David Gill provides an introduction to the life of Dr John Disney (1779–1857), the subject of his latest biography.
Dr John Disney (1779–1857) is perhaps best known for his benefaction that allowed the creation of the Cambridge University chair of archaeology that continues to bear his name. What was his interest in archaeology, and what were his motivations?
How did the book come about?
My professional interest in Disney came through my time as a curator at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The ‘Disney Marbles’ (as they were known at the time of their donation in 1850) formed a key component of the sculpture collection and included imperial portraits as well as Roman sarcophagi. Part of this gift, as well as some subsequent acquisitions, were explored in a temporary exhibition ‘Antiquities of the Grand Tour’ (1990). I was invited to prepare a new memoir of Disney for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004). This involved tracking down his papers in various record offices, as well as walking part of his estate in Dorset.
On returning to the east of England I decided to choose Disney as the subject of my inaugural lecture as he had been involved with the creation of civic museums in Chelmsford and Colchester, and had stood unsuccessfully as Member of Parliament for both Harwich and Ipswich. After completing my biography of Dr Winifred Lamb (Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator ), the Honorary Keeper of Greek Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, I decided that the time was right for exploring this key figure in the formation of academic archaeology in the UK.
What is inside?
The Disney family were based at Norton Disney, between Lincoln and Newark. They had settled there following the Norman conquest; their origins lay in Isigny in Normandy. By the 18th century the family were living in Lincoln.
The central question was how the Disney family had acquired the classical sculpture collection at The Hyde. John’s father, the Reverend John Disney (1746–1816), was a Church of England cleric in Lincolnshire. He was part of the Feathers Tavern Petitioners who sought to be released from the perceived constraints of the Thirty-Nine Articles. He became close friends (and brother-in-law) of the Reverend Theophilus Lindsey. Disney resigned his Church of England living to become assistant minister of the Unitarian Essex Street Chapel in London where Lindsey was minister. One of the key benefactors of the chapel was Thomas Brand (Brand-Hollis) (c. 1719–1804) of The Hyde, near Ingatestone in Essex.
Brand-Hollis died in 1804 and bequeathed The Hyde, its collections, and estates in Dorset to the Reverend John Disney. The classical sculptures had been largely acquired by Brand and his friend Thomas Hollis (1720–1774) during their Grand Tour of Italy. Among the pieces was a fine portrait of Marcus Aurelius that had been displayed in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. At least five objects were purchased for The Hyde in 1761 from the collection of William Lloyd of The Gregories in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. Hollis bequeathed his fortune and estate to Brand, and Archdeacon Francis Blackburne of Richmond Yorkshire prepared the Memoirs (1780); Blackburne was father-in-law to both Lindsey and the Reverend John Disney.
Disney’s elder brother Lewis married Elizabeth Ffytche, daughter of a former president of Bengal, in 1775 and settled at Danbury Place in Essex. After Elizabeth’s death Lewis purchased the pleasure gardens, Le Désert de Retz, outside Paris; however, the events of the French Revolution forced him to flee France and he moved to Italy. Part of the Disney collection can be traced to his time in Naples. It was in Italy that his daughter, Frances, met (Sir) William Hillary, the future founder of the RNLI; they married on their return to London. Lewis’ other daughter, Sophia, married her first cousin John Disney in 1802. John had studied at Peterhouse, Cambridge before being admitted to the Inner Temple. In 1807 he was appointed Recorder of Bridport in Dorset, and his family moved to the former estate owned by Thomas Hollis.
The Reverend John Disney died in December 1816, and John Disney moved back to Essex. He became involved with the Chelmsford Philosophical Society and helped to establish the Chelmsford and Essex Museum in 1843 to display the society’s collection. Investigations in Colchester led to an interest in Roman archaeology and a Latin funerary inscription entered the Disney collection. In 1818 Disney started a detailed catalogue of the collection in The Hyde that later appeared as the Museum Disneianum (1846; 2nd ed. 1849); it drew on the catalogue that had been prepared by his father. This new catalogue included additional pieces that Disney had added to the collection during his travels in Italy.
In 1849 Disney turned 70 and he decided to offer his collection of sculpture to the University of Cambridge as ‘a basis for the study of Archaeology’. In 1851 he offered to establish a ‘professorship of classical antiquities’. The first professor was the Reverend John H. Marsden, the Rector of Great Oakley near Harwich. Marsden was a member of the Colchester Archaeological Association and later the Essex Archaeological Society. Disney was awarded an honorary DCL from Oxford in 1854, and was incorporated with the degree of LL.D. at Cambridge during the Archaeological Institute’s visit to Cambridge later that same year. Disney died in May 1857 and is buried in the family tomb in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin at Fryerning in Essex.
About the author
David Gill is Honorary Professor in the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent, and Academic Associate in the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage in the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures at the University of East Anglia (UEA). He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and Sir James Knott Fellow at Newcastle University. He was responsible for curating the Greek and Roman collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University, before moving to Swansea University where he was reader in Mediterranean Archaeology. He returned to East Anglia as Professor of Archaeological Heritage at the University of Suffolk. He is a Fellow of the RSA and the Society of Antiquaries. In 2012 he received the Outstanding Public Service Award from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) for his research on cultural property. His other books include Sifting the Soil of Greece: The Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919) (2011), and Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator (2018).
Lucy Timbrell introduces an ongoing science communication project exploring the breadth and interdisciplinarity of human evolution research at a global scale.
Conversations in Human Evolution is an ongoing science communication project exploring the breadth and interdisciplinarity of human evolution research at a global scale. Through informal interviews (henceforth referred to as ‘conversations’), this project delves deeply into topics concerning the study of our species’ evolutionary history, covering the current advances in research, theory and methods as well as the socio-political issues rife within academia. This project also provides important insights into the history of human evolutionary studies. Overall, the Conversations in Human Evolution website has attracted around 8000 visitors from over 100 countries. Volume 1 (available from Archaeopress) is the result of the first twenty conversations, published online between March and June 2020. When we went to press, this subset of the conversations had been collectively viewed 6817 times since they were made available on the website.
The idea for Conversations in Human Evolution (CHE) arose in March 2020 during the escalation of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Following the cancellation and postponement of in-person events, CHE became a creative project to encourage engagement with human evolutionary research during this time of isolation and confinement. It was noticed that, whilst there is great public interest in this area of research, there are few freely accessible online resources about human evolutionary studies itself (though see the Smithsonian Human Origins Programme for a good example of a publicly available resource). What’s more, science engagement initiatives are almost always concerned with communicating exciting results and discoveries, and whilst this is obviously the most important aspect of science communication, it can lead to the neglection of the personal experiences of the scholars behind the science. Broader socio-political issues within subject-specific academic circles are also rarely discussed through publicly accessible communicative forums, somewhat depersonalising the science and perhaps even romanticising academia in certain ways. CHE fills this void by asking – what does it actually mean to study and research human evolution in the 21st century?
Human evolution studies, by definition, is a discipline concerned with the deep past. We explore the most pertinent questions about the evolution of humanity, such as the emergence of complex language and culture. The exploration of such issues allows researchers to look back into our species’ evolutionary history to better understand our present and our future. Yet, we rarely consider the role of history and personal experience in the shaping of human evolution research. Acknowledging that the history of our discipline and its historical figures deserve focus in their own right is a fundamental premise of CHE as, in the same way that human evolutionary research drives our understanding of our past, present and future selves, historical and personal contexts have driven modern approaches to the deep past. CHE bridges the gap between the research and the researcher, contextualising modern science with personal experience and historical reflection.
