Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ramesses II (& Belzoni too)

I’ve wondered how I should start this series. I initially thought that I might leave my very favourite piece to last, but instead I felt that it should be true to how I actually interact with London museums – when I’m in the city I always head for the British Museum first and, within that marvelous complex, I first go see my old friend Ramesses II.

This upper portion of a colossal statue is one of a pair from the mortuary temple of Ramesses II in western Thebes, known as the ‘Ramesseum’. The stone for this piece was quarried as a single 20-ton block, far to the south in Aswan and transported here by river. Ramesses is a fascinating character – long lived and a prodigious builder – and, true, some of that is what attracts me to this piece. I love the statue’s serene look, coolly surveying the throngs that come to the museum every day to see him. Even after all these years, I’m still moved by Shelly’s (and, to a lesser extent, Horace Smith’s) ‘Ozymandias’. However, what attracts me time and again to this statue is the interplay between this great Royal and the man who brought him here - Giovanni Battista Belzoni. Belzoni was just as fascinating as Ramesses, but in a wholly different way. He started as a circus strong man, eventually becoming an explorer and an important early archaeologist and Egyptologist. He’s remembered for his discovery of the tomb of Seti I, clearing the entrance to Ramesses temple at Abu Simbel, and his entry of the Khafre’s pyramid at Giga. He also managed to transport this statue fragment (weighing about 6 tons) back to England and flog it to the British Museum.

One way or another, Ramesses II spends his days casually surveying the museum visitors, probably trying to ignore the large drill hole in his chest – put there by some French blokes, intent on using dynamite to make the statue easier to transport …

Belzoni also brought back the magnificent sarcophagus of King Seti I that now languishes in the basement of Sir John Soane's Museum. However, every time I’ve been to see the sarcophagus, it has either been off limits through renovation, cleaning, or simply that they had insufficient members of staff to open that area of the house. Even still, they don’t allow photography … not like I’m bitter or anything!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Co Monaghan: Archaeological Objects at The British Museum

The British Museum holds two items identified as coming from Co Monaghan. One is assigned to the Bronze Age and the other to the Late Medieval period. One is a razor, the other is a seal-impression; seal. Both are made of metal.

Bronze Age: Metal item
Copper alloy tanged razor.

Late Medieval: Metal item
seal-impression; seal
Bronze Abbot's seal-matrix of the Austin Canons Abbey of SS. Peter and Paul, Clones.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Into the West: Portora Castle

So far on this trip I’ve gone full prehistoric (Knockmany), followed it up with an excursion into the Early Christian and Medieval (Errigal Keerogue), but now it was time for a trip into the post-Medieval at Portora Castle. Essentially, I’ve been getting younger as I’ve traveled west.

The castle is situated on the banks of the Erne and once controlled access between Upper and Lower Lough Erne. The standing structure was, essentially, four circular corner towers, linked by curtain walling, with a three-story house (two floors with attics) at the west end. Today, one of the corner towers is missing, having been eaten away by the river and the house only survives as a foundation line. The lands here were acquired by Sir William Coles in October 1612 and it is thought that the castle was constructed soon after. At some time before 1621 the site was the residence of a Preacher called Mr Stack. The site was leased or sold on to Bishop Spottiswood of Clogher who lived there from 1621 to 1628. During Spottiswood’s tenure there (in 1622) a surveyor reported that there were two timber-framed or ‘cagework’ houses within the bawn. The site was fortified and defended for Governor Henry Hamilton in 1688. After this it was the residence of the Cole family, until the rather palatial Florence Court was completed in the mid-18th century. It was probably abandoned at that point and allowed to gradually decay. It suffered damage in 1858/9 when schoolboys from nearby Portora Royal School used explosives to blow up a substantial portion of the wall. Further damage was done during the Night of the Big Wind in 1893.

