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The Egyptian Sekhemka statue (2,400-2,300bce)
 
We’ve run several features on the controversial sale, last year, of the Egyptian statue of Sekhemka (type Sekhemka in the search box above to find them) but for those who might not know the history of the statue here’s a brief summary –
 
The statue dates from 2,400-2,300bce and shows the Egyptian royal chief, judge and administrator reading a scroll while his wife kneels by his side. It was gifted to the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery by the 4th Marquis of Northampton in 1880. Last year it was removed from the Museum by Northampton Borough Council (amidst protestations from the Egyptian authorities, the Museums Association and others) and put up for sale at Christie’s in London where it sold to an unknown buyer for £15,762,500. The proceeds were then shared with the present Lord Northampton (the Eton-educated peer whose fortune is estimated at £120m and which includes two stately homes, land, valuable paintings, furniture and a disputed Roman treasure hoard). Lord Northampton received 45% of the proceeds, Northampton Borough Council the rest and Christie’s a handsome commission. The sale resulted in the Council being banned from the Museums Association and has also had a Heritage Lottery Fund bid rejected as a consequence. The statue itself has not been seen in public since.
 
If all this were not bad enough we learn today (see BBC News Services here ) that only a temporary export ban has been place on the statue. Why only a temporary ban? Surely an object of such beauty and importance should not only stay in this country but should be on public display – as it once formerly was.
 
 
 
Stone circles in the Gobi Desert. The largest circle in this image is known as the Sun Circle
 
Sarah Griffiths, for the MailOnline, reports on the stone structures discovered in China’s Gobi Desert in 2003 –
 
Known as the ‘strange stone circles’ by locals in Turpan, the formations vary in size and shape with one intricate example resembling the sun. The circles are located in the Flaming Mountain in Turpan, north west China and cover more than two-and-a-half square miles (6.6 square km).
 
Dr Volker Heyd, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol, believes …the first of these Gobi stone structures might date back as early as the Bronze Age. This could make them up to 4,500 years old. Although the more complex formations are likely ‘younger and could have been constructed until the Medieval period.’
 
Full article here.
 
 
The Ófeigskirkja Stone (The Hidden People Church) at Gálgahraun in Iceland. The stone held up construction of a new road until it was relocated
Image credit Svala Ragnars
 
In Iceland, newts, bats or other endangered flora and fauna are not the only things that might halt or delay construction projects. Elves are equally to be respected! Oliver Wainwright, the Guardian’s architecture and design critic, reports –
 
Road-builders are used to seeing their plans scuppered by the protected habitats of bats and newts, or sites of special scientific interest and outstanding natural beauty. But in Iceland, there is another hindrance: the world of the huldufólk, as they call them, the hidden people.
 
The rock, known as Ófeigskirkja, has been at the centre of an eight-year battle to stop a road being built through this 8,000-year-old landscape, a spectacularly barren and evocative terrain a little to the north of Reykjavík, which some believe is a site of supernatural forces. In a country of such desolate stony expanses, haunted by howling winds, bubbling geysers and fiery eruptions, it’s not hard to see why more than half of the population entertains the possibility that a parallel community of elves, dwarves and ghosts might exist – a statistic repeated in tourist brochures since a landmark 1975 survey.
 
Full article here. See also our earlier feature Stones in the road: Like diamonds in the dust.
   
 
 
The eight eagle talon necklace (or bracelet) from Krapina, Croatia. The object is arranged with an eagle phalanx also found at the site
Image credit Luka Mjeda, Zagreb
 
Writing for Live Science, Megan Gannon, News Editor, reports on the extraordinary 130,000 year-old piece of Neanderthal jewellery first excavated more than 100 years ago at a Krapina sandstone rock-shelter in Croatia –
 
Researchers identified eight talons from white-tailed eagles — including four that had distinct notches and cut marks — from a 130,000-year-old Neanderthal cave in Croatia. They suspect the claws were once strung together as part of a necklace or bracelet.
 
