You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2014.

Recreating the Tomb of Tutankhamun by Factum Arte

The BBC are airing a well researched and balanced story on the Tutankhamun facsimile and the questions this object has generated. The arrival of the facsimile of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt in November as a gift from Factum Foundation to the country has created significant interest not just in the tomb itself but in the concept of authenticity and the potential for turning tourism into a positive force by creating exact facsimiles of subjects like the Tomb in order that the experience the tourist pays for is a powerful one but also that the original nearby is carefully preserved. The BBC introduction asks the question: “Egypt’s Valley of the Kings is a popular tourist attraction, but years of visitors trekking around the old tombs of the pharaohs is causing these historic sites to deteriorate. An exact replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb has now been created – but will tourists really visit …”

Factum Arte finished the facsimile of Tutankhamun’s Tomb at the end of 2010; it opens to the public today in Luxor, Egypt. Watch the extraordinary video above of Factum Arte’s creation of the facsimile and read an account of their work here. See also our earlier feature here.

Proposed development at the Maltese World Heritage Site of Ta’ Hagrat

Petition by FLIMKIEN GHAL AMBJENT AHAJR –

A development permit has been granted to build a two storey building within a few metres of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ta’ Hagrat temples, and within the buffer zone set up to protect the temple. Granting this development and denying the legislated buffer zone sets a dangerous precedent threatening all our cultural and natural heritage sites protected by buffer zones.

Government is also proposing two new policies that weaken the preservation of Malta’s heritage. The first allows the sanctioning of illegal developments at built or natural scheduled (protected) sites. The second policy being considered is that the scheduling of heritage buildings will be reviewed every ten years putting these at risk of being demolished in favour of yet more apartments.

Please consider signing the petition to halt this development here.

   

Well, this is our 600th post since we got going two and a half years ago. First off, many many thanks to all who have contributed, or drawn our attention to, features and photos since we started (and thanks too to our readers who have commented or indicated that they liked what we’ve published).

So, we wondered how we might celebrate our 600th post…

Cornwall’s been in the news recently: Earlier in the year it took a severe storm battering (along with other areas in Britain) and its only rail link to and from the rest of the country was dramatically severed due to high seas at Dawlish in Devon. Now, after for some two months, the line has been repaired and trains are running again. Then, last week, came the exciting news that the Cornish are to be granted minority status under European rules for the protection of national minorities (we ran a short feature about it here) which hopefully will herald a greater awareness and appreciation of Cornwall’s proud heritage. Also, last week, BBC television ran an adaptation (not an entirely successful one) of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn; a dark and violent story of ship-wrecking, smuggling and murder centred around an old inn on Bodmin Moor.

So, with all this happening, it seems appropriate to mark Cornwall’s current place in the spotlight, alongside our own 600th post celebration, with a poem dedicated to Cornwall and the Cornish and news of an exciting archaeological/conservation event happening in Cornwall next month. We hope you find both of interest.

Pitted mining landscape adjacent to the Hurlers Stone Circle on Bodmin Moor
©
The Heritage Trust

***

Cornwall: The gold of a nation

Pitiful pitted land
Plundered for its wealth and identity
Its language lost
Earth dug and destroyed for silver, tin and China clay
Brought close to a nothingness at the tip of Britain.

And yet…
Cornwall has become itself again
Its tors and towers never really lost
Its words never really withered
All just buried deep…
Like the Rillaton treasure at its barrow-fast heart
The gold of a nation gathers again the light against it.

***

The Standing of the Stones
A Sustainable Trust event brought to you by: Giant’s Quoit

 

 
Callanish
 
Writing for the Stornoway Gazette, Chris Murray reports on the campaign to secure World Heritage Status for Callanish –
 
The Callanish Stones should have World Heritage Site (WHS) status and people are being asked to back a campaign to make that happen. Despite being as old as Stonehenge – which already has WHS status – and being one of the most important prehistoric sites in Europe, the Callanish Stones which date back as far as 3,000 BC are currently without such a designation.
 
Scotland has just five World Heritage Sites including St Kilda which has joint status for its natural and cultural qualities. A long process of nomination is involved in gaining the international recognition but it can bring huge economic benefits and this could get underway now for the Callanish Stones. The Stornoway Gazette is now taking forward a campaign to have the Callanish Stones considered on a list of potential WHS as Editor Melinda Gillen explains: “It is an absolute travesty that Callanish is not already a World Heritage Site. It is the best known landmark in Lewis and Harris and is visited by the majority of visitors to the islands. It would be great to see it attain this designation.”
 
