The Linnean Society

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO I rambled on about Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin and their work being read out by Charles Lyle and Joseph Hooker at the Linnean Society (click here if you want to read that paper).  One of my readers asked about this Society, having never heard of it before. The Linnean Society of London is situated at Burlington House in Piccadilly. Burlington House is not so much a house, more of a large building surrounding a square that also incorporates such learned institutions as  the Society of Antiquaries (founded 1707 – of which I’m a Fellow, but I’m sure I’ve told you that!), the Geological Society (founded 1807), the Royal Astronomical Society (1820), and the Royal Society of Chemistry (1841).

Burlington_House_ILN_1874

Burlington House c1874 

The Linnean Society was founded in 1788 for the dissemination of taxonomy and natural history.   It took its name from the Swedish naturalist, Carl von Linné (or, prior to his ennoblement,  Carolus Linnaeus – which sometimes causes a misspelling of the Society as Linnaean).  He laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature (this is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts – e.g. Homo sapiens). He is known as the father of modern taxonomy  and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology.

Carl_von_Linné

Carl von Linné 1707-78 (by Alexander Roslin in 1775)

The Society’s purpose is to promote the study of all aspects of the biological sciences, with particular emphasis on evolution, taxonomy, biodiversity, and sustainability (defining behaviour).  Its collections include some 14,000 plants, 158 fish, 1,564 shells, 3,198 insects, 1,600 books and 3,000 letters and documents.  A former Fellow of the Society was, of course, Charles Darwin from 1854.  Women were admitted into the Society after a ballot in December 1904. A Marian Farquharson had been the ‘women’s rights’ campaigner behind this but she was not admitted until 1908 (don’t ask) – and then she was too ill to sign the roll (there’s no justice).

First_admission_of_lady_Fellows_to_the_Linnean_Society_of_London

The first admission of women Fellows to the Linnean Society of London in 1905

The Linnean Society founded and published several journals that are still in publication today: the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, focusing on evolutionary  biology of all organisms; the  Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, focusing on plant sciences; and the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, focusing on animal systematics and evolution.

So now you know.

For more on the Society click here

.

Advertisements

Travels in Crete 2: Bramber Tours

I FEAR the weekend interlude into historical trivia has, this week, been interrupted by my expedition to Crete. On such visits Sarah and I sometimes conduct a ‘Bramber Tours’ (that’s what we call it) of a small portion of the island on behalf of whoever comes to join us – in this instance, John and Mavis. Our visitation was for ten days of which John & Mavis were with us for eight. We collected them from the airport at Heraklion and proceeded to the well-trawled Minoan site of Knossos (check out previous posts in June). The Bronze Age ‘palace’ of Knossos (c 1700-1450 BC) is situated just south of the airport and so is, of course, an essential first trip as it is probably the most famous site on the island (well, it is if you are interested in ancient history and/or archaeology). For April the weather was very agreeable, the sun revealing itself without interruption.

knossos_centralcourt_01

Knossos in the Central Court – the buildings are nearly all Sir Arthur Evans’ reconstructions – to the left, the cult rooms (front walls are genuine Minoan); in the centre, Evans’ staircase to his speculative first floor; and to the right (ground floor), the Throne Room

The ‘Bramber Tours’ itinerary for the week consisted of just three trips including the one to Knossos and two from Mochlos, the small village where we all stay (see end of May post last year – the part 1 of ‘Travels in Crete’). The other two visitations were focused on such places tourists are less likely to visit – for reasons, usually, of their obscurity.

The first of these was the Richtis Waterfall. An impressive natural location if you can ever find it. The journey took us eastwards from Mochlos to Exo Mouliana. Here we turned off the village at a sign ‘Richtis Beach’ (which you can only see coming from the other direction!) and drove down hairpin bends (John referred to it as a white-knuckle ride ….. but I knew what I was doing!!).  After about 15 minutes we came to the beach – we ignored that (it’s nothing very much) and turned right into a car park area for the waterfall (although you wouldn’t know it was for the waterfall). Some common sense has to prevail to follow an ‘almost’ obvious path to the waterfall. It took us up and down a rocky terrain, through woodland, occasionally crossing very narrow but shallow parts of the river itself – so it is useful to wear shoes/sandals that you don’t mind getting wet. The excursion through the ‘enchanted forest’  took about 40-45 minutes but depends upon how fast you are proceeding of course. The end result, when the waterfall reveals itself, is worth the effort. We concluded the day, still in glorious sunshine, with a beer or two back in Mochlos at Taverna Kochylia (see, again, end of May post last year).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Richtis Waterfall (some 30 m in height)

The next trip was up into the mountains from Karvousi, just west of Mochlos. Further hairpin bends were are encountered but the ‘road’ (you can just about call it that) is not too bad and, after turning left at the first fork, it leads to the 3000 year old olive tree of Vouves. This tree dates back to the Minoans and is still going strong. It cannot be exactly dated by radioisotopes because its heartwood (naturally occurring chemical transformation …. oh, look it up) has been lost over the years but has been roughly dated by its size and general annual ring growth. This makes it approximately 2000 years but scientists from the University of Crete date it around 4000 years old (well, better for tourism). Anyway, let’s split the difference at 3000 years (which seems to be the general consensus of opinion).  In 2009 it was declared a protected natural monument and was classed as ‘monumental’ by the Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities due to the large size of its trunk. The trunk has a perimeter of 12.5 m (41 ft) and a diameter of 4.6 m (15 ft).