“It really is absolutely stunning,” study author David Frayer, an anthropology professor at the University of Kansas, told Live Science. “It fits in with this general picture that’s emerging that Neanderthals were much more modern in their behavior.”
 
 Full article here.
 
 
Rievaulx Abbey with Chapter House ruins in foreground
Image credit Antony McCallum. Source Wikimedia Commons
 
English Heritage has set itself a series of ambitious financial targets so that it can become a self-financing organisation in eight years’ time. Its plans were outlined last week ahead of English Heritage splitting into two on 1 April 2015. The English Heritage Trust, a new independent charity, will look after the National Heritage Collection, which comprises more than 400 historic sites across England including Stonehenge, Dover Castle and parts of Hadrian’s Wall. It will retain the English Heritage name. Historic England will be the new name for the public body that champions and protects England’s historic environment.
 
A number of new museums and exhibitions will be developed as part of the new English Heritage Trust’s plans. The art deco Eltham Palace in Greenwich will be restored. And to mark this year’s bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, there will be new exhibitions at those sites associated with the Duke of Wellington: Wellington Arch and Apsley House in London and Walmer Castle in Kent. Next year, a new museum will open to tell the 900-year story of Rievaulx Abbey in north Yorkshire.
 
More here.
    

 

 

 
 
Detail of a huge wine cauldron (the largest object found on site so far) with handles depicting the Greek River Deity Acheloos
Image credit and © Denis Glickman/INRAP
 
Ellie Zolfagharifard, writing for the Mail Online, reports on the massive and stunning tomb of a Celtic prince which has been discovered in France –
 
The tomb of an Iron Age Celtic prince has been unearthed in a small French town. The ‘exceptional’ grave, crammed with Greek and possibly Etruscan artefacts, was discovered in a business zone on the outskirts of Lavau in France’s Champagne region. The prince is buried with his chariot at the centre of a huge mound, 130 feet (40 metres) across, which has been dated to the 5th Century BC.
 
A team from the National Archaeological Research Institute, Inrap has been excavating the site since October last year. They recently dated it to the end of the First Iron Age – a period characterised by the widespread use of the metal.
 
Full article here.
   

Back From The Brink: The re-exposure of the buried ring stones at Louden Stone Circle. Part I. Text and images © Roy Goutté.

The iconic tri-stone of Louden circle overlooked by the magnificent Rough Tor

Seeking out the antiquities to be found over Bodmin’s many moors seems to have been my principal interest since moving to Cornwall some twenty years ago and I find the challenge irresistibly pleasurable. But, compared to others, I have only scratched the surface of what still lies out there and learn something new on every visit.

Stone circles really do it for me and it was after one of my more recent visits to the north- western part of the moor that I noted that Louden circle, one of three large circles in that area, the others being Stannon and Fernacre circles, was badly in need of remedial attention. As the photograph above shows, other than the circles iconic tri-stone, very little can be seen as nearly all the stones have fallen and were either buried beneath the surface or just visible on it. For many walkers it was no longer a circle worth visiting as there was little to see so virtually overlooked. Considering the three circles were labelled as being ‘ceremonial’ to certain writers and some of the moor’s very earliest, I felt something should be done if possible to ‘bring it back to life’ and to the public’s gaze once again.

I approached English Heritage’s HAR (Heritage at Risk) officer for the area, Ann Preston-Jones, to see if anything could be done to remedy the situation and if so, could I and some friends from the TimeSeekers amateur archaeology group under the watchful eye of a qualified person, take an active part in its partial restoration so that funding wouldn’t be an issue as we were prepared to give up our time if it meant salvaging even just a small part of our heritage? After consultation, in a word, the answer was yes, we could!
So, on the 3rd December 2014 after gaining all the required permissions from English Heritage, Natural England, the Landowner and the Chairman of the Hamatethy Commoners and with the much appreciated help and guidance from Ann, we commenced work on the circle.

