You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2012.

The Trefael Stone. Image credit Archaeology Safaris UK
The Western Telegraph reports yesterday that –
Rare finds have prompted archaeologists to rewrite the history of an ancient north Pembrokeshire stone. The Trefael Stone, a scheduled ancient monument in a Nevern field, was originally thought to be an ancient standing stone, but is actually the capstone of a 5,500-year-old tomb, according to new research from a Bristol University archaeologist. Dr George Nash and colleagues’ excavations at the site indicate that the 1.2m high stone once covered a small burial chamber, probably a portal dolmen, Wales’ earliest Neolithic burial-ritual monument type.
The stone has multiple cupmarks, circular holes gouged into its surface associated with ritual burial activity in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. As the first archaeologists to fully investigate the site, Dr Nash and his colleagues Thomas Wellicome and Adam Stanford found a further 30 cupmarks of varying size and quality on the stone, along with an array of prehistoric artefacts that led the team to suggest that this site was more than just a standing stone.
Full article here.
Detail of Shōji Hamada (potter) from the cover of the book The Living Treasures of Japan by Barbra Adachi. Image credit Harri Peccinotti
The unique designation of “Living National Treasure” is an essential expression of the Japanese reverence for those who practice with the utmost skill and talent the traditional Japanese arts and crafts. The fourteen men and women who are the subject of this book represent crafts whose age-old ideals of beauty and use reflect major aspects of Japanese life – from dyed patterns of cotton or elegant silk kimonos to swords carried by the samurai to the pottery used both every day and in the tea ceremony.
The Living Treasures of Japan by Barbara Adachi. Foreward by Jo Okuda (former Director of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo). Introduction by Bernard Leach. Photographs by Harri Peccinotti. Drawings by Michael Foreman. Edited and designed by Derek Birdsall. Kodansha International Ltd, Tokyo, New York and San Francisco 1973. ISBN 0-87011-204-X.

The Scottish Ten project reports that –

A team of experts from Scotland are using laser scanners to digitally record the incredible Rani ki Vav stepwell, near Gujurat in India. Working with the Archaeological Survey of India, they will record the intricate statues in the well. This will allow them to create virtual replica’s of the monument to aid with its conservation and maintenance. It is part of the Scottish Ten project launched by the Scottish Government to record Scotland’s five UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites and five international sites.

More on the Scottish Ten project here and here.



The eastern mole (Scalopus Aquaticus). Source Wikimedia. Image credit Kenneth Catania

Moles have played a significant role in the history of Britain, as the Jacobean toast to The little gentleman in velvet recalls. Recently English Heritage has been keeping a careful watch as volunteers sift their way through hundreds of molehills at Epiacum – an isolated Roman fort close to the Cumbrian border and 12 miles south of Hadrian’s Wall. Epiacum is a scheduled ancient monument and, as such, unauthorised excavations there are banned. That isn’t stopping the little gentlemen in velvet from doing a bit of interesting digging of their own however. The Northerner Blog of The Guardian reports that –

Digging is what moles do, and when they live on a scheduled ancient monument that can be quite helpful, at least to the Birley-minded school of thought. Take Epiacum, which was a Roman fort some 12 miles south of the wall at present-day Whitley Castle on the 1000-acre fields of Castle Nook farm.

Moles have been so busy there that English Heritage has drafted in 37 volunteers to sieve through their molehills and carefully take out anything ancient which has been brought to the surface. So far, they have found a bead from a jet necklace, pieces of earthenware pots and a quarter-inch-long shard of rarer and more valuable Samian ware pottery.

Full article here.


One of the gardens within the grounds of the Kyōto Imperial Palace (Kyōto Gosho 京都御所) Japan ©
The Heritage Trust

The garden above is just one of many in Japan where access is restricted in order to both protect the site and preserve an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. Other heritage sites around the world are not so well protected and, until they are, the World Monuments Fund Sustainable Tourism Pledge suggests the following –

Unmanaged tourism can damage cultural sites. Visitors can make a difference. Travel responsibly with these ten simple guidelines.

1. Know the History

Before you travel, read up on the history and culture of your destination. Use the internet to get leads on local specialties and off-the-beaten-path sites from locals and other travelers. Learn a few basic phrases in your destination’s local language.

2. Reduce Your (Carbon) Footprint

Walking, biking, and trekking or exploring one place in-depth is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. At urban destinations, walk or take public transit whenever possible. You’ll see more and avoid getting stuck in rush-hour traffic!

