Welcome to the Winter 2014 Newsletter from the Kent
Archaeological Field School
We will be sending a Newsletter email each quarter to
keep you up to date with news and views on what is planned at the
Kent Archaeological Field School and what is happening on the larger
stage of archaeology both in this country and abroad.
Excavations planned for next year include:
3rd-12th April. The Roman Villa at Teston:
A classic Roman villa dig with a twist, as well as excavating and mapping the main villa we will be
investigating the surrounding Roman landscape. Excavation by the Kent Archaeological Field School over
the Easter and May Bank holidays in recent seasons has
solved an archaeological mystery that that had eluded
archaeologists for the last 100 years.
Figure 1. Teston Roman villa showing wall exposed in 2014 (See Fig 2)
Fremling found in his hop gardens the remains of a
Roman bath house (Fig, 1) and the find was described
‘about four English miles from Maidstone, on
the left side of the river, are to be seen the remains of a
villa.............the situation is pleasant, and as is usual in
Roman sites, well chosen, being on a crest of a gently
sloping valley looking over the river [Medway]’
In October 1991 Canterbury Archaeological Trust were
called to a site in Teston, just west of Maidstone to
investigate Roman remains uncovered by Southern
Water whilst constructing a new sewer. It became
apparent that a Roman building had been impacted on
and CAT’s work uncovered walls that had been robbed
out. Later in the 20th century the Maidstone
Archaeological Group investigated the site but could
not find the 19th century bath house discovery.
Last year a geophysical survey took place down slope from the CAT discoveries and possible masonry walls
identified. Subsequently the Kent Archaeological Field School were invited by the owner to investigate the
site and a field walking weekend in March identified an area of disturbed Roman masonry below that of
the CAT discovery and above that of the geophysical survey. Hand digging of test pits identified a
substantial deposit of Roman building material and on opening up the trench the south wall stretching for
39m was exposed and running east-west, At each end substantial towers or pavilions were also exposed.
Rooms with hypocaust heating were exposed to the north and stretching into the adjoining field and
towards CATs investigations in 1991.
Marble tessarae from a mosaic pavement were found in the hypocausts along with copious amounts of
painted plaster and window glass. The location of the 1872 discovery was identified and is situated in the
north-west area of the villa (see above plan). It
seems the villa developed over the four
centuries of Roman government and although
we have identified the main part of the villa
there is still areas of the site which may have
Figure 2. Roman villa at Teston
Decorated Samian ware sherds date the
construction of the towers or pavilions to the
2nd century AD whilst North Thameside ware
dated= the main range to late 1st century AD,
whilst coins recovered from the site range from
Nerva (96-98AD) to Honorius (393-423AD).
Anglo Saxon pottery found adjacent to the main
range show occupation in the 7th century AD.
Situated in the upper reaches of the River
Medway valley with water connections to
Rochester and London in a setting which is
Arcadian the villa estate would have been the
centre of a burgeoning enterprise with the
opportunity to exploit the natural resources of
woodland, Kentish rag stone and first class
grazing for herds and flocks. It is also within a day’s journey by water to London and we know from Pliny
and Ausonius the preoccupation of the Roman landed gentry with the Arcadian delights of the countryside.
Roman Italy-excavate Nero’s Roman Palace at Oplontis next to
An unforgettable experience of having exclusive access to the World Heritage Site of
Pompeii. Dates are from 1st June to 14th June. Places are restricted so book early.
The Oplontis Project began in
2006 with the study of the site
known as Oplontis situated at
Torre Annunziata, Italy. The
work is sponsored by the
Centre for the Study of Ancient
Italy at the University of Texas
in Austin. Its two directors are
John R. Clarke and Michael L.
Thomas. In addition Paul
Wilkinson and the Kent
Archaeological Field School,
Faversham, Kent have been
excavating every year since
Investigation of Prehistoric remains at Hollingbourne
A week of excavation of
Prehistoric features in the landscape building on our recent work on Bronze Age round barrows and a
prehistoric henge. Dates are 4th July to 11th July.
Figure 4. Bronze Age barrows at Hollingbourne
Investigation by the Kent Archaeological field School of the tract of land called the Holmsdale, which runs
along the west slope of the North Downs in Kent has discovered an enclosure with the attributes of a
There are just a few henges discovered in the south-east of England, and they seem to be a feature of
Wessex Downs and not the South or North Downs. The enclosure is adjacent to the Greenway, a path
thought to date from the Neolithic and close to another prehistoric path, the Pilgrims Way. The outer
rectangular enclosure, dated to the Early Iron Age faces the Greenway path and the site itself is situated on
top of a hill surrounded on three sides by water and on its fourth by the Greenway. The site was identified
by the uneven growth of crops and field-walking by the school earlier in the year retrieved prehistoric and
Saxon pottery from the area. Additional field-walking to the west of this feature identified the site of three
ring barrows which had been plotted on Google Earth.
In 2013 we investigated Barrow 3 (above) which had a cobbled entrance on the south side delinated by
two post-holes either side of the entrance and two adjacent baby burials. We found no other burials within
this ring barrow. The artefacts retrieved have been dated to Late Neolithic - Early Bronze Age (see
This year (2014) we investigated the remaining barrow situated to the south-west of Barrow 1.
The North Downs ridge to the east of the Medway seems on initial survey results to have a plethora of ring
barrows. The Medway valley, between Maidstone and Rochester has the famous megalithic long barrows
clustered in two groups on either side of the valley, which have long been known (Holgate 1981). Now,
with the recent discovery of a large Neolithic rectangular timber building at White Horse Stone not far
from the Lower Kits Coty burial chamber, the identification of a possible new causewayed camp at Burham
(Dyson, Shand and Stevens 2000; Oswald et al. 2001), along with the circular enclosure at Holborough, this
region stands out as a potentially important ritual Neolithic and Early Bronze Age landscape which is in
need of extensive, detailed modern study.
The Roman Bath-house and Estate at Abbey Fields, Faversham
to 14th August. A Roman building which is beginning to reveal its secrets. This is an ideal training ground
for budding archaeologists.
Figure 3. Roman walls under ceramic roof tiles just under the turf
An unknown Roman building had been found in 2011 by the Kent Archaeological Field School in Faversham
in Kent close to the Roman villa excavated in 1960 by Brian Philp.
The newly discovered building was investigated initially in 2011 by over 50 students who attended the field
school training week in August, and for them it was a unique experience on seeing how an investigation of
an important Roman building was undertaken.
On-going work in 2013 has shown that the survival of the building was amazing with stone walls, opus
signinum floors (polished terracotta floors), under floor hypocaust heating, all untouched, and covered by
tons of ceramic roof tiles and the collapsed stone walls covering huge amounts of box flue tiles which were
used to direct hot air up the interior walls.
Painted plaster from these walls is mostly white but the hot sauna room on the north side of the building
had plaster walls decorated in green, red and yellow panels.
Outside the north wall recent work has shown that the tidal waters of the Swale estuary lapped the
building and investigation has shown a large tidal inlet existed here in the Roman period, and was deep
enough to form a harbour for Roman ships.
The Roman building itself has a coin and pottery range from the 2nd to the late 4th century and numerous
Roman domestic articles were also recovered including Anglo-Saxon silver jewellery, bone hair pins and the
remains of exotic glass vessels.
The building is huge, 45m long and 15.40m wide, which is about 50 Roman feet wide. The outside walls
were built of mortared Kentish ragstone and flint nodules with the collapsed walls indicating a height of
about 3m for the outer walls. Levelling courses of Roman tile were also a feature of the walls. Large
quantities of window glass have also been retrieved.
Investigation has unravelled some of the mystery of the buildings function and this work is still on-going.
Excavation has shown the building was originally built in the early 2nd century AD as an aisled barn with a
mortar and chalk floor.
Forensic investigation has revealed the remains of the stalls used to contain the Roman estate farm
animals. Very soon after, the building was rebuilt as a huge bath house with hot apsed rooms, steam
rooms, and warm rooms used for massage. The decoration has a feel of a municipal baths with none of the
luxurious features one would expect of a private enterprise bath house. Given the size of the bath house it
is far too large for a Roman villa estate and must have catered for another set of clientele.
It is probably too far from the main Roman road to London (Watling Street) to have been an Imperial
posting house with hotel but it sits astride the port of Faversham and may have catered for the crews of
Field walking has indicated there are other Roman buildings alongside the inlet, itself a fresh water river at
low tide and future investigation including geophysical survey will be focused on their chronology and
The site itself is rich in archaeological remains with the Roman villa discovered in 1960 close by, which
itself was built on a Late Iron Age farm. In the medieval period Faversham Abbey was founded on the site
and two magnificent tithe barns still stand between the two Roman buildings.
Excavation on site is 25th July to August 14th. The training week runs from August 3rd to 9th, and is held
in the mornings at the Field School and in the afternoons on site. Hours are 10am to 4.30pm for the
duration of the dig. Please ensure you have gloves, sun cream, lunch and water. To contact the Site
Director-Paul Wilkinson please phone 07885 700 112 or email info@swatarchaeology
A new book from Paul Wilkinson
The Archaeological Guide to Pompeii will be published
by Taurus Books in 2016
Take advantage of Dr Paul Wilkinson’s expertise by joining him on a week’s tour of Pompeii and the Bay of
Naples in September. An excerpt from the forthcoming book is of the House of the Faun.
