Category: malcolmj - Part 2

Greek Financial Crisis Echoes Ancient Era of King Cassander

GREEKS PROTEST AUSTERITY CUTSFinancial austerity measures were a grave problem in ancient Greece too it seems quite literally. In the same week that the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have been asked by Greece to unblock the first tranche of a 110-billion (93 billion) bail-out loan package in exchange for severe spending cuts, archaeologists have revealed how 2,300 years ago people in the northern Greek region of Macedonia were forced to scale back on funeral offerings, probably on orders from the king.

The AFP reports that senior archaeologist for the Greek Archaeological Service Manthos Besios told Athens daily newspaper Ta Nea how, in the 4th century BC, graves in Pydna a prominent city in the ancient kingdom made famous by Alexander the Great (winner of our recent fantasy election), which is currently under excavation with Besios as deputy supervisor contained such treasures as gold jewels, elaborate vases and ivory-plated beds.

Era of Austerity

Fast forward a century to the reign of King Cassander of Macedon, and people in the same area were being buried with cheaper materials such as clay.

If one wanted to make light of the situation, one could replace the IMF with King Cassander in todays terms.

At the close of the fourth century, a decree issued by Cassanders commander in Macedon-occupied Athens forbade the building of elaborate funeral monuments and limited spending on ceremonies, said Besios. He linked the find to Greeces modern economic crisis. It was like the period we are going through today one that will possibly be found by an archaeologist of the future.

If one wanted to make light of the situation, one could replace the IMF with King Cassander in todays terms, he added. Good to see someones managing to laugh amid all this economic doom and gloom.

Credit Crunch of Antalya

The findings at Pydna follow evidence of another Greek mini financial crisis around 500 years later in the city of Rhodiapolis. As Sean blogged, a new excavation of the coastal settlement near the modern Turkish city of Antalya has yielded a large stone tablet, on which the citys inhabitants had sometimes towards the 3rd century AD etched their dismay at rising taxes under the then-Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.

Surprisingly, Severus yielded and promised to lower rates for Rhodiapolis. Heres hoping the economic unrest currently rocking Greece eventually comes to a similarly amicable conclusion.

New Photos From The Mummy Chamber Exhibition at Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum have sent us some of the first pictures from their brand new long-term exhibit The Mummy Chamber, an exploration of afterlife beliefs and rituals in ancient Egypt, which as we blogged opened to the public on Wednesday.

Featuring 170 pieces from the museums extensive Egyptian collection, it highlights the elaborate and often strange lengths sometimes gone to in the land of the pharaohs in order to ensure that a deceased individual had the most pleasant and trouble-free experience possible after passing on into the mysterious realm of the dead. That means displays of everything from mummies, coffins and sarcophagi to ritual treasures discovered in burial chambers including statuettes, shabti figurines and books of spells.

Peer Down the Book of the Dead Corridor

Taken at the press preview, the photos show some of the exhibits key artefacts. The first shot is of the Book of the Dead Corridor the section of the exhibit dedicated to highlighting the highly popular practice in ancient Egypt of placing papyrus scrolls in tombs bearing a collection of hymns, spells and instructions believed to be vital in overcoming whatever challenges might be faced on the other side.

Youll notice, laid-out in a long cabinet running the length of the corridor, one of the main attractions at The Mummy Chamber namely a large portion of The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose. Painted onto two sides of a nearly eight-metre long papyrus scroll, and aged well over 3,000 years, this highly impressive example of a version of the Book of the Dead is on display for the very first time. Having originally been acquired by the museum back in 1938, it was only brought out of the archives for vital restoration work two years ago. Other sections of the scroll are still being worked on, and will be added to the exhibition at later dates.

Thothirdes was apparently on a tight budget.

