We are but a moment in the flow of time…

 Flow 1Can we speak of love…

love of a landscape,

of the dance of light and cloud upon leaden Autumn waters,

of the sway of cotton grass in a playful Summers breeze,

of the cool green air which wisps around your Spring hair,

of those little details which reveal a world,

of the escape from mundane valley floor,

of soaring rocks, glacial scarred and Winter shattered

raptor and carrion,

your rapture and return…

Can we speak of love…..

…. from fragments,

from imperfect
traces….

from the hard cold realities….

Can we speak of love….

love of the object,

sought,

hard won,
cherished

and

curated.

Flow 4Flow 5Can we speak of love…

separated by 5000 years,

joined by a humanity.

Is it too hard to feel…

what it means to acquire,

to complement,
to share…

Flow 9Flow 10Flow 11

These partial traces,

spectres

of

objects desired,

with no value…
only discard,

detritus,

the waste from

greater

desires…

Flow 12Yet …..

….they were hard won

by trowel,

by folded body

by stiffened knee…..

by cut finger and

aching arm…

they were hard won….

by stone upon stone,

crack and dust,
clatter and clinker,
roughed out…

waste, waste, waste, waste, waste,

the object is borne

Flow 13Can we speak of love….

again revealed,
bagged and tagged
cleaned

measured,

incorporated into a world

beyond their….

… imagine,

a metric curation,

an assertion of the rationale…

suppresses

a terror of what they may reveal…

Flow 14Flow 15Can we speak of love…

love of the object…

a fetish beyond,

love of the insight,

of the revelation,

of the enlightenment,

beyond, we love beyond

the bounds of normal understanding…

for one moment they mattered,

the core of a world denied for millennia,

for one short moment

a sweet anticipation of display and adoration,

of wonder and desire… Flow 16Flow 17Flow 18Can we speak of love…

Care, and ware, grind and polish…

Smoothed and caressed, a concentration,

focus,

effort,

an obsession…

material meditations…

shared and displayed…

an eternal transformation…

objects transcending moments of humanity…

…your daughters daughters sons

daughtersonsdaughtersonsdaughters

tell tale of those who pulled them from

the mother rock…

Flow 19And yet we have inherited hard cold curation,

an uncomfortable,

comfort from discipline,

little known,
little revealed,
little shared,

but we are satisfied ?

with what…

Flow 20Flow 21

Flow 24 Flow 22with the recovery of loss,
with the ordering of disorder,
with the categorisation of the chaotic,
with the control of the uncontrollable….

with our conceit …

can we speak of love…

Flow 25 Flow 26Flow 27Look again,

look carefully,

not at the traces of the past,
but
at the fleeting glimpses

of the future…

Flow 28…fragments shared,

flow

…fragments journeyed,

flow

…fragments retold,

flow

…fragments transformed,

flow

…fragments returned…

Flow 29Can we speak of love…

love of the possibilities of what might be,

love of our shared humanity,

love of the intangibility of the tangible…

Dry and broken husks, pass no more on the winter stream,

occasional glints, below the surface beckon Spring rains.

Flow 32

Can we plant and tend,

seeds of spirit

grow

seeds of soul

grow

seeds of light

roots and radiance,

beyond generations glow.

Flow 34The journey, the narrative continues….

how will you love

heap more order upon disorder

or narrate the next chapter, the next journey

share and tell,

show and reveal,

one year to this day…

is

Flow 35but a moment in the flow of time…

—————————————————————————————————————-

One interest I have are the threads which can be drawn out and traced through the millennia.  So slight, so fine, they can only be seen from certain angles – a flash, a glint, in peripheral glances – but I am sure they are there.

One fragile thread I have been teasing out was originally found in the uplands.  Five thousand years ago people quarried stone from mountain places such as the Langdale, Cumbria and Craig Na Caillich, Perthshire.  From the stone they produced polished stone axes. Polished stone axes may have been considered prestige objects and often traveled significant distances, perhaps handed from person to person.  Each time a polished stone axe moved, its story may have traveled with it linking time and space through the memories of generations.

The piece I present in part here traces these threads and looks forward.  Some images show a small quartz cairn I first created in the uplands six years ago and how it has changed.  Other images show large waste flakes from making rough out axes 5500 years ago: they had been excavated by archaeologists and they were going to be disposed of as no longer wanted for curation.  Many of the images relate to the burn which flows down from Craig Na Caillich axe factory, other relate to prehistoric sites where polished stone axes may well have been used and deposited.

The piece was presented in the Creative Archaeologies session, co-organised by Antonia Thomas, Dan Lee, Carolyn White and Ursula Frederick, at the 2015 European Association of Archaeologists conference.

As part of the piece 25 boxes were given away and an invite extended to those who took them to collaborate in exploring the future chapter of what was inside.

Flow of TimeThe piece extends :

In The Flow Of Time We Are But A Moment ….