 P1000394

‘3000’ year old olive tree 

Image result for oldest olive tree in crete

Different view of  ‘3000’ year old olive tree (not my photo but gives you a better idea of scale)

Part of this same trip was the Late Minoan IIIC site of Vronda (okay, that’s four trips in all). We returned to the fork (mentioned above), and took the right turn and on up into the mountain. The Minoans headed into the hills after the invasion of the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece around 1450 BC and this is one such site in which they settled. It is interesting to wonder how they actually got there as it’s hard enough by car! The rocky ‘road’ (you can hardly call it that now) is a somewhat difficult terrain to travel. I recall the last time I did it was in a four-wheel drive jeep – much more sensible than a Toyota saloon weighed down by four people. To make matters worse I missed the site and carried on up the ‘road’ that became less and less agreeable. Realising my error it was time to turn back. Well, that was easier said than done on this narrow track. Fortunately I found a small inlet to enable me to carry out the manoeuvre but not before all three of my passengers decided to exit the vehicle and volunteer to walk back down the rubbled pathway to the sought-after Minoan settlement.

Most of Vronda is very late Minoan, 1200-1025 BC (the ‘IIIC’ part of Late Minoan above) and has a fair share of hearth and oven occupied buildings and several small tholos tombs (see those of Mycenae in one of last July’s post). The pattern of buildings suggests the nuclear family as a basic social unit with each family cooking and eating together in large rooms. So now you know.

P1000401
      Vronda – large building with hearth in the middle 

   P1000408

 Vronda tholos tomb entrance (centre) with lintel above

The day was completed with a visit to the Tholos beach down from Kavousi so John could go for a swim before embarking back to Mochlos and Taverna Kochylia for another beer or two (sound familiar?).

tholos beach 2

Tholos beach, Kavousi

P1000380

From Mochlos – I forget which evening this was but the full moon delighted us by rising up from behind the hills 

.


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I decided to introduce a very good friend of mine to my wife the other day and so took him home, unannounced, for dinner at 6:30 pm, after work.
My wife was not impressed. She screamed her head off while my friend sat open-mouthed and listened to the tirade which (cutting it a little short) went a follows  ….

“My hair and makeup are not done.  The house is a mess and the dishes are still in the sink.  Can’t you see I’m still in my pajamas and I certainly can’t be bothered with cooking tonight!  Why the heck did you bring him home unannounced you darned fool?”

I replied with the truth, “Because he’s thinking of getting married.”

art-smth

Stonehenge and the druids

 

AMONGST other places that I had failed to visit until relatively recently was Stonehenge. Before I became enthralled with the massive ruins of Bronze Age Greece and Crete, large stones were …. well, just large stones. And in the UK they were large stones surrounded by bleak and inclement weather. Anyway, my son, Toby, and I went on an ‘historical’ weekend away visiting Glastonbury (previous blog in October) and Stonehenge. There is a new centre and museum there (well, sort of ‘there’ – it’s about a mile away and you are  transported by bus to the site which I’m not too sure about).

 stonehenge

Stonehenge 

Anyway, Stonehenge is a fascinating place. Supposedly constructed around 2600 BC (Neolithic period) – evidenced by cremated remains – it spanned for about 1,500 years. In the 17th century, John Aubrey was a pioneer of observation and imagination and in 1666 he investigated and recorded the site.  His work was taken up by William Stukeley in the 18th century  who made accurate plans, by way of engravings, of Stonehenge and he was the first to associate the site with the Druids.

William Stukeley (1687–1765)            John Aubrey.jpg

William Stukeley (1687-1765)                                    John Aubrey (1626-1697)

Many others have been involved in archaeological work on the area over the years (I’m not planning to go into them as Wikipedia will reveal all their names and achievements). All I will say is that the latest work has been carried out by the University of Birmingham and its task force has discovered two large pits within the Stonehenge Cursus (large parallel lengths of banks with external ditches – 2.5 km in length).  The pits are aligned in celestial position towards midsummer sunrise and sunset when seen from the Heel Stone. I always find this celestial stuff fascinating – and spooky! In fact, the University has also found adjacent stone and wooden structures and burial mounds around the area which could date back some 1000 years or more before the initial construction of Stonehenge (actual hunter gatherer activity goes back the Mesolithic – 10,000 BC). Many more small ceremonial shrines have been discovered in the area around Stonehenge – see Birmingham Uni’s and Austria’s Ludwig Boltzmann Institute’s Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project – click here.

