The new British Archaeology contains the first printed report on our study of the great Easter Island statue in the British Museum. The feature makes a great spread, and the results are really interesting.
I wrote about our work in the BM at the time here and here. Now the analyses are well advanced. In March James Miles gave a presentation about the technology of the survey (using photogrammetry and RTI in news ways) at the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology conference in Perth (see session 30 here). In British Archaeology we focus on the what we can see on the statue. The key points are:
- Contrary to popular belief, the statue was not made for a coastal platform, but always stood in the ground where it was found on top of a 300m cliff
- When it was half-buried by soil and food debris, small designs known as komari, representing female genitalia, were carved on the back
- At a later date the whole of the back was covered with a scene showing a male chick leave the nest, watched by its half-bird, half-human parents – the story at the heart of the island’s unique birdman ceremony, recorded in the 19th and early 20th centuries
- In its present plinth, the statue leans slightly to one side
You can read the case for this, and more, in the magazine. You can find it online and in the Apple store; the printed magazine goes out to members and subscribers today, and will be in the shops on Friday.
And watch the video here.
Reindeer engraved on a bone from the British Museum’s Ice Age art exhibition, and a white horse carved into a Dorset hillside – both feature on the cover of the new British Archaeology. The horse is to flag up the unexpected re-appearance of a lost dummy for an illustrated Puffin book about chalk hill figures, that Eric Ravilious was working on when he died (and now acquired by Wiltshire Museum, where you can see it on display this week). James Russell has written about that, and Jill Cook, who curated the British Museum show, describes an ancient world “teeming with game and symbols”.
Emma Cunliffe writes about the destruction of Syria’s heritage, and Dot Boughton rounds up a very curious group of new-found prehistoric bronze hoards from Wiltshire and Hampshire. Other features include the annual Requiem – obituary notes on many of the British archaeologists and lovers of antiquity who died in the past year – the extraordinary geofizz at Brancaster on Time Team’s last dig, and the centenary of the passing in August 1913 of an act to protect ancient monuments. In News we broke the story that Wiltshire’s museums have called a stop to excavation because they have nowhere to store the stuff archaeologists are digging up. And all the usual regulars, with strong pieces from the CBA about architectural history and the Marconi Factory. It’s a great edition. As always, if you are a member of the Council for British Archaeology you will have received a copy of British Archaeology as part of your members’ package. Or you can obtain the magazine separately in print (by subscription or in selected newsagents including WH Smith) or digital form, including an app for iPhone, iPad or Android.
The common feeling I get talking to people at the centre of it all is that its time had come. I saw John Gater a few days ago, the geofizz man. He joined the first programme to help out a friend, Mick Aston. But, he said, “If I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world”.
And there’s much else in the new edition that’s really interesting, not least the two other features whose opening spreads I also show here. One of my favourite things is just one page, a news story about something wonderful the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford has acquired. If you don’t already subscribe, you can see that page in the free app sample: just search for archaeology in iTunes and scroll down to apps.
When I put that on the cover of British Archaeology above a photo of Mick Aston in February, I left it deliberately ambiguous. Mick was leaving Time Team – but what about Time Team itself?
Now it’s official. Attempts to fiddle about with the 18-year-old format are deemed to have failed, and in the wake of that and confusing scheduling (always a sign that a broadcaster’s heart isn’t in it), Channel 4 has announced that it’s killing off Time Team.
It doesn’t actually use those words, and its press release naturally praises the series and promises more to come. But next year’s series, the 20th, will be the final one with three-day digs. That’s big for archaeology, and big for broadcasting.
Twenty years is a long time for a TV series, especially a factual one. And as well as the standard programmes, there were seemingly endless specials. The series generated a vast number of what we archaeologists call grey evaluation reports. It featured so many practising archaeologists, that the profession has developed what must be a unique accommodation with television. Time Team educated and inspired, and brought many people into archaeology, to study at university and even to work as archaeologists.
