You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2013.

 
The Cove at Avebury, Wiltshire, England
©
The Heritage Trust
 
A few days ago we celebrated our second anniversary. For this, our 500th feature, we thought we’d bring together one or two strands that go towards making us what we are – ie a group of people who love our heritage and want to see it protected and preserved. We do that by writing about it, photographing it, complaining when it’s mistreated, and showing our appreciation to the many, many people in museums, universities, libraries, in small groups or even alone who are working towards goals similar to our own.
 
The photo above and the poem below highlight, perhaps, how fragile our heritage is and how vigilant we need to be to ensure that it is there for both ourselves and future generations to enjoy, learn from and wonder at.
 
***
 
There’s a silence here
a silence that lifts and suppresses
all at once.
 
Lures life into a comfort
then leaves it limp
like a frozen drop of transience
on a quiet winter branch
that might
 
or might not
spring back to life again.
 
 
 
The Artist in the Campagna by Alan Sorrell, circa 1930. Gouache, and pen and ink on paper
 
Alan Sorrell Exhibition: 25 October 2013 – 25 January 2014.
 
This exhibition will provide the first major survey of Alan Sorrell’s oeuvre. Although he worked in variety of disciplines, he is best known today for his archeologically informed drawings of early historical sites and monuments and tableaux of ancient life. The exhibition, organised and sponsored by Liss Fine Art, will travel to The Beecroft Art Gallery, Westcliff on Sea after opening at Sir John Soane’s Museum. A fully illustrated book accompanies the show.
 
More here. See also Mike Pitts blog here.
 

 Howard Carter opening the doors to Tutankhamun’s tomb. A 1924 reconstruction of the 1922 event.
Image credit Harry Burton (1879 – 1940). Source Wikimedia Commons
 
After World War I, Carter began an intensive search for Tutankhamen’s tomb and on November 4, 1922, discovered a step leading to its entrance. Lord Carnarvon rushed to Egypt, and on November 23 they broke through a mud-brick door, revealing the passageway that led to Tutankhamen’s tomb. There was evidence that robbers had entered the structure at some point, and the archaeologists feared they had discovered yet another pillaged tomb. However, on November 26 they broke through another door, and Carter leaned in with a candle to take a look. Behind him, Lord Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” Carter replied, “Yes, wonderful things.”
 
 
   
 
A Roman period goldmine in the town of Roșia Montană, Romania. Source Wikimedia. Image credit Codrinb
 
Europa Nostra, a leading European heritage organisation, has expressed serious concern about a draft law which would allow a Canadian based company to set up Europe’s biggest open-cast goldmine in Roşia Montană, Romania –
 
In a letter addressed to Romanian parliamentarians, the civil society partner of the European Union, the Council of Europe and UNESCO, warned of the anticipated negative impact of the project on cultural heritage and the environment and called for an alternative and sustainable development plan for the region. Europa Nostra, together with the European Investment Bank Institute, listed Rosia Montana as one of ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ monuments and sites in Europe in June. The draft law proposed by the Romanian Government in August has sparked a wave of demonstrations across the country. The Romanian Parliament is expected to vote on it in November.
 
Europa Nostra has urged Romanian parliamentarians to start a genuine and thorough discussion on an alternative and sustainable solution for Roşia Montană. “Such a development plan would not only protect and promote the unique cultural and natural assets of the area (which include 150 km of pre-Roman and Roman galleries, archaeological artifacts and settlements witnessing an uninterrupted industrial life), but also bring long-term jobs to the region through the promotion of sustainable tourism, organic agriculture and other locally-based economic activities,” advocates John Sell, Executive Vice-President of Europa Nostra.
 
More here.
In August of this year we highlighted the threat to Old Oswestry, “… an early Iron Age hill fort in the Welsh Marches near Oswestry in north west Shropshire. It was designated as a scheduled monument (number 27556) in 1997 and is now in the guardianship of English Heritage. After the hillfort was abandoned it was incorporated into Wat’s Dyke, and two sections of this are adjacent to it.” In today’s Observer, Jamie Doward reports that –
 
…in what critics say is a result of the government’s new planning policy, proposals have been drawn up to build almost 200 luxury homes next to the ancient site, angering local residents and heritage groups. Some 6,000 people have signed a petition opposing the development, part of the county council’s plan to build 2,600 homes by 2026 to comply with government targets.
 
