News Article | April 17, 2017
Rare furnishings and fabrics in England's historic houses are under growing threat from an epidemic of clothes moths, say experts. English Heritage says that moth numbers have doubled in the past five years, most likely because of warmer weather. A new species has been found feeding happily on the ancient wool carpets and tapestries under their care. The charity is seeking the public's help to track the spread of the fluttering, destructive creatures. With many historic houses and sites opening up to the public this week, conservation experts at English Heritage are concerned about the potential damage that clothes moths can wreak. Only a handful of the 2,400 species of moths found in the UK pose a threat to clothing, upholstery, furs and even stuffed animals. The insects only fly when it is warm and tend to shun light, hiding in dark recesses where they lay eggs on wool, feathers or skins. When these eggs hatch out, it is the larvae that do the real damage, spinning silk webbing into tunnel shapes across the carpet or fabric. They also eat the fibres, resulting in holes in clothes and the loss of pile in carpets. English Heritage has been monitoring the the spread of clothes moths since 1997 and is now checking for the creatures at 40 sites, with the aim of preventing damage to around 500,000 artefacts. As well as a doubling of the numbers in the past five years, it has also found a new species turning up in its traps, the Pale-backed Clothes Moth. "Many people already know the exasperation of finding a much-loved jumper or coat destroyed by clothes moths," said Amber Xavier-Rowe, English Heritage's Head of Collections Conservation. "They can eat through centuries-old carpets, tapestries and clothes in a matter of months. Clothes moths are a conservator's worst nightmare and it's an ongoing battle to keep them under control." English Heritage is seeking the help of the public to track and monitor the moths. Visitors to its sites will be able to collect a free clothes moth trap to place in their home, to help monitor the presence and type of moths. The collected data will be used to help the charity to decide how moths are spreading and how best to focus their conservation efforts. "We want to know why numbers are rising so that we can continue to keep them under control," said Ms Xavier-Rowe. "We need the public's help to get a better picture of the clothes moth threat. Come to our sites, pick up a free trap, take it home and leave it for a couple of months, and then share your findings with us on our website." Among its tips for dealing with clothes moth infestations, English Heritage recommends avoiding old mothball formulations and instead encourages the use of safe alternatives such as bunches or sachets of lavender. The best way of killing the adults, eggs and larvae of moths in clothing and small textiles is to deep freeze items for at least two weeks. Follow Matt on Twitter and on Facebook.
News Article | April 25, 2017
Solstice Park is “a strategically located development opportunity”. That’s what its promotional blurb says, anyway – but put more prosaically, it is a clump of offices, distribution centres and retail and hospitality businesses on the A303, just under 10 miles from Salisbury. It symbolises two things: government attempts to help the economy of south-west England, and the tourist industry centred on Stonehenge, a few minutes’ drive away. As if to somehow complement the monument’s antiquarian wonders, there is a faux-ancient statue outside the Holiday Inn, of a 22ft figure giving thanks to the sun. Inside, double rooms go for just short of £100. It’s 8am on a misty Wednesday morning and a group of people here are very anxious about the latest proposal for this historic patch of England: a 1.8 mile tunnel containing a new dual carriageway, its entrance and exit sitting inside the Stonehenge world heritage site, and which may also involve a new flyover. After years of proposals for a tunnel being knocked back and forth – a similar plan was ruled out in 2007 – the latest scheme was announced by then chancellor George Osborne in 2014. Soon after, David Cameron and Nick Clegg staged separate photo opportunities on the same day at Stonehenge, in an attempt to sell the economic benefits of a tunnel and widened road to locals. Give or take consultation processes and concerns about the costs, work is due to start in 2020. The government talks about a supposed reduction of the congestion that has long affected this part of Wiltshire, and an upgrade that will “develop the A303 into a high-quality, high-performing route linking the M3 in the south-east and the M5 in the south-west, improving journeys for millions of people.” Both English Heritage, which runs Stonehenge as a visitor attraction, and the National Trust, which has a stake in Stonehenge thanks to the 800 hectares of land it owns around the stones, are in favour of the plan in principle. They talk about an end to the spectacle of the stones being spoiled by passing traffic, and how the grassing-over of the existing A303 will mean the restoration of the Stonehenge Avenue, the ancient processional route to the monument. All this might sound reasonable, but there are mounting concerns about what a tunnel will mean, particularly for archaeology in one of the world’s most important prehistoric sites. Twenty-one