You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2012.

Video courtesy of Carl Lipo

Ewen Callaway writing in nature on the 23 October reports that –

Easter Island’s gargantuan stone statues walked. That is the controversial claim from archaeologists who have demonstrated the feat with a 4.4-tonne model of one of the baffling busts. They describe their work in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Nearly 1,000 statues litter Easter Island’s 163 square kilometres, with the largest weighing 74 tonnes and standing 10 metres tall. Much about the megaliths is mystery, but few of the enigmas are more perplexing than how the statues were shuttled kilometres from the rock quarries where they were carved.

Archaeologists have proposed that the Polynesians who settled Easter Island 800 years ago or more laid the statues (called moai) prone and rolled them along on logs. That idea supports the theory that the settlers, known as Rapa Nui, became so obsessed with statue-building that they denuded the island of its forests. In his book Collapse (Viking, 2005), Jared Diamond, a geographer at the University of California, Los Angeles, touted Easter Island as the poster child for a civilization that blew through its natural resources and folded. “It’s a great story but the archaeological evidence doesn’t really support it,” says Carl Lipo, an archaeologist at California State University, Long Beach, whose team instead proposes that the Rapa Nui ‘walked’ the moai by rocking them from side to side, as one might move a refrigerator.

Full story here.

4,000 year-old gold lozenge from Bush Barrow, Wiltshire England

This is Wiltshire reports on the 21 October that –

A priceless prehistoric gold lozenge excavated in the 19th century will be put on public display for the first time when the new Neolithic gallery at Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes opens next year. The museum was awarded a £370,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund earlier this year to finance the new gallery, which will be built at the rear of the museum and is due to open in May. Secure display units will enable the museum to show items that were thought too valuable for public display.

Foremost of these is the large gold lozenge that was found in the Bush Barrow grave near Stonehenge, dating from around 1900BC, which was excavated by William Cunnington in 1808. David Dawson, director of the museum, said: “A replica of the lozenge has always been on display here but as far as I am aware the original has never been put on show. “The HLF grant has now enabled us to afford high- security measures.”

Other items from the grave to be put on show are a mace, the head of which was made from a rare flecked fossil stone from Devon, while the handle was embellished with bone zigzag mounts, and a smaller lozenge, which may well have been mounted on the handle of the mace.

Full article here.


In a similar act of heritage vandalism to the one reported below in China, a retired businessman has been found guilty of causing unprecedented damage earlier this year to one of Britain’s ancient Neolithic sites. 73 year-old Roger Penny bought the Priddy Circles in Somerset as a ‘pension investment’. The Circles, which date to 3,000bce, are a Scheduled Ancient Monument and were probably built around the same time as Stonehenge. The Mail Online reports yesterday that –

They [the Priddy Circles] have been described by English Heritage as ‘probable Neolithic ritual or ceremonial monuments similar to a henge’. Penny hired two contractors to ‘tidy’ and renovate the area, near the village of Priddy on Somerset’s Mendip Hills, but failed to get permission from English Heritage. One contractor used rubble to fill swallet holes, natural holes inside the ring which may be the key to its creation. Moving a gate led to agricultural machinery driving through the circle, making ruts, the court heard. Penny, from Litton, Somerset, admitted causing or permitting works to a scheduled monument without consent. He was ordered to pay £37,000 for restoration work, fined £2,500 and told to pay costs of £7,500. Prosecutor David Maunder told Taunton Crown Court: ‘These circles are regarded as among a small group of the country’s most important prehistoric monuments, with enormous potential to inform us about the Neolithic period, and in archaeological terms are internationally significant.’

Full article here.


