Salon Archive

Issue: 89

Weekly meeting report

Using the household and probate inventories of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, this week�s speaker, Dr Elizabeth Goldring, has been able to pin down the probable date of a life-size portrait of Sir Robert Sidney (1563�1626) to the year 1588, rather than 1584, as previously believed. The significance of that later date is to turn the painting from a generalised portrait of fashionable melancholy into a specific picture of Robert�s grief at the death of his elder brother, Sir Philip Sidney (1554�86), whom Robert had nursed through his final agonising days as he succumbed to gangrene, having been shot in the thigh whilst attacking a Spanish arms convey at Zutphen, in the Netherlands. Whilst Robert�s grief for his brother was genuine enough, the painting might also have been used by Robert as the medium through which he sought (successfully) to persuade his uncle, the Earl of Leicester, that he was heir to his brother�s talents, and thus fit to be appointed as his brother�s successor to the post of Governor of Flushing.

A full report on last week�s meeting can be read on the Fellows� side of the Society�s website.

Forthcoming meetings

Fellows who attended the meeting on 6 May were told by the President that the meeting on 20 May had been cancelled. This is not the case: the 20 May meeting will take place as scheduled. Instead it is the ballot that was to have been held on 27 May that has been cancelled, so there will be no meeting of the Society that week.

13 May: Ballot John Goodall, FSA, will exhibit a Chinese papermaker's seal and David Gaimster, General Secretary, will throw new light on the archaeology of capitalism by exhibiting finds of post-medieval cylinder combination locks from Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk.

20 May: The Jesus Chapel in St Paul�s Cathedral: a reconstruction of its appearance before the Reformation, by Dr Elizabeth New. Medieval St Paul's Cathedral was largely destroyed in 1666, but work by historians and archaeologists (particularly in recent years, culminating in the publication in April 2004 of a new history to mark the 1,400th anniversary of the bishopric of London) has established many details regarding the structure and organisation of the capital's lost medieval cathedral. This paper focuses upon one area within Old St Paul's: the Jesus Chapel in the eastern crypt. Utilising a variety of cross-disciplinary sources, in particular the records of the Dean and Chapter and of the Jesus Guild which occupied the chapel from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth centuries, a new reconstruction of the interior of the crypt chapel will be proposed. Particular attention will be paid to the furnishings and fittings, and also to the ways in which the Jesus Guild and others used this space for religious services, meetings and burials.

27 May: no meeting � ballot cancelled

Changes to the Society�s statutes

At this week�s meeting the President also announced that various small amendments had been made to the statutes at the suggestion of Fellows in addition to those that were put to the ballot and passed at the Extraordinary General Meeting on 29 April. The combined finalised changes to the Statutes can be viewed on the Society�s website (in the Fellows� area, on the Events & Notices page). These changes will be put to the vote for ratification at the Ordinary Meeting of the Society to be held on 20 May 2004.

APPAG meeting on Iraq

The All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group (APPAG) will be holding a meeting at the Houses of Parliament to consider the latest position on the state of archaeology in Iraq. The meeting will be at 6 pm on Wednesday 19 May 2004. Speakers will include Nicholas Postgate, John Curtis, Harriet Crawford and Peter Stone. Invitation is by ticket only. A limited number of tickets will be available on a first come, first served basis. To apply for a ticket please contact Dai Morgan Evans, the Honorary Secretary of APPAG.

Current Archaeology Issue 191

The latest issue of Current Archaeology, just out, has a number of intriguing articles. Edwin �Giff� Gifford, founder of the firm of consulting engineers of the same name, writes about his retirement project: building, rowing and sailing a half-scale replica of the Bronze Age ship discovered just before the war at Ferriby. Staying in the Bronze Age, a heap of bones from some 600 cattle unearthed in a barrow at Gayhurst, near Milton Keynes, raises the question: are our ideas of wealth the same as in the Bronze Age?

There is also a full report on the superbly preserved Iron Age chariot burial that has been discovered right in the middle of a new motorway in Yorkshire and on two Iron Age warriors from Ashford in Kent, found complete with their swords, who seem to have been honoured right down into the Roman period. Finally, some strange Bronze Age pots, usually identified as �cheese strainers�, are reinterpreted as a very effective form of early Bunsen burner.

Current Archaeology is available by subscription only at �20 (�25 to non-UK residents) by phone (08456 44 77 07) or on line.

