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A Google Earth image showing the Fornham All Saints Cursus in East Anglia, England

Mariam Ghaemi, writing for EADT24, reports that –

Prominent archaeologists and historians have called for a “major excavation” of a development site which sits in a landscape of potentially “international significance”.

These specialists have signed an open letter which is published in the EADT today concerning land on the edge of Bury St Edmunds, near Fornham All Saints, where building work for about 900 homes could begin in May. Concerns are over the proximity of the site to the Fornham All Saints cursus – a Neolithic processional way 1.2 miles long and a Scheduled Ancient Monument which has been dubbed as potentially “significant as Stonehenge”. The open letter says the cursus sits amid a landscape of high-level archaeological activity, “potentially of international significance”. It raises questions over the archaeological investigations at the development site, which Dr Tom Licence, director of the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia, said the cursus may actually extend into.

More here.

NB. Note how the road on the left appears to run roughly parallel with the cursus. See also our earlier feature on The Chelmer (Springfield) Cursus.

   

 
 
Roman tombstone found in Cirencester, England
 
BBC News Gloucestershire reports today on a rare Roman tombstone, made of Cotswold limestone, which has been discovered in Cirencester, England –
 
Cirencester, or Corinium as it was known, was the second largest town in Roman Britain after London. Neil Holbrook from Cotswold Archaeology said it was “very, very exciting” and the number of other such examples in Britain could be “counted on one hand”.
 
More here.
   
 
 
Round barrows at Fargo Woods, near Stonehenge
©
Moss
 
The Council for British Archaeology will be holding an event on Sunday, 19 April 2015 entitled The Stonehenge landscape, introduced by Phil Harding. Join them on the day with –
 
Time Team favourite Phil Harding and expert guide Pat Shelley for a unique exploration of the Stonehenge landscape at our exclusive Council for British Archaeology and English Heritage members’ event… The pair will be leading a walk through some of the often-overlooked enigmatic elements of the landscape, combining rich archaeological background with personal anecdotes and replica artefacts. The walk will take around an hour and a half, and highlights will include round barrows at nearby Fargo Woods and the Cursus barrow group, before visiting the Cursus itself. The culmination of the walk will see our group descending into Stonehenge Bottom before walking up the Avenue to Stonehenge.
 
Details here.
   

 Egyptian sculpture of a cat dating from the 26th Dynasty (approx 600bce)
 
An Egyptian sculpture of a cat, dating from 600bce and perhaps once owned by archaeologist Howard Carter of Tutankhamun fame, would have ended up in a rubbish skip but for the sharp eyes of local auctioneer David Lay based in Cornwall, England. Realising that the bronze sculpture might be something special, Mr Lay consulted experts at the British Museum who confirmed it originated from 600bce. The Head of the Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan said he was thrilled to see such a finely modelled and beautifully proportioned piece, and dated it from the 26th Dynasty (approximately 700-500bce).
 
According to Mr Lay the sculpture had belonged to a Mr Liddell, the late father of the family who were selling the house where it had been kept. Mr Liddell had spent his career working at Spink & Son, a once famous London auction house that regularly handled sales of Egyptian antiquities. When Howard Carter died it was Spink and Son who handled the sale of his estate and it is thought that Mr Liddell bought the sculpture at one of Spink’s sales.
 
The sculpture may achieve as much as £50,000 in auction.
 
 
Nineteenth century Kapa Kilohana (Barkcloth) from Hawaii
Image credit: Honolulu Academy of Arts. Source Wikimedia Commons
 
Shifting patterns: Pacific barkcloth clothing is an exhibition now running at the British Museum until the 16 August 2015.
 
In the islands of the Pacific, cloth made from the inner bark of trees is a distinctive art tradition. Probably brought to the region at least 5,000 years ago by some of the first human settlers, its designs reflect the histories of each island group and the creativity of the makers. Spanning the region from New Guinea in the west to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east, the exhibition will show a selection of 77 garments, headdresses, masks and body adornments from the Museum’s collection. Dating from the 1700s to 2014, the pieces on display include those worn as everyday items and ceremonial costumes linked to key life cycle events such as initiation and marriage.
 
