Hadrian’s Wall. A study in archaeological exploration and interpretation

David J. Breeze shares some thoughts on his recent delivery of the 2019 Rhind Lectures and their simultaneous publication.

There are no doubt many reasons why people write books. For me, it is the end point of a piece of research. Some may be content to undertake research and file the results in a drawer; that is not for me. But publishing the Rhind lectures was different. I had been asked two years ago to deliver the six lectures to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, to be given over the weekend of 10-12 May 2019. As I started to prepare the lectures, I realised that the decennial Pilgrimage of Hadrian’s Wall would be just 2 months after the Rhinds and there would be much to be said for having them published in time for that event. Archaeopress agreed that the lectures could be published in time for the Pilgrimage, indeed in time for the lectures themselves. As a result, I switched my mind to writing the book first and subsequently tweaking the text to fit more the style of lectures, though maintaining as much conformity as possible, as David Davison requested. The book was duly completed, submitted and published the weekend of the lectures. There was no problem in tweaking the lectures, but what I had not bargained for was the fact that the pursuit of knowledge continues, be it in one’s own head or through further reading. In the weeks between the submission of the text to Archaeopress and the lectures I came across Kyle Harper’s work on a plague in the 250s and 260s which affected the inhabitants of the Roman empire. Could this be the reason for the abandonment of civil settlements outside many forts on the northern fringes of the empire? Too late to include this thought in the book, but it was embraced by the lectures, and is now an interesting line of research to pursue.

Dr David Caldwell, President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, introduces the 2019 Rhind lectures. Photo © Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Professor David J. Breeze delivers the 2019 Rhind Lectures. Photo © Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Header photo: Hadrian’s Wall at Castle Nick. Photo © Peter Savin.

9781789691672Excerpt: Hadrian’s Wall: A study in archaeological exploration and interpretation by David J. Breeze. Archaeopress, 2019. Paperback, ISBN 9781789691672, £19.99; PDF eBook, ISBN 9781789691689, from £16 +VAT (if applicable).


This book stems from the invitation of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to deliver the Rhind lectures in 2019, sponsored by AOC Archaeology Group. The lectures were endowed by Alexander Henry Rhind, the first being held in 1874, and with rare exceptions they have been held every year since. His legacy stipulates that six lectures have to be delivered. Until 1986 these were held over the course of one week from Wednesday to Wednesday, but in 1987 the pattern was changed and the lectures are now held over a weekend from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. The first lecture of the series sets the scene and, as it is followed by a reception, is something of an occasion. The last lecture tends to be shorter than normal as it may be followed by questions. The subject of the lectures should relate to ‘some branch of archaeology, ethnology, ethnography, or allied topic, in order to assist in the general advancement of knowledge’. I was asked to speak on an aspect of my research on Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman Limes and army, and ‘its wider international, practical and theoretical implications’.

The first two lectures – chapters in this book – provide the historiographical background to our present understanding of Hadrian’s Wall. They start with John Collingwood Bruce, the leading authority on the Wall, from 1848 until his death in 1892, who gave the Rhind lectures in 1883 and whose influence continues to this day. Research on the Wall in the field and in the study from 1892 to the present day are covered in the second lecture. The third and fourth lectures consider the purpose(s) and operation of Hadrian’s Wall from the first plan drawn up soon after Hadrian became emperor in 117 through to the final days of its existence as a frontier shortly after 400. Five distinct ‘plans’ for the Wall are promulgated. The fifth lecture examines the impact of the frontier on the people living in its shadow and beyond. The last lecture reviews the processes which have brought us to an understanding of Hadrian’s Wall and considers the value of research strategies, with some suggestions for the way forward. The chapters in this book reflect closely the lectures themselves with the main change being the addition of references. I am grateful to the Society for its agreement to publish this book to coincide with the lectures and for its support in its preparation.

In order to try to retain a relationship with the lectures I have restricted the number of references in the text. Quotations are always referenced. Detailed references to structures on the Wall may be found in the Handbook to the Roman Wall (Breeze 2006) while work during the last decade is reported in the handbook prepared for the 2019 Pilgrimage of Hadrian’s Wall (Collins and Symonds 2019).

Hadrian’s Wall has acquired its own terminology. At every mile there was a small enclosure called a milecastle (MC), similar to a fortlet (a small fort), which contained a small barrack-block and protected a gate through the Wall. In between each pair of milecastles there were two towers known as turrets (T) after the Latin for a tower, turris. On the Cumbrian coast, the equivalent terminology is milefortlet (MF) and tower (T). These structures on the Wall are numbered westwards from Wallsend and on the Cumbria coast westwards from Bowness-on-Solway. Behind the Wall is an earthwork known as the Vallum. It consists of a central ditch with a mound set back equidistant on each side. As the essential feature is the ditch, it should be termed the Fossa, but it was named the Vallum over a thousand years ago and it is too late to change the name. One issue is to differentiate easily between the Wall, meaning the whole of the frontier complex, and the linear barrier, here called the curtain wall.

Also by or featuring David J. Breeze:

Maryport: A Roman For and Its Community by David J. Breeze. Archaeopress, 2018. Paperback, ISBN 9781784918019, £14.99; PDF eBook, ISBN 9781784918026, from £10 +VAT (if applicable).

Bearsden: The Story of a Roman Fort by David J. Breeze. Archaeopress, 2018. Paperback, ISBN 9781784914905, £20.00; PDF eBook, ISBN 9781784914912, from £16.00 +VAT (if applicable).

Roman Frontier Studies 2009 Proceedings of the XXI International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies (Limes Congress) held at Newcastle upon Tyne in August 2009 edited by Nick Hodgson, Paul Bidwell and Judith Schachtmann. Archaeopress Roman Archaeology Series #25, 2017. Paperback, ISBN 9781784915902, £90.00; PDF eBook, ISBN 9781784915919, from £16.00 +VAT (if applicable).

Latrinae: Roman Toilets in the Northwestern Provinces of the Roman Empire edited by Stefanie Hoss. Archaeopress Roman Archaeology Series #31, 2017. Paperback, ISBN 9781784917258, £35.00; PDF eBook, ISBN 9781784917265, from £16.00 +VAT (if applicable).

The Turkish Long-Necked Lute or Bağlama

Hans de Zeeuw introduces the tanbûr long-necked lute

In contemporary Turkey, the saz or bağlama, being a member of a large family of long-necked lutes called tanbûrs, is the core instrument of all folk musical ensembles and orchestras and a popular instrument in the arabesk, entertainment, and pop music in Turkey. The bağlama also plays an important role during the ceremonies of the heterodox sects of the Alevî and Bektaşî and among the âşıks, the Anatolian wandering poet-musicians, to accompany their partly religious repertory. The bağlama plays furthermore an important role in musical education to teach folk-music theory, notation, performance, and teaching of acoustics and instrument construction. Its importance is also testified by the fact that musicians, such as Arif Sağ, Musa Eroğlu, and Erdal Erzincan, play the bağlama as solo instrument on national and international concert stages.

The long-necked tanbûr, which appeared in literary and iconographic sources during the Sâsânian era (c. AD 224-651), diffused into the various musical traditions along the Silk Road, resulting in a variety of closely or distantly related tanbûrs with two or more, occasionally doubled or tripled courses, a varying number and variously tuned frets, each having its own characteristic sound, playing technique, and repertory. Similar or identical instruments are also known by other names, such as saz or bağlama, dotâr or dutâr, setâr, dömbra, and damburâ (FIGURE 1).

Plate Plate
Figure 1. Sâsânian silver plate showing a poet-musician playing a tanbûr, 5th–7th centuries AD (bottom left). Freer Gallery of Art, Washington.

