You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2015.

Interpreting Bodmin Moor: A talk by Mark Camp and Peter Moore
Although the backdrop to Daphne du Maurier’s famous 1936 novel Jamaica Inn and, more recently and more generally, Winston Graham’s Poldark series of historical novels set in Cornwall, the history of Bodmin Moor and the mysteries surrounding it stretch back at least 10,000 years to the Mesolithic Period (type Bodmin Moor or Cornwall in the search box above for more info). Alternatively, if you’re in the Liskeard area on Tuesday, 26 May, join local authors Mark Camp and Peter Moore for what should be a very interesting and illuminating talk.
Before and after images of Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal
Image credit Solêtti
UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, has –
…expressed her profound sympathy to the government and people of Nepal after the devastating earthquake that struck the country. “I wish to express my sincere condolences following the powerful earthquake that struck Nepal today, causing heavy loss of life and extensive damage, including to historic monuments and buildings of the Kathmandu Valley.
UNESCO stands ready to help Nepal reconstruct and strengthen its resilience, based on our strong partnership and shared conviction in the power of education, science and culture to empower people, to heal and restore confidence.” she added
More here.
The Heritage Trust also expresses its profound sympathy and sadness to the government and people of Nepal and hopes that when the human tragedy has been addressed attention will then turn to protecting and restoring Nepal’s tangible and unique cultural heritage.
The Poulnabrone Portal Tomb
Image credit EU 3D-Icons
The EU ‘3D-Icons’ project aims to create highly accurate 3D models and a range of other materials (images, texts and videos) of iconic and internationally important monuments and buildings across Europe and to provide access to this data on line.
Over 130 monuments and buildings from Ireland, including decorated high crosses, the island monastery of Skellig Michael, the passage tombs of Knowth and Newgrange, and the ceremonial landscape of Tara are featured in this digital collection. In addition to making content available on line, this data has the potential to be of benefit to such sectors as education, tourism, the creative economy, conservation and monitoring of cultural heritage sites.
The site will continually be updated with new sites and functionality to enhance your experience.
Visit the EU 3D-Icons project here.
The Pyramid of Cestius by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (18th century)
Source Wikimedia Commons
The Wikipedia entry for the Pyramid of Cestius (or Rome Pyramid) reads –
The pyramid was built about 18 BCE–12 BCE as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a magistrate and member of one of the four great religious corporations in Rome, the Septemviri Epulonum. It is of brick-faced concrete covered with slabs of white marble standing on a travertine foundation, measuring 100 Roman feet (29.6 m) square at the base and standing 125 Roman feet (37 m) high.
In the interior is the burial chamber, a simple barrel-vaulted rectangular cavity measuring 5.95 metres long, 4.10 m wide and 4.80 m high. When it was (re)discovered in 1660, the chamber was found to be decorated with frescoes, which were recorded by Pietro Santi Bartoli, but only the scantest traces of these now remain. There was no trace left of any other contents in the tomb, which had been plundered in antiquity. The tomb had been sealed when it was built, with no exterior entrance; it is not possible for visitors to access the interior, except by special permission typically only granted to scholars.
Now, thanks to Japanese fashion mogul Yuzo Yagi (OBE) who funded a restoration project for the pyramid, the structure has been returned to something of its former glory. The project was led by Italy’s archaeological directors Rita Paris and Maria Grazia Filetici.
The Pyramid of Cestius after restoration
Image credit ANSAmed
Read more here.

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Cover with Spine

There’s a lot of treasure in this edition: two unusual Roman graves (in one, scenes on a jug handle are reminiscent of the Georgics, a text by the Roman poet Virgil), and an Anglo-Saxon grave with a gold pendant compared to the best jewellery at Sutton Hoo.


There is luxury, too, as we seek out the real Wolfhall, the country palace in Wiltshire that gave its name to the acclaimed historical novel and BBC TV series. We set out key facts for two controversial but important archaeological sites: Blick Mead, Amesbury – dubbed the UK’s oldest continuous settlement by the Guinness Book of Records – and Bouldnor, Isle of Wight, where an extraordinary claim for mesolithic wheat challenges accepted views about the spread of farming across Europe.


