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Bronze Age items which were excavated in Wiltshire200 years ago are to go on display in the county after spending

A picture of a gold bronze age diamond shaped lozenge found in Wiltshire

A picture of a gold bronze age diamond shaped lozenge found in Wiltshire

recent years in a bank vault.

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, which had been at risk of closure, has been awarded a £370,000 lottery grant to create a new gallery.

The new Prehistoric Galleries will display Wiltshire’s gold and amber finds dating back to before 2,000 BC.

Museum director David Dawson said he was “absolutely delighted”.

“The best thing is we’ve got completely unique gold items from the time of Stonehenge and we’ve been able to put those on display for the first time in generations,” he said.

‘More visitors’

“It was excavated almost 200 years ago but it’s been buried away in bank vaults for the last few generations – simply because we’ve not been able to display it.

“We haven’t had the security in place but this lottery cash means that we’ll be able to.”

The museum currently receives a grant of £35,500 per year from Wiltshire Council.

But last month, the council rejected the museum’s request to increase its grant despite the trustees claiming it could run out of cash within two years.

Negley Harte, the museum chairman, said the new gallery would be “vital for the future sustainability of the museum”.

“It will bring more visitors to the museum and help us with our battle to make the museum financially sustainable.”

Link Sourc: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-17553249
Link: http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk/
Link: http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/
Linl: http://www.HisTOURies.co.uk

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The world’s oldest sea-going boat, the Dover Bronze Age Boat is to sail again 3500 years after it crossed the English Channel.

A new project, ‘Boat 1550 BC’ aims to rebuild the boat, which had lain hidden under the centre of Dover for 3,500 years until it was rediscovered in 1992 during the construction of an underpass.

The oak-built boat sailed across the Channel at a time when Stonehenge was still in use, and before Tutankhamun became ruler of Egypt.

The team will use Bronze Age tools and ship-building techniques to reconstruct the Dover Bronze Age Boat, a vessel thought to have crossed the Channel in 1500BCThe team will use Bronze Age tools and ship-building techniques to reconstruct the Dover Bronze Age Boat, a vessel thought to have crossed the Channel in 1500BC

The half-size replica will take two years to construct The half-size replica will take two years to construct

The world's oldest sea-going boat: it will take two and a half years to reconstruct in a half-size replicaThe world’s oldest sea-going boat: it will take two and a half years to reconstruct in a half-size replica

The project aims to understand how people were able to cross the Channel in 1550 BC, using ancient boatbuilding techniques and Bronze Age tools to construct a half-size replica boat.

The boat will launch in the sea when it’s completed in two and a half years time, and will be part of a touring exhibition which visit France, Belgium and the UK to mark the 20th anniversary of the boat’s discovery.

The boat was located during the construction of an underpass and sparked several frantic days of rescue excavations to save it from destruction.

It was removed from the site in sections and rebuilt in the museum.

Canterbury Archaeological Trust Deputy Director, Peter Clark, said: ‘I have been working towards this moment for more than ten years. It’s very exciting. As the days and weeks go by we will learn so much about how our ancestors were able to build such a remarkable vessel.’

The Dover Bronze Age boat on display in a museum. Researchers aim to find out how people crossed the channel in 1550BC The Dover Bronze Age boat on display in a museum. Researchers aim to find out how people crossed the channel in 1550BC

The boat was located during the construction of an underpass and sparked several frantic days of rescue excavations to save it from destructionThe boat was located during the construction of an underpass and sparked several frantic days of rescue excavations to save it from destruction

The researchers will reconstruct the boat using ancient techniques and Bronze Age tools to understand how people crossed the channel in the time of Stonehenge The researchers will reconstruct the boat using ancient techniques and Bronze Age tools to understand how people crossed the channel in the time of Stonehenge

‘We can only speculate about how often people crossed the channel and how close were the ties, but one thing is certain, this project will bring the modern communities in Northern France, Belgium and England just that little bit closer together.’

Link Source:  http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2110578/Worlds-oldest-sea-going-boat-sail-scientists-rebuild-Dover-Bronze-Age-Boat-ancient-tools-understand-people-crossed-channel-1500BC.html

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The Marlborough Downs is to be part of a government project to create wildlife havens.