One of 25 hill forts in Shropshire, Old Oswestry has a series of perimeter ditches, formed between ramparts, that were designed to slow down attackers. An archaeological survey in 2010 found man-made structures in fields to the north-east of the fort. Two years ago the discovery of an iron age road, thought to connect The Wrekin, near Telford, with fields near the site, indicated that there was likely to be important evidence of past cultures buried under the soil.
 
English Heritage, which describes Old Oswestry as “a site of great national importance, one that helps to define our national story and identity”, has joined Oswestry town council in opposing the scheme, which locals say will do little to ease housing problems. They claim that the 188 homes planned for up to three sites around the fort will be expensive, low-risk developments “for affluent commuters, rich retirees, country retreat investors and holiday cottage landlords”. The development will be studied closely by the likes of the National Trust, which has warned that the government’s new “pro-development” planning framework will result in a glut of upmarket homes being built on greenfield sites because these offer the best returns for construction firms.
 
Full article here.
 
 
An Anglo-Saxon gamepiece made from a hollow piece of bone. The piece appears to be turned and is inset with a bronze rivet
Image credit University of Reading
 
BBC News England reports yesterday that –
  
A 7th Century board game piece, the first discovery of its kind for 130 years, has been unearthed in Kent by University of Reading archaeologists. Researchers believe the hollow bone cylinder found at the Lyminge dig belongs to an early backgammon or draughts-type games set. It was found in the remains of an Anglo-Saxon royal hall where board games were traditionally very popular. Project leader Dr Gabor Thomas called it a “wonderfully evocative discovery”. He added: “Our excavation is providing an unprecedented picture of life in an Anglo-Saxon royal complex.
 
“Gaming, along with feasting, drinking, and music, formed one of the key entertainments of the Anglo-Saxon mead-hall as evoked in the poem Beowulf.”
 
Full article here.
 
A split image showing an X-radiograph of the Chisledon Cauldron and a British Museum metal’s conservator at work on the object
©
The Trustees of the British Museum
 
While the original Chiseldon cauldrons undergo conservation at the British Museum BBC News Wiltshire reports that –
 
A full-size replica of an Iron Age cauldron found in a Wiltshire field as part of “the biggest Iron Age find to date” has been unveiled. The large cauldron is one of 17 found by a metal detector enthusiast near the village of Chiseldon in 2004. The cauldrons, described as “too fragile and important ever to return to Chiseldon”, are at the British Museum. But in 2011, a local history group commissioned an exact copy to be made as a lasting memory of the find.
 
Story here. See also the British Museum video here.
 
 
Avebury, north-east quadrant
©
The Heritage Trust
Free to use for non-commercial heritage issues
 
 
The Heritage Trust is two years old today. During that time we’ve published nearly 500 features, had over 40,000 hits and have attracted 165 follows. As with last year, we wondered how we might mark the occasion, and thought the following poem sums up much of what we hold dear and strive to promote and preserve. We hope both the photo and the poem will resonate with you, our readers, while at the same time thanking you for your continued support, input and encouragement over the last 24 months.
 
***
 
Avebury
 
A cold New Year’s Eve seeps in,
Walking along an unknown path,
Confronted suddenly by giant arcs of ditch and bank
Which draw the eye towards processions of stones.
Rings within rings,
Gauntly chiselled jewels bound by bracelets of mossy grass,
Their ancient faces careworn from witnessing millennia –
Sad, yet proud and wise, these forty ton leviathans.
Echoes of long-forgotten rituals
Intangible yet close, a sense of collective aim.
Slowly we traverse the great circle,
Latter-day invaders, unsure of their purpose.
How much have we forgotten?
Over two hundred generations – what is remembered?
 
Geoff Butts
 
 

The Carn Meini outcrop in the middle-distance
©
The Heritage Trust

For decades, the origin of Stonehenge’s famous Bluestones was thought to be Carn Meini (above) in the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire, south-west Wales. Now a new theory places them a mile away from Carn Meini at Carn Goedog. Writing in Wales Online today, Martin Shipton reports that –

A team of geologists have identified a hill in the Preseli Hills as the site from which 11 stones known as spotted dolerites were transported to Stonehenge. New research has established that stones from Wales were definitely used in the building of one of the world’s best known prehistoric sites at Stonehenge – but that they came from a hill a mile away from the place previously assumed to be their source.