Volume 1 is organised into five non mutually exclusive categories based on broad research areas: (1) quaternary and archaeological science, (2) Palaeolithic archaeology, (3) biological anthropology and palaeoanthropology, (4) primatology and evolutionary anthropology, and (5) evolutionary genetics. CHE features scholars at various different stages in their careers and from all over the world; in this volume alone, researchers are based at institutions in seven different countries (namely the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States of America, Germany, Denmark, India and China), covering four continents.
Quaternary and Archaeological Science
Section 1 features five conversations with quaternary and archaeological scientists, covering topics such as quantitative methods in archaeology, human-environment interactions, palaeoecology and geoarchaeology. Dr Enrico Crema discusses his research into evolutionary cultural change and prehistoric demography, with a particular focus on Japanese prehistory, as well as the importance of being a ‘π-shaped’ researcher with both domain-specific knowledge and analytical and computing skills. Professor Felix Riede builds on this idea, suggesting that ‘π-shaped’ researchers should learn how to ‘hold hands’ and work collaboratively. He also discusses his research projects attempting to understand how paleoclimates have interacted with past societies, and the role that archaeology can play in current discourse in contemporary climate change. Professor Ben Marwick details the importance of ‘open access archaeology’ as well as some of his many projects, mainly in Southeast Asia. Quaternary Scientist, Professor Chris Hunt recounts his work at the ongoing Shanidar Cave Project in Iraqi Kurdistan (among his many other projects), which has recently published fascinating results on Neanderthal mortuary practises. Professor Andy Herries also reviews his recent publications, such as the dating of the DNH 134 Homo erectus fossil. As well as discussion about his ongoing work in geoarchaeology and geochronology, he stresses the importance of working with local collaborators and communities.
Section 2 features five conversations with Palaeolithic archaeologists working all over the world. This section highlights the ongoing research that is being carried out to further understand prehistoric human behaviour over a huge geographic area. Starting in Asia, Professor Shanti Pappu recounts her experiences of researching the Indian Palaeolithic, drawing special attention to the importance of her outreach programmes with local schools during excavation. Professor Michael Petraglia details his interdisciplinary work in South Asia and East Asia – as well as Arabia and eastern Africa – which has the overarching focus of understanding the origin and dispersal of our own species. Dr Shi-Xia Yang describes her recent work on the stone tools of Palaeolithic in East Asia, making links between hominin behaviours and climatic change in the region. Moving into African Stone Age archaeology, Professor John Gowlett explores his experiences working in eastern Africa, illustrated with amazing pictures from his personal archive. Professor Eleanor Scerri next describes her ongoing work in northern and western Africa. Like others in this volume, she encourages the development of new quantitative and computational methods for interpreting patterns in the archaeological record. Finally, coming into the European Palaeolithic, Dr Rob Davies describes his work at the British Museum looking at the archaeology of ancient Great Britain. As a mature student coming into archaeological research later in life, he provides an invaluable account of his experiences within academia.
Biological Anthropology and Palaeoanthropology
Four biological anthropologists and paleoanthropologists are featured in Section 3, covering topics such as evolutionary medicine, comparative anatomy and the significance of new fossil discoveries. Dr Emma Pomeroy first describes some of her latest work in evolutionary medicine on the osteological indicators of body fatness (among other projects, such as the excavation of Neanderthal remains at Shanidar Cave), discussing the implications of her work on modern health. Professor Chris Stringer talks us through his expansive career in physical anthropology, including his PhD at the University of Bristol which led to the establishment of the Out of Africa hypothesis. Professor Katerina Harvati describes some of her most recent research at Apidima Cave on some of the oldest Homo sapiens fossils outside of Africa. She goes on to discuss some of the technological and methodological advancements that have revolutionized modern anthropological science as well as some of academia’s socio-political issues that still require attention, like the representation of women and ethnic minorities in human evolution research as well as sexual harassment. Finally, Professor Bernard Wood recounts his experiences working with Richard Leakey and other well-known paleoanthropologists during the ‘golden era’ of fossil discoveries.
Primatology and Evolutionary Anthropology
Section 4 includes three conversations with researchers working within primatology and evolutionary anthropology. First, Professor Susana Carvalho describes how she helped to establish the field of ‘primate archaeology’. She also outlines the progression of the Gorongosa Field School and Palaeo-Primate Project in Mozambique which she directs. Like many others, she also strongly advocates the training of local students to lead research in these areas. Then, Dr Isabelle Winder, a self-proclaimed ‘question-led researcher’, discusses the broad nature of her past and present projects, including some very interesting work in the modelling of non-primate species distributions in response to climate change. Finally, Professor Fiona Jordan discusses her work on the VariKin project which uses data, methods and theory from anthropology, biology, linguistics and psychology to explore kinship system diversity. Interestingly, in this conversation, she reflects on her experiences working in academic institutions all over the world.
The final section focuses on individuals working on evolutionary genetics as it features conversations with two population geneticists. First, Professor Eske Willerslev discusses the significance of environmental DNA for understanding biological activity in the past, a field within evolutionary genetics that he founded. He also discusses some of his biggest achievements, such as the first whole-genome sequencing of an ancient human genome and proposes some of the most promising avenues of future research for human evolution studies, such as proteomics. Second, Dr Pontus Skoglund addresses the interaction between archaeology and genetics, discussing some of the contentious issues between the two, such as the definition of ancestry. He also describes his research into the links between population migrations and the global transition to agriculture, archaic gene flow, early human evolution in Africa and more.
About the author
Lucy Timbrell is an AHRC-funded PhD researcher in the Archaeology of Human Origins Research Group at the University of Liverpool. She was awarded her BSc in Evolutionary Anthropology from the University of Liverpool in 2018 and her MPhil in Biological Anthropological Science from Clare College, University of Cambridge, in 2020. Broadly, she is interested in the evolution of modern human diversity, with her doctoral research focussing on quantifying the population structure of early Homo sapiens in Late-Middle Pleistocene Africa. Alongside her PhD research, she organises the widely known University of Liverpool Evolutionary Anthropology seminar series. She has previously published and organised international workshops on the application of geometric morphometrics methods in biological anthropology and archaeology, and was awarded a global prize in 2018 for her undergraduate research that utilized these techniques. Lucy is also an advocate for open science and public engagement with human evolutionary studies.
Conversations in Human Evolution: Volume 1 is available now in paperback (£30) and as a FREE PDF download here.
Sincerest thanks to Lucy Timbrell for supplying this blog post. If you would be interested in submitting something for the Archaeopress Blog – please contact Patrick Harris.
Dr Pinar Durgun discusses the context and background behind her innovative new handbook presenting ‘recipes’ for teaching about the ancient world.
How did the book come about?
The world has changed so quickly and so drastically around us in 2020. So has our teaching: online and open-access resources have often been the only way students and educators can access and share information, when libraries, schools, and cultural organizations have been closed for much of the year, and in many cases remain so. Even when they have re-opened, educators have been forced to teach in entirely new or hybrid formats.