renowned archaeologists who know the area have announced their opposition. One of the most vocal opponents is classical historian, writer and radio presenter Tom Holland. Over a Holiday Inn breakfast, he tells me what he thinks is at stake, why the Stonehenge site has to be thought about as much more than the stones, and why a campaign group called the Stonehenge Alliance is making such a lot of noise. Most obviously, there is a fascinating archaeological site nearby called Blick Mead, where recent finds have shone light on life in the immediate wake of the ice age and why Stonehenge – even before the stones – was a regular gathering-place for people from all over ancient Britain. If the road plan materialises, Holland says, it will ruin Blick Mead, and bring important work there to an abrupt end. He is also concerned about land close by, where a network of ancient burial mounds and other sites are rich with historical interest. Not to mention the fact that the planned site for one of the tunnel’s entrances (or “portals”) threatens one of Stonehenge’s most significant aspects: the direct line of sight from the stones to the setting sun on the winter solstice. “The issue is whether Stonehenge exists to provide a tourist experience, or whether it is something more significant, both historically and spiritually,” he says. “It has stood there for 4,500 years. And up to now, no one’s thought of injecting enormous quantities of concrete into the landscape and permanently disfiguring it.” “I am angry about it, yes. Because if everything mysterious and evocative and ancient is packaged up in to a heritage visitor experience, and sliced and diced, and subordinated entirely to the needs of the road-building programme, there’ll be nothing left.” Having left Solstice Park, our first port of call is a large expanse of land peppered with bronze age burial mounds and circular burial sites known as disc barrows. It sits in the middle of Boreland farm, a 300-acre expanse owned and run by Rachel Hosier, who drives us around in her Land Rover. In the middle distance a handful of Highways England vehicles flit around the landscape, occasionally disgorging people in hard hats and hi-vis jackets. After a five minute drive through the fields, we get out at a burial mound known as Bush Barrow, which was first excavated in 1808. The finds here were centred on the remains of a man who had been buried along with grave goods including an axe, two daggers, and items of jewellery. Hosier claps eyes on the nearby vans and diggers, and points out where one of the tunnel’s portals is planned to be built, around 300 yards away. “I’ve grown up with this place,” she says. “My garden just happens to be bigger than other people’s. And I feel very honoured to be a custodian of this land. It’s fascinating. But I’m extremely worried. Bush Barrow man is going to be looking at a tunnel and a big road, right from his grave.” Half an hour later, after another rendezvous in the nearby town of Amesbury, we head to Blick Mead. So as to protect it from unwanted intrusion, the exact location of this site – a boggy, wooded spot, named after a local farm worker – is a secret. Nearby is a spring that releases water at a constant 10–11C, even when the surrounding land is frozen – which probably explains why human beings were here a long time before Stonehenge was built. Such animals as aurochs, a huge ancestor of the modern cow whose carcass could feed 200 people, gathered close by, which in turn drew people who used them as a source of food. And the fact that the moist soil here acted as a perfect preservative has meant that items which explain how these humans lived could be excavated up to 7,000 years after they were dropped into the soil. Over the last 15 years, the prime mover behind archaeological work here has been David Jacques, an expert on the Mesolithic period (8500-4000BC) based at the University of Buckingham. Last year, he and his fellow archaeologists found a 7,000-year-old dog’s tooth, which amazingly detailed analysis suggested may well have been born in the east of England, before being taken to Scotland and then travelled all the way to Salisbury Plain. What this revealed, he says, is how important the Stonehenge area had been long before the circle itself was built. He has also been working on the remains of an ancient dwelling in Blick Mead, which offers clues about both visitors to Salisbury Plain, and people who lived here on a more permanent basis. The proposed eight-metre flyover that would feed traffic in and out of the tunnel, Jacques says, would sit only a few hundred yards away. The concrete would dry out the very moist soil here and obliterate its archaeological richness. “It’ll take down the water table, and if that water table drops, it’ll remove all of the organics, like the animal bones. They’ll all be gone within five years. They’ll be reoxygenated, and they’ll degrade fast. So we’ll lose dating evidence, all the ways of understanding how people were living, and what their resources were.” And in terms of the bigger historical picture, what would that mean? “We would lose the backstory to Stonehenge. This is genuinely exciting, so it doesn’t need any hype: the house is dated around 4000BC. That is really important, because there’s hunter-gatherer material in there, at the same time as there’s the first Neolithic date