New Viking settlement at Waterford

Susan Youngs, FSA, has written to Salon attaching the following message from Colman Etchingham concerning a hitherto unknown (and now threatened) Viking settlement that has come to light about a mile (2km) outside the town of Waterford in south-east Ireland (where the eleventh- and twelfth-century Viking settlement was excavated in the 1980s and 1990s).

Colman says: �The information on the new site is preliminary and it has come to light only as a result of exploratory survey and excavation in advance of the proposed construction of a new road. The site is extensive (figures of 350 metres by 150 metres are being mentioned) and has turned up burials and evidence of settlement including houses and a possible long-hall. Much evidence of ships and perhaps ship construction has come to light, including large numbers of ships� nails. Weaponry and other artefacts uncovered indicate a date around the mid-ninth century, which is precisely when the Irish annals give the earliest hints of a Viking base in this part of Ireland.

�You will appreciate the significance of finding, in a greenfield setting, a complete Viking settlement of this early date, with no overlay of subsequent inhabitation. If early indications prove justified, this could be more rewarding for our understanding of early Viking penetration of the west than anything that has come light heretofore in Ireland or Britain.

�A potential problem is that the local government and roads authorities are at present apparently determined to press on with the planned road development, which impinges on a large proportion of the site. It has been suggested that they intend simply to bury the site, without proper investigation. The government minister responsible for heritage is Martin Cullen, Minister for the Environment, whose commitment to heritage can be gauged by the fact that he recently abolished our principal heritage body, D�chas.

�As it happens, the site lies within this minister's parliamentary constituency, so there promises to be a major political dimension to all of this. We have been told that Cullen will be hosting a meeting of European Union Environment Ministers in Waterford very shortly. Would it be possible to alert any colleagues in Britain who might have the ear of the British minister? It would be great if the authorities in Ireland were alerted at the outset to the importance of this matter on a European level.�

If any Fellow is able to help, Colman�s email address is

Museum of illicit antiquities seized by Spanish authorities

Spanish police have raided the Bodegas Toro Albal� winery in Aguilar de la Frontera, near Cordoba, in Andalusia, southern Spain, and seized over 5,000 archaeological artefacts, including a second-century BC Roman statue of Bacchus and a Roman sarcophagus holding the skeleton of a slave with a ring around his neck, a large number of Greek, Roman and Islamic coins, Bronze Age weapons, arrow heads, swords, axes, ceramics and farming equipment, Egyptian textiles, gold laminae with Greek inscriptions and a library of rare sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books and manuscripts.

The police say that most of the items in this �priceless private collection� were taken from Phoenician, Iberian, Roman and Islamic archaeological sites in Andalusia�s Guadalquivir Valley as well as from the districts of Ja�n, Seville and Cordoba. The owner, Antonio Sanchez, has been arrested and charged with breaking the Spanish law of Historical Patrimony which states that all newly excavated artefacts must be handed to the authorities. Mr Sanchez�s lawyer has argued that the collection has been open to the public for many years and consists largely of artefacts inherited as part of a collection begun in the nineteenth century, which had been added to by his uncle and father-in-law.

For further details see the website of the Art Newspaper.

Excavations to examine Roman bridge in Corbridge

Excavations this summer will look for the remains of the Roman bridge at Corstopitum and examine evidence for the origins of the village of Corbridge.

The excavation, commissioned and supported by English Heritage, will be led by archaeologists from Tyne and Wear Museums and will be partly funded by a �303,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Members of the local community are being encouraged to take part with all aspects of the work, including the construction of a copy of the bridge.

Site director Margaret Snape said the excavation will include the study of the seventh-century Saxon crypt at Hexham Abbey, as research suggests that some of the Roman stones used to construct the crypt came from the second-century AD bridge, whose remains are currently submerged in water or buried in the river bank, where they are threatened by river erosion.

The excavators will look at the methods of construction used for the bridge, which carried the main Roman road from London to Scotland, and ask why the bridge collapsed. They will also look for evidence of a settlement around the bridge, which might have been abandoned when the present-day settlement of Corbridge grew up one mile east at a place where the river could more easily be forded.

Consortium wins �1 million to analyse cereal DNA

A team of archaeologists and biologists, led by Keri Brown of UMIST, has won a �1 million grant from the National Environment Research Council (NERC) to study the DNA in wheat and barley in an attempt to trace the path of ancient agriculture. Other members of the consortium include researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Sheffield and the National Institute of Agriculture and Botany (NIAB). It is believed that agriculture started in the Fertile Crescent region of south-west Asia (comprising the plains of Mesopotamia and parts of Syria and Palestine). The team will seek to understand how it spread outwards from this point.