Portora is a lovely little Plantation castle and well worth a quick visit. The views are grand, but nothing spectacular. Don’t get me wrong – there are many fine views to be had in Fermanagh … just not really on this spot, within the castle. So … why did I divert my journey to see this site? Well, to me it’s a special place as during November and December 1997 it was the scene of my first excavation in Northern Ireland. I’d arrived in Belfast the previous September and had been working on my MA thesis, but once cash reserves started to dwindle I needed something approaching gainful employment. Turns out this was it! Before I arrived on site, work around the house at the west end had uncovered the line of the front wall, revealed parts of a ground-floor window, a door at the south end, and a low-level pistol-loop. Inside the house, an unattached piece of walling was interpreted as the base of a large fireplace. The fact that it was not linked to other walls was taken to indicate that the internal walls were wooden. Although there was very little evidence of 17th century activity in the house, there were numerous finds of thin, unglazed earthenware tiles that indicated that the house was tiled, rather than slated.

As I say, this was all done before I arrived. I was put to work shovelling and trowelling in the open courtyard or ‘bawn’. This is the area where the two ‘cagework’ houses were supposed to have stood. I was exceptionally and irrationally excited to be given my very own post-hole to excavate … not that it turned into very much, but the excitement was real! Unfortunately, there was no evidence of the houses or any other occupational deposits to be found. While the short description published in the excavations bulletin suggests that the evidence had been removed due to overzealous clearances during the 19th or early 20th century, it had been speculated on site that the houses had never been built, and that the report of them being there was more along the lines of ‘We’re planning to get around to building these … honest!’. The summary doesn’t mention the feature we initially thought was a well at the approximate centre of the bawn. It was filled with water, but was blocked with a single large stone that would have required specialised lifting equipment to move. Perhaps it was just considered to be outside of the remit of the current excavations, but (if actually a well) it could have had significant preservation of organic remains. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the end of the excavation as I got a rotten chest infection and was forced to quit until I could recuperate. Coming back to the site nearly two decades later was rather wonderful and emotional – it gave me some opportunity to think back honestly about my time in field archaeology. There’s still much I’m proud of – some good sites shepherded from excavation to publication – but so much I regret, too – not having been more active in agitating for better pay and conditions, and supporting the setting up of a Union when I had the chance. My advice to anyone still in the profession or contemplating entering it is simple: join the Union and don’t accept poor pay and conditions. Otherwise you too may end up – literally or metaphorically – watching the river flow, wondering how it might have worked out had things gone a slightly different way …

Site under excavation. December 1997

Site under excavation. December 1997
Site under excavation. December 1997

< 3D Images < Table of Contents


If you go to the Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record [here] you can search for the site as FER 211:019. The scanned contents of the NIEA’s SM7 file on the site is available [here & here]. The entry in is [here].

Famous Portora Old Boys include Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Neill Hannon, and Nigel Dodds … which only goes to prove that you can’t have everything …

Into the West: Portora Castle 3D

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dig: the value of archaeology for society and the economy

Monday, 5th November
Location: Kilkenny
12am-7.30pm            Delegate registration at The Set Theatre
1pm-3.30pm              Tour of Medieval Mile Museum, Rothe House Garden and Talbot's Tower with Cóilín O'Drisceoil
3.00pm-4.30pm        Tour of the Heritage Council with Colm Murray
7pm-8.15pm              Archaeology and society. Lecture by Prof. Brian Fagan (Venue: The Set Theatre)

Tuesday, 6th November
Location: Kilkenny
9am                             Delegate registration in The Set Theatre
9.45am-4.30pm        Creativity and community and well-being conference sessions (Venue: The Set Theatre)
7pm-8pm                   The influence of archaeology on Cartoon Saloon's creative process (Venue: The Set Theatre) tbc
9pm-10pm                 The future of the archaeological profession. Panel discussion (Venue: The Hole in the Wall)

Wednesday, 7th November
Location: Kilkenny
9am                            Delegate registration in The Set Theatre
9.45am-4.30pm       Economy and placemaking conference sessions (Venue: The Set Theatre)
7pm-8pm                  An owner’s perspective on saving a Tudor house. Lecture by Michael Conway. (Venue: The Set Theatre)
9pm-10pm                Archaeologists do not stumble upon! Communicating archaeology to the public. Panel discussion (Venue: The Hole in the Wall)

