You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2012.

The latest edition of British Archaeology will be in the shops on 6 April. Subscribers and Council for British Archaeology members will receive their copies today.
Mike Pitts (editor) writes that –
We are proud of British Archaeology. Every two months it brings new and unexpected things, always looking good, always reflecting with confidence what is happening in the world that is archaeology in Britain – and what British archaeologists are doing around the world. It stands up for archaeology and those who make it happen, who like us care deeply about our heritage and are fascinated by the endlessly curious things that people got up to in the past. It questions when questions need to be asked and criticises when things are not right. It campaigns on issues that matter – it has had a material effect on the survival of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, on how archaeologists can study and retain ancient human remains, and on the debate about historic shipwrecks.
This issue’s contributors include –
Tim Taylor – visiting industrial professor in archaeology at Bristol University (he comes from industry, and teaches media) and has made his life in archaeology and TV. Time Team is both, he writes on page 12.
Ken Taylor – a professional author whose latest book, about archaeoastronomy, is due to be published in the autumn. On page 38 he writes about the Brislington Community Archaeology Project, which he chairs.
Ruth Young researched her PhD in Charsadda, Pakistan, and is now working with staff and students from Pakistan and her own university in Leicester to investigate the heritage of Chitral. See page 42.


New Prehistoric Galleries at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum has been awarded £370,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support plans to create a new gallery focusing on their outstanding Bronze Age archaeological collections. This will tell the story of the people who built and used the world renowned monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury. The new Prehistoric Galleries will provide an opportunity to display for the first time in generations the unique gold and amber finds from Wiltshire that date back to the Bronze Age, over 4,000 years ago. This was a time of shaman and priests, learning and culture and contacts across Europe. The Museum will be able to build on its existing learning and outreach programme, and inspire local people and visitors to become engaged and informed about the prehistoric landscapes of Wiltshire.

The story to be told at the Museum forms part of an integrated approach to the interpretation of Stonehenge. The Stonehenge Museums Partnership links the Museum with new galleries being developed at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre by English Heritage and new galleries being planned at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. English Heritage is supporting the project with a major grant to the Museum. Wiltshire Council have also helped behind the scenes.

More here. See also the lunchtime talk about the Project by David Dawson, Director, Wiltshire Heritage Museum on Thursday, 12 April 2012 here.


The St Cuthbert Gospel © The British Museum
The Economist reports on the 14 July last year that –

The book fits into the palm of your hand. It is barely three inches across, weighs no more than a few ounces and it opens with words familiar through the ages, In principio erat verbum (“In the beginning was the word”). It was written more than 1,300 years ago in a neat hand using ink made of oak-gall nuts mixed with carbon. This week news came that St Cuthbert’s Gospel, the earliest intact European book, is to be bought for Britain for £9m ($14.4m) from the Jesuit order.

The St Cuthbert Gospel © The British Museum

More here.


Mortimer is the new campaigning mouthpiece for everyone who cares about Our Environment, Our Past and preserving them so that they work for Our Future.

Mortimer has been created by a group of working archaeologists to initiate and support campaigns and conversations about issues effecting Our Past and how we enjoy, study and try to understand it. Central to this strategy is a growing network of individuals and groups who work as part of the Mortimer family.

More here.



Carreg Samson © The Heritage Trust

The Heritage Trust will be holding an outreach event over three days from Monday evening, 16 July to Wednesday evening, 18 July. The theme this year will focus on the dolmens of the Pembrokeshire Coast, south-west Wales. Visits to Carreg Coetan Arthur, Carreg Samson and Pentre Ifan are planned. Time and weather permitting, a visit to Carn Menyn, the possible source of the bluestones at Stonehenge, will also be included. The event is free, and  will begin with an evening drink at the Cambrian Inn in Solva, Pembrokeshire on Monday, 16 July and end with a dinner on 18 July (costs for both are not included in the event).

Photos of The Cambrian Inn, Solva
This photo of The Cambrian Inn is courtesy of TripAdvisor

For further information and updates please follow The Heritage Trust: 2012 Outreach Event link on the Trust’s Forthcoming events page or contact us at



Stonehenge by Gideon Fidler (1856-1935)

To return to the Holly-Tree. When I awoke next day, it was freezing hard, and the lowering sky threatened more snow. My breakfast cleared away, I drew my chair into its former place, and, with the fire getting so much the better of the landscape that I sat in twilight, resumed my Inn remembrances. That was a good Inn down in Wiltshire where I put up once, in the days of the hard Wiltshire ale, and before all beer was bitterness. It was on the skirts of Salisbury Plain, and the midnight wind that rattled my lattice window came moaning at me from Stonehenge. There was a hanger-on at that establishment (a supernaturally preserved Druid I believe him to have been, and to be still), with long white hair, and a flinty blue eye always looking afar off; who claimed to have been a shepherd, and who seemed to be ever watching for the reappearance, on the verge of the horizon, of some ghostly flock of sheep that had been mutton for many ages. He was a man with a weird belief in him that no one could count the stones of Stonehenge twice, and make the same number of them; likewise, that any one who counted them three times nine times, and then stood in the centre and said, “I dare!” would behold a tremendous apparition, and be stricken dead.