It also found new archaeology, and created new stories. As C4’s head of factual Ralph Lee says, “I am incredibly proud that, as well as providing hundreds of hours of education and entertainment on Channel 4, Time Team has invested, over and above production costs, more than £4m in archaeology in Britain over the past 18 years.” Where else in broadcasting can you find that?
There is a part of me that wonders if this might be the right decision for Time Team. The failure of the silly stuff in this year’s series was never going to be rectified by going back to Time Team in the 20th century. Yet it’s that that people love. The TT legacy is going to be strong, and not allowed to dissipate into embarrassing farce. There are books, broadcastable films and DVDs, press and magazine features and the famous excavation reports to fuel debate about archaeology and broadcasting for generations.
Tim Taylor created something very special, and has every right to be proud of it all. Long live Time Team.
Programmes will feature the Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Wiltshire excavated by soldiers in Operation Nightingale; the Roman fort at Brancaster, Norfolk, where geofizz really came up trumps; a Tudor mansion at Henham Park, Suffolk; the remains of Cardinal Wolsey’s home; castles in west Wales, Northern Ireland and Rutland; an iron age hillfort on the edge of Cardiff; a Roman villa on the banks of the Thames; and Elizabethan copper mines in the Lake District.
There will be four Time Team Specials: the sunken wrecks of two of the earliest prototype submarines from before the First World War; Lincoln Castle; reconstructing the bronze age Dover Boat using materials and tools from the time; and an investigation into the tsunami that swept across the North Sea some 8,000 years ago.
C4 says “further one-off specials are planned for at least into 2014 and the series will continue to be repeated across both More4 and Channel 4”.
The release also plays up the channel’s other “new history” programmes. These include The People of Stonehenge (working title) for early 2013, featuring our Aubrey Hole excavation at Stonehenge (and possibly me), and Darlow-Smithson’s film about the Richard III car park dig. You can’t but admire Darlow’s ownership of that, and what will surely be one of the season’s most watched films, in says C4, er, “early 2012”.
He feels, he says, that the Time Team format has “gradually been changed” (note, not just “changed”) into emphasising a documentary style, moving away from “Time Team’s core DNA. This centres on the moment that we see archaeology emerging from the ground for the first time and the team battling against a limited timescale, using their intelligence and skill to work out the right strategy to answer key questions.”
“Over the last decade”, he continues, “the size of the production and the staff needed to support it and the budget has grown to an unsustainable level. On the final show of last year we had over 75 people in the lunch tent! For the first 5-10 years of Time Team it used to be just Mick, Phil, the cameraman, the Director and me in the pub! In my view this size of production made it harder to get in touch with the key archaeological events.”
He wants to “get back to that immediacy of discovery”. He plans “Dig Village” shoots with Mick as a guide, and featuring Stewart Ainsworth, Paul Blinkhorn and others; a pilot will “be seen on the internet in early November”.
He also hopes to return to some old Time Team sites, in “the Time Team ‘Legacy’ Roadshow”.
See my posts about Mick leaving, and the media coverage:
At last, after all these years, we’ve got the very first comprehensive study of the actual stones at Stonehenge. As part of its research into Stonehenge and its landscape that will feed into displays at the new visitor centre, English Heritage commissioned Greenhatch Group surveyors to produce the first complete, high resolution 3D digital model of Stonehenge and its immediate landscape, using lasers and a bit of photogrammetry. Then Marcus Abbott (ArcHeritage) and Hugo Anderson-Whymark (freelance lithics specialist) analysed the data, created new digital images and news ways of seeing them, added some of their own photos and spent time amongst the real stones.
In one sense the results are not surprising: it was obvious to anyone with eyes that that we could learn a lot about Stonehenge with a proper study of the stones. And yes, we have learnt a lot. But just about all the details are revelatory.
There are four different areas where new things are really going to change the way we think about the monument:
- how the stones were dressed and what the original monument looked like
- prehistoric carvings – difficult to see and unknown to visitors: the new discoveries have doubled the number of such carvings known in the whole of Britain
- damage by tourists: the scale of damage done by souvenir collectors in the 18th and 19th centuries had not been recognised before
- graffiti: dates range between 1721 and 1866, though most were carved 1800–1850 – and they’re almost everywhere.
