Salon Archive

Issue: 73

Christmas greetings

Salon�s editor wishes everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year and promises to be back on 12 January with more clippings from the media featuring the activities of Fellows and news items of interest to antiquaries.

Weekly meeting reports

At the meeting held on 4 December 2003, Hal Moggridge, OBE, spoke about the challenges he faced a decade earlier when given the Society of Antiquaries� apparently straightforward brief to design a garden for Kelmscott based on plants from William Morris�s wallpaper and textile designs. Close study of those designs established that many of them were fictitious chimeras: there were daffodils with tulip stems and leaves, clover flowers on chickweed plants, and seaweeds with the hairy stems of a melon plant. Morris looked at plants with a designer�s eye, and was not above improving on nature or inventing new species. But Morris also had firm views on the appearance of a garden, which he believed �should by no means imitate either the wilfulness or the wildness of Nature, but should look like a thing never to be seen except near a house�, and it was in this spirit that the gardens of Kelmscott were eventually redesigned.

At the meeting held on 11 December, Julian Richards, FSA, presented prizes to the top performers in this year�s GCSE and A level archaeology exams. Three papers were then given: by Adrian James, Assistant Librarian, on Thomas Hearne�s illustrations for Byrne�s Antiquities of Great Britain, by Claude Blair, FSA, on the origin of Loving Cups and Grace Cups and by Lindy Grant, FSA, on an 1896 album of photographs compiled by Arthur Lock Radford.

Full reports of the meetings held on 4 and 11 December are now available on the Fellows� side of the Society�s website.

Christmas closure

Fellows are reminded that the Society�s apartments and library are closed on 24, 25 and 26 December 2003, and on 1 and 2 January 2004.

Forthcoming meetings

8 January: Recent developments in Japanese Archaeology, by Simon Kaner
15 January: After Adam: naming the animals in the Middle Ages and later, by Paul Harvey, FSA, and Malcolm Jones, FSA
22 January: The Archaeology of a Deserted Plateau: le Causse M�jean, by Peter Fowler, FSA, and Charles Thomas, FSA
29 January: Ballot

Missing Fellow

Dr Les Phillips, FSA, seems to have changed his address and not notified the Society. If any Fellow knows of his whereabouts, could they contact Lisa Elliot.

Obituaries

The Society has been informed of the death on 17 November 2003 of David Buxton, FSA. David established his reputation as the author of Russian Medieval Architecture, published by Cambridge University Press in 1934. More recently, in 1981, CUP published his Wooden Churches of Eastern Europe, described as �a landmark book that will, for a long time to come, be consulted as an authoritative study of the subject in English�.

We have also been informed of the sudden and unexpected death of S D T Spittle (Denys Spittle), OBE, FSA, on 7 December 2003. Denys was elected a Fellow in 1956, and is best known for his contributions to the reports on excavations conducted by the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University at Samothrace, published in 1964 and 1982.

Latsis Prize awarded to Professor Lord Renfrew

The European Science Foundation has awarded this year's European Latsis Prize to Colin Renfrew, FSA, Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, for his exceptional contributions to European Prehistory. The prize, worth 100,000 Swiss Francs (�46,000), is awarded to an individual or group who, in the opinion of their peers, has made the greatest contribution to a particular field of research in Europe. The chosen field of the 2003 prize was archaeology.

The prize citation said that: �Renfrew is recognised to be a pioneer in his field by using innovative, interdisciplinary techniques to shed light on the human past. Thirty years ago, Renfrew and colleagues were the first to use trace-element analysis and tree-ring calibrated radiocarbon dating to illuminate prehistoric trading patterns and raise new questions on how early European culture spread. His work has laid bare the independent origin of the megalithic monuments of north-western Europe, which proved to be earlier than the pyramids of Egypt, and has shown the independent development of copper metallurgy in the Balkans and Spain. The discovered cultural autonomy of these regions has led to their relationships with the rest of Europe to be rewritten and viewed within a unique, historical context. More recently, Renfrew has combined prehistoric archaeology, historical linguistics and molecular genetics to propose new origins of language.�

Receiving the award in Strasbourg last week, Colin Renfrew said: �I am deeply honoured to find myself the fortunate individual who has been chosen to represent our subject and to receive the award.�

Plan chests available

The RIBA Library Drawings Collection is in the process of moving to the Victoria and Albert Museum and now has a variety of wooden and metal plan chests available free to anyone willing to collect them from Portman Square, London. If you would like to know more, please contact Liz Towner at the RIBA Drawings Collection.

