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‘Slave Labour’ by Banksy
Back in February we reported on Banksy’s ‘Slave Labour’ mural for the hammer (again) in which this iconic piece by street artist Banksy was surreptitiously removed from the wall of a Poundland store in Whymark Avenue, Wood Green, North London in May of last year and was then due to be auctioned by Frederic Thut’s auction house in Miami, USA. Under pressure, Frederic Thut withdrew the item from auction but it has now found its way back to London (after being ‘restored’) not to its original location in Wood Green but to the upmarket Flower Cellars venue in Covent Garden.
According to The Sincura Group, who are hosting the Banksy at The Flower Cellars event today, Sunday, 2 June from 6pm –
The collection has been loving [sic] put together with some of the world’s leading private collectors and many of these pieces have never been seen before in public. It is your chance to view, and even purchase, some of the most important artwork in the modern era including the infamous Slave Labour piece.
We welcome our members [general membership costs £95 per month] to join VIP guests from 6pm with complimentary champagne from sponsors Tattinger and canapés created by LMG under the guidance of ex-head chef of celebrity restaurant Zuma.
The Sincura Group’s About us page states that, “The Sincura Group started as a secret organisation open buildings and acquiring access through our unique networks.” We’re not entirely sure what ‘a secret organisation open buildings and acquiring access through our unique networks’ implies but among Sincura Group’s clients is the investment banking giant Nomura, two of whose top executives resigned in an insider trading scandal last year.
The Sincura Group can be contacted by emailing or by telephoning 44 (0) 844 854 9220.
A mechanical digger belonging to a construction company destroys the side of a Mayan pyramid
Image credit Jaime Awe/AP
The Guardian reports earlier this month that –
A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize’s largest Mayan pyramids with diggers and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project, authorities have announced.
The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said on Tuesday that the destruction at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was detected late last week. The ceremonial centre dates back at least 2,300 years and is the most important site in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico. “It’s a feeling of incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity … they were using this for road fill,” Awe said. “It’s like being punched in the stomach, it’s just so horrendous.”
Nohmul was in the middle of a privately owned sugar cane field, and lacked the even stone sides frequently seen in reconstructed or better-preserved pyramids. But Awe said the builders could not possibly have mistaken the pyramid mound, which is about 30 metres (100ft) tall, for a natural hill because the ruins were well known and the landscape there was naturally flat.
Full article here.
‘Ding Jinhao was here’ scrawled on a 3,500 year-old Egyptian relief
Image credit Kongyouwuyi/Newspoint
We’re used to reporting damage and desecration to our ancient monuments but the case of a 15 year-old Chinese pupil from Nanjing in eastern China (scene of the Rape of Nanjing by the Japanese in 1927) who scrawled ‘Ding Jinhao was here’ on a 3,500 year-old Egyptian relief in a Luxor temple is yet another indication of how vulnerable and how easily mistreated our cultural heritage can be. Young  Ding Jinhao has subsequently expressed remorse for his act, committed while on holiday in Egypt, and his parents have apologised. Perhaps therefore the fact that the issue has now received such widespread coverage (90,000 hits in the Chinese social media alone) will deter others, of all ages and from all countries, from similar acts.
Ding Jinhao’s graffiti on an ancient monument pales into insignificance however when one remembers that in the still unstable regions of the Middle East (including Egypt itself) the illegal excavation and exportation of antiquities has reached epic proportions. It may be worth remembering also that less than fifty years ago, between 1966 and 1976, China’s Cultural Revolution saw countess historical relics and artefacts destroyed and cultural and religious sites, from China in the east to Tibet in the west, ransacked or totally destroyed.
Politically motivated destruction of our heritage is perhaps less common now but destruction, nonetheless, continues; motivated increasingly by the greed of national and multinational industries intent on lining the pockets of their shareholders than preserving our common heritage. It is here, on the frontline against the wanton destruction of that heritage, that a stand should and must be taken.
Divers  examining a sunken statue from Heracleion. Image credit Christoph Gerigk/Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation
Richard Gray, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph, reports last month that –
For centuries it was thought to be a legend, a city of extraordinary wealth mentioned in classical texts, visited by Helen of Troy and Paris, her lover, but apparently buried under the sea. In fact, Heracleion was true, and a decade after divers began uncovering its treasures, archaeologists have produced a picture of what life was like in the city in the era of the pharaohs.
The city, also called Thonis, disappeared beneath the Mediterranean around 1,200 years ago and was found during a survey of the Egyptian shore at the beginning of the last decade. Now its life at the heart of trade routes in classical times are becoming clear, with researchers forming the view that the city was the main customs hub through which all trade from Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean entered Egypt.
They have discovered the remains of more than 64 ships buried in the thick clay and sand that now covers the sea bed. Gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone have also been found, hinting at the trade that went on. Giant 16 foot statues have been uncovered and brought to the surface while archaeologists have found hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods on the sea floor. Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian have also been brought to the surface. Dozens of small limestone sarcophagi were also recently uncovered by divers and are believed to have once contained mummified animals, put there to appease the gods.
Full article here.