Work has already been completed on the analysis of DNA from old landraces of emmer wheat (grains that pre-date modern hybridisation) in a variety of Italian locations. This work confirmed that the country's first farmers came from Puglia, in southern Italy, an area that already has the country's earliest radiocarbon-dated agricultural sites, going back to 6000 BCE, as well as dense areas of early farming settlements in Italy, represented by more than 560 ditched enclosures.

The next phase of the work is to analyse more wheat and barley landraces, to reveal how agriculture arrived in Europe by two separate routes � via the Balkans and the Mediterranean. The consortium will test the theories developed by our Fellow Ian Hodder that agriculture spread across Europe in fits and starts, with several halts such as the one on the Carpathian plain in Hungary, making for a long, slow process that took several thousand years. These halts suggest either that hunter-gatherer communities had to become domesticated themselves or that the cereals had to adapt to colder, wetter environments than the Near East from whence they came � a question of social adaptation by humans versus environmental adaptation by plants.

Does Tessa Jowell read Salon?

A headline in Salon 83 asserted: �Heritage is also a human right!�. In a speech last week Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell began her examination of the relationship between Government and the cultural sector with the words: �Culture and the arts are fundamental human rights�. She went on to say that the arts are �at the heart of what it means to be a fully developed human being�. She also referred to the satirical novel written by our Fellow Giles Waterfield, The Hound in the Left Hand Corner, which parodies modern museum directors who are forced to spend every hour of their working lives filling in forms for the Department of Access (a thinly disguised Department of Culture, Media and Sport).

There is more on the same theme in a 17-page pamphlet which the Secretary of State has published under the title of Government and the Value of Culture. Rather than treating culture as a tool of social policy � in tackling crime, boosting educational standards and regenerating rundown cities � Ms Jowell argues (echoing Jennie Lee, the first minister for the arts in the 1960s) that culture is as important to the full development of human beings as health and wealth. Ms Jowell even quotes Oscar Wilde: �A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing�, adding that �You can't boil down what culture does for this country to a set of sums�.

So far so good. But this is the Secretary of State speaking and writing, not her opposition shadow. If this is what the Government believes, why is this policy not put into practice? Perhaps Ms Jowell�s paper is addressed as much to her colleagues in Government as to the public at large. But will the Chancellor tale notice when Ms Jowell says �intelligent public subsidy� is vital if the arts are to take their place at the heart of national life, and that audiences will be developed only through �determined policy initiatives�? Let us hope so. At the very least, Ms Jowell�s pamphlet provides plenty of quotable quotes and solid ammunition for use by those of us who lobby for a culture, in all its forms, to receive its fair share of public spending.

A copy of Ms Jowell�s pamphlet can be downloaded from the DCMS website.

Boris Johnson promoted to Tory arts spokesman

Meanwhile the real opposition spokesman for the arts � Boris Johnson, newly elevated to the front-bench post � was making remarkably similar statements. The self-deprecating 39-year-old editor of The Spectator said, in response to his surprise appointment, �I want to move away from Labour�s new utilitarian approach to culture and education generally. I was absolutely scandalised by Education secretary Charles Clarke�s attack on the study of ancient history, which seems to me to be barbaric. He was neglecting the fact that this civilisation is at the root of our culture�. Mr Johnson, who was appointed to the post in a mini reshuffle caused by the resignation of Nick Hawkins, MP, then outlined his manifesto, which included �outlawing American computer spellcheckers�, and encouraging more people to write poetry.

Cultural Policy statement from the Scottish Executive

Like London buses, you can wait a long time for statements of political support for culture, then three come along at once. Reinforcing the views of Tessa Jowell and Boris Johnson, the Scottish Executive has just published a statement outlining its intention to explore the notion of cultural rights for the Scottish citizen and its creative community and define how these might be translated into a scheme of entitlements. An independent Cultural Commission has been established to undertake the review, which will cover the arts, the creative industries, museums and heritage, galleries, libraries, archives, sports, events and festivals. The Commission will make its final report by June 2005, with an interim report in October 2004.

Frank McAveety, the Scottish minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, has said that, if the Commission deems it necessary, then the recommendations will lead to legislation by 2007.