From the Holly-Tree by Charles Dickens (1812-1870).


View of the Avebury landscape from the Sanctuary (now destroyed) in 1723
Image William Stukeley
English Heritage has announced that to –
Celebrate World Heritage Day and the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention with a fascinating exploration of the Stonehenge and Avebury Landscapes. Join our experts and discover these extraordinary prehistoric landscapes and how World Heritage Site status is helping to conserve them. This is a tour with a mixture of walking and travelling by coach. You will be led by Dr Nick Snashall, the National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. Also taking part are Sarah Simmonds, the Avebury World Heritage officer (Wiltshire Council) and Beth Thomas, the Stonehenge World heritage Site Coordinator (English Heritage). This tour is being organised in partnership with English Heritage, National Trust and Wiltshire Council and open to members of both organisations and non-members.
The event will take place on Wednesday, 18 April. Details here. See also our earlier feature here.

Megaliths of India: A guest feature by Subhashis Das.

India is a treasure house of megaliths of the most stunningly wide, diverse and fascinating kind; megaliths built by our tribal adivasis (आदिवासी)  from hoary antiquity to modern times. These megaliths are not only enthralling local scholars and tourists but also, increasingly, visitors from abroad. Strangely, these megalithic treasures from our ancient past are never promoted as worthy ‘Heritages of India’ and consequently are being deprived of the dignity and protection such ancient monuments demand – that is to say as true relics of our country’s prehistory… so very sad.

Jitendra Tewary has discovered many megalithic sites in the region

The architecture of many of these megaliths varies from one region to another, and many are startlingly similar to those found elsewhere – eg in Britain, China and India. Many are being raised in the same manner since hoary antiquity. Megaliths of Chatra, or more specifically speaking megaliths of Pathalgadda, are typical of the region. The name of the village Pathalgadda is a Hindi name for tribal megaliths. As when the Hindi speaking folks walked this region, after the tribals had started to move away, they must have had been surprised to find so many standing stones in and around the vicinity.

Menhirs in Angarha

The megaliths are in their thousands… look anywhere… go anywhere; megaliths are everywhere. I have never seen a place quite like this… all this was conveyed to me by one young fellow in his late twenties, Jitendra Tewary. Jitendra who is a correspondent of a Hindi daily, and who also owns a studio, has discovered many megaliths around the region. The area is ringed with some spectacular hills in the landscape – for example in Puraniya, Likhlahi, Dasi, Lamboiya etc.

The megaliths are solely burial and memorial stones. They can be found jumbled up at single places suggesting that they were the respective “Jangarhas”, “Hargarhis”, or “Sasandiris” of the erstwhile adivasi villages, for which these burials were once created in the deep past.

The opposite facing tilted stones are inclined towards East and West

The distinctive feature of the megaliths here is that many of the sepulchral stones can be seen placed inclining towards the west and to its opposite, a little to the left there would be another stone tilted towards the west. Such stones are seen placed side-by-side creating a row with a north-south alignment (the orientation of the dead in India).

The sites have revealed iron and copper slags, black pottery, black and red pottery, red pottery, and ochre pottery. Several of the sites can be dated back to the Chalcolithic Period. Most of the sites I saw were damaged by non-tribal villagers scrounging for treasure from below the stones slabs, or the stones themselves had been towed away by them to serve either as washing stones by a well, or to function as drain covers. Jitendra is trying to have the sites protected; a task more than impossible in a country like ours.

A menhir in a ruined megalithic site in Rohma

This is the second in a series of features on the Megaliths of India by Subhashis Das. In subsequent features we hope to look more closely at the archaeology, history and spread of these astonishing structures, the people who made them, and what might be done to protect the structures from further development and destruction.


British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography online
…exists to support research work of all kinds. It provides bibliographic references – many with abstracts – covering all aspects of archaeology and the historic environment, and every chronological period, with a geographical focus on Britain and Ireland. There are almost 200,000 references from over three centuries of scholarship – with over 1,500 new records added each year. The biab online service now includes:
  • User accounts & saved search results facilities
  • Export of search results in html, pdf or BibTex format
  • Over 55,000 grey literature references from England’s Archaeological Investigations Project (AIP)

biab online coverage provides references to: online & hard-copy publications; local, regional, national & international publications; books, articles, conference proceedings & grey literature. It is a service of the Council for British Archaeology, run with the support of all major historic environment sector organisations from UK and Ireland.

