Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas Champions

Once again, I've missed the opportunity of going to see a performance of English Acoustic's Collective exploration of the British mumming tradition Christmas Champions, though its still possible to catch the original broadcast for Late Junction on which it was based. There is also an interesting article from Folk World about its genesis.

Sadly, this year I won't be able to catch the Mummer's Play in Wantage on Boxing Day, which has become a bit of a family tradition in recent years. Its not such a tradition up North, where the plough stotts are more common. I'd like to think I'll catch the Goathland plough stots, but suspect we won't make it... (I am now wishing I'd brought the original 1913 pamphlet on the sword dances of Northern England by Cecil Sharp, which I saw in Fossgate Books today..doh!)

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Collecting England

Jane recently came across the website for the brilliant Pitt Rivers Museum Inside England project. It won’t come as a surprise given my recent posts how interesting I’ve found this. Partly for the highly entertaining object biographies (Tylor's bewitched onion anyone?) and partly because its got me thinking about the history of collecting English folk/vernacular objects. As the name of the museum suggests, it was founded by General Augustus Pitt-Rivers, one of the founding fathers of British archaeology. His influence was greatest in the development of field techniques, but he was also important as one of the earliest field archaeologists to beging to place his practical archaeology in a broader theoretical framework. Not surprisingly for someone of his dates he seized upon Darwinism and evolutionary approaches. He was also dedicated to promoting and popularising archaeology and education more generally. He opened his private estate as a kind of educational pleasure ground and also built up collections of a wide range of objects and artefacts, often arranged typologically to illustrate the process of evolution through the change in form of objects. His early collections certainly included contemporary (ie 19th century) objects, and much of his early thoughts about material culture and evolution were worked through in his collection of firearms.

However, his collections of English material appear to have primarily use to illustrate and develop his theories and not particularly because he saw the wider value of treating England as a subject of ethnographic study, comparable to the fields of enquiry being developed abroad (particularly within a British imperial context) by British anthropologists.

I’ve not been particularly succesful in finding out more about the growth of the collecting British material in a broadly ethnographic context. I’d presumed that it must have had its roots in the early 20th century ‘folk’ revival, though I’ve not come across any details. I suspect that the early collections were largely put together by private individuals and did not reach museum collections for some time. For example, Hugh Massingham had a collection of various rural tools and equipment, which he put together in the between the 1920s and early 1950s when he died. However, the museum which they are now in The Museum of English Rural Life was not founded until the year he died. Beamish, the museum near Chester-le-Street dedicated to the local way of life was not founded until 1970, the same year as the Weald and Downland Museum. Many other major private collections of this kind of material is still finding its way into museums (such as the Harrison Collection) which has just been acquired by the Ryedale Folk Museum. I am sure there are also many small collections of ‘social life’ material in minor local museums, which are not presented or extensively promoted. Noticeably it was not until the post-war period that entire museum’s were dedicated to this kind of material. There is still no national museum dedicated to English folk life and culture, unlike Wales, where the St Fagan’s National History Museum is part of the National Museum of Wales. From my limited knowledge, this makes England relatively late to start taking the collection of indigenous objects seriously; for example in Sweden, the celebrated open air museum at Skansen was founded in 1891.

Friday, 12 December 2008

English Folk Culture (and a bit about Napoleon)

After my recent post on defining Englishness I've just come across the work of Sarah Barber who is developing research on defining English Folk Culture addressing some of the methodological issues in defining what we mean by 'folk culture'. I am not sure I entirely agree with some of the working definitions she is using, but its useful to see someone attempting to define 'folk' as cultural category of analysis(as opposed to what has now become an aesthetic genre). I think her attempt to define 'folk' as a relationship between the individual and the collective is a useful approach and avoids sterile arguements about what is inside or outside the folk tradition.

