A fine time was had by all over half term when Rosie, Bournemouth Pavilion’s Pantomime Wardrobe mistress, came to entertain our youngsters. She brought with her some of the costumes they have. Of particular interest were the shoes in sparkly red and in pink (look closely) which, I was told, were size 12!
Everyone loves dressing up, and the Museum had some of its own replica historical costumes on hand.
Owain was in charge and decided the shoes were too big for him! Thanks to Rosie, Owain and all the Volunteers involved, who make these things happen.
Josh, from Stonehenge School, completes his contribution to our blog…
As part of my work experience at the Salisbury museum, it has been requested that I write a short blog or piece about a chosen artefact within the museum, some information about it, and why I have chosen it. I hope that you will find this interesting, and that maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something.
The Amesbury archer is the skeleton of what is believed to be a late Neolithic/early Bronze Age man, estimated to have been around 35-45 years old when he died. He was found buried near the town of Amesbury, along with several fascinating and highly revealing archaeological finds, making his discovery of great importance and relevance. I will summarise these below, only looking over a few of the many finds buried with him.
The Amesbury Archer is believed to be part of what was referred to as the “bell beaker culture”, a late Neolithic social grouping of individuals who were all found to be buried with ceramic beakers, hence their name. Usually they were all buried with one, in what we now believe to have been their customary funeral rite or ceremony. However the Amesbury Archer was different. For you see, he was not buried with just one beaker. Nor two. Not even three. He was found buried with an impressive five beakers, a figure that has only been matched a few times.
This large number of pots is usually taken to indicate a particularly high social status and burial, meaning that whoever the Amesbury Archer was, he was a man of power. The other items buried with him only go to further support this theory.
Alongside the skeleton of this long dead man lay three copper daggers, and two hammered gold hair ornaments, and the importance of these finds cannot be overstated. As of the time of writing, these are the oldest man-made copper or gold items to be found in Britain, and indicate that the art of metal working was slowly coming to the island.
It was an art that many believe the Amesbury Archer had brought with him. Through in-depth isotope analysis of the Archers teeth, we are able to determine that he was not a native to this land, instead originating somewhere in the Alpine region of what is now known as southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
suggests that over 4000 years ago, people were beginning to travel long
distances and were spreading the finer arts of forging and metalworking to
Britain, which had for so long been isolated from continental Europe. Indeed,
it is believed from the presence of a black cushion stone and several flint
tools lying amidst his grave that he was a metalworker himself, a position that
would have undoubtedly given him much power and influence in the late Neolithic
society. If this is true, he was one of the men who started the gradual
ushering of the British Isles into the next era.
Other details can be found from his burial. His skeleton was found missing a knee cap, and the growth of the bones on one of his legs indicates that it had been used far more than the other one, suggesting that he only walked using the one leg for most his life, giving him a limp. Yet evidently he flourished, living to a great age relative to those around him.
Why did he travel all these many miles? On what sort of quest was he on? Was he seeking something, or was he fleeing troubles and dangers in his own land? These are unanswerable questions, but to me, really strike home, and are why I find this one exhibit so fascinating.
The Amesbury Archer suggests so much about the changing and evolving civilisation developing in Britain and Europe at the time, and yet gives us so little solid evidence or story that we can work from. We are left with a few fragmentary pieces, frantically trying to use them to make the full picture.
me, this is what history is. A constant struggle to find the stories and tales
of ages past, and to understand the motivations and reasonings behind the
people who shaped the events that have led us up to this moment. The Amesbury
Archer is one of these figures, who can tell us so much about the past, but
still leaving us longing to fill in the gaps.
have not written everything I could have about this subject, and the artefact
and if you want to learn more about this fascinating character, he’s on display
in the Wessex gallery today. And please, when you see him, try to fill in the
gaps for me. Make a new tale. The best thing about history is that there’s
always a new story, and always a new interpretation. I hope you find one that
Amesbury archer exhibit, in the Wessex Gallery, Salisbury museum
Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowman exhibit: Early Bell Beaker burials, A.P
Flint Arrowheads of the British Isles, H Stephen Green
” The best thing about history is that there’s always a new story, and always a new interpretation.” ‘Couldn’t agree more Josh. Thank you.
The full story of Wessex Archaeology’s discovery, excavation, etc of the Amesbury Archer can be read here.
Josh was with us in the summer and shares his experiences with us…
Hello all, my name is Joshua, and I have been doing a week’s work experience here at the Salisbury museum. I come from the Stonehenge school in Amesbury, and I am currently studying for my GCSEs, including one in History, oddly enough. I’ve had a very interesting week, and one that I will almost definitely recommend to one or two friends of mine.