at Stonehenge. So simply put, you’ve got the first multicultural society here. This is probably a contact point between early Neolithic pioneers coming in from continental Europe, and the indigenous people who had been doing stuff for 4,000 years. Before our site, there was virtually no evidence of Mesolithic occupation in this area at all.” “Up to now, the assumption has been that Stonehenge was a kind of Neolithic new-build, in an empty landscape. And of course, the big question is: why is it where it is? Nobody’s had a very good answer for that. But now, all of a sudden, we’ve got the longest spread of radio-carbon dates from the Mesolithic of anywhere in Europe. Something really odd was going on: these are normally nomadic people, but they are coming back here again and again and again.” Half an hour later, we are joined by Andy Rhind-Tutt, a former mayor of Amesbury who is president of the local chamber of commerce. He does not buy the idea of the changes to the A303 as a bringer of local economic benefits (“It won’t bring business to the area – it’s about an expressway to send traffic faster to other parts of the West Country”), and says the fact that the new road will meet a junction leading to the Stonehenge visitor centre will still cause plenty of congestion. “You’ll end up with a traffic jam underground,” he says. “The tunnel will become, effectively, an underground car park. “And a tunnel won’t deal with the issue of what happens to the traffic when there’s a problem,” he continues. “In fact, it’ll make it worse. A tunnel with a blockage will force cars to come through Amesbury or the local villages, which are already suffering. You’re going to end up with lorries coming through the villages every time the tunnel shuts. “So the question I have is: What is the purpose of the tunnel? As far as I can see, there’s only one purpose, which is to remove the view of the stones from the road, and remove the view of the road from the stones. There can be no other reason.” The views of the bodies who support the tunnel plan are inevitably very different. A spokesperson for English Heritage says that “there is still much work to be done on the detail,” but the proposals “have the potential to transform and enhance the landscape”. Nonetheless, they express serious concern about the proposed location of the western end of the tunnel. At the south-west office of the National Trust, assistant director Ian Wilson says he understands the significance of Blick Mead, and has faith that the road-builders will respect its importance. “What we would expect is that with any works carried out as part of the road scheme, the potential impact on Blick Mead should be assessed, and if there was going to be an impact on the water table, that would need to be mitigated.” He says that Highways England needs to “take Blick Mead into account”. Asked what a new road and flyover would mean for the painstaking archaeology happening nearby, the organisation gives a somewhat gnomic reply: now that the latest public consultation has finished, Highways England is “considering all information and feedback we have received”, and “until we have fully assessed this information we are not in a position to comment further at this time”. Holland and the Stonehenge Alliance say they would be comfortable with a much longer tunnel, on the proviso that it caused “no further damage” to the world heritage site – and the government’s failure to consider such an area shows that short-term financial considerations are taking precedence over damage that would be irreversible. And they still see glimmers of hope, even if they are often somewhat obscured by clunky acronyms. The International Council on Monuments and Sites, which advises world heritage body Unesco, said recently that the current design would have a “substantial negative and irreversible impact” on the Stonehenge site, and that consideration has to be given to an alterative route that would take the A303 through land owned by the Ministry of Defence. Back at Solstice Park, I ask Holland how he feels about the tunnel plan actually coming to pass. “I feel a deep psychic sense of distress at the prospect, to be honest,” he says. “I try to think it’s not going to happen. I absolutely haven’t given up. I think there’s a dawning realisation among the general public that a monstrous act of desecration is brewing. I hope that there will be international disapproval of this: I hope that matters. The government is already quite unpopular abroad; I don’t think it wants to tarnish its reputation any more.” But what if work actually starts? Would he lie in front of diggers, or take up residence in a tree? “I don’t know. I’ve wondered about that, and whether I’d be prepared to do that. I’d reserve judgment on that.” So he might? He thinks for a moment. “If you’re trying to defend a prehistoric landscape that has Stonehenge at the heart of it, there is a kind of poetry and magic to that, which I think would serve as a lightning rod for a lot of people’s anxieties about a lot of things. Ultimately, it’s about whether the government thinks it’s going to damage its reputation. That’s really what it comes down to: is the government going to be anxious about looking like vandals?” Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with the A303 – the road due to be bypassed by the controversial Stonehenge tunnel. As my main route from London to my home in Somerset, I love heading westwards on a fine summer evening. But as soon as I reach Stonehenge, the traffic grinds to a halt. Time, perhaps, to leaf through Tom Fort’s rather optimistically titled book A303: Highway to the Sun. But maybe he will now need to rename it A303: Roadkill Hotspot. For despite the (usually) slow-moving traffic, it seems that the road is just that. With more than 420 animals killed in just over a year, this is the road to hell for deer, badgers and foxes – and even the occasional otter. But could there now be light at the end of the tunnel? By digging underground, will the highway engineers be able to put an end to this wildlife carnage? Or might it just transfer the problem a mile or two down the road, so that as cars emerge from the tunnel they mow down the wildlife there? Anyone who lives in the countryside, as I do, is used to seeing the corpses of animals flattened across the tarmac of our rural lanes. It’s a good way to judge the state of Britain’s wildlife, or perhaps its stupidity. Badgers and pheasants appear to be the main victims, while hedgehogs – now as rare as hen’s teeth in my neck of the woods – are few and far between. With this in mind, the Project Splatter website, a citizen science research project at Cardiff University, wants us to report any roadkill sightings to work out what impact roads are having on our wildlife. Judging by the carnage along the A303, the answer is “quite a lot”. The author is a naturalist, writer and broadcaster who also lectures in nature and travel writing at Bath Spa University
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Fellowship | Award Amount: 198.81K | Year: 2014
Heritage science refers to the fascinating, rich and diverse range of scientific challenges associated with conserving movable and immovable heritage. Its significance should not be underestimated. Heritage, through tourism, makes a substantial contribution to the economy (£7.4 billion a year), and the sustainability of that contribution depends on heritage science. In November 2006, we published a report entitled Science and Heritage in which we acknowledged that the UK had a high reputation in the field of heritage science but warned that UK standing was under threat and that the heritage science sector was fragmented and under-valued. (House of Lords Science and Technology Committee (2012). Science and Heritage: A follow-up. London: HMSO p4) In 2007, on the recommendations of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) launched the Science and Heritage Programme to fund research activities to deepen understanding and widen participation in heritage science. During the following 7 years, this £8.1 million multi-disciplinary, collaborative Programme has funded 48 projects involving more than 300 researchers, 234 institutions and 50 industry partners both in the UK and overseas. The purpose of this Impact Fellowship proposal is to strengthen the dissemination of research activities supported by the Science and Heritage Programme, with a particular focus on developing the relationship between heritage science researchers and industry in order to promote heritage science innovation and to inform policymakers of the value of heritage science to culture and the economy. For heritage science researchers to fully contribute to public benefit and economic growth a shift in attitude by both researchers and industry has to take place to create stronger strategic links and to exploit opportunities which anecdotal evidence suggests there are dustry sectors that could benefit from heritage science research and innovation. Currently, the heritage tourism industry is the best understood industry utilising heritage science research and this will be considered alongside other business sectors such as construction and property development; creative media; insurance; forensics and security and sensors and instrumentation. Through a series of workshops, face-to-face interviews and data collection and analysis, the Fellowship will identify the benefits, impacts and growth opportunities produced by heritage science research and innovation, along with the research projects that have contributed wider benefits to policy, industry and the heritage sector and the industry sectors that utilise, or could utilise heritage science research. By examining industry needs, the skills and training required by future heritage scientists to engage with industry can be identified and evidence can be provided to produce recommendations on how policy could support the development of an innovation systems framework for heritage science. This will in turn be used to promote an innovation culture among researchers and industry willing to explore the business potential of research outputs. The research will be underpinned by a number of leadership development activities including publishing commissioned articles for Research Fortnight and Research Professional. Key outputs from the research will be published on the Science and Heritage Programme website and will include: a database of projects that demonstrate the benefits and impacts of heritage science research; a case study on skills training for heritage scientists and recommendations on how policy could support the development of an innovation systems framework for heritage science.
