Could the hand writing on the label be that of Darbishire? The archive at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester has archive correspondence. Darbishire’s signature appears not to match the label on the axe, so the lithics in the collection with this hand writing must have belonged to another collector of Indian material. Perhaps Darbishire later purchased the objects at auction before leaving them to Manchester Museum in his will. But who was this other collector?
With the hotly anticipated seventh series of HBO’s Game of Thrones about to show it seems opportune to flag a coin in Manchester Museum’s numismatic collection with a passing link to the terrifying Dothraki horseman who began their long-awaited sea crossing to Westeros at the end of the last series. We have previously had occasion to comment on the use of ancient and medieval history and archaeology in the popular series.
The historical context for this coin is rather complicated but here goes:-
The story really begins with Yissugei, father of Jenghiz or Gengiz Khan, who was leader of one of the tribes on the northern boundary of the kingdom of China. Yissugei asserted his independence from Chinese influence and was succeeded by Temujin (the name of Jenghiz or Chinngiz Kahn). Temujin spent 30 years uniting the Mongol tribes and in 1206 AD claimed the title of ‘very mighty king’.
By the time Jenghiz or Chinngiz Khan died in 1227 AD, aged 64, the Mongols had conquered a large part of Central Asia, and the Mongol Empire stretched from the Yellow Sea to the Crimea. The empire was created by an army of cavalry using bows and arrow but it was a force that also had access to sophisticated Chinese siege technology. The Mongols were irresistible. Their conquests have been referred to as an ‘appalling avalanche of destruction’ (J.J.Saunders, A History of Medieval Islam 1965, repr. 1982, p.171). The Mongol leadership demanded not friendship and alliance but abject submission (p.180). They are presumably the inspiration for J.R.R.Martin’s savage horse-riding Dothraki in Game of Thrones. It is symptomatic of how savage they are that when asked what is the Dothraki word for thank you, one of the characters replies pointedly, “There is no Dothraki word for thank you”.
Now I don’t know whether the Mongols have a word for thank you but the name used for the Mongol tribes over which Jenghiz ruled is ‘the Golden Horde’, which subdivided into ‘the Blue Horde’ and ‘the White Horde’, each ruled by one of his sons. Hulagu, second brother of Mangu (with Khubilai Khan), were all grandsons of Jenghiz Khan. In 1258 the Mongols under Hulagu captured Baghdad, one of the great cities of the Islamic Caliphate, plundered it, slaughtered the Muslim population (800,000 is the lowest estimate) and killed the last Caliph, Al Mustasim, by trampling him to death. The sacking of Baghdad put an end to 500 years of the Abassid caliphate. Hulagu was bitterly hostile to Islam. Osama bin Laden compared the US led invasion of Iraq to the Mongol conquest of the 1250s.
Of course, the Mongols were not the only people on horseback that spring to mind in relation to the Dothraki. In yesterday’s Telegraph there was an article about the British Museum’s forthcoming Scythians exhibition, again making a connection with J.R.R.Martin’s fearsome horse riders. The Huns are another example. However, given what the Dothraki are capable of, in terms of capturing and destroying cities and carting off their statues to their own city of Vaes Dothrak, the Mongols seem to offer the closest parallel, although all these peoples undoubtedly induced terror because of their tough way of life and their brutality.
Hulagu established a dynasty in Persia that became the Ilkhanid dynasty – the Mongols of Persia. Ilkhan means a provincial khan. Further Mongol extension to the west was stopped by the Mamluks of Egypt at the battle of Ain Jalut or Goliath’s Spring (September 1260). Ain Jalut was one of the world’s decisive battles yet it is relatively little known in popular culture. Had the Mamluks been defeated Islam might well have been destroyed as a religion.
In the numismatic collection of Manchester Museum is a coin known as a copper fals, issued in the reign of Arghun ibn Abaga (683-690 = 1284-1294) or Uljaitu ibn Arghun (704-716 = 1304-1316) showing a hare running to the right with the Kalima, the Islamic statement of faith (‘there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet/Messenger’). The reverse shows lines of writing. This is Mongolian with Uyghur and Phags-Pa script and can be seen on most of the Ilkhanid coins. It is a statement of loyalty to the ancestors. However, the dynasty was established in the Middle East where Arabic was and remains the daily language for many people. Arabic was used on the coins because the Mongols still found coinage useful as a medium for communicating the power of the state.
On the reverse is:-
Qaghanu (tilte of khan)
Nreber (an honorific?)