In the run-up to the UK general election, we ask what the government has done for heritage, and suggest how Parliament can save…

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Reproduction of Australopithecus afarensis in the CosmoCaixa Science Museum, Barcelona, Spain
Source Wikimedia Commons
Irina Slav, writing for the New Historian, reports on an exciting find of stone tools predating Homo Genus –
US archaeologists digging in Kenya say they have discovered the oldest tools ever, dating back 3.3 million years. This means they were made 700,000 years before the first signs of human presence on the planet, suggesting that our primate ancestors, the Australopitheci, were capable of making and using tools, and the Homo genus was not the first species to discover how to do this.
Lead researcher Sonia Harmand, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University, said the team found the site, near lake Turkana in northern Kenya, by accident four years ago after taking a wrong turn. They noticed several stone tools on the surface of the earth, and got digging. Their work yielded 20 more artefacts that were underground, and as many as 130 on the surface. These included cores – chunks of rock from which pieces are chipped to make tools, anvils and flakes (small pieces of stone used as tools). According to Harmand, the pieces bore marks of deliberate manipulation, so they could not have been the result of accidental fracture.
Full article here.

The Sanro-den kake-zukuri Prayer Hall before restoration

At the end of 2013 we reported on the World Monuments Fund’s project to save and restore the Sanro-den kake-zukuri Prayer Hall in Ōzu, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku Japan (see our feature Appeal for the restoration of the Sanro-den launched). The restoration project is now almost complete and, as today marks World Heritage Day and ICOMOS’ 50th anniversary, we’re happy to highlight that, with help from the World Monuments Fund, a celebration recently took place to mark the near-completion of the Sanro-den restoration project. The Sanro-den was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch because of its deteriorated condition and its potential for community involvement. Structural work on the Sanro-den is now finished. “The remaining work includes public paths and a final codification of plans for site management and usage. Completion is scheduled for June 2015.”

The Sanro-den after restoration

More here.


Self-portrait by Francis Nicholson (1753-1844) Courtesy Martyn Gregory Gallery

Francis Nicholson is invariably regarded as ‘The Father of Watercolour Painting’. His ‘Stourhead’ series of paintings (1812 – c.1816) is renowned, and currently in the hands of  the British Museum. The series seems to have been commissioned by Sir Richard Colt Hoare of ‘Stonehenge‘ fame. But until recently, it has been anything but clear how Sir Richard and Nicholson came to be acquainted.

The connexion seems to begin with Henrietta Anne Hoare, daughter of Sir Richard Hoare via his second marriage to Frances Anne Acland. Henrietta was born in 1765, the half-sister of Sir Richard Colt Hoare who, with William Cunningham, first excavated Stonehenge in 1798. There is a portrait of Henrietta here. She married her cousin Sir Thomas Dyke Acland of Killerton, Devon, in 1785. When Acland died in 1794, she remained at Killerton House, and a year later married Capt. Matthew Fortescue, R.N. of Filleigh, Devon.

Henrietta was no mean artist, and had the funds to take lessons from the fashionable Nicholson in London. We do not know exactly when Francis and Henrietta first met. The first hard evidence that they knew each other is from 1808, when Nicholson exhibited ‘View between Christiana and Konigsburg, in Norway, from a sketch by Sir T. Ackland’, Henrietta’s son. Nicholson exhibited two further Norwegian views from sketches by Acland in 1809, and in 1810 one of Italy “from a Sketch by Sir R. Hoare, Bart”. Between then and 1813, Nicholson exhibited several more Italian scenes from drawings by Sir Richard Hoare and Sir Richard Colt Hoare. It is possible that all of these were first shown to Nicholson by Henrietta – we cannot be sure. But in 1813, we find evidence that Nicholson had been in the south-west himself, and was almost certainly in personal touch with the main branch of the Hoare family; in 1813 he exhibited ‘Stonehenge’, which may still be seen at Stourhead today – see here. In 1813, he also exhibited ‘View at Stourhead, the seat of Sir R. C. Hoare’. Baronet, Alfred’s Tower in the Distance. Here is the beginning of Nicholson’s ‘Stourhead’ series, and it suggests that Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Nicholson had met, and had agreed a commission for the series, c.1812.