The next picture shows the mummy of Thothirdes, a 26th Dynasty priest at Thebes. One of the aims of The Mummy Chamber is to convey the fact that mummification in ancient Egypt wasnt a practice that was carried out just one way there were techniques of varying quality available, depending on what an ancient Egyptian could afford. The full and most expensive works purification, dehydration, internal organ-storage, cleansing, wrapping and all is outlined in this blog. Thothirdes was apparently on a tight budget.

He had a middle-of-the-road mummification, Edward Bleiberg, the Brooklyn Museums curator of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Middle Eastern art told The New York Times in a recent interview. This is proven by the fact that his organs were stuffed back into his body rather than stored in costly stone jars. The unsophisticated hieroglyphs on Thothirdes coffin further confirms that this priest was a man of modest means. The handwriting is terrible, Bleiberg added.

A Stunning Sarcophagus

The final picture shows three coffins placed in a row, exemplifying how burial caskets could vary in quality significantly too particularly as building techniques and fashions in decoration changed over the centuries. All made from wood, one is small and simple, the next is larger and much more ornately decorated. The last at the back is the stunning outer sarcophagus of Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet. Dating from around 1075-945 BC, it reflects a major shift in burial practice in the 21st Dynasty, when the Egyptian elites stopped building elaborate tombs and instead transferred the scenes normally painted on tomb walls to the coffin.

Its not visible in the picture, but theres damage to the painted surface on the left side of the casket, which has been left unrepaired. This is intended to reveal how the sarcophagus was made by carpenters pinning smaller pieces of wood together with wooden pegs. Artists then plastered and painted the surface to make it appear smooth.

Got pictures of your own from The Mummy Chamber that youd like to share? Then add them to the Heritage Key Flickr group.

Mummy Chamber Exhibit Now Open at Brooklyn Museum

in New York holds one of the largest and most famous collections of Egyptian material in the world. Today, it opens a brand-new, long-term exhibition gathering together 170 pieces from within its Egyptian collection titled The Mummy Chamber.

Its an exploration of the many complex ancient Egyptian afterlife rituals and beliefs, which were all intended to protect a deceased soul from harm once they passed-on, and ensure a pleasant experience on the other side. It covers everything from mummification to the placing of votive goods in burial chambers.

Organised by the Brooklyn Museums Curator of Egyptian Art Edward Bleiberg, The Mummy Chamber will feature a number of highly unique artefacts, from mummies to coffins, canopic jars and shabti funerary figurines, plus all kinds of stelae, reliefs, gold earrings, amulets, ritual statuettes and mummy boards.

Chief among the ancient Egyptian antiquities on display will be a section of the Book of the Dead of Sobekmose a nearly eight metre-long, 3000-year-old papyrus acquired decades ago but until now never before placed on public display.


No Egyptian exhibition relating to the afterlife would be worth its salt without a few good mummies. The Brooklyn Museum has one of the finest selections of embalmed ancient bodies going, and has cherry-picked a few beauties both human and animal for this display. Theyll include the mummy of Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet, the 21st Dynasty Royal Priest and Count of Thebes, the mummy of Hor, a minor 13th Dynasty Egyptian king, and the mummy of the Thothirdes, a 26th Dynasty priest at Thebes.

Several of the Brooklyn Museums mummies have recently undergone intensive scientific testing including CT-scans to try and learn a bit more about them such as their sex, age, cause of death and living habits. For example, the mummy of Hor was for 70 years displayed as the body of a young female, until a CT-scan in 2009 proved it had all the anatomical features of a man! Details of these and other findings will form part of the installation, as will an insight into just how some of the mummies were embalmed.

The most thorough process of mummification as outlined in this blog involved the removal and preservation of internal organs and a long period of dehydrating the cadaver. It was an expensive business, and not always within the means of a deceased ancient Egyptian. Some exhibits in The Mummy Chamber will be dedicated to highlighting other, cheaper processes of mummification.