The khan’s name e.g Arghun or Uljaitu
For a good diagram explaining this, See:-
It is often said that Islam prohibited pictorial art but it is clear that this was not enforced rigidly and attitudes were more tolerant at different times. The Mongols, certainly, would have been familiar with hares from seeing them on the Asian steppes. A hare is sometimes seen on Islamic pottery of earlier and later date. The Mongols were influenced by Nestorian Christianity in the early years but later accepted Islam as their religion. Europeans tended to regard Nestorianism as heretical for its beliefs about the nature of Jesus. Uljaitu, the Ilkhan of Persia, in whose name this coin was probably struck, may have been Christian but converted to Islam.
Curator of Archaeology and Numismatics
Continuing the series of blog posts about Manchester Museum’s prehistoric lithics from the Indian subcontinent in preparation for the new South Asia Gallery due to open in 2020.
By far the largest proportion of Manchester Museum’s collection – about half – of the just over 300 prehistoric stone tools from the Indian subcontinent were collected in or around Bombay or Mumbai in 1893 and were presented by someone with the initials ‘F.S.’ (see label shown in photograph above). At first I had no idea who F.S. was until I noticed that on one of the labels the name was written in full ‘Frederick Swynnerton’. Who was Frederick Swynnerton? A quick search on the internet produced a candidate:
The following summary is extracted from Inigo Thomas’s blogpost At Tate Modern about his great grandfather: Frederick Swynnerton was born in Douglas, in the Isle of Man, in 1858. He was one of four sons. Frederick had written about Manx prehistory, and on Indian themes for the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain, but painting was his vocation. He learnt his art in Rome, where he lived with his older brother Joe and his wife, Annie Swynnerton, the painter, suffragette and the first woman to to be elected to the Royal Academy. He studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and then went to India, intending to make a career for himself as a portrait painter. One of Frederick’s brothers, Charles, was a churchman and moved to India and became a chaplain in Delhi. Frederick married the daughter of an Anglo-Italian military family, and lived with them in Simla. Simla was the summer capital of British India and the Punjab Province before 1947.
India was an opportunity for talented painters like Frederick because portraiture had been introduced by Warren Hastings in order to reduce corruption within the East India Company. Instead of accepting ornate gifts from Indian potentates, officials were to be given pictures of those they wished to influence or rule over. However, there was a problem: in India the sitters didn’t always pay since they got nothing in return. The artists might receive nothing for their labours and Frederick’s life in India wasn’t easy. Frederick also painted what we would now call celebrities , for instance, Jemadar Jangia Thapa, of the 5th Gurkha Regiment in 1890 (National Army Museum 1955-04-20-1). Thapa was awarded the Second Class of the Order of British India in April 1897 and was selected as one of the representatives for India at the inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth in January 1901.
What strengthens the case for for Frederick Swynnerton being the donor of Manchester Museum’s Mumbai stone objects is the fact that we know Frederick exhibited prehistoric stone artefacts that he had collected. In The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain (vol.29 for 1899, p.141) under miscellaneous business of the meeting of June 27th 1899 is a notice of an exhibition of ‘rude stone implements from the state of Gwalior in central India. By Frederick Swynnerton, Esq. Simla’. The objects are described as roughly chipped fragments of jasper, chert, lydite and other siliceous stones, some collected by Frederick from the alluvial plain on which Gwalior stands. Some of the objects came from the gravels of the Sourrka River and the alluvium on the banks to a height of at least 20 feet and also from the surface far from the river. He also showed large quartzite implements of palaeolithic type found at Raipur, 12 miles from Gwalior by C.Maries, Esq. of Gwalior.
Frederick’s interest in archaeology stretched back to his youth on the Isle of Man and in his travels in search of commissions for the portraits he painted he clearly met people who collected stone tools and he himself collected them. Frederick died suddenly in Bombay in 1918 and was buried at the Sewri cemetery and how the objects from Mumbai came to Manchester isn’t known except that many of them have ‘P’ numbers on them in blue paint. The numbers refer to the ‘P Register’, kept by William Boyd Dawkins (1837-1929) and Wilfrid Jackson (1880-1978) and used to record geological, palaeontological and archaeological acquisitions at the Museum.
Unfortunately, whilst the objects, if that is the correct term for them, have been identified as cores, flakes, borers and knives, with a few exceptions, most of the objects appear to be natural.