Louden Hill Circle as it is officially known is a Scheduled Monument number 1008331 and believed to be Late Neolithic and never previously excavated.

Although not strictly speaking on Louden Hill itself but on the top of a broad ridge extension to the south-west of it at SX132794 and over the track-way leading from Middlemoor Cross to Fernacre, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and we felt privileged, as amateurs, to have been trusted to carry out the work here. We were under the wing and supervision of Ann who ensured we commenced and continued the work in a proper and approved manner and in keeping with accepted practice. My fellow co-workers were Susan Hockey and Peter Castle.

The aim basically was to clear the growth off the partly covered standing and fallen granite stones and to search out for and reveal the buried stones…providing they were still there and had not been previously removed that was!

All of the ring stones bar five had fallen with a total number of 24 showing at the commencement of our work, but we knew by our previous spiking of the ground that there were many more. Previous estimates had been put at 33 – 39 with others claiming many stones would have been removed at some point during the circles history. In 1979 John Barnatt showed just 17 on his ground plan which can be seen later.

We had an understanding that we would only remove the turf covering the stones if they were no more than around 2 inches deep into the peaty soil due to dangerous holes being left to fill with water and becoming dangerous for stock, ponies and walkers alike. Some were a little deeper so I took it upon myself to venture slightly beyond this if we were uncertain as to the validity of a stone being in the original setting but ensured that the stone was completely covered back on completion. Consequently, eight deep stones have now been completely re-covered but have been identified and recorded on the new ground plan. I believe it was important that we did this to get a clearer picture of what we have there. No buried stones were excavated beneath their revealed top surfaces.

And so we began.

In the presence of Ann who walked the circle with me, the team marked out the known and partly buried stones considered to be part of the ring setting and placed small markers over the buried stones we had previously detected by spiking the ground and noted other stones in the immediate area. (All stones are numbered in their correct positions and shown on a plan following these field-notes).

Commencing in a clockwise direction from the circles iconic tri-stone (Stone 1) we firstly cleared the matting of turf from the three stones in a little group (2,3 & 4). It soon became obvious we felt that one of the stones was part of the ring setting (Stone 2) and the other two possibly a separate construct. We wondered if the small tri-stone (3) was the marker to a capstone (4) of a possible cist lying immediately to the outside of the main circle. That was our first impression but without it being investigated further that is pure speculation on our part. What we do know however by spiking around the perimeter of this large flat prostrate stone is that it rests on a stone slab lying beneath the long south-east side of it by about six inches over its full length. We detected nothing on the opposite side of the stone and left it at that.

The leaning iconic tri-stone (Stone 1) with the all but buried Stones 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the background

Stones 2, 3, 4 and 5 after being cleared of a turf layer over much of their surface areas

Stone 5 was all but covered with just its top edge showing but stones 6 and 7 were well down and once exposed, measured and recorded, were returned to darkness. I wondered if they would ever see the light of day again?

Stone 5 undergoing some heavy weeding!

Stone 5 looking resplendent after a wash and brush-up, while Stones 6 & 7 lie beneath ground level. Note Stone 8 lying outside of the main ring setting

Stones 6 & 7 show how peaty soil can ‘drag’ a stone under. Stone 6 (partly exposed) was nearly 6ft long x 3ft wide and extended beyond the marker pole to the right and to my spike stick shown

Stone 7, another partly exposed stone was 4ft long x 3ft wide

Setting aside Stone 4 for the moment as it could well have been an outlying stone, Stone 8 was the first stone to be visibly spotted outside of the ring setting, so at first I just assumed it was ‘just a stone’ with no connection with the circle whatsoever, but had a change of mind when we found others that were also stationed about three to four feet out from the main ring stones. It was also when reaching Stone 8 that we looked back at the stones we had exposed and realised that they were in a straight line and not in an arc at all and the following six were also in a straight section and we were actually beginning to form a circle possibly made up of straight independent sections. Of course it depends a great deal on how stones fall before you can truly judge whether they were erected in an arc or in straight sections but at Louden circle I felt the latter applied. I had previously noted this at Stannon circle away to the north-west so it really came as no surprise to me!

