At this weekï¿½s meeting, Dr Martin Henig, FSA, stoutly defended the
reputation of Romano-British sculptors against Collingwoodï¿½s assertion
that ï¿½there is hardly anything that rises above the level of dull
mechanical imitationï¿½. On the contrary, Dr Henig demonstrated that when
Romano-British sculptors chose to work in the Roman idiom their work was
as good as any in the Empire ï¿½ but that much of their work is not Roman
at all: instead, it is a fascinating fusion of Celtic and Roman,
forming a continuum with the art of the pre- and post-Roman artisans.
A full report of the meeting held on 20 November is now available on the Fellowsï¿½ side of the Societyï¿½s website.
27 November: The Berkeley Castle Muniments, by David Smith, FSA
4 December: The Restoration of Kelmscott Manor Gardens, by Hal Moggridge, OBE
11 December: A Miscellany of Papers
As is traditional, the last meeting of the year will consist of a
series of short communications on objects owned by the Society or
objects offered by Fellows, and will be followed by a reception at which
mulled wine and mince pies will be served. Fellows are welcome to bring
Tickets for the reception cost ï¿½5 per person, and are always in great demand, so early application is advised. Cheques are to be made payable to ï¿½Society of Antiquaries of Londonï¿½ and sent with your name and address to Jayne Phenton, Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BE. Applications will be treated strictly in order of receipt. The ticket price includes entry into the prize draw. Monies raised will go to the Library Fund.
Fellows might be interested to know that the recent three-day exhibition of the Societyï¿½s painting, The Dream of the Virgin,
by Simone dei Crocefissi, attracted 2,000 visitors during the 10.5
hours that it was on display. The newly restored painting was shown at
the Royal Society of Chemistry to celebrate National Chemistry Week and
was hailed by the press as ï¿½one of the wonders of the early
Salon was recently able to help Mavis Bimson, FSA, find a new home for her collection of Antiquaries Journals and Archaeologias.
Now Mrs Grimwade, widow of Arthur Grimwade, FSA, also wishes to dispose
of Ant J 1953ï¿½97 and twelve volumes of Archaeologia from within the
same period. Mrs Grimwade (020-7352-3217) is happy to give them to
anyone willing to collect them from her Chelsea home.
Apologies from the editor of Salon to anyone who was confused
by last weekï¿½s Salon, which spoke of the western approach to Llandaff
Cathedral rising upwards to the west door. The approach is of course
DOWN to the west door, this being a Welsh cathedral, built in a hollow.
The steps inside the west door lead further down still to the floor of
the nave, a peculiarity dramatically exploited by Epstein's Majestas. Robin Simon, FSA, promises to let Fellows know if there are any further developments.
Ann Harrison, who became a fellow in 1972, died at Douglas, Isle of
Man, on 14 November. Ann had been the Librarian and archivist of the
Manx National Library and later the first Public Record Officer of the
Island. She was a past president of the Isle of Man Natural History and
Antiquarian Society, on whose council she served for many years.
The Society has also been informed that David Roy MacGregor, FSA, of Bath, has also died recently, and we would be interested to hear from any Fellow who knows more.
As a follow up to the item on the Haskins Review in last weekï¿½s Salon, it is worth noting that Lord Haskins himself wrote to The Independent
last week to say that those who have interpreted his report as
punishing English Nature for its opposition to GM crops are ï¿½completely
wrongï¿½. ï¿½My reportï¿½, he wrote, ï¿½is more positive about the work of
English Nature than any of the other agencies in the DEFRA world, and a
key objective of the report is to strengthen and widen its remit, not to
ï¿½abolishï¿½ itï¿½. He adds that ï¿½I think there is a good case for using
English Nature as the body on which to build the new agencyï¿½.
Local papers in North Yorkshire reported last week that talks were
taking place between English Heritage, DEFRA and local farmers to try
and prevent the fields around West Heslerton, near Malton, from being
ploughed up. The threat to this mainly pastoral region results from the
pressure on farmers to grow potatoes for the nearby McCain oven-chips
factory, now that the market for cattle is depressed following BSE and
foot and mouth disease.