Whilst this is disappointing the association with Frederick Swynnerton and the British government of India at Simla, Frederick’s marital home, is significant. This cursory study of the prehistoric lithics collection from the Indian subcontinent has revealed a number of connections with the British imperial and colonial presence in India: a member of the Archaeological Survey of India, a Colonel in the Royal Engineers and now a portrait painter of the well-to-do based in Simla.
I am very grateful to Iain Swinnerton for sending me the image of the self-portrait by Frederick.
This is another instalment in the series of blog posts about the prehistoric lithic collections from India at Manchester Museum.
Above are photos of some distinctive labels that I have come across whilst exploring the prehistoric stone tools from the Indian subcontinent at Manchester Museum. They relate to stone artefacts from Hamirpur in the Banda region or district in northern India ‘E(x) Coll(ection) of the late Colonel Mayne R (E?)’. The labels are on a stone pestle or pounder and other objects, including ‘dabbers’ for making pottery. I am most grateful to Prof. Dilip Chakrabarti at the University of Cambridge for identifying these tools. However, I have searched long and hard to find out who Colonel Mayne was. His collection, as so often happens, was dispersed and acquired by other collectors, including Robert Dukinfield Darbishire (1826-1908) who bequeathed these objects to Manchester Museum.
Robert Dukinfield Darbishire (1826-1908) was a solicitor and one of three administrators of the estate of Sir Joseph Whitworth. Darbishire took a particular interest in the Whitworth Park and Institute (the Whitworth Art Gallery) but clearly had wide-ranging interests. He was a keen conchologist or collector of shells. He excavated a waterlogged prehistoric site at Ehenside Tarn in Cumbria in north western England in 1871. In 1868 he was involved in the transfer of the collections of the Manchester Natural History Society Museum to Owens College (the forerunner of the University of Manchester). The collection had previously been offered to and declined by the Manchester Corporation. He played a similar role in the acquisition of the collection of the Manchester Geological Society, so Darbishire was a “founding father” of the Manchester Museum. A painting of R.D.Darbishire wearing his characteristic black skull cap by Mr T.B.Pennington used to be on display in the entrance to the Whitworth Art Gallery. Darbishire was made an honorary freedman of the city on October 6th 1899. Darbishire’s large collection of prehistoric stone and flint artefacts was transferred to the Museum in 1907-8.
When I started browsing the internet for Colonel Mayne I had precious little to go on and inevitably my researches took me down some cul-de-sacs: a Colonel Mayne died in Cairo in 1855 but somehow seemed too young to be a collector of Indian antiquities. I tried the Dictionary of Indian Biography which yielded two more possibilities: Richard Charles Graham Mayne (1852-1939) and his brother George Nisbet Mayne (1854-1932) but again they didn’t seem to quite fit the date range for a collection that was dispersed and some of it acquired by Darbishire during the late 19th or early in the 20th century. The trouble is there were lots of Maynes in India during the 19th century so finding the right Colonel Mayne seemed like a hopeless task.
National Museums of Scotland acquired the ‘Mayne collection’ in 1859, comprising approx. 90 items – jewellery, cutlery, earthenware, statuary, weights, measures and manuscripts – from Sri Lanka, India, China and a few Ancient Egyptian pieces from the sale of of Mr Robert Mayne’s Collection (June 1859) but if this was our man why wasn’t he called Colonel? I am most grateful to Rosanna Nicolson, Assistant Curator, Middle East and South Asia, in the Department of World Cultures at National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh for this information.
Then I came across an object collected by a Swedish expedition (the Vanadis expedition) that visited India during the later 19th century. Vanadis was the name of the vessel that left Karlskrona on 5 December 1883 on a round-the-world tour, visiting South America, Oceania, Asia, and Europe. The expedition, supported by the Swedish government and king, was of a military, economic, diplomatic, and scientific nature. The expedition was partly a training mission and partly to promote Swedish maritime and trade. Unfortunately, there was a clash of characters between Hjalmar Stolpe, the expedition ethnographer, and the ship’s captain, Otto Lagerberg, and when the Vanadis reached Calcutta in December 1884, Stolpe left the expedition, arranged for permits to travel through northern India and Kashmir for three months, and made his own arrangements for the return trip to Sweden. During his time in India Stolpe collected many ethnographical objects with the aim of providing ‘a far richer picture of the northern Indian people’s way of life and cultural position’. One of the objects was given by Colonel Mayne. I have taken the liberty of extracting this synopsis from Kristina Myrvold‘s Sketches of Sikhs in the 1880s The Swedish Vanadis expedition and Hjalmar Stolpe’s ethnographical collection from travels in Punjab (published on-line 04 Jul 2016).
