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UNESCO has added two more Japanese traditions to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

The two new registrations are Mibu no Hana Taue, the ritual of transplanting rice in Hiroshima Prefecture, and the Sada Shin Noh sacred dance performed at a shrine in Shimane Prefecture.

Mibu no Hana Taue is an annual event held in Kitahiroshima Town. It is dedicated to the god of rice paddies and calls for a good harvest. In the ritual, villagers use colourfully decorated cattle to plough paddies. Sada Shin Noh is a dance performance at Sada Shrine in Matsue City that dates back nearly 400 years. The inclusion of the two brings the number of Japanese traditional events on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list to 20. UNESCO defines intangible cultural assets as traditions handed down over the generations that are in need of urgent safeguarding.

Video and more on the news here.

A complete shell fish hook from the Pleistocene levels of a cave site at the east end of Timor. Image credit Sue O’Connor, Australian National University
An archaeologist from The Australian National University has uncovered the world’s oldest evidence of deep sea fishing for big fish, showing that 42,000 years ago our [Australian] ancestors had mastered one of [the] nation’s favourite pastimes. Professor O’Connor also uncovered the world’s oldest fish hook, which dates from a later period.
“We found a fish hook, made from a shell, which dates to between 23,000 and 16,000 years ago. This is, we believe, the earliest known example of a fish hook and shows that our ancestors were skilled crafts people as well as fishers.  The hooks don’t seem suitable for pelagic fishing, but it is possible that other types of hooks were being made at the same time.”
More here.

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Image credit Merlin Cooper, 2005. Wikimedia Commons

Today, Saturday 26 November 2011 – the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford opens six new galleries  for the collections of Ancient Egypt and Nubia (present day Sudan). Building on the success of the Museum’s extension, which opened in 2009, this second phase of major redevelopment redisplays the world-renowned Egyptian collections to exhibit objects that have been in storage for decades, more than doubling the number of mummies and coffins on display. The galleries will take visitors on a chronological journey covering more than 5000 years of human occupation of the Nile Valley.

The £5 million project has received lead support from Lord Sainsbury’s Linbury Trust, along with the Selz Foundation and other trusts, foundations and individuals. Rick Mather Architects have led the redesign and redisplay of the pre-existing Egypt galleries and the extension into the restored Ruskin Gallery, previously occupied by the Museum Shop. The contractor Beard has completed the construction work in the historic building. New openings link the rooms, presenting the collections under the broad themes of Egypt at its Origins; Dynastic Egypt and Nubia; Life after Death in Ancient Egypt; The Amarna ‘Revolution’; Egypt in the Age of Empires; and Egypt meets Greece and Rome.

Avebury, south-east quadrant © Littlestone
And this stupendous fabric, which for some thousands of years, had brav’d the continual assaults of weather, and by the nature of it, when left to itself, like the pyramids of Egypt, would have lasted as long as the globe, hath fallen a sacrifice to the wretched ignorance and avarice of a little village unluckily plac’d within it.
William Stukeley (1687-1765).
For a full facsimile of William Stukeley’s book on Avebury see Abury – A Temple of the British Druids.

See also our Conservation, Preservation and Restoration: Avebury’s restoration and the Stukeley Line.


The British Museum, London
The Heritage Trust

Bonnie Greer, the deputy chair of the British Museum Trustees, introduces the new World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre at the Museum.

There can be few institutions in the world that have had a greater impact on our understanding of cultural development than the British Museum. The provision of the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre will enable that understanding to progress into the 21st Century – this facility is a vital addition.

David Attenborough.

A Japanese couple wearing kimono. Painting (1899) by Uemura Shōen 上村 松園
Has the 1,000 year-old Japanese kimono tradition come to the end of the road? In a BBC Radio 4 programme yesterday, Roland Buerk, BBC’s Japan Correspondent, looks at the crises facing the kimono industry and the crafts related to it.
The kimono may be one of Japan’s most enduring cultural symbols, but the kimono industry is now in steep decline, and soon there could be no craftsmen left with the skills to make them. Younger Japanese prefer Western clothes to eye-wateringly expensive and impractical traditional kimonos. As kimonos have gone out of fashion, the number of companies making them has also plummeted. There can be a thousand processes or more involved in making one kimono, each carried out by specialist craftsmen. It takes years to master a single technique, but most craftsmen today are over 80 and within the next 10 years, many will pass away. Can the kimono survive?

Mastering the Art of the Kimono. Producer: Ruth Evans. A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.