Stones 9 and 10 were somewhat of a puzzle as 10 appeared to be the obvious ring stone because it was on the surface and in line, but 9 was discovered adjacent to it but under the surface and was later backfilled because of its depth. It may be that Stone 9 is in fact a naturally occurring granite stone of which there are many in the immediate surrounding area of the circles location…but then again maybe not!

Stones 9 & 10. Was 10 the true ring stone by virtue of being above ground?

Stone 11 (3ft-6” long x 3ft wide) was under the surface and Stone 12 (partly covered and 3ft-6” long x 2ft-6” wide) was another to be discovered again just outside of the circle. Stone 13 was back in line and 4ft-9” long x 3ft-3” wide but again too far under the surface so was backfilled. We didn’t like having to backfill any of these wonderful stones as they were there for a purpose and meant to be seen, but had no option because of safety considerations. It would be nice to think that in years to come funding may be found to enable our fast disappearing circles such as Louden, the twin circles on Emblance Down, Craddock Moor circle and the flagship henged Stripple Stones to be re-erected. I live in hope!

The first day: Susan and Peter making early inroads while ‘Magic’ looks on

Ann lending Peter a helping hand clearing Stone 5

 

To read the Official Field Report by Roy Goutté, with added photographs etc, click here (pdf).

 

 
 
The Whitby Museum, North Yorkshire
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Geraldine Kendall, writing for the Museums Journal, reports that –
 
Museums in England generate £2.64bn of income a year and employ almost 40,000 people, according to a report published last week by Arts Council England (ACE). Drawing on evidence from three financial years, 2008-09, 2010-11 and 2012-13, the Economic Impact of Museums in England report estimated that the nation’s 2,720 museums generate an average of £3 of income for every £1 of public sector funding invested in the sector. The income figures include earned income from activities such as research, learning, retail and venue hire, as well as income from investments and donations.
 
Meanwhile, the total output – the value of goods and services produced by museums – is £1.45bn, according to the report, meaning that for every £1 of public sector grant received, the museum sector generates an estimated £2.20 of direct economic output. Breaking the figures down by museum type, the report found that museums funded directly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) generate 36% of the total output, independent museums generate 25%, and local authority museums generate 11%.
 
Read the full article here.
   
 
Romano-British tombstone found in Cirencester, England
 
On the 25 February we reported on a rare Roman-British tombstone that had been discovered in Cirencester, southern England. Today we learn that because the tombstone was found on private land belonging to St James’s Place (a wealth management company) it might not be displayed in Cirencester’s excellent Corinium Museum (situated just a few hundred metres from where the tombstone was unearthed) and may not even stay in the area at all.
 
The Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard quotes Amanda Hart, Director of the Corinium Museum, as saying, “I really, really hope it comes back to Cirencester…” A spokeswoman for the St James’s Place wealth management company, however, is reported as saying, “Unfortunately we haven’t come to a conclusion yet, we haven’t quite firmed it up.” and declined to comment further.
 
The Heritage Trust strongly urges those in a position to decide the fate of this rare artefact from Britain’s Roman period to do the honourable thing and donate it to the Corinium Museum where it can be appreciated by all members of the public and not just by a select few.
 
Related article here.
 

Reconstruction by Elisabeth Daynes of a 70,000 year old Neanderthal child

The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports –

LA FERRASSIE, FRANCE – The French Dordogne is known for its hearty wine, rich foie gras – and spectacular prehistoric finds. This hamlet is home to one of the most famous: During excavations here beginning more than 100 years ago, French archaeologists discovered the skeletons of seven Neandertals, including four children and infants, and the most complete adult Neandertal skull ever found. They concluded that all were deliberately buried, making this site pivotal to contentions that Neandertals had symbolic capacities.