The tanbûr arrived with the Seljuks in Anatolia in the eleventh century or even may be before. Possible intermediaries in the development of the Turkish saz instruments are the by Abd al-Qâdir Ibnu Ghaibî al-Marâghî in his book Maqâsid al-Alhân (The meaning of melodies, early fifteenth century) discussed tanbûr-i şirvânîyân (the tanbûr of Shirwân, located in the north of Azerbaijan) and the tanbûre-i türkî (the tanbûr of the Turks). The tanbûre-i türkî had, compared to the tanbûr-i şirvânîyân, a smaller pear-shaped body, a longer neck and two or three strings (FIGURE 2). Saz is a Persian word meaning musical instrument. It appeared for the first time in a work by Nezami van Gandja (1141-1209), one of the greatest poets in Persian poetry. In Anatolia we come across the word saz in the fifteenth century as a name for the tanbur of the travelling poet singers, the âşık, who were also called saz şaileri, poets with the saz.

Fliesen aus dem Kiosk des  Arslan II
Figure 2. Poet-musician playing a tanbûr in the usual cross-seated playing position of Central Asia with the neck pointed downwards, like the tanbûr players on the Sâsânian silver plates, on an excavated ceramic tile from the summer palace of Sultan Alâ al-Dîn Kayqubâd I, Anatolia, early 13th century. Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

The origin of the name bağlama is still unknown. It could have been derived from the verb bağlamak (Turkish for to bind), the tying of frets around the neck or strings to the tuning pegs. The description of a saz with the name bağlama appeared in the second half of the 18th century in several European writings. Histoire générale, critique et philologique de la musique (1767) by Charles-Henri de Blainville (1711-1769), Reisebeschreibung nach Arabien und andern umliegenden Ländern (1774, 1778) by Carsten Niebuhr (1732-1815), and Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne (1780) by Jean Benjamin de Laborde (1734-1794), who was sentenced to the guillotine during the French Revolution. De Blainville and Niebuhr were probably the sources of de Laborde. The bağlama was a small sized lute compared to the other lutes on the engravings of de Blainville, Niebuhr, and de Laborde (FIGURE 3).

Figure 3. Bağlama (3), bozuk (2), and iki telli (1) on an engraving from the Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne of Benjamin de Laborde.

A few decades later we find the name bağlama as tanbour baghlama in another European writing Description historique, technique et littéraire des instruments de musique des orientaux of 1823 by Guillaume André Villoteau. Villoteau, who stayed in Cairo from 1799 until 1803 as a member of Napoleons Egypt-expedition, discussed several tanbûrs, which were mainly played by Turks, Jews, Greeks, and Armenians. In Lane’s time (1830s), tanbûrs were still ignored by native musicians in Egypt and only played by Greeks and other foreigners (FIGURE 4).

Figure 4. The Ottoman tanbûr (tanbour kabyr tourky) in the centre is flanked on the left by the tanbour charqy and the small tanbour boulghâry and on the right by the tanbour bouzourk and the small tanbour baghlama. Furthermore, in the foreground, a violin and a ‘ûd, engraving from the Description historique technique et littéraire des instruments de musique des orientaux (1823) of Guillaume André Villoteau.

We know from the Seyâhatnâme of Evliyâ Çelebi that sazs, which travelled with the Ottomans to the Middle East and the Balkans, were present at the Ottoman court and in the Turkish cities. Literary and iconographic sources as well as surviving instruments to reconstruct the history of the saz in the rural areas of Anatolia before the 20th century are scarce or absent. The separation between urban and rural culture was mirrored by the sophisticated courtly and urban sazs and the simple rural sazs, a situation that only increasingly changed after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

The proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 in Ankara had a major impact on the musical traditions and musical instruments of which the modernized and standardized saz became the most important instrument. In the 1930s musicologists started to construct a theory of folk music parallel to that of the Ottoman makam tradition. A body of modal structures, instrument tunings, plectrum movements, and rhythms were established through collection and notation inseparably linked to the saz. Moreover, the number of tied-on movable frets was, in imitation of the Ottoman tanbûr, increasingly expanded to create a larger tonal range. An earlier example of this practice can be found on a drawing of a saz from the Tefhîmü’l Makamat fi Tevlîd-in Neğamât (The concept of the makams in the making of melodies,  mid-18th century) of Kemânî Hızır Ağa.

Around 1940, the number of frets further increased, a development in which Mahmut Ragıp Gazimihâl (1900-1961) and Muzaffer Sarısözen (1899-1963) played an important role. This development took place around Radio Ankara and aimed to reform the music and musical instruments of the many regions, each with their own characteristics, into a coherent whole. For that purpose, choirs and orchestras were established, which performed uniform folk music on standardized sazs like those of Radio Ankara and Radio Istanbul.

Since the 1950s it became increasingly customary, starting in radio circles, to use the name bağlama instead of saz as a generic name for saz instruments. From literature we learn, however, that the traditional bağlama of Anatolia was a small saz. It is therefore obvious that not the small bağlama, but a larger saz was used to expand the number of frets. In contemporary Turkey, bağlama and saz are still used alternately.

Figure 5. Fret tuning (perde taksimati) of the long-necked bağlama (uzun saplı bağlama) and short-necked bağlama (kısa saplı bağlama) according to Cafer Açin.

Due to the modern entertainment industry and the changing taste of the audience after 1960, better trained musicians developed virtuoso playing techniques and set higher demands on technical and artistic issues such as the timbre and sound volume of their instrument, the method of stringing, and the number of frets and their arrangement on the neck. Around 1970 there was still a great variety in the number of frets and their tuning. Nail Tan concluded in Bağlama yapımı (Bağlama construction) that generally seventeen frets were used for the octave, but that the number of frets, among which non-diatonic ones, and their position on the neck was not yet standardized. Since second half of the 1980s, there seems to be some agreement. Sabri Yener in Bağlama öğretim metodu (Bağlama teaching method) and Irfan Kurt in Bağlamada düzen ve pozisyon (Bağlama tuning and vertical technique) both established seventeen frets in the octave, including five non-diatonic frets. Cafer Açin (1939-2012) established in Bağlama. Yapım sanatı ve sanatçıları also seventeen frets in the octave for the long-neck bağlama as well as short-neck bağlama (FIGURE 5).

The development of virtuoso playing techniques consisted of an increasing combination of vertical and horizontal playing techniques on the bağlama. In order to make an effective use of its vertical possibilities, the neck had to be shortened. By constructing a more pear-shaped bowl it was possible to lengthen the neck inwardly. In this way, the neck could be kept relatively short keeping the necessary space for the frets (FIGURE 6).

Figure 6. On the left, Muzaffer Sarısözen playing a ten-stringed of which the number of frets are expanded on the soundboard. On the right, the expansion of the number of frets on the neck by modifying the bowl of the saz.

Modern entertainment required, furthermore, the amplification of the sound. The bowl was therefore changed from a small U-shape to a larger and deeper U-shape with a soundhole (kafes) under the tailpiece (tel bağlama takozu) or, sometimes, in the soundboard. The soundboard changed from slightly arched and composite to a flat one made of a singular sheet of wood. For constructional reasons, the characteristic straight pegbox of the saz was replaced by a slightly angled attached pegbox. Moreover, on the first, third, and sometimes second course one of the strings was replaced by a so-called ‘bam teli’ or ‘octave’ string (brass-wrapped string), which was introduced towards the end of the 1950s by Neşet Ertaş (1938-2012) who was probably the last of the great bozlak (songs of agony) poet-musicians. These changes increased the soundvolume and changed the timbre. Moreover, the bağlama was amplified with electronic devices to facilitate playing in clubs or concert halls (FIGURE 7).

Figure 7. On the left, traditional saz. In the middle, morphological modifications of the soundbox, soundboard, and pegbox of the saz. On the right, contemporary long-necked bağlama.

