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Heritage Calling

Ahead of this year’s Heritage Open Days, we met up with two Archaeological Conservators for Historic England.

Based at historic Fort Cumberland in Hampshire (pictured), Angela Middleton (AM) and Karla Graham (KG) tell us about their favourite finds, and what got them interested in archaeological objects.

First thing’s first – what is an Archaeological Conservator?

AM: We look after objects that have been excavated from terrestrial and marine environments. We investigate them to find out who made them and why, and devise a conservation programme to preserve them.

KG: We also look at the sites that they came from and the type of soils, and how to conserve objects that are still buried in the ground.

IMG_2315 Angela preparing a wooden artefact for vacuum-freeze drying.

How did you get into this kind of work?

AM: I always liked working with my hands, and initially wanted to go into carpentry. From…

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Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Passmore 1922.jpg

The wonderful HEIR Project in Oxford has prompted me to follow up my previous post about Avebury. I showed two images there, said to be dated 1895 (a photo) and November 15–18, 1895 (a painting). HEIR helpfully pointed out in a tweet that Underhill dated the painting August 23 1895, which makes more sense than November, and suggests he may have made it on site rather than from his photo (notwithstanding his stylised flowers, which he seems to have rather liked in his paintings). The ADAS images are in fact from their archive, where there are more old Avebury shots.

Among them are these two above, taken by AD Passmore in 1922 on the course of the West Kennet Avenue, looking west just south of the A4 (over the hedge on the right), west of the turning south to East Kennet and not far from the Sanctuary.

On the…

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Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

British Archaeology 152 lo res.jpg

The new British Archaeology has a great mix of stuff, with its usual features, reviews, news, the interview (Taryn Nixon), Bill Tidy’s cartoon and so on. And we have a new column, from the great archaeological photographer, Mick Sharp, who will be writing in every edition about visiting sites with his cameras. I’m really proud of the wide range of places and topics, and of all the contributors who have brought so much to this issue.

BA 152 fort.jpgThe front cover features a wooden Anglo-Saxon coffin – one of over 90 preserved in an early Christian cemetery, as never seen before. From London comes the surprise discovery of a Roman fort, which helps explain why the city is where it is.

BA 152 dead danebury.jpgWe ask what happened to all the missing dead from prehistoric Britain (giving me an opportunity to bring out some of my old Kodachromes). How did people in Scotland over 4,000 years…

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Heritage Calling

London streets are lined with colourful shops, clamouring for our attention. Many are of considerable age, and have survived for our enjoyment only through careful maintenance by generations of shopkeepers.

Kathryn Morrison, Head of Historic Places Investigation, selects eight shopfronts that can be appreciated by anyone strolling along the pavements of London, and offer a glimpse into the city’s rich history as one of the world’s most exciting shopping centres. Presented chronologically, these shopfronts show how our shopping streets have changed over the centuries.

Raven Row, 56 Artillery Lane, London E1

cc73_02751.tif No.56 Artillery Lane in Spitalfields will be unknown to many seasoned London shoppers. It lies far from the West End, in a warren of small streets and passages that evoke Dickensian London despite the proximity of Liverpool Street Station. Now an art exhibition centre, this building was probably erected in the 1720s for a Huguenot silk merchant. Around 1756…

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Heritage Calling

Street furniture probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of protected heritage. But our high streets and country lanes would be a poorer place without the milestones, lamp posts, horse troughs and bollards that collectively remind us of how very different from today our streets once were.

As our busy roads are adapted to accommodate modern transport schemes, these small elements can easily be swept away. Significant pieces are protected by listing so they remain to tell their stories.

If our listed street furniture could talk, here’s some of what it would tell us:

How it was once healthier to drink beer than water

op05237 Drinking fountain known as St Michael’s Pant, Alnwick, Northumberland

Until the provision of a public supply of drinking water, private companies had a monopoly on a water supply that was often contaminated. Once the connection was made between contaminated water supply and…

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Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

British Archaeology 146.jpgAnd here it is, a farewell to 2015 with a great new magazine. As I wrote earlier, we lead with an exclusive feature about new Stonehenge research. Some of the stones came from Wales. But where? And how did they reach Wiltshire – by glaciers, or human transport? With the discovery of two prehistoric quarries in Pembrokeshire, archaeologists seem to be getting close to answering these age-old questions.British Archaeology 146 Glastonbury.jpgElsewhere we reveal the UK’s oldest iron-smelting site (next to Scunthorpe’s troubled Tata Steel plant), results of a new excavation at the famous Glastonbury Lake Village, and the discovery of strange animal-headed carved figures in Cornwall. Time Crashers’ Cassie Newland describes a life-changing moment in a Melbourne cinema. We report on a bronze age smiths’ house, and attempts to mitigate antiquities looting in Africa. And we celebrate 25 years of a planning policy that transformed British archaeology and our nations’…

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Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Last year Northampton Council sold an Egyptian statue of Sekhemka for a lot of money. The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has deferred a decision on the export licence application for a second time, now giving themselves until March 29 2016. It seems there is a realistic chance that someone will buy it back for Britain. The DCMS has received “notification of a serious intention to raise funds to save the Sekhemka statue for the UK,” and thus “ensure there will be public access to the statue.”