The object in question is now in the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm (1887.08.5357 [V.78]). According to the records Colonel Mayne, Royal Engineer, Allahabad, donated a water bottle of leather . It entered the museum collections in 1887. Stolpe stayed with Mr and Mrs Rivett-Carnac in Allahabad on 20-24 January 1885. It seems probable that the water bottle was given to Stolpe in Allahabad by Colonel Mayne at that time. The Stockholm information tells us that the abbreviations after Colonel Mayne’s name on the labels must be R.E. for Royal Engineers). In Allahabad too is the Thornhill Mayne Memorial (built 1864-70) which was funded by yet another Mayne, this time Mr Mayne the Commissioner or Collector of Allahabad. I am most grateful to Dr Eva Myrdal, Senior researcher at the National Museums of World Culture in Stockholm for all this information.
So that’s where things stand for the present and naturally I’d be delighted if any reader of this blog post can shed any light on the mysterious Colonel Mayne, last heard of in Allahabad in northern India during the 1880s…
Manchester Museum is working on an HLF Courtyard extension project that opens in 2020, and collections curators are looking through their collections for anything that comes from the Indian subcontinent in preparation for the new South Asia Gallery. The new gallery will comprise eight ‘chapters’ ranging chronologically from prehistoric times to Partition, the diaspora and the founding of South Asian communities in the UK, especially Manchester. All of the disciplines represented in the Museum collections are contributing to this exciting project and doubtless other curators will report in due course about what they have in their collections. In the archaeology collection it’s been an exciting journey of discovery and revelation as I began to realise how significant some of the collectors and donors represented in Manchester Museum’s collection were in the history of Indian archaeology.
Perhaps the most important of the collectors who gave us material from the Indian sub continent was Archibald Campbell Carlyle (1831-1897). Carlyle (or Carlleyle) was First Assistant to the Archaeological Survey of India from 1871 until his retirement in 1885. Carlyle went to India to seek his fortune, initially as a tutor. At this time employment in the colonies offered security and career prospects. Carlyle worked in the Indian Museum in Calcutta, the Riddell Museum in Agra and then joined the Archaeological Survey of India. He was appointed by Alexander Cunningham (1814-1893), Director General of the Survey. The Archaeological Survey was part of the British imperial and colonial project in India, to survey, record, and catalogue the antiquities of the country in order to understand, administer and control them more effectively. As Dilip Chakrabarti puts it: Cunningham ‘…was trying to justify the systematic archaeological exploration of India on the grounds that politically it would help the British to rule India.’ (see Prof.Chakrabarti’s ‘The development of archaeology in the Indian subcontinent’, in World Archaeology 13.3, Feb.1982).
Upinder Sigh’s book The Discovery of Ancient India Early Archaeologists and the Beginnings of Archaeology (Permanent Black, 2004) and a British Museum occasional paper on The Carlyle Collection of Stone Age Artefacts from Central India by Jill Cook and Hazel Martingell (1994) provide a lot of information about Carlyle from which the following summary is extracted.
At a time when Cunningham and the other assistants were understandably preoccupied by ancient Indian sculpture, temples and coins, Carlyle was one of the few people making an effort to recover and record prehistoric stone tools. Jill Cook and Hazel Martingell’s occasional paper paints a vivid picture of Carlyle as a field archaeologist sleeping rough in ruined temples and upsetting the polite conventions of Raj society, on one occasion threatening an enquirer sent by the Raja of Nagod with a gun. Carlyle seems to have been rather prickly about his status, which may explain the alternative spelling of his name as Carlleyle, to suggest he was from an aristocratic family. His ‘psyche-evaluation’ described him as ‘not ordinarily insane, but liable to outbursts of eccentric action and evil temper’ (Cook and Martingell:13).
The work took Carlyle into the landscape for long periods at a time, travelling on horseback, accompanied by servants on foot and camels to carry the baggage and surveying equipment. He was in eastern Rajastan in 1871-3, the Vindhya Hills and then northwards into the plains with seasons in Gorkhpur, Saran and Ghazipur during the 1870s. He excavated a site at Joharganj in 1879. In the early 1880s he worked in the Vindhya Hills again when complaints were made about him. As Cook and Martingell put it: ‘In 1882, a European with one servant, living rough, without bed and bedding and without a change of clothes or proper food for six weeks had to be mad.’ There is more than a hint of the Indiana Jones about him.
