SALOG VISIT by Volunteer Alan Crooks

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SALOG Volunteers’ Visit to Old Sarum and Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Just before the museum closed for the day one evening in mid-October, I was intrigued to see Professor Mike Parker-Pearson of the Stonehenge Riverside Project deep in conversation with somebody in the café. My curiosity was satiated the following day when watching BBC TV ‘South Today’ during which it was reported that he was due to open a new exhibition at the Stonehenge Visitors Centre,  ‘Feast! Food at Stonehenge’, which invites visitors to explore the diet and lifestyle of the people that built Stonehenge; and the culture, rituals and identity of food in prehistory (see photos of reconstructed buildings at Stonehenge, below).

 

This was the subject of the second part of a SALOG Volunteers social afternoon on Monday 30th October.

On arrival at the Stonehenge Visitors Centre, Volunteers from Salisbury Museum, Wiltshire Museum, English Heritage, the National Trust and Wessex Archaeology were given time to mingle and to enjoy coffee and biscuits before being given a ten minute introduction to the exhibition by the Interpretation Officer, Hannah Brown. We were then allowed to explore the exhibition at leisure.

By way of background, the objective of the Stonehenge Riverside Project was to examine the relationship between the Stonehenge stones and surrounding monuments and features, including the River Avon, Durrington Walls, the Cursus, the Avenue, Woodhenge, and various burial mounds, and nearby standing stones. The main aim of the project was to test the hypothesis that Stonehenge was a monument dedicated to the dead, whilst Woodhenge & Durrington Walls, two miles away, were monuments to the living and more recently deceased.

It is believed that the builders of Stonehenge settled in nearby Durrington Walls in the 25th century B.C. and excavations of this site have revealed an abundance of food waste, stone tools and pottery, which are thus available for analysis.

From these artifacts, scientists have been able to show that our ancestors were bringing animals from as far away as Scotland, some 500 miles away, suggesting that Stonehenge was an important site known right across Britain at this time, and that people were travelling these sorts of distances in order to participate both in the building of the monument, which occurred in several phases, and in midwinter feasts. Some discussion ensued as to the logistics of driving animals these distances, and the time it would take.

As a chemist, I was particularly interested in the techniques used to establish these facts. For example, animal bones can be identified by inspection and it is clear that our Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge were deriving meat from a variety of sources: cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. The distances travelled were established by analysing the ratios of strontium isotopes in their teeth by the technique of Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy. Strontium compounds, which mimic calcium compounds and therefore enter animals’ teeth, are present in the soil and enter the animals through the food chain. The particular ratios of strontium isotopes identified reflect the underlying geology where the animal once lived. As a chemist and, latterly a chemistry teacher, I was impressed by the clarity of the diagrams used to illustrate these points, and would have been delighted to have had this example and diagram illustrate this analytical technique (Fig 1).

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Figure 1. Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy of strontium compounds in animals’ teeth

Another point of interest for me was the fact that Neolithic people were lactose-intolerant, and had to turn milk into products such as cheese and yoghurt before consumption (Fig 2 below):

This reminded me of a particularly popular experiment I devised for Key Stage 3 Science students, where we used rennet to curdle milk to make junket. We flavoured the product with strawberries and were able to consume it afterwards, having taken appropriate H&S precautions during the preparation. Again, this would have been a useful illustration to have used at the time.

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Preparation of yogourt

Earlier there  was a visit to the inner bailey at Old Sarum.

 

Being only a mile from my home I am very familiar with this site. Nevertheless, some new things were brought to my attention, for example a ‘mason’s mark’ on a stone block in the east range of the courtyard house (Fig 3).

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A question was asked and some discussion ensued about the little-known tunnel which once existed through the northern rampart, the site of which is still visible (Fig 4).

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The English Heritage ‘Old Sarum’ guidebook tells us that this tunnel was first discovered in 1795. This discovery was recorded in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ of February 2nd, 1795. Following this, the tunnel was much visited by members of the public for several years before being re-sealed in 1822.

The tunnel was re-excavated in 1957 by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (now Department of the Environment)  assisted by members of the archaeology section of the Salisbury and District Field Club, including Davids Algar, Sanders and Truckle, during which, among other things, examples of dated 18th Century obscene Anglo-Saxon graffiti were found.

