Katherine Baxter, Curator of Archaeology at Leeds City Museum, holding a terracotta antefix of Medusa. 300-200bce from Lanuvium, Italy

Stephen Lewis, writing in The Press reports that -

Some of the British Museum’s finest Roman treasures have come to Leeds as part of a touring exhibition examining the lives of Romans in Yorkshire.

Roman Empire: Power & People features stunning objects from throughout the Roman world, from Egypt to Italy, Germany and, of course, Roman Britain. The Leeds City Museum has combined the British Museum treasures with Roman objects from its own collection and from other museums in Yorkshire, including York’s own Yorkshire Museum. The result is an exhibition that reflects the power, vastness and might of the Roman Empire, but also considers Britain’s – and Yorkshire’s – place within that empire, says Katherine Baxter, curator of archaeology at Leeds City Museum. It also aims to give a personal insight into what the lives of Romans living here were like: and whether ‘being Roman’ was the same for people in Yorkshire as it was for those in Rome.

To coincide with the exhibition, which runs until 4 January 2015, there will be a series of lectures and family events including talks about rural life in Roman Yorkshire, and a lecture on Roman York.

Full article and further details on the exhibition here.

 
The Didcot Iron Age Mirror
 
In May this year we reported that the Iron Age Didcot Mirror (discovered near Didcot in southern England by a metal detectorist) had been sold to an anonymous overseas buyer. Due to its historical importance however Culture Minister and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey temporarily blocked its export to see if a buyer could be found in the UK. Vaizey was reported as saying, “The Didcot Mirror is a beautiful object dating from the Iron Age and would be a tremendous addition to any one of our many outstanding national, regional and local museums. I hope the export bar I’ve placed allows time for a UK buyer to come forward and secure it for the nation.”
 
We learn today that Oxfordshire County Council’s Museums Service has been successful in its appeal to raise £33,000 to purchase this rare bronze Iron Age mirror. They report that -
 
The mirror, which dates from the 1st century BC, is decorated with a highly unusual and beautiful curvilinear La Tène style pattern. These particular mirrors are unique to Britain and only 18 complete ones are known to exist. The only one to have been found in Oxfordshire, the mirror was discovered near Didcot some years ago, by a metal detector user and was recently sold to an anonymous bidder and would have been exported had the appeal not reached its target.
 
Hours to spare
 
The Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum had until September 12 to raise the local funds needed to keep the mirror in the country and to put it on display in Oxfordshire. The target was therefore met with only hours to spare. The Appeal, launched by the Friends of the Museum, remains open to receive further donations to contribute towards the costs of conserving and displaying the Mirror and undertaking further research which aims to reveal more of its hidden story.
 
For further information or to make a donation please visit – http://www.friendsoftom.co.uk/
 
To make a donation online through Just Giving – http://www.justgiving.com/oxfordshiremuseum
 
Full Oxfordshire County Council’s Museums Service press release here.
   
 
 
Japanese Archaeology in the Digital Age
The Launch of A New Online Resource for teaching about Japanese Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (ORJACH)
 
 
Japan has one of the best archaeological resources in the world. And yet many of the treasures that archaeologists have uncovered throughout the archipelago over the past 150 years remain little known to the outside world. As well as being a valuable research resource, Japan’s archaeology and cultural heritage can contribute to education in many different ways. To help teachers and students, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, supported by Hitachi Europe Ltd and Hitachi Solutions Ltd, has developed a new English-language Online Resource for Japanese Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (ORJACH).
 
A draft version of ORJACH is currently available at (http://www.orjach.org/) and everyone is invited to submit comments and statements of interest via that website, which will help us complete the final version.
 