The ongoing development of virtuoso playing techniques, combining the traditional horizontal playing techniques with vertical playing techniques, fuelled the development of the short-necked bağlama, being actually a long-necked bağlama with a shortened neck, an instrument suiting the combining of vertical and horizontal playing techniques. To distinguish the long-necked bağlama from the short-necked bağlama, the long-necked bağlama was called unzun saplı bağlama, the short-necked bağlama kısa saplı bağlama. The first experimental versions of the short-necked bağlama emerged after 1960. Musicians were, before Arif Sağ asked the luthier Kemal Eroğlu to develop a short-necked bağlama, not very interested in the short-necked bağlama. According to Kemal Eroğlu, the short-necked bağlama was derived from the long-necked saz/bağlama. According to Arif Sağ, however, the short-necked bağlama was not a new development but an older type saz type with a short neck. Some agree that there are certain similarities with the saz of the Alevî dedes.

The short-necked bağlama became after 1980, mainly under the impulses of Arif Sağ, a very popular instrument, particular in combination with the şelpe and parmak vurma technique (see accompanying video of Erdal Erzincan). An example is his virtuoso Teke Zotlaması, which was also played by Talip Özkan (1939-2010) on the long-necked bağlama as well as cura bağlama. Talip Özkan started in the 1960s to combine the traditional horizontal playing technique with vertical playing techniques on the long-necked bağlama tuned to the bozuk düzeni tuning, a tuning facilitating both techniques (FIGURE 8).

Figure 8. On the left, Arif Şağ playing şelpe on the kısa saplı bağlama during a concert in the Tropeninstituut in Amsterdam. Foundation Kulsan, Amsterdam. On the right, Talip Özkan playing a long-necked bağlama combining horizontal and vertical playing techniques.

Many folk musical genres can be played on the long-necked bağlama because it can be tuned in various ways. The short-necked bağlama has, on the other hand, a higher sound volume and can, because of its shorter neck and closely spaced frets, be played ‘easier’ and faster making use of all the three courses. Despite its popularity the short-necked bağlama did, however, not displace the long-necked bağlama.

Modernization and standardization resulted, furthermore, in the 1980s in the in the bağlama family (bağlama ailesi). Within the bağlama family different size categories can be distinguished, although no single classification is in general accepted and there are, moreover, also intermediate forms. A possible classification of the bağlama family, from small to large, is the cura, the short-necked bağlama (kısa saplı bağlama) and the long-necked bağlama (uzun saplı bağlama), the tanbura, the divan sazı, and the meydan sazı. The establishment of a nomenclature of the saz/bağlama family still has to be undertaken (FIGURE 9).

Figure 9. The bağlama family consisting of the cura, the short-necked bağlama (kısa saplı bağlama) and the long-necked bağlama (uzun saplı bağlama), the tanbura, the divan sazı, and the meydan sazı.

The systematic use of all three string courses and making a more effective use of the bağlama düzeni not only resulted in the short-necked bağlama but also initiated the development of instruments such as the dört telli bağlama (four course bağlama) and Oğur sazı, developed by the luthier Kemal Eroğlu after an idea of the musician Erkan Oğur. Both instruments are a continuation of the development of vertical and harmonic playing techniques (FIGURE 10, left).

Since the first six-stringed prototype from 1991, more prototypes were built like the thirteen-stringed and six-stringed Oğur sazı. In the meantime, various versions of the Oğur sazı were built by among others the musician and luthier Engin Topuzkanamış (Izmir) for other musicians like Efrén López and Guillermo Rizotto in Spain and Gilad Weiss in Israel (FIGURE 10, right).

Figure 10. On the left a four-course dört telli bağlama by Murtaza Çağır and ten-stringed Oğur sazı by Engin Topuzkanamış. On the right Engin Topuzkanamış playing a six-stringed version of the Oğur sazı in his workshop in Izmir.

An example of how the bağlama can inspire new forms is the divane of Yavuz Gül. Looking for a larger volume than the divan sazı, Yavuz Gül (Izmir) developed the divane, a family of hybrid instruments inspired by the long-necked bağlama and ‘ûd/lauta. The divane family consist of the efe divane, baba divane, divane deli, and the bass divane (FIGURE 11).

Figure 11. Three-course divane played by Yavuz Gül.

The exploration and development of vertical and harmonic playing techniques and a theory of Turkish harmony, for which the bağlama provides a model, will remain an important issue within Turkish folk music, notwithstanding attempts to standardization. Instrument makers do respond to the changes in the musical practice. This principle has dictated the evolution of music and instrument making for centuries.

Figure 12. Erdal Erzincan playing şelpe on a for this technique made four-stringed bağlama during a concert in the Centrale in Gent in 2017. The Centrale, Gent (Belgium).

Musical instruments are constantly changing and there is always room for improvement, innovation, and evolution. New bağlama types, of which the construction, the number of frets and their tuning, number of strings and their tuning, and playing technique vary, will therefore continue to evolve (FIGURE 12).

Further Reading

Bates, E. 2011. Music in Turkey: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture (Global Music Series). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Conway Morris, R. 2001. Bağlama, in S. Sadie (ed.) New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 2: 469. London: MacMillan Press Limited.

Hassan, S.Q., R. Conway Morris, J. Baily and J. During 2001a. Tanbūr, in S. Sadie (ed.) New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 25: 61-62. London: MacMillan Press Limited.

Sayce and T. Crawford 2001. Lute, in S. Sadie (ed.) New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 15: 329-363. London: MacMillan Press Limited.

Spector, J., R. At’Ajan, C. Rithman C and R. Conway Morris 2001. Saz, in S. Sadie (ed.) New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 22: 361-362. London: MacMillan Press Limited.

Stokes, M.H. 1993. The Arabesk Debate. Music and Musicians in Modern Turkey. Oxford: Claredon Press.

Zeeuw, J. 2009. De Turkse Langhalsluit of Bağlama. Amsterdam.

Zeeuw, J. 2019. Tanbûr Long-Necked Lutes along the Silk Road and beyond. Oxford: Archaeopress.


Arif Sağ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPrTu3AWfuM

Talip Özkan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha5mAX1WaMM

Neşet Ertaş: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yQI2mUX7Rc

Erdal Erzincan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__ZGmCkB58I

9781789691696Sincerest thanks to Hans De Zeeuw for providing this article for the Archaeopress Blog.

Hans’ latest book, Tanbûr Long-Necked Lutes along the Silk Road and beyond (Archaeopress, 2019) is available:

Paperback, ISBN 9781789691696, £40

PDF eBook, ISBN 9781789691702, from £16+VAT

Available here:


Pioneering archaeological photography in John Alfred Spranger’s 1929-1936 photo reportages

Stefano Anastasio and Barbara Arbeid present the photo-archives of archaeologist and photographer John Alfred Spranger (1889-1968)

The importance of early photo-archives for archaeology

Early photo archives are becoming an increasingly important source of information for archaeology. This is, of course, a positive trend: any effort to make “forgotten” data available to the scientific community is to be welcomed.

Early photos may prove a powerful tool for protecting and promoting the value of archaeological heritage.

Hopefully, the current interest in early photo-archives will result in an increasing number of published archives. This will help archaeologists enhance their research, as well as the protection and conservation of the archaeological heritage.

John Alfred Spranger

John Alfred Spranger was born in Florence on 24 June 1889. His father, William, moved to Tuscany from England in the middle of the nineteenth century and was a professor at the Academy of Arts and Drawings in Florence. John Alfred was a leading figure in the cultural milieu of Florence at the beginning of the twentieth century. Both archaeologist and photographer (as well as engineer, topographer, mountain climber, art collector…), he was the author of several photo reportages detailing archaeological monuments and landscapes especially in Italy, Albania, Greece, Canada, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.

In 1913-1914, he participated in the Filippo De Filippi Expedition to the Himalayan Karakoram, as assistant topographer. The photographers of the expedition – Cesare Antilli, Major of the Italian Army, and Giorgio Abetti, a Florentine astronomer – systematically used cameras during the expedition, creating a real reportage, and Spranger surely gained a great passion for photography thanks to this expedition.