Coffins and Grave Goods

Equally as important as the mummification of a corpse itself was the container it was then placed within. Another key part of this Brooklyn Museum special exhibition will be a look at various types of sarcophagi, and the history of coffin-making for humans and animals in ancient Egypt.

The outer sarcophagi of Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet, for instance, reflects a major shift in burial practice in the 21st Dynasty, when the Egyptian elites stopped building elaborate tombs and instead transferred the scenes normally painted on tomb walls to the coffin. Hor, contrastingly, was encased in an elaborately decorated cartonnage (a case made from layers of linen or papyrus covered with plaster). It exemplifies the way that the painters of the Third Intermediate Period made use of the rich iconography available to them.

Even a deceased Egyptians internal organs removed during the mummification process were sometimes preserved in elaborate vessels, such as canopic jars or chests. Alongside the various different types of coffins, examples of these will also be displayed, as will various kinds of ritual objects tools intended to help the deceased overcome the various challenges they were expected to face in the afterlife. Shabtis were one popular such grave good small figurines whom it was believed could serve as servants or slaves in the afterlife. Expect to see lots of great examples of these too.

Essential Reading in the Afterlife

One of the most common artefacts found placed in ancient Egyptian tombs is copies of the so-called Book of the Dead the name commonly given to the ancient Egyptian funerary text Spells of Coming (or Going) Forth By Day. It was meant to assist the deceased on the other side by arming them with a collection of hymns, spells and instructions useful for overcoming whatever perils might face them in the afterlife.

The museum acquired The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose in 1937, but this will represents the first time its been on public display. It follows two years of painstaking conservation work.

Most commonly, the Book of the Dead was written on a papyrus scroll. The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose will form one of the centerpieces of The Mummy Chamber, and is a particularly impressive example of such an artefact. Covered with text on both sides as well as various illustrations, it was found buried in the grave of Sobekmose a treasurer for Amenhotep III, in the 18th Dynasty. His name recurs frequently throughout the text, accompanied by the title Gold-worker of Amun.

The Brooklyn Museum acquired The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose in 1937, but this will represent the first time its been made available for general viewing. It follows two years of painstaking conservation work to restore it to its former glory. Only a portion of the scroll has been restored so far, but work remains ongoing, and as other sections are made ready theyll be added to the gallery installation.

Been to The Mummy Chamber exhibition at Brooklyn Museum? Tell us what you thought in the comments field below, and share your photographs in the Heritage Key Flickr group.

Stone of Destiny Replica Stolen and Dumped by Thieves

Stone of SconePolice in Perthshire, Scotland are investigating the theft and prompt abandonment of a replica of the Stone of Destiny the battered, iconic, controversial and well-traveled symbol of Scottish royalty from outside Moot Hill Chapel at Scone Palace in Perthshire, by a seemingly ill-informed criminal gang.

The real stone which itself has twice been stolen in the past, once from its original spot at Scone by King Edward I of England in 1296 and once from Westminster by a group of Scottish students in 1950 (they later gave it back) resides at Edinburgh Castle. It is said to be the seat upon which all kings of Scotland were crowned prior to its removal from Scotland in the 13th century.

The incident occurred between closing time Wednesday night at Scone Palace and opening time Thursday morning, and looks to have been well-thought through in most respects. The hapless hoodlums even brought with them a similar-sized look-alike of the stone which weighs around 200 kilos, about as much as a fridge-freezer and placed it on the plinth. They then transported their booty so far as the palace grounds before dumping it. Its believed they may have been tipped-off as the folly of their theft after reading an attached brass plaque, which they also swiped. A replica, it reads, of the stone upon which the Kings of Scots were crowned on Moot Hill until 1296 when Edward I took the stone to Westminster Abbey.

Lord Stormont, whose family owns Scone Palace, commented to the media: The fact that the intruders went to the trouble of chipping off all the surrounding mortar and bringing in a fake stone of similar size, which would have required at least four people to lift, suggests that a high degree of planning went into the escapade.