An English Heritage-funded geophysical survey of the area recently showed that an astonishingly well-preserved palimpsest of tracks, villages, fields and graves lie beneath the soil, dating back at least 6,000 years. Commenting on the threat, David Miles, FSA, English Heritage chief archaeologist said that: ï¿½This is the archaeological equivalent of finding the Domesday Book, then having it burned before your eyes before having a chance to open itï¿½. West Heslerton project leader, Dominic Powlesland, said: ï¿½This is a vast untapped resource ... it would be tragic if this place was wrecked for a few potatoesï¿½.
The Ironbridge Gorge is in danger of sliding into the River Severn,
according to a report produced by Jonathan Lloyd, co-ordinator of the
World Heritage Site. It may not be possible to stop land movement, the
report says, so the aim is to manage and contain the instability, at a
cost of ï¿½1.2m. Jonathan Lloyd emphasised that there was no immediate
danger, but that slippage had already caused damage to roads, walls and
buildings, and that the potential impact of the instability is
significant. ï¿½Not only are parts of the unique and irreplaceable
historic environment directly affected, but also people's homes,
businesses and the infrastructure of roads and services.ï¿½
The local authority has said that spending such a sum is beyond its means, and is expected to ask central government to help, on the grounds that ï¿½the responsibility for ensuring the long-term protection of individual World Heritage Sites rests with central government rather than with local communitiesï¿½. The council is being asked to commit more than ï¿½200,000 for immediate survey works. It is recommended that the support not only of government but of Unesco, the United Nations' cultural organisation, should be sought in the long term. The Iron Bridge itself, dating from 1779, was stabilised with concrete at its foundations about 30 years ago and is not thought to be at risk.
Just before jetting off to watch the final of the Rugby World Cup
last week, the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, visited the British
Museum to unveil the first of thousands of blue plaques that will be
used in future to mark lottery-funded projects and venues. The plaque
features the lotteryï¿½s crossed fingers logo and the words ï¿½Awarded
National Lottery Fundingï¿½. The aim of the plaques is to boost flagging
ticket sales by increasing public awareness of the many projects funded
by the lottery.
English Heritage, asked whether there was a danger that the dark blue oval lottery plaques would be confused with the commemorative blue plaques marking houses where distinguished people have lived, simply said: ï¿½It's quite flattering really. There's a number of other schemes that have copied blue plaquesï¿½.
The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, has given permission for
the construction of Europeï¿½s tallest building above London Bridge
station, despite advice from English Heritage that it will have an
ï¿½oppressiveï¿½ impact on London and spoil the views of St Paul's Cathedral
and the Tower of London.
The 66-storey, 305-metre building, designed by the Genoese architect, Renzo Piano, will combine office, hotel and residential accommodation. Officially known as London Bridge Tower, it has been dubbed the ï¿½shard of glassï¿½, because of its shape.
A letter explaining Mr Prescott's decision said that it did not signal a green light for other tall buildings: ï¿½All new cases will continue to be considered on their merits against the established policy frameworkï¿½. The letter also stated that Mr Prescott would only approve skyscrapers of exceptional design. It said: ï¿½For a building of this size to be acceptable, the quality of its design is critical. He [Mr Prescott] is satisfied that the proposed tower is of the highest architectural qualityï¿½.
James Beck, a professor of art history at Columbia University in New
York, has written to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to set out his
reasons for believing that the Madonna of the Pinks is not
Raphaelï¿½s work. Beck is one of several Renaissance scholars who believe
that the provenance of the painting is difficult to determine. ï¿½I
harbour serious reservations about an attribution of the painting to
Raphael and am puzzled about the date and the place of the pictureï¿½s
manufactureï¿½, he said. ï¿½When I saw it originally I said, ï¿½I think it is a
Flemish copyï¿½. It is not totally impossible but very unlikely that the
picture is a Raphael. If I were director of the National Gallery or the
Getty, I would want to get to the bottom of this before I shelled out
Several reasons were given by Beck for doubting the attribution to Raphael: ï¿½the work appears to be painted on a panel of cherry wood, which is unheard of for a Raphael of that period, the hands and feet are out of proportion, and the Madonnaï¿½s face is poorly paintedï¿½, he says.
Other experts have also cast doubt on the attribution: some believe that the work was painted by an artist in Raphaelï¿½s workshop based on Raphaelï¿½s undersketch. The highest price paid for a painting from Raphaelï¿½s workshop is ï¿½40,000, for a Madonna sold in 1996.