Fig. 1. Harry Burton at work in Deir el-Bahari (1929). The photo on the right corresponds to no. 4 marked on the map.

In the 1920s-1930s, he took part in a number of Etruscan excavations in Tuscany and paid great attention to the use of the camera to document the excavation work in progress. During this period, he spent time with Harry Burton, photographer of the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. It was, in fact, in Florence that Burton was hired as a photographer and archaeologist by Theodore M. Davis, who obtained the concession for the excavations in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. During his stay in Florence, Burton spent time with Spranger and both were involved together in a number of Etruscan excavations. Their friendship is witnessed by Spranger in his Egyptian album, where Burton is portrayed in some photos taken in 1929 during the excavations at Deir el-Bahari (see fig. 1). Spranger died in 1968 at Newbury, in England, and was buried in Florence.

The publication of Spranger’s photo-archives

9781789691269The passion for photography accompanied Spranger for life. He took thousands of photographs, collecting them in refined photo-albums, consistent in shape, size and style, enriched by annotations, topographic maps and plans (most of the original stereograms were recently retrieved at the public library of Vaiano, a small town close to Florence where many documents from Spranger’s family are held today). On Spranger’s death, some albums, i.e. those dedicated to “archaeological subjects” were donated by his heirs to the then Superintendency of Antiquities of Etruria, and are currently held at the Photo-Archive of the Archaeological Museum of Florence. The volume published by Archaeopress presents the photos dedicated to a trip to Egypt in 1929 and a trip to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1936, as well as to some surveys and excavations carried out in Etruscan archaeological sites in Tuscany between 1932 and 1935.

Fig. 2. The map of the témenos of Ur (1936), with the photo perspectives and camera angles marked and numbered. On the right, photos corresponding to no. 3 (ziqqurat, from NE) and no. 8 (ziqqurat and courtyard of Temple of Nannar, from N).

Spranger’s photos are particularly meaningful, especially because he combined his skills in using the camera with a great expertise in archaeology and topography. He often glued maps of the sites he had surveyed on the albums, on which all perspectives and camera angles were marked and numbered (see an example in fig. 2). As a result of this, he was able to create outstanding “georeferenced” sets of photos for many archaeological sites: Giza, Heliopolis, Menphis, Saqqara, Beni Hasan, Abydos, Dendera, Medinet Habu, Karnak, Luxor, Thebes and Deir el-Bahari, in Egypt; Ur, al-Ubaid, Uruk, Nippur, Babylon, Ctesiphon and Birs Nimrud in Mesopotamia; the tholos of Casaglia, the tumulus of Montefortini and the necropolis of Casone, Riparbella, La Ripa in Tuscany.

Fig. 3. Excavation of a tomb at the necropolis of La Ripa, in Tuscany (1933).

Stefano Anastasio and Barbara Arbeid
Superintendency for Archaeology, Arts and Landscape – Florence

Cover photo: Page from an album dedicated to the temple of Seti I in Abido, Egypt. On the left is the temple plan, with perspectives and camera angles numbered so as to allow identification of the related photographs, in turn numbered and placed on the right page.

About the authors
Stefano Anastasio has carried out archaeological researches in Italy (Sardinia, Tuscany), Syria, Turkey, Jordan and currently works at the Archaeological Photo Archive of the Superintendency of Florence. His main research interests are the Mesopotamian Iron Age pottery and architecture, the building archaeology and the use of the early photo archives for the study of the Near Eastern archaeology.

Barbara Arbeid is an archaeologist at the Superintendency of Florence, appointed to the archaeological heritage protection service. Her main research interests are the archaeology of Norther Etruria, the Etruscan bronze craftsmanship, the archaeological collecting and photography.

Further reading

9781789691269Egitto, Iraq ed Etruria nelle fotografie di John Alfred Spranger Viaggi e ricerche archeologiche (1929-1936) by Stefano Anastasio and Barbara Arbeid. Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford, 2019.

205x290mm; 178 pages; highly illustrated throughout in sepia and black & white. Italian text with English summary.

Paperback: ISBN 9781789691269. £35.00.
eBook: ISBN 9781789691276. From £16.00 (+VAT if appl.).

Also available from Archaeopress

9781784911188The 1927–1938 Italian Archaeological Expedition to Transjordan in Renato Bartoccini’s Archives by Stefano Anastasio and Lucia Botarelli. Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford, 2015.

210x297mm; ii+242 pages; extensively illustrated throughout in black & white.

Paperback: ISBN 9781784911188. £40.00.
eBook: ISBN 9781784911195. From £16.00 (+VAT if appl.).

9781784914646Ceramiche vicinorientali della Collezione Popolani by Stefano Anastasio and Lucia Botarelli. Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford, 2016.

170x240mm; vi+200 pages; illustrated throughout in colour and black & white. Italian text with English summary.

Paperback: ISBN 9781784914646. £34.00.
eBook: ISBN 9781784914653. From £16.00 (+VAT if appl.).

9781784910587Archeologia a Firenze: Città e Territorio Atti del Workshop. Firenze, 12-13 Aprile 2013 edited by Valeria d’Aquino, Guido Guarducci, Silvia Nencetti and Stefano Valentini. Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford, 2015.

210x297mm; iv+438 pages; illustrated throughout in black & white. Italian text. Abstracts for all papers in Italian & English.

Paperback: ISBN 9781784910587. £58.00
eBook: ISBN 9781784910594. From £16.00 (+VAT if appl.).

Old Thimbles and the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Magdalena and William Isbister present a qualitative examination of thimbles recorded in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database

Note: This paper was originally written in 2014. Minor adjustments have been made but all discussions regarding finds within the database reflect data available at that time.

According to its website, ‘The Portable Antiquities Scheme is run by the British Museum and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of archaeological objects are discovered, many of these by metal detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work… The Scheme’s database[i] holds records of archaeological finds discovered by members of the public.’ Objects found by professional archaeologists are not included in the database. The database was first made available online in 1999 and by September 2014 about 220,000 objects had been recorded. The majority of items reported seemed to come from the south east of England (Fig 1).  In this paper we examine the data relating to thimbles in the database and the database itself and report our findings.

fig 1
Fig 1


We searched the database for the term ‘thimble’ and 2776 items were found.  We downloaded this database into Microsoft Excel and then imported the relevant parts to Microsoft Access. We found that not all of these objects were actually thimbles and after filtering out the non-thimbles including ‘palm guards’, ‘belt buckles’ etc., we were left with 2616 true thimbles to analyse. Some listings were for multiple numbers of thimbles so overall numbers in this paper are only approximate. Whole thimbles and thimble fragments are included. We searched the text for the words ‘copper alloy’, ‘silver’ ‘aluminum’, ‘tin’, ‘gold’, ‘iron’, and ‘lead’, in order to determine and classify the material from which the thimbles were made. We examined pictures of all of the silver thimbles, but there were too many copper alloy thimbles to examine each one individually.


1. Distribution

Overall the distribution of thimbles found seemed to be similar to the overall distribution of all artefacts reported (Fig 2).

fig 2
Fig 2

We wondered whether the type of material from which the thimbles were made might have affected their distribution but this seemed not to be the case either. There is a slight pictorial suggestion that there might be fewer silver thimbles found in the North of England and this might be due to the greater affluence existing in the South-East of the country (Fig 3).

fig 3
Fig 3. Left: Copper Alloy. Right: Silver

The numbers of thimbles reported from each region, however, were too small for any meaningful statistical analysis, although we did compare silver and copper alloy findings in the county with the single largest number of thimbles recorded (Fig 4).  Again there was no obvious difference.

fig 4
Fig 4. Left: Copper alloy. Right: Silver

107 thimbles were described as modern and these thimbles did seem to be distributed differently (Fig 5).  The South-East domination seems to have disappeared.

fig 5
Fig 5. Left: Modern thimbles. Right: All thimbles.