And this must be just the beginning. There are more details yet to see (there is still scope for new and higher resolution survey), and new things to think about in the vast data set.
Marcus and Hugo have written a full report on it all for the new British Archaeology, and the feature comes with further comment from Paul Bryan and Susan Greaney at English Heritage.
Some of the new insights into the original monument are illustrated In this diagram we prepared for the magazine.
If you know Stonehenge, from this alone you can see at once how much new information has been revealed. Amongst other things, it seems fair to draw from this (and other new data) that the sarsen circle probably WAS complete; and that the whole thing was designed to be seen from the north-east, approaching up the Avenue – so the implication follows that the setting midwinter sun you’d be facing to the south-west was the key alignment.
Tom Goskar and colleagues from Wessex Archaeology and Archaeoptics experimented with scanning on three stone faces, and discovered a few new axehead carvings.
Two videos of Sacrilege have gone online today, made by Jared Schiller: Welsh kids having fun and an archaeologist getting half serious. The former at least is well worth watching! They were filmed on the first day of the UK tour, and now 30 venues later they’re on the Mayor of London’s website – with only Stoke-on-Trent and Preston to go. Perhaps they were really made for the next tour.
That’s not a lost novel, or even a short story: it’s true. It’s one of the surprising stories (courtesy of Edward Biddulph) featured in the new British Archaeology. Many regular readers of this blog will be getting their magazine in the post (mine came this morning), but if you’re not one of those you can find it in Smiths on Friday (in the UK), or online now or on iTunes within a day or so. You can figure it all out on the much improved new look (in progress) Council for British Archaeology website. And here are more tasters.
I was at Stonehenge a few weeks ago early in the morning, when it was unusually clear and sunny – so great for looking at the stones. There’s always something new to see. Here are some.
This is sarsen lintel 130, one of those raised and replaced when the stones below were straightened and set in concrete in 1920. That flake scar on the bottom edge near the right end looks recent. Did they knock a bit off?
This is very odd. Does anyone know anything about it? We found two modern screws, just a bit corroded, in two of the sarsens. This is the small upright no. 11. Mike Parker Pearson’s index finger is almost touching the screw (detail inset). How do you get a screw into sarsen? And here are some more souvenirs left behind.
At the end of July I took the photo below at the biannual Boxford Masques near Newbury. I don’t usually do this, but the photo interests me so much I’m going to give a little technical detail.
This year the masque was held at the lovely – and immaculately maintained – Welford Park. (Curiously my young daughter took her first turn on stage – star turn, naturally! – in a play that featured an archaeologist: Harold Peake and his wife Charlotte Peake, who first staged the masques with OGS Crawford in attendance early in the last century, as described in Kitty Hauser’s engaging book.)
It was completely dark, except for a little electric light straying in from the left from the outdoor stage lighting. I noticed the moon glowing through the clouds over a white horse, and took a few photos – the horse and moon, silhouetted trees and land and a little fencing were almost all I could see. I had no support, just my elbows on a picnic table, so I was surprised how well they came out. The camera was a Nikon D700 set at ISO 6400, with a 135mm AF-DC Nikkor lens at f2, with a half second exposure. I miss Kodachrome, but I could never have done that so casually with film.
And here for good measure is Mike’s new book, contentious and very entertaining.
We’re really proud of the new British Archaeology. The cover shows the main feature, an exclusive insight into the archaeological research and excavations at the 2012 Olympic Park site, one of the UK’s largest recent field projects. Until the academic monograph is published later this year, this article is likely to remain the only authoritative guide to what happened when the two biggest archaeological organisations working in London got together to start work in the lower Lea valley in 2003.
Other features include the story of archaeologist Roger Grosjean, fighter pilot, MI5 agent and discus-throwing record holder; the Anglo-Saxon mystery of Prior’s Hall; the Viking buried at Swordle Bay, an exclusive description of last year’s excavation in the far west of Scotland; Matt Grove’s compelling ideas about what drove human evolution (“How climate made us – and competition killed the rest”); and a scheme for ochre plaques – if a fictional rock star can have a commemorative plaque, why not Boxgrove Man and the Amesbury Archer?