Thursday, 8th November
Location: Kilkenny & Waterford (all venues are in Kilkenny unless otherwise stated)
9.45am-10.45am      Tour of Kilkenny Castle
10.30am-5pm           King of the Vikings virtual reality experience in Waterford City. Free entry for delegates.
10.30am-12.30pm   Conservation planning for archaeologists. Workshop (Venue: The Heritage Council)
11am-12.30pm         Taking stock of community archaeology. Workshop (Venue: The Heritage Council)
11am-12.30pm         The role of archaeological objects in placemaking. Workshop (Venue: Parade Tower, Kilkenny Castle)
11am-12.30pm         Tour of the Medieval Mile Museum with Grace Fegan & Evelyn Graham
11am-3pm                 Digital recording of archaeological objects. Demonstrations (Venue: Rothe House)
1.30pm-3pm             Placemaking: architects, planners and archaeologists working together. Workshop (Venue: The Heritage Council)
1.30pm-3pm             Writing for a general interest audience for archaeologists. Workshop (Venue: Parade Tower, Kilkenny Castle)
2pm-3pm                   Tour of Talbot's Tower with Una Ni Mhearain
2pm-3.30pm             Tour of regeneration actions in Waterford City Centre
3pm-4pm                  Tourism and archaeology working together. Discussion session (Venue: The Heritage Council)
6.30pm-7.30pm       Experimental archaeology and contemporary ceramics. Lecture (Venue: National Craft Gallery) tbc

Friday, 9th November
Location: Dublin
1.30pm-2.30pm       Excavating a 17th century apothecary shop. Lecture by Alan Hayden (Venue: The Hugh Lane Gallery)
3pm-4pm                  Tour of Francis Bacon's Studio (Venue: The Hugh Lane Gallery)
7pm-8pm                  Adapting to climate change: lessons from the past. Lecture by Prof. Brian Fagan (Venue: The Wood Quay Venue)

Please note: the programme is subject to possible change. The tours and access to the King of the Vikings experience are subject to suitable weather conditions.

CPD Points: Attendance at the conference is recognised by IAI under their CPD programme.

Dig is a collaboration between the Heritage Council, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Communities NI, Fáilte Ireland, the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Dublin City Council. It is being project managed by the Irish Walled Towns Network and is receiving support from Creative Ireland. Dig is a key part of the programme of events for the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.

Community, well-being and creativity conference presenters
Tuesday, Nov 6th, The Set Theatre, Kilkenny
9.45am-4.30pm. Registration opens at 9am.
• Benjamin Grahn Danielson, Archaeologist, Picea Kulturarv. Topic: Digging together: archaeology as a method in municipal planning
• Diarmaid Walshe, Co-Creator, Operation Nightingale. Topic: Inclusion and cohesion within archaeology and society
• Barney Devine, Development Manager, Battles Bricks and Bridges. Topic: Archaeology as a way of bringing a community together and dealing with conflict 
• Clare Tuffy, Manager of Brú na Bóinne WHS visitor centre. Topic: World heritage and the surrounding community in Brú na Bóinne
• Christine Baker, Community Archaeologist, Fingal County Council. Topic: Community archaeology in Fingal
• Prof. Graeme Warren, Head of School, Dept. of Archaeology, UCD. Topic: Community archaeology in Glendalough
• Faye Sayer, Senior Lecturer, Dept. of History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University. Topic: Can digging make you happy?
• Emma McKervey, Poet. Topic: Archaeology and poetry
• Jack Doherty, Ceramicist. Topic: Archaeology as an inspiration for contemporary ceramics
• Gareth Kennedy, Visual Artist and Lecturer, NCAD – Topic: Archaeology as inspiration for two contemporary art projects
• Sarah Lincoln, Visual Artist – Topic: Archaeological excavation techniques as inspiration for a contemporary art project

