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Volume 1 in the Early Korea: Reconsidering early Korean history through archaeology series by Mark E Byington, Harvard University. Korea Institute

Korean roof tile from the Silla-Koryō Period. Approximately 12cm in diameter 

Early Korea is dedicated to developing the fields of early Korean history and archaeology in the English language. The present volume consists of six scholarly works by specialists active in these fields. Three studies focus on the topic of recent advances in historical archaeology on the Korean peninsula and adjacent regions and how this is changing the ways historians understand the history of the earliest states on the peninsula. Another study surveys the origins and development of ceramic traditions in Korea based on recently recovered archaeological data. Finally, two studies discuss the practice of heritage management in Korea, focusing on rescue archaeology and heritage protection.
Early Korea Project, Korea Institute, Harvard University, 2008.

The scheduled ancient monument and Grade I listed 15th century Harmondsworth Barn © PA

The Daily Mail reports today that –

A medieval barn described by the poet John Betjeman as the ‘cathedral of Middlesex’ has been rescued from decay and neglect for the nation, English Heritage said today.

Grade I-listed Harmondsworth Barn in west London joins the likes of Stonehenge, Osborne House and parts of Hadrian’s Wall in the national collection of historic sites and monuments under the guardianship of English Heritage. Built by Winchester College in 1426, the barn would have been used to store grain from the surrounding manor, owned by the Bishop of Winchester, with profits from the produce used to pay for the school. While it has had some repairs over the years, most recently by English Heritage to make it weather-proof and keep out pigeons, the structure is largely as it was built, with the timber and stones still bearing original carpenter and mason marks.

The oak-framed barn, which the heritage agency said ranks alongside the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace for its historic value, was used up until the 1970s but fell into disrepair in the ownership of an offshore company which had bought it in 2006. It is thought the purchase was a speculative one, as the barn stands just metres from where Heathrow’s third runway – had it gone ahead – would have been built. In 2009, English Heritage became concerned about the barn’s deteriorating condition and issued an urgent works notice for emergency repairs to keep it water and wind-tight. A dispute over payment for the emergency works led to English Heritage buying the barn for £20,000.

Full article here. See also The Guardian feature here.


All along the vallies, stones of considerable bigness
Piggledene in winter. Image credit Willow

In the afternoon come to Abebury, where, seeing great stones like those of Stonage standing up, I stopped, and took a countryman of that town, and he carried me and shewed me a place trenched in, like Old Sarum almost, with great stones pitched in it, some bigger than those at Stonage in figure, to my great admiration: and he told me that most people of learning, coming by, do come and view them, and that the King did so: and that the Mount cast hard by is called Selbury, from one King Seall buried there, as tradition says. I did give this man 1s. So took coach again, seeing one place with great high stones pitched round, which, I believe, was once some particular building, in some measure like that of Stonage. But, about a mile off, it was prodigious to see how full the Downes are of great stones; and all along the vallies, stones of considerable bigness, most of them growing certainly out of the ground so thick as to cover the ground, which makes me think the less of the wonder of Stonage, for hence they might undoubtedly supply themselves with stones, as well as those at Abebury.

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703).


The Colchester and Ipswich Museums website reports that it will –
…showcase seventy of the treasures in Nanjing Museum (南京博物院) the second largest museum in China. It will explore the rise of Imperial China from the earliest Stone Age tombs to the time of the last Emperor and take us on a journey across 8000 years of Chinese history. Stunning objects include a 2000 year old, life size jade suit from the tombs of the Han Dynasty rulers, an exquisite gold cicada sitting on a jade leaf worn by a Ming Princess nearly 600 years ago and the luxury items and ornaments that adorned the palace of the last of the Imperial families as the tumult of the twentieth century changed China for ever. Alongside this rich history will be a celebration of Chinese crafts and the enduring appeal of animals in Chinese culture. A delicate jade mouse will join an 8000 year old pottery pig and three wise monkeys immortalised on a lacquer plate amongst a host of other creatures who will delight and fascinate family audiences.
Venue: Colchester Castle Museum from 30 June 2012 – 7 January 2013. More here.

Writing in The Western Daily Press on Monday, 16 January. T Rowe reports on an exhibition now showing in the upstairs gallery at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum until 14 April 2012.

Intense and brooding images of Stonehenge and other prehistoric monuments in a new exhibition are taking visitors deep into the heart of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Wessex’. Archaeologists debate the purpose of Stonehenge, but for Hardy it was a haunting symbol of isolation and suffering. The exhibition by three artists at Salisbury Museum mirrors the Dorset author’s emotional response to the archaeological sites he knew and used with such effect in his novels. His use of landscape was highly symbolic and deeply emotive. Nowhere is that more clear than in his description of Stonehenge, which features in the climactic scene of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. In the dead of night, Tess stumbles upon the monument, and lies down to rest on an ancient altar, giving the allusion of her character as a sacrificial offering to a society that has cast her out. Hardy describes the isolation of the monument on Salisbury Plain, and once inside, the feeling of enclosure.