News Article | August 13, 2014
London's escalating love affair with giddying views will reach a new height this autumn. Starting in November, up to 6,000 City workers will move their swivel chairs and espresso machines into the highest offices in Britain, in the Leadenhall building. The Guardian was granted access to the 225m skyscraper – known as the Cheesegrater – ahead of completion. We saw how workers will be whisked skywards at a stomach-dropping 18mph in fully glazed lifts. Desks will look down on the Gherkin, the roof deck of the NatWest tower and, across the Thames, to the viewing decks of the Shard, the only taller building in the UK. No one in the City will enjoy a loftier view, apart from the falcons that have been provided with a nest box on the roof. But this is more than just another notch on London's priapic skyline – soon to see the addition of "the scalpel" and "the helter skelter" tower, which will overshadow the Cheesegrater as the tallest building in the Square Mile. The Cheesegrater, at 122 Leadenhall Street, is directly across the road from the Lloyd's building, the Grade I-listed tangle of ducts and pipes, recognised by some as a masterpiece of the hi-tech movement after it opened in 1986 and derided by others as looking like a misplaced oil refinery. Both buildings were designed by Richard Rogers and bookend 30 years of one of the country's most celebrated star architects and British architecture itself. The buildings beg a question: is anything left of the radical vision of Lloyd's, or has British architecture become afraid to offend? Graham Stirk is well placed to answer. This softly spoken architect was raised in Leeds, and began his career in 1983, aged 25, as a junior in Rogers' practice, designing brackets to hold those famous ducts and vents. Now, one of Rogers' senior partners, Stirk has overseen the design of Leadenhall. "I knew we would be compared," he said. "It is a terrifying prospect". The two buildings opened in starkly different circumstances. Lloyds opened three weeks after the big bang deregulation of financial markets which unleashed a confident City boom that fuelled the 1980s' "loadsamoney" culture. Leadenhall will open in the cautious atmosphere of a fragile financial recovery. Both buildings were shaped in part by wars that date them. The famous external staircases of the Lloyd's building were redesigned in steel after the sinking of the Sir Galahad supply ship in the Falklands war was partly blamed on the flammability of its aluminium superstructure, while glazed staircases on Leadenhall were scrapped after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. But, said Stirk, the buildings had "their DNA and an evolutionary path" in common. "They share a really tough structural language," he said. "If anything, Leadenhall is tougher. Lloyd's has nice rounded concrete columns, this has big manufactured I-sections. It is almost bridge engineering. It has a much more dominant impact on London's skyline than Lloyd's." The sheer heft of Leadenhall's 15,000-tonne steel frame as it crashes into the ground at its base is undeniably impressive, yet the simple triangular glass-skinned silhouette is far more polite than the riot of the Lloyd's exterior. One key reason for the difference, Stirk explains, is that the latter was designed for a client while Leadenhall was designed for British Land, a speculative developer. Hence its sleeker, less aesthetically challenging profile. "When I look at Lloyd's, it is amazingly dense," said Stirk. "It is almost a medieval cathedral in terms of its surface complexity. When I look at Leadenhall, it is something that has to have sufficient neutrality [to work as a speculative office building]." The services and lifts are all encased in a glazed "cassette" on one side of the building rather than being exposed, which Stirk describes as a "jellyfish" effect. The inside-out design of Lloyds has recently been cited as a concern to its main occupiers who are considering moving out. Last year, Richard Ward, then chief executive of Lloyd's of London, said: "There is a fundamental problem with this building. Everything is exposed to the elements, and that makes it very costly [to maintain]." The building's exposed innards caused widespread palpitations when it was built in the 1980s and Stirk recalled "a very, very mixed reaction". "We had very little work after this," he said. "Everyone says it must have been amazing, but no. Some of those reactions were, 'We like Lloyd's but we don't want one of those.' It had a particular exuberance. It was not fully understood what problems this building was solving." He said there was a view that the architects had "imposed something", but that ignored the way "it was the product of an evolutionary process over eight years". Since Lloyd's, Stirk thinks there has been an increase in the "homogeneity" of architecture. Marco Goldschmied, Rogers' former partner who was instrumental in the creation of Lloyd's, said that was partly down to the suppression of architects' "experimental energy" by the planning process. "Lloyd's sparked the rise of the monsters that are the National Trust and English Heritage and the use of questions in the planning process such as does a proposal 'cause harm' which implies a fear of non-conformity," he said. "There was a subtle closing of the ranks against this kind of architecture." As a result, he said, an "international corporate style" had emerged as developers tried to reduce the risk of schemes being rejected by planners, which could cost international investors fortunes. "Offices are the most difficult buildings to design as an architect," Stirk said. "It is not like an art gallery or airport. These buildings come automatically with a primary message. Office buildings are kind of anonymous and are the most unloved building type on earth." • This article was amended on 14 August 2014. An earlier version misnamed Richard Ward as Michael Ward.
