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A 400bce gold torc from the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs collection
©
Staffordshire County Council
 
A fundraising campaign has been launched to save ancient jewellery believed to be the earliest example of Iron Age gold ever discovered in Britain.
 
The four intricate artefacts that make up the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs first captured the public imagination – and global media – when they were unveiled for the first time at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in February. They went on to attract 21,000 visitors in just one month.
 
The valuable torcs, which experts believe may be Britain’s earliest examples of Iron Age gold have now been valued at £325,000 by a panel from the Treasure Valuation Committee, and the museum is embarking on a three-month campaign to raise the money so that they can be kept on public display.
 
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, in partnership with the Friends of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery – which is leading the public fundraising campaign on behalf of the museum – has until December 5 to meet the valuation price, or risk the artefacts potentially being separated out and sold to private bidders.
 
More here.
 
 
 
A selection of Roman coins discovered by metal detectorists in Worcestershire in 2011
 
Sebastian Richards, writing for the Cotswold Journal, reports that the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery is exhibiting the Bredon Hoard of Roman coins until the end of May –
 
Two metal detectorists discovered the hoard, the largest ever found in Worcestershire [West Midlands of England], in June 2011. The hoard dates back to the 3rd Century and features 16 different Roman Emperors. Following the discovery, the county archaeology service took over the excavation and it became evident that not only had a hoard been found but also a settlement site with a long and intriguing history.
 
More here.
 

Recently revealed, a rare William Caxton printed manuscript circa 1476
Image credit University of Reading

Sean Coughlan, Education correspondent for BBC News, reports today on the recently revealed rare William Caxton printed manuscript dating from around 1476 –

Pages printed more than 500 years ago by William Caxton, who brought printing to England, have been discovered by the University of Reading.

There are no other known surviving examples of these two pages anywhere in the world, from a book believed to have been printed in London in the 1470s. The pages had been “under their noses” unrecognised in the library’s archives.

Erika Delbecque, special collections librarian at the university, described the find as “incredibly rare”. The two pages, with religious texts in medieval Latin, were produced by Caxton at his pioneering printing works in Westminster – and are now going on public display for the first time since they were sold from his print shop in the 15th Century. They are believed to be from the earliest years of Caxton’s printing press, either 1476 or 1477, and are being hailed as a remarkable discovery.

The pages will go on public display from today to 30 May at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading, England.

More here.

 

Marking World Heritage Day today we are focusing on the ancient Japanese art of picture conservation and mounting known as Hyōgu.

1923 woodblock print after the earliest known image of a hyōgushi priest and his assistant Original by the 14th century Japanese painter Fujiwara Takakane
Private collection Great Britain

Hyōgu and the hyōgushi

The art of restoring and mounting works of art on paper and silk has been practiced in the Far East for nearly two millennia. Originating first in China at the beginning of the Christian era, conservation techniques and materials then spread to Japan where they developed into the refined art that we now know as Hyōgu.

The word Hyōgu means a picture or piece of calligraphy lined with paper and mounted as a hanging scroll. The words hyōgushi, hyōguya and kyōji refer to the mounter/conservators of Japan who not only repair and mount hanging scrolls but also conserve other forms of pictorial art such as the handscroll, screens, sliding doors, murals etc.

The hyōgushi of today is required to undergo a long and strict period of training. During this time he or she learns not only the skills which will enable him to conserve scrolls, screens etc, but also the knowledge and sensitivity required to present them in their correct context. He must know the appropriate style of mount used for any subject and be aware, for example, of the meanings associated with the patterned silks used with such mounts. He or she must also know how and where an object will be used as this will often dictate the materials and techniques employed in its conservation.

Like the Western bookbinder, the hyōgushi is responsible for objects which must be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The objects he is conserving are made to be opened and closed, rolled and unrolled and, apart from the demands of conservation and aesthetics, the hyōgushi must always bear in mind that they are to be constantly handled and not merely viewed.

rillatoncup1
 
Sketch of the Rillaton Barrow and the Rillaton Gold Cup and Dagger
Artist unknown
 
Workmen engaged in construction work in 1837 plundered a burial cairn for stone on part of Bodmin Moor, at Rillaton. In one side of the mound they came upon a stone-lined vault, or cist, 2.4 m long and 1.1 m wide. It contained the decayed remains of a human skeleton accompanied by this gold cup, a bronze dagger and other objects that have not survived – a decorated pottery vessel, a ‘metallic rivet’, ‘some pieces of ivory’ and ‘a few glass beads’. The pot and gold cup were set beneath a slab leaning against the west wall of the cist.
 