Hordron Edge Stone Circle. Produced by terrybnd for Peak District TV


Vincent van Gogh’s The Yellow House (1888). Image credit the Van Gogh Museum
Jonathan Jones, writing in The Guardian, reports that –
Research undertaken by the Van Gogh Museum reveals the master’s favourite paints have faded badly since the 1880s.
Vincent van Gogh has a good claim to be the greatest colourist ever. His yellows, his blues, his cherry trees and sunflowers and skies all created through thickly impastoed smears of chromatic splendour have made the very name Van Gogh synonymous with intense expressive colour.
Yet some of the colours we see in Van Gogh’s paintings are just pale echoes of the hues he originally set down in the 1880s. This startling discovery has just been revealed by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. A research project undertaken by the museum reveals that a number of Van Gogh’s favourite paints have faded badly and changed the appearance of his works, making them milder, more empty, less exquisite in their use of complementary colours than they were when he painted them.
The article does not make clear which paints have faded and what steps have or will be taken to prevent further degradation. Full Guardian article here.


What’s possibly the most calming yet nerve-racking job in the world? Come behind the scenes of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art to find out!

The conservation and scientific research of ancient Asian art takes a large team of experts from many fields. In order to bring thousands of treasures from the East to the galleries of the Smithsonian in downtown Washington, D.C., several critical and careful steps toward ensuring the objects’ continued longevity must be taken.

Learn more about the hard work taking place to keep these works alive and on display here.


A stag frontlet unearthed at Star Carr

The Scarborough News reports today that –

Some of the most remarkable and complete finds from Britain’s Stone Age, unearthed on the outskirts of Scarborough, will be assembled for the first time in a special exhibition. Eleven thousand-year-old deer skull head-dresses, bone harpoons and amber jewellery – amazingly preserved in peat – are just some of the highlights of the exhibiton at the Yorkshire Museum, in York, later this month. The objects, on loan from museums all over the country, all come from Star Carr, near Scarborough, where a number of Mesolithic settlements once stood on the shores of a huge lake.

Star Carr is noted internationally as the type-site for understanding hunter-gatherer communities of the Mesolithic period in Europe. It has been investigated by archaeologists since 1948, including by researchers from the University of York.

The ancient finds will be displayed alongside digital content giving visitors a taste of the sights and sounds of Yorkshire 11,000 years ago. The exhibition coincides with the publication of Star Carr: Life in Britain After the Ice Age, by the Council for British Archaeology, which tells the story of excavations at the site which was buried in a deep layer of peat on the edge of prehistoric Lake Flixton.

Full article here.


One of the panels from the modern Battle of Fulford Tapestry
Tapestry produced by campaigners against development of the Fulford Battlefield
Paul Cahalan, writing in The Independent on 21 April, reports that –
Combatants are squaring up to do battle over the fate of a Yorkshire field more than 1,000 years after they say an earlier battle was fought there that helped to change the course of British history. Rival groups have issued a call to arms over the future of what some historians claim is the true site of the “forgotten” Battle of Fulford in September 1066. Local historians are fighting a rearguard action over developers’ plans to build 600 homes on a field near York which they say is the site of the historic battle.
Chas Jones, of the Fulford Battlefield Society, who has extensively investigated the Yorkshire site with other enthusiasts, says they are convinced this is where the battle was fought. They have found what they believe are “Norse arrows”, and are convinced that a full investigation of the area will reveal further treasures. “English history would have been substantially different but for the Battle of Fulford and the northern campaign. It is not overstating it to say this is a Pompeii moment for battlefield archaeology,” Mr Jones said, a reference to his belief that many more perfectly preserved combat relics lie waiting to be discovered. “The tools and weapons have been preserved in the mud because there was flooding straight after the battle,” he said.
On Thursday, City of York Council is expected to make a decision that will allow work on the housing development to go ahead immediately – leading to a tarmacked access road covering the disputed ground. The local parish council has written to City of York Council asking it to delay any decision, with the Council for British Archaeology stating that it would be “unwise to make a decision that affects the potential to determine its archaeological significance”.
However, locals have been incensed by the failure of English Heritage to come to their aid. English Heritage argues that the site, now called Germany Beck, is unproven as being the place where the battle took place and it has refused to put it on its Register of Historic Battlefields. The arrowheads found at the scene cannot be dated to the 11th century, it says. English Heritage says it is reviewing its decision, but critics say it is “too little, too late” to save the site, as it will be months before it comes to a decision.
Full article here.