Cultural heritage site in China’s Henan Province destroyed
The Shanghai Daily reports on the 24 October that –
A developer in central China’s Henan Province is facing severe punishment after destroying a 4,000-year-old cultural heritage site for a construction project, ignoring warnings from local authorities, officials said yesterday.
1 meter deep ground level of the Longshan Cultural site of Shang and Zhou dynasties (c. 16th century-256 BC) in Zhengzhou City was damaged by bulldozers, said Xin Yingjun, director of the excavation department of the city’s cultural heritage bureau. Debris of ancient pottery jars, bowls and goblets have been found in the earth dug out by bulldozers and experts were evaluating the age of the cultural relics, Xin said.
…before construction was due to start, experts and officials with the bureau found a 93-meter-long, 26-meter-wide and 2.3-meter-deep cultural heritage site full of cultural relics and asked the developer to postpone the construction in September. “The developer agreed to wait until the end of the excavation work, but launched the digging during the National Day holiday early this month,” he added.
Zhengzhou is one of the eight Great Ancient Capitals of China. It was home to the capital of the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC) and is full of cultural relics in the earth, officials said.
Full article here.

Master Naohachi Usami, 8th generation head of the Kyoto Shōkaku-dō Conservation Studio, at work in 1978 on a Japanese painting

It is with very great sadness that The Heritage Trust reports the death this morning of Mr Naohachi Usami, 8th generation head of the Shōkaku-dō conservation studio in Kyoto – one of only a few studios in Japan accredited with conserving and restoring Japanese National Treasures and other pictorial works of national and international importance.

Beginning with his father, Naoyuki Usami, Naohachi Usami continued and promoted a policy of accepting and training foreign students in the centuries’ old Japanese tradition of mounting, restoring and conserving works of art on paper and silk. Some of those students studied at the Shōkaku-dō for only a few weeks, while others trained tirelessly there for a decade or more, eventually taking back to their respective countries skills and techniques which are now being used to conserve our precious heritage of Far Eastern pictorial art.

In Asia, Europe and the United States there are national museums and private conservation studios that have conservators, trained at the Shōkaku-dō, who are now working at those studios or running them. The Hirayama Asian Pictorial Art Conservation Studio at the British Museum is just one example which has grown out of Naohachi Usami and the Shōkaku-dō’s open-door policy towards training foreign students and will remain his abiding legacy to the world of Far Eastern pictorial art conservation.

Naohachi Usami was 86, he is succeeded by his son at the Shōkaku-dō, Mr Naohide Usami.


From The Kyoto Shimbun

宇佐美直八氏死去 前宇佐美松鶴堂社長






Ares Kalogeropoulos
Web design skoumas © 2012

The arguments for and against the restitution of the Parthenon Reliefs (the Elgin Marbles) continue unabated. Should the reliefs be returned to their place of origin in Greece or remain at the British Museum. Ares Kalogeropoulos believes passionately that they should be repatriated and writes on his website the following –

In mid-August 2009 the photographer and composer Ares Kalogeropoulos visited the British Museum in the city of London in Great Britain. Entering and passing through countless Greek rooms in the museum he saw something that inspired awe in him but also caused him great pain. Awe at the infinite beauty of the Classical Greek works, and pain that these items were all so far from the mother earth that had given birth to them. Room 18, named by the British as the Parthenon Room was what made him take out his camera and start capturing evidence of the most heinous of cultural crimes to be perpetrated in recent history: the sacrilegious defilement of the greatest monument and symbol of world culture, and the illegal retention in a foreign place of 65% of the artefacts that had decorated it. Far from the sun and sky of Athens. Broken, humiliated and above all, HALF of the monument. Pieces of the Parthenon, which has stood there in Athens for thousands of years, now fixed and hanging without any meaning at all.

This photographic archive remained in his computer until the middle of February of 2012 when it came to light because of an internal desire of the artist to express himself by making known this cultural crime to the world.

The first photograph was uploaded to Ares Kalogeropoulos Facebook profile in February of 2012. This photo was followed by many others that were posted daily to the profile and were then broadcast by thousands of people at an impressive and stunningly increasing rate.

There was only one message and it was clear:

It may have started as a personal expression of the artist seeking justice by projecting such an historically important cultural problem but public support through postings and actions turned it into a movement.