Symbolism is central to Hardy’s writing, which may be why so many artists use his work as their inspiration. Artists Dave Gunning, David Inshaw and Rob Pountney have collaborated to show the dramatic landscapes and archaeology in media ranging from charcoal to steel etching and oil paint.

Full article here.


Plas Tirion, Llanwrst. One of the houses tree-ring dated this week by Royal Commission staff
Heritage of Wales News reports yesterday that –
Earlier this week, Royal Commission staff visited the Conwy valley, to work with Margaret Dunn, the director of the Dating Old Welsh Houses project  in evaluating the final batch of houses, which will now be tree-ring dated by Dr Dan Miles and Dr Martin Bridge from the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory. Working in partnership with the Royal Commission, Dating Old Welsh Houses is a community-based history project focused on dating historic houses in the counties of North-west Wales and then compiling their house histories. In the last three years over sixty houses have been successfully dated by the partnership project and revealed some remarkable results. Contrary to the traditional view that North Wales was an architectural backwater in terms of houses, the results of the project show that the characteristic Snowdonian house took shape in the early sixteenth-century much earlier than previously believed.
See also The Plasauduon below.
Morio Nakajima, one of only two remaining sentō (銭湯) mural painters in Japan, working on a picture of his hometown of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, where residents have been unable to return since the nuclear disaster there
Sentō, or public bathhouses, are a declining tradition in Japan. In their heyday in the 1960s there were more than 2,500 in Tokyo alone – now there are fewer than 1,000. Sentō feature in many Japanese paintings, Ukiyo-e prints and in the country’s literature, and the tradition of communal bathing found there is not dissimilar to the one found in ancient Rome – in other words, a place not only to bathe but also to relax and socialise. Along with the bathhouse of more recent times came the mural painters; until recently they were always men painting somewhat garish murals of famous Japanese scenic spots – paintings of Mt Fuji being by far the most popular. Now, however, there remain only two mural painters working in the sentō tradition. The Mainichi Daily News reports yesterday that –

Of just two artisans left in Japan who paint murals in public bathhouses, Morio Nakajima is a longtime Tokyo resident who has been painting scenes from his hometown of Iitate in an effort to inform people that such a beautiful village exists in Japan’s northeast, ravaged by the triple disasters of March 11, 2011.

The 66-year-old Nakajima left Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, for Tokyo at the age of 18. While working at a rubber processing plant in Sumida Ward, he became enamored of the grand mural of Mount Fuji on the wall of a public bathhouse nearby, and decided to apprentice with the late bathhouse painter Kikuo Maruyama.

Full article here. See also The Guardian article here.


The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales will be holding a seminar at The Pavilion, Llandrindod Wells, in conjunction with Leica-Geosystems, Atlanterra, CAST, Maney Publishing, Imagina Atlantica and ICOMOS UK.

Digital Past is a two day conference which showcases innovative digital technologies for data capture, interpretation and dissemination of heritage sites and artefacts. Running for the fourth year, Digital Past 2012 will be set in the historic mid-Wales town of Llandrindod Wells, and offers a combination of papers, seminars and handson workshops and demonstrations to investigate the latest technical survey and interpretation techniques and their practical application in heritage interpretation, education and conservation.

The conference will be of value to anyone working in or studying the archaeological, heritage, education and museums sector, and is designed to allow informal networking and exchange of ideas within a friendly and diverse audience made up of individuals from commercial, public and third sector organisations. Open House sessions will also give the opportunity for display and demonstration of projects or products, and the chance to talk to heritage organisations, product developers and retailers.

Digital Past 2012
New technologies in heritage, interpretation and outreach
22-23 February 2012, Llandrindod Wells.

Full details here.


Barrows at Beckhampton and Overton Hill by William Stukeley


When the ritual and whatever its accompaniment may have been of masks, effigies and offerings have vanished so long ago, when there is no stir of emotion and the ghost which keeps emotion alive, when the very people responsible for raising these mounds have been overwhelmed, absorbed and forgotten, then their detailed study can become lifeless enough. Better perhaps to look at them with knowledge but with knowledge unexpressed, these round barrows that are like the floating bubbles of events drowned in time.

Jacquetta Hawkes


Details of the Golden spider-silk cape. Image credit Paul Grover

A rare Golden spider-silk textile will be on display from today at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The Telegraph reports that –

The four metre long woven textile was made from the silk of more than a million female Golden Orb spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar. It took 80 people five years to collect the spiders, and the naturally golden hand-woven brocaded textile took over four years to create. According to experts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, spider’s silk has not been woven since 1900, when a textile was created for the Paris Exposition Universelle – but that no longer survives. This will be the first time spider silk has been exhibited in Europe since.

