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In the early winter of 1953, just after the debunking of the Piltdown fossil forgery perpetrated in the early part of this century near Uckfield, Sussex, a blizzard of correspondence descended on the British Museum (Natural History). Among the letters was a fairly ominous one addressed to Kenneth Oakley. Purporting to be a message from one 'Elihu Progwhistle', a professional medium whose seances were being monopolized by a spirit 'identifying itself as the solicitor Charles Dawson', the note angrily denounced the whole investigation. It relayed the ghost's warning that it would take violent extra-legal action against the Piltdown detectives unless they gave up the search.
The inscription was found badly damaged and distorted by fire, and affected by various corrosive patinas which had to be treated by a specialized laboratory in the Museum of Barcelona. The plaque measures 44 × 21 cm and has six perforations (visible on the photograph) to fix it to a backing (PL. II).
The history of Maya archaeology generally can be divided into five successive periods (Hammond, 1982, 33–66): during the first two of these, the periods of the Spanish travellers (1524–1759) and the Spanish explorers (1759–1840), Belize remained unnoted, even during the visit of Stephens and Catherwood in October 1839 on their first expedition to Central America, and even though that visit stimulated an expedition from Belize City, led by Patrick Walker, ‘secretary of the government and holding besides such a list of offices as would make the greatest pluralist among us feel insignificant’ (Stephens, 1841, I, 14), in an attempt to beat Stephens to the ruins of Palenque on the far side of the Yucatan Peninsula (Pendergast, 1967).
It has long been a source of pleasure to us both that the author of the first of these Archaeological Retrospects, Charles Phillips, should share with me independent boyhood contacts with the Vale of White Horse, then in Berkshire but since 1974 in Oxfordshire (Phillips, 1980). Piggotts had been around in Marcham, Hatford and West Challow since the early seventeenth century, and the families died out or slipped quietly downhill to the status of farm labourers or at best small peasant farmers. My great-grandfather was one of these, in Uffington beneath the famous hill-figure, and my grandfather at the age of 10 was taken up to the last of the traditional festive 'scourings' in 1857 by Thomas Hughes of Kingston Lisle, best known as the author of Tom Brown's Schooldays, who wrote up the event as The Scouring of the White Horse (1859). Among the festivities were wrestling and back-sword play: these sports 'were kept up there perhaps as long as in any portion of Middle England' wrote the son of a rector of Childrey, a village a few miles from Uffington, who came there in 1882. 'The Childrey schoolmaster', he goes on, 'when he was a boy at Uffington, could throw all his schoolfellows' (Cornish, 1939, 80). The schoolmaster was my grandfather, and my father was born in the village in 1874.
Every year, on the traditional anniversary of the founding of Rome, the Mayor reviews the events of the last twelve months and outlines his plans for the future. Last year (the 2,735th anniversary), he began by describing work in progress on conservation and mise-en-valeur in the ancient city. It was wholly appropriate, for the future of classical Rome is a subject which concerns, or should concern, not only the Romans themselves, but all Italian taxpayers (who will foot the bill), town planners and conservation groups throughout Europe—not to mention all readers of ANTIQUITY. The proposals, promoted by the Archaeological Superintendent of Rome, Professor Adriano La Regina, include the creation of an archaeological park extending from the Capitoline to the Appian Way, new museums and—as a matter of extreme urgency—the protection of marble monuments disfigured by pollution. The plans involve both local and national authorities, and in March 1981 Parliament made available over a five-year period the staggering sum of 180,000 million lire (£75 m): 168,000 m for Rome itself, 10,000 m for South Etruria (the area north of Rome) and 2,000 m for Ostia.