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The Lia Fáil before being vandalised
Image credit Germán Póo-Caamaño. Source Wikimedia Commons

The Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) on the world famous Hill of Tara site in County Meath, Ireland, was badly vandalised last night. Some time between 5pm yesterday and 10am this morning two tins of thick gloss paint (one red and one green) were poured over the stone. Minister Jimmy Deenihan expressed his outrage, “I condemn in the strongest terms the damage that has been caused to one of our most iconic ancient monuments. This act of mindless vandalism, on one of our premier archaeological sites, is truly shameful.”

Two years ago the Lia Fáil was damaged when pieces were hacked out of it with an axe. More here.


Natalie McCaul, Curator of Archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, holds a unique Viking silver neck ring from the Bedale Hoard
An appeal by the Yorkshire Museum for £50,000 to secure the Bedale Viking Hoard has been successful (see our earlier feature here). The 9th century hoard was discovered by metal detectorists Stuart Campbell and Steve Caswell last year and includes a gold sword pommel, a neck ring and collar (above) gold rivets, half a silver brooch and no less than 29 silver ingots. Its true value however lies in what it will tell us about the Viking presence in Yorkshire 1,100 years ago.
The (York) Press reports that –
…thanks to generous donations from the public and grants from funders, the £51,636 has been raised so the hoard will remain in Yorkshire on public display. Archaeology Curator Natalie McCaul said: “It is fantastic that the public and funders have helped us keep this spectacular hoard. We would like to thank them for their generosity.”
The North Yorkshire finds liaison officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Rebecca Griffiths, based at the Yorkshire Museum, was also involved in the original find. She and her colleague from the museum then went to the site and unearthed the rest of the hidden treasures. Natalie added: “The hoard is incredibly important. It is going to tell us things we never knew before about Viking fashion and jewellery and how fashions changes and style ideas moved around in the Viking world. Members of staff of our team went out to excavate the hoard which is also unique. To have been there from the discovery helps us tell the whole story.”
An appeal launched in January saw The Art Fund and the Victoria & Albert Purchase Grant Fund both contribute £11,000. But local people and organisations who have asked to remain anonymous provided the vital cash to clinch the deal. The hoard was on temporary display in the museum entrance during the fund-raising. It will go away for cleaning and conservation work before being returned for permanent show as part of the Capital of the North medieval exhibition. Ms McCaul added: “If we had not raised the money to buy it it could have ended up in a private collection anywhere in the world.” The money will be split between the finders and the landowners as a reward for handing in the jewels.
Full article here.
The Yorkshire Museum has said that more donations are needed to preserve the Hoard for future generations. To donate to the Museum please contact
Iron Age and Roman pits at the newly discovered Iron Age settlement in Wiltshire, England
Image credit: Taylor Wimpey
An Iron Age settlement has been unearthed at a building site in Wiltshire, southern England. Roundhouses, with hundreds of pits for storage, are among the discoveries at a site where Taylor Wimpey (one of Britain’s largest residential developers) is building 700 new houses. A Taylor Wimpey spokesman is reported as saying that, “We scheduled the archaeological investigation into our programme of work, as it is a vital step of the process. The work will continue until our contractors are completely satisfied that they have thoroughly investigated and recovered everything which they need for further analysis.”
Evidence or Roman activity at the site has also been discovered in the form of a large clay quarry pit. Archaeological excavations are expected to continue for a further three weeks. More here.

The Historic England Blog

Little did Peter Adams know, when he pulled a metal object from the ground in 2004, that he had made one of the most exciting discoveries in Viking-age archaeology in England for many years. He had been metal-detecting, with permission, on farmland to the west of the quiet village of Cumwhitton in the Eden Valley and, until then, it had been a fruitless search.

The object was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and proved to be a brooch that was identified as a rare Viking oval brooch of ninth – or tenth – century date. These are mostly found in pairs and in a burial context. He therefore returned to the site and did, indeed, find a second brooch.

One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd

The Portable Antiquities Scheme commissioned Oxford Archaeology North to investigate the site as it was under immediate…

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English Heritage’s new map of the Stonehenge and Avebury areas is now available –

The Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is internationally important for its outstanding prehistoric monuments. Stonehenge is the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, while Avebury is the largest. Around them lie numerous other monuments and sites, which demonstrate over 2,000 years of continuous use. Together they form a unique prehistoric landscape.