Named after the bronze figure of the Dancing Faun (which in fact is a Satyr) found on the side of the
impluvium in the main atrium, it is the largest house in Pompeii and occupying an entire insula. Originally
built during the Samnite period (second century BC) it shows elements of Hellenistic influence in its layout of
two atria, a peristyle and a spacious hortus (garden), which later was converted to a second peristyle. The
entrance on the left leads to the public area of the house through the massive triple door. On the mosaic
‘doormat’ is the Latin welcome HAVE. The fauces have two public larivia (household shrines), elaborately
decorated in stucco high on the walls. The flooring comprises triangular pieces of coloured marble (opus
sectile) embellished on the threshold with a wonderful mosaic of actors’ masks, garlands of flowers and
fruit. It is now on display in the Naples Archaeological Museum. The front of the house is organised around
two atria courts. Either side are cubiculi used as guest bedrooms or for private meetings with clients. On the
far side is one of the most important rooms in the house, the tablinum, used for the receiving of clients and
guests by the seated patron.
Either side of the tablinum can be found two rooms possibly used as winter and summer dining rooms.
Walk through the atrium and you are in the first of the peristyles with a portico of twenty-eight ionic
columns and a fountain and basin in the centre of the hortus (garden). The walls of the peristyle would have
been covered with decorative stucco and paintings. The open room (exedra) in the centre of the rear wall of
the peristyle is framed by two highly decorated Corinthian columns. The floor was covered by the famous
Alexander Mosaic now in the Naples Museum along with mosaic scenes of the Nile from the threshold of
the room. On either side of the Alexander Mosaic room are two summer dining rooms facing into the
wonderful garden of the second, larger peristyle garden with a Doric portico. On the far side of this larger,
more private, peristyle garden is a small postern gate reserved exclusively for the family. On the east side of
the house is a service corridor isolating the kitchen, baths and slaves quarters.
Figure 4. The Roman Forum at Pompeii as seen through the eyes of virtual reality
The enigma of Stonehenge continues to fascinate
join us in June 2015 on an
exclusive visit inside the stone circle to watch the sunrise. See www.kafs.co.uk for further details.
A hidden complex of archaeological monuments has been discovered around Stonehenge, showing that it
was at the centre of a series of ancient ritualistic structures. The finds, dating back 6,000 years, include 17
previously unknown wooden or stone structures, as well as dozens of burial mounds. They were located
using underground scanning technology. Most of the monuments are merged into the landscape and
invisible to the untrained eye. The four-year study, the largest geophysical survey undertaken, covered an
area of five square miles and penetrated to a depth of three metres.
Figure 5. Sunrise at
Prof Vincent Gaffney, the project leader from the University of Birmingham, said:
"Stonehenge is the most iconic archaeological monument, possibly along with the pyramids, on the planet.
For the past four years
we've been looking at
monument to see what
was around it. This
project has revealed
that the area around
Stonehenge is teeming
with previously unseen
"New monuments have
been revealed, as well
as new types of
monument that have
previously never been
the new discoveries are
massive prehistoric pits, possibly created with reference to astronomy. The many burial mounds include a
barrow 100ft long within which signs of a large timber building were found. Evidence suggests this was the site of complex rituals involving the dead, including the removal of flesh and limbs.
Prof Gaffney said the new work showed that Stonehenge was not an isolated structure on the edge of
Salisbury Plain, but the centre of a widespread arrangement of ritualistic monuments.
"You've got Stonehenge which is clearly a very large ritual structure which is
attracting people from large parts of the country," he said. "But around it people
are creating their own shrines and temples. We can see the whole landscape is being used in very complex
Operation Stonehenge was televised: What Lies Beneath (BBC Two), which set out to explain new research
that could "finally unlock" the story of the enigmatic monument.
The two-partner followed the work of Prof Gaffney and the Hidden Landscapes Project, a team of
archaeologists who have spent five years using ground-penetrating radar to scan the ground around the
The concluding episode asked what their discoveries could tell us about who built Stonehenge and why.
First, though, we were subjected to an array of baffling graphics that added little to our understanding.
True, the research itself had involved sophisticated scanning techniques, but the resulting scans were
presumably deemed too boring because they were sidelined in favour of computer generated scrawls of
surrounding monuments and the route the stones took across the country. A new sketch appeared on
screen every couple of minutes, with an infuriating "ping".
Superimposing flashing maps and spinning arrows over video of fusty historians in tweed jackets just
looked silly. At one stage, an archaeologist waved his hands up and down as a computer generated
building was constructed around him. Later, a "land artist" sketched out how each stone interlocked - by
raking sand into a replica on a beach. Cue yet more graphics. It was as if the producer of Spooks had taken
over Time Team for a day.
This was a shame, because the research was fascinating. In fact, it was on much safer ground when it stuck
to more typical Time Team fare, such as when an "experimental archaeologist" did a very low-tech
experiment with the same stones used at Stonehenge to discover that it would have taken a team of 10
stonemasons a decade to carve the intricate grooves into the stones that made them fit together.
Best of all, archaeologist Jacqueline McKinley analysed a skeleton buried in a ditch to discover the man was
shot repeatedly with flint arrows, suggesting human sacrifice. We needed much more of this and much less
Music to their ears: A new theory by Steven Waller believes that the stone circles of Stonehenge were
designed with acoustic properties in mind
Animals depicted running along the walls of the Lascaux caves in France are among the most magnificent
examples of prehistoric art discovered.
But rather than depicting Palaeolithic hunting scenes, new evidence suggests that the images may
represent the eerie sounds that emanated from the mouths of the caves.
Steven Waller, an American researcher, believes that the echoes of ritual clapping outside the cave would
have sounded like herds of hoofed animals running.
He proposes that ancient sacred sites, including Stonehenge, were built for their acoustic properties, which
prehistoric people mistook for supernatural noises.
Sound illusions may explain why prehistoric people chose to decorate caves with paintings, in the belief
that they were inhabited by spirits, he said.
"Ancient mythology explained echoes from the mouths of caves as replies from spirits, so our ancestors
may have made cave paintings in response to these echoes and their belief that echo spirits inhabited
rocky places such as caves or canyons," added Mr Waller, author of the Rock Art Acoustics website.
Echoes of clapping can sound similar to hoof beats, and multiple echoes within a cavern can blur together
into a thunderous reverberation that mimics the sound of a stampeding herd, he said.
"Many ancient cultures attributed thunder in the sky to 'hoofed thunder gods', so it makes sense that the
reverberation within the caves was interpreted as thunder, and inspired paintings of those same hoofed
thunder gods on cave walls," he said. "This theory is supported by acoustic measurements, which show
statistically significant correspondence between the rock art sites and locations with the strongest sound
In the case of Stonehenge, Mr Waller's research suggests that its architects may have been trying to
recreate a sound effect made during ritual dancing. People taking part in a ritual blindfolded dance around
a pair of pipers would have heard the music grow quieter as they moved past certain spots due to a natural
phenomenon known as an "interference pattern", he said. Mr Waller believes that the ritual, and its
effects, became so important to Neolithic Britons that they attempted to capture it in stone.
"My theory that musical interference patterns served as blueprints for megalithic stone circles - many of
which are called Pipers' Stones - is supported by ancient legends of two magic pipers who enticed maidens
to dance in a circle and turned them all into stones," he said.
The theory contradicts the most widely accepted suggestion that the stones were built to line up with the
rising or setting sun on the summer and winter solstices. Mr Waller noticed a resemblance between an
interference pattern and the arrangement of stones at Stonehenge, so he set up a test in a field using two
flutes playing the same note. At certain angles the pitch of one flute drowned out the other and "gave
blindfolded subjects the illusion of a giant ring of rocks or 'pillars' casting acoustic shadows", he said.
However, Mike Pitts, the editor of British Archaeology and a leading expert on Stonehenge, said ‘there was
no question that it was designed to align with the midsummer sunrise and mid- winter sunset’
Archaeologists who made what has been described as the most exciting discovery at Stonehenge for 50
years are calling on the government to abandon plans for a tunnel and to build a bypass instead.
Plans were announced last month for a 1.8-mile tunnel costing up to £1 billion through the middle of the
World Heritage site. The intention was to restore the landscape around the prehistoric monument and to
provide greater peace for visitors.
The announcement was welcomed by the National Trust and English Heritage, as well as transport groups
who claim that delays on the main West Country route cost millions of pounds
However, recent discoveries 1.5 miles away at Amesbury, beside the A303, have for the first time shed
light on the reason that the monument was built there.
A series of digs have uncovered a ritual feasting site, dating back thousands of years before Stonehenge
was built, around the edge of a natural spring. Thousands of stone tools have been excavated along with
the butchered bones of extinct animals such as aurochs, a giant bull.
The tools are said to prove that the spring at Blick Mead had been an important gathering place dating to
the end of the last Ice Age, more than 9,500 years ago.
David Jacques, the archaeologist from the University of Buckingham who made the discovery, said: "This is
the only untouched Mesolithic landscape we are aware of in the country. It has been preserved perfectly
due to a sequence of accidents of history and prehistory. If this tunnel goes ahead it could wreck the only
chance we currently have to learn about how Mesolithic people lived in the cradle of Stonehenge."
The find connected the early hunter gatherer groups returning to Britain after the Ice Age to the beginning
of Stonehenge in 7500BC, he said. "The site is the repository of the earliest British stories, connecting a
time when the country was joined to the mainland of Europe to it becoming the British Isles for the first
time." Mr Jacques said.
Tim Darvill, of Bournemouth University, has described Blick Mead as the most important discovery at
Stonehenge in more than 60 years. The archaeologists fear that the excavations and slip roads required for
the tunnel will destroy the site. They also doubt that it will cure tailbacks and congestion on the A303.
Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of the Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said: "The current tailback can
extend five miles and can take two hours to get through. Any tunnel would need to be motorway standard,
and even with four lanes there would still be tailbacks."
He said that concerns had been raised about the water table. The chalkland landscape would mean that
the tunnel would effectively become a dam, which would change the water course. "Kilometres of chalk
would have to be extracted," Mr Rhind-Tutt added. "Air conditioning, water pumps, lighting and
maintenance costs would be colossal. A much more practical solution would be to reroute the A303
supporting South Wiltshire as well as the West Country."
