Salon Archive

Issue: 72

Weekly meeting report

Discussing just five documents out of the 20,000 or so held in the Berkeley Castle Muniments Room, David Smith, FSA, illustrated the range, depth and breadth of the castle�s astonishingly rich archives. Among those five were the original grant of the honour of Berkeley to Robert Fitzharding, supposedly dawn up in 1153, but containing anachronistic phrases and probably dating from 1172; household accounts for the period January to September 1327, throwing important light on the death of Edward II at Berkeley in September 1327; a complete set of royal accounts for the household of Edward IV; and a history of the hundred of Berkeley complied in 1637, containing (amongst many other observations) hundreds of local proverbs written in the earthy language of seventeenth-century Gloucestershire.

A full report of the meeting held on 27 November is now available on the Fellows� side of the Society�s website.

Forthcoming meetings

4 December: The Restoration of Kelmscott Manor Gardens, by Hal Moggridge, OBE
11 December: A Miscellany of Papers

Archaeological bursaries and grants

The Society has received a grant from the Headley Trust to augment its support for British archaeological research. The Society�s Research Committee has decided that this can best be used as follows:

1. To award a Research Bursary of up to �25,000 over two years to fund a piece of research from fieldwork to a state where it is ready for publication within the time frame. The Bursary is open to individuals, groups or organisations.

2. To make one or more special awards, up to a total of �12,500, to enable archaeologists take time off from work in order to work, within an academic context, on the synthesis of largely unpublished material from archaeological excavations and/or fieldwork. Awards can be made either to self-funded individuals or to organisations willing to give a sabbatical or special leave to individuals.

Applications must be made on a form that can be obtained from the Society�s offices by email to admin@sal.org.uk.

Follow up to Raphael�s Madonna of the Pinks

Last week�s Salon included a story taken from the Sunday Times reporting that James Beck, a professor of art history at Columbia University in New York, had questioned whether the Madonna of the Pinks is Raphael�s work. This week�s newspaper published a letter signed by a number of leading art historians who participated in an international gathering of Raphael scholars in November 2002, in the conservation studios of the National Gallery. Having examined the work in detail, they say: �the Madonna of the Pinks is, in our opinion, an autograph work of Raphael of about 1506�7 in superlative condition, and not a copy�.

Heritage Counts 2003

Last Thursday saw the publication of the annual audit of the state of England�s historic environment, previously known as SHER (State of the Historic Environment Report), now known by the snappier title of Heritage Counts. The report consists of eleven separate documents packed with facts and figures: an overall summary document and a more detailed national report for the whole of England � compiled under the aegis of the Historic Environment Steering Group � and one report for each of the nine English regions, compiled by the regional Historic Environment Forums.

Sir Neil Cossons, chairman of the Historic Environment Steering Group, described the report as celebrating the contribution England's heritage can make to the nation's quality of life and economic well being, as long as it is properly protected and taken into account. �Heritage Counts 2003 is a guide to the true state of what is arguably England's greatest asset,� he said.

Details of how to obtain the documents can be found at www.heritagecounts.org.uk.

Fifteen per cent of Capability Brown landscapes are now golf courses

The eleven reports add up to a bundle of data as thick as a telephone directory, and it will take some time to digest this year�s figures. Initial press coverage picked out two strands in the report: the loss of historic landscapes to golf courses, and the dependence of the sector on a vast army of volunteers.

Writing in The Guardian, Maev Kennedy said that: �Capability Brown, one of Britain's greatest landscape gardeners, may come to be remembered as the country's most prolific golf course designer. The eighteenth-century landscape artist created some of the country's most cherished parklands, but [Heritage Counts] has discovered that one in seven of his surviving parks and gardens in Yorkshire now features a golf course, a figure believed to be mirrored elsewhere�.