Twelve places out of 76 in England that applied to become Nature Improvement Areas have been chosen.

Defra said establishing dewponds would encourage birds, newts and other amphibians

Defra said establishing dewponds would encourage birds, newts and other amphibians

The project aims to restore habitats and encourage local communities to get involved with nature.

The work will be carried out by partnerships involving community groups, conservation organisations and landowners.

The 12 areas will share £7.5m of government funding.

Defra said establishing dewponds would encourage birds, newts and other amphibians and help re-establish viable grazing.

The Wiltshire project is the only farmer-led scheme in the country to have won government funding.

‘Educating people’

Environment Minister Richard Benyon visited the site on Monday.

He said: “We’re standing beside a classic Wiltshire downs dewpond.

“What’s really exciting about what we’re announcing today is that this is going to be a feature people will see right across the Wiltshire downs.”

Chris Musgrave, estate manager at Temple farm in Rockley, near Marlborough, said: “All 41 farmers said they would be interested in joining together in terms of having wildlife corridors running through their estates, dewponds linking chalk grassland and also involving the community as well.

“I think if you were walking down the Ridgeway, which is a spine going right through this area, you would see dewponds, you would see wildlife corridors.

“It’s educating people, it’s getting people involved.”

Link source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-17176283

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Saturday 28 January – Saturday 12 May 2012.  When the climate changes from warm to freezing, the plants and animals you rely on for food and clothing die out or disappear, how would YOU survive? 

Packed full of fun activities set alongside Ice Age animal bones and the oldest objects made by people found in this area, this exhibition looks at how the earliest people survived over 300,000 years ago. 

Specially suited for primary school ages or families, but with something of interest for everyone, you will be asked to think about whether you think you could have lived in a time before farming, when people survived by hunting and gathering and when extreme climate change threatened their existence. 

 Plus, there is free admission for children (with an accompanying paying adult) if you enter our Cave Art competition. Click here to print out one of the cave art pictures to colour in or complete with your own design. Bring your finished work into the museum together with a completed entry form to claim your free entry to the exhibition. We will also display your picture in the exhibition and you have chance to win a special Behind the Scenes tour with the Museum’s Director who will even let you touch a real mammoth bone!

To give you a few ideas about what real cave art was like, follow these links.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/handsonhistory/ancient-britain.shtmlhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/history/handsonhistory/ancient-britain.shtml

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The lights are up, Noddy Holder’s voice is ringing in your ears and you’ve already eaten all your advent chocolate in a gluttonous frenzy. Yes it’s Christmas; that time of year reserved for frantic last-minute shopping, burnt turkeys and half-drunk carols in the front room. It’s also the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth, of course: and even that bears more than a passing similarity to the ancient god Mithra.
So where did some of the Christmas traditions we take for granted actually come from? The truth stretches back a lot longer than you might think. Here are ten yuletide customs born in the ancient world.

1. Christmas Trees

Our Christmas Tree We might curse the fact that we’re still picking pine needles out of our toes come spring, but the idea of decorating your house with greenery at winter goes back thousands of years. King Tut may never have seen the multicoloured mess we put up with nowadays, but he would have had date palm leaves scattered around his royal abodes on the winter solstice.Evergreens were celebrated in Egypt as a reminder that, though the winter was harsh and yielded little, spring would come just as inevitably. The palm also spawned a shoot each month, meaning that by December (as it would become known) Egyptians weilded the leaves to show that the year was over. They’d have decorated with entire forests if they ever saw a European winter.

Soon Egypt’s tree-hugging tradition spread north to Italy, during the height of the Roman Empire. Palms were substituted for firs and other native species, on which tapers would be lit and burned in honour of Saturn, god of agriculture and justice, during the notoriously raucous Saturnalia festival. The custom migrated north to Germany and Scandinavia during the Middle Ages, resulting in today’s obsession.

2. Christmas Carols

 

Carol Singing Whether you enjoy strangers caterwauling on your doorstep or not, you can thank ancient pagans and their joyous celebrations of the stars. Song and dance were commonplace at the earliest stone circles of Europe: some think even Stonehenge was built with acoustics in mind.