A team of three geologists including Dr Richard Bevins, Keeper of Natural Sciences at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, have identified a hill called Carn Goedog, about three miles from Crymrch in the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire, as the site from which 11 stones known as spotted dolerites were somehow transported to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Together with his colleagues Dr Rob Ixer of University College, London and Professor Nick Pearce of Aberystwyth, Dr Bevins will next year have a peer-reviewed paper published by the prestigious Journal of Archaological Science.

Full article here. See also the feature in BBC News Wales here.

 
The Folio Society of Great Britain has announced the publication of its book, The Tomb of Tutankhamun
 
‘Three thousand, four thousand years maybe, have passed and gone since human feet last trod the floor on which you stand, and yet, as you note the signs of recent life around you — the half-filled bowl of mortar for the door, the blackened lamp, the finger-mark upon the freshly painted surface, the farewell garland dropped upon the threshold — you feel it might have been but yesterday.’
 
There have been countless accounts of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, from the sober to the sensational, but none is as powerful as Howard Carter’s own firsthand testimony. He recalls the evidence that first drew him to the Valley of the Kings in 1914; the six seasons of patient, fruitless searching; moonlit encounters with would-be tomb-robbers; and the near-miraculous discovery at the eleventh hour, just as funding was about to run out, of the royal necropolis seal – the jackal and nine captives – which signalled a pharaoh’s resting-place. With admirable restraint, Carter cabled Lord Carnarvon, the excavation’s sponsor, and waited two weeks for him to arrive before breaking the sealed doorway. What they found was beyond imagining. Unlike most royal tombs, Tutankhamun’s had largely escaped plundering; with more than 5,000 artefacts, it remains the most complete Egyptian burial ever discovered.
 
This two-volume edition features an entire volume dedicated to magnificent colour photography of Tutankhamun’s treasures taken by Sandro Vannini. In recent years, Vannini has been given rare access by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to carry out photography at the Cairo Museum. He uses a digital sensor to create high-resolution enlargements that would be impossible with film alone, meaning that we can appreciate these artefacts in unprecedented detail as well as from new angles. In the other volume, we have reproduced the text together with the original photographs by Harry Burton, who worked with Carter at the exhibition site and was the first to photograph the tomb. Professor David P. Silverman of the University of Pennsylvania, a leading authority on Egyptology and curator of the major exhibition ‘Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs’, has contributed an introduction.
 
Details of the publication here.
 
A nameless, sun-baked clay minaret stands against a flawless blue sky. Dating from the 12th century and missed by Ghengis Khan and his marauding armies
Image credit Lynne O’Donnell
 
The BBC News Magazine reports last month on the incomparable heritage sites in Balkh Province, northern Afghanistan.  The ancient city of Balkh was known as the mother of all cities. “More than a decade after her first visit, Lynne O’Donnell returns with a group of archaeologists, trying to uncover more of its treasures.”
 
Across the far northern Afghan plain, a hot wind blows the dun-coloured dust into blinding clouds, and the women’s burkas into blue billows. It is 40C in the shade, and even the small black goats being herded through the sand dunes look sapped by the heat. These are the lowlands of Balkh, where ancient trade routes attracted nomads, warriors, settlers, adventurers and evangelists, who left behind secrets that archaeologists are just beginning to unlock. This area places Afghanistan at the heart of political, economic, social and religious power across Asia, as far back as 4,000 years ago. The last time I drove across the Bactrian plain was in 2001. I had sailed down the Amu Darya river on a barge from Uzbekistan as British and American forces were pounding the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks in the US.
 
I have returned 12 years later with Afghan and French archaeologists to tour some of the oldest, most magnificent and historically significant sites in the world – sites that are shedding light not only on Afghanistan’s past, but on the development of human civilisation, from India to China and beyond. The Bactrian plain is the treasure house of Afghanistan’s secret history. Across this desert, Alexander the Great marched his army, killed the king of Balkh and married his beautiful daughter, Roxanne. Some 1,500 years later, Genghis Khan swept through and destroyed teeming cities that were melting pots of diversity. The philosopher Zoroaster, founder of the first monotheistic religion 3,500 years ago, lived and possibly died here. Rumi, the 13th Century poet who wrote in Persian, was born in Balkh – and is also, some Afghans like to think, buried here.
 
Full article by Lynne O’Donnell here. See also The Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination exhibition now showing at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, London until 14 December 2013.
  
