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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.
French President François Hollande officially launches the Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas on the 20 March 2017 at the Louvre in Paris
Image credit Élysée
A new global fund for endangered heritage sites has been launched by France and the United Arab Emirates. Writing in The Art Newspaper, Vincent Noce, reports that –
A new global fund to protect cultural heritage in war zones, spearheaded by France and the United Arab Emirates, has so far raised $75m of a planned $100m. The fund was officially launched [yesterday], 20 March, at the Louvre in Paris by the French President François Hollande and the vice premier minister of the Emirates, Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
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 guest feature by The Sarsen Slumberer
An aboriginal youth of the indigenous Tsou people of Taiwan (pre 1945)
China’s recent little rattle-throwing-out-of-the-pram fitty over Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen’s telephone call to President-elect Donald Trump is yet another example of China’s big bully agenda towards its neighbours. China claims that Taiwan is part of China. What nonsense. China has no more of a claim to Taiwan than it has to Tibet. And, lest it be forgotten, the Chinese only started settling in Taiwan in the late 17th century. To claim Taiwan as ‘theirs’ is just another smoke and mirrors land-grab by a big bully nation. If Taiwan belongs to anyone it belongs to the Austronesian peoples who first settled there at least 15,000 years ago. The native Austronesian peoples of Taiwan still number around 530,000. Are their voices, cultures and heritage heard? Hardly ever. Big game politics take centre stage but, like the native peoples of America, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere around the world those voices, small though they are, should and must be listened to.
Heritage is not just about monuments and artefacts from the ground (important though they are as you so rightly highlight on your pages here) it’s also about languages and crafts, food, ways of dressing, and a different way of looking at the world. Should we kowtow to China because it’s in our financial interests. I don’t think so. Taiwan is a functioning democracy where free speech is encouraged. President Tsai of Taiwan is the first woman leader in Asia who isn’t the daughter or wife of a previous leader. China on the other hand is a failing dictatorial system in the grip of a corrupt few.
As Fox News recently, and so accurately reported, “China and the Washington foreign policy establishment thought they could tell President-elect Donald Trump whom he can and cannot speak with on the phone. They thought wrong.” Let’s hope our own politicians and people of influence here in Britain have the same courage to stand up to bullying regimes wherever they may be.
See also The Sarsen Slumberer’s earlier feature Common sense and common courtesy.
Part 2… Hero to Zero!
Archaeology is a serious subject as we well know, but now and again things do happen that make you smile.
This (as written) from The Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 1886 – 1889.
Re-erection of the Nine-Stones.
“On April 8th, Mr. F. R. Rodd, accompanied by Mrs. Rodd, took some men to the old circle of this name, which lies about three quarters of a mile S.E. of Fox Tor, and the diameter of which coincides with the boundary-line between Altarnon and North Hill. The stones (which happen to be nine in number), were all fallen except two: this was not to be wondered at considering none of them are more than 6 or 7 feet high, and they are not large of their kind; besides, the cattle constantly trampling round and rubbing against them hasten the effects of winds and rains. Two stones of the circle were missing; but the one in the centre, though fallen, was in place; for which a fresh pit was excavated, without, however, bringing to light any indications of there having been an interment there.
“This is but a small circle, and so not particularly valuable as a relic of antiquity yet the restoration of it none the less serves a good purpose, as tending to shew the moor-men, especially those on the look-out for gate-posts, that labour (i.e. money) is expended on their preservation: and therefore Mr.Rodd deserves the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. For this is the only practical way of carrying out the spirit of Sir John Lubbock’s Act, on these moors, where people are so scarce, and knowledge travels so slowly, that prehistoric remains may be destroyed and removed, without the discovery of such destruction, until too late to prevent it.”
The nine-stones in question are in fact the Nine Stones of Altarnun stone circle of course on East Moor just up the lane from where I live and my favourite circle. Its southern boundary is Ridge Hill.
Ridge Hill cairn as seen today © Roy Goutté
This follow-on piece in the same Journal is what made me smile… not the wanton destruction and desecration of a sacred and beautiful stone cairn of course, you understand, but the possibility that it may have been carried out by our former hero who gained such respect with his work done at the stone circle on East Moor a few hundred yards below. What an embarrassment!