By 1820, it is clear that Nicholson and the Hoares were very good friends. That year, Nicholson published his ground-breaking book of instruction, The Practice of Drawing and Painting Landscape from Nature in Water Colours. It is dedicated to Henrietta and mentions the whole Hoare family. The dedication reads:



In dedicating this Work to you, I consult alike my inclination and duty: The first, in consequence of the great proficiency you have attained in the Art of which it treats, as your Performances sufficiently evince; and the latter, in the most grateful recollection of the numerous Favours and acts of kindness which I have on every occasion received from you, and from every branch of your family.

I am, with the greatest respect, MADAM, Your most obliged servant, FRANCIS NICHOLSON.

Henrietta and Francis remained good friends until her death at Killerton in 1841. Nicholson himself died three years later, in London, aged 90.

And that was the end of the story… until now. Today, Killerton House and estate is in the hands of The National Trust. This year, Henrietta’s 250th, Killerton House is to hold its first ever historical art exhibition, entitled Framing the View. Francis Nicholson, The Killerton Drawing Master. The Guest Curator is Professor Gordon Bell, a veteran curator of three previous Nicholson exhibitions. The exhibition will feature work by both Nicholson and Henrietta Anne Fortescue and will, I think, be most interesting to see. It runs from 16th May until 15th September 2015.

You can learn more about Francis Nicholson here.

Colin Coulson


Muireann with Seamus Heaney (sitting far left) and friends, Feis Teamhra, Hill of Tara 2010
Image credit Carmel Diviney
This week one of the great campaigners for saving the Hill of Tara has died – Dr. Muireann ni Bhrolchain. I followed the campaign for years in the news and of course she and her fellow protestors (including the poet Seamus Heaney) failed in stopping the M3 motorway in Ireland, but they fought a good battle. Really I should put some harp music on for that was the symbol they used, but instead a speech by her here highlights what she stood for in the face of heritage destruction.
There is a full obituary to Muireann here and also another moving one by Ian Morse in yesterday’s Irish Times
From warrior to legend
As you pass into legend Muireann know you were peerless in your chosen field. Your legacy is your humanity and intellect and the passion by which you told your truths. You were a rarity because you inspired those seekers of knowledge with the simple contents of your heart and soul. You challenged those who failed to understand the true meaning of heritage, and in truth made them realise their own inadequacies. Rest in Peace within your new realm knowing the flame you ignited will never be extinguished. It was my honour and privilege to call you friend.
With love and respect
Ian Morse

A Trip Back In Time: The re-exposure of the buried ring stones at Louden Stone Circle. Part II. Text and images © Roy Goutté.