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Fire and Moon

BuildNBurn 13

Fire and Moon are a powerful combination.  There is no doubting the importance both had in the past, both moon and fire were clearly incorporated into rituals and ceremonies for thousands of years.  What may be less apparent is the power of groups of people building together, a communal effort to create not only structures but more importantly lasting memories of striking events.

BuildNBurn1A week of preparations, involved felling trees, and hand breaking trenches through bedrock to hold the timbers.

BuildNBurn 2Posts were decorated using pigments found from local sources.

BuildNBurn 4Special objects were made in preparation of the events which were to follow.

BuildNBurn 3Everything was set for the arrival of extraordinary figures.

BuildNBurn 5Preparations completed, we were ready…

BuildNBurn 6for transformations through fire…

BuildNBurn 8for remembering ancient stories of the landscape beyond…

BuildNBurn 7for remembering the people who had explored before us…

BuildNBurn 10for measuring things in a new light…

BuildNBurn 9 for transformation, to find a different beauty in wood.

BuildNBurn 11An illumination cloaked in possible pasts.

BuildNBurn 12An intensity of insight, focused at night.

BuildNBurn 14Fire beckoned darkness and called another light.

BuildNBurn 15A monument captured a lunar moment…

BuildNBurn 16 … of rhythms hunted through the ages.

BuildNBurn 17  Memories,

of figures and festivities, fire and moon blended,

blazes.

BuildNBurn 19Could never be revealed in mornings traces ?

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The BuildNBurn approach has been developed with Kenny Brophy and Corinna Goeckeritz.  For some partial insights into other BuildNBurn events, please look at:

Burning the Circle 2013

and

Burning the Circle 2014

Please contact me, if you have any ideas for other BuildNBurn events, we are happy to collaborate.

The BuildNBurn presented above was produced as part of the Joseph Anderson 150 Festival organised in collaboration by the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, Northlight Heritage, the Yarrows Heritage Trust, Venture North and Northshore Pottery. The Joseph Anderson 150 Festival was supported with funding from the E.ON Camster Community Fund, supported by Foundation Scotland and by Eneco and Venture North. 

The BuildNBurn performance ‘Joseph Anderson Presents The Mysteries of Prehistories’ could not have happened without the support, hardwork and creative efforts of: Tom (Performance and Build); Andrew Baines (Performance); Cara Berger (Technical Advice); Nan Bethune (Storytelling); Alex Carnes (Performance and Build); James Dilley (Performance); Helen Green (Performance and Build); Steve (the sound man) Mills (Audio);  and Brianna Robertson (Song and Technical Advice).  Thanks also to Ian Giles for providing two carved oak plaques for carbonisation.  Many thanks to Islay MacLeod and Catherine MacLeod for providing copious quantities of wood and putting their faith in the BuildNBurn team.  A special thanks to Amelia Pannett who made Joseph Anderson 150 Festival happen and dealt with too many challenges during the week : but we got there in the end !

Lands of the Caillich

There are traces of time every where in the Lands of the Caillich.

Some are obvious, such as the tumbled drystone walls which had been constructed about 200 hundred years ago as the land was enclosed and more sheep introduced.

Other traces are more elemental, the different states of quartz rocks revealing greater time depths…

Mountain Wall

…angular outcrops, shattered by a thousand winters or more…

Mountain Quartz

…rounded quartz rocks, rolled by glaciers, and washed for ten thousand years in burns.

Quarts Water

On my way to my intended destination, Creag na Caillich, I pass by a collapsed cliff line,

Cliffs

scattered boulders creating a maze of shelters, for a range of creatures.

Complexity

The cliff face reveals other scars.  Probably a result of where quartz has been extracted.  When this took place is difficult to tell.

Scars

What is clear is that there has long been a fascination for special stones in the Lands of the Caillich – with examples of healing stones and talismans in folklore and history.  Even today the property of Triboluminescence which quartz displays, visible in darkness, has a hypnotic, slightly unnerving effect : materials releasing other energies and powers.

Quartz Extraction

Quartz may have been extracted by the people who occupied the nearby summer shielings, tending their cattle in the uplands, over two hundred years ago.

Shieling

Or it could have been 5000 years before when people came to the uplands to acquire another special stone.  A ragged hole still visible in the mountain, visibly seeping more water than elsewhere, is the result of quarrying for rock suitable to produce polished stone axes at Creag Na Caillich.

Creag Na Caillich

*                                                                  *                                                        *

I have explored this part of Scotland many times before and occasionally at times encountered the wintery veil of the Caillich.  I had been to Creag Na Caillich twice before. The first time I arrived, hail immediately fell on me : perhaps no surprise in March.

The second time going to Creag Na Callich, I never actually made it, after climbing Ben Lawers earlier in the day, I was turned back by overhanging snow in a small corrie and to be honest due to a nagging sense of not to go any further.

Winter LandsFurther west I have explored Gleann Calliche several times and encountered weather anomalies : but that is another tale.

And – while I have encountered the different faces of Ben Cruachan in both Summer and Winter many times before – I only recently learned about the story of Cailleach Bheur.