As with the trees, special songs would be created for the winter solstice. In fact songs would be sung for each of the seasons, but the Christmas tradition stuck with the newly-created Christian faith, eager to commemorate Jesus Christ.

The first ‘proper’ Christmas carol can be dated back to ancient Rome in 129 AD, when a Roman bishop decreed that a song called ‘Angel’s Hymn’ should be sung during the Christmas service at Rome. Fast forward a few hundred years, and a Greek Orthodox Priest named Cosmas of Jerusalem (or Maiuma) wrote another famous hymn. Soon, the whole of Europe was singing at Christmas. Incidentally the tradition of singing to people whether they want to or not was invented some time around the 17th century. If someone had shown Cosmas he might not have bothered.

3. Santa 

 Santa ClausMillions of people still think Santa owes his current scarlet clobber to canny ad men at Coca-Cola. But it’s a belief that should have been consigned to the ‘urban myth’ bin many moons ago. The western world’s enduring image of a red-and-white-robed Santa owes more to his ancient ecclesiastical roots then a syrupy soft drink. Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, an Ancient Greek town of Lycia, modern Turkey, during the 4th century AD. Popular throughout the Christian world, he’s also known as ‘Nicholas the Wonderworker’ thanks to the large number of miracles attributed to him.

Nicholas’ association with the reindeer-propelled giver of gifts we all know today stems from his propensity for leaving coins in the shoes of those who gave to him (see stockings story below). This grew into a European Catholic tradition, whereby the poor would leave their shoes in church overnight. Coins would then be donated by rich patrons in a homage to Saint Nick’s generosity. Present-hungry kids also can thank Nicholas’ status as the patron saint of children when they’re maniacally tearing open a box of badly-rendered plastic rubbish.

 The name ‘Santa Claus’, incidentally, didn’t come until the 19th century, as an evolution of the Dutch colloquialism Sinterklass. His name may have changed, but Santa still kept the ceremonial red robes of his ancient forebear. However many think the clothing may be an amalgam of Saint Nicholas’ and those of the Norman god of misrule, a red-robed character who would go about causing havoc during the winter solstice period. Santa didn’t always use reindeer to power him from house to house, either: many believe they are an evolution of the eight-legged grey horse of the Norse god Odin called Sleipnir, who could leap huge distances. Middle Ages children would leave out food for Sleipnir, a custom which continues to this day.

 4. Yule Log

  Yule LogLike most things associated with Yule, a pagan festival largely attributed to the Germanic peoples of the medieval period, the yule loge can trace its roots back through some of the world’s most successful ancient civilisations. Today the burning of the yule log has become a marginalised affair, and can be carried out pretty much any time leading up to Christmas Day. Yet the log began its life as a yuletide tradition thousands of years back, in the earliest cities of Sumer and Egypt.

Egyptians believed that the winter solstice period marked the death and rebirth of their national god Horus, the god of the sky and the sun. Thus light was shed to celebrate him, and since Egypt was about 5,000 years from electricity a log would be burned for 12 days. This tradition carried into the cities of Sumer and Mesopotamia via the winter festival of Zagmuk, and would later become one of the features of the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, when a yule-style log was burned for ten days to usher in the strength of Mithra.

Saxons and Visigoths would latch onto the log as a symbol of good, or light prevailing over darkness, or evil. Ashes were prized for their supposed magical powers. Christians, most likely taking their lines from the Romans, would later adopt the log as a symbol for the light of Christ bringing the world from darkness.

5. Christmas Cards

 

Christmas cardsChristmas cards may only have come into European vogue during the 15th century (thanks to the Germans, again). But their origins go back thousands of years before, to the greetings given in Ancient Egypt via ornately decorated papyrus. Related or not, the ancient Chinese are thought to be some of the greetings card’s earliest fans, exchanging simple messages to celebrate the New Year.

The invention of printing, and the west’s popularising of card-giving, wouldn’t arrive for another 1,500 years or so. You might expect the Chinese, with their longstanding obsession with fireworks (and blowing things up in general) to have invented the Christmas cracker too. Not so: desperate London sweet-seller Tom Smith invented it as an explosive panacea to his ailing bonbon trade, in 1847.