Simon de Bruxelles
Long Barrow burials 2014 style
Tim Daw has built a long barrow in a Wiltshire field and is
looking for (dead) customers
You enter, stooping, through a low stone archway, and all of a sudden you are in a different world. The
weak afternoon sun lights up the central passageway, on either side of which stand beehive shaped
chambers alive with flickering candles. The walls are made of solid rocks and stones held together by their
Welcome to the Long Barrow, a 75ft-long (23m) burial mound built not 6,000 years ago but earlier this year
in a field in Wiltshire. Outside, a chill wind is whipping across the countryside, and the leaves of the local
crops are flapping wildly to and fro.
In the fields, the earth is wet and muddy, but inside the Long Barrow the stones on the floor are white and
dry. Overhead is a vast, insulating, protective canopy of earth and chalk, which means that down here
everything is cool, calm, dark and quiet as befits a final resting place.
To date, there are only two sets of human ashes inside, but there is room for many more urns. It's a nondenominational
place of interment, open to people of all and no faiths.
The Long Barrow is the idea of local farmer Tim Daw, on whose land it stands, in the undulating
Marlborough Downs. " I work part-time as a steward at Stonehenge, and I've always thought I would like to
build something Neolithic: a mixture of ancient and modern," says Daw, who worked in information
technology for 10 years before turning his
hand to farming. " I got the idea from
meeting people who had nowhere to put
the ashes of their friends and family, who
didn't want to leave them in some
impersonal municipal crematorium. " I
remember one woman telling me it felt
like she'd lost her father twice – once
when he died and then again when she
was separated from his ashes. That's
when I got the idea for this long barrow;
you don't have to have strong beliefs, or
any beliefs at all, to have your ashes
stored here. You simply don't want them to be buried in a church."
For a while, however, the idea remained just something to be talked about at the pub. Then the notion
found its way onto social media and a stonemason-cum-builder named Geraint Davies came forward. To
Daw's surprise, he offered to build not just the barrow – a whale-shaped hill about 18ft (5.5m) high - but
also the burial chambers. The whole job took eight months, and cost £200,000, but the finished structure is
a work of beauty. The main supporting blocks are giant lumps of sparkling Gloucester and Sarsen (native to
Salisbury) stone, transported here by lorry, and then lifted into place by cranes.
By contrast, the chambers are lovely little lung-shaped structures, in which rocks are placed on top of each
other and locked together in a stone specially made. It bears the name GRAY, carved in elegant capital
letters, beneath the outline of rolling hills (seen in Neolithic times as the breasts of the goddess) and a
"We spent a lot of time discussing what the family wanted," says Swiss-born stone carver Lisi Ashbridge,
who lives nearby. "The eventual design reflects Carol's love of the surrounding hills, and her interest in
symbolism." The images on the sealing stone also bear visual reference to pagan goddesses, but far from
encountering bureaucratic or religious resistance to the Long Barrow, Daw says the application to build the
structure went through the local planning committee without any opposition.
What's more, the barrow has been approved by bodies working for less worldly authorities. It has been
declared to be standing directly on a ley line
connecting Stonehenge and Avebury. It is
also perfectly positioned for the moment on
December 21, sort of spherical union.
As for the ashes, these are placed on small
shelves cum- alcoves, and sealed up with
carved stones, held in place by the
application of a light layer of lime mortar.
And while many of the shelves are for single
urns, others are big enough for two; should
one partner die, the other partner's ashes
will be placed alongside them when their life
Unlike conventional venues, the Long Barrow won't be open every day, from nine to five. Instead, people
can visit at a pre-arranged time, when the metal gates will be unlocked. The idea, says Daw, is not that he
should supervise but rather that people are left alone with their own thoughts.
Applications for places in the Long Barrow have begun to come in from all over the country. The first
person to have her ashes placed there was Carol Gray, a local woman who died in her early 40s of breast
cancer, leaving a husband and two children. Rather than opting for a mass-produced nameplate, her
husband, Adrian, decided to have the day of the winter solstice, when the sun will shine even more directly
into the barrow than it does at present.
In addition, the Arch druid of Avebury has been to inspect the barrow, and left an apple as a blessing. Two
months later, it is still as hard as when he left it.
It's not just those in positions of responsibility who are intending to visit. Already, the barrow is in demand
from people who want their ashes to end up here. The price of a single-niche resting place is £400, going
up to £1,200 for a niche that can accommodate spouses and eventually other family members.
And what of the owner of the Long Barrow site? Does he intend to come here eventually? "Oh, yes," says
Daw, smiling. "I've reserved a little place for myself. Right up at the far end."
To inquire about a place in the Lonq Barrow, visit the website thelonqbarrow.com. To see more of stone carver Lisi Ashbridqe's
work, visit itswritteninstone.co.uk
Metal Detectorists- good or bad thing?
Read what the press are saying:
Britain’s understanding of its history has been transformed by the change in the law that allowed treasure
hunters to profit from their bounty, according to the head of the British Museum.
The Treasury Act of 1996 made it an offence to keep discoveries secret but, crucially, allowed metal
detectorists to sell their finds and share the profits with the landowner.
he introduction of the act has
stopped artefacts from disappearing on to the black market.
Neil MacGregor said: "The success of the portable antiquities
scheme cannot be overestimated in terms of our understanding of
our past. The variety and diversity of finds is extraordinary."
Yesterday the museum unveiled the millionth find under the
scheme: 22,000 Roman coins found in a field in Devon.
When the treasure hunter Laurence Egerton, (left), discovered the
hoard, he was so excited that he watched over the discovery for
three nights in his car before archaeologists arrived. Mr Egerton
had been out with his metal detector in east Devon when the
machine gave a high-pitched beep. He found two coins, both the
size of a thumb nail, and began digging with his shovel, whereupon
"thousands spilled up on to the field". "I had no idea how far down
the coins went so I stopped immediately and phoned my wife to
come to the site with a camera," he said. "Between finding the
hoard and the archaeologists excavating the site, I slept alongside
it in my car for three nights."
Mr Egerton, a semi-retired builder, said that he did not want to
leave the coins unguarded in case a passer-by made off with them.
The "Seaton Down Hoard" of copper-alloy coins is one of the
largest and best preserved 4th-century collections to have been
found in Britain. It pales in comparison only with the 52,500 coins
discovered by a hospital chef, also using a metal detector, in Frome, Somerset, in 2010.
"It's by far the biggest find I have ever had," Mr Egerton said. "It really doesn't get any better than that. It is
so important to record all of these finds properly because it is so easy to lose important insights into our
history. It's very unusual to get Roman artefacts down this way as historians don't think there were many
of them around."
The coins, which together weigh 68kg, were minted between AD330 and AD341, when the first Christian
ruler, Constantine the Great, transferred the imperial capital from Rome to Byzantium, later renamed
Constantinople and now Istanbul. Bill Horner, an archaeologist at Devon county council, said: "The coins
were in remarkably good condition. Coming out of the ground, you could see the portrait faces, a family
tree of the House of Constantine." The hoard was found near an excavated Roman villa in Honey ditches
last November. Experts believe that the coins were buried by a soldier for safe keeping.
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, which already houses a large collection of Romano-British
artefacts, has launched a fundraising campaign to have the coins exhibited there.
Rumblings of alarm have shaken the UK metal detector fraternity with the news that one of their number
had been arrested for digging up a medium-sized arsenal of weapons. Rifles, hand grenades, artillery shells
and a Vickers machinegun were among the items taken this week from the garage of St Albans fireman
Alan Tissington, and exploded by the authorities in a nearby field.
The 48-year-old was arrested on suspicion of disinterring these weapons without permission, an event that
sent Shockwaves through the nation's detectorist community.
The timing couldn't be worse as their niche hobby is about to take the lead role in a new comedy series on
BBC4, written by and starring The Office actor Mackenzie Crook. For the wielders of Viking 40s, Fisher
1235Xs and XP Goldmax Powers (all essential equipment for the serious enthusiast), this week has been a
time in which to batten down the hatches and keep a low profile.
Indeed, so protective are they of their hobby that they have refused to co-operate with the makers of the
show, Detectorists. This, despite Crook's claim that the show is "an affectionate look" at – and not a
mockery of - the art.
"My character, Andy, works part-time for a temping agency, so that he is freed up to do metal-detecting,"
he explains. "I don't know why it is, but any activity that's not a sport is always portrayed on television as
something for sad and lonely people. "What motivates my character is not money. All he wants is to find
something that excites the amateur archaeologist within him."
However, members of the National Council for Metal Detecting (10,000 and counting) are not convinced.
"The way it was put to us, it was something we felt we did not want to be involved with," says Trevor
Austin, the NCMD's general secretary. What makes the, metal-folk nervous is the suspicion that they are
going to be portrayed as spineless, antisocial anoraks. Indeed, detecting does not tend to be classified as
one of the hipper hobbies, ranking lower even than train spotting, scrapbooking and philately.
But this is a myth that needs exploding, insists David Lascelles, who runs the Pinpointer Detector Group,
based in Lincolnshire. "The great thing is you never know what you're going to find," he says. "In 35 years,
I've unearthed an Iron Age silver brooch dated around 100 BC and some Celtic cloak fasteners.
But the find that brought me the most pleasure was when I was called in by the coastguard to help a
woman on the beach who had lost her engagement ring. "Things didn't look very promising, because I kept
finding nuts and bolts and bits of silver paper. All of a sudden, I got a really strong beep-beep signal, and
there it was - an 18-carat gold ring with four diamonds.
"Every year, on the anniversary of that day, the lady sends me an email, thanking me."
Though invaluable to the ring-loser, that find would not have counted as "treasure" under the strict code
observed by hobbyists. According to a 1996 Act, it must be more than 300 years old and made of gold or
silver, or dating back to the Bronze Age or beyond.