Stones 11, 12 & 13 showing 12 to the outside of the ring setting, something to be replicated further around the circle creating food for thought
Stones 14 and 15 are both partly covered and as the next photo shows, Stone 16 is another somewhat out of line, as is Stone 19 in the following photo. Without a doubt a pattern had formed and we began to consider either concentric circles, or, the possibility of a former or earlier circle?
Stones 14, 15 & 16
Clearly another straight section extending from Stones 17 to 21 (buried)
Two more straight sections, Stones 21 – 23 and 23 – 25 and although not exposed, three more outlying stones were discovered and recorded between and outside of Stones 22 & 23 (see ground plan)
White bollards mark out the three unexposed outlying stones between ring stones 22 & 23
Stone 26 introduced us to what was to become known affectionately as ‘Louden Man’ and along with ‘Crow Stone’ (Stone 44) found later, were to become popular with walkers passing by that looked in to see what we were up to. Lying buried for many years, Louden Man was to reveal this wonderful image once the light was in a favourable position.
Crow Stone…tail feathers and all
Stones 27, 28 and 29 were all visible and just required cleaning up and trimming back, but 30 and 31 were hidden just beneath the surface and appeared to be on that outer line again. That then brought us to a cluster of four stones in a group…32, 33, 34 and 35. Stone 34 looks to be a remaining ring stone but 32 and 33 had us guessing. They formed what looked like a small burial area and may have originally been a small open cist.
Stone 35 appeared to be another outer stone, but a very long one as far as we could tell. It was 16” wide with a well rounded end at ground level and by spiking the ground away from this point, it sloped away deeply very quickly and as best I could tell, it measured some 8ft long/tall. Although I could only calculate its length and width underground very roughly due to its ever increasing depth, I got the impression it was more like a pillar than a typical ring stone. If indeed it was a pillar and there is in fact a genuine outer circle, then it would have been a significant stone within that setting!
The thought then crossed my mind that if Stone 4, the stone we thought may be a capstone to a cist, had in fact been a standing stone and fallen, then it would have fallen from the exact area those outer stones are positioned in that run parallel with the main circle. Could Louden be a concentric circle we had to ask ourselves? It if is, then I believe it would be the first to be discovered in Cornwall.
Stone 36, although buried, was a ring stone, but Stone 37 that was also buried was another outer stone. Stone 38 we completely exposed but partly re-covered on completion because much of it was too deep to leave exposed. Stone 39 is another just partly showing and Stone 40 another outer stone. By now it had become quite obvious that the outer stones were not all there by chance!
Stone 39 was 3ft wide and at least 4ft long and Stone 40 also 3ft wide. The fact that it was placed immediately to the outside of Stone 39 the main ring stone, showed that it was very unlikely to have simply fallen out of place and was a totally independent stone used for another purpose. Stone 41 was re-exposed and shown to be 4ft long x 2ft wide. There is a small earth-fast stone a short distance into the circle from it (shown on plan) and this is replicated directly across the centre-line of the ring and near Stone 17. Intriguing!
Stones 42 to 46 are, like others before, in a straight line.
Yet another straight section from Stone 42 (not shown) to Stone 46
After Stone 46 there is a clear ‘three stone’ gap before Stone 47 and Stone 48 is yet another outer stone so in total there are 14 of them. As we were only really supposed to be determining how many main ring stones there were, the outer stones detected were in the main obvious to the eye or found when looking for the main ones, with no great effort made to search for more, so I firmly believe there are others yet to be discovered and much more to this circle than first appears.
After Stone 46 (a broken stone) we could not detect another stone until Stone 47 even though we made an extensive search with the basic tools at our disposal to spike the area. If they were there then they must have been very deep, but if they weren’t, then that only leaves two other explanations. Either they had been removed at some stage in their history, or it was in fact a deliberate ‘entrance’.
Stones 47, 48 and 49 only required a moderate clean up due to their size
As they had never been recorded before, we were surprised, but delighted, to be the first to expose two stones at the slightly raised centre of the circle. Stone 50 is 2ft x 2ft and Stone 51 12”x12”.
Stones 50 & 51
The iconic Tri-Stone as seen due south of the centre stones. A further mile and a quarter into the distance is the remarkable and mysterious King Arthur’s Hall on King Arthur’s Down. Was there a connection I have to ask?