6. Mistletoe

  When Tara from IT starts waving mistletoe at you from across the office fix023with one suggestive eye on the stationery cupboard, you can thank ancient pagans for the group email the next day. Druids, to be precise: the ancient mystics saw the herb as having magical powers thanks to its evergreenness. Amongst its miraculous characteristics – curing illness, countering poison etc – mistletoe was thought to enhance virility.

Kissing under the mistletoe may date all the way back to the ancient Greeks; no strangers to free lovin’. Traditionally, kissing beneath the magical mistletoe would ensure a couple stayed happy. It was even used as a sort of natural proposal, and hung at marital ceremonies. Saxons then took on the mantle, associating the plant with Freya, goddess of love, beauty and fertility. Men could kiss any woman who found herself beneath a sprig of mistletoe, plucking a berry with each kiss. When the berries had all gone, the kissing was over. One suspects mistletoe was never in short supply at Saxon parties.

7. Presents

  For retailers at least, Christmas is the biggest gift of all: whether we want Oxford Street Xmasto or not (boo to those in the latter category) we’ll all be trapsing the high street in search of something we can pass off as thoughtful, with more than half an eye on our wallets. Yet as much as the world hasn’t always been obsessed with Furbies, novelty ties and shaving kits, we’ve been giving and receiving gifts since the beginnings of society. Archaeologists have found evidence of personal decoration as far back as 70,000 years ago – and French anthropologist Marcel Israel Mauss establishes social bonds which establish respect and interdependence – key to social cohesion.

Fast forward a few thousand years, and gift-giving was a key part of Saturnalia, when masters would ceremoniously be ruled over by their slaves. Gifts were also seen as an important way to keep up good spirits during the long, cold winter. Of course Christians point to the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh given to baby Jesus by the three wise men, though it’s worlds away from the capitalist scrums of today. The idea of presents being stuffed down the chimney pot may also have derived from ancient times. Germanic tribes would throw gifts onto fires as sacrifices for the gods. Thankfully my slippers stayed flame-free last year.

8. Feasting

 It wouldn’t be Christmas without unholy doses of Turkey (or Goose, or Christmas Dinnernuts), bread sauce, potatoes and, of course, the only batch of Brussels sprouts you’ll eat all year. But, like most Christmas customs, feasting to see in the day has its roots in the earliest civilisations on the planet. The Mesopotamian festival of Zagmuk would traditionally involve great feasting, as the height of the winter ended, days became longer and farming could continue once more. Food was one way to usher in the sun, as was the case in Egypt with Horus – and later became part of the Saturnalia festival, a Roman middle-finger to the harsh European winter.

Goose had been used since ancient Egyptian times as the meat of choice for Winter Solsticers, a tradition which continued in Britain until the 16th century. Some credit Henry VIII with having introduced turkeys to our Christmas platters. The Spanish allegedly took on the turkey mantle from their conquered Aztec subjects, who had long domesticated the far juicier bird.

The Romans frequently ate Christmas ham, a custom still followed in many countries today, to celebrate the life of Adonis, god of rebirth and vegetation, who was killed by the tusks of a wild boar sent either by Artemis or Ares. A boar’s head is still roasted ceremonially each year at Oxford University. Though fruits, berries and spices had been used to make cakes in ancient times, the Christmas Pud we all know and love (and hate in equal measure) didn’t enter the annals of history until the 15th century.

9. Stockings

 There are no steadfast stories as to the origin of the Christmas stocking, Stockings for Allbut one apocryphal tale has stood the test of time, true or not. And unsurprisingly it comes courtesy of Saint Nicholas’ legendary generosity. A poor man in Myra lost his wife, and was left to bring up his three young daughters alone. He became poor, and worried that he would not have enough money to pay any of his daughters’ dowries, as was the custom back then.

Enter Saint Nick, who, knowing the father would be too proud to accept money for his daughters, surreptitiously threw coins into his house, beside the hearth over a few nights. The family were drying their clothes by the fire at the time, so each day each daughter would wake up to receive a coin in their shoe or stockings. Some stories even say Nicholas chucked coins down the chimney; another reason why we have Santa throwing presents down the chimney nowadays.

