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To aid digestion of ANTIQUITY’S yeasty September Editorial, on our own and other national museums and archaeologies, I offer what follows as a chaser. ‘The British’, declared the Editor, ‘are a disgrace archaeologically’, because they have not bothered to insist on a first-class museum, at the centre, for their national archaeology and history. Other nations have, with results that can be splendid. They have the cultural patriotism; where is ours? It is not absent really. It is divided. In Wales and Scotland, primarily and rightly, it is Welsh and Scottish; and in Edinburgh and Cardiff, no less than in independent Ireland, there are admirable national museums. What then of the English? Why no ‘Bloomsbury marchers’, demanding and getting museum reform in London? In the English population, the archaeology-conscious proportion is among the largest in the world; but its loyalties are very largely regional. London is all very well, but you should see our county museum in Blankshire, or our town museum in Blankington, or our village museum in Little Blankworth! This English regionalism indeed must guard against disorder: that is partly what the Council for British Archaeology, with its Regional Groups, is for. But to call it a disgrace, when it is really our peculiar glory, will not help the cause of a national museum in London—nor, incidentally, the popularity of ANTIQUITY.
‘No attempt worthy of the name has yet been made to explore an ancient wreck. Marine Archaeology will only become a science by practice, patience and experience. But at any rate we know enough to say that any excavation likely to fulfill its purpose will be heart-breakingly slow and will only be achieved underwater’.
Philippe Diolé, L’Aventure Sous-Marine, 1951.
Rapid strides in the development of underwater excavation have been made during the past two decades. New techniques of diving, raising objects, and removing sand and mud make practical the excavation of sites lying at depths up to 150 ft. The problems encountered in making accurate three-dimensional plans, however, are only slowly being solved. The methods used by the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, in excavating two ancient wrecks off the southern coast of Turkey, present partial solutions to these problems.
The excavation of a late Bronze Age shipwreck, reported lying near Cape Gelidonya by Peter Throckmorton, has been discussed more fully elsewhere. This wreck rested upon bedrock, which was unfortunate from an archaeological point of view as there was no protective covering of sand to preserve the wooden hull. The survey of the site and its remains, however, was relatively simple. Scattered heaps of metal cargo were photographed, plotted and then, not without considerable difficulty, removed to the surface in lumps held together by 32 centuries of deep sea concretion.
After the feverish archaeological activity of the Fascist era, the postwar years in Rome have been a period of relative calm. There have been a few major discoveries, such as the Vatican cemetery and the new catacomb of the Via Latina, the recently published account of which is unfortunately marred by the poor quality of the colour-plates, inexcusable in a volume of this price. On the whole, however, excavation has very sensibly been diverted to clearing up specific problems, notably in the Forum and Palatine, and students of Roman topography and monuments have had a chance to pause and take stock. The results of this much-needed stock-taking are just beginning to appear, and very valuable they are proving to be.
One of the most important and remarkable monuments of classical antiquity to have come down to us, at any rate in part, is the great marble plan of Rome which Septimius Severus set up on the end wall of a large room opening off the south-west corner of the Forum of Peace, a wall which is now the outer south wall of the church of SS Cosmas and Damian. The fragments recovered since their first recognition in 1562 represent barely a tenth of the total inscribed surface, and many of these were lost before, in 1741, the collection passed from the Farnese family into the safe-keeping of the city authorities, and are known to us only from drawings. But what has survived is fundamental for the reconstruction of the topography of classical Rome and for the study of its lost monuments.
Clearly this is a major problem in New Zealand culture history. One of the present writers has recently outlined the problem and assembled the archaeological materials available for its solution, using excavated evidence for the Moa-hunters and, in the absence of dependable archaeological data, inferring the Maori culture traits relevant to the comparison from a variety of sources, mainly descriptions, drawings and collections made by Europeans in the early days of contact. The result has been to isolate the common elements, point out the distinguishing ones, and define the areas of our present ignorance.
The latter include, besides the question of agriculture already discussed, that of warfare. Though none of the evidences to be expected for this—weapons, defensive arrangements, or cannibalism—has been found in unequivocal Moa-hunter contexts, it must be admitted that the search has been restricted. Fortified sites (pa) are a prolific feature of the North Island cultural landscape, but very few have been properly excavated. The results of such investigations as have been made are hardly conclusive, and although the argument favouring Moa-hunter fortification in the Bay of Plenty cannot now be sustained, it would be well to keep the question open. The absence of weapons from Moa-hunter sites is a factor of some importance in this argument, but the Polynesian armoury was rendered almost exclusively in wood, and only stone or bone weapons of the patu type (FIG. 8) will be commonly found in archaeological deposits. Limited excavations on six undeniably fortified sites in the Auckland province have, however, failed to uncover a single weapon. The only piece of positive evidence for Moa-hunter weapons is the Horowhenua bone patu (FIG. 7) associated in a grave with a rare type of amulet, definitely known to the Moa-hunters though not necessarily distinctive of them.