Economy and placemaking conference presenters
Wednesday, Nov 7th, The Set Theatre, Kilkenny
9.45am-4.30pm. Registration opens at 9am.
• Sophie Jackson, Director of Research and Engagement, Museum of London Archaeology. Topic: The art of archaeological placemaking
• Sarah Maltby, Director of Attractions, York Archaeological Trust. Topic: Archaeology as an attraction for visitors and an enhancer of local sense of place
• Eamonn McEneaney, Director, Waterford Museum of Treasure. Topic: Archaeology based regeneration in Waterford
• Jane Hebblewhite, Senior Heritage Officer, Cheshire West and Chester Council. Topic: Creating vibrant public realms out of Chester’s amphitheatre and city walls
• Jonathan Ford, Heritage Ranger, Papay Development Trust. Topic: Heritage led regeneration on a small island
• David Ross, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Exeter. Topic: Interpreting archaeological sites that have no remaining archaeology
• Michael O’Boyle, Director, Bluett O’Donoghue Architects. Topic: Rejuvenating late medieval and early modern buildings
• Una Ni Mhearain, Architect, Consarc. Topic: Saving a medieval tower from ruin and creating a public park
• Fergal McNamara, Principal, 7L Architects. Topic: Placemaking at the Loro Gate
• Joanne Hughes, Project Manager, Cork City Council. Topic: Revitalising an urban fort

Conference Website [here]
Buy Tickets [here]

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Co Cork: Archaeological Objects at The British Museum

The British Museum holds 43 items identified as coming from Co Cork. The majority of these (10) are assigned to the Late Bronze Age, followed by the Early Bronze Age (6). The most common object type represented are penannular bracelets (7), followed by axes and hammerstones (4 each). The most popular material types represented in this assemblage are: Metal (28), Stone (13), Glass (1) and Wood (1).

Neolithic/Bronze Age: Stone items
Polished stone axe with rounded butt; damaged/indented face.

Perforated stone hammerhead, butt damaged, brown in colour, rough surface.

Polished stone axe with slightly damaged rounded butt; damaged indented face.

tanged arrow-head
Stone tangede arrow-head.

Blackwater River; Youghall
Polished stone axe, greenstone?; rounded point at butt.

Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age: Metal item
Castletreasure (Castletreasure Farm Hoard)
Gold disc. Thin circular foil of beaten gold with pointillé and embossed decoration. The decoration consists of a circle of punched dots along the outer edge, three concentric embossed circles and a cross filled with horizontal lines inside a circle of punched dots at the centre of the disc.
2500BC-2000BC (circa)

Neolithic (?)/Bronze Age (?)/Iron Age (?): Stone items
Stone hammerstone with one flat face and damaged ends.

Crookhaven (near)
Stone hammerstone.

Crookhaven (near)
Stone hammerstone.

Crookhaven (near)
Stone hammerstone.

Bronze Age: Metal items
Cork (near)
Copper alloy sword. The tang has been cast on. The tang has two rivet-holes, the upper one of which retains a rivet. There is a depression for a third rivet-hole between these two holes. two parallel ridges run up the web on each side of the rivet-holes. The butt has two rivet-holes. The blade is somewhat rough on the surface and its edges are damaged; it is pointed oval in cross-section. Ricasso present.

Youghal (near)
Copper alloy socketed spear-head, side-looped.

Copper alloy socketed spear-head, side-looped.

musical instrument
Copper alloy tube. Part of a musical instrument.

musical horn
Copper alloy musical horn.

Early Bronze Age: Metal items
flat axe
Copper alloy flat axe; only lower half of blade. Sides flare widely to form a large, slightly rounded cutting-edge. Both sides are double-faceted. There are mounds and pits of corrosion covering the entire object.

flat axe
Copper alloy flat axe with thin, narrow, rounded butt which is slightly damaged. Sides splay widely, creating a large, rounded cutting-edge. Both sides are triple-faceted.

Bandon (Bandon Hoard)
flat axe
Copper alloy flat axe; with a thin, narrow, slightly rounded butt, which has a notch missing.
Axes: 18480804.79 (top) & 18541227.26 (bottom)

Copper alloy halberd with asymmetrical blade and three rivet holes, all rivets in situ.

Blackrock, Maryville
Copper alloy halberd, asymmetrical blade with rounded hafting plate and straight, rounded midrib. Three rivet holes, with two rivets in situ.

Bandon (Bandon Hoard)
Copper alloy flanged axe with stop-ridge and thin, rounded butt. Decorated.