This apparently good news came a few days ahead of the launch of the new British Archaeology, which has two features on the statue (see above, available online on October 7, and in shops on October 9). Stephen Quirke and Alice Stevenson review the sale and future implications, and I ask about the man thought to have brought the statue to…

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Just Listed: 20 Unusual Places given Protected Status this Year.

Heritage Calling

We have given £400,000 towards some ground breaking research into the Staffordshire Hoard. It will lead to an online catalogue detailing every one of the hundreds of objects in the Hoard. The plan is for the catalogue to be ready in 2017 with a major book about the collection published the following year. Working with the owners of the hoard, Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent City Councils, and Birmingham Museums Trust and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery who jointly care for the collection, we have already made some amazing discoveries. But £120,000 still needs to be raised to complete this incredibly important project.

Think you’d like to help? Here are six reasons to donate:

1. It’s the most important Anglo-Saxon find since 1939

The last significant discovery was the Sutton Hoo ship-burial in Suffolk more than 75 years ago.The Staffordshire Hoard was unearthed in July 2009 by a metal detectorist and is a spectacular mix of gold, silver…

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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.

ARTICLE

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.

ARTICLE

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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Heritage Calling

Little did Peter Adams know, when he pulled a metal object from the ground in 2004, that he had made one of the most exciting discoveries in Viking-age archaeology in England for many years. He had been metal-detecting, with permission, on farmland to the west of the quiet village of Cumwhitton in the Eden Valley and, until then, it had been a fruitless search.

The object was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and proved to be a brooch that was identified as a rare Viking oval brooch of ninth – or tenth – century date. These are mostly found in pairs and in a burial context. He therefore returned to the site and did, indeed, find a second brooch.

One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd

The Portable Antiquities Scheme commissioned Oxford Archaeology North to investigate the site as it was under immediate…

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Ed Mooney Photography

Untitled Coolbanagher Castle via Google Street Veiw

Please forgive me for this post as I may rant quite a bit. Words cannot describe how angry this has made me. On 24th Febuary 2014 after suffering damage during a storm 10 days earlier, Coolbanagher Castle  an early Medieval Tower Hall, built in the early 13th century was completely demolished. Many of you will already know how passionate I am about the preservation of these sites, in fact one of the main factors which influenced my photography was to preserve in images as many sites as possible. Unfortunately I never got to shoot the castle whilst it was still standing, so I guess this is the first casualty in my quest. The reason I have not written about this sad turn of events sooner was because I wanted to see the site for myself, and what a sad sight it is. The entire…

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Cover with Spine

The front cover of the new British Archaeology is inevitably a bit sombre, but it’s a reminder of how fortunate we were to have had Mick Aston among us. I run an obituary-listing feature at the end of every year (about 60 individuals in the last one); and very occasionally deaths will be noticed of particularly well known and influential archaeologists during the course of the year. But the only archaeologist who has appeared in their own right on the cover before was Mick himself. I doubt there will be another while I’m still editing.

Greg Bailey has written about Mick and broadcasting, I created a My archaeology column by bringing together fragments from various texts Mick had written for the magazine over the years, and there is Mick’s own final Travels column – on the Isle of Purbeck. And I wrote a short appreciation. “If we care”, he said…

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Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Cover with Spine

The Staffordshire hoard makes a dramatic front cover for the new British Archaeology, which features the first extensive look at the continuing research into the thousands of pieces of jewelled gold and silver found four years ago. They hope to finish cleaning it all by the end of this year, and then move on to stage two: reconstruction and scientific analysis. We are beginning to see just how remarkable this hoard is. ARTICLE

Other stories include Britain’s oldest early medieval helmet, conserved at the British Museum; a mesolithic flint axe from the North Sea; springs around Silbury Hill; neolithic house reconstructions under trial for the new Stonehenge visitor centre; and a military analysis of early medieval earthworks in Cambridgeshire.

I interviewed Jeremy Deller and Museum of London curator Caroline McDonald, for a feature about Deller’s work for the Venice Biennale, just before they left for Italy. (And elsewhere, Deller asked…

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