10. The Nativity

 Pushing the boundaries of ‘ancient’ somewhat, you can thank Saint Francis of Assisi for that heart-in-mouth moment you forgot your one and only line, ‘Sorry no room’, in front of over a hundred parents armed with cameras and pitiful expressions (or was that just me?). The famous Catholic deacon set up a living tableau in memory of Christ’s birth, using the accounts in the Gospels of Luke and John, in Greccio, near Rome, in 1223.

The tradition spread fast, leading to the annual humiliation of children that occurs in nearly every school in the western world, if not more. Catholics in Spain and Latin America also celebrate Las Posadas, a ritual re-enactment of the tribulations Mary and Joseph enduring before giving birth to Jesus. This can take place on any day from the 16th to the 24th of December.

Link: http://heritage-key.com

 Happy Christmas everyone………

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An exciting new Bronze Age hoard discovered in west Wiltshire (near Stonehenge)  has just gone on display at Salisbury Museum. It was found a month ago in a field near Tisbury by a metal detectorist. He reported the first object, a spearhead, to the Wiltshire Finds Liaison Officer. A team of archaeologists then excavated the remaining objects and recorded how they lay in the ground.

The hoard of over 100 copper alloy objects is over 2,700 years old and dates to the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. It consists of tools – axe heads, chisels, sickles, gouges, and weapons – spearheads, daggers, knives, swords and scabbard fittings. It is the most important hoard to have been found in Wiltshire since the discovery of the Salisbury Hoard in the 1980s.

It is very unusual for a hoard of this significance to be on display in a regional museum before it has been assessed by the experts at the British Museum. The hoard will only be on display until Saturday 26 November – it will then go to the British Museum for assessment and the local coroner will need to hold an inquest to determine whether it is Treasure Trove.

See the Salisbury Journal for an article about the hoard.

 The hoard will only be on display until Saturday 26 November

Salisbury Museum – http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/

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Out of Earth Exhibition

Out of Earth Exhibition

Renowned potter Chris Carter and archaeologist Martin Green share their fascination with the prehistoric past of Cranborne Chase.  Through art and artefact, they reveal a story of the humans that occupied the landscape before history was written.

Out of the Earth explores a dialogue between artist and archaeologist as they respond to the objects excavated from flint-rich soils of Cranborne Chase.  Artefacts from Martin’s own museum, which displays the finds he has discovered over the years, will be on display alongside Chris’s artwork and objects from Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Heritage Museum.  Together, the objects describe and uncover the imprints left by farming, community and ritual activities in the past.

Chris and Martin describe themselves as ‘sons of the soil’, both having been raised on farms in the countrysides of Warwickshire and Dorset.  They met following a BBC4 radio show ‘Open Country’ which featured Down Farm on Cranborne Chase.  Martin had been excavating there since he inherited it in 1979 and Chris’s interest in the Chase landscape soon developed into a passion for exploring it through his art.

The exhibition shows new developments in Chris’s work and is itself a testimony to the continuing influence of prehistoric people on us today as their artistry, communities and ritual activities are re-discovered through archaeology.  Chris describes the way he searches for his pots in the clay as akin to the archaeologist’s search for an object in the earth.  Cranborne Chase has encouraged his art to take new routes which have seen him sculpting from flint and creating 2D collage works.  A deep-seated influence of the landscape and farming is apparent in his work; his pots suggest the sinuous twist of the plough and the symmetry of the stone axe, whilst the surface textures reflect the processes of people and nature on the landscape.

Both pot and artefact have a power and contemplative quality that makes Out of the Earth an exhibition not to be missed.  Here, the passion for the Cranborne landscape and for the people who lived on and moulded it, is deep-seated, inherent and heartfelt.  The stories revealed are told by two people who know the landscape intimately, both inside and out, and can tell those stories with an authority and understanding that cannot be disputed. 

Link: http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/exhibitions/174-out-of-the-earth.html
Sponsors: The Stonehenge Tour Company – www.StonehengeTours.com

Well worth a visit!

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