He added that the stone will be replaced, but that security surrounding it will be stepped up. Whilst we do not wish to compromise public accessibility to the Palace and grounds in any way, we will be taking further steps to secure the Stone when it is back in place, to deter another incident of this nature from happening.

The fact that the intruders went to the trouble of chipping off all the surrounding mortar and bringing in a fake stone of similar size suggests that a high degree of planning went into the escapade.

A spokesman for Tayside police described the incident as very unusual, adding: officers are currently making inquiries into the possible motivation for someone swapping the stones. Both of the stones are of considerable weight and would require at least three to four people to carry them. Transport would also have been required.

The real Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland in 1996 by then-Conservative Prime Minister John Major, in a symbolic gesture intended to placate grumbling Scottish nationalists. It arrived accompanied by armed guards and bagpipers on the proviso that it be returned to London for all future coronation ceremonies for British monarchs.

However, its widely believed that the real Stone of Destiny is anything but. One legend has it that, when Edward Is troops came to plunder the symbolic chunk of rock as a spoil of war, monks at Scone Palace hid the real stone in the River Tay or buried it on Dunsinane Hill, and fooled them into taking a substitute. Another popular story is that the group of four Scottish students who took the stone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950 a feat immortalised in a recent movie Stone of Destiny had copies made, one of which they left on the Altar at Arbroath Abbey in April, 1951. This was assumed to be the original, and removed back to London.

The Stone of Destiny featured in our article Top 10 Scottish Arefacts Abroad – check out the full list here.

Switzerland returns Pharaoh Akhenaton’s toe to Egypt

Dr Zahi Hawass sat down with the Swiss and agreed a deal for repatriation of Egyptian artefacts. Image Credit - SCA.Switzerland today signed an agreement for the repatriation of all illegally-obtained antiquities of Egyptian origin currently within their borders, according to a press release circulated by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). It represents a major victory for Egypt in its battle against global artefact theft, since many stolen treasures from Egypt are smuggled via Switzerland.

The agreement is the latest of 16 such treaties Egypt has reached with foreign nations since 2002. The SCA press release adds that Secretary General of the SCA Zahi Hawass is currently in the process now of forming agreements with other countries.

The deal comes in the wake of a two-day international conference in Cairo last week, attended by 20 countries, at which Hawass led a call for states around the world seeking the repatriation of antiquities to unite in their efforts.

Over the past few years, hundreds of Egyptian objects have been repatriated from Switzerland to Egypt. They include the eye of Amenhotep III which was stolen from a statue of the pharaoh at Luxor in 1972 then later sold to the Art Museum of Basel by a German dealer and a variety of artefacts that entered the country via Tarek El-Sweissi, the former head of the National Democratic Party for the Giza area, who in 2003 was charged with heading a multi-million dollar antiquities smuggling ring.

Toe be or not toe be? Dr Zahi Hawass agrees a deal with the Swiss. Image Credit - SCA.Zahi Hawass has made it his mission since beginning his tenure as chief of the SCA in 2002 to recover Egyptian artefacts from abroad. So far he has helped Egypt reclaim some 31,000 relics from other countries. Hawass continues to pursue high profile antiquities from major foreign museums, including the Rosetta Stone, which is held by the British Museum (see our recent Bloggers Challenge for some opinions on this contentious subject), and the Bust of Nefertiti, which is currently on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin.

During the signing agreement with the Swiss, Frank Rhli of the University of Zurich the same anatomy expert who last year mummified a human leg using the same salt drying process applied by the ancient Egyptians returned the toe of Akhenaten to the Egyptians, in what was presumably a symbolic gesture (seems an otherwise inappropriate moment to be handing over a centuries-old body part). The 3,300-year-old digit belongs to the skeleton discovered in KV55, which according to a recent study on King Tut‘s DNA, is the young pharaoh’s biological father, most likely the ‘heretic pharaoh’ Akhenaten. The toe is to be displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

New Species of Human Ancestor Discovered in Africa is “Rosetta Stone” of Genus Homo

Archaeologists in South Africa have discovered a previously unknown species of human ancestor in the form of the 1.9 million-year-old partial skeletons of an adult female and a young male hidden deep in an underground cave outside Johannesburg.