News Article | November 23, 2016
Sadiq Khan is being urged to halt the construction of a skyscraper because it mars a centuries-old view of St Paul’s Cathedral. Conservationists are calling on the London mayor to take action against a 42-storey tower in Stratford, east London, which they say damages the view of Sir Christopher Wren’s landmark from King Henry’s Mound in Richmond Park. The charity Friends of Richmond Park has written to Khan urging him to halt the construction of Manhattan Loft Gardens, designed by SOM and described on its website as “Europe’s most ambitious residential tower”. It comprises three extensive sky gardens, a 145-bedroom hotel, almost 250 residential units, and retail and restaurant space. The charity said current planning rules should have protected the view, which has existed for more than 300 years and draws crowds of visitors to Richmond Park. Under the capital’s overarching planning document the London Plan, the London view management framework (LVMF) states that any development in the background of St Paul’s should be “subordinate to the cathedral and that the clear sky background profile of the upper part of the dome remains”. However, photographs released by Friends of Richmond Park show that the emerging skyscraper in Stratford is clearly visible behind the cathedral. The charity said on its website: “The new development clearly and substantially compromises the profile of the whole of the dome of St Paul’s and, for almost the entire east side of the building, the clear sky background is obliterated.” Its chairman, Ron Crompton, said in a statement: “It is a tragedy that such a wonderful and iconic protected view, between two of London’s most historic landmarks and created over 300 years ago, should be destroyed not just for today but for many years to come.” Crompton’s letter to Khan calls for an urgent investigation into how GLA officers allowed the proposal to win planning, in contravention of the LVMF. He has also called for the housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell to ensure that future applications relating to the sight line are referred to English Heritage and the mayor. Historic England, the UK’s statutory adviser on heritage, has also protested against the development and said it was not consulted. Its London planning director, Emily Gee, told the Architects’ Journal (AJ): “In the wrong places, tall buildings can do serious, irrevocable harm to important views and the special character of London. “We are very concerned that this has happened and see it as a failing of the current approach to the planning for tall buildings.” The AJ reports that the planning application for the tower was referred to the GLA in 2010 by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), which was acting as the planning authority in the run-up to the London Olympics. A spokeswoman for the Manhattan Loft Corporation told the Guardian the developer went through a transparent and public process to gain planning permission, adding that that maps of the LVMF protected view indicated that the background area to be protected beyond St Paul’s was 3km (1.86 miles) long whereas its tower was 7km (4.35 miles) beyond. “Throughout the planning process we found the GLA and all the other planning bodies to be very supportive for such an aspirational residential project,” the spokeswoman said. “As planning approval was achieved [on] 18 July 2011, we were never asked about the LVMF background view impact. “However, SOM has a long history of working with the St Paul’s view corridors and the more recent London Plan LVMF document. “We would recommend that the King Henry VIII’s Mound also be illustrated as seen from the naked eye where the distance to St Paul’s Cathedral is 15.5km (and Manhattan Loft Gardens is an additional 7km beyond).” A spokesman for Khan said: “We are currently looking into the issues involved with this development.”