Nobody is quite sure who built this tunnel, or for what reason. Its construction was apparently beyond the skills of Iron Age Man, but various people have speculated that it was built by the Romans or the Normans. One theory, which was also that espoused by our EH Guide during this visit, is that it was a ‘sally-port’ to enable an enemy force to be attacked from the rear or, if the city were besieged, to provide a means of escape from it.

A fuller description of this tunnel and the 1957 excavation can be found in The [Salisbury] Journal of 13th October, 1988, ‘’Old Sarum’s Secret Tunnel’ .

SALOG vols together 30.10 (37)

 By Volunteer Alan Crooks Monday 30th October 2017

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It Is Hard to Pick the Stand Out Pieces

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The second part of Shannan’s moving piece about the Terry Pratchett: HisWorld exhibition…

It’s hard to pick the stand out pieces in the exhibit because there were just too many. I was overjoyed to see Terry’s hat. Terry’s hat! There it was, in a glass case. I was centimetres from it. The recreation of his office was brilliant. I loved seeing the six computer monitors and the cat bed cut in to the desk. It was amazing to hear a woman gasp as she saw one of the crocheted Terry dolls she had made sitting on the bookshelf.

With Terry's Hat

I marvelled at all of Paul Kidby’s paintings and drawings. What fascinated me most about seeing these artworks up close is just how much detail you can soak in. You can see every brush stroke, every pencil line, even the fibres in the canvas. I picked up so many details that I’ve never noticed before when looking at the prints in The Art of Discworld by Paul Kidby. I never noticed that Death was carrying kitten in his robe as he rode out with the other horsemen of the apocalypse.  Another show stopper was the fact that some of these paintings were gigantic. Some took up entire walls. Again, when you’re only used to seeing them on pages of an art book or prints on a greeting card to see them in real life, in actual size, is mind boggling.

Pieces that pulled at the heart were the pieces that highlighted Terry’s plight with Alzheimer’s. The test sheets show how his ability to see, read, write and draw was deteriorating. Not far from these sheets was the destroyed hard drive that held unfinished Discworld novels. Personally, I was happy to read that it was destroyed in line with his wishes. It also meant that the Discworld is now complete. It’s nice to know that whatever stories Terry had planned are for him to keep.  No other author is going to take those ideas and try to continue the series. Discworld without Terry is like a decadent cake without the chocolate ganache icing; and where’s the fun in eating that?

With Paul and Rob

With Paul and Rob

It was the most amazing experience to meet Rob and Paul. They were so lovely and so generous of their time. Rob even offered me his seat so I could give Paul a closer look at my sleeve. They signed my museum book and the Granny Weatherwax notebook my mum bought me for my 30th birthday that I was using as my travel journal. I was also lucky to get a few photos.

Playing dress ups - Salisbury Museum

I was at the museum from 10am and didn’t leave until well after 3pm. The exhibition was absolutely incredible and the whole team at Salisbury Museum are so lovely and really looked after me.

 

After leaving Salisbury and a packed tour of brilliant museums in London, I joined a tour that took us through parts of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales. As much as I loved the tour I found there was too much time on the bus and not enough time exploring. So, I now think of the tour as a ‘taster’ and have made notes of places I’d like to visit again with more time. Most of all I loved the history and lush green landscape. The country towns were adorable and it was brilliant to be able to walk through them. I loved walking over the cobbled streets and seeing buildings that are older than Australia’s colonisation.

I had a wonderful time in the UK. I achieved more than I ever thought I would and the experiences I’ve had will never be forgotten. Some people say that you “find” yourself when you travel. I don’t think that I found myself but I did learn that even with the depression, the anxiety and OCD, I really can do anything and I can do it all by myself.

Shannan Rodda

17 October 2017

Thank you

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It is always nice to receive thanks, and to have some feedback….

Thank you for a super afternoon on Monday.  The information gained added to what we already knew, and Stonehenge Visitors’ Centre displays were particularly interesting.  I know from talking to others that our “work” as Engagement Officers has already been enhanced by Monday’s experiences, and additional information given to visitors at Salisbury Museum has been appreciated.  These days out also enable us to meet up with other volunteers, which is great!

From a Salisbury Museum Volunteer

From Australia…with love…to Sir Terry

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Museum Selfie 2

Shannan Rodda

Believe it – this special story is worth reading to the very end!