Now that many of us are required to teach over digital platforms, can we expect our students to listen to us lecture for two hours and give us their undivided attention? The instructional designers I work with in preparing my online courses suggest that online lectures should be 10 minutes maximum. So do many other educators. This is how long your students can focus on your lecturing voice and your ‘floating head talking’ video. In the physical classroom, the maximum is around 15-20 minutes. So how do we communicate information and teach content for longer stretches of time while still enabling students to interact and engage?
Interactive classroom activities make learning undeniably more engaging and fun, in addition to providing students with physical dexterity, collaboration, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills. There are very creative educators among us who have been teaching about the ancient world in exciting ways using hands-on, project-based, and experiential activities. I wanted to use these activities in my classes. And based on dozens of activity exchanges with my educator friends, I was sure that other educators were also looking for new strategies to engage their students with the ancient world. This is why I created An Educator’s Handbook for Teaching About the Ancient World.
What is in the book?
The initial idea was to format the lesson plans into a cookbook, with teaching ‘recipes’, which include the materials, budget, preparation time, and level of students so that any educator could replicate these recipes in their classes. Some of these activities require materials, some do not. Some need to be prepared before class, some require no preparation. Some of the activities are very much tied to the culture, time period, or place, but some can be applied to any content. Some of the activities were written by a single educator, and some are a product of collaborative teaching. All of the activities, however, are tested in the classroom and peer-reviewed by other educators. More importantly, all activities are engaging, hands-on, immersive, and/or experiential. They are only a small portion of the endless possibilities of making teaching and learning about the ancient world fun, meaningful, and informative.
In addition to these teaching recipes, this book also addresses some important issues in ancient world pedagogy: Why should we publish educational resources as open access? How can we effectively make use of museums and ancient objects in our teaching? Why should our research and pedagogy be collaborative? Our teaching has broader implications. These essays address such implications and provide great examples and case studies for educators to apply these methods and ways of thinking to their own teaching. I hope this book will be a resource where we can learn from each other about ancient world pedagogy regardless of the time periods, cultural or geographical areas, and subjects we teach.
Who is this book for?
Educators teaching about the ancient world. Students and parents learning how to teach about ancient world. Anyone who is interested in the ancient world and pedagogy. The activities in this book can be implemented online or in-person, in school, university, library, museum, or home classrooms. Every activity specifies the age/grade level of students for which the activity is appropriate. Many activities also have optional steps to make the activity work for other ages/levels. The activities and essays were written by school teachers, university instructors, and museum educators who teach about ancient objects, materials, peoples, and cultures.
Some of the activities were also written in different languages. Contributors and educators Leticia Rovira and Cecilia Molla from Argentina, who wrote their activity both in English and Spanish, say that this book is:
“a novel contribution to the didactics of ancient societies’ teaching. The main objective is challenging and enthralling: to go beyond the thresholds of academy and reach another very important audience –students at different levels- and try to capture their interest, drawing their attention towards our fields of study through a wide diversity of appealing didactic proposals.”
One of the goals of this book was to open up the conversation about ancient world pedagogy and create a hub for more collaboration. I encourage you to try out the teaching activities and share your photos and observations with other educators: https://pinardurgunpd.wixsite.com/teachancient/gallery
Dr Pınar Durgun is an art historically-trained archaeologist with a background in anthropology, cultural heritage, and museums, passionate about outreach and education. She received her Ph.D. from Brown University and has been teaching for about a decade in universities, museums, and school classrooms about archaeology and the ancient world. As a dedicated public scholar and educator, Dr Durgun hopes to make academic information about the ancient world accessible, fun, and inclusive. Find out more about her work here: https://pinardurgunpd.wixsite.com/pinardurgun
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The eBook version of my book is FREE to download in Open Access. To download the free eBook or to purchase a printed hardback copy, please click on the cover image below:
Sincerest thanks to Dr Durgun for writing this article for the Archaeopress Blog. To submit an article, please send your proposal to Patrick Harris: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paweł Gołyźniak of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow presents an introduction to his new book which aims to place engraved gems alongside literature, architecture, sculpture and coins in discourse surrounding Roman propaganda.
How did the Romans effectively communicate their private successes? Whom did they set as examples to follow? How did they manifest their political affinities? How did the political leaders of ancient Rome employ the noble and luxurious art of gem engraving for their political purposes? How did their official seals contribute to the spread of information on their successes and help to build up a positive image within the society? These and many more questions are answered in my book, Engraved Gems and Propaganda in the Roman Republic and under Augustus (see fig. 1).
I think it is one of the most important books on Roman gems ever produced, and hopefully it will become a standard work in university teaching…
Martin Henig, Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford
How did the book came about?
The book deals with small, but highly captivating and stimulating artwork – engraved gemstones (carnelian, agates, amethysts etc. with images carved upon their surfaces). I began studying them a few years ago when I accessed a long forgotten but magnificent collection of intaglios, cameos and seals in the National Museum in Krakow. That assemblage, composed mostly of the gems gathered together by one of the most successful Polish art dealers and collector Constantine Schmidt-Ciążyński (1818-1889), was my first major study, resulting in the publication of the ancient part of the cabinet in 2017. This study was, in fact, the initial spark for my more comprehensive work on the use of intaglios and cameos for self-presentation and propaganda purposes in the Roman Republic and under Augustus. In Krakow, there is a good selection of stones related to this issue. Besides this, engraved gems have so far been somewhat neglected in the analysis of Roman propaganda, with discourse focused mainly on literature, architecture, sculpture or coins. Intaglios and cameos had multiple applications in Antiquity (seals, jewellery or amulets), but despite their various function, the images engraved upon them offer snapshots of people’s beliefs, ideologies, and everyday occupations. Thus, they cast light on the self-advertising and propaganda actions performed by Roman political leaders, especially Octavian/Augustus, their factions and other people engaged in the politics and social life of the past. The major aim of the new book is to place glyptics in the interdisciplinary discourse mentioned above, and fill this gap in the studies of Roman propaganda.
What is inside?
On 618 pages and with the help of 1015 mostly colour illustrations in Engraved Gems and Propaganda in the Roman Republic and under Augustus you can find out how gems can show both general trends (the specific showpieces like State Cameos) as well as the individual and private acts of being involved in politics and social affairs, mainly through a subtle display of political allegiances, since they were objects of strictly personal use. Gems enable us to analyse and learn about Roman propaganda and various social behaviours from a completely different angle than coins, sculpture or literature. The miniaturism of ancient gems is in inverse proportion to their cultural significance. My book presents an evolutionary model of the use of engraved gems from self-presentation (3rd-2nd century BC) to personal branding and propaganda purposes in the Roman Republic and under Augustus (until 14 AD). The specific characteristics of engraved gems, their strictly private character and the whole array of devices appearing on them are examined in respect to their potential propagandistic value and usefulness in social life. Hence, you can see that self-advertising through glyptics did not come out of nowhere in the early 1st century BC. Individuals used to refer to their personal accomplishments as early as in the 3rd century BC as we read in Pliny the Eleder’s Natural History book 37: ‘Intercatia, whose father challenged Scipio Aemilianus, and was slain by him, was in the habit of using a signet with a representation of this combat engraved upon it’.  People used to set the heroes like Achilles, Theseus or Herakles as examples to follow or even to act as a comparison. The display of family legends and origio stories was another important aspect of self-promotion through glyptics. For example, it is plausible that Ulysses engraved upon an intaglio might have been a reference to the legendary ancestor of the gens Mamilia (see fig. 2). The very same depiction of him welcomed by his dog Argos appears on the denarii minted by C. Mamilius Limetanus in 82 BC (see fig. 3). Even though gems’ iconography is complex, and often it cannot be determined if it represents one specific narrative, still gems seem to be as vital in the promotion of personal or familial stories as were coins.