Opening of a Cairn on Ridge Hill.
“On May 22nd, 1889, I received the following from Mr. Rodd, of Trebartha Hall:
“We have been raising a wall round the old plantation below Ridge Hill lately, and have driven an adit (a horizontal passage) through the cairn on the top, in order to get stone for the purpose. This morning I see that the men have arrived at a central rock, around which the cairn appears to have been built. The top of the cairn appears to have been disturbed at some former time, and to have been composed of a number (7 or 8) of irregularly shaped cells, or chambers, very roughly built: I cannot conceive for what purpose; we hope to go up there again with two carts and clear away stone to the centre of the ground-line: I should much like you to see what we have done.
“Accordingly on July 3rd, I accompanied Mr.Rodd and some friends, and found that a passage had been made from the circumference at the north side to the centre, and beyond the centre of the cairn, by removal of loose stones, and that the original ground-level of this portion of it was exposed to view. In the centre (or thereabouts) of the area on which the cairn had been constructed was a large slab of granite, about 5 feet long, 2 to 3 feet square, partially embedded, and apparently as laid there by nature. This block certainly seemed to have been the nucleus round which the cairn was formed, for it seemed to be the centre of some concentric circles of stones, on edge, which, at some little distance, circumscribed the block. The surface of the ground, and the faces of the loose stones all around in the “crater” of the cairn were so coloured and scarred with tar and tire from the bonfires, or beacon-tires of various generations, including the jubilee bonfire, and the molten tar had penetrated between the interstices of the stones, and permeated the soil to such an extent, that it was most difficult to determine whether the burnt earth immediately above the subsoil was due to this cause only, or was indicative of a funeral pyre. However, on excavating round the granite-slab previously divided into two parts for the more easy removal, it distinctly appeared by the depth of such darkened earth, the absence of any tar, and the homogeneity of the soil, that the ashes of the primal interment had been laid against, but not under the N.W. side of the granite block. There was no paving, fragment of pottery, or anything whatever of interest, just here, and the earth was turned over down to the “country 5″ apparently there had never been any kist-vean under the cairn; but it is possible there may have been another interment without kist-vean elsewhere below the ground level, in other parts of the cairn, where the ground has not yet been excavated.”
I wonder if Mr.Rodd (assuming it was the same person that is) was expecting the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for that little lot as well?
My thoughts every time I visit both the cairn and the circle focus on the centre stones of both and wonder is there is a direct connection. In their mindset, did whatever took place below on the moor in the living world, get replicated at the cairn in the next i.e. the Afterlife?
We received the following (edited for clarity) last week from Dr. Mustafa Elhawat, Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology, University of Elmergheb, Al-khums in Libya. If any of our readers can assist Dr. Mustafa Elhawat please contact him at the email address below.
Dear The Heritage Trust
The political situation and the war in Libya has several complications. The problem lies in the risk to archaeological sites and buildings by militant Islamists, and exploration of these sites by thieves and vandals. There is also the illegal trade in stolen artefacts from some sites and cemeteries which are then sold on the internet and smuggled out of the country. Also, there are numerous monuments in Libya that need to be archived as they are not registered at present. There are two sections in Libya – East and West – but staff there are inexperienced and are in need of training.
We are doing as much as possible and are campaigning to raise awareness among the Libyan population. We are also setting up workshops and seminars but we need to acquire more skills, set up courses etc because archaeological sites in Libya are currently in crisis and at severe risk.
Cultural heritage in Libya belongs to all of humanity and the duty of everyone is to protect and preserve it. So we extend our hands to you, in the international community, to work with us together in order to preserve these treasures and this heritage. I hope there will be close cooperation between us all which will provide an appropriate solution to this crisis.
Dr. Mustafa Elhawat
Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology. Faculty of Archaeology and Tourism. (Near Leptis Magna). University of Elmergheb, Al-khums. Libya. Member of the Commission for the Conservation of Libyan Cultural Heritage. email email@example.com
Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members. (Part 3 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.