�Nationally�, she wrote, �the report finds that 75% of all green spaces have lost historic features and in some conservation areas almost all the houses have lost their original windows and doors (partly responsible for their conservation status) to modern replacements, usually in plastic. Sir Neil Cossons, chairman of English Heritage, said the ancient Athenians required citizens to swear an oath to leave their city better than they found it. "This is the challenge before us today," he said.�

Graham Tibbetts, writing in The Daily Telegraph, pursued the same theme: �[Heritage Counts] reveals that 15 per cent of [Capability Brown�s] masterpieces, including Stowe in Buckinghamshire and Ashridge in Hertfordshire, have been turned into golf courses. Brown's undulating lawns have become fairways with bunkers. His serpentine lakes are now a mere water hazard to entrap the unwary hacker. The report highlighted concerns that three quarters of the nation's parks and landscapes have lost their historic features, with almost a fifth suffering from "significant land use change".�

Volunteers are key to preservation of Britain�s historic environment

Marcus Binney, FSA, writing in The Times, chose to highlight the report�s analysis of voluntary involvement in heritage, saying that: �Research carried out for Heritage Counts shows that volunteers are the unsung heroes of the historic environment, with an active heritage volunteer workforce of some 157,000 individuals contributing an estimated �25 million a year through unpaid work.� With volunteers outnumbering professionals in the sector by a ratio of 22 to 1, the report says that there is much to celebrate, but evidence of a decline in volunteer numbers, especially among the young, poses a challenge for the sector. The report concludes that: �Given the fundamental importance of volunteering to the sector, it is perhaps surprising that few heritage organisations have an explicit strategy for recruiting, developing and deploying volunteers�.

Greenside demolition is 'illegal'

Perhaps the reason why golf courses featured so heavily in press comments on Heritage Counts was the result of the demolition earlier in the week of Greenside, an important Grade-II listed Modernist house built in 1937 alongside the seventeenth hole at Wentworth Golf Course in Surrey.

Greenside has been at the centre of a prolonged planning battle which goes right to the heart of philosophical and legal debates about the listing and scheduling regime, and as such is directly relevant to the current review being undertaken by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It was listed Grade II in 1988, having been bought by the current owners the year before. The building failed to find a buyer when placed on the market, and the owners perceived the listing to be an obstacle to a successful sale. They applied to have the building de-listed, arguing that listing breaches an owner�s human rights if it reduces the value of the property and prevents the owner from realising its full economic value.

Whatever the merits of that argument, English Heritage is convinced that the demolition was illegal. Even though the local authority, Runnymede District Council, had approved an application to demolish the building on 19 November, 28 days must pass before the permission becomes valid, allowing English Heritage and others time to seek a stay of demolition and to ask for a public inquiry. English Heritage has issued a statement that says: �the decision [to demolish] was subject to the views of the Secretary of State, to whom the law dictates that the opportunity is given to intervene. Until this step is taken, no consent exists. We are calling for Runnymede council to use every possible measure to hold the owner to account�.

The house was designed in 1937 by Colin Lucas, of Connell Ward & Lucas, one of the leading Modernist practices of the day, for William Noble, who was surgeon to the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. English Heritage described its demolition as �a significant loss, not only for Surrey, but for the nation as a whole�.

National Trust given �1.2m to help restore ancient woodlands

An anonymous benefactor has given �1.2m to the National Trust to help the organisation manage and restore the native woodlands in its care. This generous bequest has been made by a private benefactor concerned about the decline of Britain�s native woodlands. Half of the UK�s ancient woodland was cleared or substantially modified by plantation forestry during the twentieth century, with severe consequences for landscape and wildlife. The Trust has allocated the money to projects across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to convert conifer plantations back to native woodlands and to care for existing ancient trees.

The bequest will help fund work at Wenlock Edge, in Shropshire, where conifer removal has resulted in the re-emergence of bluebells in areas where they have been virtually absent for decades, and at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, near Hexham, where blocks of conifers will be removed from one of the largest single blocks of ancient woodland in Northumberland, a move that should help the most northerly known population of dormice.