 
Ancient cave paintings of white-lipped peccaries discovered by researchers in Brazil’s Pantanal and Cerrado biome
Image credit: Liana Joseph/WCS
 
The Wildlife Conservation Society reports on 8 November 203 that –
 
Researchers tracking white-lipped peccaries in Brazil got the surprise of a lifetime. The team discovered ancient cave drawings made by hunter-gatherer societies thousands of years ago. The remarkable drawings are diverse and add significantly to our knowledge of rock art from the Cerrado plateau region.
 
The extraordinary discovery was made on Brazil’s Cerrado plateau in 2009, while the team was conducting surveys and collecting data on the pig-like peccaries. These animals are important indicators of healthy forests but are sadly disappearing from the area due to deforestation and hunting.
 
More here.
  
 
The Secrets of Stonehenge by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
 
In a review of the book here, The Mole writes that –
 
Stonehenge has captured the imagination as long as man can remember – long after he can remember what it was built for. Throughout it [the book] talks in a positive, non-contradictory way but also without dogma and this subject is so controversial to so many that avoiding dogma is a big plus in this book’s favour. It also goes back in history to before the henge we see today and shows what excavations have revealed about the site before. Couple this history with cartoon like drawings and historical asides this book is a great asset for children to learn from.
 
With Christmas just around the corner, The Secrets of Stonehenge might be a stocking filler for kiddies with parents interested in ancient sites such as Stonehenge (or for people of any age who just like graphic books).
 
More information and more books by Frances Lincoln Publishers here.
 
 
Anglo-Saxon gold ring showing a bird of prey bearing a cross
©
Saffron Walden Museum
 
Culture24 reports today that –
 
An urgent public fundraising appeal to save five precious archaeological treasures at Saffron Walden Museum, including a large gold ring from the age of the famous Sutton Hoo finds, engraved with pagan and Christian symbols, needs a “final push” to reach its target.
 
Found in Uttlesford since 2011, the gleaming collection includes a mysterious silver mount of glass-eyed animals, a 9th century tag showing four creatures cavorting, a Gallo-Belgic coin and a ring from the Tudor or Jacobean period. The Museum Society, which expects to largely meet the £60,000 asking price through grants, still needs to raise £5,000 in public donations.
 
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to enrich the archaeology displays,” said Tony Watson, the Chair of the Society. “With the Anglo-Saxon gold ring, we have the chance to bring a really special object of regional and national significance home to north-west Essex, where it was found.
 
Carolyn Wingfield, the curator of the museum, said, “The main effort is evidently for the Anglo-Saxon gold ring. Thanks to great support from national grant-giving organisations and local efforts we are nearly there. The other three [artefacts] are all at different stages of the treasure valuation and acquisition process, but we need to continue local fundraising towards these after we have resolved the immediate cases of the rings.”
 
Telephone Saffron Walden Museum on 01799 510333 to donate or for further information. Follow the Museum on Twitter @UttlesfordDC and Facebook.
 
Full article here.
 
 Ogam Stone
 
A 5th century Ogham Stone from Roovesmoor Rath Ring Fort, Coachford, West Cork, Ireland
Image: The Heritage Trust
 
 
An article in the Irish Examiner on Monday, 4 November 2013 by Marc O’ Sullivan, Arts Editor, begins with the statement that, “THE British are peculiar. Their desire to conquer the world has been matched only by their obsession with bringing bits of it home with them.”
 
The article goes on to say that –
 
Nowhere is this more evident than in the British Museum in London. Visiting it last week, my eye was drawn to a large slab of stone, about the height and width of a man, perched upon a formal plinth in the Great Court. It bore an inscription in ogham. On a plaque beneath, the crude translation of these elegant notches — read anti-clockwise — disclosed that the slab was originally raised in honour of ‘Vedac, son of Tob of the Sogain’. It was one of three 5th century ogham stones taken from Roovesmoor Rath — a ring fort outside Coachford, in West Cork — by the delightfully named General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers. He presented the group to the British Museum in 1866.
 
The Roovesmoor Rath ogham stones were among more than 20,000 items of archaeological interest Pitt Rivers collected over several decades, and many of them are now housed in the museum named after him in Oxford. I’m sure he meant well in presenting the ogham stones to the British Museum, and because of his largesse many thousands, if not millions, of visitors are now aware of the ogham script, the earliest written record of the Irish language. But the stones belong in a rath in West Cork, not in a cultural institution in London.
 
But do they? As with the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles we’re faced with the same questions: should objects be returned to their place of origin or is it better that they are seen and appreciated in a wider international context?
 
Full Irish Examiner article here.
 

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