Stonehenge and the perimeter fence along part of the A344

Writing in the Salisbury Journal yesterday, Hannah White reports that –

A PLANNING inspector has ruled that byways surrounding Stonehenge will remain open. The decision follows inquiries into proposals to close the byways as well as parts of the A344 and the inspector has decided that although the road will close, the byways should remain open. English Heritage plans to return the area to grass as part of plans for a new visitors’ centre at Airman’s Corner. Planning inspector Alan Boyland said: “I accept that Wiltshire has a considerably greater length of byways than any other county. This is not however, in itself, a reason for allowing a further loss for recreational motor vehicle users. “In this case, the loss of a further 7km, particularly given the strategic importance of those routes, and without similar alternative routes being available, would in my view be significantly detrimental to the current users.”

More here.

In our inaugural article we feature an ancient Romano-British site (the Bartlow Burial Mounds, formerly in Essex but after boundary changes now in Cambridgeshire) that has suffered from three of the hazards highlighted in our header – that is a site which has suffered (relatively recently) from development, neglect and vandalism. According to the Cambridgeshire Rural Society the Bartlow Burial Mounds (also known as the Bartlow Hills) “…was originally the largest group of Roman barrows in northern Europe and includes the highest burial mound in Britain.” The noticeboard at the foot of one of the mounds records that, “The seven mounds covered extraordinary rich burials containing a collection of wonderful artistic objects, the best found in Britain. Mound IV, the largest, is 45ft high and 144ft in diameter. Mound II is still visible as a low rise, I is just discernable, and III is totally destroyed.” The noticeboard goes on to say that, “In 1815 Busick Harwood “excavated” VI to provide work for the unemployed… They began at the apex and digging down at great labour to the cist despoiled it of its contents, which were distributed and no account of them taken”.

The Bartlow Burial Mounds, Cambridgeshire, England before being seriously damaged
The Bartlow Burial Mounds today

To quote from the Batlow website –

Bartlow Hills is a scheduled ancient monument, owned by the Trustees of the Bartlow Estate and in the guardianship of Cambridgeshire County Council. The hills were originally the largest group of Roman Barrows in northern Europe and include the highest burial mound in Britain.

The seven mounds covered extraordinarily rich burials containing a wonderful collection of artistic objects, the best found in Britain. Mound IV, the largest, is 45’ high and 144’ in diameter. Mound II is still visible as a low rise, I is just discernible, and III is totally destroyed. Their steep conical shape, originally surrounded by a ditch, is typical of Roman burial mounds.

Large wooden chests with iron fittings were found in five mounds and there was a brick cist in another. Cremated burials, with food and drink in exotic vessels and decorated bronze, glass and pottery and other sacrificial offerings had been deposited in the chests, which were buried with lamps still burning in them. Items found included an iron folding chair and the remains of flowers, box leaves, a sponge, incense and liquids including blood, milk and wine mixed with honey.

Burial Mounds of this type were built in the late first and early second centuries AD in eastern England and Belgium. Most artefacts in them show the high status of the owner; they were usually imported from the Rhineland and northern Gaul, and are concerned with feasting and sacrificial offerings, rather than personal belongings which would be used in the afterlife.

In 1815 Busick Harwood excavated IV to provide work for the unemployed.They began at the apex and digging down at great labour to the cist despoiled it of its contents, which were distributed and no account of them taken”. However, some of the humbler items went to the Saffron Walden Museum where they survive. John Gage carried out better recorded excavations between 1832 and 1840. Eminent scientists, including Faraday, pioneer of electricity, analysed the contents of vessels and other organic remains. Gage’s reports are the only evidence we now have, for all the objects were taken to Easton Lodge, Dunmow, where they were destroyed by fire in 1847.

The surviving mounds became overgrown before they were taken into guardianship by Essex County Council in 1978. The scrub was cleared and fences built for protection. The hills passed to the Cambridgeshire County Council in 1990 after a change in the County boundary.

Built of chalk and unusable for agriculture, the surviving mounds are a refuge for the distinctive plants and insects of chalk grassland; the Pasque flower grew here until early this century. Regular mowing in late summer will prevent the scrub from spreading.

Cambridgeshire is rich is historical sites, many of which are open to the public. More information on these can be obtained from Cambridgeshire County Council. There is a display on Bartlow hills at Saffron Walden Museum and many other artefacts can be seen there and in museums in Cambridgeshire and Colchester. Other Roman barrows can be seen at the 6 Hills, Stevenage and Great Stukeley, Cambridgeshire.

The above is reproduced from a board at the site and was written and provided by Cambridgeshire County Council in 1991.

Administrative authority: Owned by the Trustees of the Bartlow Estate and under the guardianship of Cambridge County Council.

The Heritage Trust Cared for Rating  * (out of 5).

Suggested improvements: Clear signs from the road showing visitors the way to the monuments. A vigorous program of maintenance to include the eradication of overgrowth. One or two benches where people could pause and reflect on the monuments and their setting.



November 2011
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