     *                                                                  *                                                        *

This time the weather was relatively kind to me at Creag Na Caillich, perhaps to be expected in July.  Having completed the piece I was creating I began my return journey when my eye was caught by a rock I had never spotted before on the distant horizon : the slopes of the mountain side meant it can only be seen briefly from a very limited position.

Troll Stone

I continued to move on down slope, but something nagged at me to go upwards and explore further : perhaps, upon reflection, the rock reminded me of the trolls stones I had seen in Iceland.

Caillich Land

I eventually found myself crossing an area of peat hags, situated in an enclosed amphitheater like area of ground.

Peat Hags

Caillich Lands

As I approached the rock, I realised it had an almost figure like form.

Liminal

Perhaps it was tiredness or low blood sugar but at this point I had the strangest sensation.  I suddenly felt very cold, began shivering, and walking became like swimming through treacle : a minute or so and it passed but slightly disorientated I continued.

Time Distortions

The rock, perhaps 10 m tall, has a remarkable profile and presence in the landscape.

The Caillich

Like a seated watcher,

contemplative,

brooding,

patient.

Old as the Mountain

The back of the stone reveals a series of almost step like levels as it narrows towards the top of the head.  They appear worn, probably just weathering, but I ponder whether others have stood here in the past to experience…

Steps Backwards

…the view of the stone…

Caillich's View

…which has sat for over ten thousand years,

The Caillich Lands

watching the Lands of the Caillich.

———————————————————————————————————————

The top of Creag na Caillich is located c 900 metres to the north west from our stone figure.  However on the Ordnance Survey Map the name Creag na Caillich is located significantly distant from the top and closer to where the figure is situated.  I wonder if the association of the name Caillich at this location was in part due to the presence of the stone figure.  The Caillich (or Cailleach) has significant antiquity in folklore, referring to a deity, associated with winter weather, who manifests in the form of an old woman.

The times I have spent up the mountains have been in exceptionally varied weather conditions and different states of tiredness.  When I approached the stone figure of the Caillich, the sensation was like nothing I have experienced before and it left me somewhat unsettled for quite some time.

Perhaps in remote, rarely visited places, where the elements rage with such power at different times of the year, there are residual energies which can be encountered… ?

Druid Landscapes

‘They are the faults of archaeology rather than art’

LunulaEarlier this year I was privileged to see The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel (1890) in the excellent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  Only seeing the original painting does it proper justice and I urge you to visit the Kelvingrove to see its full wonder.

The DruidsThe painting was supported by interpretative signage, one of which explained:

Hornel Landscape Needless to say this required further investigation.

In his biography of Hornel, Smith notes in relation to the composition of The Druids,

The half-sphere of the moon on the background is reflected in the curve of the hill and the shapes of the priestly insignia, all echoing the cup-and-ring markings‘.

Looking at the Druid Landscape, Smith underplays the extent to which the lunar has been evoked through the cool silvery quality of the light and exaggerated topography of the hills upon which the Druids process.  Rather it as if they wander from and across the very surface of the moon itself, in turn implying the Druids emerged directly from the cup-and-ring markings themselves and those who produced them.

A similar blurring between the realities of topographic forms and the layers of mythological liminality which we inhabit can also be seen in an earlier work by Hornel, The Brownie of Blednoch (1889).  In the background we can again see a full moon resonating cup-and-ring marks.

The Brownie of Blednoch (c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationGallovoidian shepherd beast, beard of circles and cup-marked eyes.  A manifestation of the living rock, tor like outcrop, it dominates a landscape (which would typically be portrayed as a pastoral idyll), above which swoop dark clouds suggesting eldar forms and witch-like figures.

Smith emphasises the importance to these works of the discovery of cup-and-ring markings near Kirkcudbright in 1886 and says,

Hornel searched for other markings in the rocks in the region

during which searches, the idea for The Druids came to him.  Smith continues to explain that on a visit by Hornel to some carvings with an old man, they returned to the old man’s house, where according to an account by A S Hartrick (1939),

….he took from a shelf a small china bowl in which was a small bluish stone like bead*.  Holding this in his hand, in a few minutes he seemed to go off in a sort of trance, and then began to describe,…,a vision of a procession of priests with sacred instruments and cattle which were somehow connected with the cup-and-ring markings.  I cannot remember the details of it; all I can say is the vision appeared genuine, and that he was not drunk. After a time he became normal again, but would not talk anymore on the subject.‘  *I like to imagine this could be a Bronze Age fiance bead most often having been found associated with burials.