Ares Kalogeropoulos

More here. See also our earlier post here.


John Aubrey (1626-1697)

John Aubrey may have been described by his friends as, “Shiftless, roving and magotie-headed…” but he was among the first to examine and record Stonehenge, Avebury and other megalithic structures with any degree of accuracy. Writing about Avebury and Stonehenge Aubrey says, “I have brought (them) from an inner darkness to a thin mist.” Extracts from the Wikipedia entry on Aubrey describes him as –

…an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer. He is perhaps best known as the author of the collection of short biographical pieces usually referred to as Brief Lives. He was a pioneer archaeologist, who recorded (often for the first time) numerous megalithic and other field monuments in southern England, and who is particularly noted as the discoverer of the Avebury henge monument. The Aubrey holes at Stonehenge are named after him, although there is considerable doubt as to whether the holes that he observed are those that currently bear the name… He spent much of his time in the country, and in 1649 he first ‘discovered’ the megalithic remains at Avebury, which he later mapped and discussed in his important antiquarian work Monumenta Britannica. He was to show Avebury to Charles II at the King’s request in 1663.

John Aubrey’s map of Avebury

He was also a pioneer folklorist, collecting together a miscellany of material on customs, traditions and beliefs under the title “Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme”. He set out to compile county histories of both Wiltshire and Surrey, although both projects remained unfinished. His “Interpretation of Villare Anglicanum” (also unfinished) was the first attempt to compile a full-length study of English place-names. He had wider interests in applied mathematics and astronomy, and was friendly with many of the greatest scientists of the day.

Star motif over the door of the porch at The Church of St Peter, Clyffe Pypard where Aubrey visited in or around 1660


A guest feature by Littlestone.

The Church of St Peter, Clyffe Pypard
Image © Littlestone

John Aubrey (1626-1697) visited Clyffe Pypard in, or around, 1660 – some twelve years after his visit to Avebury where he records being, “…wonderfully surprised at the site of these vast stones, of which I had never heard before, as also the mighty bank and graffe (grass) about it.” At Clyffe Pypard he describes the Church of St Peter as, “Here is a handsome Church, and have been very good windowes.”

While the tower, nave, aisles and porch of the Church of St Peter were built in the 15th century there remains some 14th century stonework in the south porch. Further study may show that the Norman church was built on the foundations of an earlier Saxon one and, as at other subsumed (Christianised) sites, the Saxon church may have been built on a pre-Christian structure. Six of the buttresses have sarsen stones under them, only one of which has been cut to the shape of the buttress. The other five sarsens, one of which is very large, are left protruding as they do under the buttresses of the Church of St James, Avebury; the Church of St Katherine and St Peter, Winterbourne Bassett and the Church of St John the Baptist, Pewsey.

Sarsen under one of the south-facing buttresses of the Church of St Peter, Clyffe Pypard
Image © Littlestone

The Church of St Peter is situated at the bottom of a steep escarpment and is set in a well-cared for graveyard surrounded by trees.* There is a distinct air of a ‘grove’ about the place which is reminiscent of the grove, and its disordered sarsens, by the river close to Pewsey Church. The leafy and sarsen-paved footpath that leads east past the church comes out on a secluded meadow with a magnificent tree at its centre. Nearby is a stream and lake. Nikolaus Pevsner, art and architectural historian and author of The Buildings of England, is buried with his wife at a place between the lake and the church – their grave is marked by a headstone of slate.

Nikolaus and Lola Pevsner’s headstone
Image © Littlestone

About a mile from Clyffe Pypard, towards Broad Town and close to Little Town Farmhouse, is the cottage which Pevsner used as a country retreat. The cottage was formerly the home of the poet and literary critic Geoffrey Grigson, whose friends included Paul Nash and John Piper. Nash and Piper between them produced numerous paintings of Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Stonehenge and other megalithic structures.**

* The ‘Clyffe’ of Clyffe Pypard refers to the adjacent escarpment. ‘Pypard’ refers to Richard Pypard who was Lord of the Manor in 1231.