Consultation on the use of vehicles on rights of way

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has launched a consultation on measures �to curtail the inappropriate use of mechanically propelled vehicles on countryside rights of way�. Full details can be found on the DEFRA website and responses are invited by 19 March 2004.

The background to this consultation is the failure of current legislation to stop drivers using vulnerable pathways because of a ruling that existing law contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. Alun Michael, the Minister for Rural Affairs, is now acting to clarify the law, faced with a growing number of complaints from archaeologists and others concerned by the fourfold increase in the use of off-road vehicles since 1990. Under the new proposals, vehicles will be banned from footpaths and bridleways unless they can prove the routes have been used by vehicles for at least twenty years. On the other hand, there is no proposal to prevent vehicle users from having access to the existing 3,000-mile network of unpaved tracks that they can currently use.

Some commentators believe that the only way to prevent vehicle usage is by requiring local authorities to erect barriers, but this is not always an adequate deterrent. Last summer, for example, vehicles gained illegal access to the River Avon at Easton Grey, in Wiltshire, by using a JCB to remove concrete barriers. They then illegally used the river bed as a track, causing considerable damage to a submerged Roman bridge and to a Site of Special Scientific Interest where native crayfish were being bred by English Nature.

For once, however, farmers and landowners seem to be on the side of the conservationists. Mark Hudson, president of the Country Land & Business Association, said: �Footpaths will become mud baths if the current loophole in the law allowing vehicles on to country paths isn't amended. The CLA is concerned that not only will cars and motorbikes damage country paths, but their noise and high speed will have a negative impact on people living and walking in the area.�

Discovery of buried megaliths completes Avebury circle

The National Trust has announced that it has discovered fifteen megaliths that once formed part of the south-eastern and north-eastern quadrants of the great stone circle at Avebury.

Most of the standing megaliths visible at Avebury today form the western half of the circle and were re-erected in the 1930s by Alexander Keiller. Because William Stukeley�s 1720s plan of the site shows no stones in the eastern half, it was assumed that they had been broken up for building stone at an earlier date. Now, the first ever geophysical survey of these areas has revealed that at least 15 megaliths still lie beneath the turf. The National Trust has been able to identify their sizes, where they lie and how they fit in the circle.

Martin Papworth, the National Trust's archaeologist for Wessex, said: �Until now, no one had realised that some of these stones had survived intact and that they actually lay buried in the earth, next to their original locations. It is quite likely that they have lain there since the 13th and 14th centuries, pushed over and buried there by the local population who may have seen these pagan symbols as a threat to the established church.�

The National Trust has said it has no plans to raise the stones that have been so well protected by the earth for about 700 years, but it is considering using ground-probing radar to create three-dimensional images of each of the buried stones so as to generate computer-aided images.

Chariot and driver found on Yorkshire motorway

The Guardian reported last week that archaeologists working for Oxford Archaeology had discovered a complete chariot containing the skeleton of a tribal leader, with the remains of at least 250 cattle, probably slaughtered for the funeral feast. The find was made on the route of the new A1M at Ferrybridge, in West Yorkshire, after bulldozers stripped away the topsoil from a limestone chamber where the chariot had been concealed.

Dating from between 500 and 400 BC, this is the westernmost example to be found so far of a type of burial normally associated with high-ranking figures in the Parisii tribe. Ferrybridge is 40 miles west of the previously known tribal boundaries. Neil Redfern, English Heritage's regional inspector of ancient monuments, said: �This could indicate an expansion of territory we were previously unaware of, or perhaps a client tribe copying the burial practices of a superior neighbouring people�. Another unusual feature of the find is that the chariot was buried upright and intact: in other examples, the wheels have been dismantled and laid flat inside the body of the chariot.

For more on this remarkable find, along with pictures, see the Oxford Archaeology website.