The particular cup-and-ring markings which Smith says first inspired Hornel were published in an article by F R Coles (1888).  He explains ‘Some of the most remarkable of these Petroglyphs were those found by Mr E A Hornel and myself on the 23rd February, 1887‘ (ibid 44) and were portrayed as a photo-lithograph:

High BanksIn the same paper Coles reveals ‘While preparing this I hear to-day (14th September, 1887) of the discovery of yet more and more peculiar petroglyphs on the same piece of rock at High Banks by Mr Hornel and Mr Thompson.’ (ibid 46)

Other papers on the discovery at High Banks reveal a few further details about the nature of the discoveries.  In a paper by Hamilton (1887) it is recorded that

‘Mr Rigg, who has been tenant of this farm for many years, states that a great many of such carvings were destroyed about fifty years ago, when the surrounding stone dykes were built from the quarry here;’ (ibid 157)

So it is likely without archaeological intervention the High Bank rock art may have been destroyed completely by now.  Hamilton explains:

The Lady Isabella Hope, of St Mary’s Isle, who is proprietor of this farm, has kindly consented to allow this part of the field to be stripped of turf,…

Hamilton portrays the same panel of rock art as in Coles but explain his paper was

…illustrated by sketches made for me by an artist friend, Mr E Hornel, of Kirkcudbright‘ (ibid 152)

So not only did Hornel first identify the carvings but he also recorded them.

High Banks PSAS 1887 In a later paper, Hamilton elaborated on the earlier memories of Mr Rigg:

 ‘and there must have been many more, for to the east of it a quarry has been worked about fifty years ago, to procure stones wherewith to build adjacent dikes, and the tenant, then a boy, but now a hale old man, distinctly remembers carvings like those now described being visible on the surface of the rock quarried.’ (Hamilton 1889, 130)

He also reveals the extent of the exavations:

Last autumn we carried out our intentions, and laid bare a large portion of glaciated rock. Towards the centre of the northern side of this knoll, from which we removed a foot and a half of soil and turf, we exposed a great many more of theses sculptings‘ (ibid 125)

The 1889 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland paper has a series of black and white engravings of the newly discovered rock art

High Banks Engravingand about which George Hamilton notes:

These engravings are made from photographs taken from casts of the portions of sculptured rock-surfaces, obtained with much trouble by Messrs M’Kie, Hornell, and Thomson, members of the Local Natural History and Antiquarian Society. These casts are to be seen in the Local Museum at Kirkcudbright, and in the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh.’

So in the late 19th century, rock art about 5000 years old, was being uncovered, casts of which were made, of which photographs were taken, of which an engraving was produced, which is now represented digitally !

With such a tantalising set of resonances from the past, a road trip was then in order to investigate further.  On the way to The Stewarty Museum in Kirkudbright there was good omen that cup and ring marks still resonates with significance to this day

Contemporary Cup and RingsAnd upon asking about the plaster casts at The Stewarty Museum, I was quickly pointed to:

Paddle Interpretation‘made by early copper prospectors to invoke the help of the sun-god in their search’

And thus I quickly looked outside to see a nest of carved stones sheltering together through the ages: piled up in front of the casts, quern stones and fonts, Medieval cross and prehistoric rock art reworked as architectural elements of later buildings.  A glass and steel framed disparate assemblage of esoteric forms revealing : a compelling urge to collect and display over the ages?

Cluster of Stone WorkYet, the most elaborate cast slab has been set aside, finding no shelter,

familiar but forlorn.

Cast 1Behind the cast slabs an inscription with further details :

witness to M’Kie then curator of the museum.

Hidden LettersSo where did these casts derive ?

Landscape 1Upon hillside with pastoral views

High Banks ViewOverlooking sea and routeway.

SeaviewsSituated in a changing world, alive with movements.

Landscape 2With depths of skies and shifts of perspective.

High Banks ViewsHigh Banks 2High Banks 3High Banks Rock ArtCasts derived from rock,

and its seductive pretense of permanence.

High Banks 4Stone reworked and represented, filling the void of times lost.

High Banks InterpretationFive thousand year old forms, copied and transformed.

Cup MarkingsIn the library of Broughton House, the residence of Hornel in Kirkcudbright, there are letters which reveal another dimension to this trajectory.  Twenty seven letters written to Hornel by artist and archaeologist (or is it archaeologist and artist) F R Coles – replies missing – provide a one sided insight to a friendship hungry for discovery and portrayal, a glimpse of hobbied obsessions and tentative grasps at Druid spectres.

In a letter of 2 May 1887 Coles writes to Hornel

Hornels Spade WorkI was up yesterday at High Banks rock and saw traces of your spadework

It is also clear then that prior to producing paintings incorporating cup-and-ring marks, not only had Hornel been exploring the Galloway hills searching for exposed rock outcrops bearing prehistoric rock art but when discovered had been illustrating them too.  In the case of High Banks, he had also been excavating to uncover more rock art panels : very much then artist as archaeologist.

In the same letter to Hornel, F R Coles sketches three cupmarks in the corner, a simple trace of his artistic background, and in the earlier letters refers to cup-and-ring is markings written in full.

Coles Letters

Not much later F R Coles would move to Edinburgh where he was Assistant Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland from 1897 to 1911.  Five years since the original discovery at High Banks, letters from F R Coles (now as archaeologist) continued to Hornel.