If you buy your copy in Smiths, you should get there fast, as it’s being promoted in the shops and copies will move. Alternatively, you can now get the magazine as an App, and it looks great on a tablet, with the added bonuses of digital searching and a back issue archive. Best of all is to have Council for British Archaeology membership, which gives you a printed magazine, digital access and other benefits.
The slow-moving debate about how archaeologists working in Britain should be monitored and controlled when excavating or handling ancient human remains has at last reached its key stage: in May the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) issued a new application form.
British Archaeology covered the issues, and asked that archaeologists, not the ministry, be allowed to choose whether remains are retained for scientific study. We have been given this choice, which of course I applaud. We have also been given a long form to complete, and how it works out in practice will emerge over the coming several months. Some of the form’s wording might suggest the battle is not yet over.
Consideration of applications “to excavate human remains for archaeological purposes”, says the form, will “balance”, amongst other things, “the case for the removal, examination and retention of the remains in the interests of archaeological research against any countervailing factors, such as any public known concerns about the proposals or any risk to public confidence in the decent and respectful treatment of human remains”. Clearly the critical point will be how that is interpreted. One thing is clear: the time spent on paperwork will go up.
My main posts on this subject, which contain many links, are here (in chronological order):
(“Here are two photos of Pagans thinking about prehistoric human remains, under rather different circumstances,…”
(“We launched our campaign this week to persuade the Ministry of Justice to take a sensible approach to administering the law…”)
(“Debate about this issue has increased since my last post…”)
(“Discussion continues. Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly MP wrote to the Guardian to say our concerns are “wide of the mark”…”)
(“It was good yesterday to see Arthur Pendragon’s request for a judicial review about the Stonehenge burials thrown out…”)
The student-run, peer-reviewed Papers from the Institute of Archaeology (PIA) recently published a useful article on this subject by Mike Parker Pearson, Tim Schadla-Hall & Gabe Moshenska, “Resolving the Human Remains Crisis in British Archaeology”. The whole text is online, along with comments from various people including me.
And here is the form:
It’ll be in the shops on Friday, but for those of you who haven’t yet become a member of the Council for British Archaeology or just subscribed, here’s a preview of some of my favourite bits.
- I had an overwhelming response from readers to last issue’s front cover exclusive – Mick Aston’s resignation from Time Team – and I’ve printed a selection of these with thoughts from Time Team’s founder and executive producer, Tim Taylor
- Archaeologists have excavated a complete Pictish cemetery near Perth. The early medieval graves were found during routine evaluation of a field destined for agricultural development
- Two metal detectorists searching 230 miles apart from each other have found two similar but rare objects. Made over 2,500 years ago, they are thought to be leather-working tools of a type still in use today
- St Paul’s’ cathedral archaeologist John Schofield has written about the great medieval cathedral that was destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666
- Gabriel Moshenska (with the old sign) writes about the Institute of Archaeology’s history on its 75th birthday. It opened in a luxury London villa, under the direction of a playboy and soon-to-be TV star; its next full-time director was a Marxist who had previously worked with an illegal revolutionary socialist group in Australia. Two of the world’s greatest archaeologists – one of the things I like about this field is its variety!
- Will Bowden thinks we are wrong to write off the Iceni after Boudica’s failed revolt, and he has a very strange building to prove it
- Rose Ferraby and Martin Millett report on their geofizz survey of the Roman town at Aldborough
- Ruth Young and Pakistani colleagues write about a fascinating archaeological survey in Chitral – though being surrounded by Al-Qaeda training camps, with a daily threat of kidnapping and fieldworkers protected by armed guards, did not make work easy
- We’ve got the first of a new column from Jon Wright, on threatened listed buildings – this one about Deptford Dockyard
- And you can read what Jeremy Deller told me about art and history
And don’t forget you can now look at it online.