2. Materials

The majority of thimbles were made of ‘copper alloy’, a term used in the database because, without a detailed analysis of the metal from each thimble recorded, it would be impossible to know visually what to call the material.

Material Number
Copper alloy 2367
Silver 243
Aluminum 2
Iron 1
Gold 1
Tin 1
Lead 1

The percentage of silver thimbles was twice as great in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and the Greater London Authority area than in Suffolk, possibly an indication of greater prosperity in these three regions, but this may simply be a function of the relatively small numbers of thimbles involved.

County Total Silver Copper alloy %
Norfolk 321 28 293 8.7
Lincolnshire 229* 14 214 6.1
Suffolk 221 7 214 3.2
GLA 61+ 5 55 8.2

* one tin, + one iron

218 copper alloy thimbles were described as either ‘acorn top’ or ‘beehive’ in shape but not all thimbles were classified, and not all ‘acorn top’ thimbles were so called (Fig 6, 7).

fig 6
Fig 6. Left: ‘Acorn top’. Right: ‘Beehive’.
fig 7
Fig 7. Left: ‘Acorn top’. Right: ‘Beehive’.

Of the silver thimbles recorded, 54 seemed to be ‘modern’ (19th century and later), 83 were long (mid 17th century), often called Jacobean thimbles (Fig 8) and 84 were short (late 17th century)  (Fig 9).

fig 8
Fig 8
fig 9
Fig 9

Among the 167 17/18th century silver thimbles recorded there were only four which depicted King Charles II and his wife (Fig 10).

fig 10
Fig 10

One short thimble had two medallions containing a crowned rose, the symbol of Charles I (Fig 11).

fig 11
Fig 11

There were nine late 18th century thimbles and some would have had steel tops like the one illustrated (Fig 12).

fig 12
Fig 12 (© Isbister)

A single damaged silver thimble, missing its steel top, and made by Hester Bateman is recorded in the database. The maker’s initials are clearly seen on the border of the thimble (Fig 13).

fig 13
Fig 13

13. Inscriptions

41 thimbles were recorded as having inscriptions.  Of these, one was an aluminum advertising thimble, one was recorded as medieval (Fig 14), and three were ‘modern’. Six thimbles were made of copper alloy and the remaining 34 thimbles were made of silver.

fig 14
Fig 14

From the database it was not possible to determine whether the inscription was a motto, maker’s mark or owner’s initials. Inspection of the pictures of the corresponding thimbles indicated that in addition to the single advertising thimble, 16 had mottos and the remainder either had maker’s marks (Fig 15) or owner’s inscriptions (Fig 9, left) or both (Fig 16).

fig 15
Fig 15
fig 16
Fig 16. ‘F*C’.

Inscriptions were mainly hand-engraved (Fig 9, 16, 17) although the silver thimble with the clearest motto was not listed as having an inscription (Fig 18, 25).

fig 17
Fig 17. ‘LOOSE NO TIME’.
fig 18

Many thimbles were so damaged that it was very difficult to read the inscription  from the picture (Fig 19).

fig 19
Fig 19

A maker’s mark on a post-medieval thimble was recorded as ‘HC&S’ although the thimble was hallmarked in 1928 and the maker was Henry Griffith and Sons (HG&S) of Birmingham.

4. Other findings

Some thimbles seemed to have been cut down to very thin bands, presumably to be used as decorative finger rings (Fig 20).  Two such thimbles were found.

fig 20
Fig 20

Some thimbles were described as ‘double skinned’ (Fig 21) and, in the past[ii], we considered that two pieces of brass had been mistakenly deep drawn into a thimble.

fig 21
Fig 20 (© Isbister)

Six such thimbles were recorded in the database.  The finding sites were widely scattered and so we are now wondering whether this was not an accident but a deliberate method of construction, although we do not know why this might have been done.

Several of the thimbles recorded showed features that, as far as we know, have not been recorded in the thimble literature and they are illustrated below.

The only short strap work thimble that we have ever seen has a maker’s mark  ‘AW’ and a rather unusual top (Fig 22).

fig 22
Fig 22

This unusually shaped early strap work thimble might represent a stage in the progression from tall cylindrical silver thimbles to the later and shorter stubby silver thimbles (Fig 23)

fig 23
Fig 23

Another thimble looks to be missing a top (Fig 24) but was it removable or does this thimble demonstrate yet another method of construction?

fig 24
Fig 24

Niello thimbles were very rare in the 18th century and only one other is known (Fig 25).  The found thimble has an ornate top and the inscription ‘+AFENDE +TO+THE+ENDE’ around the border (Fig 26). There is a makers mark ‘RL’ inside the rim.  Another thimble (Fig 9, second from left) has a similar maker’s mark and these two thimbles are said to have been made in Holland by the recorder but this seems unlikely.

fig 25
Fig 25 © Leslie Hindman Auctioneers
fig 26
Fig 26

Two of the shorter 17th century silver thimbles had interesting bands (Fig 27) and one had an unusual top for a short thimble (Fig 28)

fig 27
Fig 27
fig 28
Fig 28

Finally, we found a couple of thimbles with medallions containing what looked like cupids and a bleeding heart overlying several arrows (Fig 29).  These 17th century keepsake thimbles are exceedingly rare.

fig 29
Fig 29

The database

A database of this sort with many different recording officers is fraught with problems when it comes to analysing the recorded information.  The organisers are to be commended on the mammoth project that they have undertaken and for the establishment of a searchable database.  By nature of its organisation however it is subject to many limitations, many of which have only become apparent to us as a result of our study of the thimbles in the database.

The registration rate for the Portable Antiquities Scheme is unknown and therefore the total number of thimbles found and not reported is unknown.  The majority of thimbles were found by metal detectors so this must necessarily bias the distribution of the thimbles found to the areas in which metal detectors are used most frequently.  The distribution of thimbles and their types found must therefore be biased somewhat and cannot truly represent the distribution of thimbles in England and Wales during the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition, many of the more expensive thimbles, for example, might still be in aristocratic households or lost in the grounds of stately homes and therefore not available for metal detection. In the absence of any other archive, however, the database is invaluable as a window into the past.

Occasionally recordings were brief, some were duplicates and this made analysis crude at best. Not all recorded thimbles were described and often database fields were left blank or incomplete.  When the search term ‘thimble’ was used online, finger guards (could be considered to be a form of protection for sewing but not really thimbles), a buckle, rings, crotal bells and a whistle were found in the listing.  Silver thimbles were described as ‘cast’ when they had been milled in two parts. Some thimbles were described as ‘acorn’ shaped whilst similarly shaped thimbles were not described in this way by other recorders (see above, Fig 6, 7).  The term ‘medieval’ was not used in the same way by all recorders and some so called ‘medieval’ thimbles were from a much later period. These inconsistencies, arising from the multiplicity of the recorders, made analysis difficult and somewhat limited. Clearly defined parameters for specific fields in the database, to be used by all recorders, might limit some of these problems and even insisting that all fields be filled would be a help. From a research standpoint the standard of data recording must be improved. We do not underestimate the difficulty of this task although the quality of recording in another multiple-user metal detecting database does seem to be much higher [iii].


The data presented in this paper represents our analysis of the thimbles recorded in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database [circa 2014]. The results are limited by the biases described above in relation to the data itself, the data collection and recording and possibly the fact that thimbles form only a small fraction of the database and maybe there are many more items which are considered to be more important than thimbles to the recorders. Nevertheless, the database is a valuable instrument for learning more about thimbles from the past. It is hoped that it will become even more useful if recording methods are standardized and all recorders enter consistent data into all the fields in the database. At the present time the database is more useful for qualitative rather than quantitative studies.

All images, unless otherwise designated, were downloaded from the PAS website.