Hornels AddressThey reveal another dimension of the ways in which cup-and-ring markings were being portayed by F R Coles, rather than written in full he uses shorthand symbols for cup-and-ring markings.  No other abbreviation, or short hand is evident for long or frequently used phrases, only the archaeological subject is reduced : a form of categorical abstraction only too regularly used in the work of the archaeologist.

The mark of the archaeologist is, for many, the excavation trench : a theatrical arena which temporarily opens the veil between past and present.  Powerful indeed then that the presencing of the rock art at High Banks was through Hornel’s spade work, without which they would never have been revealed and transformed – cast, photographed, engraved, digitised – (re)presented through the ages.

Yet ironically, it is the artists striking imagery of the Druids or the Brownie inhabiting the moonscapes of Galloway, which more actively invites us to dwell in the same landscapes as the rock art may have emerged in – 5000 years ago when it was produced, even then a place thick with myths and legends.

Paradoxically, a richness of cultural expression, copied and transformed, can also  be reduced by an archaeologist to the simple potency of

.andO. & o


Many thanks to Denise Briggs (The Stewarty Museum), Sarah Jackson and Sheila Faichney (NTS, Broughton House) for helping with my investigations.

The phrase ‘They are the faults of archaeology rather than art‘ derives from a review in the Glasgow Herald (20th Feb, 1892) of the 1891 painting Summer which was particularly poorly received in some quarters of the press when first shown in public (Quoted in Smith 2010.)

In fairness, F R Coles was engaged in archaeological practice at a time when there was an overwhelming need to identify and record archaeology.  His work stands out at the time for his large number of illustrations of sites which he recorded effectively in no small part through his skills as an artist.

Hornel the artist (informed by the visceral experiences of landscape and archaeology) produced The Druids which, despite its power as a painting, may actually appeal to a limited audience.  In contrast, the simple abstraction to . & o by F R Coles, in part anticipated later scholars views that cup-and-ring marks were potentially very powerful as it is their very simplicity of form which allows multiple meanings and interpretations.

The image of The Brownie of Blednoch is from the BBC

More information about High Banks can be found at RCAHMS Canmore site.

Coles, F R 1888 ‘The recent Cup and Ring Mark Discoveries in Kirkcudbrightshire. (Abridged.)’ Trans Dum Gal Nat His Antiq Soc 5, 41 – 52.

Coles, F R 1895 ‘A record of the cup- and ring-markings in the stewarty of Kirkcudbright’ Proc Soc Antiq Scot 29, 67-91.

Hamilton, G 1887 ‘Notices of rock-sculpturings of cups and circles in Kirkcudbrightshire’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 21, 157-8.

Hamilton, G 1889 ‘Notice of additional groups of carvings of cups and circles on rock surfaces at High Banks, Kirkcudbrightshire’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 23, 125-30.

Hartrick, A S 1939 A Painter’s Pilgrimage Through Fifty Years. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P.

Smith, B 2010 Hornel. The Life and Works of Edward Atkinson Hornel. Atelier Books: Edinburgh.

Ice Axes

Axe HoardFreezing temperatures and snow means that ice axes can sometimes prove useful.

Snow MouldAxe MouldTransitionsIce HoardHafted Axe

—————————————————————————————————————

The axe has been a powerful tool, both functionally and symbolically, through out much of prehistory.  The polished stone axe in the Neolithic (c 4000 – 2500 BC) clearly has a significance beyond the functional with highly polished examples, that clearly were never used for felling trees, but had circulated long distances.  Yet this belies the fact that in experienced hands the axe is an effective tool to fell and clear woodland, and as such has played a role historically in the transformation of many a landscape.

In the Copper Age / early Bronze Age in Britain c 2500 BC the first metal axes were cast in flat open stone moulds.  Some examples of Bronze Age axes we have in museums were recovered from bogs and / or rivers during the 19th and 20th centuries as parts of groups of objects.  They had been collected together into groups (often described as hoards) during the Bronze Age and deposited as votive offerings in bogs and rivers.  Thus in some cases, objects born of stone and fire were plunged seemingly forever into a watery death.

Inspired by bronze castings I have seen in recent years, and with low temperatures, I wondered if I could cast ice axes?

So I took a replica of a Bronze Age axe and used it to create templates of early Bronze age axes forms : the earliest Broad Butt forms and later more developed forms with more splayed cutting edges and a narrow butt.  I then used these templates to create snow moulds to cast boiled then cooled water into : I couldn’t resist some colour too !

The next morning a small collection of axes were removed from the mould. Collected together I now have a small hoard of ice axes.  As temperatures rise they will probably be gone in a few days time, unlike some examples from the Bronze Age in Britain which have lasted for 4500 years.

Iron Age Twilights

HomesteadThe prehistoric site at Barr A’ Chaistealain has been described as a dun.

LayersAround which the remains of a Medieval or Later Rural Settlement can be found.  The settlement is associated with the Clan McNab.  It is said to have been occupied by the McNabs in the mid fifteenth century AD and that they were armourers and blacksmiths to the Lairds of Glenorchy.

AbandonedApparently one building was still occupied in the 1950’s,

perhaps the bedstead relates to this last dwelling.