Theyre thought to represent a key period of evolutionary transition between ape and man. The find is believed to be so important that the lead scientist behind their research has described the species dubbed Australopithecus sediba as potentially being the Rosetta Stone that unlocks our understanding of the genus Homo.

The find comes hot on the heels of the discovery of the remains of a 40,000-year-old human finger in Siberia, thought to belong to another previously unknown ancestor of Homo sapiens. The find suggests an undocumented species of man that lived alongside Neanderthals and early modern humans in parts of Asia as recently as 30,000 years ago.

Its represents the first new human ancestor identified since the discovery of Homo floresiensis, the strange hobbits who are thought to have inhabited the Indonesian island of Flores until 13,000 years ago.

Climbing Down From the Evolutionary Tree

Lee Berger, a palaeontologist at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, is the expert currently working hard to explain the story of Australopithecus sediba, which is represented by a pair of unlucky souls possibly mother and son who met their fate by falling together through a fissure in ground, before being carried a few metres by mud or water into a subterranean pool where they were gradually encased in rock.

Theyre believed to originate from the very foot of the human family tree, and are therefore thought to be of enormous importance to the study of mans evolution from primates.

These fossils give us an extraordinarily detailed look into a new chapter of human evolution, Berger told The Guardian, and provide a window into a critical period when hominids made the committed change from dependency on life in the trees to life on the ground. Sediba may very well be the Rosetta stone that unlocks our understanding of the genus Homo.

Some experts have voiced skepticism about the importance of Australopithecus sediba, however, because it shares such prominent anatomical features with both early humans from the genus Homo (long legs and a pelvis well adapted to walking upright), and their ancient predecessors the Australopithecines or southern apes (long arms like orang-utans).

The transition to Homo continues to be almost totally confusing, Donald Johanson of Arizona State University in Tempe an opponent of Bergers theory told Science magazine. Its Homo, he concluded.

The debate promises to continue.

DNA Evidence Points Finger in Direction of New Human Species

There was nothing so immediately dramatic about the remains found in Siberia specifically Denisova cave in the Altai mountains, a range that straddles Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. The finger, which may have belonged to a young child and was recovered from a layer of rock in the cave dated to between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago is tiny, and offers no visible hint of unusual origins.

It was genetic testing that yielded results that left its researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany stunned. There was no match with the DNA profile of either Neanderthals or early modern humans. It is the first time a new type of human has been identified purely from DNA analysis.

It really looked like something I had never seen before. It was a sequence which is similar in some ways to humans, but still quite distinct.

It really looked like something I had never seen before, the Max Planck Institutes Johannes Krause told The Guardian. It was a sequence which is similar in some ways to humans, but still quite distinct.

Project leader Svante Pbo could hardly believe it when Krause called him to reveal the results of the test. It was absolutely amazing, I didnt believe him, Pbo said. I thought he was pulling my leg.

Krause and co are now concentrating on DNA from the nuclei of cells in the finger in a bid to figure out where the species fits into the human family tree, and also if it interbred at all with Neanderthals and modern humans.

Alex Reid to Play Intellectual Caveman in New BBC Historical Costume Drama

Knuckle-dragging, bare-chested, monosyllabic men who once had to rely on violence and brute strength to get by arent as stupid as we think at least judging by the news that ex-cage fighter Alex ‘Mr Katie Price’ Reid is to try his hand at acting, in a new BBC historical costume drama called 200BC.

Oh, and cavemen were quite clever too it seems. Reids role is going to be as a prehistoric intellectual in the show, which will be based on growing evidence that Homo sapiens actually lived relatively sophisticated lives, contrary to our idea of them as club-wielding simpletons little brighter than primates.