Bypass blocked by stone-age fireplace

Another archaeological find in the path of a road scheme has temporarily halted work on the Salisbury bypass. According to the January 2004 edition of British Archaeology, a team of archaeologists carrying out evaluation work along the proposed route of the relief road have discovered a buried land surface of around 750 square metres in extent. Optically Stimulated Luminescence and Amino Acid techniques have been used to date sand grains and mollusc shells from this surface to the Lower Palaeolithic era of around 250,000 BC. Excavation of a small area has yielded forty-four hand axes, eighteen roughed-out blanks, eight hammerstones, and about 2,500 waste flakes, as well as cattle bones that had been split to extract marrow.

In addition, fragments of charcoal have been discovered that might represent the remains of an ancient fire. If so, this would represent the earliest evidence of a deliberately made fire in Europe, pre-dating the emergence of Homo sapiens. So far the archaeologists involved are urging a cautious interpretation, saying that the charcoal could be the result of a natural fire or could even have been brought down by burrowing earthworms. �Only further excavation and the discovery of constructed hearths would clinch the case for artificial fires�, the article concludes.

The Archaeologist: celebrating 21 years of the Institute of Field Archaeo

Out this week is the fiftieth issue of the IFA�s house magazine, The Archaeologist. It is now twenty-one years since the IFA was founded (in December 1982), so the opportunity was taken to interview the past Chairs on the achievements of their time in office. The result is a series of snapshots of major changes in British archaeology. This issue also includes a review of twenty-one years of science in archaeology, discussion of the archaeology of buildings and some important maritime case histories. The Archaeologist is free for all members and affiliates, or costs �5 and can be ordered from the IFA by email.

Current World Archaeology

Issue 2 of Current World Archaeology has just been published, with articles on the work of Graeme Barker, FSA, at the Niah Caves in Sarawak, where he revisited Tom Harrisson�s earlier excavations of 1954 onwards to re-examine the stratigraphy, which spans the entire 40,000 year history of human settlement in South-east Asia, plus an in-depth look at the excavations at Butrint in Albania (the subject of a paper given by Richard Hodges, FSA, at the Society�s meeting on 23 January 2003). Further details from www.archaeology.co.uk.

Scheme to create cultural quarter in Newcastle

According to The Independent (3 December), our Fellow Lindsay Allason-Jones would like to give a bottle of wine to everyone who visits the Shefton Gallery as a prize just for finding their way there. This outstanding collection of Etruscan, Minoan and Greek art, which Lindsay curates, is described in the article as a �secret antiquities collection, barely known outside international academic circles�.

All that is about to change as a result of plans just announced to create a new cultural quarter in Newcastle, linking the university�s museums and galleries together to create a new Great North Museum. Terry Farrell � the award-winning architect who began his career in 1961 as a graduate of Newcastle University's Department of Architecture, Planning and Landscape � has produced a master plan for linking together the four major collections housed at the University of Newcastle and their associated archives and libraries. As well as the Shefton Gallery, the scheme embraces the Museum of Antiquities, the Hatton Gallery (art from Domenichino to Francis Bacon) and the Hancock Museum (archaeology, ethnography, botany and zoology).

The scheme was originally devised as part of Newcastle�s bid to be named European Capital of Culture. Despite losing to Liverpool, the scheme will go ahead any way, subject to a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for �18 million, with the aim of reopening the new combined museum in 2008. Physically the scheme will yield twice as much display space than exists at present and 25 per cent more storage space. Through better facilities and better marketing, the Great North Museum hopes to grow visitor numbers from 100,000 a year to 250,000. But the benefits are also intellectual: it is hoped that removing the barriers between the four museums will result in new and imaginative joint inter-disciplinary projects.

Homes with History launch

Last week saw the launch of a new report highlighting the work of social landlords in integrating archaeology into their housing schemes. Produced by the Institute of Field Archaeologists, the Homes with History report is packed with examples of good practice where developers have gone beyond their duties towards the historic environment to produce imaginative housing schemes of real historical character and distinction. Launching the report at the House of Lords reception hosted by Lord Redesdale, IFA Director, Peter Hinton, FSA, said that the aim of the report was to help housing associations see heritage as an opportunity, not a problem. Copies of the free 16-page report can be downloaded from the IFA website. Printed copies can be ordered by sending an email to the IFA.

Sacred language of the Maya rediscovered

David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent of The Independent, reported on 7 December 2003 that archaeologists and linguists have identified a little-known native Indian language as the descendant of the elite tongue spoken by rulers and religious leaders of the ancient Maya. The language � Ch'orti � is spoken today by just a few thousand Guatemalan Indians. Archaeologists believe it could prove to be a living �Rosetta Stone�, a key to unravelling aspects of Mayan hieroglyphic writing that have not yet been understood.