I tried, in the presentation of this book, to make good use of more than one hundred Roman Republican and Augustan coins (counting only those illustrated, many more are referred in the text) in order to prove the numerous connections between glyptics and numismatics, not only on technical and stylistic grounds, but most importantly in the propaganda agenda they both transmit. Coins sometimes compensate for important lost intaglios like in the case of the two seals of Lucius Licinius Sulla and they offer immeasurable help with portraits’ identification as well as dates. The first seal of Sulla represented the dictator seated on a raised seat with a bound Jugurtha kneeling beside him while before him kneels Bocchus, offering an olive-branch. The seal portrays Sulla’s first great victory, in which he ended the Jugurthine War (112-106 BC) and its iconography was most likely based on the sculptural prototype which was a gilded statuary group sent by Bocchus to Rome and installed on the Capitol. That event enormously boosted his political career and for a nobleman seeking to raise his authority it was a perfect occasion to promote his success. There was no better way to illustrate his exceptional military and political achievement than upon a personal seal. The seal itself as well as the statuary group have not survived, but the seal’s iconography inspired the son of Sulla, Faustus Cornelius Sulla (questor in 54 BC), who in 56 BC minted a denarius presenting exactly the same scene.
However, the particular strength of gems if compared to coins and any other branch of art and craft is that they exhibit the real involvement of the society into politics and prove propaganda campaigns successfulness. This is due to the fact that they were strictly private objects; they carried images that people identified with. Hence, a portrait of a political leader like Pompey the Great or Julius Caesar upon one’s ring was a clear manifestation of support towards a patron (see fig. 5). Moreover, intaglios and cameos were both mass produced objects (especially glass gems) and the luxurious ones (for instance the so-called State Cameos). This makes glyptics particularly effective propaganda channel suitable for agitation and integration and reaching all social strata. The most effective with the employment of gem engravers for his political purposes was, of course, Emperor Augustus. He not only organised an imperial court workshop lead by the famous Dioscurides and his three sons producing intaglios and exceptional cameos for him, but was also quite influential on the whole glyptic production at the time of his reign. This is clear from analysis of gems iconography since, for instance, many bear subjects related to the mythological foundations of the New Rome (see fig. 6). It seems that glyptics, apart from coinage and sculpture, was also another channel promoting Augustus successors because one finds their numerous portraits cut upon gemstones (see fig. 7).
Overall, the aim of my book is to offer new insights into the political and social affairs of ancient Rome. It should be of interest not only to those studying intaglios and cameos but coin enthusiasts will certainly find the exposed interconnections between numismatics and glyptics useful and interesting. I hope all those interested in Roman propaganda, archaeology and art will profit from the book as well.
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The eBook version of my book is FREE to download in Open Access. To download the free eBook or to purchase a printed hardback copy (£90), please visit: https://tinyurl.com/9781789695397
About the Author
Paweł Gołyźniak works as a Research Fellow in the Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University in Krakow. His research interests include engraved gems (ancient and neo-classical), Roman Republican and Augustan numismatics, history of antiquarianism, collecting and scholarship as well as 18th century drawings of intaglios and cameos and the legacy of antiquary and connoisseur Philipp von Stosch (1691-1757). Author of two monographs (Ancient Engraved Gems in the National Museum in Krakow (Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2017) and Engraved Gems and Propaganda in the Roman Republic and under Augustus (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2020)) and more than a dozen scientific articles, most can be found on his Academia.edu profile: https://jagiellonian.academia.edu/PawelGolyzniak
 Gołyźniak, P. 2017. Ancient Engraved Gems in the National Museum in Krakow. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag. See also an article providing an overview of the whole cabinet: Gołyźniak, P., Natkaniec-Nowak, L. and Dumańska-Słowik M. 2016. A nineteenth-century glyptic collection in the National Museum in Cracow: The cabinet of Constantine Schmidt-Ciążyński. Journal of the History of Collections 28 (1), (March 2016): 85-96 (DOI: 10.1093/jhc/fhu056).
 Plutarch, Life of Sulla, 6.1. However, Flower has suggested that Bocchus took the inspiration for his monumental sculptural group directly from Sulla’s ring device (Flower, H.I. 2006 The art of forgetting: Disgrace and oblivion in Roman political culture. Chapel Hill: 113).
St John Simpson and Svetlana Pankova whet our appetites for the forthcoming proceedings volume, ‘Masters of the Steppe: The Impact of the Scythians and Later Nomad Societies of Eurasia’
We are delighted and relieved in equal measure to now offer you this blog announcing the forthcoming publication of papers arising from the major international conference at the British Museum which was inspired by and connected to our blockbuster exhibition Scythians: warriors of ancient Siberia!
The packed programme ranged from broad sweeping overviews to the latest excavation discoveries, scientific analyses of gold and anthropological analyses of cemetery populations. We also had many other papers accepted but, owing to an unfortunate combination of visa problems and personal health issues, some had to be delivered in absentia and others were not presented at all. However, we decided to include them, and expand our proceedings into an even larger volume which captures some of the richness of the archaeology of the Eurasian nomads of antiquity.
Nomads have an image problem but only amongst non-nomads. Today, people without fixed homes are viewed disparagingly in many societies, even though a tent or even the temporary shade of a tree may be considered a suitable home by those on the move or the so-called ‘homeless’. Herodotus gives a more nuanced world view: as an exiled Greek from western Anatolia staying in one or more northern Black Sea ports, he almost sympathises with the Scythians he describes as he attempts the first ethnographic description of where they came from, how they lived, what they ate and drank, believed and valued most.
The 45 papers by 51 contributors and co-authors in this volume capture some of the latest thinking and research on the early nomads of Eurasia, from present-day Romania, Ukraine and the northern Caucasus in the west to southern Siberia, Kazakhstan and China in the east. From them, we get a much richer, more varied and, occasionally darker, picture of life on the steppe. This was a hard but dynamic environment and these people understood how to exploit it. They took care of their appearance: women used scent and makeup, manicuring was surely not limited to the dead, and leather and fur preserved in the ‘frozen tombs’ of the Altai provide exceptional evidence for local and imported forms of dress. We also have papers on their horses, how they were cared for, saddled and dressed up for ceremonies. We have new scientific analyses looking at the sources and working of leather, including human skin, textile dyeing and weaving technology, bead production, the making of a ‘Scythian bow’, swords, and the various techniques used in working gold. There are papers on famous sites of different cultures, such as the Scythian kurgans of Alexandropol, Arzhan-2, Issyk, Kelermes and Taksai-1, the massive settlement at Bel’sk, an intriguing hoard from the fortress at Stâncești, and much later cemeteries at Noin Ula and Oglakhty. Surveys and GIS-based studies show how some of these were situated within their physical and socio-political landscape. Other papers discuss the development and possible reasons behind the development of ‘Animal Style’ art, as well as its many forms and applied media from metal and carved horn to rock art. And, of course, we have papers on kurgans: how and why they were built as monuments to the dead, and what forms of funerary feasting and even more macabre activities took place around them. Some papers re-examine the relationship of the Scythians with colonial Greek and forest-steppe communities around the Black Sea, another details changing directions of influence in the northern Caucasus, and yet others examine new evidence for interaction and mediation of motifs between nomads, Achaemenids and Greeks, and the penetration of new ideas into northern China. Close connections between peoples occupying the Minusinsk and Tarim Basins at a later date are the subject of one paper, and the dramatic effect the Huns had on the fortunes of the Sasanian and Gupta empires is the topic of another; yet others focus on the collections in the State Hermitage Museum and Royal Collection in London to retrace the original context of pieces which passed through private hands, the impact early discoveries had on ‘Scythian Revival’ decorative arts and Western scholarship.