 Stonehenge_Cursus
Cursus at Stonehenge – doesn’t look like much but holds many secrets

Talking of the Heel Stone – it has always intrigued me. It is situated just north of the stone circle and rises to 4.9m (16ft) and leans towards the circle. What is it doing there?? Mind you, one can say that about any of the stones. Clearly ritual (archaeologists’ classical explanation for anything they can’t explain). In this case, however, it probably really is ritual and associated with burial.

The Heel Stone

The other factor that amazes me is the mortice and tenon joints on top of the circle stones. This is carpentry work as we know it today, yet ‘they’ were doing it 5000 years ago! Who were ‘they’? Neolithic men with technical abilities – aka Stone Age architects, surveyors and builders.

              

See the tenon on the top of the stone                                          How it works

Okay, ‘they’ had the construction know-how but just how was the stone circle physically built? And by whom? Giants of course. The first known depiction of the stones shows this. It is from Roman de Brut (c 1150) which was a verse literary of Britain by a poet called Wace. This, itself, was based on another 12th century work, Historia Regum Britanniae (c 1136), by Geoffrey of Monmouth. According to Monmouth’s historical tale and Wace’s depiction, King Arthur’s very own Merlin built the circle with the help of giants. Just the man, and men, for the job. But seriously, we can only assume that the builders had good knowledge of blocks and pulleys.

Drawing of a giant helping Merlin build the circle (from the 12th century manuscript, Roman de Brut)

Ownership: Henry VIII took control of it when he dissolved the monasteries between 1536 and 1540 which included Amesbury Abbey on whose land the stone circle lay. Henry gave the Abbey and its land to the Earl of Hertford in 1540. It was later owned by none other than the Marquess of Queensbury but he didn’t turn it into a boxing ring. Eventually the site was auctioned off in 1915 and purchased by one Cecil Chubb for the grand sum of £6,600. It has been suggested that he purchased the stones as a present for his wife but she was less than pleased with the gesture. He donated it to the nation in 1918. Good man. It’s now owned by English Heritage.

The new visitors’ centre at (near) Stonehenge …. hmmmm, bit weird

Stonehenge was revived as a religious site by the Neo-druids at the beginning of the 20th century. The Ancient Order of Druids carried out an initiation ceremony in 1905 but it was not well-received by the press. I imagine that Neo-pagansim would have been frowned upon by a Britain just emerging from the Victorian Age. But Stonehenge and Druids seem to me to go together rather like bread and butter. I mentioned the Druid, William Price (he who ‘invented’ cremation), a few blogs ago in January, and, although he lived in Wales and died in 1893, I wonder if he knew of Stonehenge? It seems he did not visit it after becoming a druid in 1840 as I have found no mention of him leaving Wales after that date, but I may be wrong. I believe ritual use of the circle by druids is now very much restricted.

Druids at Stonehenge

We know very little about the ancient druids as there are no written records of their activities or any archaeological finds relating to them. We know they existed because Julius Caesar tells us in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico around 50 BC but it was the Romans who suppressed them following the invasion of Britain in AD 43 (under Emperor Cl..Cl..Cl..Claudius). In fact it was Julius Caesar who suggested that druids went in for human sacrifice. Well, the Romans would know all about needless human ‘sacrifice’ even if not in the name of a god. Some human remains recently found indicate possible human sacrifice (violent death at least) but who were involved is not known.

So there you are – just a dip into the ancient stone circles to whet your appetite should you wish to visit the place. Bearing in mind the complexity of archaeological activity around the area, Stonehenge was a very important and significant site during its existence. For more info on it, click here.

Stonehenge_sun

.


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

A TV documentary presenter was with me and my colleague, the esteemed maritime archaeologist, Dr Jack Custarde, when we were diving a Bronze Age wreck off the coast of Mochlos in Crete. Whilst in the dive boat the presenter asked Jack, “Why do the divers always fall backwards into the water?”  Jack thought for a minute then replied, “It`s quite simple really, if they fell forwards they would still be in the boat.”

  art-smth

The Mary Rose

I KNOW, quite a lot has been written about the Mary Rose, but I haven’t written it and you may not have read it. However, I feel bound to say something of this great ship because I’m one of her Flag Officers (sounds grand but it just means I’ve donated some money to her conservation) and I think she is a fab project …. and I give talks on her every so often (or when anyone wants to listen).