More here.


A team of Egyptian and Japanese scientists lifting the first of forty one limestone slabs weighing some 16 tons. Below are fragments of an ancient wooden ship belonging to Khufu – the pharaoh credited with the building of the Great Pyramid
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

The Mainichi Daily News reports on 21 February that –

Archaeologists on Monday began restoration on a 4,500-year-old wooden boat found next to the pyramids, one of Egypt’s main tourist attractions. The boat is one of two that were buried next to the Pharaoh Khufu, spokesmen for a joint Egyptian-Japanese team of archaeologists said. The boats are believed to have been intended to carry pharaohs into the afterlife.

Last year in June, a team of scientists lifted the first of 41 limestone slabs each weighing about 16 tons to uncover the pit in which the ancient ship was buried, said Sakuji Yoshimura, professor from Japan’s Waseda University. At the time, experts said restoration would likely take about four years and that at its completion, the boat would be placed on display at the Solar Boat Museum near the pyramids, which routinely attract millions of tourists and boost one of Egypt’s most important industries. The team had initially thought the vessel would be safer left underground than exposed to pollution, but evidence showed that pollution, water and insects had invaded the boat’s chamber.

A $10 million grant from Waseda University has helped in preparing the ship’s excavation process.


The Mildenhall Museum, King Street, Mildenhall, Suffolk website describes the Museum as –
Maybe just a little austere and foreboding but hiding a wealth of antiquities and other riches from Mildenhall and surrounding areas, not least of which is the Mildenhall Treasure, fully documented in this website. The intention is to give you a flavour of the museum but nothing can beat a proper visit so do come in if you are in the area.  In the meantime enjoy your trip through our website and remember that it is constantly being updated and improved.
 The Mildenhall Museum, Suffolk before extension work
Now, according to BBC News, Suffolk, the Museum is –
…set to double in size to help display the remains of an Anglo-Saxon warrior and his horse. The warrior, who is thought to have died about AD 500, was found buried at RAF Lakenheath in 1997 with a horse, bridle, sword and shield. Forest Heath council has announced it will provide a grant of £789,813. Peter Merrick, chairman of the Mildenhall Museum Society, said: “We’re obviously delighted as lots of hard work has gone into it.” Suffolk’s Archaeological Service has the skeletons of the warrior and horse, which were part of a cemetery containing 427 graves. The horse’s bridle is currently at the British Museum, but it will be returned for display in Mildenhall.
Full article here.


UNESCO proposes to organize an international conference from 26 to 28 September 2012 in Vancouver (BC) Canada, to explore the main issues affecting the preservation of digital documentary heritage, in order to develop strategies that will contribute to greater protection of digital assets and help to define an implementation methodology that is appropriate for developing countries, in particular.

The conference will bring together professionals from the heritage sectors, as well as a range of government, IT industry, rightsholders and other stakeholders to assess current policies in order to propose practical recommendations to ensure permanent access to digital documentary heritage.

Although knowledge is today primarily created and accessed through digital media, it is highly ephemeral and its disappearance could lead to the impoverishment of humanity. Despite the adoption of the UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Heritage in 2003, there is still insufficient awareness of the risks of loss of digital heritage.

Digital information has economic value as a cultural product and as a source of knowledge. It plays a major role in national sustainable development as, increasingly, personal, governmental and commercial information is created in digital form only. But digitized national assets also constitute an immense wealth of the countries concerned and of society at large. The disappearance of this heritage will engender economic and cultural impoverishment and hamper the advancement of knowledge.

More here.

Amitāyus (Buddha of Eternal Life). Chinese, Honan Province
This delicate Buddha statuette (approximately 11cm high x 7cm wide and 2.5cm thick) is moulded from loess and painted with gold, azurite, malachite and other mineral pigments. Possibly once formed part of a travelling shrine.
A reminder that the The Stonehenge Landscape Project lecture will take place at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes, Wiltshire this Saturday, 10 March.

Writing in the Daily Mail today Rob Waugh reports that a reproduction of –

The world’s oldest sea-going boat, the Dover Bronze Age Boat is to sail again 3500 years after it crossed the English Channel. A new project, ‘Boat 1550 BC’ aims to rebuild the boat, which had lain hidden under the centre of Dover for 3,500 years until it was rediscovered in 1992 during the construction of an underpass.

Bronze Age tools and ship-building techniques being used to reconstruct the Dover Bronze Age Boat

Canterbury Archaeological Trust Deputy Director, Peter Clark, said: ‘I have been working towards this moment for more than ten years. It’s very exciting. As the days and weeks go by we will learn so much about how our ancestors were able to build such a remarkable vessel.’

The original 1,550 year-old Dover Bronze Age boat on display at the Dover Museum

Full article here. See also here.



March 2012
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