I signed up for a week’s work experience here for a few reasons. Firstly, I enjoy history. It’s the big reason behind the museum, and I am fascinated by the many stories and tales hidden behind the veil of time, and I’ve had a real privilege in order to peak behind the curtain this past week.
Also, I’d never been to the Salisbury museum, and, even better, coming on work experience is free! I’ve spent a long week in the museum browsing through the exhibits (and many of the far more interesting items kept outside of the public eye), and I feel as if I have a far greater depth of knowledge regarding the artefacts on display than if I had just flown by on a quick two hour tour.
Which brings me to one of the main reasons I’ve enjoyed my time here. Everyone just has so much knowledge and passion for the items they curate and catalogue, and there has always been something new to hear or to learn. Even during the long hours cataloguing (man, we did a lot of cataloguing!) a volunteer always would have a fascinating story to tell us about one of the items, and I’d learn something new.
For example, I’ll admit that I have never been much of an artist, or a great art admirer. But actually, I’ve spent a very enjoyable three hours today looking through the archives of Rex Whistler, and surprisingly, it has actually been one of the highlights of this week.
Furthermore, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to conduct some research on my own. As part of our work experience, we’ve had to write two blogs, one of which you’ll be reading now, another of which will be on an artefact of our choice, in my case one on the famous Amesbury Archer.
For this blog, we have been allowed to conduct our own research, visiting the exhibits and the library, which small size hides a depth and scale that I may never get over. I’ve really enjoyed being able to do my own thing, and searching the dusty tomes and volumes within to find that one sentence which may improve my blog.
I’ve enjoyed viewing the behind the scenes of the museum, and learning about the vast amounts of work that has been put into this museum’s collection. It’s really made me appreciate the efforts of the above mentioned volunteers who have put so much time, passion and care into helping the museum grow and operate.
So, I’d like to say a thank you to all those who have helped improve our work experience this week, and I hope that my inaccurate and sweeping statements in my next blog don’t make you despair for the future. I’ve really enjoyed working here, and I wish you all the best for the future. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you Josh. We will hear about your research on the Amesbury Archer next week.
Ever wondered why we talk about ‘Yule-tide’? Apparently it is, as far as we are concerned here in Britain, an Anglo-Saxon celebration of mid-winter. Officially it begins for us this year on Sunday 22 December and goes on until Thursday 7 January 2020. It eventually became tied up with the Christian festival of Christmas and we maintain some of the heathen practices as part of our modern celebration. It always was a time to celebrate of course, as the sun began its journey back to spring and summer after 21 December.
Traditionally (this time a Viking thing), a large log (the ‘Yule log’) would be selected in the forest on Christmas Eve, decorated with ribbons, dragged home and laid upon the hearth. After lighting it was kept burning throughout the twelve days of Christmas. It was considered lucky to keep some of the charred remains to kindle the log of the following year.
Another great Christmas tradition is the singing of carols. Whether the word carol comes from the Latin caraula or the French carole, its original meaning is the same – a dance with a song. The dance element appears to have disappeared over the centuries but the song was used to convey stories, normally that of the Nativity. The earliest recorded published collection of carols is in 1521, by Wynken de Worde which includes the Boars Head Carol.
The boar’s head became part of the Christmas feast in Medieval times but its history goes back to Roman times or before. The boar was the greatly feared master of the forest, and the serving of a dead boar’s head was symbolic of good over evil or the triumph of the Christ Child over sin.
You will see the boar’s head take pride of place amongst the feast in the King’s Room on 14 December, and hear Christmas music, and see the Yule log. There will also be a decorated spinning wheel (more about that later), story telling, Tudor characters and falcons, Tudor martial arts (for the youngsters!)
The Volunteers have been busy! Please make sure Saturday 14 December is in your diary.
Alex first wrote in our blog in September. Here is what he learned about Clarendon Palace…
this week of work experience, I have been to the library a couple of times to
do my research work. The artefact / theme I have chosen to do my research on is
Clarendon Palace because it interested me with its history and what it once
Palace is located 3 ½ miles east of Salisbury and 4 miles south-east of Old
Sarum. It is shown that William the conqueror visited the site around 1072 AD,
the year when he toured his Norman possessions and marched to Scotland. At this
time, Clarendon was a hunting lodge, which was enlarged to become a palace.
The site was chosen due to its elevated height of 350 feet above sea level, so it could overlook the Clarendon forest. This appealed to the Normans as a place to hunt and Clarendon was established as a royal residence in the early 12th century. Henry I granted charters from Clarendon palace. However, under Henry II’s rule, accounts are shown to be of repairs for ‘the King’s houses of Clarendon’ occur in 1163, and at the beginning of 1164, Clarendon hosted the historic council, of which Herbert of Bosham and his master Thomas Beckett attended.
