Salon Archive

Issue: 61

The next General Secretary

Professor Rosemary Cramp, President of the Society of Antiquaries, announced last week that Dr David Gaimster has been appointed as the next General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. David will succeed Dai Morgan Evans, who retires on 1 March 2004. Professor Cramp said that: �David was the unanimous choice of the appointments board from a very strong shortlist of candidates.�

David Gaimster commented that: �Dai is a hard act to follow but I hope to build on the achievements of the past decade, in which Fellows have not only continued to be pre-eminent in the study of antiquity and history, but they and the Society have also begun to play an important role in being of service to the wider community.�

David (aged 41) is a graduate of Durham University and a postgraduate of University College, University of London. He is currently employed as senior policy adviser for archaeology at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, where he leads the team that has been working with Richard Allan, MP, on legislation to outlaw the illicit trade in cultural property.

From 1986 to 2001, David was a curator in the Department of Medieval and Modern Europe at the British Museum, specializing most recently in the Baltic ceramic market from 1200 to 1600, looking at excavated material from late medieval urban mercantile and feudal sites within the nations making up the Hanseatic League.

David holds many positions on national academic and professional bodies. He is President of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, Honorary Editor of the Institute of Field Archaeologists, Managing Editor of the London Archaeologist magazine and Chair of Judges for the British Archaeological Awards book prize.

English Heritage campaign to protect archaeology from ploughing

It is a commonplace amongst archaeologists that agricultural ploughing and drainage have together wrought more destruction to the historic environment than all the other threats combined. Now English Heritage has decided that enough is enough and that the issue has to be tackled. Launching a campaign document entitled Ripping up History last week, Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage called for an overhaul of a set of laws that pull in opposite directions, aiming to protect scheduled monuments but allowing their destruction through cultivation.

Diplomatically, Dr Thurley said that his organization did not hold farmers to blame: �They have only been doing what society has asked and agricultural policy has dictated�, he said. This did not stop the National Farmers Union criticizing the �confrontational� tone and language of the campaign, and claiming that �farmers are often unaware of the buried archaeological sites on their land�.

Great hopes for a change in farming attitudes and practice are currently being pinned on the new agri-environment schemes that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) intends to launch in 2005. Such schemes will reward farmers for acting as stewards of the countryside and for historic buildings and monuments in their care, shifting farm subsidies away from overproduction.

The Ripping Up History leaflet explaining the arguments can be downloaded from the English Heritage website under �News�. Hard copies are available from English Heritage Customer Services, PO Box 569, Swindon SN2 2YP, telephone: 0870 3331181 (ask for product no. 50791).

New Research Framework for London Archaeology

Jenny Jones, Deputy Mayor of London, and herself a former archaeologist, launched a new Research Framework for London Archaeology last week, saying that a key theme in the new strategy was to encourage more Londoners, as well as students, researchers and professional archaeologists, to help with the work of uncovering the capital�s past. Taking as its starting point the material from 5,200 excavations stored in the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC), the research framework identifies themes and questions for investigation by amateurs and community groups as well as by professional archaeologists. Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London, emphasized that LAARC was a community resource, and that the Museum was committed to making archaeology accessible to all.

Copies of the research framework are being sent out to contributors, and to numerous archaeological organizations and contractors, but if you do not receive a free copy within a couple of weeks, they can also be purchased for �4.95 (for details, see the MoLAS website).

Lifting the lid on a Roman secret

The same temple site in Southwark that produced the inscription last year confirming London�s Roman name has now produced another surprise, in the form of a circular copper alloy box containing not jewels or a votive offering as expected, but some form of cosmetic cream or ointment. The sealed box was found in a waterlogged drain, where the anaerobic conditions had ensured its survival. Tests are to be conducted soon to try and identify the ingredients, which smelled sulphurous on opening. Chemical analysis could help archaeologists understand whether the cream was used for medicinal, cosmetic or ritual purposes. Public demand to see the remarkable find is so strong that it has already gone on display at the Museum of London.

The find comes from a mid-second-century Roman sanctuary site, comprising two square temples, each with a corridor or ambulatory around a central tower. A large precinct suitable for mass outdoor gatherings separates these two buildings and is bounded to the north by a villa-like structure, which could be a guest or priest's house. Set into the mortar surface of the courtyard to the south of the site are three rectangular features and a circular stone dais. Fragments of bronze and stone sculpture suggest that they once served as plinths for altars or religious statuary.

Plan to open historic lime quarry

Conservation bodies gave evidence last week to a planning enquiry looking into the pros and cons of extending a quarry at Appledore in Somerset that supplies conservation architects with high-quality lias hydraulic lime for use in making lime mortar. Unusually the proposal has pitted wildlife and countryside bodies against heritage organizations. English Nature is one of several organisations concerned that the plans to extend the quarry and to build a new lime-burning kiln will destroy a wildlife reserve protected for its marsh orchids and marsh helleborines. English Heritage, SPAB and the National Trust are among those hoping that the quarry does get permission to expand, as there is no other source in the UK of lias hydraulic lime, which John Fidler, FSA, Conservation Director at EH, says is �fundamental to architectural conservation�.