Source British Museum.
 
 
The Rillaton Barrow today
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Please see our earlier feature on the Rillaton Gold Cup here.
 

Made of wood and measuring 96cm in length. Probably between 50 and a 100 years old
Private collection. Great Britain

The loom would have been suspended from above by the warp which would have passed through the 36 holes that are bored into it (apart from the eighteen visible holes there are also eighteen more in the rectangular sections). In this position all 36 warp ‘ropes’ would be inline with each other. By pushing the ‘handle’ upwards or downwards a space is created into which the weft could be passed to the left and right. The small piece of wood was probably used to ‘knock down’ the weft in order to achieve a tighter weave. There is what seems to be a similar loom in our feature here.

 

An Egyptian craftsman weaving a mat on a floor loom

Mohamed Badry Kamel Basuny, writing for UNESCO, reports on the Intangible Heritage of Egyptian mat-making –

Mat, as a traditional craft, is considered a local craft dating back to ancient Egyptian era. The local people had been developed this innovative production “Mats” to face the common problem of humidity and insects. There are numerous models and forms to Egyptian mats, which are displayed in Torino Museum, Italy, that was used in ancient Egyptian rural community. This craft is needed a group of material and tools such as reeds and grasses especially el-Summar herbs (Juncus), and flax to weave strongly these reeds together. Unfortunately, the craft of mats doesn’t be well-known and popular like the old periods. Now, it is known in few Egyptian governorates such as el-Qaliubiya, el-Sharkeya, Kafr El-Sheikh, Qena, Assiut, el-Monoufia. (Egyptian Archives of Folk Life and Folk Traditions (EAFLFT), 2013).

Detail of an Egyptian floor loom

Full article here.

 

 
A 3,000 year-old gold torc recently found by a metal detectorist in a Cambridgeshire field
Image credit Dominic Lipinski/PA
 
The torc is so big that one expert thinks it may have been worn to protect a pregnant woman. It is made from 730 grams of almost pure gold and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century. The workmanship is astonishing. “The torc was shaped from a square section bar of gold, and then twisted and burnished. “If you take callipers, and measure the gaps between the twists, they are absolutely spot on accurate.”
 
More by Maev Kennedy in The Guardian here.
 

Replica of the early 8th century Anglo-Saxon Franks Casket by sculptor Andrew Lilley
©
Trustees of the British Museum
 

The British Museum has commissioned two replicas of the early 8th century Anglo-Saxon Franks Casket by sculptor Andrew Lilley. “One option presents the casket in similar colours to the whalebone we see today, while the other has been hand painted in colours that represent how experts believe it may have looked when made.”

The original is on display at the British Museum. The right-hand side of the casket is a replica; the original is in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Italy.

More on the Franks Casket here.

 

 
Avebury’s 17th century thresher barn
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Avebury’s Grade I-listed thatched barn is under threat… from jackdaws! This lovely 17th century thresher barn, at the heart of the World Heritage Site of Avebury, is also a museum with interactive displays and activities bringing the history and landscape of the area to life.
 
BBC News Wiltshire reports that –
 
The roof of the Grade I-listed Great Barn, which is owned by the National Trust, has been damaged by jackdaws since it was re-thatched in 2013. Ed Coney, who re-thatched most of the roof in that £100,000 project, said the damage was “soul destroying”. “We did the job and were very proud of it and everything was fine, and then slowly it’s been pulled to pieces,” said Mr Coney.
 
Thatcher Alan Lewis said: “It is a Grade I-listed barn, the centrepiece of a world heritage site, and it should be reflecting the best in British craftsmanship.” He said birds had only damaged part of the roof that was re-thatched most recently, but they had left alone an older part.
 
“The National Trust are looking at the effect, that the jackdaws are having pulling straw through the netting onto the surface of the thatch, but I think the cause is somewhere else. “It may be a difference in quality of the two materials used.”
 
More here.
 