In February 2017, a documentary was aired detailing the life of my favourite author; Sir Terry Pratchett. Little did I know that after the airing of “Terry Pratchett: Back in Black” that a special announcement would be made. Fans were being given a wonderful gift; an insight in to Terry’s life and this gift was being presented as an exhibition at the Salisbury Museum.

To consider myself a fan is a bit of an understatement; to be frankly honest, Terry’s writing saved my life. I was already a fan of the Discworld and had read through the series a number of times. I live with depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Whilst I live with these conditions I manage them well and am considered high functioning.  I’ve even been able to go without medication for a few years now and keep myself on track with regular visits to my psychologist and GP.

An event 5 years ago triggered a relapse and my world crashed down around me. I was so down and the world was bleak, bland and in my mind, tomorrow didn’t exist. I would stare out my window for hours waiting for the time to pass or I passed the time by sleeping. When thought finally made its way through the thick and sticky emotions I was feeling at the time I was able to make one small decision; read. Go back to the Disc and just read. With each page I was able to make a reconnect with myself even if it wasn’t for long. The series kept me going, and again being frankly honest, stopped me from “checking out”.

I have so much love for the Disc and its characters, that I have a full tattoo sleeve dedicated to it. All my favourite characters from Samuel Vimes to Granny Weatherwax to Death.  I estimate between 50 and 54 hours of tattoo time was spent creating my Discworld sleeve. My sleeve is an ode and dedication to Terry, to his Discworld and to his characters. As well as to Paul Kidby and his amazing artwork. The characters mean much to me and my own world that I need them with me, always. If I’m having a bad day I can look down and smile and also be reminded of each character’s strengths.

So the announcement was made, ‘Terry Pratchett: HisWorld’ was coming to the Salisbury Museum in September 2017. Originally, I pushed it aside as a little pipe dream. Curiosity took hold when my mum showed me the Facebook post about the exhibition. Opening day was 7 months away. I started looking at flights. I knew that if I put all the savings I already had and cut back on a few spending habits that the trip was doable. The next day I went in to work and submitted my annual leave form. I had 5 weeks of annual leave available and hadn’t had a proper holiday in years. I asked for 4 weeks and they said no – the company had a new client coming on board and they didn’t know what to expect. After a bit of back and forth I was able to get two weeks leave approved.

When I was evaluating my life and the trip, what I wanted to see, do and experience, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to do this with two weeks of annual leave. I was coming from a coastal suburban town about an hour south of Melbourne, Australia. That’s almost 17,000kms (10,500 miles) and a few thousand Australian dollars. Our conversion rate isn’t very strong against the British Pound (we’re currently sitting at 59 pence for every Aussie Dollar) so if I was going to spend the money for an adventure of a lifetime I was going to spend it well! So I resigned from my job of almost 6 years and decided to extend my trip to the four weeks I originally requested.

The plane journey was nice enough; let’s face it, no one likes being cooped up in a small space without much leg room. My flight left from Melbourne around 9.40pm on Wednesday 13 September. The first leg of the journey was about 14 hours. A short stopover in Doha and I was on another plane bound for London.  Another 7 and a half hours and I arrived in London at 12pm on Thursday 14 September.

Jet lag had hit me pretty hard that day. Not only was I tired but I was also a bit dizzy. It felt like the earth was moving from under my feet. I was up every hour or so that night and I was in a very noisy part of town. The night was filled with the sounds of trains and, this surprised me the most, emergency sirens. All night. It seemed like as soon as one stopped another would start. Because these sirens sound different to the ones at home and I didn’t know which siren was which. It made me feel very scared and unsafe. I hadn’t been there for very long at all and I was already feeling very uneasy about London.

My fears were heightened the next morning when I awoke to a message from my mum asking me where I was and if I was ok. The Parsons Green terror attack had just occurred. At that time it was being broadcast as an ‘incident’ with more information to come. I spent my time trying to find any information I could but everything was quite vague. I wasn’t keen to be catching a train an hour or so after I heard the news. Thankfully though, my train was still running and I was on my way to Salisbury.

The national rail trains are quite nice. I was super impressed that it had free Wifi. I was able to keep in touch with my mum and other friends who had heard about the London attack. I was surprised to see a snacks cart come through the carriages. We do have national rail services but because Australia is so large most people opt to go on a scenic road trip or fly. The journey was about an hour and half – this is about the same time it takes for me to get to Melbourne from my home town.

