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What are Britain’s most secret treasures? One of the finds from the Staffordshire Hoard (above) or a human tool found in Norfolk dating back 700,000 years? In a new television series, Britain’s Secret Treasures, beginning on Monday, 16 July and running consecutively for six days, ITV1 has joined forces with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme to –
…unveil the 50 greatest treasures discovered by the British public, extraordinary items and historical artefacts discovered by ordinary people that have shed light and in some cases dramatically changed our understanding of British history.
Transmitting on ITV1 across six nights, Britain’s Secret Treasures is presented by award-winning journalist Michael Buerk in his broadcasting debut for ITV, alongside historian and author Bettany Hughes, winner of this year’s distinguished Medlicott Medal for History.
The series will map out the 50 key artefacts found by members of the public and recorded by the British Museum’s scheme in the past 15 years. Facing the daunting task of selecting which discoveries were included and determining their ranking on the list, was a panel of experts from the British Museum and The Council for British Archaeology. They have sifted through almost one million items to judge each one on its national importance, beauty and cultural and historic significance. From a human tool found in Norfolk dating back 700,000 years, to the Silverdale Hoard of Viking Treasure, these items hold incredible stories, many of which revolutionise our understanding of the past.
New ale launched for the Staffordshire Hoard
“I thought they were unusually keen to form an archaeological group to find more Staffordshire Gold – it’s a new beer…!” 
Writing in The Guardian in March of this year, Maev Kennedy also reports that –
All the objects, from the most corroded Roman hob-nailed boot stud or lumpy fire-blackened pot to the gold and garnet glory of the Anglo-Saxon jewellery, are logged in the now vast treasure and portable antiquities databases held at the British Museum. Since the antiquities scheme was launched 15 years ago thousands of amateurs using metal detectors have been encouraged to report everything they find through a network of officers covering the country.

Although Roger Bland, keeper of portable antiquities and treasure at the British Museum, said they were excited about the chance to highlight the success of the scheme, the programmes will also inevitably revive the passionate debate about the ethics of metal detecting for antiquities, which some archaeologists regard as no better than looting.

Full Guardian article here. Details of the ITV1 series here.


Unknown aspects of the British Museum. Series 3, Japan. 知られざる大英博物館 第3集は、日本

ピラミッドや始皇帝陵とならぶ世界最大級の墓、巨大古墳。 3世紀から350年に渡る古墳時代は、文字資料がほとんどないため、未だ謎に満ちています。 その謎を解く鍵も、日本から遠く離れた大英博物館にありました。 今から120年前に、一人のイギリス人が日本から持ち帰った膨大な古墳のコレクション。 日英の合同チームは、収蔵庫に眠り続けていたコレクションの本格的な調査を開始しました。 そこからは、日本独自の進化を遂げた巨大古墳の知られざる実像が、浮かび上がってきます。

On Sunday, 8 July, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) will be airing a special programme in its Shirarezaru Daiei-Hakubustukan (Unknown aspects of the British Museum) series. The Sunday programme will focus on the 19th century British archaeologist William Gowland (see our earlier feature on Gowland) and his pioneering archaeological work in Japan.
The Sainsbury Institute reports that the programme about Gowland –
…whose exceptional collection of materials relating to ancient Japanese mounded tombs can be seen at the British Museum. These mounded tombs, or kofun, date from the 3rd to 7th centuries and include the final resting places of the ancestors of the Japanese Imperial family, and many are inaccessible today. The Sainsbury Institute is currently working with the British Museum and a team of specialists from Japan to survey this collection of artefacts and archives, including early photographs of many tombs which have long since disappeared, and materials excavated by Gowland from the Shibayama tomb in Osaka, where Gowland worked as a foreign specialist at the Mint between 1872 and 1888. Gowland?s meticulous excavation techniques and record-keeping allowed the team to reconstruct the inside of the Shibayama tomb. The programme features the Gowland Collection and ongoing related research in Japan, including at the Maruyama tomb, which has the largest burial chamber of any of Japan’s ancient kofun. Sainsbury Institute Research Director Nicole Rousmaniere and Head of the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage, Simon Kaner appear in the programme, one of three showing highlights from the British Museum marking the year of the London Olympics.
The programme will be broadcast on the 8 July at 9pm Japanese time (1pm British summer time).
More here and here.
Looking west along the southern flank of Maiden Castle iron age hillfort in Dorset, towards the Hardy Monument. The ditches are not as deep as they once were, and the ramparts were once topped with wooden pallisades. Source Wikimedia Commons
Image credit Jim Champion
Writing in the Dorset Echo yesterday, Rachael Burnett reports on Time Team’s forthcoming television programme on the South Dorset Ridgeway.
TIME Team’s Tony Robinson has come to Dorset to reveal what lies beneath the South Dorset Ridgeway. A film crew from the long-running Channel 4 archaeology TV series visited Dorset County Museum in Dorchester yesterday afternoon for their first day of filming. Tony Robinson and his team will be filming in the area for another 11 days as they unearth the secrets of the Ridgeway.

Actor and presenter of the series, Mr Robinson, said he will be exploring Dorset’s rich prehistoric past. He said: “We’re making a Time Team special about the South Dorset Ridgeway. “We’ll be having a look at what it’s made of, why it’s 1,000 feet up in the air when it used to be at the bottom of a seabed and why it was so attractive to ancient people and what they used it for.”

The Ridgeway is a ridge of high land separating Weymouth and Dorchester and Mr Robinson and his team will be investigating the various theories surrounding its origins.

Full article here.



The Pectoral Cross. Image courtesy Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Saxon Hoard: a Golden Discovery will be shown on BBC2 on Thursday, 26 January from 8pm.

Historian Dan Snow uncovers the secrets of one of Britain’s most significant discoveries – the Staffordshire Hoard. Found by an amateur metal detecting enthusiast in 2009, the cache of 3,500 items offers an array of new clues into the Dark Ages, and the presenter pieces together the lives of the people who lived in these kingdoms.

Following the initial find, Alex Jones, director of Birmingham Archaeology and his colleagues were invited to excavate the site, Birmingham University said. Mr Jones said it was fantastic news for the region and raised the importance of heritage research. “Being a partner in one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of our time is something we can all be proud of,” he said.

Experts have so far established that there were at least 650 items of gold in the haul, weighing more than 5kgs (11lb), and 530 silver objects totalling more than 1kg (2.2lb) in weight. Copper alloy, garnets and glass objects were also discovered at the site. Duncan Slarke, finds liaison officer for Staffordshire, was the first professional to see the hoard, which contains warfare paraphernalia, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates inlaid with precious stones. He said he was “virtually speechless” when he saw the items. “I saw boxes full of gold, items exhibiting the very finest Anglo-Saxon workmanship,” he added.

Source The Radio Times and BBC News.


Gateholm Island, Pembrokeshire. Source Wikimedia. Image credit Erik Wannee

This evening’s programme on Channel 4, from 6pm, focuses on the tiny windswept island of Gateholm Island. The Radio Times reports that –

Tony Robinson and the team investigate Gateholm Island, Pembrokeshire, where a number of mysterious artefacts were discovered years ago, suggesting the site was once of religious importance. The archaeologists battle inclement weather to begin a dig on the mainland, where team leader Francis Pryor sees characteristics suggestive of a classic Iron Age fort beginning to emerge.



September 2021
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