Unlike buccaneering pirates, detectorists are not allowed to stuff items down their boots without declaring
their find; failure to do so can result in a fine or three months' prison. In fact, on coming across anything
remotely treasure like, finders are legally required to inform the local coroner within 14 days.
If the piece is indeed a ninth-century bracelet rather than a 21st-century fairground prize, it will be
scrutinised by the Treasure Valuation Council (TVC). However, this doesn't guarantee anyone a fortune: of
the 1,000 items submitted per year, 500 are returned to the finder and landowner, having been valued at
less than £200. On the other side of the coin, if a museum wants to buy the piece, the TVC establishes a
fair price, which is then split between the finder and the landowner. Which, of course, means detectorists
have to secure permission from the person whose land they are going to search, before even warming up
There is, however, lurking within the ranks of the detectorists a rebellious faction known as "nighthawks".
"These are sophisticated gangs who travel as far as 200 miles to dig up land," says Mark Harrison, crime
and policing officer for English Heritage. "They strike at night, wear camouflage and dig land designated as
not to be disturbed: say, the site of a Roman villa, known to be buried beneath the surface of the earth.
"If caught, they will be charged with a criminal offence. After all, they are not just stealing from the
landowner, but from the nation." Something for every amateur gold-digger to bear in mind.
Rules for metal-detecting are at www.finds.org.uk. For information on the National Council for Metal
Detecting visit www.ncmd.co.uk
What’s the difference between a metal detector and a metal detectorist? Don’t worry if you don’t know
the answer – you might be laughed out of your local metal detecting club but it certainly won’t stop you
enjoying this warm new sitcom.
Detectorists – these are the practitioners, by the way; detectors are their tools – has been criminally buried
on BBC Four but it is no rusty ring pull or discarded aluminium biscuit wrapper. On the contrary, this is
quite a find – a treasure chest of first-rate writing, clever jokes and likeable performances.
Written by and starring Mackenzie Crook, it follows the mundane lives of the quiet, retiring Andy (Crook)
and the bumptious, wise-cracking Lance (played by the ever impressive Toby Jones). These two eccentric
metal detectorists spend their days plodding along ploughed tracks, hoping to disturb the tedium by
unearthing a fortune.
While valuable coins and ancient weapons eluded the pair last night, they did happen upon an attractive
university history student called Sophie (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), who was keen to find out more about the
local history of the area. Predictably, she was more intriguing to them than any Saxon artefacts buried in
the dirt. And this is the crux of Detectorists. Andy and Lance are, of course, looking for something much
more than scraps of metal in the ground – they are looking for something to ignite and improve the
drudgery of life.
Lance is struggling to deal with the loss of his wife to some great hunk of a man, while Andy’s relationship
with his girlfriend Becky (Rachael Stirling) is clearly strained, a point highlighted by his interest in Sophie.
Their hobby provides the comic ammunition – without irony, Andy described the people who buy Lance’s
worthless finds as “sad gits”, while one superb set piece saw Lance confuse the watermark on Google Earth
with an Iron Age settlement.
But this is really a programme about companionship. Lance and Andy bicker constantly and re-tell the
same jokes but, just like Fletch and Mackay in Porridge or Albert and Harold in Steptoe and Son, the pair
couldn’t survive without each other. It is a classic sitcom set-up which has been executed well here.
There was something both pathetic and touching about the two of them sharing a miserable-looking curry
before heading up to the metal detecting club to hear a talk about buttons. “I think I’ll give that a miss,”
sneered Lance earlier in the episode but he knew, and we knew, that he’d be there. What else was there to
do, after all?
Having gained permission from a mad old farmer at the conclusion of the episode to scour some
promising-looking land, Andy and Lance started to believe that this could be their moment – but yet again
the hapless duo uncovered nothing but rubbish. No matter, viewers have already struck gold.
Watch a clip from the programme here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04jy45z
One of the most important ‘finds’ by detectorists has to be the Staffordshire Hoard as reported by
‘It was the find of a lifetime and made them both millionaires. But when jobless Terry Herbert discovered
the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure in history in farmer Fred Johnson’s muddy field, it also sparked
extraordinary tensions between the two men.
Now, despite each receiving an equal share of the money from the £3.3million treasure, their relationship
has soured so badly that Mr Johnson, 67, has banned Mr Herbert, 56, from his farm.
Both men have also spoken of their regrets at making the find. The rift began when Mr Herbert revealed a
desire to search for more treasure on Mr Johnson’s land.
Reacting with fury, the farmer said: ‘I wish I’d never met the man. It has caused me nothing but bother, all
this. ‘I never want to see that fellow on my land ever again. To be honest, I got fed up with him from the
start. I was fed up of his greed.
‘From the moment he found the hoard all he wanted to talk about was how much money we were going
to get for it and that, no matter what we do, we shouldn’t accept the first offer. I couldn’t have cared less.’
It was 18 months ago that Mr Herbert’s find on Mr Johnson’s land in Brownhills, Staffordshire, was
The 1,300-year-old haul included beautiful gold sword hilts, jewels from Sri Lanka, exquisitely carved
helmet decorations and early Christian crosses.
Within days former coffin factory worker Mr Herbert, using an 18-year-old metal detector that cost £2.50,
had filled 244 bags, including gold objects alone weighing more than 11lb. Archaeologists believe the loot
was buried at the site by a king or warlord who was killed before being able to retrieve it.
Mr Johnson said at the time that he was ‘not happy’ with Mr Herbert because they had ‘agreed to keep it
all low-key’, adding: ‘It is not about the money for me, it’s an incredible find for the country and that’s
what is more important.’
The Staffordshire Hoard was valued
by the independent Treasure
Valuation Committee at the British
Museum and purchased by the
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
and the Potteries Museum and Art
Gallery. Mr Johnson and Mr Herbert
received their shares of the money
at the end of 2009.
Mr Johnson is building a new house
on his farm while Mr Herbert has
moved from his council flat in
Burntwood, Staffordshire, to a luxurious bungalow nearby.
But despite apparently having much to be grateful for, the simmering ill-feeling between the two has
erupted into an all-out
Yesterday, Mr Johnson
said: ‘It’s not like we
were ever friends
anyway. ‘He was just
very persistent so I let
him on my land.
‘Sometimes I just wish
one of the poor
veterinary students had
found it instead,
because it would have
set them up for life rather than me.’
Mr Herbert responded by claiming Mr Johnson was unhappy that
he was forced to split the cash.
He said: ‘I think Fred wanted all of the money and is now
resentful he has had to share it.
‘He’s acting like a child and cutting his nose off to spite his face.
‘It does hurt my feelings that he has taken this stance.
‘Now, I’m not sure there is anything we can do to patch things
up. Sometimes I wish I’d never found that hoard.’
He claimed that five years before he dug on the field where he
found the hoard, he was ‘warned off’ and told Mr Johnson
‘would want all of anything that was found’. ‘But when I
eventually went on there and found the hoard, Fred could not
have been less interested at first,’ he said.
‘Fred wanted everything kept quiet at first, even though I told
him it was not realistic.
‘But the next minute he is all over the TV, so I decided to let him have all the glory in the end. He has
always had a bad attitude and this just sums him up, I’m afraid.’
But out of strife and discord the Staffordshire Hoard still has its surprises as reported by Jack Malvern.
‘Wily Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths have been unmasked as master fraudsters who deceived kings, warriors and
even today's historians with an ancient technique.
The Dark Age metalworkers made items of jewellery appear more pure than they were by using acid to
remove other metals from a natural gold alloy known as electrum, leaving a thin layer of near pure gold on
The technique, known as depletion gilding, not only fooled the buyers but also modern museums, which
have been using a flawed method of measuring gold purity. Sword decorations and jewellery thought to be
75 per cent gold have been found to be 84 per cent (20 carat) gold on the surface but only 70 per cent (17
carat) beneath. The remainder is silver and copper.
A British Museum study of 140 items held in collections suggests that women's jewellery was less
important than men's adornments because it was made of the poorest gold — a fact hidden by the way
the surface was treated.
The objects retain their value because of their historical significance, but curators said that the Anglo-
Saxon buyers probably did not know that their gold was up to 50 per cent silver.
Eleanor Blakelock, the British Museum scientist who made the discovery, was allowed to scrape tiny cores
of metal from the Staffordshire Hoard in Birmingham Museums (which co-owns the hoard with the
Potteries Museum), and from Anglo- Saxon gold in the British Museum's own collection.
Analysis with a scanning electron microscope showed that the further she probed beneath the surface, the
less pure the gold. She said that the goldsmiths' technique was "a bit of a cheat" and the absence of
written records implied that it was a secret of the trade, passed from father to son.
"We were able to show it was a widespread activity, happening on practically all the sheets [of gold]," she
said. "This is the first time we have found them doing it in the Anglo-Saxon period. I suspect that the
Romans were doing it too. I suspect that everyone was doing it."
The earliest evidence for the technique was
found in a 5,000-year-old pot in Ur, southern
Iraq. However, it was not believed to be in
common use. Speaking at Birmingham
Museums, which today opens a new gallery
to display the Staffordshire Hoard, she said:
"I was absolutely petrified to be scraping
objects from here and the Sutton Hoo
treasures. I had to go and have a sit down in
the cafeteria afterwards”.
Voyages of discovery
the oceans with intrepid explorers
A small metal panel found on an
uninhabited Pacific atoll belongs to the
aircraft that Amelia Earhart was flying when
she vanished 77 years ago, it has been
The riveted aluminium plate- may be the
first wreckage uncovered since the
American aviator's disappearance in 1937
while attempting to become the first woman to fly around the world. She was an accomplished flyer who
in 1932 became the first woman to make a solo flight across' the Atlantic. Her exploits brought her global
fame before her disappearance at the age of 39.