Patricia Rubin, a Raphael scholar at the Courtauld Institute in London, believes the attribution of the Raphael is bona fide but says: ï¿½You would be hard pressed to find an Italian painting of the period which is entirely by one artist. There were examples where people did a drawing and got others to get on with painting it. There is no absolute proof of something being by someone. If you spend ï¿½20m you want a guarantee ï¿½ but that guarantee cannot happen.ï¿½
Last weekï¿½s opening of the new British Museum exhibition, Buried Treasure, provoked considerable debate about the trade in antiquities ï¿½ both legal and elicit. On the Today
programme on Radio 4, Fellow Mark Horton argued that metal detecting
was ï¿½privatising the pastï¿½, by treating antiquities, which belong to us
all, as if they were private property. Fellow Roger Bland argued for
pragmatism, and said that the Portable Antiquities Scheme, underpinned
by the Treasure Act, meant that archaeologists were now being told about
finds that previously had disappeared into underground networks, and
that most metal detectorists tend to be law-abiding and declare their
At the launch of the Buried Treasure exhibition, Richard Hobbs, the exhibitionï¿½s lead curator, put metal detecting in context by saying that ï¿½About half a million objects are found a year, and 90 per cent has no historical importance: mostly it consists of bits of old tractor or 1950s childrensï¿½ toysï¿½. On the other hand he admitted that: ï¿½There is a thriving black market in antiquities, a lot of which end up in the United States. No one knows how big the black market is, although there have been several attempts to assess it. There could potentially be millions of pounds worth of materialï¿½.
At an unrelated event, the Arts Minister, Estelle Morris, called on UK museums and galleries to respond to the growing problem of illicit trade in cultural property by drawing up firmer guidelines on how they collect artefacts. Speaking at a seminar for museum directors, she said: ï¿½The international trade in illicit cultural artefacts is a growing problem, and one that was highlighted most recently by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The number of stolen, illicitly excavated or illegally exported items has increased considerably. The Government is determined to reduce this problem.ï¿½ The Minister believes that museums themselves can assist by putting in place ï¿½robust procedures in place for assessing the legality of potential acquisitions and loansï¿½.
Meanwhile in Italy the problem of theft from Pompeii has reached such
proportions that a plan is being drawn up to replace mosaics, wall
paintings, storage jars, capitals and columns with copies to protect
them from thieves operating out of the crime-ridden city of Naples. The
plan was announced in response to the third serious theft in recent
months, when thieves removed the stonework of a first-century AD Roman
well. A fountain similar to the well was earlier stolen from the House
of the Ceii, and two frescos from the House of the Chaste Lovers were
stolen in April, though they were later recovered in a nearby building
site, where they lay carefully packed, apparently ready for shipment
Archaeologists are far from happy with the proposal to remove architectural features, arguing that Pompeiiï¿½s antiquities should be protected in situ by tightening up on the city's ï¿½shambolicï¿½ security system. CCTV surveillance has been installed - but it has been out of order for nearly a year following a suspicious fire.
As archaeologists continue to excavate the remains of twenty-one
ancient ships at a site to the rear of Pisaï¿½s railway station, a team
led by Professor Stefano Bruni, of the University of Ferrara, has been
reconstructing the topography of the ancient port. They now believe that
Etruscan and Roman Pisa was much like Venice today, consisting of a
series of low lagoon islands of silt and clay, intercut by meandering
water channels, forming a delta located about 3.5km from the sea (Pisa
is now 10km from the sea).
Announcing the results of recent research, Professor Angelo Bottini, the archaeological superintendent for Tuscany, said that ancient Pisa did not have a single port, but rather consisted of a ï¿½network of river and maritime landing places, in which the sea and the rivers were in dialogueï¿½. The extraordinary state of preservation of the ships was due to what Professor Bottini called a ï¿½traumatic sequenceï¿½ of floods in the fifth century AD, which ï¿½deposited sand in such a violent way that it didn't have time to oxidise the wood,ï¿½ he said.