The day I arrived I went in search of the museum. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly where I was going because the next day was opening day and I did not want to get lost! Walking through the town on my way to the museum I came to the Cathedral. Oh my goodness! I had to crane my neck just to see the top. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a structure of that magnitude before. It just towers over you with its brilliance!

Opening day finally arrived! Months of planning and saving and it was finally here. I arrived a few minutes before opening and there were already a few people waiting in line. Rob Wilkins officially opened the exhibition. We passed through the museum shop and in to the exhibition. Seeing the His World entrance artwork which I believe is the cover art of the Terry Pratchett’s Imaginarium artwork book coming out in November was so exciting. I was about to cross the threshold in to HisWorld. I was going to see things that belonged to Terry. I was going to see a recreation of his office. I was going to see original artwork by Paul Kidby and Josh Kirby. I was going to be in super fan heaven! And I most certainly was.

See Shannan’s video here.        More next week….

 

Shannan Rodda

17 October 2017

 

 

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With the Terry Pratchett: HisWorld exhibition as their inspiration, one hundred children this morning, and surely as many this afternoon, have reveled in the opportunity to allow their imagination to run riot. They have been creating their own worlds, using a tempting array of resources, with wonderful results.

The adults present were clearly enjoying the creativity as much as the youngsters! Thank you Liza Morgan and thank you, as always, to the willing Volunteers, without whom these things could not happen.

Roman Finds Group: 30th Anniversary

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downloadLast weekend, The Salisbury Museum was pleased to host the special 30th Anniversary Conference of the Roman Finds Group.  Eighty attended and in addition to the Conference itself there was a special Reception at Sarum College and an evening social. There was also a private tour of the Wessex Gallery and of the Terry Pratchett exhibition, guided by curator of the latter, Richard Henry.

Salisbury Museum Volunteers were involved, attending as members of the Roman Finds Group, giving talks, or providing refreshments.

Alyson Tanner, Portable Antiquities Scheme Volunteer working each week with the Finds Liaison Officer within the museum, made a presentation on finds from three sites which are in the Pitt Rivers Collection at the museum.

Alyson

Other speakers included a legendary figure from the world of Roman brooches – Dr Justine Bayley – academics including Dr Bruce Eagles and Dr Miles Russell – curators and advisors and scientists from the British Museum, University College London and English Heritage – Dr Eleanor Ghey, Sally Worrall, Dr Ruth Pelling and Dr David Roberts, and many more. Local speakers included Rachael Seager-Smith of Wessex Archaeology, Dr Michael Grant from Southampton University and Dr Mike Bishop from Pewsey who started quite a discussion Roman lances, javelins and spears – and how you tell the difference!

Our own Richard Henry gave a presentation on the Pewsey hoard of Roman vessels and Louise Tunnard (Communications Officer at the museum) spoke on ‘How the Wessex Gallery was Won’. There were also speakers from Newcastle and Reading Universities and Bradford on Avon Museum.

Find out more at http://www.romanfindsgroup.org.uk/

Wonderful Mysteries

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Every child I ever taught about the Roman conquest of Britain was told about the Roman ballista bolt still lodged in the skeleton of the slaughtered Durotrigian lying in the museum in Dorchester. Those children, and a couple of generations of others. Why? Because it is what the text books said. Problem? It isn’t a Roman ballista bolt. It is the tip of an Iron Age spear, according to Dr Miles Russell, who should know. His talk, Digging the Durotriges, last Thursday, was as up to date on the archaeology of Iron Age and Roman SW England as it is possible to be. He and his team from Bournemouth University have been excavating at Winterborne Kingston in Dorset since 2009 and as a result, many of the existing stories about the period have had to be re-written.

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Excavations at Winterborne Kingston

THE story about the Roman Conquest in Dorset has been that of the brave Dorset Brits in a last ditch (literally) defence of their lands at Maiden Castle near Dorchester. The text books tell us the Romans advanced and defeated them, with their ballista,  killing them all and leaving them roughly buried within their fort, the bones discovered centuries later. Well maybe. But as well as the man who wasn’t killed by a ballista bolt, many of those buried there weren’t killed at the time of the Conquest.