3. Be Eco-Friendly

Conservation should always be on a traveler’s mind: whatever helps the environment, such as recycling or staying in an eco-friendly hotel, also protects heritage.

4. Respect the Local Culture

Show respect for and interest in the local culture. At sacred sites, dress modestly, speak softly, and be mindful of people who are there to worship. Seek out local celebrations and festivals – they can provide a unique glimpse into local culture and are a fun way to meet locals, sample traditional foods, and learn about your destination’s heritage.

5. Go Off the Beaten Path

Visit lesser-known places—they may be far more rewarding (not to mention less crowded) than tourist hotspots. The Taj Mahal may be a must-see, but India has more than 25 other spectacular World Heritage Sites.

6. Be Gentle in Your Travel

Be mindful of visitor wear and tear. Visiting crowded sites at off-peak hours or popular destinations in the off-season will reduce your impact. Stick to marked paths. Wear comfortable footwear such as sneakers; heels can damage fragile sites. Don’t climb on monuments or touch rock carvings, as it can damage them.

7. Don’t Be Flashy with Photos

Take only photographs, and make sure that a flash is permitted because a flash can damage centuries-old artwork. Be aware of local traditions when photographing people and when in doubt, ask permission before snapping a picture. Never remove anything from a site: you may think one stone won’t be missed, but if every one of Pompeii’s two million annual visitors took something home, soon there’d be nothing left.

8. Buy Local

Support the local economy by buying crafts from local artisans as souvenirs. Be wary of “antiquities” as these could be looted or forgeries. Patronize smaller hotels and local restaurants—that way the money you spend boosts the local economy and helps preserve heritage.

9. Join the Cause

Help threatened sites, either through donations to organizations like the World Monuments Fund or by volunteering—either in your community or on a “voluntourism” trip. There are many opportunities to combine travel and volunteerism, and ways to help range from building houses to participating in archeological digs.

10. Educate

Tell friends and family about responsible heritage tourism. Raise awareness by sharing your experiences on social media sites like Facebook and Flickr, or your own travel blog. Start a global conservation conversation!


Traditional Burmese spinners at work. Image credit Tourism Transparency

Continuing our theme on responsible tourism, an anecdote by a New Zealand museum curator, also an experienced and politically aware traveller to Burma, shows how responsible tourists can make a difference to the people and places they visit.

I’m going to tell you a little story, which is so typical of why I love travelling so much. I have been to Burma many times, yet on this particular trip I travelled up north to Putao in Kachin State. I hired a truck and driver from one of the churches so I could visit a nearby village as there was no public transport. All along the way the truck stopped to pick up people walking along the road. As they jumped off they would give me a big smile of thanks and a wave.

As we passed through a small village a man told me that the daughter of a woman living there had gone to live in New Zealand. On the way back I stopped and visited the old lady. She was a tiny soul, bent over but full of smiles and friendship. Her traditional house and garden were spotlessly clean. Through my friend I asked her about her daughter and took some photos. I also got her daughter’s address in Auckland, so when I got back to New Zealand I printed some enlarged photos of the mother and sent them off to her daughter who she hadn’t seen for years.

A few days later I had a lovely letter in the mail and then a phone call from the woman – almost in tears with emotion. She hadn’t seen a photo of her mother since leaving Burma 10 years ago. I could tell her all about her mother’s house and garden and her neighbours and an old school friend that she went to school with. She was so thankful and full of joy.

Now, who would dare tell me I can’t travel to Burma? Such are the joys of travel.

More here.



View on Mrauk U right after sunrise from Shwetaung pagoda. Source Wikipedia. Image credit Jmhullot


Is the conservation of heritage sites and mass tourism compatible? THE IRRAWADDY of Burma and Southeast Asia asked Dr Andrea Valentin, founder of Tourism Transparency, an NGO campaigning for an open and accountable tourism industry, and recently returned from Burma’s first Responsible Tourism Conference held in Naypyidaw, to define responsible tourism and the difference between that and traditional tourism; also what benefits responsible tourism would bring to Burma –

Responsible tourism offers a solution to the problems caused by mass tourism. It’s about travelling in a better way and taking responsibility for the impacts that our actions have socially and economically on others and on their social, cultural and natural wellbeing. It minimizes negative impacts, involves local people in decisions, improves working conditions and contributes to conservation of natural and cultural heritage. Responsible tourism is culturally sensitive, generates respect between host and guest, and provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through meaningful connections with locals. It can bring great benefits to travelers, the host population and the tourism business, without causing intolerable ecological and social damage.