More here.
   

 

A husband and wife team detecting in the Deverill Valley, Wiltshire, England
Video Credit: British Forces News/Forces TV

Until the end of this month (February 2015) …a special case in Salisbury Museum’s Wessex Gallery will display some exceptional objects discovered by members of the public in the Salisbury area. A husband and wife team, detecting in the Deverill Valley near Warminster, have discovered many treasured pieces.

The metal-detectorists found these pieces over a period of almost 30 years in the Deverill Valley, and have been working closely with the Portable Antiquities Scheme for 11 years. The objects they have found so far span 2,000 years of Wessex history, stretching right back into the Iron Age. The Scheme was set up by the UK government in 1997 to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales.

Roman bust of a Maenad, a female follower of the god Bacchus
Image credit and © Salisbury Museum
 

Star pieces include a superbly modelled cast Roman bust of a Maenad (a female follower of the god Bacchus with a stunning plaited vine and ivy wreath head-dress). Another beautiful piece is an early medieval hooked tag showing an eagle stretching its wings and talons, possibly a symbol for John the Baptist, made from copper alloy with silver plate inlaid with niello. There is also a glorious gilded early medieval cloisonné brooch with a trifoliate leaf motif.

The exhibition will also include four finds from across south Wiltshire that have been recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme and donated to the Museum. Among these the pointed oval seal matrix from the sub deanery of Salisbury, made from copper-alloy between 1300-1400 AD, was donated by an individual who found it whilst gardening in Laverstock. The seal depicts the Virgin and Child standing before an elaborate altar.

More on the Salisbury Museum website here.

   

 
A decorated bronze jug handle from the Whitchurch excavation, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England
 
Becca Choules, writing for The Bucks Herald, reports on –
 
The remains of a 2,000-year-old Roman burial casket discovered near Whitchurch are now on display at Bucks County Museum after a metal detectorist made the chance find.
 
The excavation revealed a Roman (late 2nd century AD) wooden casket burial, measuring 1.1m long and 0.7m wide, with a rich assemblage of grave goods including two Samian ware cups, two Samian ware dishes, a pottery flagon or dish, two glass vessels, a bronze jug with decorated handle, a bronze patera (dish), an iron lamp, two unidentified lead objects and an urned cremation burial.
 
The finds have been cleaned and analysed by specialists at Oxford Archaeology, a report has been written about the discovery and the landowners and finder donated the finds to Buckinghamshire Museum. The county museum will be fundraising later in the year to gather the £3,000 needed to get all the finds, especially the fragile bronze flagon, properly conserved to enable further study and display.
 
Lesley Clarke OBE, Bucks County Council’s cabinet member for planning and environment, said: “This is a fascinating discovery. It’s an excellent example of how our archeological team is carefully looking after the county’s heritage for the benefit of future generations.”
 
More here.
 
 
 
The West Kennet Avenue of Standing Stones at Avebury, Wiltshire, England (note road on left)
©
Moss 
 
Following in the footsteps of the closure of the Stonehenge A344 road last year, a road which ran perilously close to Stonehenge’s famous Heelstone and the Monument itself (see our earlier feature The new Stonehenge Visitor Centre: First impressions… ) and which effectively cut the Stonehenge World Heritage Site in two, plans have been revised to do something similar at the Avebury Henge World Heritage Site, some forty miles from Stonehenge and also in Wiltshire.
 
The narrow, one mile-long B4003 follows the West Kennet Avenue of standing stones from the A4 at West Kennet to the Avebury Henge and Avebury Village. In places it actually cuts through the Avenue with standing stones on one side of the road and other stones on the other. At present the road is used mainly by farm vehicles and traffic wanting to take a shortcut to and from Avebury, rather than taking the slightly longer, two-and-a-half mile route via the Beckhampton Roundabout. According to a 2010 report from English Heritage, however, cars passing each other on the West Kennet Avenue road are causing erosion which “could spread into the upper layers of the monument” if it is allowed to continue. Heritage Trust members have frequently seen large 4×4 vehicles parked in the small layby at the bottom of the Avenue or on the grass verges that border it.
 