Just last month, archaeologists in South Africa announced that they have unearthed a cache of ostrich eggs dating back 60,000 years and etched with intricate geometric designs proof that Homo sapiens were capable of symbolic thinking 20,000 years earlier than previously believed.

Last year, it was revealed by archaeologists in North Africa that stashes of symbolic jewellery dating back 82,000 years had been found in the Moroccan desert, giving vital proof of the earliest juncture between human culture and cognition.

Earlier in 2009, archaeologists working in the south-west of Germany at the cave of Hohle Fels discovered a small carved female erotic figurine, aged 35,000 years, plus a portion of a thin rudimentary flute carved from bird bone and dating from around the same time, which has been described as unambiguously the oldest musical instrument in the world. More proof still that early man started thinking outside of the box way sooner than anyone had until now thought possible.

Homo sapiens actually lived relatively sophisticated lives, contrary to our idea of them as club-wielding simpletons.

Its a big blockbuster thing, six or seven episodes, Reid told Heat magazine of the new BBC drama (as quoted by STV News).

Im quite excited to play a Homo sapien, the Celebrity Big Brother winner added. Its like a different take that cavemen werent actually stupid, they were quite intellectual.

Rumours that Reid just marginally out-acted a shaven ape in auditions remain unconfirmed.

Science Versus the Druids: Campaigners Lose Fight For Reburial of Charlie the Avebury Skeleton

The 5,000-year-old skeleton of a young girl known as Charlie, found buried on a hilltop at Avebury in Wiltshire, will remain on public display at the nearby Alexander Keiller Museum where it has resided for 50 years.A campaign for its reburial by the Council of British Druid Orders (CoBDO) was defeated overwhelmingly by weight of government guidelines and expert and public opinion.

The CoBDO argue that its disrespectful for the bones of our ancient ancestors to be stared at or stored in cardboard boxes in dark basements when not the immediate subject of study. In 2006 they selected Charlie who was unearthed in the 1920s at Windmill Hill, and gifted to the public in 1966 as the test case on which to launch a drive for the reburial of “various human remains from archaeological excavations, stored in museums and universities around the country,” according to a statement on the CoBDO website.

A long and expensive public consultation was launched in 2008 by English Heritage, which concluded last week with the announcement that Charlie was staying put. Dr Sebastian Payne, Chief Scientist at English Heritage, commented (quoted by the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald):

We respect the beliefs that have led to this request, and we have taken the request seriously. These remains are important for our understanding of the past.

We found that the public overwhelmingly support the retention and display of prehistoric human remains in museums, and that there is no clear evidence for genetic, cultural or religious continuity of a kind that would justify preferential status to be given to the beliefs of the group which requested reburial.

The decision has been applauded by experts, who have supported Dr Paynes hope that this ruling will aide English Heritage and museums in the future in rejecting further calls for the re-interment of prehistoric human remains.

Government Guidelines and Expert Opinion

The principals set out in the Department for Culture Media and Sports Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums, published in 2005, were the main basis of English Heritages decision.

The physical remains of humans found in archaeological contexts embody knowledge of our past that we have hardly begun to unlock. They must be retained for research that benefits us all.

They recommend that claimants for remains more than 500-years-old need to be able to demonstrate very close and continuous links with the skeleton in question. The Druids who merely claim cultural affinity with pagan heritage failed to do. Furthermore, the skeleton of Charlie discovered in a well-recognised site of archaeological significance, with World Heritage Site status is not only well-preserved and well-documented, but also promises to yield more information as advances in ancient DNA and stable isotope analysis are made. It was therefore deemed to be of more benefit to the public above ground than below.

Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, an archaeologist at Oxford University commented (also quoted by the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald): The physical remains of humans found in archaeological contexts embody knowledge of our past that we have hardly begun to unlock.