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Maiden Castle nr Dorchester and Durotriges defending (painting by Nicholas Subkov)

The archaeology shows that Maiden Castle had been, like most Iron Age forts in southern England, largely abandoned by 100BC, as had other, smaller settlements. By the time the Romans arrived in 43AD, the old Iron Age ways had already gone and a new, different, way of life had already been established. The defended settlements were no longer used and large agricultural settlements had been established on lower ground, such as the one excavated at Winterborne Kingston, dubbed Duropolis. And these settlements probably continued into the Roman period, first and second centuries AD, as long as it suited the new governors after the Conquest. Because there are no written records from Britain c100BC we don’t know why there was a change in the way the Durotriges lived but the changes are there to be seen in the archaeology.

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Pits have been found with strange assemblies of bones deposited

That isn’t the only mystery of Dr Russell’s excavations. Some may remember the popular press and its mocked up images a few years ago of a sheep with cow’s head growing out of its tail. This was a response to the discovery in dozens of excavated pits at Duropolis of oddly assembled animal bones. The archaeologists can tell that the bones were placed deliberately, when they still had meat on them, in the bottom of each used, but empty, hole, the pit then immediately filled in. What the archaeologists can’t tell, is why.

There is also a later Roman house at Duropolis where there is evidence of even later, so called sub Roman activity. That is, once the Roman period of rule ended, people had used the materials from the site to strengthen or improve their less salubrious domestic buildings at the time Britain entered the Dark Ages. Who were they? Probably the descendants, four centuries on, of the same people who lived in Duropolis, but we can’t be sure.

More mysteries! Wonderful stuff.

Excavations continue next summer. Go to the Bournemouth University website to find out about dates of open days at Winterborne Kingston.

 

Have a Go….

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Volunteers gathered on Monday and Tuesday of last week when offered the opportunity of free workshops with Charlie James. Charlie was here, primarily, to work with schools groups visiting the Terry Pratchett: HisWorld exhibition, and some wonderful work by those children was on view.

The Volunteers did pretty well too! In a couple of hours we had learned how to create drawn images, concentrating on light and shadow and marking the shadow with cross hatching. The reason for this soon became clear. We were given foam plastic sheets and we cut into these to create the images of some interesting artefacts, by printing from the sheets. The trick was to be able to visualise the finished product – the parts of the sheet that remained raised would transfer the applied ink to the surface of paper. Generally this was shadow and line. The parts  cut away would not.

Simple – once we could work out what we were doing. Effective – for most of us! Thank you Charlie, and the museum, for giving us a chance to try.

Inspired to Teach

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A number of Volunteers, being Salisbury people or, indeed, retired teachers who trained here, will have known the museum buildings when they were the heart of a teacher training establishment.

The College of Sarum St Michael, or the Diocesan Training College, Salisbury as it was originally known, was set up in 1841 and moved into the King’s House in 1851. It closed as a teacher training facility in 1978 and two ex-students, Jenny Head and Anne Johns, co-wrote an excellent book about it, published in 2015 and available in the museum shop. Their research formed the basis of a talk, too, given at the museum last week.

Jenny and Anne used the words of the staff and students, gleaned from letters, other documents and from interviews, to tell the story of a place that had clearly been special to many, including the authors themselves. The King’s House itself, has, in may ways, changed hardly at all of course.  Those Volunteers who work in the back rooms (or, more accurately, the attics) will be familiar with the corridor doors  that still retain the numbers of what were bedrooms, as well as offices, from the former era. I am told they could be very cold indeed, back in the day…..

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Photo held at Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre (see website by clicking here)

The more recent buildings, handsome red brick apartment blocks that lie between the King’s House and the river, were originally accommodation blocks for the students, but also music rooms, dance and drama and art spaces and so on. Other buildings in the Close, and beyond, were also used to house students as numbers swelled.

One of things that made the college special was its association with, and proximity to, the Cathedral. One moving story was of a student, in relatively recent times, who, unable to sleep on her last night in college, got up and walked into the Close in the early hours. She found a door into the Cathedral was unlocked and walked up the nave one last time as a student, barefoot and in her pyjamas, full of wonder, as always, in that magical place.

The story of the college was, of course, a story of things changing as time past – a woman’s place in society, the effect of war, how people dressed (for the students it was gym slips to academic gowns to the uniform of jeans and T shirts) but Jenny and Anne had clearly found that in some ways nothing changed at all. Girls came, and left as young women. Most full of hope, making the most of their opportunity, enjoying their time here and going in to the world to do their bit.