It started on Wednesday as the departure of Mick Aston from Time Team, as the Daily Mail ran with British Archaeology’s news. Yesterday the focus shifted to Mary-Ann Ochota, with misleading innuendos about the timing and nature of her departure from the same series. Today it’s moved down the paper chain, and has become a fantasy story that has no space for the subtleties of fudge. It’s what gives the press a bad name whenever anyone you know is involved in a story. It’s not the sort of thing that should concern the Leveson inquiry (that’s about criminal activity that can be stopped with proper policing). But it is something that an understanding of how the press works can help us all protect ourselves from – so we learn what to expect, and not to take everything we read at face value.
The Express goes with an irrelevant photo:
The Mirror uses one from Mary-Ann herseslf:
And the BJP highlights a row about how some of the papers are nicking each others’ photos:
The Western Daily Press maintain a reasonably respectable stance:
But reminds us that what we tweet or put on Facebook becomes public property:
I have to end this by noting that British Archaeology is now in the shops!
There’s a lot of interest in Mick Aston’s resignation, and quite rightly too. I didn’t put his face on the cover of the new magazine for nothing!
There’s also been some misinformation, and not everyone understands how the media work. So I thought I’d round up the key pieces on the web and add a few comments for people who like to know.
This is how the story was broken by the Daily Mail. I alerted the paper to Mick’s departure from Time Team, and when Tamara Cohen asked if she could see the interview in British Archaeology, I gave it to her; I also gave her the News page I had written for the magazine, which puts events into context. I had alerted many other journalists and media outlets at the same time, but yesterday Tamara was one of only three people who asked for more. You can see from the number of comments on the Mail site that her instinct to follow up was right.
Now, I was delighted that she did so. The Mail online is the most read newspaper site anywhere in the world in the English language. The rest of us just do not have its reach. Tamara acknowledged British Archaeology magazine as the story’s source, something that any professionally minded journalist would do. But I or the magazine (or the Council for British Archaeology) have no control over what Tamara chooses to write. As a professionally minded editor and writer (and archaeologist), I recognise that that is exactly how it should be.
This Daily Telegraph piece was taken directly from the Mail (note there is no credited writer). Incredibly, when I read this last night, it was listed as no.4 in the site’s top news stories.
And this was taken from the Telegraph (this is how the media eat each other):
And Yahoo! TV made it its top story of the day:
If you have read the pieces in British Archaeology, you will know that there are no comments there on Mary-Ann Ochota. She was not part of the story I was writing about, except insofar as she was one of two people brought in to “refresh” the team. There were many other people involved I did not write about, too. It should be of no surprise to anyone who knows the Mail, however, that in there she is a big part of the story. She was brought in to do a job, which she did to the best of her ability. It’s the sort of job that can bring with it unpleasantries of the type going around now, which is one reason why some people choose not to work onscreen in TV. The Mail spun the story, but it is members of the public who posted rude and stupid remarks.
Neither on or off the record, in all the conversations I’ve had with Mick over the past couple of months (or with anyone else, for that matter), has he ever spoken of Mary-Ann in a disparaging way. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And she has not “just” resigned from Time Team in some kind of huff, as is being reported today (below). She worked through the filming of the series currently being broadcast, and after that, last year, it was agreed that she would not return for the series now being filmed.
Note in passing, that headline in the Mail. It seems to say that Mary-Ann left Time Team the day after Mick resigned, which would be today. What those dots actually say, when you read the article, is that the writer found out that Mary-Ann had left Time Team the day after he found out that Mick had: the two events were not connected in the way implied, and both happened last year! Tabloid headline writers are not stupid – and we need to be very alert when we read the press.
There are many sensible and supportive comments about Time Team and Mick on the Mail site, and on the Time Team Facebook page (we can all ignore the dross, we’re grownups). And here are some other useful pages. Mick talking to the Western Daily Press:
And a statement from Tim Taylor, Time Team’s creator:
Tim and I are hoping that he will write more about the future of Time Team in the next edition of British Archaeology. If it hadn’t realised before, Channel 4 must now know that a lot of people out there do care very deeply about their Time Team.