The adaptation of the horse from a herd and pack animal to a means of rapid transport revolutionised society. Greater mobility accelerated the pace of introduction of ideas, fashions and technologies: whereas before it might have taken a cart two years to travel the 4,500 km from the Black Sea to Tuva, a horseman could now theoretically go and return within a few months. It also created a new predatory approach to acquiring and controlling vast new resources which is reflected in the new weaponry and dynamic early phases of ‘Animal Style’ art. These people understood their animals and the available natural resources, and were highly skilled horse breeders as well as excellent riders.
The nomads moved camps seasonally and varied their activities accordingly. After shearing their sheep in the early summer there was plenty of wool for making felt items. This was also the ideal period to weave textiles although spinning must have been an all-year-round activity, and the same probably applies to whittling bone or carving small wooden objects. It was in the summer that many tribes sowed and harvested millet. Trapping and hunting were year-round activities. Some tribes also knew how to extract metal: some must have established base camps near the rivers where they knew placer deposits were present and spent part of their time patiently panning as well as probably fishing, whereas others returned year after year to camp near ore veins and extend their mine shafts deeper into the rock. The working of metals did not require large or complicated tool-kits and the variety of regional styles and quantity of metal in circulation prove they had ample access to metal, knew how to work it and supply it to the nearest settlements. The interaction between these different groups was much more complex than simply avoidance or conflict; there may have been regular tensions but each community relied to some extent on the other and carefully negotiated relationships must have been developed locally. Access to the different areas and types of resource on the steppe and in the valleys must have been jealously guarded by different tribes and sub-tribes. However, the weaponisation of Scythian society and level of inter-personal violence exhibited in the archaeological record illustrate how competition could easily lead to conflict with resolution through violence rather than tribal discourse. These were people with skills, traditions, beliefs and complex social structures. They developed a sustainable lifestyle which lasted for almost three millennia and one which continues to resonate strongly in the region today.
Sincerest thanks to Dr Simpson and Dr Pankova for providing this blog post.
David J. Breeze introduces an edited festschrift volume, new from Archaeopress, where nearly 40 archaeologists, historians and heritage managers present their researches on the Antonine Wall in recognition of the work of Lawrence Keppie, formerly Professor of Roman History and Archaeology at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow University
Arranging a Festschrift can be a fraught task. The organiser wants to honour the recipient, but if s/he is a university lecturer it is likely that the potential contributors will come from a range of interests, creating a rather disparate book, which in turn might have an impact on sales. With Lawrence, a former museum curator, the decision for Bill Hanson and myself was simple; the obvious focus of the volume was the Antonine Wall. After all, Lawrence had excavated throughout its whole length and curated its most famous artefacts, the distance slabs. Within a week of inviting all the archaeologists currently working on the Wall we had a full volume. Moreover, the 39 contributors, writing 32 papers, easily covered the wide range of Lawrence’s interests.
We start with looking at the Antonine Wall in its landscape and its impact on the indigenous population. The core of the volume are papers on the frontier and its artefacts, examining its building and occupation. The final section embraces Lawrence’s historiographical interests as well as the presentation of the Wall today and its role as part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. Colleagues rose to the challenge of writing on Roman women on the Wall and on veterans for both of which there is so little evidence. There are papers here which we knew would interest Lawrence and acknowledge his major contribution to understanding Rome’s North-West frontier, including one on the structure of the Wall itself which goes to the heart of the monument as well as to Lawrencce’s investigations along its line.
Cover image: The Distance Stone of the Twentieth Legion from Hutcheson Hill (RIB III 3507) found in 1969 lying face down in a shallow pit immediately to the south of the Wall (copyright Hunterian, University of Glasgow).
John F. Potter examines the evidence for the measures taken to make church buildings secure or defensible from their earliest times until the later medieval period. In particular he studies the phenomenon of ‘bar locks’.
Professor John F. Potter BSc, PhD, FGS, CBiol, FSB, FIEnvSc 6th July 1932 – 27th November 2019
A note from the Publisher:
We were greatly saddened to hear of the passing of our friend and colleague Professor John F. Potter in late 2019. John had been a regular collaborator with Archaeopress and we shall miss his visits to our office very much. We were very far into production for John’s latest title Bar Locks and Early Church Security in the British Isles when he died and, with the kind permission and co-operation of his family, were able to complete the project for final publication. The book is published in our Access Archaeology imprint where the PDF eBook can be downloaded free of charge. A printed paperback edition is also available, priced £40.00.
We are very pleased to present the introduction below, along with a link to continue reading via the free PDF download.
Bar Locks and Early Church Security in the British Isles
John F. Potter
Chapter One. Keys and Bar Locks
The evolution of this study
Forty plus years of detailed study of the fabrics and structures of early Christian ecclesiastical sites and buildings, throughout the British Isles have led the author to some unexpected discoveries. One, in particular, has been that very little examination, discussion or observation has been made as to how the earlier of these buildings were made secure when they were first built. That castles should possess defensive features such as the moat, drawbridge, portcullis and thick walls, all constructed to provide defence and security, has never been questioned. In 2004, Harrison in a description of many of the larger, predominantly monastic, religious structures in the northern hemisphere described them as ‘Castles of God’ and that ‘architecturally, the ecclesiastical edifice is subservient to the military’. Early churches, perhaps erected at much the same time and on occasions presumably in the possession of valuables, would often appear to remain lacking in any similar level of protection.
The populace at large today, and most persons associated with churches, including those whose work or study embraces these churches, in response to comment or the question as to how the early protection of the buildings was accomplished, may well answer ‘with doors and keys, of course’. A very limited number of persons have used, or are aware of instances of, a means of locking a church door without a key. Scrutiny of some older doorways does, however, certainly reveal evidence in the jambs of what might be termed ‘wooden sliding cross bar security systems’, or briefly, ‘bar locks’ (Figure 1.1). In the British Isles, as far as the present author originally believed, no attempt had been made to fully describe the function, distribution, or use and implications of this means of security. In the earliest years of the second millennium the present author identified and recognised the importance of bar locks which he had observed in Wales for the first time. At that time, bar locks, had been recently reported in churches in Southern Sweden and described in the PhD thesis of Dr Raine Borg. Possibly without intention, Dr Borg intimated, in correspondence, that this occurrence was the first to be recorded in Europe. More recently, the present author was to discover the large amount of study undertaken in recent years on the subject of the defence of churches and like buildings. An earlier study in France also refers to the defensive aspects of large churches.