Late Bronze Age: Metal items
Cork (near)
Gold small penannular plain ring. The circular solid body is circular in cross-section and it is slightly thinner at the ends rather than in the middle. The ring has parallel squared flat endings facing each other.
1150BC-750BC (circa)

Gortnalicky (Gortnalicky hoard)
penannular bracelet
Gold penannular bracelet with rounded body. The expanded terminals are conical shaped and concave.
1000BC-750BC (circa)

Gortnalicky (Gortnalicky hoard)
penannular bracelet
Gold penannular bracelet with solid body of lozenge shaped cross-section. The expanded terminals are conical shaped and concave.
1000BC-750BC (circa)

Ballycotton (near)
Gold decorated gorget, three pieces. The beaten pieces are decorated using a repoussé technique to create a cord pattern and alternate bands of void spaces and chevrons. The edge has been bent over to form a sub-circular rim.
1150BC-750BC (circa)

penannular bracelet
Gold penannular bracelet with rounded body and hollow tubular section. The expanded terminals are conical shaped and hollow. The ends and the terminals are decorated with a fine geometric incised pattern. The decoration of the ends and of the outer part of the terminals consists of a series of triangles filled with oblique lines. The inner edge of the terminals is decorated with a band of straight intersecting lines. Part of the two terminals could have been lost as both have rims that are slightly concave. A join runs parallel along the inner body of the bracelet forming the hollow tubular section.
1000BC-750BC (circa)

penannular bracelet
Gold penannular bracelet with thin body of rounded cross-section. The expanded terminals are conical shaped and hollow. The ends of the body are decorated with five incised lines.
1000BC-750BC (circa)

Copper alloy musical trumpet.

penannular bracelet
Gold penannular bracelet with flat body. The solid slightly expanded terminals are rectangular in section.
1000BC-750BC (circa)

penannular bracelet
Gold penannular bracelet. The thin body has a rounded cross-section. The slightly expanded terminals are circular and solid.
1000BC-750BC (circa)

penannular bracelet
Gold penannular bracelet with a rounded cross-section. The terminals are slighltly expanded, solid and circular.
1000BC-750BC (circa)

Bronze Age (?): Metal items
Gold circular-sectioned bar shaped to form a penannular bracelet. It is triangular shaped with terminals bent back and outward facing. The shape has been distorted so that it now assumes a heart-shaped outline.
2500BC-750BC (circa)

Cork ?
Gold bar. Bent bar of gold with overlapping terminals.
2500BC-750BC (circa)

Two boxes of twenty-eight fragments of a beaten sheet of gold.
2500BC-750BC (circa)

Early Medieval: Metal item
Youghal (near)
Copper alloy pyramidal bell with pierced rounded flange on top and ribbed angles; hole on one side; repair patch now missing.
8thC-11thC (?)

Early Medieval: Stone items
Deelish, burial-ground (old) cilleen
oghan stone
Standing stone, fine red sandstone, of roughly rectangular section tapering at top; inscribed with ogam letters along 2 edges.

Roovesmore Rath
standing stone
Stone pillar of squarish section inscribed along 2 angles with ogam letters.

Roovesmore Rath
standing stone
Red sandstone slab, roughly rectangular, inscribed along sides with Ogam letters.

Coolinny (?); Coolineagh (?)
standing stone
Stone pillar of roughly rectangular cross-section, inscribed with Ogam letters along two edges.

Romano-British: Glass item
Glass beads, thirty-six.

Carolingian period: Metal item
Ballycottin Bog
brooch; amulet
Gilt copper alloy cross brooch: equal-armed; cast, chip-carved, Anglo-Carolingian style animal in profile in each arm; central, flat, oval black glass setting inscribed in two lines of early Arabic script, `sha'a allah', or 'tubna lillah' (or `bismillah'?); silver domed-head pseudo-rivet in a lobe at the inner and outer corners of each arm.

Viking: Metal item
ring; hacksilver
Silver ring in 3 pieces; hacksilver; one U-shaped and two strips of flat section coiled to form rough ovals and placed over each end.

Unknown: Wooden item
Mug; wood; painted; with handle.