Through a series of scientific techniques now being developed we are able to ask questions about early British populations which even ten years ago would have been thought impossible to answer. Archaeological remains must be retained for research that benefits us all.

Naomi Phillips, Head of Public Affairs for The British Humanist Association, added: The unshared beliefs of people with no more genetic claim over the human remains than anybody else in Western Europe should never trump the enormous scientific, sociological, and educational benefit to the public that the historic human remains provide.

Although this decision does not set a binding precedent, we are hopeful that it will help bodies such as English Heritage to reject any future such requests without such a lengthy and costly consultation period.

Public Support

Avebury Stones HDR 4118

In one public opinion poll of 1,000 people, conducted in June 2009, 90% of respondents said they were comfortable with prehistoric human remains being kept by museums. Comments on the subject of the CoBDO campaign to a local newspaper website This Is Western Daily Press give some indication of the flavour of public opposition to Druids’ calls for the re-burial of prehistoric remains.

CoBDO has no more right to claim any kind of jurisdiction over our past than any other self-elected pressure group, wrote Edwin Deady of Cornwall. The past of Charlie almost certainly predates the Celtic Druids.

In another comment, Thomas Hurlock of Wales wrote: (The CoBDO) made claims that such remains are of their tribal ancestors. Rubbish; the tribes of Britain died out centuries ago, these people have no basis at all for such claims. Media-hungry extremists, who give their religion a very bad public image.

Science, noted Ian Dunbar of Gloucester, should be given free reign to extract as much information as they can so we can all understand more about our own collective past and not be restricted by a self-appointed minority group. I want to know fact about my ancestors, not be restricted by made up religious morals.

Want to hear the druids’ point of view? Watch our video interviews with druids Kim Payne and Frank Somers to find out why “putting granny back” is so important to them.Do you think Charlie should return to Avebury? What about human remains discovered at Stonehenge? Have your say in below.

University of Sussex Cutbacks: Protests, Riot Police and Strike Action

Students and staff at the University of Sussex have united in angry protest against proposed cutbacks at the Brighton and Hove institution. The cutbacks will include a complete scrapping of the study of English history before 1700, a move leading historians have warned puts in peril the public function of history, and risks entrenching the ignorance of the present.

A one day strike by staff is planned for today strike action which students insist they are right behind. For almost a week, a group of around 300 students have been staging a sit-in protest in a university lecture hall.

It follows ugly scenes two weeks ago, when students stormed a university administration building, and clashed violently with riot police on campus.


The University of Sussex plans to make cutbacks of 3 million this academic year, and 5 million next year. The costs of the cuts is expected to be passed on to schools through restructuring and course closures, and to staff and students in the shape of job losses, pension cuts and fee increases. The environmental sciences degree is expected to be discontinued, and the English, history, and life science departments reduced. Student advice service, crche, security and catering staff are all expected to be among those losing their jobs.

At the same time as proposing these cuts, claims to the Stop the Cuts blog, run by a coalition of staff and students at Sussex, the university administration is planning to spend 112 million on new buildings and refurbishments on campus, as well as raising the salaries of the top 14 managers to a combined 2.1 million per year.

Making History History

Reductions in the history department will, according to The Telegraph, see research and in-depth teaching into periods such as the Tudors, the Middle-Ages, Norman Britain, the Viking invasion and the Anglo-Saxons scrapped, along with the Civil Wars. The university will also end research into the history of continental Europe pre-1900, affecting the study of the Napoleonic wars and the Roman Empire.

To cut everything but the most modern puts in peril the public function of history, entrenching the arrogance of the present.

A group of 17 historians from universities including Nottingham, Southampton, Trinity College Dublin, Michigan, Sydney University and the University of London Institute in Paris all of whom trained at Sussex reacted to these plans last month by sending an open letter to The Telegraph voicing their anger.

