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The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, is now on display alongside the story of this great feat of engineering in a free major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. The exhibition will run until 3 September 2017.

More here.

 

Twilight at Stonehenge (circa 1840). Watercolour by William Turner of Oxford
Image credit Wikimedia Commons

 

A guest feature by Littlestone.

The Rudston Monolith
©
Littlestone

To quote Wikipedia, “The Rudston Monolith at over 7.6 metres (25 ft) is the tallest megalith (standing stone) in the United Kingdom. It is situated in the churchyard in the village of Rudston (grid reference TA098678) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”

So, to mark this year’s St Valentine’s Day, Moss and I decided to make the 30 mile drive over from where we live in North Yorkshire to Rudston village to see for ourselves the ‘real thing’. Nothing quite prepares you for this ‘real thing’. Photos of the monolith we’d seen before but first sight, and first touch, of this towering Neolithic edifice left us both speechless. If there’s ever a stone that puts its neighbouring church into a shadow this is it. And the fact that it’s stood there for some 4,000 years makes it even more awe-inspiring. As ever, the similarity with other subsumed (Christianised) sites in Britain, seems the same. The Rudson Monolith stands close to a water source. A Roman villa once stood close by and there are Roman tiles in the church walls. There are also the remains of a Roman sarcophagus in the graveyard.

Outlier stone and the remains of a Roman sarcophagus behind it
©
Littlestone

Googling ‘Rudston Monolith’ will throw up all sorts of info but what intrigued me most, being actually there on site, was the smaller outlier stone in one corner of the graveyard. The stone is of the same composition as the monolith itself and evidently was once situated close to it. Could it be the missing top of the Rudsone Monolith? Did it fall away naturally or was it cut off because it offended past norms of acceptability? Who knows, but here’s an interesting comparison from Brittany in France.

The Plonéour-Lanvern megalith in Brittany, France circa 1900
Collection Abbaey de la Source, Paris
 

A selection of Anglo-Saxon coins showing the different types found within the Watlington Hoard
©
Trustees of the British Museum

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, has succeeded in raising the £1.35 million needed to purchase the Watlington Hoard. More than 700 members of the public contributed to the appeal to find the locally discovered treasure a permanent home and save it from entering a private collection. James Mather, a metal detectorist, made the discovery of 200 complete silver coins, seven items of jewellery and 15 silver ingots in a field near Watlington in Oxfordshire in October 2015.

Oxford Thinking reports that financial aid to purchase the find for the Nation was –

…provided by the National Lottery through a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £1.05 million. The grant will be used towards the acquisition of the hoard, as well as conservation, display, touring and educational programmes. Thanks to a further £150,000 from the Art Fund, and contributions from private individuals and the Friends and Patrons of the Ashmolean, the museum reached its fundraising target within days of the deadline.

Dating from the end of the 870s, the Watlington Hoard contains over 200 Anglo-Saxon coins, including many examples of previously rare coins of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex (871-899) and his less well-known contemporary, King Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-899). These coins provide new evidence of the relationship between the two kings, and can potentially shed light on how the once-great kingdom of Mercia came to be absorbed into the emerging kingdom of England by Alfred and his successors.

Once formally acquired, the museum will launch an events and education programme for the hoard. This will begin on 11 February when the treasures will be put on display at the Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock.

More here.

 

 
Happy 2017 from our base in misty North Yorkshire
©
Moss

Stonehenge in Winter by Walter Williams (1834-1906)

 

Season’s Greetings to all our Readers
 

Standing stone on the North York Moors
©
Littlestone

A Dream of Solstice

Qual e’ colui che somniando vede,
che dopo ‘l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l’altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io…

Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

‘Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now’, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges

That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,

Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving

And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,

Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,

Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king’s gold dagger when he plunged it in

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk

And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow

Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle

Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.

Seamus Heaney

 

 
 
One of the Roman coins discovered by metal detectorist Stephen Squire. The coin dates from around 37ce
 
Kerry Ashdown, writing in the Staffordshire Newsletter, reports on the discovery of more than 2,000 Roman artefacts in a field in Barlaston, Staffordshire, England –
 
MORE THAN 2,000 Roman artefacts including coins have been declared treasure after being unearthed in Barlaston. Metal detectorist Stephen Squire made the discovery in a field in his home village. His find included rare coins and the British Museum has expressed interest in acquiring three items. The Potteries Museum in Hanley plans to exhibit other items. Mr Squire, aged 49, told a hearing at North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court: “I was on my own that morning but quickly phoned my wife and son to come down when I found the objects.”
 
