launched its ViewFinder website, which makes available more than 20,000 previously unseen images on the theme of �England at Work�, a visual record of the changing nature of working life in England over the last 300 years. The archive contains images ranging from the Saltaire World Heritage Site, the Northampton boot and shoe industry and national railway heritage to the building of concrete ships during the First World War. The archive also includes scenes of farm and village life as well as bridges, historic cityscapes and examples of industrial, military and vernacular architecture.

Launching the website, English Heritage Chairman, Sir Neil Cossons, FSA, said: �ViewFinder is an extraordinary picture library that provides access for the first time ever to many important and historic images of our grandparents and great-grandparents at work�. He added that English Heritage's long-term goal was to digitize the majority of its 10 million archive items, normally only accessible through a visit to the NMR public search rooms in Swindon and London.

As well as �England at Work�, visitors to the site can also see photographs from the Henry W Taunt Collection, which gives a glimpse into Oxfordshire's rural traditions in the Middle and Upper Thames area. Henry W Taunt was a professional photographer who worked out of premises in Oxford between 1860 and 1922. His main interests were Oxfordshire and its surrounding counties, the River Thames, local history, customs and tradition.

VAT - Seize the Time

English Heritage has just published a lobbying paper presenting the case for reducing VAT on buildings maintenance and repair. The paper calls on MPs, opinion formers and policy makers to support revision of the European Union�s Sixth VAT Directive. They want the VAT on essential maintenance and regeneration of the built environment, currently 17.5 per cent, to be reduced to a flat lower rate on all construction work. At present, new build is exempt from VAT, whereas works considered as repair or regeneration are subject to top-rate VAT. This provides a perverse incentive for owners to neglect maintenance and make unnecessary alterations. It also penalizes individuals and volunteer groups who are unable to claim back tax, whilst encouraging owners to use the black economy. It also results in the export of skills and jobs: rather than repairing a Cotswold stone-tiled roof, for example, it can be cheaper to replace it with a new roof of imported French limestone.

Further information can be found on the English Heritage website under �Latest News Stories� and a copy of the leaflet can be downloaded from here.

Hebridean Mummies

This week�s Meet the Ancestors programme (9pm, BBC2, Tuesday 18 March) will feature the discovery of two prehistoric mummies on the Hebridean Island of South Uist. Fellow Mike Parker Pearson, whose Sheffield University team made the discovery at a Bronze-Age site at Cladh Hallan, on the island�s west coast, says: �We had never expected to find evidence for mummification in prehistoric Europe. This find is therefore a complete revelation�.

The older of the two mummies, a man, appears to have died around 1500 BC and the other, a woman, about two centuries later. Both bodies were placed in a peat bog for up to eighteen months then exhumed and kept above ground. They were then buried again around 1000 BC under the floor of a large Bronze-Age house, one of a complex of seven. During subsequent centuries, the complex was used as a burial place for children�s cremated bones and for the sacrifice and burial of dogs and sheep.

The picture that emerges from the site reinforces our growing understanding of the cult of ancestor worship amongst Britain�s Bronze-Age peoples. �It suggests�, says Mike Parker Pearson, �that ancestors were even more central to ancient British belief systems than we had previously thought�.

Two-year degree courses on the way?

The Department for Education and Skills has suggested this week that degree courses should be two years in length rather than three � as one solution to the growing cost of tuition fees and living costs incurred by students while studying for a degree. Students would work round the calendar rather than enjoying long summer vacations. Such a scheme has been pioneered at Buckingham. The Assistant General Secretary of the Association of University Teachers has said that the DFES scheme is unworkable because staff goodwill is at breaking point, their workloads saturated and their teaching workload twice what it was twenty years ago.

Lord Redesdale � champion of archaeology - and of live folk music!

Lord Redesdale, best known to SALON readers as the Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, led a revolt in the House of Lords last week that has defeated the proposal that pubs hosting live folk music sessions should have to apply for a live music licence (and comply with a battery of expensive regulations).

The Musicians� Union has led a robust campaign to defeat this measure (part of the Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Bill currently before Parliament). In February the Government agreed to exempt churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and chapels from the requirement to obtain a licence for live music, as well as village halls and community centres. It was left to Lord Redesdale to rally peers to defeat the Bill�s requirement for pubs and bars to obtain a licence for small-scale live music, which they did by voting for an amendment that allows small pubs and restaurants to offer live entertainment to audiences of less than 250 people, up to 11.30pm.

What had angered campaigners was the requirement to licence music, whilst leaving noisy and disruptive live TV sports events in pubs unlicensed. This has led some to accuse the DCMS of being anti folk music. The DCMS response to the defeat of this section of the bill was literally incomprehensible. A DCMS spokesman said: �They have voted for eight-year-olds to watch the Texas Chainsaw massacre�.

Fellows who have a proper appreciation of the country�s rich heritage of folk music might like to listen to A Place called England on Radio 3 on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm, when folk singers Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson will debate with journalists and academics what is distinctive about the English folk tradition, and why it is not held in the same regard as Celtic and �world� music.

Welcome to Segedunum

As part of the Newcastle/Gateshead bid to be named European Capital of Culture 2008, artist Michael Pinsky has installed Latin signs along the Tyneside Metro line, reminding those who travel the line that they are following the route of Hadrian�s Wall. Wallsend will thus be signed as Segedunum, and passengers leaving the station will be directed to the vomitorium (exit). Pinsky says the project seeks to �unite the region�s venerable past with its modern enthusiasm for innovation�.