Supplies of lime are currently imported from France, but the lime from Appledore is said to be of superior quality. Villagers in Appledore are firmly opposed to the quarry on the grounds of noise, access and pollution. They are concerned that the kiln, which will operate 24 hours a day, combined with plant and lorry movements in and out of the site, will jeopardize their quality of life.

Glastonbury Tower dated to 1430

Hydraulic lime use was in the news again this week, when National Trust conservationists announced that they had found dating evidence for the tower on Glastonbury Tor. The tower is being repaired because Ministry of Works repairs carried out in 1948 using cement mortar were found to be causing damage to the stonework. The cement is being replaced with lime mortar to match that used by the medieval masons. Now the National Trust has found that those same masons carved signatures into the stone, which match those known from St Cuthbert�s church in Glastonbury. The assumption is that the same masons were responsible for both structures, and that the Tor tower was built in or around 1430, the documented date for St Cuthbert�s.

Mary Rose revisited

Marine archaeologists have begun a four-week programme of work at the Mary Rose wreck site, the first full-scale excavation at the site since the warship was raised in 1982. The dive will recover archaeological material stored by reburial under the Solent seabed during the original Mary Rose excavations, and look for parts of the ship that have not yet been found, including the turreted bow castle. Excavation has been made necessary because of a proposal to dredge the approaches to Portsmouth Harbour to enable the entrance of large aircraft carriers. The proposed dredging route will pass close to the historic wreck site.

HLF grants for museums, galleries and heritage sites

The news that the Heritage Lottery Fund was to contribute �11.5 million towards the National Gallery�s bid to buy Raphael�s Madonna of the Pinks stole the headlines, but this was only a small part of a �90-million package of major grants to be announced last week.

An even larger sum � �13,377 million � was awarded to enable the restoration of St Martin-in-the-Fields and to open up new spaces in the crypt to create improved areas for the social work of the church. �14.9 million was awarded to the Natural History Museum for a new building � Darwin Centre II � to house the museum�s pressed plants and insects collections. The London Transport Museum is to receive �9.47 million for improving the museum�s Covent Garden site and to create access to the museum�s urban transport reserve collection.

The National Maritime Museum received �7.14 million to conserve and redesign the interior of the South Building, incorporating three new galleries and teaching areas where visitors can link to the Faulkes Telescope in Hawaii for live astronomy experiments. Kibble Palace in Glasgow has been given �3.49 million to restore one of the finest curvilinear glasshouse structures in the world to its former glory to house a temperate plant collection and create a focus for environmental programmes.

A grant of �10.357 million will be used to transform 195 hectares of Grade I-listed formal gardens, parkland and estate at Wentworth Castle, near Barnsley, West Yorkshire, into a national tourist attraction and support regeneration in the area which has been devastated by the decline of coal-mining. Popular Bushy Park is also to be restored with a �4.9milion grant. The sixteenth-century deer park is visited by over a million people each year but storm damage has left Bushy in a vulnerable condition; restoration plans include recreating the virtually lost water gardens and improving the woodland gardens.

Brading Roman Villa, on the Isle of Wight, currently protected only by a dilapidated corrugated iron structure, will receive �2.13 million for the construction of a new cover building to protect the in situ mosaics and to create better visitor facilities.

Back in London, HLF has earmarked �2.37 million for the first stage of the restoration of St George's, Bloomsbury, the Grade-I listed Hawksmoor church. The parishioners plan to use the money to restore the interior of the church, reinstating elements of Hawksmoor's design, and creating disabled access. The churchyard and railings will also be repaired. To raise understanding of Hawksmoor's vision for the church, an exhibition will be created to tell the story of Hawksmoor and Bloomsbury.

New inscription rewrites Egyptian history

In The Times on 28 July it was reported that Vivian Davies, FSA, Keeper of the British Museum�s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, had found an important hieroglyphic inscription suggesting that the ancient Egyptians deliberately omitted details of a humiliating defeat by the Kushites from their historical chronicles. The inscription was found on walls of the richly decorated tomb of Sobeknakht, Governor of El Kab, near Thebes, in Upper Egypt, during the latter part of the seventeenth dynasty (1575�50 BC). The inscription describes the ferocious invasion of Egypt by an army of Kushites (from modern-day northern Sudan), and the role of Sobeknakht in organizing the counter attack. As well as recording hitherto unknown battles, the inscription suggests that the Kushites were a well-organized force, commanding the support of neighbouring kingdoms and tribes in their attacks on Egypt.

According to Vivian Davies, the discovery explains the presence of Egyptian statues, stelae and vessels of this period in Kushite tombs. �It�s the key that unlocks the information. Now we know they were looted trophies, symbols of these king�s power over the Egyptians�, he said.