SleepingTwighlightIronic perhaps, in the twilight of a settlement associated with metalworking,

Bucket that such abandoned artefacts slowly corrode.

SmithyDwelling———————————————————————————————————————

Barr A’ Chaistealain was clearly occupied, at least intermittently, for over a thousand years and had a strong association with iron working.  It could be described as an example of  ‘the long iron age’.

The site of Barr A’ Chaistealain was surveyed in 1992 by ACFA 

Further information about Barr A’ Chaistealain can be found via RCAHMS

Langdale Axescape

Harnessing

elemental

powers

Langdale 1 Langdale 2

 

 

 

 

with rush and splash.

Langdale 3

 

A  pressure change

Langdale 5

 

 

 

 

brings new perspectives.

 

Langdale 6

 

 

Rock washed,                                     rain cleansed,

 

Langdale 4

 

 

offerings of eras,

 

Langdale 8

 

found to remind us.

 

 

Clink and clack.

Langdale 9Clack and clink.

Langdale 10Stone scarred                                  millennial,

Langdale 11

pillar standing sentinel.

Langdale 12

Langdale 13Slow,                                        clink and clack,                              flow the rocks,

Langdale 14industrial residues                                              pooling

            downwards.

Langdale 15Sharp

Langdale 16smooth

Langdale 17

 

 

 

 

 

shards of light.

Langdale 18Clack and clink.

Langdale 19Stone whack                                                                                                              crack

 

Langdale 20cold traces.

Langdale 21

 

 

 

 

Pillars mark                                        special places,

 Langdale 22

fling,                                                                                                          the stones sing.

 

Langdale 23

Langdale 24

 

 

 

Rush and crash,

sharp echoes below.

 Damp sun streams,

Langdale 25

Langdale 26

 

 

 

 

slowly warmed

banded sedimentary secrets.

Langdale 28Langdale 27

 

Langdale 29Silent sanctuary

 

from rivulets of stone,

 

 

 from richochets of time.

Langdale 30                              Langdale 31

Stone and earth,

slide,

scree flow.

Langdale 32

 

Langdale 33Clack and clink.

 

 

Crush and rush.

 

 

Elemental source

Langdale 34

 

fades

 

 

Langdale 35

with twilight’s shades.

 

 

 

 

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Many thanks to Peter Style who kindly led me through the Langdale Axescape: please visit his blog Mountains of Meaning.

In the Central Lakes, high up on the mountain sides, there is a marked band of geology, a fine grained tuff, which was sought in the Neolithic period for producing stone axes.  The lumps and flakes of stone which can be found prolifically on the mountain side (and should be left where there), are the working debris from quarrying and from roughing out stone axes from this tuff approximately 5500 years ago.  The rough outs would be worked further and typically polished to create a smooth lustrous finish to the axe.

Descent from Pike of Stickle beyond the edge of the scree slope is possible only with great care: indeed as a sensitive archaeological site it really should be avoided.  This is demonstrated by example of the cave found down the stone shoot.  It has clearly been quarried into the rock face and there is a photo from the 1940s (in the Clare Fell 1950 article ‘The Great Langdale stone-axe factory’ in Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society) which apparently shows that only the top of the cave was visible.  The remainder was sealed by several meters of axe working debris.  In the intervening sixty years, tons of material has moved down the hill, despite probably having remained largely untouched for several millennia.  Why the cave was quarried and what this cave was used for within a wider axescape is unclear.  Whether as a location for polishing stone axes, or perhaps a place where one or two people could shelter as stone showered down from quarrying taking place above, the sounds echoing on the sides of the shoot.

Further background information on prehistoric axe working sites in the Lake District can be found in the Oxford Archaeology survey report On Axe Working Sites On Path Renewal Schemes.

For further thoughts on the circulation of polished stone axes in the Neolithic can be found in the classic text by Richard Bradley and Mark Edmonds ‘Interpreting the Axe Trade: production and exchange in Neolithic Britain.’

 

Remembering the Forty Five

Trophée d'Auguste 4Trophée d’Auguste à La Turbie overlooks the French Riviera.

Between 25 and 14 BC the Alps were conquered by Emperor Augustus.  Situated at the frontier of Gaul, the trophy dedicated to the subjugation of Forty Five tribes was created from 7 – 6 BC.  Still a prominent monument in the landscape 2000 years later, it was then a symbol of Imperial dominance.  Yet when it was constructed it required legitimacy from a mythical past, perhaps to evoke demi-god like status upon the Emperor, deliberately situated in part of a landscape associated with the journeys of Hercules (Heracles Monoikos), referred by some as the ‘Heraclean Way’.

Trophée d'Auguste 1 The site was remodeled in the Medieval period as a fortress, which was inhabited to 1705, at which point it was largely dismantled to provide stone for the construction of the adjacent village.

Trophée d'Auguste 2In 1913 consolidation and reconstruction with remains from the site (anastylosis) commenced.