Other projects to be funded include the Crom Estate, Fermanagh, and Ballymoyer, Armagh, in Northern Ireland, Coed Cae Fali, the Ysbyty Estate and the Vaynol Estate, in Wales, Darnbrook Farm, in the Yorkshire Dales, the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, the Holnicote Estate in Exmoor National Park and the Seathwaite Valley, in the Lake District.

Church court to rule on exhumation of �King Harold�

A consistory court, chaired by barrister Mark Hill, chancellor of the diocese of Chichester, has been asked for permission to open an unmarked grave under the chancel arch of Holy Trinity Church at Bosham, West Sussex, on the off-chance that the remains inside belong to Harold I, slain at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Mark Hill is expected to give his written findings at a later date. The Chichester diocesan advisory committee has already turned down an initial application to open the grave because it does not believe the grave should suffer unnecessary disturbance.

The tomb was first uncovered in 1954 and found to contain a decorated coffin with a headless body, fuelling a long-standing belief that Harold was buried here, close to where he grew up, rather than at Waltham Abbey, in Essex, the other putative burial site. If the appeal to the consistory court is successful, Dr Mark Thomas, of University College, London, will compare DNA from the remains with that from three people who claim to be distant descendants of the king. Dr Mark Thomas warned, however, that: �Even if we found similarities, it would remain speculation as to whether the remains were Harold's.�

Did language and agriculture travel together?

A report published in Nature last week revealed the results of research led by Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, who have compared 200 words from 87 languages to build an evolutionary tree of the Indo-European languages. They conclude that all other Indo-European languages split off from Hittite, the oldest recorded member of the group, between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, at about the same time as farming techniques began to spread out of Anatolia � now Turkey � across Europe and Asiar?

For further information, see the Nature website.


Neanderthal art

The December 2003 edition of Antiquity has just been published with an article by Jean-Claude Marquet and Michel Lorblanc reporting the find of a Neanderthal face from La Roche-Cotard, Langeais (Indre-et-Loire, France). The article concerns a piece of flint into which a fragment of bone has been inserted through a small hole to evoke the shape of a human face. The resemblance to a face is very striking, but the site of the find makes it even more evocative: it was found by Jean-Claude Marquet, curator of the departmental museum of history at Le Grand-Pressigny, on the banks of the Loire, close to sediments containing Neanderthal remains and dating from 35,000 years ago. The find is being hailed as the world�s first piece of Neanderthal art. Paul Mellars, FSA, professor of prehistory and human evolution at Cambridge, described the find as �a unique discovery (though) much cruder than homo sapiens�s art of the same era, suggesting a very different level of conceptual planning�.

The next nutritional fad: the Stone Age Diet

This Sunday�s Independent meanwhile raises the spectre of picky eaters following a new dietary fad, to be known as �the Stone Age Diet�. According to research published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, data from skeletal remains suggests that Palaeolithic humans suffered none of the modern ills of high blood pressure, heart failure, raised cholesterol, obesity, diabetes or strokes. Their typical diet consisted of lean meat, such as game, fish, uncooked fruit and vegetables, nuts and water. The high mineral and vitamin content, and the low fat and salt intake, make this the ideal diet for health and longevity.

Paintings gallery reopens at the V&A

Maev Kennedy reported in The Guardian last week that the Victoria and Albert Museum�s paintings collection is back where it was originally housed, in the handsome top-lit galleries. Curator Mark Evans is quoted as saying that �you put things back in their proper place [and] surprise surprise, they look wonderful�. The paintings collection is one of the V&A�s unsung treasures: it includes Botticelli's Portrait of a Lady (once owned by and an inspiration to the artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti), a painting by Constable of an elm-tree trunk that is one of Sir Lucian Freud's favourite works of art, a Degas ballet scene, a whole wall of Landseer dogs and works by Tintoretto, Ingres, Delacroix and the English Pre-Raphaelites.