ORJACH will be formally launched at a public seminar at the Japan Foundation in London on Tuesday September 23rd, on Japanese Archaeology in the Digital Age, which will set ORJACH in context of other digital archaeology initiatives, including the new free open-access online Japanese Journal of Archaeology published by the Japanese Archaeological Association (www.jjarchaeology.jp) the Digital Repository of Japanese Archaeological Reports, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
 
Programme:
 
6pm:       Registration

6.30pm:  Seminar
– Introductory remarks: Dr Simon Kaner
– Presentation about the Online Resource for Japanese Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (Don Henson, Ben Hui, Nakamura Oki)
– Digital developments in Japanese archaeology (Professor Miyamoto Kazuo)
– Discussant: Professor Julian Richards

8pm:        Drinks reception
 

Booking:

This event is free to attend but booking is essential. To reserve a place, please e-mail the Sainsbury Institute at d.clinciu@sainsbury-institute.org

Venue: Tuesday, 23 September 2014 from 6pm at the Japan Foundation London Office, Russell Square House, 10-12 Russell Square, London WC1B 5EH.
 
 
4,000 year-old Japanese dogū figurine
 
A 4,000 year-old figurine, found in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, 14 years ago, has been officially designated as a National Treasure by the Japanese Government. Known as dogū, the figurine stands 34 centimetres tall and weighs 2.7 kilograms. Made of coiled clay it was found in an almost perfect condition in Nagano’s Nakappara site on the  23 August 2000. The figurine is thought to date from the end of the Jōmon Period (12,000bce-300bce). The Japanese Council for Cultural Affairs recommended that the figurine be designated a National Treasure in March.
 
The figurine is currently on display at the Togariishi Museum of Jōmon Archaeology and will appear at the National Treasures of Japan exhibition to be held at the Tokyo National Museum from 15 October – 7 December 2014.
 

The Lunder Conservation Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lunder Conservation Center, visitors have the unique opportunity to see conservators at work in five different laboratories and studios. The Center features floor-to-ceiling glass walls that allow the public to view all aspects of conservation work–work that is traditionally done behind the scenes at other museums and conservation centers

 

 
  
A black basalt rabbit by Sheldon, circa 1911, from the Wedgwood Museum’s collection
Photo: © Art Fund, by Phil Sayer
 
Martin Bailey, writing in The Art Newspaper on 1 September 2014, reports that there is still £2.74m required in order to stop the 80,000-strong collection in the Wedgwood Museum from being dispersed at auction -
 
The UK’s Art Fund is campaigning to raise £15.75m to save the Wedgwood Museum’s collection from being auctioned at Christie’s and dispersed. The museum, which remains open, houses more than 80,000 works of art and ceramics, including paintings by Stubbs and Reynolds, with some objects dating back to the founding of the pottery firm in 1759. Most of the money has been raised, but there is still £2.74m to go in a public fundraising appeal that ends on 30 November.
 
In an unprecedented crisis, the Staffordshire-based Wedgwood Museum Trust, which owns the collection, is facing a claim over a £134m pension debt… The administrator of Waterford Wedgwood, the Begbies Traynor insolvency company, has now agreed to sell the museum’s collection to the Art Fund. If the money is raised, the fund will then transfer ownership to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which in turn will loan the entire collection back to the Wedgwood Museum at Barlaston, four miles from Stoke-on-Trent.
 
Full The Art Newspaper article here.
   
 
The last ever new episode of Time Team will go out this Sunday (7 September) on Channel 4 from 8:00pm. Titled The Boats That Made Britain… Sir Tony Robinson, Phil Harding and Francis Pryor join, “…a team of experts as they strive to reconstruct the Dover Boat – one of the oldest seagoing boats in the world.”
 
More on Francis Pryor‘s blog here. See also our earlier feature Bronze Age Boat to sail again.
   
 
A linear Neanderthal engraving found on a rock at the back of Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar
Image credit Stewart Finlayson
 
Paul Rincon, Science editor, BBC News website, reports in BBC News Science & Environment yesterday that -
 
…the geometric pattern [above] identified in Gibraltar, on the southern tip of Europe, was uncovered beneath undisturbed sediments that have also yielded Neanderthal tools. Details of the discovery by an international team of researchers has been published in the journal PNAS.
 