Another part of the jigsaw comes to light

Following my day at King Arthur’s Hall on King Arthur’s Down on Bodmin Moor helping out with the clearance of gorse, I (extreme right above) returned a couple of weeks later to have a closer look at the stone ‘revetment’ that had made its presence known when a lower section of the inner east bank fell away. This is quite a breakthrough and possible pours water on the general archaeological belief that this monument is simply a medieval animal pound. I’ve never believed that and hopefully now this apparent revetment wall has been exposed it will encourage the powers that be to carry out a full excavation of the bank at least and a dating of the site which sadly in this day and age is still missing.

Here is the video I shot on my revisit showing the revealed stone walling and my personal thoughts on both it and the site in general. Apologies for the wind rush which accompanies the video in parts but filming anywhere on Bodmin Moor always carries the risk of this when you only have a basic camcorder with no external mic.

Roy Goutté

Palygorskite. Image credit Wiki Commons

HeritageDaily reports on the 12 April that –

The recipe and process for preparing Maya Blue, a highly-resistant pigment used for centuries in Mesoamerica, were lost. We know that the ingredients are a plant dye, indigo, and a type of clay known as palygorskite, but scientists do not know how they were ‘cooked’ and combined together. Now, a team of chemists from the University of Valencia and the Polythecnic University of Valencia (Spain) have come up with a new hypothesis about how it was prepared.

Full article here.


The old Mary Rose Museum has closed but the new Mary Rose Museum is nearly finished and will open to the public on the 31 May 2013
For almost three decades since being raised from the Solent, the hull of the Mary Rose – Henry VIII’s 500-year-old flagship – has been continuously sprayed, first with chilled fresh water to remove salt and then with Polyethlene Glycol (PEG), a water soluble wax which prevents shrinkage of the timbers, having been submerged underwater for almost 500 years. Now, just four weeks from the official opening of the new £27m Mary Rose Museum, staff at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard have announced that these spray jets have been turned off for the first time today (Monday 29th April), marking a new historic milestone in the conservation of the ship.
The Tudor warship will now enter into an air drying phase, where over 100 tons of water will be extracted from the hull over the next 4 to 5 years. With a pioneering building design, the new museum encircles a “Hot Box” chamber that houses the hull of the ship as this highly technical drying out process takes place. This notable design will enable visitors the intriguing opportunity to see conservation in action through windows into the airtight chamber where the hull lies, as fabric ducts direct conditioned air, in a highly sophisticated pattern, to gradually remove water from the wood. This carefully monitored process has only been executed on this scale on the Swedish warship Vasa, and the Mary Rose Trust has worked closely with them to learn from their experience and the Trust team are now considered to be the leading experts on maritime conservation in the world.
More here on the conservation of the Mary Rose, or visit the Mary Rose Museum website here.
Female figure sculpture approximately 20,000 years-old
Due to popular demand the exhibition, Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind, has been extended to 2 June 2013. See also the video, Sculptures of the female form. “Jill Cook exhibition curator [at the British Museum] and artist Ghislaine Howard explore these representations of women in Ice Age and contemporary art.”
Glass rosewater sprinkler (6.5cm x 4.5cm approx). Roman (1-3 century ce)
Private collection, Great Britain
Series in which archaeologist Julian Richards returns to some of his most important digs to discover how science, conservation and new finds have changed our understanding of entire eras of ancient history.
Julian goes back to the excavation of two burials from Roman Britain – a wealthy man from Roman Winchester and a lavishly-appointed grave of a woman from the heart of London that holds a special and unexpected secret only recently unlocked.
Episode 1 of 4 begins on BBC 4 television at 20:00 on Wednesday, 1 May. Duration: 1 hour. More here.


May 2013
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