The demand for responsible tour operations is definitely on the rise worldwide, and businesses following responsible tourism standards increase profitability. Personally I think this is more than a passing trend, because responsible tourism is a consumer-based counter to the mass production of tourism.

Of course there are many problems with responsible tourism. It seems everything has gone green these days. Not long ago tourism was one of the least likely industries to have an ethical dimension, but today we are seeing more and more claims about being carbon-neutral, sustainable, organic, eco, green or responsible. Green-washing is a real threat. When a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be green than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact, we speak of ‘green-washing.’ This is a big problem for sustainability.

During my pro-poor tourism talk at the Responsible Tourism conference in Naypyidaw, I stressed that the long-term success for sustainable tourism in Myanmar [Burma] depends on whether it can deliver development to civil society, especially the poor and poorest. I suggested that government take steps to strengthen the pro-poor benefits of tourism. I mentioned to businesses to embrace pro-poor tourism by adapting their supply chain and facilitating partnerships with the poor. There are many partnership models for locals to benefit from tourism—but we need fair land and resource rights. Businesses could offer microfinance aimed at promising small businesses, or create rural cooperative societies. Such initiatives could be coupled with rural manufacturing and cottage industries. The government could create incentives for companies to invest and operate in pro-poor ways.
Full article here.

The World Monuments Fund reports that –

Over the course of World Monuments Fund’s forty-seven-year history, many of our projects have been at UNESCO World Heritage sites. Our engagement has ranged from catalytic support, helping local groups prepare sites for World Heritage inscription, to conservation work at sites already on the list. World Heritage cultural sites reflect the achievements of communities over time and this vast array of special places recognizes that our planet is filled with extraordinary sites that range from the humble and obscure to the grand and famous.

On the fortieth anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage convention, we take a look at eight of the nearly 100 UNESCO World Heritage sites where we have worked over our long history.


The World’s Heritage. Foreword by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO
UNESCO announces –

A unique guide to 936 UNESCO World Heritage sites, this single volume of the World’s Heritage is illustrated with over 650 stunning full-colour photographs. Location maps for every site are also included.
2012 is the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention – this book is a memorable way to commemorate forty years of promoting, supporting and highlighting the wonders of the world.

The prestigious list includes some of the most celebrated and breathtaking places on earth, for example, the ancient Nabatean city of Petra in Jordan, the legendary Acropolis in Athens, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and Machu Picchu (the ‘Lost City of the Incas’), in Peru. The 25 new sites added to the List in 2011 are included in the book. For instance, the Persian Garden in Iran, the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, Selimiye Mosque Complex in Turkey and the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty in Vietnam.

The World Heritage is the ultimate book for those interested in the world’s spectacles, those wishing to traverse the globe, and for those who would like to understand the planet better

More here.


The Beijing Palace-City Scroll (北京宫城图). National Museum of China, Beijing. Ming Dynasty (circa 15th century) depicting figures including the City’s chief architects. Source Wikipedia

Loughborough University, England, reports that –

Loughborough University designers will be using the latest 3D digital technologies to help restore ancient artefacts from the Palace Museum in Beijing. The museum, also known as the Forbidden City, is currently undertaking major renovation work funded by the Chinese Government. This is a huge project that involves thousands of individual historic relics. Using conventional methods, the objects need to be measured, photographed and repaired using manual techniques – an extremely time-consuming and expensive task. However recent research at Loughborough Design School aims to speed up the project, saving time and money.

More here.

Furness Abbey crozier. Photo credit PA

ITV News Granada reports today that a –

Rare treasure found by chance in a mystery grave at a ruined medieval abbey will go on display after lying undiscovered for more than half a millennium. The silver-gilt and copper crozier, the staff of office shaped like a shepherd’s crook held by high-ranking members of the church, was found along with a jewelled ring during emergency repairs carried out in 2010 at Furness Abbey in Cumbria.

The head of the crozier is made of gilded copper and decorated with gilded silver medallions showing the Archangel Michael defeating a dragon, and the crozier’s crook or end is decorated with a serpent’s head. A small section of the painted wooden staff survives, as do remains of the cloth designed to prevent the abbot touching the crozier with his bare hands. The ring is gilded silver and set with a white rock crystal or white sapphire. It is possible that a hollow behind the gemstone contains a relic, part of the body of a saint or a venerated person.