There is now ample evidence that Neanderthal intellectual abilities may have been underestimated. Recent finds suggest they intentionally buried their dead, adorned themselves with feathers, painted their bodies with black and red pigments, and consumed a more varied diet than had previously been supposed. One of the study’s authors, Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, said the latest find “brings the Neanderthals closer to us, yet again”.
 
Full BBC article here.
    
 
Mildred, I’ve kept going as straight as I can. Is it alright to turn round now?
 
The Wikipedia entry for Sir Cecil Chubb reads in part -
 
Stonehenge was put up for auction in 1915 by the Antrobus family following the death in World War I of the only surviving male heir. Cecil Chubb’s interest in the local area led to him attending the sale, with him bidding and purchasing Lot 15 on a whim for £6,600… as he wished to avoid the stones being acquired by someone overseas. It is also speculated that he bought the stones as a present for his wife, only for her to be less than pleased with his new purchase.
 
He gave Stonehenge to the nation on 26 October 1918. The deed of gift included the following conditions:
 
First that the public shall have free access to the premises hereby conveyed and Every part thereof on the payment of such reasonable sum per head not exceeding one shilling [about 70 pence today] for each visit and subject to such conditions as the Commissioners of Works in the exercise and execution of their statutory powers and duties may from time to time impose. Secondly that the premises shall so far as possible be maintained in their present condition. Thirdly that no building or erection other than a pay box similar to the Pay Box now standing on the premises shall be erected on any part of the premises within four hundred yards of The Milestone marked “Amesbury 2” on the northern frontage of the premises and Fourthly that the Commissioners of Works will at all times save harmless and keep indemnified the Donors and each of them their and each of their estates and effects from and against all proceedings costs claims and expenses on account of any breach or non observance of the covenants by the Donors to the like or similar effect contained in the Conveyance of the premises to the Donors.
 
And importantly that, “Local residents are still entitled to free admission to Stonehenge because of a different agreement concerning the moving of a right of way.” That agreement is a resolution passed by Amesbury Parish Council on 12 April 1921 which states, “The Council relinquishes all claims on the right of way now enclosed, on condition that all householders and their families, (or all inhabitants) of the parishes, comprising the Rural District of Amesbury, and the householders and their families (or inhabitants) of the Parish of Netheravon, be granted free admission to Stonehenge at all times.”
 
Seems straightforward enough but, according to yesterday’s Salisbury Journal, English Heritage have changed the rules and free access is now restricted to local residents comprising no more than one adult and three children. Local resident, Colin Watson, is reported as saying however that, “I think that it is absolutely outrageous that English Heritage has changed this policy via the back door. For years people have managed to visit Stonehenge free of charge and I think what they have done is against the agreement that was laid out when Sir Cecil Chubb gave the land to the nation.”
 
An English Heritage spokesperson has stated that, “With the introduction of our advanced ticketing system we felt it was important to provide more information to people wanting to visit Stonehenge when demand was so high. We refreshed the application criteria to ensure it was available to all genuine local residents. By doing this we believe we have increased and extended access because every adult can now bring children with them. Take up of local resident passes has increased significantly this year and we are delighted to have seen a surge in people from the local area visiting Stonehenge and the new visitor centre.”
 
Full Salisbury Journal article here.
   
 

Delft biblical wall tile showing the Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness. Dutch, 17-18th century? 131mm x 131mm
Private collection Great Britain

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew: Chapter 4, 1-11. King James Version.

This wall tile shows the Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness. The Devil is offering Christ stones to be turned into bread (note what seems to be a wooden cross on the left hand side of the roundel). The tile has an interesting history; it was discovered in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan by cleaners while sorting through the temple’s unwanted bric-a-brac. Given the long (400-year) relationship between the Dutch and the Japanese it’s not surprising that an object with a biblical theme should have found its way to Japan. It’s a mystery, however, why such an object should have ended up in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Perhaps one of our readers can shed more light on the subject.