 
 
The 3,000 year-old Bronze Age wheel recently found at the Must Farm archaeological site in Cambridgeshire, England
Image credit Cambridge Archaeological Unit
 
A 3,000 year-old Bronze Age wheel recently found at the Must Farm archaeological site in Cambridgeshire, England (see our earlier feature here) is said to be the largest, earliest complete example of its kind ever found in Britain.
 
BBC News Cambridgeshire reports –
 
A complete Bronze Age wheel believed to be the largest and earliest of its kind found in the UK has been unearthed. The 3,000-year-old artefact was found at a site dubbed “Britain’s Pompeii”, at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire. Archaeologists have described the find – made close to the country’s “best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings” – as “unprecedented”.
 
Still containing its hub, the 3ft-diameter (one metre) wooden wheel dates from about 1,100 to 800 BC. The wheel was found close to the largest of one of the roundhouses found at the settlement last month.
 
More, with video, here.

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Suffragette film producer Alison Owen surrounded by Law Scrolls in the Act Room of Victoria Tower, the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) London
Image credit Houses of Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The age-old tradition of recording and enshrining British law on vellum is to continue after almost coming to an end last week when the House of Lords decided to stop the enshrinement of British law on vellum for reasons of cost. Fortunately the British Cabinet Office has intervened and is to provide the necessary financing from its own budget for this thousand year-old tradition to continue.

Vellum is not a paper (which is generally made from vegetable fibres) but from carefully prepared calf-skin. Probably the most famous use of vellum in Britain are the several extant copies of the Magna Carta, drawn up some 800 years ago and sealed by King John, and the Lindisfarne Gospels. A more recent use of vellum was for the marriage certificate of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine Middleton in 2011.

Watch the preparation of vellum by Paul Wright, a parchmenter, here.

 

 
 
The 6-7th century Alton Anglo-Saxon buckle
 
A silver gilt body with sub-triangular shape, filigree wire and niello, set with cloisionne garnets and glass. The centre panel of semi zoomorphic design is gold filigree on a gold repousse base.
 
The buckle is from Grave 16 of the Mount Pleasant Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Hampshire, southern England, and was found during excavations there between 1959-61.
 
More here.
  
 
 
The East Grafton Saxon gold coin
 
The Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire England has launched a fund-raising campaign to secure a rare Saxon gold coin for the Nation. The coin was found in April in East Grafton, a village between Burbage and Great Bedwyn in Witshire, south-west England. Struck in what is now modern-day France, sometime between 655ce and 675ce, the coin features a head and cross on one side and a pair of clasping hands on the other. The coin dates to a period of transition from Paganism to Christianity, and shortly after the Sutton Hoo ship burial and the Staffordshire Hoard which also contain objects with both Pagan and Christian themes.
 
This remarkable find brings new light to the vale of Pewsey in the Saxon period. East Grafton was part of the parish of Bedwyn until medieval times. There are a number of pagan Saxon cemeteries nearby and there was an early Saxon Royal manor at the Iron Age hill fort at Chisbury, just to the north of Great Bedwyn. Later in the Saxon period, the focus moved to Great Bedwyn where there was a Royal Manor and an important Minster church. Bedwyn was held by King Alfred and it also had a Saxon mint in the time of King Edward the Confessor soon after 1,000 AD. Bedwyn was very important and it was only with the building of its Norman castle that the focus moved to Marlborough. (Wiltshire Museum).
 
The coin is being auctioned early next month (2 December) by Spink & Son, Bloomsbury London and is estimated to achieve a sale price of around £12,000. The Wilshire Museum is therefore launching a fundraising campaign to secure this important find for the Museum and the Nation. They will be seeking grant aid but still need help. To make a donation please click on the Wiltshire Museum website here.
 
 
 
The Star Chart on the ceiling of the Takamatsuzuka burial mound in western Japan
Image credit Yuta Takahashi for the The Asahi Shimbun
 
The famous Takamatsuzuka Kofun (高松塚古墳) burial mound exhibition closes today (8 November 2015) in Asuka village, Japan. Built during the Asuka Period, between the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century, it lay unopened until 1972. Excavations of the mound then revealed an interior on whose walls stunning murals of Asuka Period ladies, astrological representations and a golden star chart were found. The gold disks, making up the chart, measure some 0.8 centimetres in diameter and are connected by red lines
 
Designated as a National Treasure this was the first time the general public were able to view the chart.
 
More here.
   

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