Trophée d'Auguste 3This process continued in 1934 by Jules Formigé but with more significant reconstruction with new materials. To the extent on the west side a marble slab (17.45 m x 2.66 m) was re-created, in part from original fragments found at the site, and based on an account of the original transcription in Pliny the Elders Naturalis Historia. 

It reads:

To the Emperor Caesar, Son of Divus Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, Imperator fourteen Times, and invested with the Authority of the Tribune seventeen Times : the Senate and People of Rome : For that under his Conduct and Auspices, all the Alpine Nations which reached from the Upper Sea to the Nether, were reduced under the Empire of the People of Rome. The Alpine Nations subdued:  Triumpilini, Camuni, Vennonetes, Isarci, Breuni, Naunes, and Focunates. Of the Vindelici four Nations: the Consuanetes, Virucinates, Licates, and Catenates. The Abisontes, Rugusce, Suanetes, Calucones, Brixentes, Lepontii, Viberi, Nantuates, Seduni, Veragri, Salad, Acitavones, Medulli, Uceni, Caturiges, Brigiani, Sogiontiiy Ebroduntii, Nemaloni, Edenates, Esubiani, Veamini, Gallitce, Triulatti, Ectini, Vergunni, Eguituri, Nementuri, Oratelli, Nerusivelauni, Suetri.

Names of peoples long forgotten by most…

Monaco GoatThe site however overlooks Monaco,

its name derived in antiquity from Heracles Monoikos

More importantly, perhaps, the Victory Monument towers above the site of Oppidum du Mont des Mules.  The site of the Ligurian fortification created perhaps about 250 BC which would have been subjugated during the campaign of Emperor Augustus.Oppida BuildStill the stone ramparts, of this tribal center, stand.  An alternative claim

on the landscape

from the Roman dominance

above.

The lines of the ramparts can still be

traced,

Oppidum du Mont De Mules 1Dressed blocks showing the scale of what was once before.

RampartQuarried from the hill top, reconfigured, bounded in stone.

Oppidum du Mont De Mules 2Its ramparts, so close, as its wider landscape, to still be part of Monaco below.

Oppidum du Mont De Mules 3But go off the path, and you can find gestures which evoke different views of the world.

Offerings 1 Offerings 2   Not simply one stone, embellished as a tribal head.

Rather a component of a bigger piece, a cairn with other stones embellished.

The individual pieces expressed in different terms but together creating a visible statement of unity.

Offerings 3One had a stenciled profile of a building, and I wonder what the hidden faces of other

stones

would

reveal.

But then from the view point at Oppidum du Mont des Mules,

another world

was revealed

below…

Way Below…Casino de Monte-Carlo,

shaken and stirred,

I reflected on the

forty five tribes.

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The visit to these sites was part of a study tour to the Maritime-Alps which followed the salt routes from the coast to the inland mountainous landscapes.

Further information:

Trophée d’Auguste à La Turbie

Pliny’s Natural History For the 45 tribe passage quoted above see page 192-193

Oppidum du Mont des Mules

Via Julia Augusta

Monaco Museum of Prehistory

Old SignageOlder Interpretive Plan of Oppidum du Mont Des Mules.

Sign of the TimesRecent Interpretive Signage of Le Trophée d’Auguste

How times change !

The Sword Cycle

The ability to transform materials can have an almost magical quality.  There is great skill to be able to source metalliferous ores, smelt them to produce metal and then cast to produce complex objects.

Molten SwordNew SwordWhen a Bronze sword was removed from its, typically clay, mould…

Cast Swordits edges were trimmed, sharpened and blade polished.

A wooden hilt and pommel may have been attached.

Living SwordIf Bronze Age metalwork broke (or was no longer desirable) it could readily be recycled.

Melted down and recast in a different mould.

Fiery SwordIf such objects are not repaired, reused or recycled, they can potentially drop out of the cycle, found by archaeologists, corroded green with time.

Lost SwordWhen recovered properly another cycle of study and learning commences.

Fragments conserved, analysed…

Melted Sword…reassembled and interpreted.

—————————————————————————————————————–

The Bronze Sword cycle above relates to a Wilburton type sword,  a type in production some time around c 1000 to 900 BC.  About this time Iron production commenced and cycles of production and recycling which may have taken place in the United Kingdom for about 1500 years before were challenged by new powers.

During Burning the Circle 2014 the Bronze sword was placed on the central ‘pyre’ structures which burned fiercely for nearly four hours, and then smouldered to nothing during the remainder of the night.  The broken and fragmented remains of the sword were excavated the next morning, amongst the broken parts were hundreds of small spheres of Bronze.  These spheres indicate that, in the heart of the fire temperatures reached c 950 degrees centigrade, at which point parts of the sword turned liquid.

All images are of activities taking place at Burning The Circle, apart from the hafted polished sword which has been kindly provided by Neil Burridge.

 

Beautiful Door

Beautiful Door 1 A patchwork of bronze can be found on the Beautiful Door.