 

A guest feature by Littlestone.

William Stukeley’s 1758 plan of Caesaromagus (present day Chelmsford) in the Bodleian Library, Oxford

After twelve years in Lancashire, eight in Wiltshire and thirteen in Japan, I finally ended up in the old English market town of Chelmsford (Essex, south-east England). That was thirty two years ago next month. Chelmsford is some forty miles from London and so was well within commuting distance of my new job in the capital. Houses in the town were affordable, schools for the kids looked good and that, basically, was all I knew about the place – other than the welcome signs as you entered the town which proudly (though somewhat dubiously) claimed Chelmsford as ‘The Birthplace of Radio’ (the Marconi connection). All, that is, until I heard of an archaeological excavation undertaken by the British Museum back in the early 80s. The excavation was of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Springfield Lyons on a derelict piece of land just down the road from where I then lived. Sadly, after the BM’s excavation, the site was again abandoned and is now rapidly disappearing under a new business park.

The derelict site of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Springfield Lyons, Chelmsford before being developed into a business park

Little by little though I learnt that Chelmsford had a bit more of a history to it than just an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. The area had been occupied from Neolithic times and once boasted an impressive prehistoric cursus (the Springfield, or Chelmer, Cursus ) with a wooden circle at one end (now both sadly buried under a supermarket and modern housing development).

But here’s the interesting bit; two thousand years ago Chelmsford was (and still is) situated midway between Colchester and London – both important Roman towns. Perhaps that’s why it somehow earned the distinguished Roman place-name of Caesaromagus (Caesar’s Marketplace). Why it should have been called Caesaromagus is something of a mystery as it was, “…a great honour for a town to have the imperial prefix incorporated in its name, and no other town in Britain was so honoured…”* Although Caesaromagus is mentioned on a 3rd century Roman map (the Antonine Itinerary) its exact location puzzled scholars for centuries. It wasn’t until 1758 when William Stukeley (of Avebury and Stonehenge fame) correctly identified Chelmsford as the Roman town of Caesaromagus. Stukeley even drew a plan (top) of what he thought the town looked like; although the plan is purely fictions and Stukeley has incorrectly placed it on the north side of Chelmsford’s River Can and not on the south side where excavations show it was actually sited.

Artist’s impression of Caesaromagus’ 4th century octagonal Romano-Celtic temple
Chelmsford Archaeological Trust

Sometime around 325ce however an impressive, octagonal stone temple (above) was constructed in Caesaromagus for the worship of a Romano-Celtic deity (or deities). The temple stood on what is now the Baddow Road roundabout, close to where the Roman town was then situated. Similar temples, of the same date and plan, have been found in London and on the continent; perhaps the most famous of which is Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel at Aachen in Germany. The Aachen Cathedral, which now envelopes the octagonal Palatine Chapel, is the oldest cathedral in northern Europe. Constructed by Charlemagne around 796 it has seen the coronations of thirty German kings and twelve queens.

Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel
AachenDomInsideOktogon by Maxgreene. Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

What is interesting, and what has recently been reported by Christopher Howse in the Daily Telegraph, is that Caesaromagus’ octagonal stone temple, “…was behind the design of the third most influential ecclesiastical structure in the history of the Latin Church, after St Peter’s Rome and the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In third place came Charlemagne’s palace church at Aachen. The Roman tradition that it was built in is represented by a temple from AD 325 unearthed in Chelmsford in 1970.” Howse goes on to say, “As an exemplar of the Roman tradition embraced by Charlemagne, Chelmsford is invoked by Professor Eric Fernie, the former director of the Courtauld, in his splendid new volume Romanesque Architecture, an addition to the Pelican History of Art published by Yale.”