King Arthur’s Hall as seen through a telephoto lens from Louden Circle
Firstly I must thank Ann Preston-Jones for pointing me in the right direction with regard to obtaining the necessary permissions and advising us every step of the way and to Richard Glasson of Natural England for his willing cooperation which was greatly appreciated. Thanks of course must also go to Nancy Hall the landowner and to Steve Nankivell, Chairman of the Hamatethy Commoners. Thank you all.
Our small team are all members of TimeSeekers, a group of amateur archaeologist who live mainly in Devon and Cornwall. We visit many megalithic sites both as individuals and as a group and often run into sites that are looking the worse for wear and tear and are always prepared to help out as and when. This is our heritage and we are quick to inform the ‘right people’ if we see damage being done to it whether it be caused by man, beast or nature itself. Louden stone circle was one such site.
The work involved no technical equipment as a spade, trowel, brush, wheelbarrow and a couple of trusty spiking rods did a perfectly good job for us. All overgrown turf/plant life removed was re-allocated in other areas lacking in good grass cover or where stock had dug out those shallow pits behind other stones on the surrounding area. Nothing was wasted or left the area it was removed from.
We were rather surprised that no more stones other than those previously recorded had been found as the majority were just an inch or two under the surface. The peaty soil, on the whole, was very easy to remove, but after just a little rain the holes left behind filled with water almost immediately. As it was used to clean off the surfaces exposed that balanced things up very nicely!
A big surprise were the regular stones we were finding just outside of the ring setting and running parallel with it. We began to think concentric circles and got quite excited about the possibility, but that side of things will have to be left to far more experienced people to form an opinion on. The large ‘fallen’ stone (4) is interesting. Our first thought on seeing the small tri stone (3) at the head of it was that it was a capstone. Small tri markers are displayed at the large cairn just across the track to the north and I always associate them with burials.
Equally it could just be a fallen stone, but not from the main setting, but outside of it and in line with those other outer stones found. It would be nice to re-visit with a qualified archaeologist another time to discuss this possibility further.
We were delighted to find a couple of centre stones which I believe is a first for this circle. The two earth-fast small stones inside of stones 17 and 41 are interesting as they are on a line running through the circle centre. There is another midway between the centre and stone 31. You have to question why they are there because they could have been in the way of any activity that took place within the circle…unless of course they were an essential part of that activity or markers for possibly alignments?
Giving an accurate measurement for the circle is difficult as it is not truly circular and appears to be made up of nine straight sections forming a nonagon rather than being laid out with a central peg and line to create the perfect circle. However, broadly speaking, north to south it is 45.0m x 42.5m east to west.
In total the amount of stones recorded are as follows:
Assumed main ring stones 36, possibly 37 (stone 9).
Assumed outer ring stones exposed 11.
Further outer stones detected 3.
Assumed marker stone? 1 (stone 3).
Centre stones 2.
Other internal stones 3.
I can’t finish these field-notes without mentioning and thanking my fellow co-workers, Susan Hockey and Peter Castle. We made an excellent start on day 1 as it was the most beautiful day weather-wise, but it didn’t last. We had persistent rain and wind and toward the end, snow! None of it helped the regular continuance of work and because of where we all lived, not always possible to be together at the same time. But the work was carried out in an excellent frame of mind and good humour, so I must personally thank both Susan and Peter for their efforts and look forward to working with them again on other projects.
Roy Goutté
North Hill
February 2015
Susan and Peter, ably assisted by Susan’s Mystery and Magic, clear one stone and rediscover another
From the smallest tip, showing a buried stone, another reveals itself 
Yours truly and Mystery show how overseeing should really be done
Hatched areas: Buried and part-buried stones.
Unfilled outlines: Surface stones recumbent or standing.
+: Detected but not exposed stones.
Part I of this article can be found here. To read the Official Field Report by Roy Goutté, with added photographs etc, click here (pdf).
A ninth century glass and silver ring from a woman’s Viking burial site in Birka, Sweden
A ninth century glass and silver ring from a woman’s Viking burial site in Birka, Sweden is thought to have originated from an area following the Islamic religion. The ring is inset with coloured glass and engraved ‘for (or to) Allah’ in the ancient Arabic Kufic script.
Bruce Bower, writing for ScienceNews reports –
More than a century after its discovery in a ninth century woman’s grave, an engraved ring has revealed evidence of close contacts between Viking Age Scandinavians and the Islamic world.
Excavators of a Viking trading center in Sweden called Birka recovered the silver ring in the late 1800s. Until now, it was thought that it featured a violet amethyst engraved with Arabic-looking characters. But closer inspection with a scanning electron microscope revealed that the presumed amethyst is colored glass (an exotic material at the time), say biophysicist Sebastian Wärmländer of Stockholm University and his colleagues.
An inscription on the glass inset reads either “for Allah” or “to Allah” in an ancient Arabic script, the researchers report  February 23 in Scanning.
More here.
Dr Margaret Helen Rule (1928-2015)
Dr Margaret Helen Rule, CBE, the woman who helped raise the Mary Rose, died Thursday aged 86. She led the project that excavated and raised a huge section of Henry XIII’s Tudor warship from the bottom of the Solent in October 1982.
More here. Video here. See also our earlier feature New Mary Rose Museum opens this month.
One of the five Stonehenge land trains
The Heritage Trust
All five of the so called land trains that convey sightseers from the Stonehenge Visitor Centre to the monument itself were withdrawn last week just days before thousands of people were expected to visit the monument over the Easter break. Each train carries about 45 people and is pulled along by a single Land Rover. There have been concerns expressed in the past that there was not enough turning room at the Visitor Centre for the land trains to easily manoeuvre in and also that they would be unable to cope with thousands of sightseers during peak periods. Sightseers are now being transported to the monument by a fleet of buses.
According to Historic England (formerly English Heritage), “They [the land trains] have all gone for the moment. They went about a week ago. We do not know when they will be back. The land trains are being serviced and will be offsite for several weeks while we also take the opportunity to look at design improvements.”
The land trains were supposed to provide a low environmental impact on the Stonehenge area and if they are now to be replaced by a fleet of buses ploughing backwards and forwards between the Visitor Centre and the monument that objective will have been lost. Historic England’s comments that, “We do not know when they will be back.” and, “…while we also take the opportunity to look at design improvements.” are not encouraging ones but let’s hope we’re wrong and the land trains will be back in service again soon.
Update. BBC News reports today (10 April 2015) that, “A 26-space coach park is set to be built at Stonehenge and will operate for two years… English Heritage will convert farmland next to the existing coach park and will include walkways for pedestrians.”