When Cunningham proposed that the Archaeological Survey be disbanded, Carlyle lost his job and came back to Britain in 1885. He was 54. Living in straitened circumstances in London, Carlyle disposed of his archaeological collection by sale or by donation to a number of museums and individuals. A dealer in antiquities, Charles Seidler, wrote letters to collectors including Sir John Evans, and Canon Greenwell, antiquarian societies, and the Manchester Museum. David Gelsthorpe, Curator of Palaeontology, found some archive correspondence from Seidler relating to the sale of prehistoric stone artefacts from Carlyle’s collection (see image above). The slips of paper that accompany the letter give details of the objects and where they found. Presumably, the various objects were wrapped in these slips of paper. This information was used to compile the entries in the Manchester Museum accession register (the ‘O’ register) and from these we learn that some of the flints came from a very important site called Morhana Pahar in Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh. Bridget Allchin identified this as one of a group of sites in the Vindhya Hills escarpment overlooking the Ganga Valley about five miles north of Hanmana village near Bhainsaur. Carlyle excavated the site but didn’t publish it in full (B.Allchin and R.Allchin -1982 –The Rise of Civilisation in India and Pakistan, p.82). He may have kept the information to himself, thinking he would go back some day to investigate it in detail but his ‘retirement’ prevented further work.
The cave or rock shelter site at Morhana Pahar yielded thousands of worked flints and there were cave paintings or mural art. Some of the images must have been painted later in prehistory because they show men driving chariots being ambushed by men on foot using bows. Carlyle’s notes described them as showing ‘in a very stiff and archaic manner scenes in the life of the ancient stone chippers, others represent animals or hunts of animals by men with bows and arrows, spears and hatchets…’ They seem to depict people living a hunter-gather lifestyle confronting chariot-drivers of the Indian Iron Age, so there must have been considerable overlap of what might be considered chronologically distinct material cultures. Chenchu hunter-gatherers in India were photographed during the 1930s, showing how resilient this way of life is (see Allchin and Allchin p.85). Carlyle seems to have been the first to propose that the cave art was undertaken by people in prehistory. When he was working it was commonly supposed that cave paintings couldn’t have survived for such a long time, and it was only the discovery of Altamira later in the 19th century that opened people’s eyes to the existence of prehistoric cave art. It is a shame that so far we have not been able to find a photograph of Archibald Campbell Carlyle. Over to you gentle reader….
The flints from Morhana Pahar are known as microliths and include lunates or crescent shaped artefacts, rhomboids, trapezes, trapezoids triangles, bladelets, drill points and so on. Some of them were mounted in wooden shafts to create barbed weapons. Some were found still ‘glued’ in position in their wooden armatures using bitumen at the prehistoric site of Mehrgarh in Pakistan. The tools are very small and some archaeologists assumed that the people who made them must have been themselves of small stature or pygmies, hence the name for the tools: pygmy flints. They are very similar to the stone tools found on the Pennines around Manchester and during the early 2oth century an associate of William Boyd Dawkins at Manchester Museum, Revd Gatty, argued that northern Britain had been settled by so-called pygmy people from northern India! The flints date from the Mesolithic period, c.9,000-4,000 BC.
Other material includes more microliths from Gharwa Pahari, Baghe Khor and Likhneya Pahar, Palaeolithic implements and Neolithic axeheads from Marfa in Bundelkhand, and other stone artefacts, including a Madras type hatchet from the Gaur River.
As a footnote to this discussion I might also add that the list of museums holding Carlyle material in Cook and Martingell’s occasional paper in 1994 does not include Manchester Museum. So far 82 artefacts that Carlyle collected have been catalogued, one of the largest of the collections after the British Museum and National Museums of Scotland (Edinburgh).
I leave the last words to Carlyle:
‘The question now, therefore, is not -‘where are stone implements to be found?’ but rather – where are they not to be found?’ For so far as my own experience goes, they appear findable almost everywhere in India.’
Dilip Chakrabarti (1999) India an Archaeological History Palaeolithic Beginnings Early Historic Foundations (O.U.P.), p.95
Next time: Frederick Swynnerton.
See also The Mystery of Colonel Mayne
This workshop was organized by Thomas Kiely, Curator of the Cyprus Collection at the British Museum, and Georgia Mallin, of the UK partnerships team, with the intention of promoting interest in ancient Cyprus and supporting curators around the UK with Cypriot collections that they wish to develop but who may not have access to specialists to study or display them. This preliminary meeting was intended to gauge the level of interest and support for setting up something like an SSN for Cypriot collections in the same way that a successful SSN has been set up for numismatic collections.