So, from what I thought was little more than a convenient place to commute from, Chelmsford turned out to be a place of unassuming mystery, not to mention one with a long and intricate history. A timeline that begins in the Neolithic with a cursus and wooden circle, through the Roman period giving rise to a well-organised little town boasting an octagonal temple of impressive stone construction. Then on through the medieval to the more recent past and the ‘Birthplace of Radio’. And, lest it be forgotten, Chelmsford was the first place anywhere in the world to employ electric street lighting :-) Oh, and I almost forgot, it was from Chelmsford that the Quaker, William Penn, left England in 1682 to establish the Province of Pennsylvania in North America, and it was from Penn’s endeavours that the city of Philadelphia was later planned and developed.

No small accomplishment for a little marketplace on the fringes of the once great Roman Empire. That’s not quite the end of the story though. I mentioned at the beginning of this feature that I’d lived for thirteen years in Japan. A lot of my spare time was spent visiting Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Japan boasts what is probably the oldest wooden building in the world – the Hōryū-ji (法隆寺) temple built in 607ce in Nara Prefecture, western Japan. Within the Hōryū-ji compound there’s a small wooden hall known as the Yumedono (Hall of Dreams). The Yumedono was built in 739ce to assuage the spirit of Prince Shōtoku (the prince was an Alfred the Great sort of figure who promoted Buddhism in Japan). The Yumedono stands on the site of a slightly earlier building commissioned by Prince Shōtoku himself. There is also, still in existence, a similar but slightly later building at the Eizanji-temple not far from the Yumedono in Nara Prefecture.

The octagonal hall at Eizan-ji temple in Nara Prefecture is thought to date from before 764ce

There are two things about Prince Shōtoku and the Yumedono. The first is that both the Yumedono and the Eizan-ji buildings are octagonal halls. The second is that legend has it that the Prince was born in a stable. The Hall of Dreams was built 414 years after the Romano-Celtic temple in Chelmsford so there would have been plenty of time for the idea for this style of building to reach Japan from the West, along with other goods and ideas via the Silk Road. Indeed, other aspects of temple building in Japan were influence by Greco-Roman styles of architecture and there are countless artefacts of Persian, Greek, Roman and Egyptian origin in the early 8th century Shōsō-in (正倉院) Imperial Repository in Nara (see also the Trust’s feature on Roman jewellery found in 5th century Japanese tomb). It would be fascinating indeed if the inspiration for Prince Shōtoku’s Hall of Dreams had its origins in Roman octagonal temples – perhaps even the one here in Chelmsford.

* Caesaromagus: A History and Description of Roman Chelmsford by Nick Wickenden, Keeper of Archaeology, Chelmsford Museums Service. A Chelmsford Museums Service Publication, 1991.

Full Telegraph article here. And for a light-hearted glimpse into the life and times of Chelmsford during the Roman period see Channel 4’s Chelmsford 123 situation comedy produced by Hat Trick Productions in 1988 and 1990.

 

Model of a Neanderthal child studying its reflection. From a display in the Neanderthal Museum in Krapina, Croatia
 
According to Tom Porter, writing in the International Business Times -
 
Stone Age children may have played with toy axes and gone to school… Archaeologists have studied Neanderthal sites across Europe, collecting bones and artefacts,  building a picture of everyday life in prehistoric communities. Instead of caveman life being nasty, brutish and short, the team believes that it was formed around tightly bonded families, where children were educated, and the elderly and disabled supported.
 
“The reputation of the Neanderthals is changing. Partly that’s because they have been shown to have bred with us – and that implies similarities to us – but also because of the emerging evidence of how they lived,” Penny Spikins, a researcher in human origins at York University, told the Sunday Times. In a paper, she and her colleagues identify three sites, two of them in England, where toy-like hand axes were found. They believe that Neanderthal children may also have been schooled in how to make tools. At one site in France and another in Belgium, stones were found that had been skilfully crafted alongside others that were inexpertly chipped, as if by learning children.
 
Read the full International Business Times article here.
 
This feature is dedicated to children all over the world, and from all ages, who have and are being mistreated. Let the abuse stop!
 