News Article | July 3, 2016
Carregal do Sal in Portugal is home to mysterious graves that may have once acted like a giant telescope for people of the ancient past. As bizarre as this may seem, this is not the only known megalithic observatory from long ago. So, what makes this massive stone structure in Portugal unique compared with similar structures, such as Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt? Carregal do Sal consists of a network of passage graves, similar to several others found scattered around Europe, dating back 6,000 years, to the New Stone Age. They are constructed with long, narrow hallways, backed by a flat surface. New analysis of passage graves found in Portugal reveals the means by which the structures may have served as telescopes for ancient people. Stonehenge is constructed from large stone slabs, buried into the ground, and rising above the land by 15 feet or more. Like the passage graves of Portugal, these ancient pillars are designed to align with objects in the sky. Such an arrangement would allow our distant ancestors to know when to plant certain crops, or move livestock to new grounds for grazing. Ancient astronomical tools such as Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza utilize placements to create easy views of celestial alignments critical to ancient people. However, the passage graves in Portugal take this idea a step further. Some of the best views of the sky can be seen from within the tomb itself. While contemporary telescopes collect and focus light, the passage graves would have allowed a person to see just a small portion of the sky at a time, and would have blocked extraneous light from the sun at dusk or dawn. In near pitch-dark conditions, the eyes of the observer would also become accustomed to the dark, allowing the viewer to see fainter stars than would otherwise be possible. "[T]he orientations of the tombs may be in alignment with Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus. To accurately time the first appearance of this star in the season, it is vital to be able to detect stars during twilight," Fabio Silva of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David said. The Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge offer no such adaptations, meaning the graves of Portugal would have been more advanced than some better-known ancient observatories. However, the construction of Stonehenge may remain a greater mystery. The stones, weighing up to 25 tons each, were transported around 20 miles from Marlborough Downs to the Salisbury Plain, before the invention of the wheel. Some of the smaller stones, weighing as much as 4 tons, may have been brought to the site from 140 miles away from their current location. "Stonehenge is perhaps the world's most famous prehistoric monument. It was built in several stages: the first monument was an early henge monument, built about 5,000 years ago, and the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 BC. In the early Bronze Age many burial mounds were built nearby," English Heritage reports. Carregal do Sal may have been the Hubble Space Telescope of the Neolithic Age. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Agency: GTR | Branch: AHRC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 640.97K | Year: 2016
The relationship between town and country has played an important role in shaping British society for much of the past two millennia. Britains assimilation into the Roman world led to the creation of a network of towns as centres of administration, trade, industry and service provision although the decline of Roman Britain led to the disappearance of urban life in most areas. It was only from around the 10th century that true towns once again re-emerged, and they have been integral to British life ever since. This project will examine the fluctuating fortunes of the most important town in SW England - Exeter - and how it interacted with its local, regional and international hinterland. Exeter began in the Conquest period (c.AD55) as a Roman legionary fortress, and following its abandonment (c.AD75) it was transformed into a town (civitas capital) serving the local region of Dumnonia. Unlike many other lowland areas, Dumnonia was slow to adopt aspects of Roman life, there being very few villas and other forms of Roman influence in the countryside. As such, this project will use Exeter as an example of the development of urbanism at the fringes of Romanised Britain. Although large parts of the town appear to have been abandoned in the early medieval period, a thread of continuity is indicated by radiocarbon-dated burials from the Cathedral Close. Urban life in Exeter resumed around the 10th century, and the town continued to flourish throughout the medieval period when it established extensive trading connections with Atlantic Europe, once again demonstrating a model of urbanism that was different from the centres of power to the east that looked towards NW Europe. Exeters archaeological importance is two-fold: firstly, it is representative of urbanism in western Britain, well away from the political, social and economic centre of London; and secondly, there have been particularly extensive excavations the results of which have only partly been published. The Exeter: A Place in Time project therefore aims to produce the first ever synthesis of the archaeology of Exeter and undertake a series of themed research strands, based upon scientific analyses of previously excavated assemblages (animal bones, pottery, and metallurgical debris) that shed light on how the city developed and interacted with its