The roughly 3ft sq battered metal panel was found on a beach in 1991 by a group of American aviation
archaeologists searching for Earhart's twin-engine Lockheed Electra on Gardner Island, now renamed
Nikumaroro, part of the Phoenix Islands group in the central Pacific. Nikumaroro is 340 miles (550km) from
her intended destination, Howland Island.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, the Pennsylvania-based group that found the panel
and has led the search, said after early tests that it was from an American aircraft, but it could not match
the size and rivet patterns to any parts of surviving Lockheed Electra aircraft similar to Earhart's plane.
Richard Gillespie, the director of the group's Amelia Earhart project, said: "We knew it was part of an
airplane and we suspected it was part of Earhart's airplane, but there's no place it matches." It was only
much more recently that the researchers realised that Earhart's aircraft had been modified just before she
began her around-the-world attempt, with a fuselage window having been covered over with an
They have now established that the panel found on Nikumaroro Island matched the dimensions and rivet
pattern that would have been needed to cover the window on Earhart's aircraft. "The patch was as unique
to her particular plane as a fingerprint is to an individual," Mr Gillespie said.
The group plans to return to Nukumaroro next year with a remote operated underwater search vehicle to
search for more remains of the aircraft. Contractors hired by the group in 2012 captured sonar images off
the west of the island that appear to match the size and shape of the lost Lockheed Electra.
An unresolved question is whether Earhart and
Fred Noonan, her navigator, survived if they did
ditch their plane near Nikumaroro. In 1940, Gerald
Gallagher, a British colonial officer and pilot, found
a skeleton that he believed to be that of a woman
on the island under a tree, near an old sextant box.
He was ordered to send the remains to Fiji. They
were lost long ago.
Voyages of Discovery - Norman Hammond writes:
‘The recent call by President Xi of China's for "a
21st-century maritime silk road"—signalling China's
commercial expansion into the Indian Ocean —
recalled an age when seaborne links between
China, Africa and the countries around the Arabian
Sea mirrored the Silk Road.
His image of "a string of pearls" ports built with
Chinese capital from Tanzania east to Burma
reflects the pattern of emporia where Roman,
Islamic and Chinese imperial goods traded. A recent
Science magazine (Sailing Sinbad's Seas, vol. 344)
reports how archaeologists are rediscovering this
Andrew Lawler cites Sinbad's desire "to visit far
countries and strange people, to voyage among the isles... also the trading habit rose in me again". Until
recently, "Sinbad's tall tales held little interest" for scholars focused on the overland Silk Road: they forgot
that Marco Polo came back by sea, traversing that same Indian Ocean.
The ocean's archaeology has been described as that of a ring of coast surrounding a vast sea, scattered
with islands. The "ring" is actually a figure-of eight, narrowing where India and Sri Lanka push south.
In the 1920s, when the European rulers of Rhodesia disputed claims that the ruins of Great Zimbabwe had
been built by Indian Ocean trade was carried by vessels such as the dhow native Bantu, the late Gertrude
Caton-Thompson was invited to dig there, and found glass beads and porcelain from China and Persia; at
several sites due east on Madagascar, Islamic glass and Chinese pottery have been found from the early
second millennium AD.
And the nearby Comores have been found to have had ancient contact between the islands and southeast
Asia, including Asian genes in the Malagasy population. Indonesian mariners had discovered a "conveyorbelt"
current that took them due west towards Africa.
African contacts with Arabia and the Persian Gulf began in the seventh century AD, Science reports,
through trade in glass beads. By AD 1000 there was contact with Sumatra and India.
It was once thought "that Westerners jump-started the Indian Ocean economy", but "Egyptian and Roman
merchants were likely drawn to an already booming international trade", Science says.
President Xi's ambition reflects a commercial reality that is already many centuries old.
Voyages of Discovery - The Edge
of the World: How the North
Sea made us- Gerard DeGroot
on Michael Pye’s new book:
On Mainland, Orkney, there sits
a Neolithic cairn called
Maeshowe. The Vikings, who
visited the island a millennium
ago for a spot of pillaging, broke
into the cairn and left behind
One scribble reads: "Lovely
Ingeborg has big boobs", or
something like that. That little sentence, and where it was found, tells the historian a lot. We can conclude
that the Vikings were curious about their world, otherwise they wouldn't have entered the cairn. They
were young and mischievous, but a few could read and write. They shared a fondness for big breasts. In
other words, they had a lot in common with us.
That commonality figures large in this extraordinary book. Michael Pye's subject is what used to be called
the Dark Ages. "The idea of 'darkness' is our mistake," he argues. "What our forefathers lived could better
be called the 'long morning' of our world." Pye shows how modernity was forged as the sun rose slowly on
the North Sea. "This cold, grey sea in an obscure time made the modern world possible."
Back then the sea was a highway. It held dangers, but the perils of travel by land were more threatening.
This meant that the world had a different shape to the one it has today. For a trader in Ipswich it was
easier to travel to Bergen — 510km by sea — than to York, 340km by .road. The sea was a conduit for
commerce, largely free of chauvinism. "It was easy for Scandinavians to be in York, Frisians in Ipswich,
Saxons in London, and the fact was so unremarkable that it is hardly recorded."
Pye starts with the Frisians, whose flatbottomed boats, because they did not need harbours, provided
"They shipped and sold whatever people wanted" — wine, wool, pots and slaves. Trade of this sort
required money as bartering was too restrictive. Commerce led inevitably to coins and from there to
markets, contracts, law and lawyers.
At a site near Stockholm, archaeologists found a haul of Viking treasure, which included a Coptic bronze
ladle, some pornography cut into gold foil, and, most incredibly, a Buddha from Kashmir. We know that the
Vikings never made it to India, so how did that Buddha make it to Sweden? The mystery endures but,
though unsolved, it still demonstrates just how frenetic and diverse patterns of trade were back then. It
was not, however, mere trade that drove the Vikings. Curiosity filled their sails, pushing them to new
places just because they were new. Pye notes their "willingness to be unsettled". That's perfect.
Everywhere they went, the Vikings impressed. The 10th-century Arab merchant Ibn Fadlan met them in a
Bulgar encampment on the Volga, east of Kiev. "I have never seen bodies more perfect," he said. "They
were like palm trees." Their bearing seemed calculated to intimidate: they were covered in green tattoos
and were filthy of body and mind. They used the slaves they sold as sex toys. Copulation was public; poor
Fadlan noticed that, if a slave buyer arrived at an inconvenient moment, the Viking trader "does not get up
off her until he has satisfied himself".
Pye wanders this world as the Vikings once did. Like them, he makes astonishing discoveries. There's no
order or direction to his narrative, but it hardly matters. One chapter, on fashion, starts with the story of a
sailor who arrives in Paris in the middle of a ferocious storm but still manages to go shopping. Fashion,
then as now, was the language of ambition. This annoyed the privileged classes, who did not like it when
clothes were used to camouflage lowly birth. Laws were passed to "make sure that the wrong people did
not wear the right clothes". In England, this meant no furs for those who earned less that £100 per annum;
in Scotland, it meant that the working classes were prohibited from wearing bright colours. Queens grew
perturbed when others looked queenly.
"You will, of course, be wondering about sex," Pye writes. Not really, but go on. Bruges was apparently the
most licentious city in Europe, a place of equal opportunity eroticism. Both sexes frequented bathhouses
with the same goal in mind. Females felt no need to lie back and think of Belgium; orgasm was everyone's
goal. A woman could enjoy a pleasurable evening with any man at the Waterhalle as long as that man did
not see her face. Official prudery seldom obstructed private pleasure. Within the Hanseatic League,
fathering a child out of wedlock was a crime punishable by providing a barrel of beer for one's colleagues.
Was that punishment or celebration?
Brevity is the bane of the reviewer; the best books are impossible to summarise in just 900 words. That's
especially true with a treasure chest like this one. But back to the main point. Pye is right: the world he
describes looks a lot like our own. Its loves, its laws, its violence, pleasures and venality are all familiar. He
gathers evidence from a huge variety of sources and sews it together with his formidable logic. Along the
way, he breaks most of the rules of scholarly history, but who cares? The end result is brilliantly
The author's imagination fills the gaps that scholarly research cannot bridge. Historians are often
frightened to imagine, yet hard evidence alone produces history devoid of emotion. Pye's creativity brings
light to this once dark time.
The Edge of the World: How the North Sea Made Us Who We Are by Michael Pye
Must See: In the trenches
A new exhibition reveals how a bored soldier's cartoon creation
lifted morale. Kate Youde reports:
‘He started sketching scenes of the front line simply to break up the monotony of life in the First World
War trenches. Yet Captain Bruce Bairnsfather's cartoons proved so popular that he quickly became a
household name, with General Sir Ian Hamilton calling him the man
who "made the empire laugh in its darkest hour".
His drawings were replicated on everything from postcards to
handkerchiefs, playing cards to pottery, while his most famous
creation, the walrus moustached soldier Old Bill, became a global
star of stage and screen.
Now the Royal Shakespeare Company is bringing Bairnsfather and
Old Bill to life as characters in a new play by Phil Porter, The
Christmas Truce, which is inspired by real events a century ago
when German and British soldiers, including Bairnsfather, met in no
man’s land to talk, swap presents and play football. In addition, a
free exhibition at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-
Avon examines Bairnsfather's life and work.
Born in 1887, Bairnsfather spent his early childhood in India, where
his father was serving as a British officer in the Indian Army, before
returning to England for schooling at the United Services College in Westward Ho!, Devon. He started a
military career with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment militia but resigned his commission in early 1908 to
pursue his passion for drawing at the John Hassall School of Art in London.
He had limited success as a commercial artist, designing advertisements for brands such as Beecham's
Pills, Lipton tea and Player's cigarettes, and worked as an electrical engineer, helping to install the wiring
for the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford upon- Avon, where he lived.