Councillor Terry Follows, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “This is a significant find because of the number of coins involved. They were found in broken pottery vessels just one metre below ground. It is a real credit to the finder for treating the discovery so responsibly and reporting it correctly.
 
Full story  here.

University of East Anglia student, and metal detectorist, Tom Lucking. Image credit Antony Kelly

Emma Knights, Arts Correspondent for the Eastern Daily Press in Norwich, England, reports on the discovery of Anglo-Saxon artefacts in Norfolk.

A collection of artefacts discovered in an Anglo-Saxon grave in Norfolk has been declared as Treasure, an inquest has heard. University of East Anglia student Tom Lucking and his friend Stuart Isaacs made the discovery between December 21 2014 and January 7 2015. The inquest in Norwich yesterday heard that the historical items were found near Diss and that a report from the British Museum described them as “an assemblage of artefacts most probably deriving from an early Anglo-Saxon female furnished burial.” Among the items are a Merovingian coin pendant, two gold biconical spacer beads, a gold openwork pendant with the form of a Maltese cross, a coin pendant with a gold suspension loop, another pendant with a Maltese cross design, a continental pottery biconical bowl, an iron knife and a collection of copper alloy chatelaine rings.

Tom has been a metal detector enthusiast for more than a decade and is reported as saying that the artefacts should end up at Norwich Castle, being the best place for them because it keeps them in the County for people to see.

Full story and images of two of the artefacts here.

 

University of Birmingham
Entrepreneurship in Cultural Heritage Workshop

Organised by the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham. In association with the West Midlands Museum Development.

Location: The Old Ikon Gallery, Fazeley Studios, Birmingham, B5 5SE England.
2 February 2017.

Over recent years the heritage sector has been hit by cumulative cut-backs in public sector funding, reductions in visitor spend and increasing competition for visitors. At the same time, a multitude of new opportunities continue to emerge relating to technological innovation, new audiences and communication networks and new management approaches. In the context of this developing landscape for the heritage sector, this workshop explores the increasing need for museums and heritage organisations to become ever more entrepreneurial in their approach in order to increase their resilience to the changing environment and also to identify ways and means to build profile, audiences, income and opportunities to communicate the heritage at their heart.

Through presentations by speakers who, in different ways, are involved with innovative approaches to the heritage and museums sector and through discussion, this workshop aims to identify some of the more entrepreneurial management practices of the heritage sector and to explore challenges and opportunities for future entrepreneurial actions.

Key Themes:

· Working towards resilience

· Partner working outside of the heritage sector

· The role of the creative industries

· Going global

· Building audiences and income

Confirmed speakers include:

* Dr Chris Ferguson (Auckland Castle)
* Traci Dix-Williams (Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust)
* Colin Chester-Head of Buying, The National Gallery
* Tony Trehy (Director, Bury Art Museum)
* Harvey Edgington (National Trust)
* Elliot Goodger- Birmingham Museums Trust Enterprise Committee

Pre-booking is essential.

To book your place go here.

Early-bird rate of £45 ( by 13 Jan 2017).
Full delegate rate of £55 (by 27 January 2017).

Contact: Jamie Davies, Teaching Fellow in Cultural Heritage
j.g.davies@bham.ac.uk mailto:j.g.davies@bham.ac.uk
0121 414 5616

Staff and volunteers from Accredited Museums or those officially Working towards Accreditation should reserve their place via the events page of the West Midlands Museum Development website: mdwm.org.uk or contact wmmd@ironbridge.org.uk mailto:wmmd@ironbridge.org.uk

 

 
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.
 

Section of the rampart of Cissbury Ring Iron Age hill fort, near Worthing, West Sussex, England
Image credit Simon Burchell. Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Source Wikimedia Commons

The Telegraph reports yesterday that the Iron Age fort, know as Cissbury Ring, and located in West Sussex, southern England, has been damaged – probably by illegal metal detecting.