 
4×4 vehicles parked on the grass verge at the bottom of the Avenue
©
Moss
 
The West Kennet Avenue B4003 road closure proposal would be different to the Stonehenge A344 closure in so much as the road would remain in place for local landowners (the National Trust being one) and farmers, while excluding most other motorised traffic. Provided cyclist, pedestrian and disabled access continues to be allowed, however, the closure of the West Kennet Avenue road would seem like a good idea. It would exclude both commercial and rush-hour traffic and return the surrounding area to a quieter, safer and more pleasant state. The only downside we can see is that by closing the West Kennet Avenue B4003 road an increase in the amount of traffic on the A4 (which runs past Silbury on one side and the West Kennet Long Barrow on the other) would be generated. Given that the A4 is already a very busy road, and practically impossible for pedestrians to use, that increase would seem to make very little difference there but would improve the environment around the Avebury World Heritage Site immeasurably.
 
See also the feature by Peter Davison in the Marlborough News Online.
 
 
 
Paul Coleman holding one of the thousands of Anglo-Saxon silver coins he discovered in Lenborough, Buckinghamshire last year
Image credit Yui Mok/PA
 
Maev Kennedy, writing in The Guardian yesterday, reports that the internationally admired British Portable Antiquities Scheme for recording treasure is under threat from central and local authority budgetary cuts –
 
A heap of Anglo-Saxon coins glittering as if newly minted, and a small gold cross still containing a fragment of a relic that was literally kept close to the heart of somebody who clung to the outlawed Roman Catholic faith, are among the treasures found by metal detectors and unveiled this week at the British Museum.
 
The most recent year covered by the Treasure report, 2012, was another bumper year for precious objects – including 3,000-year-old golden bracelets belonging to a child, a Viking hoard of ingots and chopped up arm rings from Cumbria – and for the more modest but historically priceless archaeological objects voluntarily reported under the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).
 
The mapping of the two schemes has unlocked a wealth of new information, identifying thousands of previously unknown sites including bronze-age burial grounds, Roman campsites and Viking settlements. In 2014, 113,962 finds were reported, from scraps of horse harness to lost buttons, and well over 1m objects have been recorded since the PAS was established in 1997.
 
The Treasure and Portable Antiquity schemes are run together from the British Museum, with the finds recorded by a network of archaeologists based in local museums covering England and Wales. However, the PAS has been hit by a 6% budget cut at the British Museum, and has only been kept going for the next year by an emergency grant from the private Headley Trust charity.  Almost a third of the 31 local authority museum partners have said they will not be able to afford to keep the scheme going if their funding is cut further.
 
Neil McGregor, the director of the British Museum, said he could give no guarantees that the scheme would be protected from the full impact of future cuts in his museum grant. He said: “The PAS is an integral part of the British Museum, and we will just have to see what happens.”
 
Full Guardian article here. See also our earlier features here  and here.
    
 
 
Carved knife by Japanese artist Kaizawa Toru
 
The Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures will be holding a Friends Event on Monday, 23 February 2015 from 6:00-7:30pm. The Event will be held at the Sainsbury Institute in Norwich, England and is entitled Ainu Art and Archaeology. Two talks will be given; one by Professor Kato Hirofumi (Professor of Archaeology, Hokkaido University Centre for Ainu and Indigenous Studies) entitled Tracing the Emergence of Ainu Ethnicities using Archaeological Data. The other talk is by the artist Kaizawa Toru and is entitled Conflict and Amalgamation between “Tradition” and “Ainu”.
 