1166, another great assembly was hosted at Clarendon Palace – called the assize
of Clarendon. This assembly made laws for far-reaching importance regarding
Richard the Lion Heart did also visit Clarendon, but there is no evidence of work undertaken there by him. There are, however, references to repairs at Clarendon Palace carried out under King John, who stayed there a few times.
1273, the first year of Edward I’s reign there is a survey done on Clarendon
and of the forest of Clarendon due to the activity there by Henry III (Edward’s
Predecessor). The survey is made by the Sherriff of Wiltshire and four knights.
It describes the Palace in detail but uses plain language with the ruinous
condition of large parts of the palace.
Both Edward I and Edward II often stayed at Clarendon palace, where in 1317 Edward II summoned a parliament to assemble, the summons meeting with only a very limited response. It was in Edward III’s reign which the most effective revival of Clarendon took place. A good deal of repair and reconstruction was carried out then – the most important work done being the rebuilding of the great hall in 1358-1359.
VI also visited Clarendon Palace repeatedly. In 1454 he stayed there for a
number of weeks after being attacked in Clarendon in 1453 and being unfit to
govern for over a year.
Edward IV’s reign, he appointed wardens of Clarendon, with Edward Gower first
in 1461 and then Thomas Troys, 1472, who held his office in the first year of
Henry VII’s reign , 1485.
By Elizabeth I’s reign, Clarendon had been known to have many royal visitors staying in the palace for weeks on end. However due to the numbers of Elizabeth’s servants and gentry she took with her, the keepers of Clarendon didn’t want to house nearly 2000 people. So, like many similar palaces at the time, they brought down parts of the palace to discourage a visit from the Queen. In the end, Elizabeth stayed at Clarendon Palace once, with many of her servants having to sleep outside in tents. Due to this, Elizabeth never stayed there again. This lead to Clarendon Palace falling out of interest of the royals so it wasn’t being revived or maintained anymore.
In Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VI’, there is no hint to the existence of Clarendon Palace at all, despite Henry having visited it on many occasions. Also, in 1570, the second edition of John Foxe’s ‘Acts and monuments’ makes the mistake of placing Clarendon in Normandy.
this time, Clarendon Palace was probably being used as a stone quarry due to
being in a district poor in stone – much like Stonehenge and Avebury around the
1650, a survey of Clarendon Park was made, which contains a reference to ‘the
old gate house, called the King’s manor’.
1723, William Stukely visited the site of Clarendon palace in which he mentions
“John built him a palace, where several parliaments have been held. Part of the
building is still left, tho’ they have been pulling it down many years”. He
also drew a picture of the site which shows the ruins of the site with some low
walls above ground and a larger wall as well. It shows little woodland near the
In 1805, J Buckler did a watercolour painting of the site. It covered a smaller area of the palace remains than William Stukely, but there is a considerable increase in the trees and woodlands around the site, which shows that it had just been left there and no one had been maintaining it, even before 1723.
photograph of the same site in April 1933 from the ground facing where the
remains were, show no evidence of a palace being there. Woodlands cover the
whole outside of the palace so no one could see from outside the woods that a
palace was there. An air photograph of Clarendon Palace remains in September
the same year show the palace being covered by the trees. The remains are
surrounded by woodlands on all sides with most of the aerial view of the palace
also being blocked by treetops.
air photograph of the Clarendon palace taken in February 1935 shows how trees
on the site had been cut down but the trees surrounding it still remained. This
meant that the aerial photograph shows the full remains of the Clarendon Palace
and how big the palace was.
Nowadays, the site of the remains of Clarendon Palace is open to the public and woodland no longer covers the site. People are encouraged to visit it.
Thank you Alex – a reminder of the gem we have ‘on our doorstep’.
“The atmosphere and welcome have been lovely, thank you. The activities have been great and both children (and the husband) have found something to really catch their interest. We wish we could come back again.“
Amongst the usual terrific half-term events for youngsters last week was something entitled ‘Body, Mind and Spirit’. On Thursday it involved all sorts of interesting archaeology-themed activities presented by Emma Kerr . The youngest of the children enjoyed the sandpits much as they would the beach, but older ones understood that there was more to it than that. Hidden below the surface were items to be carefully excavated and recorded. Similarly there was a tank showing the different layers which real archaeologists must pay careful attention to in order to date artefacts found. There was an opportunity to draw real prehistoric items from the museum’s collection, again, something the real archaeologists do as photographs do not always give the detail that is required in recording such items.