Beautiful Door 2Exquisite detailing,

Beautiful Bronzeis  made all the more remarkable as it is said to have originated from the Temple of Tarsus, in eastern Turkey, in the second century BC.  Monumental bronze over 2000 years old, wrapped around a wooden core.

Bronze and Wood It is said to have been moved to Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, by Emperor Theophilos in the 9th century AD.  Even now, over 1000 years later, it is a significant threshold, a last exist to the tourist.  So long has the Beautiful Door stood here that subsequent floors have been built around it, the lower portion sealed beneath the ground, now unable to close.

Unopened

 

Contemporary Prehistories – the Santiago Pilgrimage

Inexorably, flowing lines led me to the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea (CGAC).

As I explored the CGAC collection, synapses sensitized to entanglements with a deeper past, I encountered a few pieces by artists who are clearly informed by their relationship to the ‘archaeological’ which I hope you may find of interest:

Paisaxe con ósoPaisaxe con óso by Galician photographer Manuel Vilariño

In the tryptich by Manuel Vilariño, the landscape with bones is a series of pipe joints and a human femur.  Understated tone and texture make it at first difficult to immediately distinguish the artefactual from the skeletal. Yet the unique qualities of bone, emphasized by the composition, evoke a subconscious understanding that something is wrong in the landscape : fragmentary and disjointed  : something of our humanity is present amongst the detritus of industry which we bear witness to.

Atrabilarios I, II, IIIAtrabilarios IIAtrabilarios I, II, III by Columbian sculptor Doris Salcedo

Doris Salcedo’s powerfully haunting piece presences a series of ghost like shoes.  A vellum is stitched, in an operation to seal women’s shoes : captured in an organic vitrine.  A state of being, leaving them out of focus, unresolved, trapped in the timelessness of the gallery.

Estudio para De CapoEstudio para Da Capo

by Francesc Torres

Power Contested

 Power Contested (Three Graces In Unstable Equilibrium)

by Francesc Torres

The pieces by Francesc Torres have incorporated a Venus figurine (a c 25 – 30 thousand years old ‘art’ form).  Not just any Venus figurine, however, as it would appear to be (so distinctive as many are) representations of the Willendorf figurine from Austria.  In one piece, Estudio para Da Capo, the image is drawn on text printed : text printed twice so one set is partially superimposed over the other (palimpsest like !) but having rotated the paper first, one set of text appears upside down and running right to left (confounding our attempts to read meanings).  In the other piece, Power Contested (Three Graces In Unstable Equilibrium), three Bronze replicas cluster together (evoking Neoclassical summonings of the daughters of gods) upon a racing tyre.  Ancient forms, seemingly stable, a deep rooted source of inspiration and appropriation of the female form.  Yet resting on high speed modernity, vulnerable to falling…

*                                                                    *                                                                   *

The pieces I have highlighted in the CGAC collection variously engaged with the archaeological (the human bone within Vilariño’s piece, the shoes within the pieces by Salcedo) or explicitly evoked prehistoric remains in their work (the Venus Figurines appropriated by Torres).

But the expression, contemporary prehistories, could as much relate a particular kind of experience of visiting a gallery space (when undertaken without referring to catalogues or labels).  The mediation of meanings (either intended or unintended) through these materialisations has much in kind with (as a prehistorian) the first encounter with an object from the distant past.  There is no other voice of testimony, no text to read, it is a raw, exposed state of response ‘to the things themselves’.  We then reflect from other frames of reference, from our experience, from our knowledge, and develop a sense of, an understanding, an interpretation of…. …. …. …. …. …. …..?

What such gallery pieces express is an ongoing dialogue which partially reveals, not a text which delivers authoritative meaning.

Perhaps contemporary prehistories are practices by which we remember the forgotten, by presencing in ways which do not privilege text, and are contingent and open to dialogue and reflection.

Such pieces perhaps challenge the authority of those who would choose we forget.

The conversation with the past should not be forgotten.

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I have highlighted the pieces by Manuel Vilariño, Doris Salcedo and Francesc Torres but there were also several other works by artists in CGAC whose relationship to the ‘archaeological’ is perhaps better known, this included an aerial photographic piece by Andreas Gursky ‘Thebes, West’ and an installation by Mark Dion ‘Boxes of the Paleontologist’. 
Only when I returned from the Santiago Pilgrimage did I try and find out more about Doris Salcedo’s sculpture and was not surprised to learn that there is a powerful ‘back story‘ to the piece and of the practices of Salcedo more broadly.  In Andreas Huyssen’s excellent essay on Doris Salcedo’s piece ‘Unland: The Orphan’s Tunic’ he evocatively describes her works as Memory Sculpture. To be found in ‘Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory’.
Equally the work of  Francesc Torres, from Barcelona, has a deeply political dimension around memory and forgetting.  Another project he was involved in comprised a photographic piece responding to the exhumation of a mass grave with a forensic anthropology team at Villamayor de los Montes and was entitled ‘Dark Is the Room Where We Sleep‘. 
A good account of the changing inter-relationships between artists and the prehistoric can be found in ‘Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory’ by Lucy R Lippard