The only image we have of the Mary Rose from the Anthony Roll of 1546

As for her history, she was built on the order of Henry VIII when he came to the throne in 1509 and completed in 1511 and named after his favourite sister (Mary not Rose). Then she was of 500 tons and one of the first war ships to have on board  heavy canons. Before such usage of heavy guns, naval warfare was simply sailing up to your opponent, boarding and battling it out hand to hand (‘fighting-by-the-sea’, I expect you could get postcards). Anyway, two French Wars came and went and then, in 1536, the Mary Rose was refurbished and uprated to 700 tons. The third French War arrived in 1544 and a year later, at the Battle of the Solent (although not much of a battle), the Mary Rose went to the bottom of the sea.

cowdray2

The Cowdray engraving of the sinking of The Mary Rose – you can just see the top of her mast circled in red (see pic below)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Cowdray engraving: mast of the Mary Rose (centre) with a survivor raising his arms

Why did she sink?  Good question. There are a couple of theories. The first is that she was hit by a French canon ball from one of the French barges firing on the British fleet. We reject this out of hand as in no way will we accept that the French can take any credit for the ship’s demise.  The second, and more feasible, is that she turned abruptly, was caught by the wind and veered over so far that her open gunports filled with water causing her to sink. That her gun ports were still open during this manoeuvre must have been a human error. Either she turned too quick for the orders to be given to close them or orders were given but ignored (wouldn’t a captain wait until such orders were fulfilled before turning?). Her admiral, Sir George Carew, was reported as saying to his uncle, Gawen, “I have the sort of knaves I cannot rule”. This would imply that his crew were far from organised – and isotope analysis (science stuff) of human bones recovered suggests that some were from around Spain and so may not have understood orders in English (a minor difficulty one might imagine!). Regardless, some 450 crew drowned, including Carew and his captain, Roger Grenville (the anti-boarding netting over the open deck area prevented most of the crew from abandoning ship). There were only around 30-40 survivors.

George Carew-painting by Holbein.jpg

Sir George Carew

Tudor attempts to raise her failed and she succumbed to a watery grave, being covered, over the years, by silt. She was briefly discovered in 1836 by John Deane who had invented diving equipment and was investigating fishing nets being caught under the sea – they were being caught on the Mary Rose. Over four years Deane recovered some guns and other artifacts but the location of the wreck was soon forgotten.

John Deane’s diving gear

In 1965, Alexander McGee went in search of the wreck. He had found her rough location in 1966 on an Admiralty chart and by using a newly invented sub-profiling apparatus (science stuff again) he eventually discovered the wreck’s exact whereabouts in 1971. The site of the wreck was subsequently protected from ‘treasure seekers’ by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. It was surveyed between 1971 and 1979 whereafter the Mary Rose Trust was set up to consider bringing her to the surface. This happened on the 11th October 1982 and watched on television by some 60 million people.

Portrait of Alex McKee OBE (1918-1992)

a A  a B    a C

Raising of the Mary Rose: A. attaching it to the lifting gear; B. lifting it towards the frame, C. lowering it into frame which was then raised to the surface

In the region of 3000 timbers were recovered from the Mary Rose. Once out in the fresh air the wood of the ship had to be preserved. Under the water the centre cells of wood are eaten away and so the wood is hollow. Left too long in the air the wood will just collapse. So these hollows had to be filled. From 1982 t0 1995, the hull was sprayed with chilled water; from 1995 to 2004, it was sprayed with low grade polyethylene glycol (PEG) to penetrate inner layers; from 2004 to 2012, it was sprayed with high grade PEG to penetrate outer layers; in the the final phase, from 2012 to 2016, it is undergoing air drying.

Mary Rose undergoing wood preservation treatment

The Mary Rose has produced some phenomenal artifacts – a real taste of the Tudors which we knew nothing about until the discovery of the wreck. Over 130 Tudor longbows (no Tudor longbow had ever been seen before) and something like 3500 arrows were part of some 19,000 finds – a real ‘treasure chest’ of Tudor life. You can see many of them on the internet.

bow_sg

Sarah and I were lucky enough to be able to ‘go behind the scenes’ at the original museum and handle some of the rare finds including a Tudor longbow

The new Mary Rose Museum which opened on 31st May 2013  – well worth a visit

Prince Charles officially opening the new Mary Rose Museum on 26th February 2014 – I put this photo in because I was invited to this opening and was standing right in front of him ……

Find out how to support the Mary Rose – or go and see her – by clicking here

.

Next week: Stonehenge and the Druids


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I watched with astonishment as a farmer of my acquaintance, Gerald G. Giles, was feeding his pigs. He held a pig in his arms and lifted it to an apple tree whilst it ate sufficient apples to satisfy its appetite. When the pig’s appetite was satisfied Gerald put it down and held another to the tree to eat. I said to him, “Gerald, old boy, why don’t you just shake the tree, let the apples fall and allow the pigs to eat them at their leisure. What you are doing is a terrible waste of time.” He turned to me with frowned expression and replied, “What’s time to a pig?”

art-smth


Herstmonceux Castle

CONTINUING my long overdue visitations of some Sussex sites (last week the Booth Museum, Brighton), I came upon Herstmonceux Castle, near Hastings in East Sussex. Actually, some Canadian students had recently attended a talk I had given on Maritime Archaeology at the Brighton Divers Club at Brighton Marina and I had met up with Dr Scott Mclean who teaches Archaeology and History at the Castle. Teaches at the Castle? Yes, in fact it’s the Bader International Study Centre of Queen’s University in Canada. In 1992, Alfred Bader wanted to buy the Castle for his wife (some people just buy their wives flowers) but she complained that there were too many rooms to clean!  And she would be cleaning them??  Bader, an alumni of Queen’s University, then liaised with the Principal of the University and ‘hey presto’, the International Study Centre was set up in 1994 (its name was changed to incorporate Bader’s name in 2009).