An ancient hill fort dubbed “one of the jewels in the crown” of the South Downs National Park has been damaged, police have said. Illegal metal detecting is believed to be behind the disturbance to the ground at the 5,000-year-old Cissbury Ring site near Worthing in West Sussex.

Described by the National Trust as the most historic hill on the South Downs, its ditch and ramparts enclose some 65 acres and it is a habitat for butterflies, flowers and rare plants.

The damage caused at the largest hill fort in Sussex, which police have said is “irreversible”, has provoked outrage in the metal detecting community.

Full article here.

 

A guest feature by Littlestone. This article first appeared on The Modern Antiquarian in November 2008.

One of two trapdoors with sarsens beneath them
Image credit and © Littlestone

Pulling in to a dead-end bit of road by Alton Priors church (now closed off by a farm gate) I was about to head across the field towards the church when a herd of cows started ambling by with a few of their calves in tow; I held back behind the gate to let them pass (good thing too because the cows were being gently herded forward by a very handsome and very big black bull). Halfway across the field, and between the gate and the church, I passed someone coming in the opposite direction. The gentleman turned out to be the landowner and he told me, as we stood chatting in his field, that his family had farmed the area for more than a hundred years (and that the big black bull was really a bit of a softie).

I asked the gentleman if the church was open and he assured me that it was. I asked him if he knew anything about the sarsen stones under the church floor and he assured me they were there. We talked a little more and then he casually mentioned that I should also take a look at the 1,700 year-old yew tree in the churchyard and the spring that rose close by. I thanked him for his time and we parted.

The church was indeed open. Hot English summer without, cool sacredness within. Just your regular little country church. But where were the trapdoors leading to another sacredness? I ambled about the church for a bit then spotted a trapdoor that was partly boarded over and couldn’t be lifted.* Disappointed, I was about to leave when I spotted another trapdoor. Kneeling alone there in the silence, slowly pulling the clasp and watching as the trapdoor lifted to reveal a sarsen stone below was… mmm… more than a little magical.

I went outside and spent some time under the ancient yew tree in the churchyard – then tried to find the spring that the farmer had mentioned. I found the stream but everything else was too overgrown and the day too hot to look for more.

Alton Priors is a very, very special place. A little church built upon a sarsen circle set in the Vale of Pewsey. I’ve been to a lot of circles but none have had the sense of continuity that Alton Priors has. Go there and be at home (the church is open during the summer months; at other times the key can be obtained from one of the nearby houses).

* Since writing this the larger of the two trapdoors can now be lifted revealing a sarsen beneath. There is also a sarsen under the north-east buttress. See also The Church of St Peter’s, Clyffe Pypard, Wiltshire England.

Sarsen under north-east buttress
©
Littlestone
 
 
The Cove, Avebury
©
Moss
 
This year Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is celebrating 30 years since its inscription on to the World Heritage list in 1986. A number of events are taking place throughout this year.
 
The Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit, with the support of their partners, is holding a 30th anniversary conference on 19 and 20 November 2016 to celebrate the many aspects of the World Heritage Site and the gains made over the past 30 years.
 
On Saturday 19 November in the Ceres Hall, the Corn Exchange, Devizes [England], a number of speakers including Dr Serge Cassen (University of Nantes), Dr Alison Sheridan (National Museums of Scotland), Dr Heather Sebire (English Heritage), Prof Tim Darvill (University of Bournemouth), Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton), Prof Vince Gaffney(University of Bradford) will be joining us to examine developments in conservation, changes in our knowledge through research and archaeology, the impact on culture and how Stonehenge fits into the European and British culture at that time.
 
More here.
 
 Witch marks in the Tithe Barn at Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, England
Image credit Peter Williams/PA
 
The public is being encouraged to help map Britain’s historic obsession with the paranormal by searching for ancient scratchings in old buildings, used as charms against witchcraft and evil spirits.
 
So writes Maev Kennedy in The Guardian yesterday –
 
Historic England would like help to find more of the marks, typically concentrated around entry points seen as vulnerable such as windows, chimneys and doorways. Faint symbols have been recorded in buildings and sites across England, including Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Tower of London, and Wookey Hole caves in Somerset – where a tall stalagmite has been shown to tourists for centuries as the petrified body of a witch.
 
Full article here.
 

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