To cut everything but the most modern puts in peril the public function of history, entrenching the arrogance of the present, they wrote, before going on to voice particular discontent over the planned abandonment of the study of European history before 1900.

For a university which has long prided itself on its European links to abandon the serious study of such pivotal areas of modern history as the French Revolution will mean depriving Sussex graduates of the mental furniture of educated Europeans, said the letter. The university risks damaging its reputation as a centre of knowledge for European culture and history more widely.

Strike Action and Riots

On March 3 a record number of University and College Union (UCU) members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action by staff. Turnout for the strike vote 80.9% is the highest figure the UCU has ever had in a ballot. They described the turnout as being indicative of the strength of feeling among UCU members across the country over savage funding cuts and damaging job losses.

University of Sussex Students Union (USSU) president Tom Wills said in a statement: We are right behind Sussex staff and the principled stand they are taking in defence of their jobs and our education. We will hold university management responsible for disruption to our education resulting from the strike but moreover we will hold management responsible for the devastation that will be wrought on our education if they succeed in pushing through their cuts proposals.

On the morning of March 4, the day after the strike ballot was cast, a group of around 50 protestors entered the Sussex House building on the university campus while another 100 demonstrated nearby and refused to leave. Riot police and the dog squad were called as tensions mounted. Youtube footage of the event shows riot police dragging one man from a crowd of protestors and forcing him to the ground. Two men were arrested in the melee, one for assaulting a security guard and another for assaulting a police officer, while six students were later suspended from the university.

The Stop the Cuts campaign is calling for managements cutbacks to be abolished and wider consultation implemented about how to save money at the cash-strapped university. They also demand that the six students suspended following the clashes of March 4 the so-called Sussex Six be reinstated.

Speaking to BBC News, Tabitha one of the students taking part in the lecture theatre sit-in protest called on Sussex University to rethink its plans.

What we want is for them to sit down with the facility, the staff and the students union, she said. To sit down and actually listen to what we are saying, instead of repeating the same mantra they seem to have of oh theres nothing we can do.

Video:Riot Police Drag Protestor to the Ground

Warning: there is some strong language in this video

Anglo-Saxon CSI: Archaeologists Stumped by Mystery Saxon Find

Reminding us that archaeologists for all their undoubted intelligence, ingenuity, industry and general egg headedness dont always have the answers, experts from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) have this week been forced to put up their hands and admit they remain unsure as to the purpose of a Saxon artefact discovered two years ago.

The tiny circular silver, bronze and wooden disk was found in a Saxon burial ground at The Meads in Sittingbourne, Kent, in 2008. It was part of a cache of some 2,500 Saxon artefacts. CAT researchers have peered at the small object through a microscope and X-rayed it to little avail. Since the artefact was found next to a sword, some kind of decorative form of mount is the best guess theyve come up with so far.

We dont currently recognise it, but it may be a decorative mount on something, CAT Finds Manager Andrew Richardson told BBC News, but we don’t know what its mounted on.

CAT aren’t ready to give up yet, though. Theyll continue to carry out tests, and begin ploughing through articles about burial grounds to see if they can yield any clues.

It is possible that it is something of a one-off item that will remain difficult to classify.

I need to look at it closely and consider its relationship to other objects in the grave, which I havent done yet,Richardson told Heritage Key. Nor have I yet carried out a trawl through the literature. Im hopeful I will eventually find a parallel or work out its function.

Richardson admitted, however, that the artefact’s purpose may never be identified.It is possible that it is something of a one-off item that will remain difficult to classify, he conceded.

The rest of the 2,500-objects strong Meads horde is currently undergoing a cleaning and identification process by a group of specially trained experts and volunteers at a temporary laboratory in a Sittingbourne shopping centre. Never let it be said that this archaeology business isnt glamorous.

Do you have any idea what the mystery Sittingbourne Saxon find is? Suggestions sensible ones only please are welcome in the comments field below.