In past times, just as today, it has always been necessary for buildings to provide security. This has been sought in order to protect various possessions, and to offer personal refuge and safety within the building. Before the invention of the locking devices with which we are familiar today, and in particular, the innovation of keys, the requirement must have created major and significant problems. For those with money and power, the ultimate protective structure in the past was provided by the sanctuary of the castle. At that time, in contrast to the castle, the early churches and the smaller monastic properties of the period were established to provide religious services and leadership, as well as the facility for personal private prayer. These were offered by invitation, and as today, they were dependent upon the buildings involved being open for attendance. Unless permanently supervised and controlled, the churches and their valuable contents could have, therefore, been subject to substantial damage and possible loss.
The historical records disclose that Viking, Norse and Danish marauding visitors found churches especially, relatively easy picking. Some of these raids have been documented by the current author and certain periods of Viking and Danish activity are referred to in Table 1.1 of the present work. These particular accounts highlight the need for church security in fraught circumstances, but it is easy to imagine the routine need for church security in much less difficult ‘everyday’ circumstances, both in earlier and later periods. At the simplest level there would be a need to keep undesirables, animals and the weather out of churches. (The special circumstances of the churches in the Border country between England and Scotland in the early medieval period are examined below).
The relatively recent recognition that some early churches, in the absence of keys, were kept secure from the inside of the church, by means of thick wooden bars (bar locks), confirms the requirement that often permanent occupation by a person or persons must have become a necessity. Only from within the church was the positioning of bar locks possible.
The capability to lock a strong church door from the inside would have been the first fundamental step in securing the building and possibly providing some sanctuary for temporary occupants who had fled from their more fragile dwellings. The shuttering and provision of bar locks for windows is analogous. Instances are evident where the original church may have needed supplementary structural protection beyond that provided by the installed door bar locks, and these measures could have major implications for structural change and design in the buildings. These supplementary protective requirements and methods for achieving them are many and various and are considered below. The recognition of the role of bar locks in securing churches led the present author to consider the further measures introduced to enhance church security, but the starting point of this study is an examination of the evidence for bar locks which takes up the first half of this work. The more varied measures taken to enhance more general church security provide the basis for the second half of this work.
What is a bar lock?
Typically constructed of metal such as iron or steel, a modern bar lock might be described as a long bolt which may be attached to the inside or outside of a door, so that the shaft of the bolt may be slid into a housing either built into, or attached to, the door jamb on the opposite side of the door to the door’s hinge. Commonly, in current modern systems, the bolt may be additionally secured, or prevented from further movement, by some form of locking system involving a key. An enormous range of modern bar locks exists and modified forms of this type of security range from the standard ‘push-bar’ emergency exit, to other instances of longer bars across a full door width, such as where a central key withdraws a catch from the housings on both door jambs.
If security is required only from one side, as in the home, it is more common to separate the mechanical functions of the bolt from those of the lock and key. Simple effective door bolts may be applied manually. Outside the scope of this discussion there are the many non-mechanical means of modern origin (such as electronic and electrical methods), which can provide safe-keeping.
The term ‘draw bar’ has been used by certain authors as an alternative term for bar lock, placing the emphasis on the unlocking rather than the locking process.
Keys and locks
The security of buildings today may be optimised both inside and outside by using a locking system which typically involves one or more keys. For a single key to access both sides of a door locking system, a key-hole is necessary. The simplicity of this form of security poses the question as to how long locks and keys have been available, and in particular, for how long have they been used in churches? Both locks and keys vary enormously in their structure. Raine Borg has defined keys as being instruments that are programmed or coded through the shape of the bit, which matches the pins and wards of the lock (See Figure 1.2). The turning of the key typically closes or opens the lock. The bit is that part of the key which acts directly on the locking mechanism.
It is possible that the earliest locks and keys were constructed five or six thousand years ago and wooden keys and locks are recorded from ancient Egypt. Such a wooden device was recorded in Assyria in the city of Nineveh at the palace of Khorsabad (in Iraqi, Kurdistan) and said to date from 704BC. It is probable that originally gravity-controlled pins fell into position to control the movement of a security bolt. The bolt was then freed by inserting a large and cumbersome wooden key which was used to manually lift and free the pins. The ancient Greeks may have invented and certainly used the keyhole and metal (typically bronze or iron) locks and keys. Homer’s Odyssey (Book 21) recounts how Penelope, wife of Odysseus, ‘… quickly undid the thong attached to the hook, passed the key through the hole, and with an accurate thrust shot back the bolt.’ Elsewhere, Penelope is said to use a ‘well-made bronze key with an ivory handle’ and the ‘bolting and barring’ of the courtyard gate is requested. Metallic bronze and iron keys were widely used by the Romans. Raine Borg suggests that the Romans could manufacture sufficiently suitable iron to create springs to enable padlocks to be created. The craft indeed was so sophisticated to allow the creation of somewhat similar so-called small ‘puzzle padlocks’ bearing a face or ‘mask’ in Celtic style. The padlocks were designed to secure small bags or money pouches and their distribution extended across Europe.
Keys are collected widely but dating them and determining where, or for what purpose, they were used is difficult to ascertain. A useful ‘lexicon of locks and keys’ can be found on the web site http://www.historicallocks.com/en/site/h/historicallocks/dictionary/. This site gives details of the many varied locks and keys which may be found and their possible functions. Figure 1.3, again from a sketch by Raine Borg, illustrates several iron keys with claws, each long key, used to manually release different locking systems. They were probably of Viking (Celtic) age and were found in the Vӓrnamo area of Sweden. They were in all probability used in much the same manner as described by Homer.
Figure 1.4 illustrates a bronze key identified as of Viking source with a clawed blade (Historia om nycklar 3 liten) which is believed to have been used about AD 300; while Figure 1.5, which is a similar clawed key, has been described as of Anglo-Viking origin and dated to about AD 900 (author J. F. Smith). Dr Raine Borg holds a large personal collection of keys, and he has produced a drawing of one of his keys from southern Sweden which is thought to date from the early 1100s. It is believed to have been operated as a metallic (iron) mechanism within a block of wood and, as the key is more than 150mm long, it is possible to presume that locking could be achieved from either side (of a door) by means of a keyhole. In many locking mechanisms little of the action can be readily viewed and the workings may be encased. The pull-ring lock from Sweden (shown in Figure 1.6) required two hands to operate, one for pulling the ring whilst the other turned the key. It is dated to 1312-13 and is photographed here by Raine Borg.
Early Bar Locks
Figure 1.1, taken from the above-mentioned web site, shows the very simplest of bar locking systems created in timber. It has no key. Critically, it would protect only those people or objects on the side of the door bar lock. Such a locking system has not been observed by the present author in an ecclesiastical site. However, on occasions somewhat modified examples exist. Typically they are strengthened with metal parts and padlocks, to be used on rarely-used doorways in small churches, in order to secure the building. Such an example may be observed at Stragglethorpe church (SK 913 524), in Lincolnshire (Figure 1.7). The door illustrated must be of relatively modern construction. In other churches, bar locks of no great age and without supportive padlocks may provide security to a minor entrance, where the church has keys with locks to control principal entrances to the building.