During the last two decades discoveries of buried features of archaeological and historical interest have been widespread in south-east England, on many different soils supporting varying vegetation, the gravel terraces of the principal rivers and the chalk country yielding most information. Not the least productive area is the Isle of Thanet, where such ground as is free from the spreading housing estates of coastal resorts displays, for example, groups of ring-ditches of Bronze Age barrows, enclosures of the Iron Age, Roman villae, and even practice-trenches of the 1914-18 war. If discoveries of such variety and number could be made in Thanet, what of the other side of the Channel, where extensive tracts of chalk country are crossed by valleys with wide plains of alluvial gravel? Occasional discoveries made by members of French flying-clubs, for example, by M. Roger Agache in the Somme valley, had by 1961 shown that ‘crop-marks’ were to be seen; indeed it would be very surprising if they were not.
But to undertake abroad a programme of air photography involving widely ranging flights, planned for research, is not quite so simple a matter as in Britain. Maintenance requirements appropriate to aircraft operating abroad impose limitations on the work, while above all there is need to obtain permission for such photography from the responsible authorities. It was largely owing to the continued support of M. Seyrig and Professor Will that such permission was granted at all, and grateful thanks are due to them, to the Direction de l’Architecture of the French Ministry of State, under whose auspices the work was carried out, and to the British Academy, which made a grant towards the cost of the operation.
For some time now, there has been an increasing tendency amongst archaeologists to think of pottery vessels, not so much as the products of a human mind, which may reflect the many, varied factors which influenced their style of manufacture, but as impersonal objects which serve little more useful purpose than to fill out a complex typological classification. In our preoccupation with compiling these sequences to establish nothing more than the relative and absolute chronologies (vital though they are) of countries where literary records of an historical nature are lacking, we have begun to lose sight of the human element, which is, after all, a more basic constituent of pottery than clay or temper. I little expected, when I embarked on a study of the Cypriote Bronze Age pots found in Egypt, that they would lend themselves so readily to a revelation of the very human reasons which inspired their shapes, created a demand for their contents, and so brought about their exportation to Egypt. It is really to Mr H. W. M. Hodges, to whom I took my technical problems, that I owe the disclosure contained in this paper. Even more it was he who re-orientated my approach to the subject along far more personal lines, which has made the task of assembling and interpreting the data a most rewarding excursion into Levantine life during the Bronze Age.
One of the most interesting facts to emerge from even a cursory study of the Cypriote Base-ring I ware, which occurs in Egypt during the first half of the XVIIIth Dynasty, is the limited number of shapes involved.
In archaeological mapping, just as in its other fields of work, the British Ordnance Survey leads the world. Nationalistic as it sounds, this plain statement of fact need not offend our brothers in other countries: they could without any doubt all do as well, although often indeed not easily. Not easily, because behind a great Period Map like this, and its predecessors for Roman and post-Roman times, there runs throughout the Survey’s history, and through the last forty years pre-eminently, its steady tradition of archaeological recording on the ordinary large-scale sheets. This is carried in unexampled measure to the popular smaller-scale editions, but neither that nor the Period Map production would be practical possibilities without the fundamental large-scale work, year in year out carried on by the Survey’s Archaeology Division. The forty years since it was set up, in the form of O. G. S. Crawford single-handed, are divided into almost equal halves by the great destruction at the Southampton office in 1941. Hard recovery and big development have ensued throughout the Survey; but in this Division the recovery was particularly hard, and the development has had to be relatively big, to produce a unit of workmanlike capacity, small though this is amongst the.rest. Before praising the new map in all its excellences, then, let us remember that like all its kind, it is the fruit not only of special but of incessant ordinary work performed in the routine of the Division, patient yet intensive. The ill-informed gaucherie of a recent Government remonstrance on this intensiveness has already been answered by ANTIQUITY, in the name of all sensible opinion; one must hope it will now be quietly laid aside. The intensiveness is no less needful than the patience; and Mr Charles Phillips, the Division’s chief all through these years, fully merits his high reputation on both counts.