[i] Portable Antiquities Scheme. http://finds.org.uk/database

[ii] Isbister M, Isbister W. Early English Thimbles, 2011. Thimble Collectors Bulletin, winter.

[iii] UK Detector Finds Database. http://www.ukdfd.co.uk/


The UK Detector Finds Database is a voluntary, hobby-based database for objects detected with metal detectors.  One of its aims is to ‘encourage those detectorists who would not otherwise record their finds to do so by making use of the UKDFD self-recording facility and to ‘encourage the recording of post c.1650 finds, many of which are not eligible for inclusion on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database’.  Criteria for finds entry are clear and certain fields are mandatory.  The standard of photography is high and the descriptive data is good as a result. The database itself is internet-based and can be analysed to some degree but not as easily or as fully as the PAS database. There are 451 thimbles recorded at the time of writing (October 2014) and 70 of these are silver thimbles. The silver thimbles are, in general, of the more modern type (Georgian onwards).  The remaining thimbles are of copper alloy and include many early ‘acorn’ and ‘beehive’ thimbles. The detectorists seem to have a greater knowledge of thimbles[i] than the recorders of the PAS.  As a result of the criteria for entry and selectivity of finds however, analysis, in detail, of the database is difficult and the results would necessarily be rather biased.

acorn and beehive
Left: ‘Acorn’. Right: ‘Beehive’.

Three notable copper alloy thimbles found in the UKDFD:

copper alloy

Three interesting silver thimbles found in the UKDFD:


The right thimble is a very worn and possibly a little earlier version of the other two!


[i] UK Detector Finds Database: Thimbles. http://www.ukdfd.co.uk/pages/thimble.html

Sincerest thanks to Magdalena and William Isbister for their kind permission to reproduce their 2014 article on the Archaeopress Blog.

Continue reading “Old Thimbles and the Portable Antiquities Scheme”

The Value of Simulated Heritage in China

By Cornelius Holtorf, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden; Qingkai Ma, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China; Xian Chen, Zhejiang A&F University, Hangzhou, China; Yu Zhang, Zhejiang A&F University, Hangzhou, China.

Commercially driven copies are conventionally considered to lack relevance to heritage because they are of recent origin and lack heritage values. But for others, including us, heritage should be valued in relation, not to its origin, but to its function in society. In the past, research on cultural heritage has centered on material things which can be catalogued, listed, conserved. In the last decade, heritage has been redefined as an area that is concerned primarily with people. Heritage is now theorized as a range of cultural practices in which people invest meanings to things and ascribe values to them (Smith, 2006; Filippucci, 2009). Heritage is a process which creates new meanings and values, and the cultural meanings of heritage are validated through linkage to the past (Smith 2006). To date, research on the interactions of people, material things and relevant cultural processes is frustratingly scarce (Wells 2015).

Fig 1 IMG_3239
Figure 1. Geometrical perfection: view along the “Champs Elysees Shopping Street” towards the 1:3 scale-Eiffel Tower in Tianducheng, a suburb of Hangzhou, China. Photograph: Cornelius Holtorf 2018.

These issues can be illuminated further by the case of Tianducheng (Sky City), a simulated heritage site in Hangzhou, China. The city is a large suburb, which is designed to incorporate a selection of very prominent architectural heritage features from France including a 1:3 scale but nevertheless imposing copy of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (fig. 1). It is one of many suburbs in China that resemble far-away places and include copies of foreign historical landmarks, reflecting Chinese imaginations of the Western lifestyle (Boskar 2013, Piazzoni 2018). These suburbs are commodities that originated in a specific economic and cultural framework of contemporary China. As such, Tianducheng is part of the cultural heritage of early 21st century China. But questions are also raised about the relationship to the original heritage sites in France which Tianducheng evokes.

Arguably, more important than age is the experience of pastness which has been defined by Holtorf as the quality for a given object to be ‘of the past’. The presence of pastness is not related to age but specific to a particular perception situated in a given social and cultural context (Holtorf 2017a: 500). The Eiffel Tower in Hangzhou may not fool anybody about its recent age. But it plays on pastness insofar as it matches exactly people’s expectations of French 19th century architecture and the history that connects that architecture with the present-day city of Paris. We can therefore, in this case, speak of simulated heritage. It simulates the pastness of Paris’ heritage in another city, Hangzhou in China. We suggest that a strict distinction between simulated and non-simulated cultural heritage is not particularly helpful in any attempt at understanding either; instead we should be looking at what they share with each other (see also Holtorf 2017b).

Tianducheng was initiated by the real-estate company Guangsha Group which started this enormous project in 2001. It was a pioneering project back then, for this corporation wanted to build a self-sustained satellite city around Hangzhou and contended to lead the urbanization process in China. On the webpage of this property, it advertises itself as “taking France culture as its city culture” while “setting ‘business, tourism, residency and education’ as its pillar industry in this city” (http://www.guangsha.com/index.php/newsinfor/23/3682). The Eiffel Tower and the nearby park were finished before the apartment buildings were sold. They present a clear image of French culture to attract people to buy properties and settle down in Tianducheng (figure 2).

Fig 2 IMG_3198
Figure 2. Alternative Paris: model of Tianducheng in Hangzhou, China, as envisaged by Guangsha Group, the real-estate developer of the area. Photograph: Cornelius Holtorf 2018.

Interestingly, the construction of both the original and the Chinese Eiffel Towers were hotly debated. Opened in 1889, the French tower was widely criticized by the cultural elite at the time but became a huge popular success. Intended to be dismantled after 20 years, the 324m tall tower became a valuable asset for the city and has not only been maintained until the present day but also copied several times at other locations in the world (Wikipedia n.d.). Built in 2007, the 108m tall Chinese Eiffel Tower went through a similar controversy. On 20 November 2010, Guangsha Group started to dismantle the tower without notice, which caused a backlash among residents (Chen 2010). Many residents called the media to report what was going on and hung protest banners on the tower. After negotiation, the company decided to cease dismantling and returned the tower to its original condition.

Arguably, Tianducheng fulfills some of the same functions of heritage in Hangzhou as the original sites fulfill in France, in relation to place-making, for example. According to Laurajane Smith (2006: 79), place is “not only a space where meaningful experiences occur, but is also where meanings are contested and negotiated.” Indeed, place “provides a profound centre of human existence to which people have deep emotional and psychological ties and is part of the complex processes through which individuals and groups define themselves” (Convery et al. 2012, p. 1). People’s sources of meaning and experience as well as their environments all contribute to place-making (Harvey 2001). In the case of Tianducheng, as of course with the French original, local residents construct their sense of place from the iconic tower, its magnificent view during daytime and the light show on display at night, as well as from various leisurely activities around the tower. At daytime, it is relatively quiet. When the night curtain falls, it is lively, and can indeed be difficult to find parking spaces. Many people come here to enjoy square dancing with friends, to visit restaurants, and enjoy the tower light show. What is most important is not the question of whether or not the architecture has been copied, but how each site contributes to the local residents’ lives and their sense of place.

We spoke to some of the local population living in Tianducheng. More and more people choose to settle there, and the majority of them seem to enjoy the place very much. A shopper we spoke with stated that “of course we know we are not in Paris, everybody knows that. But we still enjoy the view and relaxing atmosphere.” On a web forum of local residents, many others expressed their appreciation of the site, too. There are also visitors going there, taking photos to “pretend” that they are in Paris and subsequently posting them on WeChat moments (similar to Twitter). This applies in particular to wedding pictures. The tower serves as a widely known symbol and icon. When people want to meet somewhere or when they want to locate a certain place, they tend to use the tower as a reference point. One of our interviewees is a member of the local Yixing jogging group. Among other activities, the group meets every morning underneath the tower to start a jog around the city. Ma Gangwei, the interviewee, said, “I like it here. But I don’t have any particular thoughts about this France thing. …I’ve never been to France. I don’t know what it is like to live in Paris. But I like the surroundings here. It might not have much to do with the architectural style. It’s about the park, the mountain, the environment here.”