Mick’s leaving Time Team. Council for British Archaeology members and British Archaeology subscribers will be able to read why in Mick’s own words in the magazine that will soon be arriving, and it will be in the shops and available online on Friday. Whatever you think of Time Team, and whatever the rights and wrongs of why Mick decided to leave, they have both been major presences in British archaeology and had profound impacts. This is a significant moment.
The Daily Mail has picked up from my interview, and already there are many sensible comments (all right, and some stupid ones too).
The Guardian has published a really interesting survey by Kira Cochrane and others about the gender imbalance in the media. Over four weeks in the summer, they counted the number of male and female writers from their byline names, and sure enough there is a strong over-representation of men. I looked at this last year, moved by a column by Bidisha that I still think wrongly blamed editors for this pattern, and presented various figures for British Archaeology (and British archaeology). Adding my statistic for named feature writers to the Guardian figures, it looks like this:
Putting the entire blame on the media industry is wrong, but have to say I had some sympathy with Bidisha when I saw this in last weekend’s Sunday Times.
It’s the headline from page 9 of a 20-page supplement (including ads), called 100 TOP GADGETS. It doesn’t say 100 TOP GADGETS FOR MEN, and one imagines plenty of women would be interested in things like sat navs, radios, computer games, tablets, phones and cameras (etc). Yet there is no “Gadgets for boys” page. The few items on page 9 include a calculator wrapped in chocolate, a woolly hat with speakers and a video memo device doubling as a fridge magnet. The Contents list calls page 9 “The best gadgets for the fairer sex”. What is the editor thinking? Don’t boys like chocolate?
I’m very excited to be able to say that there is now a digital version of British Archaeology, launched on October 21 by its publishers, the charity the Council for British Archaeology. It’s actually the world’s first English language general archaeology magazine to be available for digital subscription. So how does it work, and what does it offer? What does it mean if you already buy the printed magazine?
First, nothing changes as far as the magazine itself is concerned. It comes out every other month, 68 pages of columns, news, features, reviews and so on. You can continue to buy it in shops (if you can’t find it, just ask in your local WH Smith and they will get it for you) or have it delivered to your door as a subscriber (£21 for new subscribers). Council for British Archaeology members will continue to get the magazine as part of their membership benefits (£29 standard for new members). Prices have not changed.
Now on top of that, there is a digital subscription option, at £15.95 a year (or smaller amounts for part years). This gives you a magazine you can read on your computer, smart phone or tablet including iPad and Android.
The advantages are what you would expect of something digital:
- There is an efficient word search facility, which really changes the way you can use the magazine
- Cross references are live, meaning that if you click on a page reference (within the text or in the contents list) you will get straight to that page
- Web addresses are live, and clicking will take you straight to the relevant website (that is attractive to advertisers as well as general readers, which is good for the publisher and thus good for the charity)
- Email addresses and phone numbers are also live, so for example if you are reading on an iPhone you can click an address or a number and start a conversation
- Book ISBNs are live: clicking will take you to the Amazon website; in the book review pages, you can also click through to the Oxbow site
- Postcodes are live, and will click through to Google maps
- You can enlarge images or text to suit yourself
- If you are away from home, you can get the new issue as soon as it is launched, anywhere in the world
A further big plus is that when you subscribe, you have access to the full back catalogue as well as the newest issue. The Council for British Archaeology has put up the past year’s issues to launch this, and as the months go by this archive will grow. The magazines are all connected, so for example, if you search for “iron age”, you immediately get a list of all the occurrences of that phrase in the archive (the facility shows you the context, too, not just the phrase).
For anyone used to working and reading digitally, these are familiar features and will be welcomed. You can try all this out with a free sample issue.