There is ample evidence that bar locking systems were used in many churches of much greater age. In the oldest examples it is possible to attribute their origin to the Anglo-Saxon period. Typically, thick wooden doors were barricaded by an interior bar locking system. This amounted to a long, bulky length of solid wood about 0.08 to 0.12m in cross section, which ran across the back of the door and was held in position by a hole in the wall on either side of the door. On occasions there were two bars of this nature, one towards the top of the door, the other towards the bottom. This (or these) left the door immovable between the door rebate and the bar. To open the door the bar was slid into a cavity in the wall which was deep enough to accommodate the full length of the bar. The cross bars were typically at least 1.5m long, more than sufficient to cover the full width of the doorway aperture. Full evidence of the door (or the cross bar) involved is observed only rarely in the British Isles, but it is possible that, for ease of use, the weight of the bar was supported by appropriate attachments on the back of the door.
In his studies in Southern Sweden, Borg discovered three instances where remains of the cross bar were still present (all in Gotland County), and in all, 16 instances of churches with cross bar holes or ‘grooves’. Twelve of these were in Gotland County. In many examples in Southern Sweden, two, three or even four doorways (but generally all the doorways in an individual church) carried evidence of cross-bar locking. The churches involved, were given building dates mainly within the early 13th C., but in the range of 1086 (Lӓrbro, Gotland) to 1400 (Sjösås, Kronoberg County). Dr Borg has advised that the work is to be published in the http://www.historicallocks.com web site (of which he is the author).
In the British Isles, with the invention of simple, cheap and effective mechanical key locking systems, the bar locks tended to fall into disuse and the holes for the bars were often filled and forgotten. In many instances the presence of a bar lock hole is difficult to ascertain for it may have been infilled with stone or wood when it was no longer required. It must be accepted that if all entry points to a church possessed a bar locking system those persons involved in locking the church (or other building) would have to remain inside the premises.
In the majority of churches where bar locking systems of the type just described occur, it is evident that the buildings were secured, therefore, for the defence of both people and property. This involved both the clergy and, if necessary, local inhabitants. According to the number of doors, each door would have been similarly protected in times of potential danger or need for security. It is clear that those involved in security by this means remained within the church until any imminent danger had disappeared. Occasionally these bars would have been of such a size and weight as to require more than one person to be able easily to fit them into position, rather than individuals.
What regrettably cannot be determined is the date from which each church acquired a key locking system to permit both exit and entry. That keys were readily available to the wealthy is clear from carvings on gravestones, typically those dated to about the 15th C. Keys were certainly known much earlier but they were uncommon. King Henry VIII is known to have been accompanied always by a door key locking system which was fitted for his privacy, wherever his geographical locality. The British Museum holds three keys, described as padlock keys, tentatively dated to the period 9th to 11th C. Although they might possibly have been used in a church, they have not been related to any specific church by locality: neither has their precise function been suggested.
Bonde, S. 1994. Fortress-Churches of Languedoc. Architecture, religion and conflict in the High Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Borg, R. 2002. Smålands medeltida dopfuntar. En inventering i komparativ belysning. (Medieval Baptismal Fonts in the Swedish province of Smolandica. An inventory in the light of comparison). Göteborg University: Gothenborg Studies in Art and Architecture, 11, 281 pp., Göteborg, Vols I-II.
Brooke, C.J. 2000. Safe Sanctuaries: security and defence in Anglo-Scottish Border Churches 1290 – 1690. John Donald, Edinburgh.
De Vries, M.J., Cross, N. and Grant, D.P. (eds), 1992. Design Methodology and Relationships with Science: introduction. Kluwer Academic, Eindhoven.
Harrison, P. 2004. Castles of God: fortified religious buildings of the World. Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Potter, J.F. 2005b. No stone unturned – a re-assessment of Anglo-Saxon long-and-short quoins and associated structures. Archaeological Journal, 162, 177-214.
Potter, J.F. 2005c. Field Meeting: Romney Marsh – its churches and geology, 22 May 2004. Proceedings of the Geologists’Association, 116, 161-175.
Potter, J.F. 2009c. Patterns in Stonework: The early church in Britain and Ireland; an introduction to ecclesiastical geology. British Archaeological Report, British Series 496, xxvi + 191pp., Archaeopress, Oxford.
Potter, J.F. 2013a. Searching for Early Welsh Churches: a study in ecclesiastical geology. British Archaeological Report, British Series 578, xxxvi + 457pp., Archaeopress, Oxford.
Potter, J.F. 2015. Patterns in Stonework: The Early Churches in Northern England: a further study in ecclesiastical geology. Part A. The Counties of Cheshire, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire and Lincolnshire. British Archaeological Report, British Series 617, xxxvii + 314pp, Archaeopress, Oxford.
Potter, J.F. 2016b. Patterns in Stonework: The Early Churches in Northern England: a further study in ecclesiastical geology. Part B. The Counties of Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire. British Archaeological Report, British Series 624, xxxvi + 234pp.
Manning, C. 2010. Patterns in stonework: The early church in Britain and Ireland; an introduction to ecclesiastical geology. British Archaeological Report, British Series 496. Book Review, Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Dublin. (And associated correspondence).
Slocum, J. and Sonneveld, D. 2017. Romano-Celtic Puzzle Padlocks: a study in their design, technology and security. Archaeopress, Oxford.
Ian Meadow’s report on the Pioneer Burial is nominated for Current Archaeology Magazine’s Book of the Year Award 2020. Here, Ian relives the discovery and reminds us how serendipitous archaeological finds can be…
The Pioneer Burial epitomises the serendipitous nature of archaeology and the reason archaeologists do what they do. We had been working in the quarries at Wollaston from 1993 and had recorded two sections of landscape totalling a length of over 2 kilometres and over 100 hectares which was dominated by the remains of Iron Age and Roman settlement: a series of land divisions and then numerous small farmsteads, including honey bees from an Iron Age ditch and the first proven Roman vineyard in Britain. The whole site was arranged along a droveway that had its origins in the Iron Age and became a Roman road (perhaps running between Irchester to the northeast and Towcester to the southwest.)
The scale of works by the quarry was reflected by the machinery that was used to open up the ground, D8 caterpillar tractor units pulling box scrapers each weighing many tonnes. The scale of works, and the intention to return the ground to agriculture once quarrying had finished, meant large stacks of soils were created to preserve the agricultural topsoil and subsoil. Guidance on soils advised that, whilst topsoil could be stacked directly upon topsoil, a subsoil stack would require the topsoil removing so that it was stacked only on subsoil, thereby avoiding contamination. Areas of the landscape were therefore cleared of topsoil to enable the storage of the subsoil ready for reinstatement.
The discovery and excavation
Throughout the project a detailed metal detecting survey was carried out by Steve Critchley, the project’s detectorist, not just of the excavation areas but also on the footprint of these areas for subsoil stacks. As it was agricultural land the brief was not to bother with ferrous signals as they were generally nails, horse shoes or bits of tractor. One lunch time Steve came to the shed having recovered part of a bronze bowl and a decorative mount. From our previous experience we recognised these fragments as part of an Anglo-Saxon hanging bowl, an object-type of which there were around a hundred known at that time and which are often associated with rich Anglo-Saxon burials. Steve said that in the same area there were numerous ferrous signals. When we all went to investigate we saw that the bowl fragments were found about 1 metre from the edge of the latest area to have its topsoil removed, exposing the subsoil. If the area had been only slightly smaller it would never have been found. We carried out some initial excavation which exposed a long iron object, the sword.