Scholars had previously thought that the ancient Maya elite sacred language was extinct, but research by a team led by archaeologist Professor Steven Houston and linguist Professor John Robertson of Brigham Young University, Utah, has now shown that Ch'orti evolved directly out of that sacred language. Ch'orti speakers do seem to have been aware of the association between their language and the first Maya civilisation, and have deliberately preserved the language for that reason.

Protection agreement for the site of Roman Volubilis

Arabic News reported on 9 December that a co-operation agreement was signed in Rabat this week between Morocco's culture department and the UCL Institute of Archaeology on the protection of the site of Roman Volubilis (located north east of Rabat)

Under the five-year agreement, the two parties will document the site�s state of conservation, carry out emergency and pilot conservation projects according to priorities established by the joint management team, develop proposals for operations related to all existing and proposed buildings on the site and undertake archaeological excavations when necessary.

Church Court rejects request to exhume �King Harold'

Amateur historians have been refused permission by a Consistory Court to exhume what they believe to be the remains of King Harold (died 1066). Salon 72 reported that the request was made by retired paper merchant John Pollock, who wanted to see if DNA tests could establish whether the remains found in 1954 at the Holy Trinity Church in Bosham were those of the Saxon king.

In the written decision, Mark Hill, Chancellor of the Chichester diocese, said that �the permanent burial of the body should be seen as entrusting the person to God for resurrection, and exhumation should only take place for a �good reason� or on �special and exceptional grounds��. He did not believe that such grounds existed in this case, saying that comparisons of the DNA from three men who claimed to be living descendants of the king had shown that they could not possibly be descended from the same person, and that the chances of extracting useful DNA from the remains was very low. In addition, he pointed to the �vast preponderance� of academic opinion pointing to the king being buried at Waltham Abbey, not at Bosham.

Climate linked to the quality of Stradivarius violins

Research just published in the journal Dendrochronologia suggests that the reason why violins and other stringed instruments made in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries are tonally superior to modern instruments is all down to the climate and its effect on tree ring growth. According to Lloyd Burckle of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, and Henri Grissino-Mayer of the Laboratory of Tree Ring Science, University of Tennessee, violin makers such as Antonio Stradivarius, used wood from trees that grew during the Maunder Minimum. The Maunder Minimum was the period from AD 1645 to AD 1715 when the scarcity of sunspots and a reduction in the sun's overall activity produced a period of very cold weather in western Europe, also known as �the Little Ice Age�. The long winters and cool summers of this seventy-year period produced wood that has slow, even growth. The resulting wood density not only produced stronger violins, it also accounts for the violin's tone and brilliance.

Wanted: 550 hypocaust tiles

The Roman Building Trust, of which our Fellow Tony Rook is the Director, is applying for planning consent to construct a building with a hypocaust that replicates the physical characteristics of the probable structure of Welwyn Roman baths (the remains of which are preserved under the A1(M) motorway at Welwyn). Phase one of the project is to investigate the possible configurations and venting of the flues. For this purpose the Trust is seeking a supply of 550 tubuli � rectangular clay pipes about 150mm by 100mm in section and 400mm long, with rectangular holes of 50mm by 75mm in both narrow faces. Tony Rook would be glad to hear from anyone who can suggest a source of these � perhaps Fellows know of a pipe manufacturer capable of producing such pipes. Tony adds that, as a charity, the RBT is, of course, keen to source these at the lowest possible cost!

Christmas present ideas

Some Fellows might remember that Tony Rook wrote and published a detective story in the 1970s, featuring murky goings on in and around the excavation of a Roman bath suite. Salon�s editor wonders how many other Fellows have had novels published. One that he knows of and can warmly recommend is The Hound in the Left-Hand Corner (ISBN 0747265410, �6.99 in paperback) by Giles Waterfield, FSA, which The Observer described as �a rumbustious and hugely entertaining satire about the world of museums in the age of New Labour, where scholarship wilts and Mammon rules� (click here for the full review).

Salon is, of course, always happy to promote the publications of Fellows, whether fictional or scholarly � just send an email with details to boswell@dial-house.co.uk