Its important to distinguish the search for a working definition of 'folk' as different from a working definition of Englishness (if such a slippery subject can be defined). There is no direct or easy equation of English folk culture with 'Englishness', which is often defined using exampla drawn from a range of sources from Imperial History, the Anglican church (bells and smells or happy clappy) and other criteria derived from middle class culture. Indeed the search for Englishness might be defined as a particuarly middle class neurosis. Folk culture, however, makes an overt reference to national identity and in many cases, particularly in the musical tradition, drawns on radical and republican discourses that are inherently anti-Nationalistic. For example, there is a fascinating tension in the depiction of Napoleon and the French Revolution in English folk song; compare the words of The Liberty Tree
It was the year of '93
The French did plant an olive tree
The symbol of great liberty
And the people danced around it
O was not I telling you
The French declared courageously
That Equality, Freedom and Fraternity
Would be the cry of every nation

Come listen every lord and lady, squire, knight and stateman,
I've got to sing a little song about a very great man;
And if the name of Bonapart should mingle in my story,
It's with all due submission to his honour's worship glory.
He fell in love with Egypt once because it was the high road
To India for himself and friend to travel by a nigh road,
And after making mighty fuss and fighting night and day there,
'Twas monstrous ungenteel of us who wouldn't let him stay there

Though to be fair, I wonder how many of the pro-Boney songs are from the Irish rather than English tradition. Its also worth mentioning my favourite lyric

My uncle, Captain Flanigan,
Who lost a leg in Spain,
Tells stories of a little man
Who died at St. Helene;
But bless my heart, they can't be true,
I'm sure they're all romance;
John Bull was beat at Waterloo!
They'll swear to that in France

ANYWAY....coming back to Sarah Barber's work, on far more trivial matter, I was pleased to see that one of her interviewees was on Joseph Porter drummer, lead singer and song writer of one of the words greatest bands, Blyth Power (named after a Class 56 diesel don't you know), possibly the only band to have ever written song about Graf von Tilley, the 30 Year War and the Battle of Breitenfeld!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

In the lands of the North, where the Black Rocks stand guard against the cold sea...

I've just heard the sad news of the death of Oliver Postgate, creator of Bagpuss, The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog. These programmes defined my early childhood, and that of almost anyone else who grew up in the 1970s. I've recently started seeing some of the modern children's programmes, and without wanting to come over all nostalgic, they don't hold a candle to this classic era of British television (though I do have a soft spot for In the Night Garden). Listening to excerpts from Postgate's programmes on the radio this mornign, what really struck home was their immense seriousness. They could be light hearted in places, but it was in their solemn attention to simple matters they were at their most childlike (in all the good senses of the word).

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Tam Lyn

With reference to the previous post- I've just found this on You Tube. Its from the Imagined Village; a version of the traditional folk ballad Tam Lyn by Benjamin Zephania. There is also a version of Cold Haily Windy Night from the same album. For those who are interested in these thing, the driving force behind the album is Simon Emerson, who is also the main man of Afro-Celt Sound System. Imagined Village also involved Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, Eliza Carthy, the Dhol Foundation amongst others.

The Imagined Village

I’m getting increasingly interested in concepts of England and Englishness. Obviously with my academic background I am interested in the ways in which archaeologists have used England as a frame of reference for their research and the way in which the concept of ‘Englishness’ has been expressed and created through landscape, architecture and material culture (or as I prefer to term it ‘stuff and things’). But I’m also exploring a range of wider ways in which national identity is expressed, particularly through popular ruralist and historical writing (specifically in the inter-war period) and also in what might be termed folk culture, particularly music. The whole notion of ‘folk’ is as complex an idea as ‘Englishness’, but as a working definition I’d define it as something deriving from a vernacular tradition with an emphasis on an oral and practical mode of transmission, as opposed to a formalised and defined tradition (with an associated emphasis on written records). Whilst the folk tradition is something that was, in practice, highly fluid and constantly being re-worked, in the 19th and 20th century it was increasingly tightly defined and studied by a scholars creating a formal canon, and defining the way in which it was reproduced and interpreted. Georgina Boyes’ extremely interesting (but horribly written) book The imagined village: culture, ideology and the English Folk Revival (Manchester 1993) is very good on this (The title of this book was also nabbed for the music project Imagined Village which gave contemporary reworkings to traditional folk music). This ‘folkloric’ tradition can today often express itself in a puritan and reactionary attitude to the TRADITION.

Anyhoo…the reason why this has come up is that I’ve come across an interesting artistic response to this over-propriatorial approach. The artist David Owen has an exhibition at Cecil Sharp House, the home of the English Dance and Song Society, often seen as a bastion of the tradition (you can see a review here .