Once excavated, the ships, which span the period from 200 BC to AD 500, will be conserved and displayed at a new museum in Pisa's old shipyards
English Heritage has published its response to the Department for
Culture, Media and Sportï¿½s (DCMS) consultation on the future of Historic
Environment Records (HERs), that being the name by which Sites and
Monuments Records are now known. The main points of English Heritageï¿½s
response are: that DCMS should make it a statutory requirement of local
authorities to maintain a HER to the minimum benchmark standard; that
DCMS should lead discussions on funding for HERs, involving all parts of
Government that benefit from the use of HERs data; and that action
should be taken to provide seamless digital access to all records on a
local, regional and national level through a Historic Environment
Portal, with appropriate mediation and interpretative material for both
specialists and the general public.
If implemented, these recommendations would lead to a situation where there was an online network of HERs covering the whole country, to which all local authorities with planning responsibility would have access, backed by an inclusive outreach programme and resources for future development.
Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said that: ï¿½The DCMS consultation on HERs is part of its wider review of Historic Environment Protection. There are clear links between the information on the historic environment contained in these records and the new unified national statutory List that is proposed. Our response urges the DCMS to ensure that the statutory status of HERs will be addressed in the forthcoming White Paper on protecting our historic environment.'
As reported in last weekï¿½s Salon, DCMS has just extended the deadline for responding to the consultation paper to 30 November 2003. Further information relating to the consultation can be found on the DCMS website.
News is slowly beginning to spread of the discovery in former East
Germany of a remarkable bronze disk, embossed in gold leaf with
intricate images of the sun, moon and thirty-two stars, dating from
around 1500 BC. Just under 320mm in diameter and weighing 2kg, the disk
has a representation of the Pleiades star cluster at its centre, the
formation that appears in the sky around the autumnal equinox.
The Sangerhausener Sternenscheibe (ï¿½Sangerhausen Star Diskï¿½), as it is known in Germany, was dug up illegally perhaps five years ago near the town of Nebra, in the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt. Only now has the find been made known to the public following a complex police operation to recover the disk. Those involved in the illegal dig gave themselves up to the police in July 2002, enabling the exact find site to be located.
Professional archaeologists began work at the find site in August 2002, uncovering a circular rampart of about 200 metres in diameter, surrounded by a complex system of trenches. Artefacts found at the site range in date from 1600 to 700 BC. Clearly visible from the hill is the landmark Brocken mountain, located 80km away, behind which the sun sets at the summer solstice.
The site is being hailed as Germanyï¿½s Stonehenge for its potential astronomical significance, and the sky disk is being called ï¿½the first accurate semi-realistic picture of the skyï¿½. For further information about the find and its astronomical interpretation, see The Cosmic Mirror the English-language version of the online newsletter of the astronomy department at the University of Bonn. For a picture of the disk and further information in German, see www.archlsa.de/sterne/.
Fellows interested in the lunatic fringe of both history and
archaeology may like to know that Bill Putnam, FSA, in co-operation with
his colleague John Edwin Wood, has published a serious academic study
of one of the most famous topics in this field, Rennes-le-Chï¿½teau.
It was in this small town in south-west France's beautiful Aude valley, that Berenger Sauniï¿½re the parish priest in the 1890s, began to produce large sums of money, which he used to refurbish the local church and to build many structures in the area, such as his Tower of the Magdalene (Tour Magdala). Sauniï¿½re himself started the rumour that he had found the lost treasure of the temple of Jerusalem, and further rumours mushroomed after his death in 1917. Theorists found clues everywhere and speculated that the lost treasure of the Templars was buried in the church vaults, or that of the Cathars, or of the Visigothic king, Dagobert II.
In 1972, Henry Lincoln introduced the story to English audiences in his film, The Lost Treasure of Jerusalem?, made for the BBC Chronicle series and, as recently as August 2003, excavations were conducted beneath the Tour Magdala to see what might lie buried beneath the foundations.
Nothing was found, of course: this book explains why by uncovering a major historical hoax. The authors reveal that the true source of the parish priest's treasure consisted simply of the donations of the gullible, whom he conned into believing that there was indeed a great and mysterious secret in the landscape. The hoax was one of the most elaborate and complex ever perpetrated and created an ever-deepening whirlpool of fantasy that has lasted for a century.
The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chï¿½teau: a mystery solved, is by Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood, and is published by Sutton Publishing (ISBN 0-7509-3081-0).