Full article and online poll here.
   

Part of the Hurlers Stone Circle (with the Cheesewring on the skyline) on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
©
The Heritage Trust

BBC News Cornwall announces today that –

Cornish people will be granted minority status under European rules for the protection of national minorities. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander will make the announcement on a visit to the county later.

Dick Cole, leader of Cornish independence party Mebyon Kernow, said: “This is a fantastic development. This is a proud day for Cornwall.” The Cornish will gain the same status as other Celtic communities the Scots, Welsh and Irish. Mr Alexander, who is due to visit Bodmin, said: “Cornish people have a proud history and a distinct identity.

Mebyon Kernow leader Mr Cole said: “A lot of people have been working for many years to get Cornwall the recognition other Celtic people of the UK already receive. “The detail is still to come out on what this might mean, but make no mistake that this is a proud day for Cornwall.”

Full feature here.

We are so powerful; our capacity for destruction is so huge, that we have to do something positive. (Sir David Attenborough)

Forgive our language, it’s not often that we feel the need to swear (well, we often do feel the need actually, though don’t usually print it) nor to encroach on the territory of our friends in the Natural and Wildlife heritage lobbies, but the comparison between the money being planned for a reckless high-speed rail link (HS2) in Britain, and the cuts to the budget of The Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew Gardens) in London, really does take the biscuit.

Please take a few moments to watch the video above (presented by Sir David Attenborough) and sign the petition here if possible.

Update in yesterday’s Guardian makes for depressing reading –

Cuts imposed by ministers that will see 125 jobs axed at Kew Gardens have gone ahead despite warnings that any drop in resourcing would threaten its future as one of the world’s leading botanic institutions.

A reduction of £1.5m in funding from the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) coupled with other financial pressures have contributed to a £5m hole in Kew’s budget that managers say cannot be filled without losing a sixth of the institution’s staff, mostly in scientific areas.

 

 
Sajid Javid, the new British Conservative secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
 
Anny Shaw, writing for The Arts Newspaper, reports that –
 
Cultural and political figures are calling on the British government to sign up to the Hague Convention, which provides protection for a country’s heritage in times of conflict. Writing in the Guardian newspaper on 15 April, Helen Goodman, the Labour MP and shadow culture minister, says there is “no excuse” for Sajid Javid, the new Conservative secretary of state for culture, media and sport, to not ratify the treaty.
 
“The convention prohibits looting, theft, vandalism and reprisals against cultural property,” Goodman writes. “Importantly, it also forbids the export of cultural property from occupied territories and makes provision for the return of objects deposited with third-party territories for safekeeping during conflict.” Goodman points out that the UK is “one of the only Western powers not to have ratified the convention”. Goodman’s comments echo similar advice given by The Art Newspaper’s editor Jane Morris in a prompt from the BBC. “We really ought to [ratify] the Hague Convention,” she told the news service last week. “It’s something the DCMS [Department of Culture, Media and Sport] could take a lead on, in tandem with the Foreign Office.
 
Let’s hope so. Rupert Christiansen, writing in The Telegraph pulls no punches when he says –
 
You [Sajid Javid] appear to be very much a money man, with a background in banking, and there is nothing – forgive me if I am mistaken – in your curriculum vitae to suggest that you have any prior interest in or knowledge of the bulging arts folder in your ministerial brief.
 
I don’t imagine you much relish grappling with its contents. The arts are a running sore and constant irritant for every government. Your predecessors have generally been excoriated and mocked by the chattering classes and liberal media for their failure to understand or value their mysteries, and you will already have been warned to expect heckling and rotten tomatoes when the next round of Arts Council grants are announced in the summer.
 
You will also have to confront some of the most forcefully intelligent, sharply articulate and widely respected people in contemporary public life – Sir Nicholas Serota of Tate, Sir Neil McGregor of the British Museum, Sir Nicholas Hytner of the National Theatre, for instance – and I would advise you not to under-estimate them, not least as they command much more instinctive sympathy from the press than you will ever do.
 
The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was signed 60 years ago next month (14 May 1954). With the exception Andorra, Ireland, Philippines and the UK every other country has ratified the convention.
 
The Arts Newspaper feature here. The Telegraph article here.
   