There is no better way to learn about an experience the monuments than to go out and explore the World Heritage Site on foot. This map is ideal for walkers and others wishing to explore the fascinating landscape of the two areas of the World Heritage Site. The map uses an Ordnance Survey 1:10,000 base and draws upon information from the English Heritage Archive and recent archaeological investigations. With Stonehenge on one side and Avebury on the other, the map shows and describes both visible and hidden remains, with information about where you can find out more.

Details here.


A Conversation With The Past from CLASP videos on Vimeo.

We’ve discussed the question of displaying and/or reinterring human remains before (please see our The question of reburial… feature) but this 2014 video about the debates and decisions concerning the re-interment of Anglo-Saxon remains excavated at Whitehall Farm throws a slightly more sensitive (and perhaps more sensible) light on the issue. As Moss (one of our members) says, “There has been an interesting discussion elsewhere about the reburial of nine Anglo-Saxon skeletons. The group have obviously discussed the implications of what is taking place. You may find the vicar slightly intrusive, but she keeps Christianity at bay. Fifteen minutes long, but a thoughtful approach by all concerned…”

Click on any of the links above to watch the video.

Glasgow’s internationally famous School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and built at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century, has been seriously damaged by a fire that appears to have started when a projector exploded in the basement of the art school at 12:30 today.
BBC News Glasgow & West Scotland reports here.
Cave painting of a bull (colours accentuated by archaeologists)
Image credit: Ines Domingo
Belén Palanco, writing for The Art Newspaper, reports on –
A series of hunting scenes dating from 7,000 years ago have been found by archaeologists on the six-metre long wall of a small cave in the region of Vilafranca in Castellón, eastern Spain – but it is being kept a secret for now. A layer of dust and dirt covered ten figures, including bulls, two archers and a goat. The murals were exposed to harsh weather but the paintings pigments have not seriously deteriorated.
Inés Domingo Sanz, a research professor at the University of Barcelona, and Dídac Román, a research associate (archaeology) at the University of Toulouse II Le Mirail and University of Valencia, discovered the site while undertaking government-sponsored research into another excavation area in the region. Sanz says that “some of the [painting] details are unique [and unlike anything] across the entire Mediterranean Basin”.
The cave was discovered in November 2013 but its location will only be revealed once security measures are in place, after vandals defaced a 5,000-year-old rock painting in Spain’s southern Jaén province in April.
More here.
CT scanner yields details of an Egyptian mummy at the British Museum
The Trustees of the British Museum
Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent for BBC News Science & Environment, reports on the nonintrusive state-of-the-art CT scanner that is yielding details of eight Egyptian mummies at the British Museum –
The British Museum has carried out scans on eight Egyptian mummies, revealing unprecedented details about these people. Never before has anyone seen mummy hair, muscles and bone at such fine resolution. It is enabling scientists for the first time to tell the age of the mummies, what they ate, the diseases they suffered from, and how they died. Each mummy was put into a state-of-the-art CT scanner. Researchers probed them layer by layer to build up a high-definition 3D picture of each one. Once digitised, British Museum staff were then able to peel away each layer, to see the face of the person underneath the bandages.
Full article, photos and video here. The exhibition Ancient lives new discoveries is on show at the British Museum until the 30 November 2014.

The Didcot Iron Age Mirror

Leslie Webster, from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), has described this rare and beautiful mirror as, “…an outstanding example of Celtic art in the later Iron Age… particularly unusual in the way that its delicately incised ornament challenges some of the conventional design rules for the decoration of these high-status objects.” Now, unless some £30,000 can be raised to buy the mirror for the Museum of Oxford, it risks being taken out of the country.

The Oxford Mail reports that the mirror was discovered near Didcot by a metal detectorist and has now been sold to an anonymous overseas buyer. Due to its historical importance however Culture Minister and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey has temporarily blocked its export to see if a buyer can be found in the UK. Vaizey is reported as saying, “The Didcot Mirror is a beautiful object dating from the Iron Age and would be a tremendous addition to any one of our many outstanding national, regional and local museums. I hope the export bar I’ve placed allows time for a UK buyer to come forward and secure it for the nation.”

Below we reported on Cambodia’s campaign to have seven precious stone statues returned to their country from the United States. Today we report on the possible loss to the nation of this rare British Iron Age mirror – an object that could very well be ‘exported’ to an overseas buyer if funds cannot be raised to keep it in Britain. This surely cannot be right. The Japanese have a system of designating important works of art as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. Other countries have similar designations and such objects are not only prohibited from being exported but must also be conserved and preserved to the highest standards. Is it not time for Britain to have similar standards to protect its cultural property?

Those interested in securing the mirror for the nation should call 0845 300 6200 for further information. See also the fund raising event organised by Dumnonika at the Museum of Oxford on Saturday, 12 July 2014. For more on Celtic mirrors Celtic may be of interest.