The earliest recorded weave using the silk of spiders dates from 1709, made by a Frenchman, Francois-Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, who successfully produced gloves and stockings and supposedly a full suit of clothes for King Louis XIV.

The Golden spider-silk textile will be on display in the V&A’s Studio Gallery from 25 January to 5 June 2012. Full article here.

A Golden-spider silk textile at the Art Institute of Chicago


The Pectoral Cross. Image courtesy Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Saxon Hoard: a Golden Discovery will be shown on BBC2 on Thursday, 26 January from 8pm.

Historian Dan Snow uncovers the secrets of one of Britain’s most significant discoveries – the Staffordshire Hoard. Found by an amateur metal detecting enthusiast in 2009, the cache of 3,500 items offers an array of new clues into the Dark Ages, and the presenter pieces together the lives of the people who lived in these kingdoms.

Following the initial find, Alex Jones, director of Birmingham Archaeology and his colleagues were invited to excavate the site, Birmingham University said. Mr Jones said it was fantastic news for the region and raised the importance of heritage research. “Being a partner in one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of our time is something we can all be proud of,” he said.

Experts have so far established that there were at least 650 items of gold in the haul, weighing more than 5kgs (11lb), and 530 silver objects totalling more than 1kg (2.2lb) in weight. Copper alloy, garnets and glass objects were also discovered at the site. Duncan Slarke, finds liaison officer for Staffordshire, was the first professional to see the hoard, which contains warfare paraphernalia, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates inlaid with precious stones. He said he was “virtually speechless” when he saw the items. “I saw boxes full of gold, items exhibiting the very finest Anglo-Saxon workmanship,” he added.

Source The Radio Times and BBC News.


Stonehenge © The Heritage Trust

Seeing Beneath Stonehenge has been created by the Archaeology Group at Bournemouth University and –

…uses Google Earth to transport you around the virtual landscape of this magnificent monument. You can interact with the exciting discoveries of the Stonehenge Riverside Project and learn more about the archaeology of this internationally important site. Once you have downloaded the Google Earth layers you can:

• Take a virtual guided tour of the Stonehenge landscape
• Visit the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls, including taking a trip inside a prehistoric house
• See reconstructions of Bluestonehenge and the Southern Circle, showing how these monuments may have looked in prehistory


Gateholm Island, Pembrokeshire. Source Wikimedia. Image credit Erik Wannee

This evening’s programme on Channel 4, from 6pm, focuses on the tiny windswept island of Gateholm Island. The Radio Times reports that –

Tony Robinson and the team investigate Gateholm Island, Pembrokeshire, where a number of mysterious artefacts were discovered years ago, suggesting the site was once of religious importance. The archaeologists battle inclement weather to begin a dig on the mainland, where team leader Francis Pryor sees characteristics suggestive of a classic Iron Age fort beginning to emerge.



1898 photograph of Nederfrederiksmose Man. Source Wikimedia Commons

An in situ photograph of the bog body Nederfrederiksmose Man, also known as Frederiksdal Man and Kragelund Man. The body was found on 25 May 1898 in Fattiggårdens mose near the village Kragelund, north west of Silkeborg, Denmark and dates from 1099ce. This image was taken during the 1898 excavation and is the earliest known photograph of a bog body.



A piece of the Hajiki pottery unearthed at the Saiku ruins in Meiwa, Mie Prefecture
Photo courtesy of the Saiku Historical Museum

The oldest known version of the hiragana Iroha Uta (a poem written in one of Japan’s two phonetic scripts) has been discovered on pieces of ancient Hajiki pottery in Meiwa, Mie Prefecture, Japan. An article in The Mainichi Daily News on Thursday, 19 January reports that –

The Saiku Historical Museum said Jan. 17 that pieces of old “Hajiki” pottery, excavated from the Saiku ruins in Meiwa, Mie Prefecture, and dating back to the late Heian Period (from the late 11th century through the early 12th century), bore handwritten hiragana characters from the Iroha poem on their surfaces. Saiku was the palace of the sacred Saio princesses who served at Ise Shrine.

“It’s valuable material showing that court culture, in which hiragana was taught using the Iroha poem, had already spread through the area,” said an official at the museum.

According to the museum, four pieces of dish-shaped Hajiki pottery were unearthed in a survey of the area between June and November 2010. The pottery pieces, measuring 6.7 centimeters by 4.3 centimeters when combined, bore part of the Iroha poem — “nu ru o wa ka” on the top and “tsu ne na ra” on the bottom. The hiragana characters were written in ink.

The pottery pieces will be on display at the Saiku Historical Museum from 21 January 2012 – 11 March 2012.

Full article here.



January 2012
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