In the words of his manifesto


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Idea of Landscape

I’ve finally had time to put down my thoughts about Matthew Johnson’s Ideas of Landscape , which I’ve recently re-read. In this book Johnson explores the distinctive English tradition of (primarily medieval) landscape archaeology, which has its roots, or at least is personified in the form of W G Hoskins, author of the Making of the English Landscape. He situates Hoskins as the inheritor of a wider Romantic tradition of writing about landscape; one which he sees as both empiricist and conservative. He argues that the methodology of much landscape archaeology in this mould is undertheorised, particularly in the way in which it goes through the process of interpretation. In Johnson's eyes, for the English landscape tradition the process of understanding field archaeology is unproblematic and essentially a procedure which involves the reconstruction of landscapes using models derived from historic sources. He focuses on what he sees as the empricist inferences behind the ‘mud on the boots’ emphasis on fieldwork and the tyranny of the Cartesian gaze in the use of maps and aerial photographs.

One of my major problems with this book is that Johnson misses the chance to turn his critique on many of the post-processual approaches to landscape. I would argue it is also possible to see the influences of the (Neo-)Romantic landscape tradition running through the phenomenological tradition (e.g. Chris Tilley) and what Andrew Fleming has called the hyper-interpretive approaches (for example in the work of Mark Edmonds). These are characterized by fixing on the experience of landscape (both in the past and by the modern investigator) and an aestheticised gaze. They are as reliant on ‘gut reaction’ as part of the interpretive process as is the English landscape tradition. Andrew Fleming has explored the methodological limitations of these approaches in a couple of recent papers (Camb Arch Journal 16/3 2006; Landscapes 8/1 2007). Because Ideas of Landscape focuses on the medieval landscape tradition, rather than approaches to prehistoric archaeology, which is the main arena for much of these post-processual approaches to landscapes, he misses exploring the more complex relationship between Romanticism and archaeology. In his eagerness to place the blame for all the problems (and there are undoubtedly many problems) with landscape archaeology in England on the Romantic tradition, he fails to see the complexity of this important tradition in British thought and its pervasive influence on archaeology in the UK. He briefly acknowledges the important stream of political radicalism in the Romantic tradition (such as Blake, Crabbe and Orwell)but fails to develop this line. By drawing all his fire on the Romantic geneaology of Hoskins et al, he fails to explore the way in which the empiricist approach to archaeology derives much from the Enlightenment project, which much Romantic thought deliberately set itself against.

As is also common in archaeological critiques which explore the intellectual genealogy and context of other scholars and traditions, the book fails to contextualise itself adequately. I would have liked to see Johnson carry out an element of auto-critique to his own work. Although he mentions his experiences as a student at Wharram Percy, he fails to situate his own work in a cultural tradition. There are hints of his preferences; he prefers the 'naughtiness, travelling, whoring and sharp comment on the social iniquities' of the 18th century to the sentimentality of Romanticism. But it is hard to get a sense of his own personal academic journey, which is a pity, as his own output on post-medieval archaeology shows some interesting biases. For example, he manages to write a book on the Archaeology of Capitalism which hardly mentions industry or industrial archaeology. Is this deliberate? Is there a methodological or theoretical reason for this, or even (whisper it quietly) a degree of anti-modernism in his own scholarship…

Thursday, 13 November 2008

World War I Letter

This letter was written by my Great-grandfather's cousin, Private Patrick Canavan (Royal Irish Fusiliers), from the trenches in WWI. It is dated January 1915; he was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres four months later; he was just twenty-eight years old. He lived on Kashmir Road, Belfast, and left a wife, Rose, behind him. He is buried in St Sever Cemetery in Rouen.

My great great uncle, James Patrick McManus (Kings Own Scottish Borderers), was killed in the same battle four days earlier. His body was never found, but he is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres. He had previously won the Distinguished Service Medal.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Bletchley Park

At last some good news about Bletchley Park, where Allied codebreakers worked in World War II. Its a fantastic site, but has been badly in need of investment to keep it standing. Whilst the house itself is in good nick, the huts are in pretty poor shape (somewhat inevitable as they are mostly pre-fabs which were never intended to have a long life). Its well worth a visit; many of the guides worked at Bletchley during the War. Its great that EH has finally provide some money for this site; I'm amazed that given its importance during the War and its key role in the development of computing technology that its had to struggle so hard for funds.

Rotherwas encore

More news about the Rotherwas Ribbon

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A Land

I've just finished reading Jaquetta Hawkes' wonderful book 'A Land'. Written in the late 1940s, it is a meditation on geology, archaeology and the development of Britain. Hawkes was that rare thing, an archaeologist who could write wonderful prose, in places coming close to poetry.