Video credit Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reports this month that –

An auction house in the US state of New York has agreed to return an ancient statue that was looted from a remote Cambodian temple in the 1970’s. The statue is among seven missing statues that have been traced to the United States. Cambodia says it wants all of the statues back to be displayed together at the country’s national museum.

Source Al Jazeera English.


The Dock Museum in Barrow-in-Furness now has on show this spectacular 2nd or 3rd century ce Roman silver bracelet
In July 2012 this fabulous Roman bracelet was found in the Dalton area by a metal detectorist. Nothing quite like this has been found in Furness before. It is a silver bracelet dating from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, when the Romans controlled “Britannia”. This wonderful object has been declared Treasure and the Dock Museum has successfully fundraised the funds to purchase it. It went on display in March [2013] in our newly-opened archaeology gallery.
In the gem stone is engraved an image of a seated Jupiter, with wreath and full-length drapery, holding a sceptre in his left hand. In his extended right hand he holds a patera above a stylised flaming altar. Both emperors and divinities are frequently depicted in Roman imagery pouring libations (offering to the gods) from a patera. Jupiter is the father of Hercules… in ancient Roman religion and myth.
More on the Dock Museum Roman bracelet here.

The Next Bus to Imber: A lecture in aid of The Churches Conservation Trust

There will be a special fundraising event for The Churches Conservation Trust at Bristol St John’s church on the evening of Thursday 29th May 2014. The Churches Conservation Trust is a UK national heritage and conservation charity protecting historic churches at risk. They have saved over 345 beautiful buildings which attract almost 2 million visitors a year. With their help and the support of their volunteers and supporters these buildings are kept open and in use – ‘living once again at the heart of their communities’. For more information please visit

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Commissioner of Transport for London, will give a lecture on his fascinating association with Imber, the former village on Salisbury Plain, now at the centre of a military firing range. Imber boasts a fine medieval church, St Giles, conserved by CCT, cared by the Friends of Imber church and open on those few occasions each year when the public can gain access to this normally restricted area. Many visitors to the church now arrive on vintage buses arranged and driven by Peter and fellow enthusiasts.

The event includes wine, soft drinks and canapés served from 6pm and conducted tours of 14th-century St John’s church and crypt, led by conservationist Dr Neil Rushton, from 6.30pm. St John’s is a Grade I Listed building with the tower and steeple over St John’s Gate, the last remaining gateway built into the medieval city wall.

Tickets cost £18 per head and can be booked online here.


The Santa Maria by Adolf Gross (1873-1933)
BBC News Latin America & Caribbean reports yesterday on the possible discovery of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus’s famed expedition of 1492 –
Barry Clifford [US underwater investigator] said evidence “strongly suggests” a ruin off Haiti’s north coast is the Santa Maria. Mr Clifford’s team has measured and taken photos of the wreck. He says he is working with the Haitian government to protect the site for a more detailed investigation.
The Santa Maria, along with the La Nina and La Pinta, were part of Columbus’s expedition in 1492, which explored islands in the Caribbean in an attempt to find a westward passage to Asia. The flagship was lost during the expedition, shortly before Columbus returned to Spain. “All the geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’s famous flagship, the Santa Maria,” said Mr Clifford.
Full article here.

Black on Maroon by Mark Rothko

The painting Black on Maroon (1958) by Mark Rothko is back on display at London’s Tate Modern after 18 months of conservation. The painting was vandalised in 2012 by Wlodzimierz Umaniec who subsequently spent almost a year and a half in prison. The original estimate for conserving the painting was £200,000. BBC News Entertainment & Arts reports –

Mark Rothko’s painting Black on Maroon has gone back on public display at London’s Tate Modern gallery, 18 months after it was vandalised with graffiti. The 1958 painting was defaced by Wlodzimierz Umaniec in October 2012. He was sent to prison as a result but has now apologised for his actions.

The Tate’s conservators have spent 18 months repairing the painting. Conservator Rachel Barker said: “It’s definitely better than I could have hoped at the beginning of the project.” She added: “The nature of the damage was such that we did think the worst.”

Ms Barker told BBC arts editor Will Gompertz the graffiti had covered “an area about the size of an LP” and some had seeped right to the back of the canvas. A vinyl record measures 12in (30cm) in diameter. The conservators first created a replica of the painting and added graffiti before cutting it into strips and testing different types of solvent to see which was most effective at removing the graffiti. They then retouched the damaged area.

Full article here.



May 2014
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