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum
Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, has announced his intention to resign. Neil MacGregor is perhaps best known to the public through his outstanding and highly entertaining Radio 4 A History of the World in 100 objects series (and its accompanying book). The series consisted of a hundred 15-minute episodes based on objects from the British Museum’s collection. This morning, however, Neil MacGregor, announced to his colleagues at the British Museum that he has decided to step down as Director at the end of December 2015. Part of the British Museum press release reads –
Neil MacGregor said, “It’s a very difficult thing to leave the British Museum. Working with this collection and above all with the colleagues here has been the greatest privilege of my professional life. But I’ve decided that now is the time to retire from full-time employment and the end of this year seems a good time to go. The new building has been completed, so we at last have proper exhibition space, new conservation and scientific facilities, and first class accommodation for our growing research activities. We have built strong partnerships with fellow museums across the UK, and are rapidly expanding our programme of loans and training around the world.
The Heritage Trust would like to thank Neil MacGregor for his outstanding work as Director of the British Museum and to wish him the very best in his new life.
Full British Museum press release here.
A guest feature by Littlestone.
The Dali Museum, Florida, United States
Image credit Matthew Paulson. Source Wikimedia Commons
Not all is doom and gloom… at least not when it comes to the number of museums in the United States. According to Christopher Ingraham, writing for The Washington Post, there are roughly 11,000 Starbucks and about 14,000 McDonald’s in the country – a total of some 25,000 outlets. That’s a lot, but not as many as there are museums, which weigh in at a whopping 35,000!
According to Mr Ingraham –
…the latest data release from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent government agency that tallies the number and type of museums in this country. By their count the 35,000 active museums represent a doubling from the number estimated in the 1990s.
While most of us think of massive institutions like the Smithsonian and the Guggenheim when we think of museums, one lesson of the new data is that the majority of U.S. museums are small, nearly mom-and-pop affairs. Of the roughly 25,000 museums with income data in the file, 15,000 of them  reported an annual income of less than $10,000 on their latest IRS returns.
Well done the United States! (full Washington Post article here). Meanwhile, if you feel you can help support museums in Britain, please consider offering some of your time to them, making a donation or buying books etc directly from a museum shop rather than going through one of the big retailers. The Beck Isle Museum in Pickering, North Yorkshire is a good example of how we can support the smaller museum, and the British Museum shop an example of how direct purchasing will help support larger museums and their varied activities.


April 2015
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