Soane at home

The latest issue of the Burlington Magazine tells the fascinating story of the rediscovery in the British Library of an album of drawings and watercolours depicting, amongst other subjects, Sir John Soane at his home in Lincoln�s Inn Fields. The album is the work of Soane�s last pupil, Charles James Richardson, and was compiled immediately after Soane�s death as a companion to another album of Soane�s public commissions. This album is a more personal record of the domestic interiors at Lincoln�s Inn Fields and at Pitshanger Manor, the architect�s country home in Ealing.

The world�s oldest human footprints?

Paolo Mietto of the University of Padua has reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature the discovery of footprints fossilized in volcanic ash on the slopes of the Roccamonfino volcano in southern Italy that date from at least 350,000 years ago. They are described as being the footprints of Homo heidelbergensis or the species that evolved from heidelbergensis, H. neanderthalensis, neither of which is regarded as an ancestor of Homo sapiens sapiens, but this has not stopped the find being proclaimed as �the oldest human footprints�. The size of the footprints indicates that they were made by a bipedal hominid around 1.5m tall � hence possibly a juvenile or female, since adult male H. heidelbergensis had an average height of 1.8m. The oldest known hominid footprints are those of H. australopithecus, found in volcanic ash in Laetoli, Tanzania, and dating from 3.7 million years ago.

Carabinieri recover looted antiquities

A six-year investigation by the carabinieri has led to the recovery in London of illegally excavated artefacts, including the chryselephantine head (made of ivory overlying an inner core of wood) from a lifesize statue of Apollo dating from the fifth century BC. Some are claiming that this spectacular find could be the work of Phidias (who died around 432 BC), renowned for his enormous cult statue of Zeus made for the temple at Olympia. Zeus himself is aid to have shown his approval for this work by striking the temple with his thunderbolt.

The newly recovered head of Apollo was dug up in 1995 by Pietro Casasanta close to the Baths of Claudius, and smuggled to London via Munich. Casasanta, who has made millions from illegal digging and trading in illicit antiquities, is now co-operating with the carabinieri. He led them to the British dealer Robin Symes, who has handed back the head and fifty other artefacts � including fragments of a fresco of a satyr pouring a glass of wine looted from Pompei in the 1970s. Some newspapers have reported that Mr Symes had not realized the material had been looted, while others quote unnamed officials as saying that this looked like a behind the scenes deal.

World Heritage Sites under attack

The IUCN, the international conservation union, has written to world heritage convention committee members objecting to proposed changes to the rules relating to World Heritage Sites. The changes will be debated at a meeting to be held in Paris in mid March.

Among the changes the committee will discuss are proposals to allow individual states to veto criticism of them for damaging or neglecting sites within their borders, to allow states to prevent the creation of new sites in their borders if they stand in the way of development and to stop the committee removing a world heritage site designation if the site becomes so degraded as to be no longer worthy of inclusion.

The IUCN says that allowing countries a veto would �erode the credibility and strength of the convention among ... concerned civil society interests. This change would reduce state parties' accountability to the world heritage committee and the international community�. Listing places as endangered �has been a very effective way to signal the serious threats to a property and mobilise national and international action to safeguard the property in question�.

The rule change was originally proposed by Australia, which has been criticized for proposing to allow uranium mining in the Kakadu Park, which is a World Heritage Site. The US, which is not on the committee, was irritated by a �danger list� designation for Yellowstone National Park and the Everglades and is also lobbying for the rule changes.

Adrian Phillips, vice chair of the IUCN's world commission on protected areas, said a strength of the convention was that the decision to designate sites or make comments about them was made independently of the government that controlled the territory of the World Heritage Site.

Vacancies

University of Cambridge, The Disney Professorship of Archaeology
Application deadline 25 April 2003

Of the three top academic posts that will become vacant in the coming months, Cambridge is the first to begin recruitment (the others are Oxford and the London Institute of Archaeology). This is the top academic archaeology job at Britain�s best university, and the Disney Professorship is traditionally held by the person who is regarded as being the pre-eminent archaeologist of his/her generation, with an especial emphasis on theoretical innovation. Professor Lord Renfrew, FSA, retires on 30 September 2004. Potential successors can make informal enquiries to the Head of the Department of Archaeology, tel: 01223 333533, email: caif2@cam.ac.uk, or obtain further information from the Academic Secretary, email: ibise@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Resource: Project Director, Renaissance in the Regions - Ref: PD/43/03
Up to �67,000 per annum, more for an exceptional candidate, application deadline 2 April 2003

To be responsible for managing the implementation and delivery of �Renaissance in the Regions�. To implement this project successfully, candidates must have a broad range of highly developed management, communication and policy development skills, plus at least ten years' relevant experience, at least five of which should be at senior project management level. Experience of museum management at a senior level would be a distinct advantage.

For an application pack, write to Debbie Wadlow, Personnel Officer, Resource, 16 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AA, quoting ref: PD/43/03 and enclosing an A4 stamped, addressed envelope.

The Baring Foundation: Director
Salary c �50,000, application deadline 31 March 2003

The Trustees are seeking a new Director to deliver the current programme of grant giving (�3.13 million in 2002) and to map out new directions. Further information from: www.saxbam.com/arc or email: dnbd@saxbam.co.uk.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Managing Director
Salary c �55,000, application deadline 28 March 2003

To head up the new company that has been created to run the Dockyard complex, including the Mary Rose, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, Royal Naval Museum and Action Stations visitor attractions. Details from davidnewberryinfo@hmswarrior.org.