Fig 3 P1180896
Figure 3. Hybrid cultures: “Champs Elysees Noddle Restaurant” serving Chinese food along the “Champs Elysees Shopping Street” in the France-inspired city of Tianducheng in Hangzhou, China. Photograph: Cornelius Holtorf 2018.

Tianducheng is both French and Chinese. Some of the shops in the associated commercial district express an emerging hybrid heritage. One restaurant is called “Champs Elysees Noodle Restaurant”, but it serves local food, a kind of noodles from a city in the Zhejaing province (figure 3). Whereas the simulated Eiffel Tower may represent the power of cultural globalization, the local businesses and their customers appropriate the attractiveness of the iconic structure to enhance the practice of their own traditions. In that sense, we may see in Tianducheng a case where “global forces create conditions for local traditions to survive” (Reisinger 2013: 41). Somewhat ironically but hardly surprising, there are likely some Chinese restaurants in walking distance from the French tower, too. Many seemingly clear distinctions between the French and the Chinese versions of “Paris” and the “Eiffel Tower” thus fade away on closer inspection. What emerges is a common heritage value of the Eiffel Tower materialized on opposite sides of our planet in hybrid forms.

Places like Tianducheng simulate heritage, but at the same time they provide real heritage value in society and should therefore not be dismissed. In cases such as this, we may see some glimpses of a future of heritage that contradicts and replaces familiar concepts of cultural heritage bound to place and time. Tianducheng challenges us to think carefully about the possible character of future pasts and their benefits in society (Holtorf 2017b). It raises some profound questions: will there soon be many more suburbs around the world that simulate the past of other places? Should heritage experts and historians welcome them in the same manner as local communities do, appreciating their qualities? Does China lead the way towards the future of the past?


Boskar, Bianca (2013) Original Copies. Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China. Hongkong: University of Hongkong Press and Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Chen, Xiang (2010) The landmark of Tiandu city is gone. Morning Express.November 22nd, 2010, A0003

Convery, I., Corsane, G., & Davis, P. (Eds.). (2014). Introduction: Making Sense of Place. In Convery, I., Corsane, G., & Davis, P. (Eds.). Making sense of place: Multidisciplinary perspectives. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.

Filippucci, P (2009) Heritage and Methodology: A view from social anthropology. In Sørensen, M. L. S., & Carman, J. (Eds.). Heritage studies: Methods and approaches. London and New York: Routledge.

Harvey, Penelope. (2001) Landscape and Commerce: Creating Contexts for the Exercise of Power. In Bender, Barbara, Winter, Margot. (Eds). Contested Landscapes: Movement, Exile and Place. Oxford: Berg.

Holtorf, Cornelius (2017a) Perceiving the Past: From Age Value to Pastness. International Journal of Cultural Property 24 (4), 497-515.

Holtorf, Cornelius (2017b) “Changing Concepts of Temporality in Cultural Heritage and Themed Environments.” In: F. Carlà-Uhink, F. Freitag, S. Mittermeier and A. Schwarz (eds) Time and Temporality in Theme Parks, pp. 115-130. Hannover: Wehrhahn.

Piazzoni, Maria Francesca (2018) The Real Fake. Authenticity and the Production of Space. New York: Fordham.

Reisinger, Yvette (2013) Reflections on globalisation and cultural tourism. In: M. Smith and G. Richards (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Cultural Tourism, pp. 40-46. London and New York Routledge.

Smith, Laurajane (2006) Uses of Heritage. London and New York: Routledge.

Wells, Jeremy C. (2015). Making a Case for Historic Place Conservation Based on People’s Values. Forum Journal, 29 (3), 44-62.

Wikipedia (n.d.) Eiffel Tower. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_Tower (accessed 18 Nov 2018)

9781784915001Sincerest thanks to Cornelius Holtorf, Qingkai Ma, Xian Chen, and Yu Zhang for providing this article for the Archaeopress Blog.

Further reading available from Archaeopress:

The Archaeology of Time Travel: Experiencing the Past in the 21st Century edited by Bodil Petersson and Cornelius Holtorf

Paperback ISBN 9781784915001 (£38)
eBook available as a FREE download: Download here.

holtorf search the past

Search the Past – Find the Present: Qualities of archaeology and heritage in contemporary society by Cornelius Holtorf

eBook available as a FREE download: Download here.


Contribute to the Archaeopress Blog: Send your proposal for a short article (1,000-2,000 words plus 4-8 illustrations) to Patrick Harris at patrick@archaeopress.com


The Mycenaean Cemetery at Achaia Clauss near Patras: People, material remains and culture in context

Constantinos Paschalidis introduces his new volume with Archaeopress reporting on excavations of a Mycenaean cemetery, located by the historic Achaia Clauss wine factory, near Patras, Greece.

This work comprises the study of the finds from the excavation of the University of Ioannina and the Archaeological Society at Athens in the Mycenaean cemetery, located by the historic Achaia Clauss wine factory, near Patras. The research was carried out between the years 1988-1992 under the direction of Professor T. Papadopoulos (figs 1, 2). The presentation of the topic expands into seven thematic chapters, proceeding from the whole to the parts – and then returning to the whole. Thus, one progresses from the general review of the cemetery space and the sites, to the analytical description of the excavation, to the remarks on the architecture, to the study of the finds, to the analysis of the burial customs and finally to the narration of the overall history of the cemetery according to chronological period and generation of its people. The eighth and last chapter is an addendum including a presentation of the anthropological analysis of the skeletal material.

Fig. 01
Fig. 1. The vineyard of Achaia Clauss wine factory as it looks from the cemetery site.
Fig. 02
Fig. 2. The vineyard of Achaia Clauss and the Koukouras hill with the Mycenaean cemetery at its feet, seen from the wine factory.

More precisely, the study is organized as follows: Chapter 1 includes a complete and brief catalogue of the Mycenaean sites in Achaea. The cemetery site is described separately with special mention of the neighbouring excavations (fig. 3). Furthermore, in this chapter the distribution and character of the sites across the entire territory is examined and presented as a general overview.

Fig. 3. The Mycenaean settlement on top of the Mygdalia hill, overlooking the Achaia Clauss cemetery at the foot of the Koukouras hill (right), the plain and the gulf of Patras.

In Chapter 2, the description of the tombs is to be found, arranged into three parts for each in turn. The first section focuses on the description of the tomb’s architecture and the clustering and appearance of the finds in it. The second part sums up all the above evidence, following the chronological sequence of the burials. The third part displays, through easy-to-understand tables, the burials along with the gender, the age and the grave-goods of each individual, grouped in chronological order of introduction into the tomb. These tables also record any other non-burial episode that has been attested through the history of the chambers, in chronological order too.

In Chapter 3, the area of Clauss is examined, as well as the layout of the cemetery (figs 4, 5), the architecture of the tombs, the bedrock, the manner of construction and the structural problems related to them.

Chapter 4 contains the analytical catalogue of the finds in each tomb, recorded according to their excavation numbering, accompanied by the corresponding Museum of Patras inventory number. The catalogue contains one or more photos and drawings of each find, its detailed description and bibliographical documentation with parallels selected mainly from published assemblages from the rest of Achaea, Elis and the nearby Ionian islands.

Chapter 5 deals with the analytical presentation of the finds from the cemetery (figs 6a-b), citing typological parallels from the entire Mycenaean world, including comments on their use in the cemetery and in their era, in general. The examination of the finds is arranged according to category: pottery, bronze, bone, stone finds, along with minor objects made of various materials (spindle whorls, seals, beads and a figurine).