It is this immense antiquity that gives our land its look of confidence and peace, its power to give both rest and inspiration. When returning from hill or moor one looks down on a village, one's destination, swaddled in trees, and with only the curch tower breaking the thin layer of evening smoke, the emotion it provokes is as precious as it may be commonplace. Time has caressed this place, until it likes comfortably as a favourite cat in an armchair, also caresses even the least imaginative of beholders.

Like many of the writers I've been reading recently, Hawkes takes an unashamedly (Neo-)Romantic view of the landscape; she quotes extensively from Wordsworth and illustrates the book with a sketch by Ben Nicholson . Like W. H Hoskins she looks back to the period between the end of the Middle Ages and before the Industrial Revolution as a 'Golden Age' of English landscape, and, again like Hoskins, she revels in the immense regional variation within the British landscape (though unlike Hoskins her perspective is truely British rather than English). It is a useful counterpoint to the other book I'm reading at the moment Matthew Johnson's Idea of Landscape which emphasises the English landscape archaeology tradition in general, and (in Johnson's view) its founding father, WH Hoskins, firmly in an intellectual tradition that stems from 18th century Romanticism (and Wordsworth in particular). He clearly dislikes Romanticism in all its form seeing it as the progenitor of (in his words) 'dreary, dreadful, Victorin mawkishness', and I think his aesthetic tastes (he prefers the salty, roaring, bawdy 18th century) are perhaps clouding his judgement of later writing and scholarship on the English landscape. Though perhaps I'm letting my preference for the Romantic and particularly Neo-Romantic vision of England cloud mine.

postscript: despite my preference for Romanticism I can't stand Wordsworth (I blame A levels for this)

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

York lightshow

Some pictures of the lightshow at St Mary's Abbey this week. Its difficult to do the event justice with these photos. It was spectacular.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Heartbreak Hill

Made a visit to the site of Heartbreak Hill, an allotment scheme created for unemployed ironstone miners just outside the village of Boosbeck. It was set up in the 1930s by Rolf Gardiner (see postings below) At this time, unemployment in this area was even higher than in other areas of the norht-east such as Jarrow Land was given for the allotments by Colonel William Wharton, owner of Skelton Castle. Students were brought in to help clear the land of roots and stones. This student element and the artistic / utopian ideals of Gardiner meant that there was also a strong artistic element including operas (one of the volunteer students was the composer Sir Michael Tippett), folk music and dancing. The allotments are still there; unlike many municipal allotments, the plots are clearly marked with fences and boundaries and many are still in use. Also plenty of livestock, including chickens, pigeons and a goat. Not clear how many, if any, of the sheds and pigeonlofts are original, though I spotted at least one re-used Anderson Shelter.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Chagos reversal

Shockingly the Law Lords reversed an earlier judgement that the deported population of the Chagos Islands could return to their homeland. Between 1967 and 1971 they were illegally removed by the British government so that the island of Diego Garcia could be handed over to the US as a major airbase. Most islanders went to Mauritius, but some came to the UK. Whilst some don't want to return others are keen to do so, and have been finding a long campaign to be allowed back. In 200o the then Foreign Secretary accepted the result of a court case saying they could return, but in the fallout of 9/11 US security paranoia led to pressure being placed on the UK to change their policy and contest the Chagossians right of return. The islanders continued to take their fight through the courts and the UK government has consistently opposed them, despite admitting that the way they were initially treated was wrong. The government fought their case on the basis that resettlement would be a security risk to the US airbase and the cost of resettlement would be too costly. Both these arguements are profoundly flawed. The islanders are not demanding to be allowed to reoccupy Diego Garcia (DG), just the outer islands. It is hard to see how they can form any kind of security risk; if the US are unable to contain any potential threats from 150 impoverished Chagossian thinly spread across a isolated islands some over 100 miles from DG, then one wonders how they expect to be able to fight global terrorism. They don't seem too worried about locating their Guantanamo Bay prison home to many hardened terrorists (hem hem) on Cuba, on an island controlled by a Communist administration with a history of 'difficult' relations with the US. The cost of resettlement needn't be an obstacle either. A report has shown that there this would be a feasible process. The former main crop of the island was copra, and there are many abandoned palm plantations scattered across the islands which could be used to produce palm oil, whilst there are good fisheries offshore. Combined with a carefully developed eco-tourism industry (the area is rich in wildlife) it could easily be economically viable for the small population. (see here for the Chagos Conservation Trust's critical but constructive comment on the Howell Report).