On the outbreak of war Bairnsfather rejoined the Army as second lieutenant and, in November 1914, was
posted as a machinegun officer with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment to an area of
the Belgian village of St Yvon, south of Ypres. Which British soldiers nicknamed "Plugstreet Wood". He
drew comic sketches to help pass the time and, after being encouraged by someone in his regiment to
submit a drawing for publication, his first cartoon appeared in the weekly
British magazine The Bystander on March 31,1915.
Unlike many cartoons today Bairnsfather's work was "not at all politically motivated or inclined", said Mark
Warby, a leading Bairnsfather’s collector and writer who is co-curating the RSC exhibition. "He'd started his
drawings merely as a way of alleviating the monotony and boredom of trench life," he says. "He used to
say what he depicted wasn't specific soldiers; he depicted a state of mind. Because he'd been out there
with the soldiers and had experienced first-hand what he was drawing, he had a unique insight.
Soldiers would write home and say, 'It's just like Bairnsfather’s says it'. That was the key appeal." Within
weeks of his first cartoon appearing, Bairnsfather's regiment was involved in the Second Battle of Ypres. By
then a captain, he was sent home with shellshock and hearing damage.
Later that year, unable to return to the front, he became attached to the 34th Division as a machinegun
instructor on Salisbury Plain. Here he drew his most famous cartoon, captioned, "Well, if you knows of a
better 'ole, go to it". It depicts Old Bill, an experienced, kind-hearted yet grumbling soldier, with another
soldier in a shellhole with shells bursting around them.
Warby says Old Bill was a loveable character that epitomised a type of soldier that was a particular asset to
the military. "Bairnsfather and Old Bill at different times were called 'the man who won the war'," he adds.
"Old Bill was referred to as that because that's the type of soldier that carried us through, but I think really
Bairnsfather did have an impact because you can't underestimate the need for morale.
Through his drawings, he really helped keep people going, not just at the front but also their families back
home." By August 1915, Bairnsfather's work was appearing in The Bystander nearly every week. The
magazine capitalised on his success, publishing in January 1916 a first compilation volume of his cartoons,
Fragments From France, which eventually sold more than one million copies. It also sold prints and Old Bill
In 1916, the War Office appointed Bairnsfather as an official cartoonist working for the Military Intelligence
Section 7B, which dealt with propaganda, although little evidence survives of what he actually did. Warby
suggests the appointment may have reflected a desire to keep an eye on Bairnsfather, as some top military
brass disapproved of his depictions of soldiers. His morale boosting services were in demand, however,
with the French, Italian and American armies requesting that he draw their soldiers.
Bairnsfather continued drawing for The Bystander
until 1923, and later contributed to the Royal British
Legion's journal. He also wrote books, theatre sketches and a full-length musical comedy, The Better 'Ole,
which appeared in London in August 1917 before touring to countries including the United States. A 1926
film adaptation starred Syd Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin's half-brother, as Old Bill.
With another war looming, Bairnsfather started drawing for
again in 1938. This time, Old
Bill's son, Young Bill, played by John Mills in the 1941 film
Old Bill and Son
, was the star. But Old Bill
remained loved, and Bairnsfather drew him on a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber while he was an official
cartoonist with the US forces during the Second World War.
Bairnsfather died in 1959, aged 72. The exhibition shows his influence on later cartoonists, including Giles,
whose version of the Better' Ole sketch appeared in the
in 1984. "I know cartoonists today
who still say Bairnsfather is an influence or that they are familiar with his work," Warby says. "But he is not
as well known by the public, so we hope the exhibition brings his work to a wider audience."
The Bruce Bairnsfather exhibition is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire,
until March 15,2015. The Christmas Truce will run between November 29, 2014, and January 31, 2015.
Further details: www.rsc.org.uk
Watching Now: The Hobbit. The Battle of the Five Armies
- An interesting
review by Camilla Long
The final Hobbit film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, begins on an unusual note of restraint.
Five armies, yet only one film? This must be the first time Peter Jackson has made one of anything. He has
turned one book into three films — twice. He will
probably turn The Hobbit's total budget of roughly
$500m into a box-office haul of at least S3bn. If his films
are to be remembered for anything, it will be his
extraordinary ability to see five where there is one, or
even none. This film's baddie, for example, a goblin king
called Azog, hardly exists in the original book.
But for all its pomp and bombast, the only thing I can
think of is cheese. The final film stretches out in front of me like a sea of Dairylea: an endless, formless,
highly processed mass of nothingness, smelling slightly of prosthetics and hairy feet.
I'd like to say it is better than the others, but that's like saying one slice of Dairylea is better than another.
It's exactly the same; another big cheesy dose of goblets and codpieces; a strident, overblown, self
confident blast from an alphorn, picking up in the middle of a scene — and I mean exactly where it left off
last time. If you want an idea of how vast and tireless and unstoppable this franchise has become, it can't
even be bothered to do proper breaks between films any more. It just churns and churns. Like cheese.
So everything plunges straight into a breathtaking battle between Bard (Luke Evans) and the dragon
(voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), following his escape from the Lonely Mountain at the end of the last
film. As Smaug swoops across Laketown, which is a cross between Venice and Margate, breathing great
billowing flames, it slowly dawned on me that I'd seen this before, the burning bellies and swamps of fire,
the fat, screaming men — it is, of course, a vast, high-budget advertisement for indigestion.
This thrashing Gaviscon spectacle is entirely different from the rest of the film, which is, for the most part,
smooth and static, situated on the plain before the gate of Erebor, where a hamrnily dragon-sick Thorin
(Richard Armitage) is holed up with the other dwarves and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman).
Poor, poor Martin Freeman: you can practically taste his desperation. I don't know how many hours he has
sat in prosthetics in a field in the middle of nowhere, but every second is etched into his deep, querulous
eyes. Is there a place beyond woe? Tolkien is the man who would know. Freeman has been in that place
for five years, a moody, murky swamp of goblins and no more than three emotions, trying to affect
surprise when someone screeches: "The eagles are coming!"
By the end, he has given up even looking for eagles, half glancing at the sky with a hooded and distant
stare, wondering, no doubt, how many people will ask him whether he and Cumberbatch are a couple or
not during this publicity tour. ("Me and Benedict are not a couple, and Amanda is not my beard," he
clarified last week; Amanda is his wife.) He seems almost relieved to be such a side note in this film, which
focuses on, yes, a single enormous battle that takes up a mere 20 pages of the book, but is leeched out
over an impressive 144 minutes here, involving... how many armies? I counted seven, 10 and four: men
and elves and dwarves against absolutely everyone else — war bats and goblin hordes and great rock
crunchers swinging bits of metal.
If there is one thing I will miss from the films of Peter Jackson, it's the sight of a truly hideous giant in a tiny
leather thong. He really gives great monster. Also: great raven, great beak, ridiculous non-scenes with
Galadriel (Gate Blanchett), silly speeches beginning "a fire in the east", gloves, stupid hats and awful
attempts at humour.
Actually, I won't miss those. As a director, he may be able to realise a full-scale medieval battle featuring
9,000 10ft ores and Billy Connolly
as a foul-mouthed dwarf astride a
tacked-up war pig — the film's
finest cameo, pitifully short — but
he simply cannot do laughs. He
lacks the right sort of prance,
inventing a lumpy character in the
shape of Alfrid Lickspittle (Ryan
Gage) to provide sub-Carry On
relief. Lickspittle ruptures the tone
and spirit of Tolkien's world.
His books are at heart self important and humourless. There is no room for fake bosoms and cross-dressing
— or, at least, none that anyone will admit. (This film is essentially a dance off between five troupes of
warriors with long hair and/or plaits who have been scrapping over a pile of diamonds.) And what would
Tolkien have made of the films? What would he have made of the man who has twisted and pounded his
work to (mostly) such great effect?
I like to imagine he would have spent most of his time running away from him, hissing: "Who's that bloody
man? Why does he keep on wanting to talk to me? I can't remember why I called him Azog." If Jackson's
two trilogies have taught us anything, it's that he is a rabid, obsessive, slavering fan. The films are our most
epic example of fan fiction yet.
But Kate Muir writing in the Times is more upbeat: “One film to end them all. Peter Jackson’s farewell to
hobbits and Middle-earth is all killer battle scenes and no filler”:
After 17 hours in Middle-earth, director Peter Jackson brings his six-film Tolkien epic to a climax with
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
During the swansong, dwarfs, elves, trolls, wargs, ores, eagles, bats and ordinary folk lay into each other
with sword, catapult and stone in a stunning 45-minute CGI battle that can only be described as wargasm.
Yet amid the clashing steel there are also clashing personalities, and the human, hobbit, elven and dwarfish
drama is given space, building confidently on the seeds sown in the previous Hobbit films. Martin Freeman,
as the eternally anxious Bilbo Baggins, and Ian McKellen as Gandalf, are almost upstaged by the growing
theatrical and political power of the dwarf King under the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield, played by
Richard Armitage, and Bard the Bowman, played by Luke Evans.
While taking Tolkien seriously, Jackson also allows himself comic outtakes, the greatest being Billy Connolly
in a red fright wig, riding a giant hairy pig down a mountain as dwarf General Dain Underfoot of the Iron
Unlike the first two fantasies, The Battle of the Five Armies has no sluggish downtime, perhaps because
Jackson and his co-writers, including Guillermo del Toro, have largely freed themselves from Tolkien's 289-
page 1937 book and gussied up the appendices for their own amusement. The battle merits but a few
paragraphs in the text, but here it unfurls in sweeping aerial views like a Warhammer version of Akira
Kurosawa's Ran. It's a visual success, except when Jackson gets carried away with CGI beyond the bounds
of gravity and possibility.
The film opens with a bumptious Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown, desperately gathering his
municipal treasure before Smaug the dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) comes in to strafe the rooftops with
his halitotic fiery breath. Smaug's voice reverberates through the cinema seats, patronising and patrician.
