You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2013.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Sanro-den kake-zukuri Prayer Hall in Ōzu, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku Japan
Not many kake-zukuri buildings survived in Japan today, perhaps the most famous is the main hall of the Kiyomizu-dera (Buddhist temple) situated in the foothills of the eastern mountains of Kyoto City. Kiyomizu-dera sits on the edge of a steep, thirteen metre slope, and is supported by wooden pillars. As with most temples, shrines and pagodas in Japan no nails were used in its construction, resulting in structures that are flexible and therefore more likely to survive an earthquake.
The World Monuments Fund reports recently that –
Within the compound of the Shinto shrine to Sukunahikona in Ōzu, on the island of Shikoku, lies the sanro-den or private prayer hall. Sukunahikona was an important dwarf deity, associated with the creation of Japan and many human arts, including the art of medicine. The sanro-den was constructed in 1934 in the sacred precinct, following the traditional kake-zukuri, or overhang, style, supported on scaffolding over a steep slope. It is one of few twentieth-century kake-zukuri buildings in Japan, with all but a tenth of the structure dramatically suspended on a frame of long and slender timber posts. The interior consists of a single large room, glazed on all sides, which was used for many decades for religious ceremonies and community gatherings.
After the shrine closed, following a gradual decline in the community of followers of Sukunahikona, citizens of Ōzu formed a volunteer group with the aim of preserving and maintaining the historic monuments. But the sanro-den is in a poor condition—until recently, water used to leak into the interior of the structure—and an expert committee has been formed to oversee its restoration and repairs. In addition to repairs to the roof and walls, some of the supporting posts are exhibiting signs of rotting and will need to be replaced. The successful restoration of the sanro-den will expand knowledge of kake-zukuri architecture, both ancient and modern, and will allow this special place to become a venue for community gatherings once again. Advocates are hopeful that the restoration will engage the nearby community to maintain the site on a regular basis, and will provide the impetus for the rest of the monuments of the compound to be restored.
More here.

The Avebury Henge (south-west quadrant) Wiltshire, England
Slender rods support the roof of the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre
The Heritage Trust
Rain clouds gathered as Trust members arrived at the entrance to the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre this morning. After decades of wrangling, and millions of pounds spent trying to decide what the Centre should be, what it should look like and where it should be sited, the big day had at last arrived – the first day that the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre opened its doors to the public. We can only say that the atmosphere there this morning was electric. The smiles and pride on the faces of the English Heritage staff, as well as on the faces of the windswept guides and security folk we saw and spoke to were infectious. There are still a few minor problems to sort out but English Heritage, and everyone else involved in the project, seem to have pulled it off in a way that will satisfy all but a few.
Entrance to the new Visitor Centre, with cafeteria and shop on the left, conveniences and exhibition hall on the right
The Centre itself could easily be mistaken for a large farm building, even from quite close up, and it sits comfortably in the surrounding landscape; light and airy but totally functional. The building is actually two quite plain buildings (exhibition hall in one and the cafeteria/shop in the other) both sitting under a floating, undulating roof; and it’s the roof that pulls the two together. We took the land train up to Fargo Plantation where it stops and where one can walk the remaining 15 minutes or so; Bronze Age round barrows on one’s left and the monument itself slowly appearing in the distance.
The final walk from Fargo Plantation to the monument
The Heritage Trust
The old ‘facilities’ are in the process of being demolished. The road that once ran past (and very close to) the Heelstone no longer does so and the stone has now regained much of its rightful place in the Stonehenge landscape. A new innovation is that visitors are now directed to walk round the monument clockwise from the Heelstone, not anticlockwise as was previously the case. The visual impact of this is that one sees the monument from ever increasing points of closeness – ending in a very close and stunning view at the end of the walk.
The Heelstone returning to its rightful place in the Stonehenge landscape
The Heritage Trust
The new Stonehenge Visitor Centre offers world-class facilities and an information/exhibition area second to none. We never thought we’d see some of the earliest literature and illustrations on Stonehenge, let alone see them gathered together in one exhibition room (it was worth the admission fee just for that!) though there is so much more to see and enjoy there now.