There remain advantages to having the printed magazine:
- Digital subscription is a live facility: not only do you need an electronic device to read your magazine, but you need access to an internet connection (you won’t be able to read much on the London underground)
- While your online subscription is up to date, you have access to the full back catalogue. But if your subscription lapses, you will lose all access. You can download PDFs to keep, but only one page at a time and the downloads are slow; this is good for keeping the odd column or feature, but will drive you mad if you try to archive an entire issue
- It’s a personal thing, but many of us will never wish to forsake the feel of a printed magazine in the hand or the accumulating copies on the shelf
Some people will prefer digital, some print. Digital should be particularly attractive to international subscribers, as it avoids the high charge for mailing out of the UK.
The best option of course would be to have both. And that is what Council for British Archaeology members will get. As soon as the set up work has been done (working through the large database), all members will receive the digital subscription as part of their existing membership package. This is really good value, in effect combining printed and digital subscriptions (at standard rates, together costing £42.95) and other membership benefits, as well as knowing you are supporting your charity, for the standard membership fee of £34.
I’m working on the next issue now, and it really has some good stuff in it. Out on December 9!
Finally, here is the brilliant Ben Gilliland’s take on our current cover feature, which appeared in the Metro papers on October 17. There’s always a place for print as well as digital.
The new British Archaeology features Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, a wonderful manga-style story that the BM is publishing in October. It’s written and drawn by Hoshino Yukinobu, and was originally serialised in comic form in Japan last year by Shogakukan Inc. Now it has been translated into English and brought together into a single book, and exclusive extracts in the magazine include drawings of Stonehenge, Woodhenge and some Japanese megaliths – revealing which of the two most publicised Stonehenge theories is adopted by the fictional archaeologist-cum-ethnographer (look for the magazine!).
The adventure combines artwork and narrative that remind me of my old favourites Look & Learn, Eagle and Tintin (though without the latter’s humour), with a glorioulsy high-minded approach to culture and history. We are frequently reminded that Munakata’s roots are Asian. On being told his planned trip to Wiltshire has been postponed because of police roadblocks, he comments, “They warned me to expect anything in England”. He discovers tagged tea bags, and English apples (“delicious”). But Munakata takes a strong view against repatriation. He praises the BM’s history of collecting, and fostering public access. “I am one of many Japanese scholars”, he says, “who have benefited from that generosity”. Museums are spaces where, “symbolically, fundamental truths can be displayed for all people in the world”. Wonderful! I had a little piece about this in yesterday’s Guardian.
The rest of the magazine is about real archaeology – iron age metalled roads, a newly identified dark age power base in Scotland, Jim Leary and Dave Field on the association between neolithic monuments and water, a new gold lunula find from Scotland (the first in over a century), and so on. There are some very interesting readers’ letters, Mick Aston writes about his old friend the late Philip Rahtz, and I interviewed the archaeologist and Times correspondent Norman Hammond.
Philip Beale, the Thor Heyerdahl-like visionary with the understated sense of a British classics teacher, spoke to Sonia Deol on Radio 4′s Excess Baggage on Saturday, remembering his “Phoenician” circumnavigation of Africa that came to a successful end last year. As he says, they have just sailed the Phoenicia to Cyprus out of fear for her safety in Syria, where she was docked. Worth a listen, and it will be great to see the ship come up the Thames next summer.
I talked to Philip for British Archaeology in 2004, after his earlier voyage across the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope. I’ve pasted the page in below. “I’d like to ﬁnd a business that could pay some of the bills”, he said, “and then do some travel and adventure as well”. He seems to be getting there.
It seemed like winter when I started on the new British Archaeology, and now it’s out it feels like summer! Did it really take that long?
A recurrent theme in this issue is how archaeology today wants everyone to be part of the quest, which we have reflected on the cover – my guess is there are now more amateur (more…)
John Tyrrell has posted a comment mentioning John Preston’s novel about Sutton Hoo. Preston talked about “the dig” for British Archaeology in 2007, and as the page is not on the magazine website, here it is.
I will write a note soon about the new British Archaeology which is out later this week. In the meantime, those of you who received their Current Archaeology this morning and wondered about the “Royal Wedding Special” cover and its succumbing to a “wedding fever sweeping the nation”, might like to know that British Archaeology features what’s happening to Egypt’s ancient past during the revolution, and a beckoning people’s archaeology in Britain.
