You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2012.

 
The Westbury Horse by Eric Ravilious (1939)
Image credit DACS/the artist’s estate
 
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum (Devizes, England) held a ‘pop-up exhibition’ entitled Eric Ravilious and Wiltshire’s White Horses at the Museum on Saturday, 23 June 2012. Introduction to the exhibition on the Museum’s website explains that –
 
Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) was one of the leading artists of the 1930’s, who captured the essence of the English landscape in his stunning watercolours. No landscape inspired him more than the chalk downs of southern England. Intrigued by white horses and hill figures, he painted a series of watercolours that were destined to be featured in the children’s ‘Puffin’ series. His ‘dummy’ of the book, lost for decades, has just been purchased by the Museum and is now on display for the first time in a special ‘pop-up’ exhibition.
 
The book was to be published in the Puffin series, and was to include the iconic watercolours of Westbury White Horse, as well as watercolours of other hill figures, including the Uffington White Horse, Cerne Abbas Giant and Long Man of Wilmington. In January 1941, Ravilious sent a dummy of the book to Noel Carrington, who was editing the Puffin series of children’s books for Penguin. His pencil sketches included the chalk hill figures, as well as ancient monuments and prehistoric earthworks.
 
The text for the book was to be written by H.J. Massingham, based on his well-known books ‘Downland Man’ and ‘English Downland’, Massingham and Ravilious had collaborated on ‘Writings of Gilbert White of Selbourne’, published in 1938, illustrated with wood engravings by Ravilious.
 

The Puffin book was never completed. Eric Ravilious was an official War Artist and was reported missing in 1942 over Iceland. He had volunteered to accompany a search and rescue mission, but his plane never returned. The dummy book had been thought to be lost, but was purchased by Wiltshire Heritage Museum at auction in 2012.

David Dawson, Museum Director, said ‘We are thrilled to display this ‘lost’ book for the first time. Ravilious perfectly captures the spirit of English downland landscapes and the romance of Wiltshire’s White Horses.’

Alongside the exhibition, the Museum is mounting a special appeal to raise the funds for the purchase of the book. The book cost almost £6,000, and the Museum has an annual budget for acquisitions of just £300. Donations can be made by post or online through our website at http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk.

Plese help the Wiltshire Heritage Museum purchase the Ravilious book!

Details here. See also Richard Moss’ article here and James Russell’s blog here.
 
 
 
A statue of the Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana or Mahavairocana) Buddha, stolen from Enichi-ji Temple in Kochi Prefecture, Japan in March this year. Source KYODO
 
The Japan Times reports last  month on the theft and recovery of four Buddhist statues including an important statue of the Dainichi Nyorai Buddha – designated as an Important Cultural Property.
 

A 64-year-old Kochi resident was arrested Saturday for allegedly stealing four Buddhist statues worth about ¥140 million from a temple in Konan, Kochi Prefecture, in March. The suspect, Shunji Nishio, reportedly broke into Enichiji Temple in mid-March and stole the items. Among the items was a statue of the Dainichi Nyorai Buddha, which has been designated by the government as an Important Cultural Property. The statues have been all found and seized by the police.

Full article here.

 

Stonehenge: Exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery by Mike Parker Pearson

Our knowledge about Stonehenge has changed dramatically as a result of the Stonehenge Riverside Project (2003-2009), led by Mike Parker Pearson, and included not only Stonehenge itself but also the nearby great henge enclosure of Durrington Walls. This book is about the people who built Stonehenge and its relationship to the surrounding landscape. The book explores the theory that the people of Durrington Walls built both Stonehenge and Durrington Walls, and that the choice of stone for constructing Stonehenge has a significance so far undiscovered, namely, that stone was used for monuments to the dead. Through years of thorough and extensive work at the site, Parker Pearson and his team unearthed evidence of the Neolithic inhabitants and builders which connected the settlement at Durrington Walls with the henge, and contextualised Stonehenge within the larger site complex, linked by the River Avon, as well as in terms of its relationship with the rest of the British Isles. Parker Pearson’s book changes the way that we think about Stonehenge; correcting previously erroneous chronology and dating; filling in gaps in our knowledge about its people and how they lived; identifying a previously unknown type of Neolithic building; discovering Bluestonehenge, a circle of 25 blue stones from western Wales; and confirming what started as a hypothesis – that Stonehenge was a place of the dead – through more than 64 cremation burials unearthed there, which span the monument’s use during the third millennium BC. In lively and engaging prose, Parker Pearson brings to life the imposing ancient monument that continues to hold a fascination for everyone.

