Awards for the Presentation of Heritage Research, 2007

Beneath the sands of time: unravelling the hidden past of the Vale of Pickering
The awards were once again held as part of the BA Festival of Science, introduced by Sebastian Payne and judged by the audience and a team of judges led by Julian Richards and including Mike Pitts. The full programme is available here. I was looking forward to a couple of presentations in particular and overall I would say that the standard this year was much higher than when I last visited in Dublin 2005.

Morning Session:
Some aspects of product packaging and recycling in later mediaeval Baltic tradeWorking partners: Tessa Verney Wheeler; Mortimer Wheeler, and the Caerleon AmphitheatreDating fixtures and fittings in historic buildings; work towards a typologyThe silent shores speak: investigating a maritime landscape in north ArgyllThe VanA cautionary tale: conflicts of opinion in the interpretation of an early medieval battlefield

Some aspects of product packaging and recycling in later mediaeval Baltic trade
Gavin Simpson gave an interesting account of chests and how plain- or ‘bare’- chests were reused.

Working partners: Tessa Verney Wheeler; Mortimer Wheeler, and the Caerleon Amphitheatre
Lydia Carr gave an informative account of the life and works of Tessa Verney Wheeler and her husband Mortimer.

Dating fixtures and fittings in historic buildings; work towards a typology
Linda Hall has published a book on fixtures and fittings and done an enormous amount of research along the way; her tales (and photos) of the destruction of various interiors was worrying, such fittings often being overlooked. Hopefully her book will allow more people access to information regarding household fixtures and fittings.

The silent shores speak: investigating a maritime landscape in north Argyll
Colin Martin’s talk (read by a colleague who kindly stood in at short notice) showed convincly how the nature of the sea is integral to the north Argyll way of life; channels for rather than barriers against communication which ultimately allowed heavy gunships access to this remote area.

The Van
John Schofield introduced the project video, a video diary of the investigations with commentary from various folks with some interest. This project has been reported on by the BBC, the Guardian and was presented at CHAT 2006 and can be seen as a slightly off the wall look at the archaeological process. There is also an associated blog.

A cautionary tale: conflicts of opinion in the interpretation of an early medieval battlefield
Of all the papers presented, this was the one that kind of left me wondering what it was doing there… The point seemed to be that, in the case of the battle of Fulford, there is no evidence to suggest the site is where it is thought to be by historians and locals; their claims are simply ‘bogus’, the historical records inaccurate (and it is therefore ok to develop the land, the consultancy working for the developer in this case). This on the basis that they have found no archaeological evidence at the site. When pressed about the sorts of evidence expected, as this was not made clear during the presentation, the answer came graves. But what about eg Stamford Bridge where there is equally little archaeological evidence…? Ah, in that case the historical evidence is sound. Hmmm.

Afternoon session:
Beneath the sands of time: unravelling the hidden past of the Vale of PickeringDoggerland: mapping a lost European countryTime and tide: five millenia of environmental change and activity on the banks of the SuirShake, rattle and roll: vibration effects at the Hampton Court Music Festival

Beneath the sands of time: unravelling the hidden past of the Vale of Pickering
I was looking forward to this talk. I am familiar with the project through it’s various publications and Dominic Powlesland’s work on archaeological computing systems but had never seen him speak before. Not one to disappoint, the audience were given a roller-coaster ride through various aspects of the project, all of which were both informative and entertaining. A thoroughly enjoyable talk and his ‘wallpaper’ (a plot of survey results across the Vale of Pickering, metres in length!) proved to be bit of a talking point.

Doggerland: mapping a lost European country
This was the other talk I was looking forward to. Vince Gaffney has done amazing things at Birmingham University with the Vista Centre, funded by Hewlett Packard, not least of which is persuade the oil exploration industry to give him vast amounts of digital data regarding the seabed under the North Sea. The presentation described the process of turning this data into reconstructions of environments long since vanished; the level of detail achieved is truly outstanding.

Time and tide: five millenia of environmental change and activity on the banks of the Suir
A fascinating account of the findings from excavations in Ireland.

Shake, rattle and roll: vibration effects at the Hampton Court Music Festival
This was a presentation which interested me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am a big fan of historic buildings and recently visited Hampton Court Palace for the first time; a truly magnificant place. Secondly, I sometimes make loud noises myself and have an interest in waveforms, frequencies (particularly those at the lower end of the spectrum) and the like. As such, I was interested to hear how the monitoring of noise levels at the Historic Royal Palaces is now being employed to help reduce the impact of noise associated with events held, this being a major source of income to the palaces and thus an impact which can at best be minimised, the palaces being dependent on raising their own funds. Perhaps scope for collaboration with an academic centre such as the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) at Southampton.

And the Winner is…
Smiles all round
Joint winners this year: Dominic Powlesland and Vince Gaffney. The award was presented by Julian Richards at a reception held in Kings Manor, home of the archaeology department and the Archaeology Data Service.

More information:
For the submerged landscapes of Doggerland, see the North Sea Palaeolandscapes website. For more information about Heslerton and the Vale of Pickering see the Landscape Research Centre website. The rest of the photos taken on the day are over on Flickr