The Chagossians will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights but it is difficult to feel optimistic. What is so depressing is that even through the UK government admit that the original removal of the population was manifestly unjust they refuse to do the decent thing and let the islanders return, and instead defer ironically to the security demands of the so-called war on terror. All in all, a shameful and squalid affair back in 1967 and a shameful and squalid affair today.

Hackney Library Ban

A rather depressing little story about the writer Iain Sinclair being banned from launching his new book at Hackney Library

Friday, 17 October 2008

Watkins and Crawford: Photographic perspectives

More ley lines....quite literally. Kitty Hauser's book on O.G.S. Crawford touches on his tetchy interactions with Alfred Watkins, the promoter of the notion of 'ley lines'. As founder and editor of Antiquity, Crawford gave such 'crankeries' pretty short shrift. However, they both shared an interest in the importance of photography in the study of the past. Crawford, as an innovator in aerial archaeology, and Watkins as significant photographer in his own right and a member of the Royal Photographic Society. However, the cartographic nature of the vertical aerial photograph contrasts strongly with the ground level view of Watkins work, much of which he used to illustrate his published work on ley lines. This difference closely reflects the difference approaches to landscape explored by writers such as Chris Tilley (in his Phenomenology of Landscape). Not surprisingly in Tilley's work he criticises the 'objective' and 'totalising' objective and map centred approach which characterises much modern landscape archaeology, instead privileging the subjective, experiential and phenomenological perspective used by many post-structuralist archaeologists and anthropologists. It seems that that despite Watkins' approach being consigned to the dustbin by Crawford, it is in fact his approach that is more in tune with certain streams of modern archaeology. Poor old Crawford also comes in for a bit of a kicking in Matthew Johnson's Ideas of Landscapes. However, I think Tilley's book certainly over-does his arguements and his heavy use of binary oppositions in contrasting objective/subjective approaches to landscape are a little surprising in someone who is meant to be post-structuralist. I'm going to go back to Matthew Johnson's book soon, in the light of my increased interest in the uses of archaeology in the 1920s-1950s (and the fact that I read it when getting an average of four hours of sleep a night); now I'm more awake and more informed I'm looking forward to giving it another go.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Rotherwas Resurgat

I'm pleased to write that reports of the redating of the Rotherwas ribbon are much exaggerated. I've been contacted by Keith Ray, County Archaeologist for Herefordshire who has let me know that contrary to my earlier post the C14 dates and finds information are all pointing to a Late Neolithic/Early BA date for this highly interesting and unusual site. There will be more information appearing on the Herefordshire SMR website as it becomes available.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Pater Noster

I was at a wedding this Saturday. During the service, the Our Father was said. It was rather disconcerting to notice that looking round the church barely anyone under 40 was joining in with it. If I was charitable I'd say it was because they were shy, but I think it was more likely to be that they simply didn't know it; something I found highly depressing. Knowledge of basic prayers and the broad shape of the liturgy and the liturgical year ought to be a fairly fundamental part of people's general knowledge.

This kind of knowledge is not something that should only belong to practicing Christians. For anyone with an interest in history, literature or popular culture, a basic understanding of the tenets of Christianity is essential. People need not believe in it, but they should at least grasp the basics as part of their basic general knowledge. How can people understand huge chunks of British, European and World history, art and literature without appreciating a key aspect of the social context in which it was created? This applies to everything from Shakespeare, Chaucer and James Joyce through Da Vinci, Millais, Chagall and Stanley Spencer to Father Ted and the video of 'Like a Prayer' by Madonna.