In its heyday, Furness knew prosperity on a huge scale, and, at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s, was the second-richest Cistercian monastery in England. The importance and wealth of the abbey is reflected in the quality of the still-standing red sandstone remains, which inspired both Wordsworth and Turner. See previous feature.

Furness Abbey by A F Lydon

The crozier and ring will be available for public viewing at Furness Abbey from Friday, 4 May to Monday, 7 May.

Full article here. See also The Guardian feature here.



HERE, where, of havoc tired and rash undoing,
Man left this Structure to become Time’s prey
A soothing spirit follows in the way
That Nature takes, her counter-work pursuing.
See how her Ivy clasps the sacred Ruin
Fall to prevent or beautify decay;
And, on the mouldered walls, how bright, how gay,
The flowers in pearly dews their bloom renewing!
Thanks to the place, blessings upon the hour;
Even as I speak the rising Sun’s first smile
Gleams on the grass-crowned top of yon tall Tower
Whose cawing occupants with joy proclaim
Prescriptive title to the shattered pile
Where, Cavendish, ‘thine’ seems nothing but a name!

William Wordsworth (1844)


The gold lunula from the Gwithian area, Cornwall © The Trustees of the British Museum

BBC News Cornwall reports that –

A Bronze Age necklace found in Cornwall in the 18th Century has returned to the county after being housed at the British Museum for more than 150 years. The necklace, known as Penwith lunula, has been loaned to the Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance. The crescent-shaped gold collar is thought to date back to the early Bronze Age – possibly to 2500 BC. It was discovered in the Gwithian area of the county in 1783 and recorded by local man John Price.

More here.


The World Monuments Fund has announced details of its Inaugural H. Peter Stern Lecture. This year the lecture will be presented by Pico Iyer, travel essayist and novelist. The lecture will take place on Monday, 21 May 2012 from 6:30pm at The Graduate Center CUNY, Harold M. Proshansky Auditorium, 365 Fifth Avenue (at East 34th), New York City.

More here.


A guest feature by Littlestone.
The Six Persimmons by Mu Ch’i. Chinese, 13th century
I was struck by The Sarsen Slumberer’s words below when he/she reminds us that –
The material remains of our past are finite and sacrosanct; by denying them the respect they deserve we at once relegate them to whatever is fashionable at the moment whilst denying future generations their cultural heritage.
Though perhaps somewhat outside The Heritage Trust’s remit, I was reminded this morning of the selfless act of a  Buddhist monk who allegedly gave up his life to save a precious Chinese painting – an act that stands in stark contrast to those who would destroy our heritage for fleeting fame or ideology
Browsing through some of my old art books this morning I pulled out one of my favourites – Chinese Painting by Peter C. Swann. I picked up the book in Oxford during the early 60s while still an art student at Swindon School of Arts and Crafts. The book, and particularly the cover painting, had a profound effect on me as a young man – life-changing you might even say. The book’s cover shows a painting (above) by Mu Ch’i, an early 13th century artist and Ch’an (Zen) practitioner. Measuring only 38cm x 36cm, the painting depicts six persimmons, simply but masterfully executed in ink on paper. The painting (in hanging scroll format) is now housed in Ryoko-in, one of the sub-temples of the Daitoku-ji temple in Kyoto.
I was so struck by this painting, and with a growing interest in Zen Buddhism, that I decided to go to Japan to see the scroll for myself (the faith and innocence of the young!). It took me some two and a half years to raise the money for the trip, get a place at Kyoto University of Fine Arts and organise a visa. But in the end I did find myself knocking on the gate of the Ryoko-in temple one autumn morning in 1966 and asking if I could see the painting – only to be told by an incredulous looking monk to go away as the painting was hardly ever put on display and never shown to passing strangers.
After waiting so long and coming so far I was naturally disappointed – muttering to myself that a painting as famous as Mu Ch’i’s Six Persimmons should be on permanent display somewhere. Only later did I learn that displaying Far Eastern works of pictorial art on a permanent basis is not a very good idea from a conservation point of view.* More importantly, the Six Persimmons painting is revered so highly that having it on permanent display would in some way devalue its importance. There’s even a story that the Ryoko-in temple once burned down and the painting was only saved from the flames by the dedication of a monk who cut open his belly and thrust the scroll inside for safekeeping – the stains in the right half of the painting are said to come from his act of selfless devotion – a far cry from the pottery-smashing antics of Ai WeiWei, the religious bigotry of the Taliban or of any group or individual that wantonly destroys our common heritage for their own narrow and self-serving agendas.


April 2012
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