The heroic and handsome Bard becomes a major figure in the story, as his takedown of the dragon, with
what looks like a large poker, leads to a Black Friday-style rush by men, dwarfs and elves on the gold and
treasure in the mountain of Erebor. Everyone wants a share and Tolkien's magic takes a back seat for a
moment to Jackson's critique of capitalism.
Meanwhile, inside the bling-crusted cathedral halls of the mountain, Oakenshield becomes crazed by the
"dragon-sickness", an ugly greed that pervades the place. It gets positively Shakespearean — Armitage's
psychological torment takes centre stage as he hungers after the powerful Arkenstone (one of those weird
Tolkien objects that eventually results in self-destruction, like the ring).
Amid the gold rush, morality, decency, and Baggins are almost sidelined, but as usual Freeman makes
every hobbity sniff and grimace count, and he always has that creepy-but useful ring in his pockets, just in
case. Rarely has a citizen of Bag End looked so worried and rightly so, because as Gandalf points out, the
ores are coming, powered by Sauron's evil. Cut to the plug-ugly ore leaders, Azog and Bolg, plotting their
attack with those amusing ore-language subtitles. Actually, if, like me, your children have forced you to
watch Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit on DVD over and over for years, often re-enacting key sections,
you'll find you actually speak fluent ore. And elf. This is a pretty blokey saga, although it's lovely to see the
elves Legolas (Orlando Bloom, with freshly ironed hair) and the archer Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who
provides some feisty relief, again. Aside from the participants, no one is keen on the interspecies romance
between Tauriel and the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), but it may keep the less warlike elements of the
This is a satisfying end to an adventure that started in 2001 with The Return of the King, and a moment to
admire the advances Jackson has made with green-screen CGI and " battle choreography. For me, the films
and books have been part of my (now grown) sons' lives, like the previous Harry Potter series, and I'm sad
— and also a little relieved — to see them end. The film's final shot, of the map frontispiece of the original
book, took me back to first reading The Hobbit aged 12, in the days before Middle-earth conquered the
world through Jackson's imagination.
Why are our Historic Sites under threat?
Ben Macintyre explains:
History makes you happy.
That is the verdict of a new study by English Heritage, which found that visiting heritage sites has a greater
impact on personal wellbeing than other leisure activities, including sport. Nothing, it seems, lifts the spirits
higher than a visit to a historic building.
The Heritage Counts survey converted that conclusion into cash terms: the average visitor derives £l,646-
worth of wellbeing from heritage sites every year, compared with just £993 for individuals engaged in
sporting activities. (This is the amount of money you would have to take away from people to return them
to the level of wellbeing they'd have had if they hadn't done these things.)
This discovery is not just surprising but culture-changing: for decades, the government has been nagging
that we would be happier and healthier if we got off the sofa have been telling us to visit Blenheim
Palace, or Kew Gardens, or the old iron works. While consuming five portions of fruit and veg a day, we
should also be gobbling up ancient buildings, perhaps not five a day, but five a month, or at a minimum five
a year. (The average heritage fan currently visits 3.4 sites annually.)
Britain has a profound sense of historical place. An affinity for our built past is sewn deep into the culture,
in literature and landscape. The great buildings across the land provide not just happiness, employment
and income, but "heft", that ancient and almost indefinable sense of belonging.
Yet our built heritage is in peril, underfunded, and underappreciated by government and, in too many
instances, crumbling. We derive vast pleasure and profit from our buildings and neglect them in way that is
illogical, reckless and irreversible.
Historians of the future may look back on the early 21st century as the time when we let our history fall
Great English literature is jampacked with great buildings, for no country is so attuned to the symbolism of
bricks and mortar. Mansfield Park, Blandings Castle, 221B Baker Street, Marlinspike Hall and Downton
Abbey. All are invented; all are derived
from real places. Castle Howard is in
the news, ostensibly because of a
change in its administration but in
reality because it is "Brideshead" from
the television adaptation of Evelyn
Waugh's novel, a building visited by
200,000 people a year but repeatedly
revisited in the imaginations of
millions more. Our veneration for
stately homes is not mere snobbery or
escapism, but a very British form of
The heritage sector contributes more
than £20 billion to the UK economy.
Some 13 million visitors a year pour
into the 1,500 privately owned houses
and gardens of the Historic Houses
Association; membership of the
National Trust and English Heritage
continues to rise steadily.
Our conception of what is worth preserving in the man-made past is also expanding: just as the everyday
lives of our forebears now hold our interest more than great events, so do their homes and workplaces.
We flock to see not just castles and palaces, but cottages, barns, foundries, pubs, prisons, burial mounds,
battlefields and shipwrecks.
Buildings, like humans, are in state of ineluctable decay; but unlike us, with proper maintenance they can
be preserved for ever. They feed the mind, the exchequer, and the soul.
We profess to revere them, and yet as a nation we neglect them atrociously, for the built fabric of Britain
has never been more loved, or in greater peril.
The latest Buildings at Risk Register, drawn up by English Heritage, include 1,115 important buildings in
serious danger. Add churches, parks, gardens and monuments under threat, and the number rises to
5,750. More than 600 places have been added to the register in 2014; four in every ten of the buildings
considered at risk in 1999, when the register was first drawn up, are still on it.
The backlog of vital conservation projects is growing at an alarming rate, along with the "conservation
deficit" — the funding gap between the cost of repairs and the end value of a building. This now stands at
£443 million. Since so many buildings would cost more to mend than their final monetary worth,
preservation is not an economic investment, but a moral imperative.
The heritage sector was disproportionately walloped by the cuts imposed by the coalition, including a 32
per cent cut over four years to English Heritage. The number of historical-buildings conservation officers
employed by councils has dropped by more than a third in eight years. To quote Shakin' Stevens, the
balladeer of architectural renovation, this old house is getting shaky.
If visiting historical sites makes us happier than sport, then perhaps we should treat our built heritage with
the same obsession that we devote to sporting activities: regard it not as a weekend hobby but as a vital
public benefit, train a new generation of participants, and encourage oligarchs to invest in heritage
projects as status symbols.
If Russian money can revitalise Chelsea FC, it might also restore Eastbourne pier.
Like sport, the historical training programme should be gradual and cumulative: start with a few local sites,
and slowly build up to a weekly stately home. This may be demanding to start with, but it will make you
happier in the end.
Greenpeace apologises after stunt damages monuments
""Irreparable damage" to a large area of the Nazca lines, an ancient monument, during a publicity stunt,
according to a Peruvian prosecutor investigating the incident.
The damage is spread over an area of 1,600 square metres beside a stylised figure of a hummingbird
etched into the desert soil, the prosecutor said.
A spokeswoman for the public prosecutor said that, under Peruvian law, causing damage to a world
heritage site could be punishable by a three to six year prison sentence. The Peruvian Culture ministry is
also considering suing Greenpeace for damages.
The group of at least 12 activists "dislodged rocks" and "left a white trail" while placing giant letters in the
soil close to the figure of a hummingbird etched into the desert soil, according to the report by Javier
Paredes, an archaeologist commissioned by the culture ministry to assess the damage.
The report says that the group "altered the natural surface in the area in the form of path where they
accessed the site and numerous footprints
were left during the placing of the letters,
which said: "Time for change! The future is
The report added: "These alterations are visible
not only on the ground but from the air,
altering the general configuration of the area."
The Nazca lines are a set of giant images of
plants and animals, such as a monkey, a spider
and a hummingbird, excavated in the soil 1,500
Greenpeace initially tried to play down the
incident but, when it realised the extent of
Peru's anger, it issued an abject apology, admitting it had appeared
"careless and crass". Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace's global director, is
flying to Peru to apologise to the government, which is hosting a UN
conference on climate change.
The statement said Greenpeace would fully co-operate with the
investigation and was "willing to face fair and reasonable
However, Greenpeace refused to say whether it would comply with a
demand by the authorities for it to identify the activists who took
part. Some of them are identifiable from photographs and video that Greenpeace had published before it
realised the stunt had backfired disastrously. It declined to say who within its organisation had authorised
Dominik Fleitmann, professor of archaeology at the University of Reading, said: "Greenpeace may be
raising an important issue but it looks like they have gone about it in the wrong way. The Nazca lines are
the extraordinary but fragile remains of a former civilisation and should be treated with respect.
"There is nothing wrong with peaceful protest, but those claiming to support conservation should be
careful to practise what they preach." Green peace ordered its staff not to talk about the incident but one
staff member said there was great anger inside the organisation that "stupid" activists had tarnished its
reputation and undermine its work at the Lima climate conference.
The staff member said the stunt was aimed at drawing attention to need of agreement at the climate talks
but had the opposite effect, prompting debate about the arrogance of activists.
The Peruvian government said it would try to prevent the activists from leaving the country.
Mr Naidoo tweeted: "I am deeply concerned about the developments in Peru with regards to the sacred
Nazca lines. I am on my way to Lima now to collect more information."
Norman Hammond reports on the great hall uncovered at Silchester
One of the largest prehistoric buildings ever erected in Britain has been uncovered at Silchester in
Hampshire. More than 50m long and dating to the time of Christ, the great timber hall is thought to have
been the headquarters of an Iron Age chieftain.
"The building probably served as the dwelling of the 'big man' and his family, a focal point for feasting, and
the assembly point for his supporters," Professor Michael Fulford said. "We believe it belonged to one of
the leading men of the Atrebates tribe."
Silchester's Roman name was Calleva
Atrebatum, and the Roman city — in open fields
near Basingstoke — was built on the site of a
larger Iron Age community. Eighteen years of
excavation by Professor Fulford's team at
Reading University have peeled away centuries
of archaeological deposits: finding the northern
end of the hall and completing its plan was
achieved just before the project finished.
The hall is 8m wide, and oriented northeast to
southwest, across the north-south grid of the
subsequent Roman town. It is, however,
completely contained within one of the city
blocks or insulae, and evidence from previous seasons suggests that Iron Age domestic structures simply
maintained their traditional orientations within the framework of the Roman plan.