When teaching medieval archaeology I can no longer assume even a basic knowledge of Christianity, and have to provide crib sheets to basic concepts such as the Eucharist and the Passion. This is not a call for increased belief in (I'm a lapsed Catholic- though not so lapsed I don't feel guilty about it), but a knowledge of a key strand of the European cultural inheritance.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Literary ley lines

Lots of strange convergences over the last couple of days. My friend Paul sent me a link to a blog which explores the work of Arnold Toynbee (which I’ll get back to you about Paul!). The same day, I saw Toynbee mentioned in the book I’m currently reading – Where Man Belongs by the English inter-war rural writer and social thinker H.J. Massingham. Massingham, although spending much of his working life as a writer and journalist had some archaeological training and indeed in the same book he mentions O.G.S. Crawford, pioneer aerial photographer and founder of Antiquity. On Wednesday I got the recent and excellently reviewed new biography of Crawford by Kitty Hauser (which I hope to blog about shortly). Massingham was also closely involved in a fascinating nexus of thinkers and rural writers between the 1930s and 1950, which included Adrian Bell (father of Martin Bell), with whom he formed Kinship_in_Husbandry, a kind of proto-think tank opposed to the industrialisation of agriculture and promoting organic farming. It was one of the precursors of the Soil Association. This curious organisation straddled the traditional left/right divide and many of its founders were interested in the notions of social credit, Guild Socialism and Distributism (an economic philosophy formulated by Catholic thinkers such as Belloc and Chesterton). One of the key thinkers in Kinship in Husbandry was Rolf Gardiner, who made an appearance in yesterday’s Guardian, cited as a key figure in developing youth movements in Britain. Literary ley lines in action….

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Viking York

Viking houses discovered on the Hungate site in York. Hungate has so far hit the headlines mainly as an excellent and rare example of the archaeological excavation of 19th century domestic area, with the streets, houses and backyards of the former slums of Hungate revealed. However, its important not to forget that this is York after all, and the fact that it was a major Viking city combined with waterlogging can lead to rather nice discoveries such as this.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Cambro-Canadian Epigraphy

Rather nice find from the Heather and Hillforts project in Denbighshire. Graffiti by a Canadian soldier from WWI.

Scottish wolves

The remains of a wolf trap has been discovered by archaeologists near Inverness.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Shepton Mallet chi-rho

This intriguing little item has hit the press again (e.g. The Guardian). Found in 1990 during excavations on a Roman cemetery and settlement at Shepton Mallet, it caused immediate interest as it was discovered in a grave and it is one of the very very few pieces of personal jewellery from Roman Britain bearing a chi-rho symbol. It became a highly symbolic object and was reproduced in replica form and given to the the Bishop of Bath and Wells (one George Carey).

However, there were suspicions about the authenticity of the object voiced very early. Even before tests on the metal composition in the late 1990s and this year confirmed that it was made from a modern rather than ancient alloy, several archaeologists expressed their scepticism about the item. As a Christian item found in a grave it was highly peculiar; whilst it is not unknown to find grave-goods used in a probable Christian context in the Late Antique world, it was to say the least, unusual; there were certainly no parallels in Roman Britain. It had some similarity with a brooch found in Sussex in the 19th century, but the clumsy way in which the chi-rho had been created by punched holes made for a very unsatisfactory item.

So...it does turn out its a fake, but this leads on to two obvious questions: who dunnit and why? There are a number of possible reasons; as the newspaper article notes there was much opposition to the development, and it may have been placed there in an attempt to stop the building (lets not forget that Planning Policy Guidance Note 16 did not come into operation until the November of that year). It does seem a somewhat costly way of preventing the development- there would have been the cost of the silver (admittedly probably not that much), but also the time needed to design and make it. Either the culprit had reasonable jewellery making skills themselves or they had to commission someone else to make it (which would mean more than one person was involved). Whilst the design may have been clumsy copy of the Sussex brooch, it does show that some level of research had gone into the design. The decision to plant a Christian-inspired piece is also intriguing; it shows a good eye for things that would click effectively with public opinion. This wasn't just a quick prank, but a carefully conceived and thought-through project.

I've spoken to a number of people who worked on the site, they all insist it wasn't planted at the time of discovery and that it came from a secure context (ie had been excavated from the ground and not just dropped on the topsoil). So, it must either have been placed in the soil at an earlier point, though presumably at a point after the dig had commenced and the graves identified (it would be interesting to know how much time elapsed between the initial identification of the graves and the discovery of the artefact). All in all a mystery, though in my personal opinion it must have been perpetrated by someone with at least some knowledge of Roman Britain and of archaeological techniques....

Return to blogging

After a very hectic year involving moving house, being repeatedly vomited on by Isobel, spending too much time on the A1 and generally piddling my life away on Facebook I am planning to make a return to the blog. I've been posting odds and sods on Facebook, but I'm going to try and start sticking them on this blog, as there is a little more room to witter. So lets get stuck in....