In Chapter 6, the burial customs of the cemetery (fig. 7) are discussed as these emerge from the investigation of the archaeological finds and the results of the osteological study by Dr Photini J. P. McGeorge, whose full analysis is not included in the present work and by DrWiesław Więckowski, whose report is presented in Chapter 8.

Fig. 07
Fig. 07. The couple of warrior and his partner from chamber tomb Θ at Clauss. (Drawing by Y. Nakas).

Chapter 7 sums up all of the research data into a brief and concise overview of the burials according to chronological period and generation (phases 1-6 of the LH ΙΙΙC period), with reference to the society that the Clauss people and their contemporaries in the rest of Achaea had brought into being, and with a presentation of the cemetery’s history.

In Chapter 8, Dr Photini J.P. McGeorge presents her detailed study of cremation Θ in tomb N, while Dr Wiesław Więckowski offers the results of his study on the anthropological material from alcove I and tombs K-N.

The richly illustrated documentation of the tombs derives from the archive of the excavation. The photographs of the nearby Mycenaean settlement at Mygdalia Petrotou (fig. 3) come from the archive of its ongoing excavation project and contribute to the understanding of the region’s archaeological landscape. The presentation of the data tables at the end of this book (Appendix) facilitates the comprehension of specific aspects of the cemetery (burial practices according to gender and age, grave-goods according to gender/age/generation, demographic data per generation etc.).

C.Paschalidis et al. The Mycenaean Cemetery at Achaia Clauss near Patras, Archaeopress Archaeology (2018)

The publication of the Mycenaean cemetery at Clauss near Patras, yields information on various aspects of an unknown society situated at the periphery of the Mycenaean world, soon before its gradual end. It presents in a concise way the material culture of the society: the products of the local pottery workshops and their distribution, the metalworking industry of Achaea, the imported bronze objects from the Adriatic coasts, and discuss the role played by the NW Peloponnese in the distribution of these bronze objects throughout the rest of the Postpalatial world.

The detailed presentation of innumerous aspects of the material culture is followed by an analysis of other less tangible aspects of this society such as: the burial customs, the demographics of the cemetery, the palaeopathological findings, signs of social differentiation based on burial practices and offerings, details of family life (fig. 7), habits, and stereotypes, and any other unexpected finds from a society, which despite our ambitious approach remains anonymous, largely unknown, and enigmatic.

The study of the Mycenaean cemetery at Clauss near Patras, offers the chance to enlighten the ‘golden era’ of the NW Peloponnese in the years of the deep crisis that followed the fall of the Mycenaean palaces.

Constantinos Paschalidis
Curator of Antiquities
National Archaeological Museum, Athens

Sincerest thanks to Constantinos for providing this latest entry for the Archaeopress Blog. The Mycenaean Cemetery at Achaia Clauss near Patras is expected to publish late November/early December 2018. Further information on our website here: http://www.archaeopress.com/ArchaeopressShop/Public/displayProductDetail.asp?id={F7224A06-B955-4A45-9279-2A242F2BC99B}

5,000-year-old exchange route between Egypt and Anatolia confirmed

Martin Odler of the Czech Institute of Egyptology presents the latest archaeometallurgical analysis of Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom Egyptian metalwork in the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig University

In March 2017, I wrote for the Archaeopress Blog about my book Old Kingdom Copper Tools and Model Tools, published by Archaeopress, with an accompanying promise to provide updates about further developments in our research in the future. The Journal of Archaeological Science has recently published the article “Invisible connections. Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom Egyptian metalwork in the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig University”.  This study moves further beyond typology, as our team has applied a wide range of archaeometallurgical methods to the assemblage. The first phase of the analysis of tools and model tools from Giza, currently deposited in the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig University (Germany), was presented already in the book, in this article other objects are added, as well as the results of the neutron activation analyses and lead isotope analyses.

The main surprise of the study was that a metal vessel deposited in a tomb at the Egyptian site Abusir 5,000 years ago was made of a material that was used concurrently in distant Anatolia (present-day Turkey). The article shows how far metals travelled in the third millennium BC.

The paper contains an in-depth analysis of 22 ancient Egyptian artefacts currently stored in the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig University (Fig. 1). The analytical work deepens our understanding of the use of copper in the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom. Egyptian copper metallurgy of the third millennium BC has been known only superficially until now.

Figure 1: The analysed assemblage of artefacts from the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig University (photo by Jiří Kmošek © Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Institute of Egyptology).

The artefacts were found at the Egyptian sites of Abusir, Abydos and Giza. They were excavated in the royal tomb of King Khasekhemwy at Abydos (c. 2700 BCE) and non-royal tombs of officials from the Early Dynastic Period (Abusir; c. 3100–2900 BCE) and the Old Kingdom (Giza; c. 2350–2275 BCE).

The paper is innovative in the range of analyses used and their combination with Egyptological and archaeological information. The production methods were similar for all artefacts, which were hammered and annealed to their final shapes. They were made either from copper with minor impurities of other elements or from arsenical copper, the most frequently used alloy in the ancient Near East in the third millennium BC. As lead was present in minute traces in all the artefacts, lead isotope analysis has been used to indicate the origin of the ores.

As the title suggests, the analyses have revealed “invisible connections” between the regions where the ore was mined and those where the artefacts were deposited. The ore coming from the Sinai Peninsula has been expected and confirmed, as it was the most frequent target of ancient Egyptian expeditions with many ancient Egyptian mining expedition inscriptions. A not at all negligible amount of ore originated from the Eastern Desert of Egypt. There are not many inscriptions in that area, but the archaeological research of the past two decades has identified many mining sites, and analyses have now confirmed that the ore was indeed used by ancient Egyptians.

Figure 2: The Dynasty-1 bowl from Abusir (ÄMUL 2162; photo by Jiří Kmošek © Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Institute of Egyptology).
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Figure 3: Abusir, Bonnet cemetery, where the vessel ÄMUL 2162 has been found (after Hans Bonnet, Ein frühgeschichtliches Gräberfeld bei Abusir. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, Leipzig 1928, Taf. I).

The greatest surprise was a large bowl from a Dynasty-1 tomb at Abusir (Fig. 2, 3). It is peculiar by its contents of arsenic (1.4%) and nickel (4.8%), very unusual for that period in Egypt. The lead isotope ratios match Anatolian ores and are similar to contemporary Early Bronze Age Anatolian artefacts, in a distance more than 1,500 kilometres (Fig. 4).

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Figure 4: Map of the important sites, AMUL marks the sites, from where the examined artefacts were coming, CuAsNi marks the sites, where objects with high nickel and arsenic occurred in Chalcolitic and Early Bronze Age. Mapped onto Natural Earth in qGIS by Martin Odler.

The vessel was most probably made in Egypt, but the ore or metal ingot must have travelled from far away. Although this is most probably not an evidence of direct contact between the two regions, special metals had circulated around the ancient Near East earlier than previously thought.

The project will continue with the evaluation and publication of data from another important corpus stored in Leipzig: bronze artefacts from the Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom site Aniba in Nubia.

The authors of the article are archaeometallurgist Jiří Kmošek from the Department of Chemical Technology, Faculty of Restoration, University of Pardubice; Egyptologist Martin Odler from the Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague; and two physicists, Marek Fikrle from the Nuclear Physics Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and Yulia V. Kochergina from the Czech Geological Survey. In the same issue of the journal is also included an article of the Belgian team about the research of Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom metalwork in Brussels and a third piece, commenting both articles.

For further information regarding the articles mentioned above please consult the Elsevier Press Release by following this link.

9781784914424Sincerest thanks to Martin for fulfilling his promise to update us on his future research following the publication of his book in 2016. Read Martin’s earlier Blog Post here.

Buy the book:

Old Kingdom Copper Tools and Model Tools by Martin Odler. Archaeopress Egyptology 14, 2016.

Paperback: ISBN 9781784914424, £45.

PDF eBook: ISBN 9781784914431, £16 +VAT.