The closest point to the monument at the end of the clockwise walk one can get. Stonehenge revealed in all its majesty, but note the truck visible through the stones on the right as it travels along the A303 (click on image to enlarge). Next step, a tunnel or bypass to complete English Heritage’s excellent work so far?
The Heritage Trust
The Futagoyama keyhole-shaped burial mound in Gyoda, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Image credit Hiroshi Kawai
Takuya Kawasaki, correspondent on the Asahai Shimbun, reports that –
Work is under way to drain water and reclaim a moat that protects an ancient burial mound in this city north of Tokyo. The Futagoyama mound is believed to date from the early sixth century. With a budget of 50 million yen ($500,000), the project is set to be completed by the end of fiscal 2014.
Serious erosion has occurred along the outer edge of the mound. The keyhole-shaped earthworks, 138 meters long, belongs to the Sakitama burial mound cluster. Many large ancient burial mounds in Japan are surrounded by moats.
Full article here.
There will be a talk by lead archaeologist Jacky Nowkoski at Helston Folk Museum, Cornwall on Thursday, 19 December from 1pm. The talk will compliment an exhibition on Carwynnen Quoit at the Museum which will run from 16 – 20 December.
Pip Richard’s (of The Sustainable Trust) newsletter and attached posters are as follows –
At Samhain we restored the first stone at Carwynnen Quoit on the old Pendarves Estate. After 10 days of archaeological investigations in the field, the socket was uncovered and stone no 4 was put up.
We would have liked to lift it by manpower, but the weather and the uncertain state of the newly excavated socket dictated that we needed to plan for mechanical means. The newly standing orthostat is a statement that we now have the funding to complete the project, and we were pleased to see a sizeable audience on what was otherwise a dreary and muddy day. A newly formed team of Engineer, contractor, machine operator and field archaeologist worked efficiently and swiftly together, and the new standing stone received a blessing and anointment with Cornish cider by Andy Norfolk.
During the dig some large stones were investigated, showing the promise of manmade markings. More Neolithic pottery and flints were discovered on this historic site.
Pip Richards
See The Sustainable Trust or Carwynnen Quoit on Facebook.
Constructed through mountainous terrain in the third century bce the Jingxing Ancient Road was the main artery connecting Hebei and Shanxi provinces until the 1940s
Photo credit Yu
Shen Ting,, reports last month that –
One century older than the Roman road Via Aurelia, the Jingxing Ancient Road remained as the national road connecting Hebei and Shanxi provinces until the 1940s. Though bleak and desolate now, this cultural relic holds a lot of stories still relevant to the current generation.
A scenic spot in Hebei Province’s Jingxing County was named “Qinhuang Ancient Road.” Qinhuang, the first Qin emperor who united China in 221 B.C., ordered his subjects to build a national road network stretching to every corner of his realm — Jingxing Ancient Road was a key part of that network. Jiang Chunxia, a guide at the scenic spot, introduces the best-preserved part of the ancient road, where two tracing ruts are still deeply branded into the flagging road.
“In ancient times, this flagging was a national road, bustling and crowded with people and vehicles. Since the distance between carriage wheels were made the same and this particular section of road was very narrow, repeated travel by carriages made grooves into the road. Workers were called on to flatten out the bulges left by wheeled vehicles of the time. As a result, the original was two meters higher than the current road.”
Blessed with such rare historic relics, the local government cherishes this treasure. Since 1998, the Jingxing County government has invested three million yuan in preserving the road. Likewise, a general protection project with a 2.3 million yuan investment is in the pipeline. Du Xianming, head of the County Relics Preservation Institute, says, “The project aims to protect the relics in general, including two parts of the ancient road, as well as the surrounding vegetation, houses and villages. The investment comes from the central government and the project will last for eight months.”
Full article here.