We were very aware of the significance that a bowl and a sword indicated this was probably a rich burial but as it was Friday afternoon we would not be able to complete the excavation and recover the objects. I decided we should stop digging and conceal the grave location as best we could. We gathered an oil drum, various pallets and other bulky pieces of rubbish that we stacked on the grave, hiding its location to anyone that did not know it was there.
On the Monday morning we commenced the hand excavation of what we knew was likely to be a rich Anglo-Saxon grave. The digging was slow and careful with small tools so as not to miss anything and slowly but surely the remains of a bronze bowl, a long iron sword, a small knife, three buckles and a rough jumble of ferrous material was defined along with a couple of lengths of long bone, part of a cranial dome and bunter cobble. As these things were being exposed I tried to ensure the conservator was available to deal with the items. I duly phoned, only to be told he was out of the office. On the Tuesday, while the excavation continued, I tried again and got much the same response and on the Wednesday I was told he was on holiday until the following Monday. Knowing we could not leave the finds in the ground we carried on the excavation and recording of the grave.
Once everything was exposed and recorded we lifted the sword on a plank of wood (upcycled from a skip) and, to hold it together, we wrapped the rough jumble of ferrous material first in cling film and then in bandages soaked in plaster of Paris (the bandages came from the site first aid kit). This object was quite large, about the size of a big Christmas cake, but its shape was not clear. Whilst we wondered if it might have been a helmet we thought, given there were then only three other examples, it was unlikely; as a result the bags of stray pieces were marked ‘possible bucket’. Once all lifted the finds were taken back to the unit’s office in Northampton but no one else was told what we might have recovered. On the following Monday the finds were taken to Leicester and when we got the rough lump X-rayed and saw the distinct outline of a boar crest – it was obvious that what we had found was no bucket!
From that point on this burial dominated our lives. The quarry company (Pioneer Aggregates) funded the conservation and PR and the grave and finds were on the news around the world. As it was such a rare object, we had offers of help and support (much of it for free) from numerous specialists without which we would never have got all the information that features in the report. We also had ‘interesting’ offers including one from a member of the public who said he could trace his ancestry back to the God Odin and offered us a DNA sample to see if he was related to the body in our grave.
Given what we knew about the landscape in the quarry, a rich Anglo-Saxon grave was not something we would have anticipated and the fact it lay only just within an area stripped of topsoil shows how serendipitous archaeology is. We really were very lucky finding this grave that occupied only a couple of square metres in the hundreds of hectares we recorded and, ironically, the area stripped was ultimately not all used for stacking.
Sincerest thanks to Ian Meadows for providing this article for the Archaeopress Blog.
A conference on the Rise of Parthia taking place in April 2020
The Parthian empire is by far the least understood of the great empires of antiquity. Until recently our knowledge has been both hazy and Euro-centric. In recent decades, however, new approaches have been adopted and these, together with new archaeological discoveries, are changing our preconceptions. Recognising this, in April 2020 the British Musuem will host leading international scholars presenting their most recent research on the history, culture and archaeology of the early Parthian Empire. Set against the complex political scenario of Iran, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor in the 2nd-1st centuries BC, speakers will address a wide range of issues on the rise of the empire and the relationship of the early Arsacids with their neighbours. Contributions will include re-evaluations of historical sources, analyses of material datasets, numismatics and reports on new work in the field. Specific themes addressed will include diplomacy, religion, sculpture, painting, chronology, ideological motifs, warfare and trade. This will lead to the promulgation of new models and a new understanding of the social, economic and political systems leading to the emergence of the Empire.
The conference will run in conjunction with two British Museum exhibitions – Rivalling Rome: Parthian coins and culture (April – September 2020) in the Museum itself; and the touring exhibition Ancient Iraq: New Discoveries, travelling to Nottingham and Newcastle (March-November 2020).
For details about the conference, including how to register, please visit the page on the British Museum website:
Professor Howard Williams, University of Chester, introduces his co-edited volume stemming from the 2nd University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference, April 2017.
How should communities be engaged with archaeological research and how are new projects targeting distinctive groups and deploying innovative methods and media? In particular, how are art/archaeological interactions key to public archaeology today?
There remain surprisingly few edited collections in the field of public archaeology. Building on recent work, including the edited collection from 2015 Archaeology for All: Community Archaeology in the Early 21st Century edited by Mike Nevell and Norman Redhead, and Gabriel Moshenska’s edited collection: Key Concepts in Public Archaeology, this new book helps to extend and expand critical discussions. It provides an outlet for an original and distinctive mix of fresh perspectives and approaches, specifically addressing art/archaeological intersections in public archaeology’s theory and practice. Our book focuses on UK perspectives and practices in public archaeology, although we feel many of the themes addressed are of global significance.
How did it come about?
Following the 2nd University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference, 5 April 2017, Dr Caroline Pudney and I teamed up with former student Afnan Ezzedin to take the research presented forward to publication. We have crafted a proceedings which combines distinctive and select contributions from (undergraduate and Masters) archaeology students together with a range of original investigations and evaluations from academics and heritage practitioners.
There are 22 contributions all told by 26 authors; many chapters are supported by colour illustrations.
Sara Perry writes an insightful and personal Foreword, using her own experiences as a means on reflecting about how we write critical public archaeologies which take our practices in new directions. Following this, there are two chapters by me. The first is an introduction which surveys pertinent themes and issues in public archaeology and art/archaeology interactions in particular, and the second, written to showcase the student presentations incorporated into the book as well as those that were not, reviews the conference and the development of the book.
The main body of the book is split into 3 sections. ‘The Art of Engagement: Strategies and Debates in Public Archaeology’ contains 8 chapters exploring different ways in which strategies are being deployed in public engagement and how we evaluate our practices. For example, I have co-authored a chapter in here which draws on the conference paper and essay by Rachel Alexander; we evaluate the much-lauded Operation Nightingale’s dialogues with early medieval warriors.
The second section – ‘Arts in Public Archaeology: Digital and Visual Media’, incorporates 6 chapters, each exploring different means of public engagement and evaluating their potential and challenges. My chapter in this section, for example, critically reviews my Archaeodeathblog from its inception in 2013 to the end of 2018.
The third and final section – ‘Art as Public Archaeology’ – has 4 chapters, considering different visual media as subject and strategy for public and community projects.
The Afterword by Dr Seren Griffiths identifies that all archaeology should have a ‘public’ dimension, and that creativity and playfulness must be key ingredients of good public archaeology.
Libraries at least should definitely have physical copies to complement the online ones I think! Also, in case you weren’t sure, archaeology books as Christmas presents are definitely a thing!
I duly acknowledge the hard work of the students and colleagues in facilitating the conference. I also recognise the help and camaraderie of my co-editors Caroline and Afnan, the enthusiasm and contributions of the authors, the generous guidance of so many of my fellow archaeologists, the critical insights of the peer-reviewers, and the steadfast support of Archaeopress. Together this team has shown commitment in creating a high-quality peer-reviewed academic publication with no funding and sparse other support. I’m therefore very proud that these conferences and their publications are recognised as a positive thing: it was great to receive the 2019 Educate North Teaching Excellence Award as a result.
The book is dedicated to the memory of Dr Peter Boughton FSA, Keeper of Art for West Cheshire Museums who had worked hard to facilitate the conferences taking place at Grosvenor Museum as public free day conferences in the heart of the city of Chester.