Ed Mooney Photography

Untitled Coolbanagher Castle via Google Street Veiw

Please forgive me for this post as I may rant quite a bit. Words cannot describe how angry this has made me. On 24th Febuary 2014 after suffering damage during a storm 10 days earlier, Coolbanagher Castle  an early Medieval Tower Hall, built in the early 13th century was completely demolished. Many of you will already know how passionate I am about the preservation of these sites, in fact one of the main factors which influenced my photography was to preserve in images as many sites as possible. Unfortunately I never got to shoot the castle whilst it was still standing, so I guess this is the first casualty in my quest. The reason I have not written about this sad turn of events sooner was because I wanted to see the site for myself, and what a sad sight it is. The entire…

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Reconstruction, by Ian Dennis, of the Whitehawk Camp causewayed enclosure in (circa) 3,600bce
Reproduced from Whittle, Healy and Bayliss 2011; fig. 1.3
 
CAA, UCL Institute of Archaeology announces that the Whitehawk Camp Community Archaeology Project has won Heritage Lottery Fund support for an exciting community archaeology project based in Brighton, East Sussex, England –
 
The Whitehawk Camp partnership, formed of the Centre for Applied Archaeology (University College London), Brighton & Hove City Council and Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society, has received £99,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for an exciting community archaeology project based in Brighton, East Sussex.
 
The project will focus on Whitehawk Camp and the collection of objects excavated from the site in the 1920s and 1930s. This 5,500 year old Stone Age monument (a Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure) on Whitehawk Hill in Brighton, East Sussex is a rare type of ritual monument (predating Stonehenge by around 500 years) and marks the emergence of Britain’s first farming communities. The people who built Whitehawk Camp were Brighton’s first residents!
 
A series of volunteering opportunities, workshops and events will be run at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Whitehawk Camp and other venues from April 2014 for 12 months. Volunteers will learn how to catalogue and examine archaeological finds, undertake geophysical survey, excavate archaeological remains and undertake conservation work to the monument. A series of outreach events will examine themes such as our relationship with food, the bio-diversity of Whitehawk Hill and Whitehawk Hill’s relationship with the wider Downland landscape. The results of the project will be interpreted through varied digital media and an archaeological archive report.
 
Details here. Article in the Brighton and Hove News here.
  

Silbury Hill, Wiltshire England
©
The Heritage Trust
 
The largest man-made mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporary Egyptian pyramids. Probably completed in around 2400 BC, it apparently contains no burial. Though clearly important in itself, its purpose and significance remain unknown. There is no access to the hill itself.
 
Silbury Hill is part of the Avebury World Heritage Site, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. In order to preserve this site for future generations, we ask that visitors observe the no entry signs and do not climb or damage fences in order to avoid considerable damage to the hill.
 
 
 
The newly conserved Downton Roman Mosaic
 
Tristan Cork, writing for the Western Daily Press, reports on 13 April that the Downton Roman Mosaic, buried for 1,700 years under Wiltshire soil, will at last go on show at the Wessex Gallery of Archaeology at Salisbury Museum, Wiltshire, England –
 
A Roman mosaic that laid unknown in a field in a Wiltshire village for almost 1,700 years before its discovery stunned locals 60 years ago, is finally being displayed. The Downton Mosaic was uncovered by surprised builders when new houses were built in the village near Salisbury in the early 1950s. The spot where it was found is believed to be part of a fourth century Roman villa.
 
 
The Downton Roman Mosaic when first discovered sixty years ago
 
Now the mosaic is being installed as the first exhibit in the new world-class Wessex Gallery of Archaeology at Salisbury Museum, as part of the major upgrade of museums both there and at Devizes that went with the £27million new Stonehenge visitor centre project.
 
“We believe this section of the mosaic came from the central room of the villa which may have been the dining room,” said museum director Adrian Green. “The date of the objects found at the villa suggest it was built in the late third to early fourth century AD and remained in use for about 50 years.”
 
The new archaeology gallery, which opens later this summer, will house one of England’s most extensive collections of Stonehenge and prehistoric artefacts including the recently discovered Amesbury Archer, dubbed the “King of Stonehenge”.
 
Full article here.
   

Lanyon Quoit, Cornwall
©
The Heritage Trust

The Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (CASPN) are holding their Pathways to the Past 2014 (8th year) event on Saturday, 24 May and Sunday, 25 May 2014. The event is titled A weekend of walks & talks amongst the ancient sites of West Penwith.

Details here.