** Geoffrey Grigson’s 1960s guide to touring the countryside (The Shell Country Alphabet) has been republished (see The Guardian article here).

The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering, North Yorkshire
The present Norman church (rebuilt in the mid-12th century) of St Peter and St Paul in Pickering, North Yorkshire stands on the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon church, of which only the font and stone cross now remain. From the outside Pickering Church resembles many similar English churches but, step inside, and one is almost overwhelmed by its brilliant interior decoration. Pickering Church contains the most complete set of medieval wall paintings so far discovered in Britain. Executed over 500 years ago the paintings remained hidden under a thick coat of plaster until they were accidentally rediscovered in 1852.
North wall of the church showing St George Slaying the Dragon (left) and St Christopher (centre)
Detail of The Martyrdom of Edmund on the north wall
South wall of the church
Detail of The Execution of St Catherine on the south wall
The church guidebook to Pickering Church refers to the St Catherine painting as, “Catherine was a Christian convert, and the painting relates her legend (much like a strip cartoon, proceeding left to right, top to bottom).” For more information on the Church and its paintings visit the Church’s website here –
The Marlborough Mound by William Stukeley
A talk by Jim Leary, of English Heritage, entitled Giants of Wessex: Silbury Hill, the Marlborough Mound, and the Hatfield Barrow will take place on the 12 March 2013 from 19:30 at the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum. The museum announces that –

Over the last few years the three giant round mounds of Wessex have seen some form of archaeological work. In 2007 and 2008 Silbury Hill was the focus of a multi-million pound project which included opening and retracing the 1968 tunnel into the heart of the Hill. 2010 saw excavations at Marden, one of the largest Neolithic henge monuments in Britain, which provided evidence for the now demolished mound known as the Hatfield Barrow – said to have been as much as 15m tall. Whilst, in the autumn of that year coring work through the Marlborough Mound produced six radiocarbon samples, which revealed for the fist time that the mound is prehistoric in date and contemporary with Silbury Hill and the Hatfield Barrow. This lecture will describe the latest from each of these projects, and explore a variety of ways of understanding these enigmatic monuments, particularly their association with rivers and springs.

More here.
The Marlborough Mound is situated in the grounds of Marlborough College in Wiltshire and is some five miles from Silbury. As with its more famous sister (Silbury) the Marlborough Mound has suffered from damage and architectural ‘enhancements’ over the centuries. A short video (via the above link to the Marlborough College website) by BBC Points West features Jim Leary explains more.

The Avebury Barn Gallery

This lovely 17th century thresher barn, at the heart of Avebury, is also a museum housing a selection of Alexander Keiller’s finds, along with interactive displays and activities which bring the history and landscape of the area to life. The Barn Gallery however is now in desperate need of a new thatch roof, and some £80,000 will have to be found before work can commence.


Visitor opinions of Avebury Barn and Barn Gallery
Credits: Narration, Jo Mortimer. Camera, Keith Wills. Edited jointly.


The 14th century Korean Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting before conservation

One of the best, and perhaps the largest Buddhist painting of Suwol-Gwaneum-do literally painting of the Water Moon Buddha (Avalokitevara Bodhisattva in Sanskrit) house in a Japanese shrine for nearly 600 years, returned to South Korean in 2009 for a special exhibition at a Buddhist temple.

The Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting after conservation

The Korean Times reports (updated and edited for clarity) that –

The Suwol-Gwaneum-do Buddhist painting from Kagami-jinja (Kagami Shinto Shrine) in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, Japan, was created on the orders of Queen Kim, of the Korean Goryeo Dynasty, by eight court painters in 1310. The painting was then pillaged soon after by Japanese pirates who took it to Japan where it has remained for nearly 600 years. Queen Kim was the second wife of King Chungseon, the 26th monarch of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

The Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting during conservation in Japan

Dubbed ‘the largest and most beautiful Suwol-Gwaneum-do Buddhist painting’ by art historians, this Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva (executed on a single piece of silk) went on exhibition on 30 April 2009 at the Tongdosa Buddhist temple in Yangsan, south Gyeongsang Province. It is the second time for this great masterpiece of the Goyreo Dynasty to be exhibited in South Korea. In 1995 it was on displayed at Hoam Art Gallery south of Seoul.