hinterland. The project will be strongly collaborative and involve: 1. the Universities of Exeter (already undertaking the post-excavation analysis of the Cathedral Close cemetery) and Reading 2. English Heritage (through their Centre for Archaeology, and funding for Cotswold Archaeology to write up key unpublished excavations) 3. Exeter City Council who run the Citys Historic Environment Record and Royal Albert Memorial Museum A partnership with English Heritage and Cotswold Archaeology will enable selected unpublished excavations to be studied, along with a programme of radiocarbon and dendrochronological dating and metallurgical analysis. AHRC funding will use existing excavated material to explore Exeters relationship to its hinterland through further analysis of animal bones and pottery. In particular scientific analysis will be used to characterise where animals were grazing before they were brought to Exeter, and the extent to which livestock were moved from the fertile lowlands onto the uplands during the summer. A new analysis of the pottery will explore Exeters trading networks both within the SW of Britain and continental Europe. Key outputs of the project will include two books and an academic conference presenting an analysis of Exeters development and its relationship with its hinterland from the Roman period through to the 16th century, a conference session aimed at professional archaeologists that highlights this innovative partnership approach, a one-day workshop for the public, and enhancements to the Museums Making History gallery, online Time Trail, and Historic Environment Record.
Mays S.,English Heritage
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research | Year: 2010
The strong genetic component in the etiology of Paget's disease of bone (PDB), together with marked geographic variation in its prevalence, with high frequencies in British populations, has led some to suggest that the disease originated in Britain and spread around the world in recent times by the migration and admixture of British populations. This study aims to investigate this hypothesis by studying the world geographic distribution of PDB cases identified in ancient skeletons excavated from archaeological sites. The methodology is a review of PDB cases described in the literature. There were 109 cases that met modern diagnostic criteria. All came from Western Europe, 94% from England. These data support the hypothesis that PDB originated in this geographic region. © 2010 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.
Mays S.,English Heritage
American Journal of Physical Anthropology | Year: 2012
The age-markers described at the adult acetabulum by Rissech et al. (J Forensic Sci 51 (2006) 213-229) were scored in the Spitalfields collection of skeletons of documented age and sex (N = 161). The purpose of the work was as a contribution to the evaluation of the general utility of these markers for estimating age at death. To this end, their relationship both with age, and with some other factors, was investigated. The latter comprised sex, general tendency toward bone formation in periarticular soft tissue (as measured by the occurrence of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis), and occupation (as documented for some of the males). Of the seven Rissech et al. variables, only four were found to show a statistically significant relationship with age. The correlation between a composite score derived from a linear combination of these four variables, and age was similar to or greater than correlations between age and composite scores based on other age indicators reported in the literature for Spitalfields. Male acetabula aged at a greater rate than those of females. There was no relationship with the occurrence of DISH, but for occupation, those in nonmanual professions showed greater acetabular scores-for-age than those in manual trades. Am J Phys Anthropol 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Mays S.,English Heritage
American Journal of Physical Anthropology | Year: 2014
Estimating adult age at death in skeletal remains is problematic, particularly in older adults. Molar wear is arguably the most reliable ageing technique for palaeopopulations, but many older adult skeletons have lost their molar teeth ante mortem, precluding its application. Resorption of the alveolar process occurs following tooth loss, and this appears to continue for a prolonged period. The current work investigates the relationship of this process to individual age in a nineteenth century AD European archaeological skeletal series of known age at death (N = 92 individuals), and discusses its potential as an age indicator. Mandibular corpus height was measured at the different molar positions. In females, reduction of corpus height with age was found at molar positions showing ante mortem loss. In both sexes, a relationship was found between age and a simple composite measure of corpus height in the molar region in those showing ante mortem loss of one or more mandibular molars. The correlation was stronger in females (r = -0.74) than in males (r = -0.49), appeared approximately linear, and continued into the ninth decade, the oldest age group in the study material. The results suggest that investigation of height of the posterior part of the mandibular corpus as a skeletal age indicator for individuals that have lost one or more molar teeth is merited in other palaeopopulations. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:643-652, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Copyright © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.