Published this month by Simon & Schuster UK. Hardcover, 416 pages. ISBN-10: 085720730X. ISBN-13: 9780857207302.

See also the review in yesterday’s Telegraph by Daisy Dunn.

 

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Work on the Stonehenge visitor centre starts in a couple of weeks when Vinci Construction take possession of the Airman’s Corner site. That’s the formal line. But for me it began yesterday, when the Royal Engineers, watched by Wessex Archaeology and English Heritage, released the memorial from its concrete. The site takes its name from this granite cross, commemorating the deaths of Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Richard Wilson a century ago on July 5. The hardest job seemed to be extracting the plaque set in 1996. It will all be looked after at Tidworth barracks for the next year, then returned to a more accessible, safer and attractive location – and just a little closer to the actual crash site.

And here’s how it all looked, with contractors fencing out the site. The Muddy patch in the field left by the solstice parking is where the visitor centre…

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Mohenjo-daro, the great Indus Valley city which flourished from circa 2,600-1,500bce. Source Wikipedia. Image credit Comrogues

The Wikipedia entry for Mohenjo-daro describes the city as –

Mohenjo-daro (موئن جو دڙو ) lit. Mound of the Dead, is an archeological site situated in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. Built around 2600 BC, it was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, and one of the world’s earliest major urban settlements, existing at the same time as the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete. Mohenjo-daro was abandoned in the 19th century BC, and was not rediscovered until 1922. Significant excavation has since been conducted at the site of the city, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

Now, Aleem Maqbool, reporting today for BBC News, says –

In its day, about 2600 BC, its complex planning, incredible architecture, and complex water and sewage systems made it one of the most advanced urban settings anywhere. It was a city thought to have housed up to 35,000 inhabitants of the great Indus civilisation. While I was overwhelmed by the scale and wonderment of it all, my eminent guide to the site was almost in tears of despair.

“Every time I come here, I feel worse that the previous time,” says Dr Asma Ibrahim, one of Pakistan’s most accomplished archaeologists. “I haven’t been back for two or three years,” she says. “The losses since then are so immense and it breaks my heart.”

Dr Ibrahim starts to point out signs of major decay. In the lower town of Mohenjo Daro, where the middle and working classes once lived, the walls are crumbling from the base upwards. This is new damage. The salt content of the ground water is eating away at the bricks that, before excavation, had survived thousands of years.As we move to the upper town where the elite of the Indus civilization would have lived, and where some of the signature sites like the large public bath lie, it appears even worse. Some walls have collapsed completely, others seem to be close to doing so.

“It is definitely a complicated site to protect, given the problems of salinity, humidity and rainfall,” says Dr Ibrahim. “But most of the attempts at conservation by the authorities have been so bad and so amateur they have only accelerated the damage.” Some experts have gone so far as to suggest the entire site should be buried again to halt its decline. It is a sign of the desperation of those who love Mohenjo Daro, and who are pained to see a city that once rivalled sites of its contemporary civilisations in Egypt, Mesopotamia and China, losing its glory in this undignified way.

Full article here.

 

Celtic and Roman gold and silver coins found under a hedge in Jersey
Image credit and © SWNS

BBC News Jersey reports today that –

One of Europe’s largest hoards of Iron Age coins has been unearthed in Jersey and could be worth up to £10m, according to an expert. The Roman and Celtic coins, which date from the 1st Century BC, were found by two metal detector enthusiasts. Dr Philip de Jersey, a former Celtic coin expert at Oxford University, said the haul was “extremely exciting and very significant”. He said each individual coin was worth between £100 and £200.