Herstmonceux Castle

The Castle’s name derives from the owners of the original building around the 12th century. A Norman nobleman, Ingelram de Monceaux, was married to one Idonea de Herst and the manor was called Herst de Monceux (makes sense). The Castle (although it’s not really a defensive castle – more of a palace) as it appears today in its red brick was built in the Tudor period in 1441  at the cost of £3000 by Sir Roger Fiennes (a familiar name), who was the Treasurer to Henry VII. 100 years later in 1541, Sir Thomas Fiennes, aka Lord Dacre, was unceremoniously hanged having been found guilty of the death of a gamekeeper of a neighbouring estate (naughty Sir Thomas had been poaching deer from his neighbour). Although the house/castle was confiscated by Henry VIII, it was returned to the Fiennes family after the King’s death and remained so until 1708 when Thomas Leonard, 15th Baron Dacre (and 1st Earl of Sussex) sold it to a lawyer, George Naylor. George’s half-brother, Robert, took possession of it in 1775 and began dismantling it leaving only its external walls (don’t even ask why).

 Fiennes,Thomas Baron Dacre.jpg

Naughty Sir Thomas Fiennes, 9th Baron Dacre (1515-1541)

Whilst still a ruin in 1807, it was bought by Thomas Read Kemp whose father (Thomas Kemp Sr) owned a farmhouse in Brighton rented by the Prince of Wales – the same building which was to become the Royal Pavilion (quiz trivia for you). It (the castle not the Royal Pavilion) remained a ruin until 1911 when it was purchased by the MP Lt Colonel Claude William Henry Lowther who began to restore it. This restoration was not completed until 1933, when it was under the ownership of Sir (Herbert) Paul Latham (whose architect, Walter Godfrey, wrote various books and articles on Sussex history published by, among others, the Sussex Archaeological Society). Now Latham was an interesting – if that is the correct word – character. In 1931 he became MP for Scarborough and Whitby and, even though he was exempt from military service during WWII, he joined the army only to be arrested for ‘improper behaviour’ with three soldiers and a civilian. He was the first MP to be court-martialled for ‘indecent conduct’ (10 charges) for over 100 years. He attempted suicide by riding his motorbike into a tree – attempted suicide was illegal then and so he was charged and found guilty of that as well. He was dishonourably discharged from the army and spent two years in prison and, needless to say, resigned his seat in Parliament. Not a very successful career.

latham
Unsuccessful Sir (Herbert) Paul Latham (1905-1955) 

In 1946, the Admiralty purchased the Castle and, in 1957, made use of the observatory in the grounds. It remained the Royal Greenwich Observatory until that moved to Cambridge in 1988. The Castle then sat lonely and empty until its banner was taken up by Alfred Bader who refurbished it into the magnificent building it is today.

observ2

The Observatory in the grounds of the Castle

The Castle and grounds are also open to the public – click here. For more info on the Bader International Study Centre at the Castle, Click here

.

Next week: The Mary Rose


ASIDE

Spooky or what?

I was at a talk on the First World War the other day and it was mentioned that the number plate of the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand was in when he was assassinated was AIII 118.  That is A 11 11 18 – Armistice 11th November 1918

     

 


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I was visiting a jungle outpost to meet a retiring colonel CO. After a welcoming (gin and tonic), the retiring colonel said, “You must meet my Adjutant, Captain Jameson. He’s my right-hand man, and he’s really the strength of this office. His talent is simply boundless.”

Jameson was summoned and introduced to me and I was very surprised to meet a humpbacked, one eyed, toothless, hairless, scabbed and pockmarked specimen of humanity, a particularly unattractive man less than three feet tall.

The colonel said, “Jameson, old man, tell Smith about yourself.”

“Well, sir, I graduated with honours from Sandhurst, joined the regiment and won the Military Cross and Bar after three expeditions behind enemy lines. I’ve represented Great Britain in equestrian events, and won a Silver Medal in the middleweight division of the Olympics. I have researched the history of…..”

Here the colonel interrupted, “Yes, yes, never mind that Jameson, he can find all that in your file.  Tell him about the day you told the witch doctor he was a joke.”

art-smth

The Parthenon – then and now

I WAS UP AT the British Museum last week and was, as usual, suitably fascinated by the Parthenon marbles. The Parthenon, on the Acropolis in Athens, has been under repair now since the Committee for the Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments was set up in 1975 and serious restoration work began on the Parthenon around 1985. That was 30 years ago and still there is much to do. Back in the 5th century BC it took the ancient Greeks 9 years to build it (447-438 BC) – there’s advancement for you! To be fair, since 1985 there has been a lot of dismantling of previously flawed repairs carried out by the likes of messrs  Kyriakos Pittakis (from 1842 to 1844) and Nicholaos Balanos (from 1895 to 1933). These guys, although well-meaning, used a lot of concrete and iron which has not proven to be a lasting success! It is not planned to restore the Parthenon to its original state, but just to a more appropriately safe ruin and restoring loose blocks to where they belong.