Geneticist to study the Canterbury Gospels

The Guardian reported on 21 July that attempts will be made to recover ancient DNA from the vellum pages and gum binding of the sixth-century Canterbury Gospels. Working with Fellow Christopher de Hamel, Cambridge biochemist Christopher Howe will take small tissue samples in order to answer questions about the feasibility of extracting DNA from ancient manuscripts. If the technique proves successful, it could be used to identify the age and origin of a range of ancient manuscripts.

According to tradition, Pope Gregory the Great gave the Gospels to St Augustine when the Pope sent him to convert the Anglo Saxons to Christianity in AD 597. Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, swore his enthronement oath on this text earlier this year. DNA profiling is the first step towards identifying which species of animal the vellum comes from and finding out whether it has similar characteristics to other manuscripts. Dr Howe said: �If we had a manuscript that came from Italy and we could show the DNA was closely related to that, it would show that the Canterbury Gospels came from the same place and time.� Once developed, Dr Howe said he hopes the technology will help to identify the origins of �huge numbers of manuscripts that people are not certain about�.

The British Museum and the Elgin marbles

The Trustees of the British Museum have denied that there is any truth in the story that appeared in The Sunday Times on 3 August 2003 saying that the Museum was involved in secret talks with the Greek Government to loan the Elgin Marbles to the new Acropolis Museum in Athens in time for the 2004 Olympics, or that they were prepared to designate the new museum as an annexe of the British Museum in order to claim continued ownership.

Instead, the Trustees maintained their position that the British Museum is one of a handful of �universal, world institutions�, and that this is the best place for the Elgin Marbles to be seen and studied. A spokesman for the Trustees said that: �The Trustees cannot envisage any circumstances under which they could accede to the Greek Government's request for the permanent removal of the sculptures from London. Many artefacts within the collection are indeed loaned to other museums every year. However, many loan requests cannot be met. In addition, the trustees do not normally consent to the loan of objects considered to be central to the collection's purpose.�

Resolution on Iraq

Professor Madeline Caviness, FSA, President of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, has asked that Fellows be made aware of the following resolution on Iraq that was approved in June this year, and she encourages Fellows to quote or use the resolution in whatever ways they think fit in order to keep the threat to Iraq�s archaeology in the public eye.

�The Boards of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies and of the International Academic Union have heard with sorrow and dismay of the pillage of the cultural treasures of Iraq, including those housed in the National Museum and the National Library. We deplore the fact that no steps were taken by the occupying powers to prevent the pillage of these treasures of inestimable value, whose loss cannot be replaced.

It is our belief that the cultural heritage of each nation is a part of the irreplaceable wealth of humankind. As such, it is worthy of our greatest efforts to preserve and to maintain it, whether it is found in historic sites, historic urban districts, cultural landscapes, buildings of unusual aesthetic value, archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, or other repositories of human memory.

What has been done cannot be repaired, except by efforts to retrieve stolen artefacts, and attempts to stop them entering the antiquities market. It is however important to impress upon governments their responsibility to protect the cultural heritage of a country against which or within which they conduct warfare, including by posting guards to watch over archaeological sites, and by re-establishing local antiquities services as quickly as possible.�

Conference on funeral monuments and public memorials

The Museum for Sepulchral Culture, in Kassel, Germany, is to host an international conference on �Creating identities: funeral monuments and public memorials in Europe� from 30 October to 2 November 2003. The aim is to examine the socio-historical meaning and social function of public memorials in stressing membership of a certain community and in the creation of collective identities. The full programme and a booking form can be found at www.sepulkralmuseum.de.

Professional Training in the Historic Environment

The Oxford University Department of Continuing Education has published its prospectus of courses in professional archaeology for the forthcoming twelve months. Supported by the IFA, IHBC, English Heritage and the Archaeology Training Forum, the courses include such varied skills as giving evidence at planning enquiries, carrying out integrated landscape and buildings survey work, understanding �characterisation� and maintaining a website. Further details from The Co-Ordinator, Courses in Professional Archaeology, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA.

Vacancies

English Heritage, Senior Properties Historians (two posts)
Salary �27,000 to �30,000, closing date 26 August 2003

The Properties Research Team is responsible for the presentation of information at the 400 properties in the care of English Heritage. The work involves identifying the key messages and interpretative strands that are likely to be of interest to a wide range of visitors and devising imaginative and informative ways of presenting the information. Further details from Carole Arjoon, Human Resources Department, Room 409, English Heritage, 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET, quoting reference number R/106/03 and enclosing an A4-sized self-addressed envelope (no stamp needed).

English Heritage, Senior Curator
Salary c. �30,000, closing date 20 August 2003

To develop and oversee the delivery of a programme of research, documentation, conservation and display at English Heritage�s London properties, including Kenwood House, Rangers House, Chiswick House, Eltham Palace and Down House. Further details from Vicky Folan, Human Resources Department, Room 409, English Heritage, 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET, quoting reference number LON/25/03 and enclosing an A4-sized self-addressed envelope (no stamp needed).