Experts say that this Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting is one of 38 extant Buddhist paintings of the Goryeo Dynasty depicting Suwol-Gwaneum, or The Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva. It was during Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty that Buddhist paintings of such quality were produced and there are still some 160 Goryeo Buddhist paintings existing worldwide. There are no more than 10 such paintings remaining in South Korea however; the rest are in Japan, along with 20 more scattered throughout Europe and America. The remaining paintings, over 130, were taken by force or sold illegally to Japan a long time ago, with most pillaged by Japanese invaders during Korea’s history. Experts agree that this Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting is the most beautiful, the oldest, and the largest that exists anywhere.

Detail from the Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting before conservation in Japan

Some critics have compared this Buddhist masterpiece to the Mona Lisa; others argue that it is even better. For conservation reasons the painting is on public display in Japan for only 38 days of the year. Tongdosa Buddhist temple sources in South Korea said that they started negotiations with the Japanese Kagami Shinto shrine one year ago to arrange this exhibition. In 2003 the Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting was exhibited for 20 days at a San Francisco museum under the tile Goryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment (918 to 1392). The exhibition period this time was double that of the San Francisco one, and the painting was on show at Tongdosa temple for 40 days.

Original article here.


Kite Aerial Photograph by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation: all rights reserved, used with permission. Note path on the left which leads from Bartlow Church 

In our inaugural article, almost a year ago, we featured 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 – ie Bartlow is a site which has fallen foul (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”.
To celebrate our first year, we’re pleased to be able to present these two stunning photographs, taken by Bill Blake with a camera attached to a kite, of the Bartlow Burial Mounds in autumn sunlight. More photos by Bill of the Mounds can be found here 

Kite Aerial Photograph by Bill Blake Heritage Documentation: all rights reserved, used with permission. Note path left of centre which leads from Bartlow Church


We’re often asked where the megalithic tomb (which we use for our banner image) is located. The tomb (of the sub-megalithic type) is located north of Whitesands Bay at St Davids Head, Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales and is known as Coetan Arthur. Here’s a full frame photo of the tomb.
Coetan Arthur sub-megalithic tomb
The Heritage Trust 
Another taken with Whitesands Bay in the background
The Heritage Trust
And another with Carn Llidi in the distance
The Heritage Trust

Historic Scotland TV writes –

The chambered tomb of Maeshowe is in The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. Along with the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, the Barnhouse settlement and Skara Brae prehistoric village, it allows visitors to understand the landscape and monuments of our ancestors more than 5000 years ago.

In 2011 laser scanners were used to record the site and create a three dimensional model to show the intricacies of this incredible site.

Writing in Current Archaeology, Carly Hilts reports that –

Orkney is world-famous for its spectacular Neolithic archaeology, and now visitors from all over the globe will be able to explore one of its most enigmatic monuments, after a new virtual tour of Maeshowe chambered tomb went live today (29 August).

In a video unveiled yesterday by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the structure of the 5,000 year old monument has been recreated using 3D laser-scans carried out by the Scottish Ten project – a collaboration between Historic Scotland, Glasgow School of Art and CyArk, to document Scotland’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and five international sites using cutting-edge digital technology. This data will be used to help research and conserve the monuments.

Maeshowe is shown at the winter solstice, when the setting sun shines directly down the monument’s entrance tunnel to illuminate its central chamber. Covering every inch of the inner rooms of the tomb, the animation also tours the outside of the mound and reveals how it was constructed in a detailed cut through.

Full article here.



October 2012
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