Star Carr: Life in Britain after the Ice Age by Nicky Milner, Barry Taylor, Chantal Conneller and Tim Schadla-Hall
An exciting new book on Star Carr, described by CBA Publications as being –
…one of the most famous and important prehistoric sites in Europe. Dating from the early Mesolithic period, over 10,000 years ago, the site has produced a unique range of artefacts and settlement evidence.
First excavated in 1949–51 by Professor Grahame Clark of Cambridge University, the site was buried in a deep layer of peat on the edge of prehistoric Lake Flixton. The peat has preserved an incredible collection of organic artefacts, including bone, wood and antler, as well as thousands of flint tools. This has allowed archaeologists to build up a detailed picture of life on the edge of the lake around 9000 BC. New excavations have now revealed the remains of what may be the earliest house ever found in Britain, and have shown that the settlement stretched for several hundred metres along the lake shore.
This book tells the story of the discovery of Star Carr, and brings it up-to-date with details of the current excavations. It also discusses other important Mesolithic sites in Britain and Europe and how these are transforming our view of life after the Ice Age.
Full details here.
Merlin Building Stonehenge
Manuscript illustration, England, second quarter of the 14th century (British Library, MS Egerton 3028, fol 30)
The International Council on Monuments and Sites UK has announced details of its Annual Christmas Lecture and Reception for 2013. This year’s event will take place in London on the 12 December with a lecture entitled Stonehenge – whose culture? delivered by Julian Richards, archaeologist, writer and broadcaster –
Stonehenge is the most important and studied prehistoric site in Europe, yet still remains an archaeological enigma. But it is also an international cultural icon, its stones instantly recognizable, providing inspiration for medieval manuscript illuminators, artists such as Turner and Constable, among others, and generations of writers, photographers and craftsmen. It seems as if everyone has wanted a piece of Stonehenge, literally so in past centuries, and today the question of ‘Stonehenge – whose culture?’ is as passionately argued over as ever before. ‘Heritage’, tourist magnet or living temple? In 2013 Stonehenge is a place that still inspires passion.
Details and booking form here (PDF).
Detail of the 15th century St George and the Dragon tableaux in St Cadoc’s Church, Llancarfan, Wales
St Cadoc’s in Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales appears to be just another little village church. Established on the site of a much earlier 7th century monastery, and founded around 1,200ce, the church is now causing something of a sensation after the discovery in 2007 of a thin line of red paint on one of the interior walls. A team of experts were subsequently called in to investigate and to see what else might be hidden behind the twenty layers of limewash that had accumulated on the walls over the centuries.
After five years of painstaking work, and sometimes exposing little more than one square inch of painting an hour, conservators working on the walls have revealed an astonishing array of 15th century murals; among them St George and the Dragon, the Seven Deadly Sins, portraits and an extraordinary painting of a corpse with worms and toads crawling out of its body as it leads a young man into the graveyard via a window. What is unusual about this painting is that the young man is painted on one wall and the corpse on another wall at a different angle – a clever use of three dimensional illusion.
Watch the BBC News Magazine video  of the paintings here. See also our features on the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering, North Yorkshire and St Mary’s Church, Bartlow, Cambridgeshire.
The Westmorland Gazette reports 3 December that –
CARLISLE’S Tullie House museum has been donated two very rare Neolithic wooden tridents by Cumbria County Council and is putting them on display for the public to give their theories on what they were used for. The two tridents were discovered during the archaeological excavations prior to the construction of the Carlisle Northern Development Route (CNDR), and add to the mystery surrounding identical finds in Cumbria and Northern Ireland around 200 years ago. Only four other similar tridents exist in the UK and the fact that they have almost identical designs and show a proficiency in woodworking suggests they were made for an accepted purpose. But experts are unsure what that was, with theories including fishing, hunting or agricultural use.
They both measure over two metres in length and each has been expertly crafted, using stone tools, from a single plank of oak, split from a mature tree (c 300 year old). They would have been heavy, hefty objects, seemingly built for their strength. As they have been submerged and preserved in water-logged ground for nearly 6,000 years, their preservation involved freeze drying and stabilising them by injecting them with a waxy substance to replace the water in the trident’s structure as just letting the wood dry would have damaged them.
