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The Congress opened with a welcoming (plenary) reception in the Ashmolean Museum, with an exhibition of the Museum’s Celtic antiquities. The Ashmolean this same year celebrated the tercentenary of its foundation, with a Symposium ‘The Cabinet of Curiosities’, at the same time as the Celtic Congress.
Antiquity in 1957, in the midst of an ‘Evolution Number’, published a bold article by Professor Richard Atkinson on ‘Worms and weathering’. Often quoted since, but all too little absorbed, its message at the time was clear: ‘All of us recognize . . . that a site consists of a sequence of deposits, some formed deliberately and usually rapidly by man, and others more slowly by nature; and that some of the processes of formation, such as erosion and filling by the plough, are still continuing today. But there seems to be a widespread assumption (though it is difficult to be sure of this, since such things are seldom discussed) that once a constituent layer of a site has been formed, and sealed by another layer above it, it becomes immediately fossilized . . .’ Professor Atkinson spoke of his own post-Darwinian observations as ‘shots in the dark’, which ‘may not always be very accurate; but at least they serve to wake sleepers from their beds’.
The relatively naturalistic representation of animals of the cervidae family has long been recognized as dominating much of the prehistoric art of Siberia. These animals are found in the petroglyphs which date from the Neolithic, but are, perhaps, better known in the bronze items that have been so much sought after in the last 1OO years. I t is my purpose here to examine these artistic products in an attempt to identify the species of animals the artists were intending to represent. In the analytical literature dealing with this subject one finds a noticeable lack of unanimity among the critics, who might be forgiven some biological imprecision, were they not frequently very confident in the ascriptions that they make. Identification of the species of cervidae will enable us better to understand the cultural background of the artists, and may lead to a greater understanding of the purpose underlying their creative activity. I can claim only one special qualification for this task, namely that I have spent almost two years of my life as a reindeer herder during anthropological fieldwork. This experience may, perhaps, better enable me to recognize the species of deer intended by the artist than can other scholars, whose acquaintance with the animal has been restricted to the museum.
No one could wish for a more auspicious initiation into the world of archaeology than Frederik Sehested (PL. LX). He was 20 when the greatest gold treasure in Denmark was found on the family estate of Broholm, and it was largely through the efforts of his mother and himself that the treasure was saved. It must have been a great moment when he accompanied his mother to Copenhagen and witnessed the handing over of the treasure into the hands of the by then famous C. J. Thomsen in the rooms in Christiansborg Castle which housed the still infant Museum of Northern Antiquities. Many years later Sehested (1878) wrote a sober account of the event but the excitement still remained with him and couldn’t be drained from the account. The reader gets a lively impression of the atmosphere on the estate during those spring days of 1838.
Most of the Roman city of Viroconium Cornoviorum at Wroxeter (Shropshire) was purchased for the nation in 1973 to protect its remains, which mainly lay in arable land, from further damage by the plough. This part of the city, beyond the limits of the Department of the Environments's Guardianship site, is known very largely from crop-mark photography, tracing the lines of buried foundations by corresponding patterns in a growing cereal crop (Frere & St Joseph, 1983, 162–6). This technique continues to yield results, for ploughing at Wroxeter is regulated rather than prohibited, and never to better effect than in the dry summer of 1975, when excellent marks developed to west and north of the Baths (PLS. XIV, XVI), and in 1976, which afforded new details to south and east of them (PL. xv). At the request of the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings vertical photographs were taken by the University of Cambridge to form the basis of a new plan of the known remains. The potential of air photography for reconstructing such a plan had been shown by Webster and Stanley (1964), using the photographs of Mr Arnold Baker, but much more had been learnt about certain areas both by Mr Baker and by Cambridge University since then.