parthenon now

The Parthenon today (NW sides)

The construction of it (in pentelic marble from nearby Mount Pentelicus) back in the 5th century BC was clever stuff – its columns look uniform and straight but they are not. The building is, in fact, an optical illusion. If it had been built uniform, with all the columns straight and exactly the same size it would have been seen to the eye as shrunken in the middle. The columns on the ends are slightly larger than the others and bend inwards.

parthenon

Outside columns bend in

a illusion

Drawing a is how it should look to the eye

b illusion

Drawing b is how it would look to the eye if all the columns were uniform

c illusion

Drawing c is how it is actually built to look like (to the eye) drawing a

It’s had a somewhat ‘interesting’ history. Other than a fire in the 3rd century AD, which destroyed its roof and part of the inner sanctuary, it lasted quite well, complete with its massive golden statue of Athena. Then, in the 5th century AD, as part of the new Byzantine Empire, the statute was looted and taken to Constantinople, where it was later destroyed, probably around 1209 during the fourth Crusade.

Athena

Replica of the statute of Athena in Nashville, USA – big, huh!

Towards the end of the 6th century AD the Parthenon was converted to a Christian church and the main entrance changed from the east to the west, with an altar set up at the east-end with the addition of an apse. A bell tower with spiral staircase was built into the southwest corner.

In 1458 the Ottoman Turks took control of Athens and some years later converted the Parthenon into a mosque. However, the basic external structure remained intact.

 parthenon mosque 1

Parthenon as a mosque complete with minaret

Then in 1687 came the Venetians and one Francesco Morosini. He lay siege to the Acropolis and began shelling it with mortar (shells not cement ….. yeah, ok). For some inexplicable reason the Turks were using the Parthenon as an ammunition store. A mortar shell landed directly on it and the whole lot exploded, killing around 350 Turks.

 Destruction-of-the-Parthenon-1687.

Exploding Parthenon – it’s never been the same since!

It’s not clear whether Morosini aimed at the Parthenon on purpose or it was (un)lucky shot. Presumably the Turks (naively) thought he would not fire on such an important building, but if he knew it was an ammunition store ……..well, what would you do in his shoes? Anyway, having taken the Parthenon, he tried to loot some of the sculptures and caused even more damage. The following year the Venetians left Athens and the Turks reoccupied the city. They built a small mosque within the ruins of the Parthenon and remained in power in Athens until Greek independence in 1832. The mosque was removed sometime after 1834, together with many other non-classical architecture on the Acropolis (an enthusiasm of classical Greece had taken hold by then).

 Parthenon 1715

Painting of mosque no 2 in the ruins of the Parthenon (c. 1715)

Prior to the Greek independence, in 1801 along came Lord Elgin with his dodgy firman (permission to draw the ruins and take casts). He decided to interpret the firman to allow him to remove sculptures (including those on the Parthenon from the east and west pediments, the high relief metopes around the outside, and the low relief frieze around the inside – see pic below). The Ottomans didn’t seem too bothered (not being very interested in ancient pagan worship) and no doubt money changed hands. The arguments will continue as to whether Elgin was right to do so. There is evidence that some remaining marbles did deteriorate being left unprotected, but it is doubtful whether that was Elgin’s real reason for removing what he did.

 parthn metopes etc

The different sculptures on the Parthenon 

pathenon 2

Example of female (goddesses) sculptures taken by Elgin from the east pediment

parth-ped-recon

Reconstruction of above sculptures – they would have been painted in colour

So, should the marbles be returned to Athens? Let’s not go there! Although I would say that my original thoughts were in the affirmative now Athens has its fabulous new museum. The problem is, where do you draw the line? Do we return everything to everyone? That wouldn’t leave much in our museums …….

parthenon at night

 Parthenon at night – pretty

.

Next week: Juries – a good thing or a bad thing?


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

My good friend Archibald Lumbago was fairly depressed about the state of his farming business.  The Department of Employment (DoE) had heard that he was not paying proper wages to his helpers and sent one of its staff out to investigate him. He recounted the conversation to me:

“When the DoE chappie arrived he asked for a list of my employees and how much I pay them. I replied, ‘Well, there’s my farm hand who has been with me for 3 years. I pay him £200 a week plus free room and board.’ I continued, ‘Then there’s the mentally challenged worker. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about £20 per week, pays his own room and board, and gets a bottle of whisky every Saturday night so he can cope with life.’

The DoE chappie said, ‘That’s the guy I want to talk to … the mentally challenged one.’

I replied, ‘That would be me.'”

art-smth

Thomas Spratt – antiquarian traveller to Crete

LAST WEEK I introduced you to Robert Pashley who had been sent to investigate antiquities in Crete by Francis Beaufort in 1834. On Pashley’s return to England, Beaufort was worried how to replace him. On the 1st October 1834, he wrote to Richard Copeland, who commanded the ship, HMS Beacon, on which Pashley had travelled to Crete, saying:

“My endeavours to get a proper person to succeed Mr Pashley have not yet succeeded – but I trust that before Spring you will be joined with some one with equal zeal and learning – I do not believe it would be easy to find anyone who could exceed Mr P in these qualities.”