The Sainsbury Institute invites you to join them –
 
…for an evening in the company of two distinguished guests who will introduce us to two fascinating aspects of the distinctive culture of Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. The historical trajectory of Hokkaido is very different to the other main islands in the archipelago, and indeed it was only in the 19th century that Ezo, as it was formerly known, was fully assimilated into modern Japan. Before that it was the preserve of the Ainu, now formally recognised as an Indigenous People of Japan, after decades of discrimination. The Ainu cultural tradition (Ainu means ‘The People’ in the Ainu language, which is quite different to modern Japanese) goes back to at least the 13th century AD. Ainu people controlled territories from central Honshu to Russia, and played a key role in trade in the Medieval and Early Modern periods. These talks will demonstrate how, as opposed to accounts which consider the Ainu to be endangered survivors from the ancient past, they are the bearers of a vital cultural tradition with great contemporary resonance.
 
 
A 1902 photograph showing a group of Ainu people
Source Wikimedia Commons
 
Further information and booking here.
    
 
The XIX International Rock Art Conference IFRAO 2015
Symbols in the Landscape: Rock Art and its Context
 
The University of Extremadura, the Institute of Prehistoric Studies (ACINEP) and the Patrimonio & ARTE and CUPARQ (Culture, Heritage and Archaeology) research groups are pleased to invite researchers, specialists, lecturers, curators, managers, cultural heritage professionals and all those interested to the XIX International Conference of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO), which takes place from 31 August to 4 September 2015 in the city of Cáceres (Extremadura, Spain).
 
Cáceres is a charming historic-artistic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the autonomous community of Extremadura. The surroundings, on the Iberian Peninsula’s west, are a fortunate part of southwestern Europe where paintings and engravings of the main artistic cycles of the area’s prehistory and protohistory, from the Palaeolithic to the Iron age, have been preserved. An abundance of shelters with schematic paintings in a series of exceptionally well-preserved natural spaces are of particular interest. In this setting, with hospitality characteristic of our country’s people, we shall provide the appropriate atmosphere to encourage the study and reflection on some truly universal symbolic creations existing through the ages and in virtually every corner of the planet.
 
Details here.
   
 
 
One of the fifteen gateways of ancient Nineveh
 
April Holloway reports in Ancient Origins that –
 
Militants of the Islamic State have destroyed a large portion of the ancient Nineveh wall in Mosul, which dates back some 2,700 years. The tragic loss adds to a series of archaeological, historical, and religious sites of great historical value that have been reduced to ruins.
 
Nineveh was the largest city in the world for some fifty years, until a period of civil war in Assyria, in which a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians and Cimmerians sacked the city in 612 BC, leaving much of it in ruins. The remains of the wall and city have laid there ever since, standing as a lasting reminder of the once great city of Assyria.
 
However, when militants captured Mosul in June last year, they proceeded to destroy shrines and tombs important to Christians and Muslims because they allegedly “distort Islam.” The destruction of part of the Nineveh wall is the culmination of many such attacks on historic monuments in the city.
 
“Bombing the archaeological monuments by ISIS is a flagrant violation of the right of human culture, civilization and heritage,” said Saed Mimousine [Media Official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Mosul], who has called on the international community to “take a stand to curb the destruction of historic monuments.”
 
More here.
   
 
Anglo-Saxon limestone panel of St Peter
 
The eleventh century Anglo-Saxon limestone panel (above) of St Peter was discovered in a quarry by stonemason Johnny Beeston, from Dowlish Wake, Somerset, England. Mr Beeston took the panel home and used it as a grave marker for his stray tabby cat, Winkle. After Mr Beeston passed away the panel was fortuitously spotted by a local historian and put up for auction in 2004. It sold for £200,000 – five times its original estimate. Since then, and with the help of a £78,600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Museum of Somerset was able to acquire the piece when it again came up for sale.
 
Measuring some 45cm (18 inches) square, and thought to date from around 1000ce, the panel is now on permanent display at the Museum of Somerset.
 
More here.
    

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