Later in the day a real archaeologists turned up. Dr Phil Harding came along to give professional advice to the youngsters and to answer their questions. There was much laughter, as there always is when Dr Harding is about!
Nicole was with us for a number of weeks in the summer….
“My name is Nicole and I’m a History student studying at Queen Mary University of London. I wanted to volunteer at the museum over the summer to gain more general museum experience and focus my future work experience and career. I have wanted to work in Archives or Museum Education and my placement at the museum has really helped consolidate this decision. Whilst at the museum, I worked in three areas: the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the library Ephemera collection and the Discovery Days family education events as well as at this year’s Festival of Archaeology. These are three stand out moments from my summer at the museum…
I spent my Tuesday afternoons at the museum cataloguing two boxes of family history from the library’s ephemera collection. The boxes, EPH 11 and EPH 11A, were filled with letters, education certificates, in memoriam cards, memoirs and photographs and taking time to really look at each object as I catalogued them, first by hand and then onto MODES, was a really great way to spend sun-filled afternoons in the library.
One piece that really struck me was this Valentines letter, cut into the shape of a heart with fold out pages. Each fragile page was filled with moving words, and really stuck out amongst the legal documents, certificates and photographs in the rest of the box.
I spent a lot of time working with the Portable Antiquities Scheme during my placement and catalogued 51 small finds in total including a lot of Roman coins, some jettons, brooches, buckles, axe heads and rings. I also became very well acquainted with the magic wand tool on Photoshop and found editing photos quite enjoyable, which was music to the ears of the PAS team.
One of my most memorable moments was an impromptu trip to the Barrow Clump site, run by volunteers as part of Operation Nightingale, which I’d heard a talk about at the Festival of Archaeology. After a tour round the site, including some WW2 arborglyphs, we went to the trench the volunteers were working on – just as they were uncovering a crouch burial. Absolutely great timing and a very exciting first visit to an archaeological dig.
I also engaged with the events and education the museum has to offer during my placement, both at the annual Festival of Archaeology and with the ‘Discovery Days’ which were artist-run family education workshops every Tuesday. Activities ranged from creating a ‘Museum of Me’ to Archaeology-themed stop motion animation, monolith climbing and a corn dolly workshop. Seeing children focus so intently on twisting damp ears of corn into intricate weaves and plaits, muddling our way through instructions and finishing it off with a little ribbon was fantastic – one family in particular really got to grips with it and made increasingly more intricate creations.
This sharing of ancient crafts was something that also stuck me at the Festival of Archaeology, and for me one the highlights. Re-enactment groups sharing knowledge, crafts and tangible glimpses into the past with such engaged young people was great to see and I myself was quite entranced by the flint knappers and ancient dying process.
My summer at the museum has given me an insight into the impact of local museums on the community both in terms of history through my work with ephemera, with detectorists and archaeologists as part of PAS, and through a summer events program which I saw engaged so many young people and families.
Thank you Nicole. ‘Enjoyed working with you on the PAS.
Alex was with us earlier in the summer. His account is a pretty good example of what our work experience students have to put up with!
I am Alex from St Josephs and I chose to come to The Salisbury Museum for work experience because of my interest in history. I thought it would be a good opportunity to be behind the scenes in a museum and be able to see the objects not on display. Being at the museum for the week has educated me greatly in new topics and ones I have studied. In the week that I have been here, I have participated in lots of different activities, from cataloguing artefacts to shadowing a school trip. These are the things I got up to this week:
I arrived at the museum for 10am and was met at reception by Valerie. She showed me around the museum for the induction and orientation session. I was informed of the pin numbers for the doors and the fire exits and what to do when I hear an alarm. Then, from 10:30 until 1pm I assisted Roy in cataloguing ceramics in the display rooms. This was interesting because I was able to handle the old ceramics from and was able to describe them and give measurements. Once we had written down the descriptions and measurements, we entered them onto a file on the computer called Modes so they are saved there. Once I got back from lunch at 2pm, I met Valerie at reception again, to go to the library to do some research work on something of my choice. I chose to do Clarendon palace. This is because I was intrigued about the history of Clarendon palace and wanted to research this further. I did this task until the end of the day.
Tuesday I met Owain at reception at 9:30 to shadow a school trip visit from one
of the local primary schools. Owain made a presentation of Old Sarum for the
primary school which was interesting to watch. We then went over to the Wessex
Gallery where the children were shown round and they were fascinated by what
they saw in the gallery. They also had a task to draw old Sarum from the model
in the gallery, and to also draw a gargoyle. After lunch, they were shown round
the Salisbury gallery – the giant, the drainage collection and different
artefacts on display. We then went back to the lecture hall where we made our
the school trip had finished, I helped Catalogue social history from 2pm to the
end of the day. This involved taking donated items out of their boxes and
wrapping them up carefully in non-acidic paper. This was to preserve the items
for years to come.