More here. See also our Lost innocence feature.

 
 
The Earthouse at the Ancient Technology Centre in Dorset, England
 
 
…began over 25 years ago as a school project. Jake Keen, a teacher working at Cranborne Middle School, designed and led the building of an Iron Age roundhouse based on archaeological evidence. Uniquely, Jake’s ethos demanded the construction and material gathering to be undertaken by school children.
 
The harvesting of materials took place in local woodlands and reed beds and after 6 months, the children began work on building the structure.  A year of hard work saw the completion of the roundhouse and marked the beginning of the Ancient Technology Centre.
 
On Saturday, 14 March 2015 the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes will be organising an own car Outing to the Ancient Technology Centre and the Dorset Cursus. Details here.
   
 
 
Stonehenge by J M W Turner
Reproduced courtesy of the Salisbury Museum
 
From Friday, May 22 2015 to Sunday, September 27 2015 the Salisbury Museum in Wiltshire, England will be hosting an exhibition entitled Turner’s Wessex: Architecture and Ambition.
 
In May 2015 [the Salisbury Museum] will mount the first ever exhibition devoted to J M W Turner’s drawings and paintings of Salisbury Cathedral, the city and its surroundings. Situated in the Cathedral Close, directly opposite its west front, the Museum is ideally placed to explore Turner’s relationship with Salisbury and the Cathedral. This relationship began when Turner was a young man and reveals formidable talent and ambition from a very early age.
 
Working with the Turner scholar Ian Warrell, we have focused on three aspects of Turner’s many depictions of the Salisbury area: firstly, his responses to the Cathedral and town, particularly in connection with the commission he received from local antiquarian, Sir Richard Colt Hoare who inherited the large Stourhead Estate in 1785; secondly the series of views of the neo-gothic Fonthill Abbey that he painted for ‘England’s wealthiest son’, the fascinating and eccentric William Beckford; and finally his work recording the area of central, southern England, sometimes known as Wessex, extending over a period of thirty years
 
Alongside Turner’s works from the Museum’s collection, this exhibition will include extensive loans from museums and art galleries across the UK including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, British Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum, National Galleries Scotland, V & A and Whitworth Art Gallery. The exhibition will also be supported by a substantial loan from the Tate collection.
 
Details here.
   
 
 
A key figure in the revival of line engraving in the 1920s, Stanley Anderson RA (1884–1966) is best known for his series of prints memorialising England’s vanishing rural crafts. An Abiding Standard: The Prints of Stanley Anderson RA exhibition is open until 24 May 2015 in the Tennant Gallery, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, London.
 
Details here.
    
 
A stunning Anglo-Saxon pendant still half buried in Norfolk mud
 
Trevor Heaton, writing for EDP24, reports on the stunning gold and garnet Anglo-Saxon pendant which has recently been uncovered in a Norfolk field –
 
Tom Lucking, a first-year UEA landscape archaeology student and keen member of the Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, was exploring the field – with the landowner’s permission – just before Christmas. His detector found a large and deep signal, and he dug down just far enough to reveal the top of a bronze bowl. Instead of carrying on he did exactly the right thing: carefully re-filling the hole and calling in the Field Group’s geophysics team to survey the site, and Norfolk County Council’s Heritage Environment Service to assess any finds.
 
The exquisite 7cm pendant is stunningly made with gold ‘cells’ and red garnet inlays. Some of the garnets have been cut to make animal ‘interlace’, a popular and highly-skilled design technique from the period where representations of creatures are stretched out and intricately interwoven. The bowl turned out to be at the foot of a grave with the badly-preserved bones of an adult Anglo-Saxon. As the excavation continued it was clear that this was a female because of the jewellery being discovered. It included a ‘chatelaine’, a long strip with probably silver rings which would have been hung from a girdle.
 
Read the full article here.
 
See also Anglo-Saxon Art by Leslie Webster. Available from the British Museum.
 

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