British Archaeology’s cover feature is sampled in today’s Metro, bringing a bit of history to the start of 3.5m British commuters’ days (thanks, Ben Gilliland and COSM). My “10 big questions archaeology must answer”, in full in the magazine, range from “What species were Britain’s first humans?” to “Who are the British?” (I’ll fess up, that’s what the last question in some printed versions should be.) They are all big questions, and my point is that they can only be answered by archaeological research.
Archaeology, and the people who do it, are taking a real bashing now. It’s important that we remind ourselves that archaeology is not just a geeky hobby or a form of soft edutainment. Look at the British Museum’s new Afghanistan exhibition. Look at Egypt. (Has no one in the British media noticed that Zahi Hawass apparently resigned yesterday, having been promoted to head a new Antiquities Ministry as he praised Mubarak, and become increasingly embroiled in a fog of accusations and contradictory announcements about looting and damage to antiquities?) Look at the popularity of the BBC’s TV series, A History of Ancient Britain (the quick informed comment on that, is that it could almost have been made 20 years ago – some major recent breakthroughs passed it by – but it wasn’t, and it was worth doing now). To misquote VS Naipaul, to be aware of history is to cease to live instinctively. To know our origins is to be truly human.
Discussion continues. Justice minister Jonathan Djanogly MP wrote to the Guardian to say our concerns are “wide of the mark”: “In any case where retention [of human remains excavated for archaeological purposes] is justified, especially those involving important discoveries, human remains would never have to be reburied.”
It is very good to see the ministry “has come to the conclusion that the existing legislation can be applied more flexibly”, and we welcome discussion. But what is this about (more…)
Debate about this issue has increased since my last post, and there is now a page of information and downloads on the Association for the Study of Death and Society website. As I have explained, archaeologists are asking the Ministry of Justice to cease attaching a condition to licences granted for the archaeological excavation of human remains, that stipulates that these remains should be reburied after study. The image above is the letter we sent to Ken Clarke, as it appears in the new British Archaeology magazine (within a larger feature), in the shops on Friday.
Other things worth looking at include: (more…)
We launched our campaign this week to persuade the Ministry of Justice to take a sensible approach to administering the law regarding the archaeological excavation of human remains in England and Wales. Essentially this means dropping the need to rebury all such remains (within a standard two years, or after a limited extension on this period if granted on request) – a requirement introduced in 2008 – and also the need to screen from view excavations where human remains are present.
The most important part of this initiative was writing on Wednesday (February 2) to the Right Honourable Kenneth Clarke QC MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for (more…)
Heart-warming and intriguing news coming out of Egypt, but I sympathise with a fellow editor who must be thinking, why now? I’m sure it seemed a good idea at the time, but when around 414,850 members of the CSMA Club received their magazine over the past few days, editor Jeremy Whittle can only have wished it didn’t have “the wonders of the world’s oldest destinations” on the cover – Egypt.
As tourists try to flee the country, one of many interesting things is the way Egypt’s heritage seems to be faring. There is damage reported in the Cairo museum holding Tutankhamun’s treasures, but it, the New Library of Alexandria, Luxor Museum and other locations seem to have been protected by a spontaneous alliance of citizens, police and military. There are many instances of this kind where in the most fraught situations, people have shown how much they really value their heritage – so at odds with a cultural attitude in Britain that too often puts heritage in a side-room with cheap souvenirs, unskilled labour, light entertainment and soft politics.
I don’t have any special inside information on events in Egypt, but there are several things on the web worth following, including Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log, Margaret Maitland’s Eloquent Peasant and Egyptology News.
I happen to be writing about unusual archaeological places to visit for a travel magazine this week. No pyramids there anyway, at least not in Egypt.
British Archaeology has just gone to press, so there are a few days for something to go disastrously wrong with our cover. But fingers crossed we shouldn’t be affected by protests and revolutions – and the cover’s one of our best. Not to mention the contents…