Alan Saville, FSA, writes to inform Fellows that the Scottish
Executive has launched a new consultation on Treasure Trove in Scotland
following a major review undertaken by Andrew Normand, a former Queenï¿½s
& Lord Treasurerï¿½s Remembrancer. The consultation was launched by
the Culture Minister, Frank McAveety, at a ceremony in Edinburgh on 11
November, at which a detectorist who had found a particularly important
silver penny of David I was presented with a new-style Treasure Trove
This is the first review of its kind and it follows on from a major seminar held in 2002 by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland at which all aspects of the current Treasure Trove system were scrutinised. The consultation offers the opportunity to raise all relevant issues and concerns, including the possibility of new antiquities legislation for Scotland and the development of a parallel system to the Finds Liaison Officers of the Portable Antiquities Scheme elsewhere in the UK. Responses to the consultation from beyond Scotland are very welcome.
There are two relevant publications: the review itself, called Review of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland, and the government response and call for consultation in The Reform of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland. Both documents are available to download from the web, the former at www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/education/rott-00.asp, the latter at www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/education/rtts-00.asp.
Hard copies are available from Mr William Fox, Scottish Executive, Sport, Arts and Culture Division, 1A Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ, to whom all responses on the consultation should be sent by 6 February 2004.
The RIBA has announced that it has recently acquired possession of
the Gilbert Scott archive, thanks to the generosity of Richard Gilbert
Scott, RIBA, who said: ï¿½It gives me great pleasure to know that the
archive is now secured for posterity and will be readily accessible for
researchï¿½. Much of the archive material has been placed on loan with the
RIBA progressively since the late 1960s and is now converted into an
outright gift, together with a final deposit.
The Scott family dynastyï¿½s involvement in architecture began with Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811ï¿½78), the leading Gothic Revival architect and restorer of his day, and continued through five generations to the present. As well as sketchbooks, photographs and correspondence, the archive includes drawings for Sir George Gilbert Scott's innumerable restorations of churches and cathedrals all over Britain, as well as new churches, houses and public buildings, such as the Foreign Office and the Midland Hotel, at St Pancras in London. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and Bankside/Battersea Power Stations together with his Waterloo Bridge and the famous red GPO telephone boxes are also represented. Overall, the archive contains nearly 20,000 items.
On Wednesday 17 December 2003, at 4.30pm, Dr Irving Finkel, Assistant
Keeper, Department of the Ancient Near East, at the The British Museum
will lead a seminar on the topic of ï¿½What will happen later?ï¿½ or ï¿½Why
donï¿½t children collect things like we used to?ï¿½. Irving Finkel has
himself been an inveterate collector of all manner of things since
boyhood. During a 1950s boyhood this was a common state of affairs, with
the pursuit of
things and their exchange a significant
daily preoccupation. With many people this early passion has lasted into
adult life, although naturally evolving and broadening. This happy
state of affairs no longer seems to prevail today. Collecting in this
sense no longer seems to be a mainstream activity for children. Has
human behaviour shifted, or has the commercial world merely contrived to
deflect this human tendency into less gratifying activities? If we are
indeed changing, what does this mean for the future of collecting?
The seminar will finish by 6pm and will be followed by wine and mince pies. Participants are asked to book in advance by contacting Louisa Collins, Museum Assistant, The Wallace Collection.
Churches Conservation Trust, Conservation Manager (West Midlands and North West)
Salary ï¿½24,000 to ï¿½27,000, closing date 8 December 2003
To manage detailed repair programmes, to work with urban and rural regeneration agencies and to obtain funds from such bodies as the HLF. An appropriate professional qualification is required, as well as three yearsï¿½ relevant experience. The post can be based in London or in the region. Further details from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council for Scottish Archaeology, Director
Salary ï¿½23,000 to ï¿½28,000, closing date 12 December 2003
Definitely a job that you would do for love rather than money, the CSA is looking for an enthusiastic and energetic leader with proven management experience, and a sound knowledge of Scottish archaeology. Further information from the CSA Honorary Secretary, Dr Simon Gilmour.
Resource, Chief Executive for Archives, Libraries and Museums in London
Salary up to ï¿½70,000, closing date 8 January 2004
The chief executive of this new regional agency will develop an encompassing vision for Londonï¿½s archives, libraries and museums. Further information from the Veredus Executive Resourcing website (ref 6468).