Well, he had to wait awhile (17 years in fact) but that replacement came in the guise of Thomas Able Brimage Spratt who was a Royal Naval hydrographer. In the introduction of his book, Travels and Researches in Crete (1865), he commented that he was there to survey but also to collect reliable information regarding ancient cities, many of which were yet undiscovered and this would be of importance to the island’s geography and topography. As with Pashley, I’m just going to reveal interesting correspondence and ancillary facts around his travels; if you want more, read my book Dawn of Discovery (or check one of my blogs in June which featured Spratt in Crete, ‘The island that tipped’).

Picture5

 Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt RN (1811-1888)

Last week I made mention of one Lt Thomas Graves surveying in the Mediterranean (Beaufort had written to him about Pashley). Well, Graves’ midshipman on that trip was none other than Thomas Spratt. In fact, in 1836, Spratt was appointed to HMS Beacon, under Graves, the very same ship that Pashley had sailed to Crete on under Richard Copeland two years before (small world, eh?).

Spratt’s relationship with Francis Beaufort did not run smoothly at first as Spratt, when back in England, obviously failed to attend Beaufort with a report of Graves’ activities in the Mediterranean. Beaufort wrote to Graves (19th January 1848):

“Sir, I hoped that ‘ere this Spratt would have made an appearance in this room, and have furnished me with matter about which I should have to write to you – that not being the case I have only to express a hope that he will bring me a large harvest of your usually excellent work.”

However, he must have impressed Beaufort somewhere along the line as, in May 1851, he was sent to Malta and given command of his own ship, the paddle steamer HMS Spitfire, with instructions to continue Graves’ survey of Crete. Beaufort wrote to him confirming his daily (diem) pay (12th May 1851):

“With reference to the future survey pay of yourself and assistant surveyors, I hereby authorise you to draw on the Accountant General the undermentioned sums, to commence from the date of your arrival at Malta

Cmmdr TAB Spratt – 20s per diem   [£365 a year]

Lieut AL Mansell –  8/   – do –   [£146 a year]

Mr John Stokes – Master –  5/   – do –   [£91.25 a year]

GB Wilkinson – Mids –  5/    – do –   [£91.25 a year]”

spitfire

HMS Spitfire in foreground in Crimea War 1854 (my thanks to Steve Thorp for this)

From Malta, on the 30th May 1851, Graves reported (without punctuation) Spratt’s arrival to Beaufort adding his disapproval of the Spitfire and general conditions (in a later letter Graves referred to the ship as HMS Spiteful):

“Spratt has arrived with his staff but as he has I know reported progress I will say nothing more about his establishment to whom I will give every assistance and information in my power than that his “Spitfire” is the worst miserable time out I ever beheld and that with all my love for hydrographical pursuits I am only too glad to be clear of and unconnected with the petty economy and annoyances surveyors are now subject to.”

gems

‘Minoan’ seal-stones found by Spratt in Crete between 1851-3 – some 40 years before Arthur Evans found similar Cretan seal-stones in Athens which led him on his quest and discovery of ancient Minoan Crete

On 7th July 1851, Beaufort instructed to Spratt to proceed to Crete to search out antiquities, he reminded him to read Pashley’s book:

“I have no doubt you will rapidly go on – but not too rapidly to do full justice to your work. I am a great admirer of zealous & eager workman, but still more [admiration] of those who leave nothing for subsequent workman to glean … Do not forget all I said to you about variations on shore & on board – Pick up inscriptions and antiquities – Read Mr Pashley as you go along the coast …”

On the 4th December 1851, Beaufort wrote to Pashley sending him a copy of a letter from Spratt reporting on Crete and asked what Spratt should look out for on the island. Beaufort then wrote to Spratt on the 19th December, not really giving Pashley much time to respond, saying, “I sent your letter of Oct 15 to Mr Pashley who is I suppose out of town as he has not replied nor returned it [Spratt’s letter].” In the end Pashley did not reply until 20th May the following year which clearly upset Beaufort as he wrote to Spratt on the 8th June 1852, “I have just retrieved from Mr Pashley’s hand your letter of Oct but without any remarks wh[ich] could be of use to you or wh[ich] cd[could] alone to me for the wanton rudeness of not answering my note for 6 months …”. What Beaufort failed to mention to Spratt was that Pashley did say in his reply (to Beaufort, 20th May), albeit somewhat late, that his papers had been destroyed by fire in Inner Temple (Pashley was a barrister – remember?).

spratt map

Ancient sites visited by Spratt in Crete

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to refer to what Spratt saw in Crete, but just one exception – mainly because I’ve mentioned it before (another blog in June ‘The Labyrinth of Crete’). Spratt visited the labyrinth near Gortyns in 1843, during his first trip to the island. We know this because in true schoolboy fashion he ‘graffitied’ his name on the cave wall.