 
Borobudur Temple by 22Kartika. Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
 
In a threat horribly reminiscent of the destruction, by the Taliban, of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, ISIS is now threating to destroy the world’s largest Buddhist temple of Borobudur in central Java, Indonesia. Pangea Today reports that -
 
After releasing the video of the beheading of American photographer James Foley, the Islamic State terrorist group – formerly known as ISIS – has begun psychologically terrorizing Indonesia. The group has pledged to destroy the Borobudur Temple in the country’s Central Java Province, although its motive was not stated in detail. The 1,200-year-old Borobudur temple, which is home to hundreds of Buddhist statues, is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslims in the world.
 
Full article here.
   

Stonehenge
©
The Heritage Trust

Ed Caesar’s article, in the Smithsonian Magazine, deals with a ground-breaking survey which is revealing tantalizing new clues as to what might have gone on in the Stonehenge area four and a half thousand years ago -

Gaffney’s [Vince Gaffney, archaeologist from Newcastle upon Tyne in north-east England] latest research effort, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, is a four-year collaboration between a British team and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria that has produced the first detailed underground survey of the area surrounding Stonehenge, totalling more than four square miles. The results are astonishing. The researchers have found buried evidence of more than 15 previously unknown or poorly understood late Neolithic monuments: henges, barrows, segmented ditches, pits. To Gaffney, these findings suggest a scale of activity around Stonehenge far beyond what was previously suspected. “There was sort of this idea that Stonehenge sat in the middle and around it was effectively an area where people were probably excluded,” Gaffney told me, “a ring of the dead around a special area – to which few people might ever have been admitted… Perhaps there were priests, big men, whatever they were, inside Stonehenge having processions up the Avenue, doing… something extremely mysterious. Of course that sort of analysis depends on not knowing what’s actually in the area around Stonehenge itself. It was terra incognita, really.”

Read the full Smithsonian article here.

   

 
Another nail in the coffin of the mobile Neolithic theory! Cartoon by Phil Millar (Pedro)
 
Harry Mount, writing for Newsweek in June, reports on the recent reconstruction of five Neolithic roundhouses at the new  Stonehenge Visitor Centre. The reconstructions reveal how people, 4,500 years ago, may have lived at the time -
 
At first glance, we could be forgiven for thinking they were built in the modern age. Certainly, their building techniques are very similar to those used on Victorian cottages in nearby Wiltshire villages. The walls were made from cob, a mixture of the local chalk and hay, slapped, when wet, onto seven-year-old hazel stakes. These walls were then topped with thatched roofs, made from knotted straw tied onto a woven hazel frame.
 
Far from being dark, little Hobbit spaces, the interiors are surprisingly bright, illuminated by the white chalk walls and floors, and open door. A tall man can easily stand up straight inside. In the middle of the room, the ash-log fire on the hearth sends up smoke, which seeps through the thatch. As the smoke slowly dissipates, it creates a thin carbon dioxide layer against the straw that stops any spark from the fire igniting the thatch. As if that weren’t ingenious enough, the thatch expands in the rain, providing an even more waterproof membrane.
 
Full Newsweek article here.
   

 

The Rillaton Gold cup (left) discovered by workmen robbing stone from a cairn on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, in 1837, and the Ringlemere Gold Cup (right) discovered by a metal detectorist in Kent in 2001. Both now in the British Museum
Image: The Heritage Trust

A crowdsourcing archaeology project is on target for completion within a year. Thousands of volunteers worldwide have logged on to help transcribe more than 30,000 British Museum handwritten catalogue cards dating back to the late 18th century. Maev Kennedy, writing in The Guardian today, reports -

A 3D plastic model of a 3,000-year-old bronze axe – stored in the British Museum since it was found more than 30 years ago at Jevington, East Sussex – has been printed out in a public library in Washington DC through a unique experiment in crowdsourcing archaeology. Volunteers worldwide are logging on to help transcribe more than 30,000 handwritten catalogue cards dating back to the late 18th century, and making digital photographs of thousands of ancient bronze objects so they can be stitched together to form 3D images. There will be no copyright on the objects or the information, and the project is entirely built on open-source software, so could be copied anywhere. Producing the axe at an archaeology open day in Washington DC was the idea of volunteer Joseph Koivisto, a research assistant at the Catholic University of America.