Heritage professionals in Scotland have welcomed the move, adding: �We hope there will be enough cash to back up the grand aspirations outlined in the statement.' These aspirations are summed up in a vision statement attributed to First Minister Jack McConnell, who writes: �Culture defines who we are ... our innate creativity is the most potent force for individual change and social vision. Our devolved government should have the courage and the faith to back human imagination, our innate creativity, as the most potent force for individual change and social vision. I believe we should make the development of our creative drive the next major enterprise for our society. Arts for all can be a reality, a democratic right and an achievement of the 21st century. I believe this has the potential to be a new civic exercise on a par with health, housing and education � the commitment to providing and valuing creative expression for all.�

For a copy of the Cultural Policy Statement, see the Scottish Executive website.

From Kelmscott to Ilfracombe: hotel discount for Fellows

Helen Webb, who recently retired from her post as Administrator of Kelmscott Manor and who was awarded the Society Medal at the Anniversary Meeting on 23 April, has moved to Ilfracombe in North Devon, where she and her husband have bought a small country-house hotel. The Beechwood Hotel backs onto the National-Trust-owned Torrs area of North Devon and is close to the South West Coastal Path. Full details can be found on the hotel website. Helen says that Fellows of the Society who book into the hotel will receive a special rate. To take advantage, contact Helen Webb by telephone (01271 863800) or by email.

Human remains: objects to study or ancestors to bury?

A reminder that the Institute of Ideas and the Royal Institution are presenting a debate on the use of human remains in research at the Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, London W1 on Tuesday 18 May, 2004, from 7 to 8.30pm. Speakers include Norman Palmer, Chair of the Working Group on Human Remains, Maurice Davies, Deputy Director of the Museums Association and Robert Foley, Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Cambridge.

The topic is especially topical in view of the fact that parliament will shortly begin to debate the Human Tissue Bill, which might have implications for archaeology, museum curation and scientific research. Tickets can be booked on the Royal Institution website.

Feedback on last week�s Salon

Paddie Drake, FSA, was amused by the report in last week�s Salon saying that St Pancras station should be renamed and has suggested that Eurogare might be appropriate, or, better still, working in parallel with other historic suggestions while still offering a sop to the French, Trafalgare. He also comments that the plan to demolish the Regent Palace Hotel will be a bitter blow to those who have memories of spending their first weekends in London there (and at the hotel�s sister establishment, the Strand Palace). He wonders whether Fellows are aware that both were renowned in the 1940s as haunts of the �better class� of ladies of easy virtue. �A highly respectable aunt of mine�, he writes, �waiting alone for my mother, was told by one such to �get off my beat�!�

Paddie is one of several Fellows who have applauded Claude Blair�s splendid idea for a regular feature on antiquarian howlers, noting that �the Wren programme also implied that all the post-1666 church towers of London are Wren�s work, when many of them are surely by Hawksmoor�.

Sally Badham, FSA, also loved Claude�s antiquarian howlers idea, and hopes it becomes a regular feature, but she warns how easy it is for the kettle to be caught calling the pot �grimy bottom�, and points out that Salon gave the date of the Luttrell Psalter last week as 1590 � in fact it dates from 1325�35. She adds that: �Our late Fellow, Malcolm Norris (the leading authority on monumental brasses) would have relished the idea [of antiquarian howlers] as he always planned a pamphlet for private circulation entitled �There but for the grace of God� on just such a theme. I remember him vividly, shoulders shaking and with a huge twinkle in his eye, warning �We are all in there!�. Such a pity he died before writing it, and much else he planned.�

The Luttrell Psalter is one of ten electronic facsimiles to be featured on the British Library�s �Turning the Pages� website but when Vincent Megaw, FSA, went to have a look he was disgusted to discover that the site is only designed for use on a PC. Mac users will have to wait until some unspecified date in the near future. He also pointed out that the French are hypocritical in objecting to a railway station named Waterloo, since they have their own Gare d�Austerlitz, which causes consternation to Czech � or more accurately Moravian � visitors.

Jeremy Montagu responded to the article on retuning church bells by saying that the registration scheme for ancient bells should be supported because �the money-saving tendency is for parishes to melt down an old bell and use the metal to cast a new one when a ring is being modernised, enlarged, or replaced. A great many early bells have been lost in this way�. Retuning church bells, he adds, �is not too great a problem if historical methods are used�.

Finally, Peter Fowler�s contribution to the antiquarian howlers column was this comment reported in The Guardian the other day which, he says, �is very close to a major theme in our recent President's recent Anniversary Address�. In the latest of a series of reports following the 2003 student intake through university, a first-year student was asked about his experience so far. 'I love being at university�, he replied, �but I don't really like reading or writing.'