British Museum acquires ancient Babylonian carving for �1.5m

An appeal by the British Museum has been successful in acquiring a fine Babylonian terracotta relief of a female nude, which dates from the age of King Hammurabi, under whose reign (1792�50 BC) Babylon came to prominence.

John Curtis, FSA, keeper of the museum�s Department of the Ancient Near East, said that it was the second most important Babylonian piece in existence, after the stele in the Louvre on which King Hammurabi�s law code is inscribed. Dr Curtis said: �It�s iconic, an incredible piece.� The carving work bears traces of red and black paint, showing that the entire surface was originally coloured. The figure has been interpreted as representing Ishtar, the goddess of sexual love and war, or the goddess Ereshkigal, her sister and rival, who ruled the Underworld.

Scotland Yard returns stolen tombstone for Iran mosque

The Times reported last week that a 900-year-old funerary mihrab, stolen from a mosque in Yazd, north of Tehran, two years ago, and shipped to London for sale, has been returned to the Iranian Embassy. The tombstone was seized by Scotland Yard�s arts and antiques unit from a London-based dealer, who was trying to sell it for �100,000. The tombstone, commemorating the death of Abdullah Mohammed, was on the Art Loss Register�s computerised database of more than 140,000 �missing� antiquities. Sefatol-Allah Taheri Shemirani, First Counsellor at the Iran Embassy, thanked the police for recovering an item �of great importance to our country� and added: �I hope the co-operation between our countries, that has begun with this case, will continue.�

Ethiopians ask for looted scriptures to be given back

Afromet, the charity that campaigns for the repatriation of Ethiopian artefacts, has asked Edinburgh University for the return of three ancient manuscripts seized by British soldiers during the Siege of Maqdala (Magdala) in 1868, and now held in the university library. Afromet has also requested permission to examine another eight artefacts believed to have been taken from Ethiopia by British soldiers. A spokesman for Afromet said: �The Maqdala relics are holy manuscripts � one is a book of psalms and the other two are religious documents on St George. We are asking for them to be returned as a gesture of friendship.� A spokeswoman for Edinburgh University said it would �carefully consider� the case.

DCMS seminar on measures to restrict the illicit trade in cultural objects

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has issued an open invitation to members of the British art market and heritage communities to discuss recent measures to restrict the illicit trade in cultural objects. The seminar, to be hosted by the Minister for the Arts, Estelle Morris, will be held on 15 January 2004, in the BP Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre, British Museum, London between 2.30pm and 5pm.

Presentations will be made about the implementation by the UK of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property; on the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003; and on the new Money Laundering Regulations. The presentations will be followed by a question and answer session. Leaflets giving guidance on the new statutory instruments (1970 UNESCO and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003) will be launched by the DCMS at the seminar.

No tickets are required. For further information, contact Caity Marsh, Cultural Property Unit, Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Society of Antiquaries of Scotland publications on-line

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Archaeology Data Service have launched a digital library of monographs and journals from the archive of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. The archive includes the entire back run of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (volumes 1 to 128), Archaeologia Scotica and the Society's out-of-print monographs � comprising over 3,000 articles and book chapters on Scottish archaeology, architecture, history and material culture published between 1792 and 1998. Access to this unique resource is free of charge, offered as a service to scholars and other interested readers worldwide. The resource can be accessed through the website of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

British Archaeological Awards

Nominations are being invited now for the 2004 British Archaeological Awards, which will be presented next October in Belfast. Further details of the fourteen different awards can be obtained from Dr Alison Sheridan, FSA.

Vacancies

The National Trust, Regional Director, Thames and Solent
Salary c �57,000, closing date 19 December 2003

Excellent leadership, communications and decision-making skills, allied to experience in a heritage or conservation organisation, are the qualities sought for this job which involves managing a budget of �13 million, staff of 360 and 77 properties. Further details from recruitmentenquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk quoting ref RDTS.