Wilkin [Neil Wilkin, curator of the bronze age collections at the British Museum] said museum staff would have taken years to do the job, and the funding would probably never have been found. The crowdsourcing was launched in April, with a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is on target to complete the project within a year. The information will be added to the huge Portable Antiquities database – recording archaeological finds made by members of the public, mainly with metal detectors – which will soon record the millionth object since it was launched as a pilot scheme in 1997.

Full Guardian article here.

   

On Silbury Hill by Adam Thorpe

Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 this week is Adam Thorpe’s On Silbury Hill (see our earlier feature here).

The novel pays personal tribute to the Neolithic monument. The base of Silbury Hill covers five acres of Wiltshire turf that has not seen the daylight for 4,300 years. Adam Thorpe has known the place since he was 13 years old. Abridged by Jill Waters. Read by Philip Franks. Broadcast daily from 9:45am – 10:00am.

 

Discover the hidden secrets of the Great Gold Cross, one of the Staffordshire Hoard’s most iconic objects. View other films in this series and find out more about the history of the West Midlands, on the History West Midlands website.

 
 
Banksy’s Spy Booth mural before being defaced
 
In a race against time an effort is underway by conservators to save Banksy’s Spy Booth mural from permanent damage. The mural appeared on the wall of a house in Cheltenham (south-west England) in April this year and shows three 1950s-style agents ‘snooping’ on either side of a (real) public telephone box. The mural is only three miles from Britain’s GCHQ’s ‘listening post’ which, in GCHQ’s own words, “…is an intelligence and security organisation, working to keep Britain safe and secure in the challenging environment of modern communications.” At the beginning of August, however, residents noticed that the mural had been defaced with red and silver spray paint. Fortunately, a transparent, anti-graffiti film, had already been applied to the mural to protect it from such vandalism. Unless remedial work is undertaken without delay, however, the spray paint is likely to seep through to the original and cause it permanent damage.
 
 
Banksy’s Spy Booth mural after being defaced
 
Campaigners have been trying to keep the artwork in situ after the owners of the house claimed it had been sold to an American buyer and workmen had arrived to remove it. Last month Cheltenham Borough Council issued a temporary stop notice preventing further removal work from taking place on the Grade II listed building. Meanwhile, a local businessman has generously agreed to pay ‘whatever it takes’ to keep the artwork in place.
 
It’s difficult to know what can be done to protect similar works of art from such vandalism – though it’s good to know that there’s such civic pride towards protecting Banksy’ works of art, and others like them. One thing’s for sure though, GCHQ seems to have been lacking in its objective of ‘working to keep Britain safe and secure in the challenging environment of modern communications’ in this instance!
 
See our earlier features about Banksy here.
   
 
 
 
Press cutting from the Essex County Standard
 
The Colchester Archaeological Trust has discovered part of a Roman water-main off Colchester High Street -
 
Today (8th August), the Trust’s recent discovery of the remains of a Roman water-main in Colchester [south-east England] was reported on in the local press. Last week we excavated the remains of a water-main on our site at the Williams & Griffin store in the High Street at Colchester; this would have formed part of the Roman town’s pressurised water-supply system. The water-main is represented by several corroded iron collars, with attached fragments of mineral-replaced wood, lying in a straight-sided Roman trench. The remains of the water-main provide a fascinating snapshot of Roman engineering and urban infrastructure. The item was published on page 4 of the Essex County Standard, with a small illustration, and titled ‘”Water” discovery! Roman technology is unearthed’. The illustration is a photo. of Trust volunteer Gemma with one of the iron collars of the water-main, back at Roman Circus House.
 
Full article here.
 
    

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