graffitiSpratt’s graffiti in the labyrinth: T Spratt, HMS Beacon, 1843

On his second visit(1851) he went in search of what he actually believed might have been the ‘mythical’ labyrinth of King Minos. He looked to the ridge on the east side of the Makryteichos (Makriteikron/Makroteikho) village, over the rivulet of the Kairatos river just east of Knossos, and reported:

“… that [Makryteichos hills] is said by the natives to be the entrance to extensive catacombs, which, however, have become choked up by falling in of its sides, and cannot be explored … This entrance to the supposed Labyrinth or Catacombs of Gnossos has the same character as that of the entrance to the Labyrinth of Gortyna, excepting that the Gnossian excavations have been used as sepulchres, but whether originally or subsequently to Minos cannot be determined so as to identify it as the true Labyrinth, of which the tradition only existed for twenty-five centuries.”

It is not entirely clear what he was looking at but it is most likely the ‘labyrinthian’ tomb in the Mavro Spilio (black cave) cemetery, Tomb IX.

mavro

Tomb IX, Mavro Spilio cemetry

Spratt remained in Crete on the second visit from 1851 to summer of 1853 when he was recalled to take part in the Crimean War. He returned to Crete on HMS Medina to complete his investigations in July 1859.

bridge3

Spratt’s drawing of the Hellenistic (4th century BC) bridge at Eleutherna, Crete

bridge2

The bridge today (well, 2007) – the circular arch drawn by Spratt has been filled in (to the left) – the tree is still there and growing! (I put these pictures in as a matter of triumph because I set out to find this bridge in summer 2006 but didn’t succeed until summer 2007 – now, through much woodland, it’s a long way from anywhere and in the middle of nowhere)

Oh, just one more exception of what Spratt saw in Crete – the ‘bema’ at Phalasarna, on the west coast. Not quite sure what it is but it’s just outside the harbour area, so perhaps a guard post. Immediately below is a photo of what it looks like now; below that is Pashley’s drawing of it; and below that is Spratt’s drawing of it. I include these because Spratt’s comment of Pashley’s effort amuses me. He said, “‘Pashley’s drawing was not a true representation of what it was like”. Well, I’m no art critique but what do you think?

thrne1

The bema (scale: about 1.5m high)

thrne

Pashley’s drawing of it

thrne 3

Spratt’s drawing of it ….. more of a true representation?!!

Finally, Sir Roderick Murchison, in an address to the Royal Geographical Society, said of Spratt’s book on his travels in Crete:

The Travels and Researches in the Island of Crete by Captain T.A.B. Spratt, RN., is a work which will rivet the attention and enrich the minds of various readers, whether they be antiquaries and scholars, or geographers and men of the sciences … for here we see produced by one of them [Royal Naval surveyors] a masterly illustration of the physical geography, geology, archaeology, natural history, and scenery of the diversified Island of Crete.”

Sir_Roderick_Impey_Murchison,

Sir Roderick Murchison (1792-1871)

 

Postscript 1: I came across an article written in Lippincott’s Magazine in 1878 by E.S., an otherwise unnamed English naval officer, regarding his journey from Crete to Smyrna and Ephesus. It is not known whether Spratt had read this but he was certainly alive when it was written so it is possible. If he had it would have been interesting to have witnessed his reaction to the officer’s comment albeit of Roman Ephesus:

“It is rather a difficult thing to acknowledge, in face of the great ruins then about us, with all their associations, that the thought of our dinner was by this time uppermost in the minds of nearly all our company. I have generally found, however, in much journeying about this wicked world, the condescension and interest with which one looks upon ancient remains depends very much upon the company in which one finds one’s self, the state of the weather and the state of one’s stomach.”

 

Postscript 2: I received an email from a chap who had found my work on Spratt via the internet. He was over from Australia for a year and studying at Oxford University. I got in touch with him and we meet up in Oxford in November 2010. His name was Michael Spratt, great great grandson of Thomas. More recently Steve Thorp contacted me (also from Aus) and referred me to the above pic of the Spitfire and informed me that his ‘many greats grandfather’ was Spratt’s 1st Lieutenant in the Crimea (great stuff the internet!).

Picture7

 Me and Michael Spratt (right)

.

Next week: Wolf Hall, Anne Bolelyn and all that


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I always remember my first day at my new office at the University. I sat there with absolutely nothing to occupy my time. There was a knock at my door. “Enter” I said, and I grabbed the telephone and began speaking into it to pretend to my visitor I was a busy and important man. As I spoke into the phone I beckoned the visitor to sit and he did so. I continued my conversational charade over the phone for a couple of minutes ‘discussing’ a fictitious oncoming project. When I had decided I had suitably impressed my visitor with this fake conversation, I put the telephone down, greeted him, and enquired as to the purpose of his visit.   He replied in a casual manner, “I’ve come to connect your phone.”

art-smth