Full article here. Photos of the tridents here.
The Heritage Trust
Realscreen reports yesterday that –
BBC2, France 5, the CBC, Smithsonian Channel, Australia’s ORF and ZDF Germany are among the broadcasters uniting for Stonehenge Empire, a two-part doc looking at Britain’s ancient Stonehenge site (pictured). The 2 x 60-minute production is being made by UK indie October Films with Canada’s Lightship Entertainment and Austria’s Interspot Film.
Davidson, the BBC’s commissioning editor for history and business programming, added: “This is a really exciting project which will, using drama, CGI and the latest archaeological discoveries, allow us to properly understand the achievements and character of the people that built it; people who mastered deep mining, sophisticated engineering, textile manufacturing, ship-building, ‘micro’ gold-working, metallurgy, glass making, overseas trade and complex astronomy and mathematics.”
Full article here.
The Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet
Image credit the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Source Wikipedia Commons
The Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet is now on show at the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle, Cumbria until the 26th January 2014. The helmet, dating from the 1-3 century ce, caused controversy when it was restored and then auctioned at Christie’s, London for £2.3 million to a private and undisclosed buyer.
Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery states that –
This is a unique opportunity to see the stunning Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet. The exceptional rare bronze ceremonial parade helmet, named after the hamlet where it was discovered, has been hailed by experts as one of the great masterpieces of Roman metalwork …it is unparalleled in its detail and the most complete and elaborate of only three such helmets to have been found in Britain.
Details of the exhibition here.
Lembah Bujang, in the Merbok district of Kedah, is the richest archaeological site in Malaysia, containing more than 50 ancient temple ruins
Image credit  K E Ooi
A 1,200 year-old temple ruin in Lembah Bujang, Malaysia as been demolished by a developer reports the BBC’s News from Elsewhere service –
Bujang Valley (Lembah Bujang) is the richest archaeological site in the country. It covers hundreds of square miles in the state of Kedah and houses temple remains dating back about 2,000 years. The deputy chief minister of neighbouring Penang State, Palinasamy Ramasamy, visited the site over the weekend and told the Malay Mail Online site that temple 11 at Sungai Batu “was demolished by the developer… more than a month back”.
Social media users were furious, with responses ranging from disbelief that the site was not protected to accusations of an attempt by the state to erase Malaysia’s pre-Islamic history. Kedah State authorities, taken aback by the reaction, said the site was on private land and had not been registered as historically significant.
Full article here.
A polished gneiss-stone mace head, found with a cremation burial at Stonehenge and thought to date from between 3,000 – 2,500bce
Salisbury Museum
Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum reports that –
Building has begun on the new Wessex Gallery at the Salisbury Museum, which will make it clear for the first time exactly why Salisbury and it’s nearby World Heritage Sites hold a unique place in British history. The new gallery will be of international importance, telling the story of Salisbury and the surrounding area from prehistoric times to the Norman Conquest. “By Christmas this year the major construction work will be complete,” said museum director Adrian Green with a gleam in his eye. “In roughly seven months, the new Wessex Gallery will be ready.”
The permanent collections at the Salisbury Museum have been something of a best-kept secret for many years. And yet the pretty Grade 1-listed museum, which faces the front of Salisbury Cathedral, has all this time been faithfully guarding some of Northern Europe’s most important archaeological finds, including many from Stonehenge. Then in 2012 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded Salisbury Museum a grant of nearly £2 million towards the development of a new Archaeology of Wessex gallery. In summer of 2014 The Salisbury Museum will step out of the shadows and into the light.
The permanent collection includes the outstanding Pitt Rivers Wessex Collection, and the “Amesbury Archer” alongside many artefacts from Stonehenge. Here, piece by piece, the story of England’s deep past unfolds. From antler picks to animal bones, flint tools to stone tools, beautifully carved chalk plaques to highly decorated grooved-ware pots and beakers – the craftsmanship is truly remarkable.
More here.


December 2013
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