The exact number of coins found has not been established, but archaeologists said the hoard weighed about three quarters of a tonne and could contain about 50,000 coins. The exact location of the hoard has not been revealed by the authorities but Environment Minister, Deputy Rob Duhamel, said he would do everything he could to protect the site. “Sites like these do need protection because there is speculation there might even be more,” he said. “It is a very exciting piece of news and perhaps harks back to our cultural heritage in terms of finance. It was found under a hedge so perhaps this is an early example of hedge fund trading.”

It was found by Reg Mead and Richard Miles in a field in the east of Jersey. They had been searching for more than 30 years after hearing rumours a farmer had discovered silver coins while working on his land. Mr Mead and Mr Miles worked with experts from Jersey Heritage to slowly unearth the treasure.

More here and here.

 

A piece of glass jewellery (profile) measuring 5mm in diameter and believed to have been made by Roman craftsmen. The item was found in a 5th century tomb at Nagaoka-kyo, Kyoto Japan
Image credit Nara National Institute for Cultural Properties/AFP

 

Glass jewellery believed to have been made by Roman craftsmen has been found in an ancient tomb in Japan, researchers said Friday [22 June], in a sign the empire’s influence may have reached the edge of Asia.

Tests have revealed three glass beads discovered in the Fifth Century “Utsukushi” burial mound in Nagaoka, near Kyoto, were probably made some time between the first and the fourth century, the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties said. The government-backed institute has recently finished analysing components of the glass beads, measuring five millimetres (0.2 inches) in diametre, with tiny fragments of gilt attached. It found that the light yellow beads were made with natron, a chemical used to melt glass by craftsmen in the empire, which succeeded the Roman Republic in 27 BC and was ultimately ended by the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. 

Perhaps something of an exaggeration to say the Roman ‘empire’s influence may have reached the edge of Asia.’ In the early 8th century Shōsō-in (正倉院) repository in Nara there are items originating from Tang China (via Korea) from as far away as India, Iran (Persia), Greece, Rome and Egypt. Persian textiles are particularly evident in the Shōsō-in, and their ancient designs are still to be found in some modern Japanese textiles. These imports might be seen more as desirable and exotic fashion statements rather than a direct, or even indirect, Roman or Middle Eastern influence.

 

More here.

 

Stonehenge by Hellman

Prof Mike Parker Pearson and the The Stonehenge Riverside Project’s new theory that, “Perhaps they [the builders of Stonehenge] saw this place as the centre of the world” and that –

Previous theories suggesting the great stone circle was inspired by ancient Egyptians or extra-terrestrials have been firmly rejected by researchers. “All the architectural influences for Stonehenge can be found in previous monuments and buildings within Britain, with origins in Wales and Scotland,” said Mr Parker Pearson. “In fact, Britain’s Neolithic people were isolated from the rest of Europe for centuries. “Britain may have become unified but there was no interest in interacting with people across the Channel.

Suggests to our interplanetary reporter that the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre could perhaps embrace, even improvise on this theory, by having stones from around the world built into the Visitor Centre itself or, alternatively, a discreet new circle created near the Centre that might act as a ‘modern place of pilgrimage’ and an alternative meeting place to the Stonehenge monument itself for those who gather there at certain times.

Standing stones from the Americas perhaps, and from the Arab world, Asia, Australia, Egypt, Europe and India to name but a few. Stones to unite the world… and beyond?

Above quote from BBC News Wiltshire.

 

Stonehenge: Monumental Journey

This excellent little exhibition, hosted by English Heritage at the Quad Riga Gallery, Wellington Arch, London, and titled Stonehenge: Monumental Journey finished yesterday, 24 June 2012.

This exhibition celebrated the journeys people have made in their millions to find Stonehenge. Through a selection of objects and photographs it captures some of their experiences, and champions the project to build a new visitor centre at the site, restore the chalk downland and create a setting that we believe this iconic monument deserves.

More here.