I arrived at the museum for 10am where I was met at reception by Pat and Tessa to help catalogue archaeological archives. This involved taking the artefacts out of the boxes and wrapping the up better in the non-acidic paper. The first item that we catalogued that morning were 5000 year old antlers that were found at Stonehenge, near the inner circle. These were used by the Stone Age people to dig the holes for the stones to sit in as the antlers were used as picks or rakes. The next thing that we catalogued was loads of small boxes of animal bones and ceramics found at Stonehenge by Gowland in the early 20th century. These were contained in any boxes it seemed that Gowland could get his hands on. They were in old soap boxes, cardboard containers and metal containers. There was also one in a matchbox. We had to put the bones in a transparent plastic bag, the original label in another bag and put that back in the box which also goes in a bag with a new label added. At the end of this session, I was shown a Bronze Age sword from the archives which was great.
the afternoon, from 1pm onwards, I was in the library finishing my research of
Clarendon Palace. For this task I used the books in the library and also
knowledge of the palace that I had picked up through my week at the museum.
This is the basis of my other blog.
arrived at the museum for 10am once again, and was met at reception by Sue,
Joan and Muriel. I helped them in cataloguing the costumes/ pieces of clothing
donated by people to the museum. These items included a man’s jacket worn at
his wedding in the 1920s, and a girls clothes from late Victorian times to
early Edwardian. This was interesting because it gave an idea pf how people
used to dress in the early 20th century / late 19th
the afternoon, I did admin support work. This was to correct booklets that were
being given to volunteers. I did this by sticking labels over lines that had to
be taken out, or by writing the correct information over the labels.
Overall, this week has been a great week. It was an amazing opportunity working in the museum and seeing how it is all run and how much work has to be done. The staff here are very friendly and I have had great experiences being part of the Salisbury Museum – even just for a week. I would recommend coming to the museum for work experience if you are interested in museums or history because the activities I took part in over the week were great.
My name is Jack, I am 17 years old and am studying for my A-Levels at Bishop Wordsworth’s School.
Having helped in the summer with the museum’s Festival of Archaeology and then with the children’s activity events in August, I had hoped to find another volunteering role to undertake at the museum from September onwards.
Engagement volunteering was undoubtedly an excellent activity to help with. After some organisation, it was confirmed that I was to come into the museum on Fridays after school at 4pm, shadowing engagement volunteer Ian Dixon. My role was simply to help welcome visitors to the museum and show them the exhibits, which first involved learning about the collection. However, because I was only present at the end of the day on Friday, the museum tended to have relatively few visitors. This fortunately meant that there was more time to learn about the fascinating exhibits in the museum.
I enjoyed learning a great deal about prehistory and local history which was hugely fascinating. I feel that the exhibits in the Wessex gallery are particularly interesting. Favourites included the Warminster jewel in addition to the polished Neolithic axe, not just for their physical beauty, but for the brilliant stories which they and many other exhibits hold.
And then there is of course the Amesbury Archer, which I believe is the greatest exhibit in the museum in that it reflects most clearly what I believe is the greatest appeal of archaeology to us: how the mere physical remains of something can incite so much speculation and imagination in their interpretation. Ian frequently told visitors about the exhibit in my presence and so by the end of my time as an engagement volunteer I could essentially explain all of the features of the artefact to the public which was great. Also, the relatively small number of visitors meant that we were able to spend more time helping particular visitors to explore the museum more thoroughly.
I was also fortunate to be at the museum when there were a number of excellent temporary exhibitions, of which the exhibition of hoards was my favourite. Furthermore, I got on very well with Ian and very much enjoyed shadowing him, and it was great to volunteer with Nick as well. My time at the museum was very useful as it helped me gain further experience working around members of the public and I have learnt so much about our local history and archaeology. Thank you.
Did you miss this? Shame! Never mind, it may return one day………
Discovery Tuesdays for Families have continued throughout August. The chance to climb the Monolith on 13th was perhaps the most remarkable. English Heritage and colleagues from Stonehenge were here to talk to people about the real monoliths on the Plain. On 20th we welcomed artist Emma Kerr, whom we will meet again in the autumn. She led the Selfies and Sitters workshop and was ably assisted by Volunteer Mary Crane and others.
Today it is Archaeology Animation with Matthew Dean.
Thank you to the museum for these extraordinary opportunities and to all Volunteers who help make them happen.