The long foundation trenches for the hall do not show whether it was constructed on a series of horizontal
cill beams, posts or close-set planks. All three techniques are known from large prehistoric timber buildings
elsewhere. The massive wooden frame would have supported a thatched roof, Professor
Fulford believes, and the structure represents a considerable investment of labour and valuable materials,
testimony to the high status of its occupant.
Part of the hall was found several months ago (The Times, Jan 11, 2014), but its overall size remained
The northern wall was uncovered this month, completing the plan. "The closest parallels are in the
Netherlands, Belgium and northern France: on the continent these long halls are described as "housestables",
and it is possible that our hall also housed domestic animals, although an annexe on the north
might have done so," Professor Fulford said.
Despite its size, the great hall was dismantled within a generation and replaced by a smaller, though still
substantial, one within a fenced compound.
"A striking feature of the Iron Age discoveries here is the steepness of the social pyramid," Professor
Fulford said. "On the one hand there is this hall some 50m long, on the other there are dwellings and small
buildings clustering around the edge of the compound, the homes of the chief's supporters."
Iron Age rubbish pits are clustered around the remains of smaller
dwellings surrounding the hall. The pits have yielded a rich haul
of household debris; one of this year's finds has been a well, still
in use when the Roman annexation of Calleva occurred in about
The well contains not only waterlogged plant remains and seeds,
which "will provide remarkable illumination on environment and
diet in Calleva at the time of the invasion", but discarded pieces
of Roman military equipment.
Most evocative is the bronze folding handle for a skillet, a portable cooking pot that the Emperor
Claudius's legionaries would have carried on their rapid march of conquest across England.
It points, Professor Fulford said, "to a probably short-lived military occupation of Calleva after AD44". Then
the civilian city was laid out, and the Atrebates settled down under new masters, but with much of their
old way of life continuing.
Mystery of the tiles with Nero’s stamp at Silchester- Norman Hammond continues the story:
An impressive Neronian-period building has been found at Silchester, near Basingstoke. Marble fragments
attest a lavish structure, but the key evidence consists of pottery tiles stamped with Nero's name.
Their text — "Ner(o) Cl(audius) Cae(sar) Aug(ustus) Ger(manicus)" arranged on a stamp pressed into the
clay before firing—is unequivocal: but what is striking about them is that such tiles have been found
nowhere other than Silchester. Where these fragments came from is not certain, but a good candidate is
the large building uncovered late this summer.
Professor Michael Fulford, director of the Silchester Town Life Project, surmises that it may have been built
for a British leader in the generation after the Roman conquest: the building may never have been
completed, possibly because it was part of a Neronian development erased after his death.
"Nero suffered a damnatio memoriae — an expunging of his name from all public monuments
— so inscriptions and other remains are uncommon", Professor Fulford said.
He also raises the question of whether, given that this mansion was built on Calleva's newly laid-out street
grid, the plan was itself part of Nero's plans for the town. He thinks that it might have been to reward a
local ruler – perhaps Cogidubnus — for support against Boudicca in AD 60-
More investigations are planned for next summer, when the "mystery of the tiles" may be resolved.
National Geographic Vol.226 No.3:82-110. Silchester Town Life Project Reports, University of Reading.
Aerial survey of Kent. Paul Wilkinson reports on a research project by the Kent
Archaeological Field School
‘If you are studying the development of the landscape in an area, almost any air photograph is likely to
contain a useful piece of information’
(Interpreting the Landscape from the Air, Mick
Students of the KAFS are starting a two year
programme of collating Google Earth aerial
photographs from 1940 to 2013 to enable
focused information which can then be
followed up by ground survey. The fruitfulness
of this can be appreciated by the work of the
field school along Watling Street in North Kent
where hundreds of important archaeological
sites have been identified. The ultimate aim is
to publish the results online. Aerial
photography is one of the most important
remote sensing tools available to
Other remote sensing devices that will be used
are satellite imagery and geophysics. All of this
information can be combined and processed
through computers, and the methodology is
known as Geographic Information Systems
(GIS). The development of aerial photography
goes hand-in-hand with the development of
the aeroplane and camera. A 1907 photograph taken on a plate camera in a balloon floating above
Stonehenge is one of our earliest aerial photographs, whilst in 2003 satellite imagery of the Iraq deserts
revealed to American archaeologists hundreds of miles of buried roads from the earliest empires of that
region. An early pioneer in aerial photography was O.G.S. Crawford. Funded by the marmalade millionaire,
Alexander Keiller, Crawford photographed, from the air, archaeological sites in central southern England.
The results were published in the classic book, Wessex from the Air (Crawford and Keiller, 1928).
Crawford collected aerial photographs from as many sources as possible, but mainly from the RAF.
Working prior to the massive destruction by the ploughing up of archaeological features in the landscape in
the Second World War and after, the images revealed some remarkable features. Much of Crawford’s
collection can still be seen in the NMRC in Swindon. During the Second World War there were huge
advances in technology. Aerial reconnaissance, carried out by specialist units of air forces, benefited from
these advances and produced first-class aerial photographs.
A number of archaeologists were involved in
aerial photograph interpretation, and after the
war an aerial photographic unit was founded
by Keith St Joseph, which in 1949 became the
Cambridge University Committee for Air
Photography (now the Unit for Landscape
Modelling). Its contribution over the last 60
years has been invaluable, with hundreds of
sites located all over Britain. The Cambridge
Collection is available for study and is
important because an aerial photograph
taken, say, 30 years ago will show features in
the landscape that may have now been
removed by modern farming.
In 1967 The Royal Commission on the
Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) organised a national aerial reconnaissance programme which
entailed the collection of existing aerial photographs, the acquisition of the RAF’s historic collection of
photographs, especially the 1946-8 series. The success of this policy can be seen in the growth of the
collection from a few thousand to over 400,000 oblique and 2.4 million vertical aerial photographs all held
at the NMR centre at Swindon.
How to use aerial photographs
Aerial photographs are merely raw data; they are a means to an end. The photograph needs to be
examined so that the terrain can be interpreted and archaeological traces from features such as Roman
roads, lost settlements, forts, villas, canals and old river beds located.
Aerial photographs are of two main types; the oblique and the vertical. Each has its advantages and
drawbacks. Oblique aerial photographs, taken at an angle to reveal contours and shadows, are best for
discovering sites, whilst vertical photographs are more useful for mapping. However, it is possible, using
appropriate computer software programmes and at least four known points on the ground, to map an area
quite accurately from an oblique aerial photograph.
Vertical photographs can be overlapped to give a three-dimensional effect through stereoscopic viewing
lenses. Oblique photographs taken at low altitude are the most important means of discovering sites from
the air because they provide perspective and a clearer view than vertical photographs. Also obliques are
usually taken specifically for the purpose, whereas verticals are taken for general or planning purposes.
more or less at right angles to the sun’s rays.
If a bank or ditch runs parallel to the rays of light it will be difficult to see. It is essential to take aerial
photographs at different times of the day and different times of the year to capture all of the site features
to be seen, and a slight dusting of snow will also enhance features on the site.
Shadow sites can also be seen and surveyed on the ground, but crop and soil marks can generally only be
seen from the air.
Crop mark sites are some of the best indicators of buried features on a site. The variation in height of the
crop, colour and vigour of growth can help find features beneath the surface. Where the soil is damp, as in
a buried ditch or pit, the vegetation will be taller, greener and more dense. This is a positive crop mark. But
over a buried building the soil above the walls will be thinner, drier, and the vegetation will be sparser and
not so lush. This is a negative crop mark.
There are three main visible archaeological features to be identified from aerial photography: shadow
sites, crop mark and soil mark sites. Shadow sites are usually the most visible archaeological features to be
seen in the landscape.
Any site with lumps and bumps like banks or ditches has the potential to show shadows. In the raking light
of low sun, early or late in the day, the site can spring to life in fascinating detail. Shadows will only be cast.
The greener, denser vegetation appears darker from the air and dark, almost black on existing black and
white aerial photographs. Visibility of crop marks will change throughout the growing season, and indeed
on a day-to-day basis.
Different crops will react differently to soil building the soil above the walls will be thinner, drier, and the
vegetation will be sparser and not so lush. This is a negative crop mark.
The greener, denser vegetation appears darker from the air and dark, almost black on existing black and
white aerial photographs. Visibility of crop marks will change throughout the growing season, and indeed
on a day-to-day basis.
Different crops will react differently to soil conditions, and in the years of drought, 1946,
1947, 1976 and 1984, hundreds of new sites were identified. It is worth noting that grass has to be really
parched before any buried features become apparent.
The most useful plants to produce crop marks are wheat, barley, peas, sugar beet, and maize. If a site is
subject to crop rotation it will be most useful to take aerial photographs over a number of years. For the
corn crops — wheat, barley, oats — it is worthwhile to keep an eye on the field, and as the crop turns from
green to yellow to photograph it from the air. This will be the optimum time to discover crop marks.
Soil marks are usually at their best in ploughed fields. Every feature on an archaeological site is likely to be
made out of different soils.
Colour and texture of the soil is the key indicator to the understanding of any archaeological site. Ditches
may be in-filled with a dark silty soil; robbed wall foundations may show as streaks of grey lime mortar;
ploughed-out barrows may show as a dark circle enclosing streaked re-deposited natural soil.
Differences in moisture can reveal hidden ditches or even the walls of a buried building. After rain, the
buried building’s walls will retain moisture longer than the surrounding soil and leave a damp mark.
Conversely, after frost, the cold walls of a buried building will retain the frost over the buried walls longer
than will the surrounding soil. These soil mark patterns may be extremely clear on a dry day or very blurred
because of long-term ploughing of the site. Either way, they are a good indicator of the survival of the
buried features as seen from the air.
Google Earth image
of an unknown
archaeological site in
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