Leaves from a Psalter by William de Brailes. The Making of the Folio Society facsimile limited edition – the first ever medieval manuscript printed on vellum

The Folio Society of Great Britain has announced the publication of the first medieval manuscript to be printed on vellum. Seven surviving leaves from a 13th century psalter, created by William de Brailes, have been restored to their original glory in this first-of-its-kind facsimile edition. The Folio Society reports that –

William de Brailes was at the forefront of a great artistic flourishing in 13th-century England. One of the very few illuminators to sign his work, his name appears in several records between c.1230 and 1260, making him the best-documented artist of the period. Little is known of his personal life other than that he lived and worked in Oxford and that he had a wife – a fact somewhat at odds with two portraits of himself in a tonsure, which would suggest he had taken monastical vows. De Brailes’s consummate skill as an artist and craftsman is evidenced in seven leaves that survive from a Psalter completed around 1240. Regarded as the finest examples of his work, six of the leaves belong to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the seventh to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

The Folio Society is proud to announce the publication of a limited facsimile edition of all seven Leaves from a Psalter by William de Brailes. These are no ordinary reproductions – the leaves are restored to their original glory and printed on vellum using a revolutionary and now patented printing process.

More here.

 

The Emanation of The Giant Albion
by
William Blake

 

 
 The 36 ton Citihenge sculpture by Tommy Gun
 
Czech car making Skoda has unveiled a sculpture of Stonehenge in London’s Southbank, Close to Tower Bridge. The sculpture, weighing some 36 tons, was created by Tommy Gun, and built from 18 recycled cars painted to look like the stones of Stonehenge. It has been unveiled in time for the evening of the Summer Solstice today.  “Skoda, which commissioned the sculpture to promote its new Citigo car, claims the Potters Fields site is on ‘little known ley lines’ aligning it with ancient monuments like Stonehenge.” The sculpture took three months to be completed by a team led by  Tommy Gun. Tommy is reported as saying –
 
The Citihenge project has been the most amazing challenge.  Stonehenge is a huge, iconic structure and the Citihenge replica is too. It is made entirely from old car parts, which taps into my own childhood growing up on a farm where I used to love building and creating things with pieces of discarded machinery.
 
 
More here and here.
 
 

Andrea Hahn writing for The Southern reports today that –

CARBONDALE – Stonehenge is much closer to home, but some of the sites a group of British archaeologists want to see are in Southern Illinois.

The Prehistoric Society Tour, a British archaeological society based in London and led by British archaeologist Pete Topping, includes two Southern Illinois sites on a whirlwind tour of prehistoric sites in the Eastern United States. Southern Illinois University Carbondale archaeologist and prehistoric rock art expert Mark J. Wagner will guide the group through the Piney Creek Rock Art site and to the Millstone Bluff site. The tour group will be in Southern Illinois on Thursday, June 21, beginning mid-morning.

“I’ve worked as an archaeologist in Southern Illinois for 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve been asked to guide a tour group of British archaeologists,” Wagner said. “I think this whole thing is pretty cool, that we have archaeologists from as far away as Great Britain that know we have sites worth seeing in Southern Illinois and want to visit them. It is definitely something out of the ordinary.”

Wagner is the right person to lead the group. He is the author of an official survey of prehistoric rock art in Illinois commissioned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and has made the study of the rock art his research specialty.

Full article here.

 

The Day of Archaeology 2012

Anyone can join in – you don’t have to be a professional archaeologist. You can be a volunteer, you can be a museum-or-archaeological-site visitor. You can be spending the day watching fifty episodes of Time Team. You can be doing paperwork, sharpening pencils or uncovering the lost cities of the ancients… As long as you write about how your day involves archaeology, your archaeological life, and what archaeology means to you, you are a Day of Archaeology-ite!

You don’t have to write about what you do on the 29th (although if you can, please do!). If you are doing some exciting work before or after the event, write about that – we can make the pre-29th contributions live on the 29th if you are elsewhere, and we can add the post-29th blogs afterwards – the site is visited all year round, and in 2012 – 13 we will try and publicise the contents of the site more often. Your contribution is important, whether we get it on the 29th or not.

More here.

 

A reminder that 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).

Details here.

 

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