 

 
Trethevy Quoit shrouded in mist
©
Littlestone
 
Access to Trethevy Quoit (if travelling by car) is from a nearby off-road parking area, through a farm gate, followed by a two minute walk across a privately owned field. The parking area is big enough for four or five cars. The cromlech is poorly cared for and deliberate ground disturbance has occurred very close to it in the past (see video here). There are information boards close to the parking area but not by the monument itself, and there are no warning signs that it may be unsafe and not to climb on it.
 
Administrative authority: English Heritage. Managed by the Cornwall Heritage Trust.
 
The Heritage Trust Cared for Rating  *  (out of 5).
 
Suggested improvements: Extend the no ploughing area to at least five metres round the monument. Create and maintain a pathway from farm gate to monument. Install clear signs instructing visitors not to climb the monument. One or two benches where people could pause and reflect on the monument and its setting.
 
For more on Trethevy Quoit see Trethevy Quoit: Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece by Roy Goutté.
 
 
Subhashis Das at the megalithic site of Rola, India
 
Gargi Gupta, writing for the Diligent Media Corporation Ltd on Sunday, 30 March, reports on the plight of megalithic structures in Chhattisgarh, India –
 
They look like large stone boulders plonked randomly on the red, mineral-rich soil on the outskirts of Chitarpur town in Chhattisgarh’s Ramgarh district. To look at, no one would think these are remnants of an Iron Age settlement, and date back to between 1000 BC and 1500 BC. Rough-hewn and uncarved, these large stones called megaliths lack the grandeur of the temples, tombs and palaces built by our ancient kings and emperors, the sophistication of the Indus Valley Civilisation’s urban system or the obvious aesthetic appeal of the sculptures or rock art of Ajanta caves. Neither are they as distinctive as Stonehenge in Britain, arguably the most famous megalithic structure in the world.
 
So you can’t really blame the owner of the brick-kiln near these menhirs (standing stones) in Chitarpur who has slowly been encroaching on the field where the stones lie scattered. “We are not very sure how many, but some of these megaliths have already been lost,” says Rituraj Bharti, a conservative architect with Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which is preparing a plan to document and preserve megalithic sites in Chitarpur and Hazaribagh (in neighbouring Jharkhand). An interpretation centre to spread awareness about these structures among visitors and locals is also planned.
 
This would be the first time an official body is taking steps to conserve the megalithic heritage of Chhattisgarh, says Subhahsis Das, a Raipur resident who has also been documenting megalithic structures in and around Hazaribagh and campaigning to preserve them for the past two decades. Sadly, the Archaeological Survey of India has not excavated and does not preserve all but a handful of the most well-known megaliths such as Junapani in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, the unique ‘umbrella-stone’ megaliths of Cheramanganad in Thrissur, Kerala and Burzahom in Kashmir. His website megalithindia.in is the single largest repository of information on the subject.
 
Full article here. Read more about Subhashis Das here.
 

The excavation of Carchemish (1912-13) with Leonard Woolley (right) and T E Lawrence (left)

In an impassioned piece of writing for The Wall Street Journal, Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund, says –

This winter, the film “Monuments Men” told the story of how, over two years, with virtually no resources or support, a ragtag division of 345 volunteers from 17 countries working under the aegis of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) program rescued six million stolen artworks from Nazi depots, including some of the world’s most esteemed masterpieces, and saved hundreds of historic buildings, objects and archival collections from destruction in Europe and Asia.

Yet there has been no sequel to the work of the Monuments Men. Time and again, major cultural treasures have been destroyed, museums looted and archaeological sites despoiled during conflicts. Even after civil law was re-established in Afghanistan, Egypt and Iraq, the destruction has continued under the noses of authorities. In Syria, cellphones have captured the obliteration of the historic center of Aleppo. The director general of antiquities in Syria reports that 420 monumental sites have been damaged in the two years since the civil war began, many in the cities of Aleppo and Homs. The costs of reconstruction would run to the hundreds of millions of dollars and require highly specialized technical capabilities. Also troubling is the widespread looting that has occurred in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Yemen during the past decade. Estimates of antiquities looting and theft in Egypt and Syria since 2011 run into the billions of dollars; but sadly, we’ll never know its full extent.

Cultural heritage links us to our history and identity through structures, objects and traditions. It gives places meaning through references to the past. It enriches our quality of life, contributes to a community’s economic well-being and is fundamental to a healthy society. People in places under siege are no less concerned about their heritage than those who watch from the outside. But people caught in these circumstances are often powerless to intervene, which is why we need a dedicated effort on their behalf.

This article is well worth reading in full. See also our earlier feature here.

   

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