Georgia and Thomas welcomed curators from a number of regional museums in the Greece and Rome study room, and, after an introduction from Lesley Fitton, Keeper of Greece and Rome Department, Thomas Kiely gave an overview of collecting in Cyprus during the later 19th century and introduced some of the British Museum’s collections, collectors and earlier curators. Thomas showed how it was possible to recognize material dispersed to regional museums during the late 19th century using sketches of tomb groups in the BM archives. Thomas referred to the thrill of finding treasures amongst misidentified objects in collections, saying “I love bad data”. Duplicate material from excavations at Amathus, for example, was distributed to regional museums by the British Museum.
Another source of Cypriot material was the large collections acquired by the Cesnola brothers, American diplomats who spent time on the island during the later 19th century. Alessandro Cesnola (1839–1914) built up a large collection with a view to selling it to a major institution and a large and expensive photograph album was published to promote interest. The V&A also transferred material that was considered insufficiently aesthetic to warrant its retention as art. This appeared to be symptomatic of the occasionally snooty attitude that was taken to Cypriot collections in the past in comparison to Greek, Roman and Egyptian collections. Yet it was clear from what a number of curators said that the somewhat rough-hewn appearance of Cypriot objects made them more accessible to audiences than Classical material, and Cypriot ceramic figurines seem to be very popular with children.
Lindy Crewe, A.G.Leventis Curator, spoke about resources of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) in Nicosia. Lindy was in the midst of moving to take up her duties in Cyprus. Having previously worked in Manchester as a Museum and Academic Joint Appointment (MAJA), she is very familiar with Manchester Museum’s Cypriot collection.
Anna Reeve, PhD researcher at the University of Leeds, talked about her work on Cypriot object and collection biographies. She uses object biographies to trace the networks of collectors through whose hands the material passed and is finding shared links in her study of collections in Leeds, Harrogate and Hull. Jenny Durrant from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum found sources of funding enabling conservation work on Cypriot pottery that had suffered damage. Chrissy Partheni talked about her work on the Liverpool collections, in particular Kouklia. It was great to see some social history photographs of the excavations of the sites too. Vicky Donnellan from the British Museum discussed the results of her survey of Classical collections, including Cypriot material, in the UK.
After lunch Thomas took us on a tour of the Cypriot gallery in the British Museum and then showed us Cypriot collections in store. Only a small proportion of the collection is on display at any one time. The final part of afternoon was given over to free discussion. It was clear that there is support for keeping in touch, and for holding a more formal meeting about Cypriot collections. At this public meeting curators could make longer presentations about their collections, with the potential ultimate aim of creating a touring exhibition of BM and partnership museum Cypriot material.
I proposed broadening the scope to include Turkish and Ottoman material, coins and even contemporary objects, although we were reminded that anything earlier than 1850 constitutes an antiquity in Cyprus. From the perspective of Manchester Museum with its thematic collecting project, Cyprus serves as a fascinating case study in migration, acculturation and integration because the island is located at the crossroads of the eastern Mediterranean and was settled by Phoenicians, Greeks, native Cypriot people, Romans and people from Asia Minor and the Levant, not to mention movement of people during the later Medieval and modern periods. Anja Ulbrich, A.G. Leventis Curator of the Cypriot Collection at the Ashmolean Museum, pointed out although subtle differences are seen in assemblages from different parts of the island, it is difficult to distinguish them because of the widespread popularity of ancient Greek cultural material on the island and in the Levant.
I got a lot out of the day and I suspect the other curators did too and I look forward to a future meeting, perhaps in the North West, where interest in Cypriot material can be developed further.
Deputy Head of Collections
Last Saturday was the Big Saturday event for the Rediscovering Neanderthals exhibition. This temporary exhibition, which is supported by the Natural History Museum opened to the general public on 22nd April. On Saturday 30th April a number of us set up tables with Neanderthal or Neanderthal related objects, including casts of human skulls, animal fossils and stone artefacts.
One of the attractions that seemed to go down very well with small children was the selection of ‘day-glow’ skulls created by PhD researcher Tom o’Mahoney. Tom helped the Museum by providing 3D prints of scans of Neanderthal skulls in a section that compared Neanderthals and modern humans. Tom’s research shows that Neanderthal children grew up more quickly than modern human children. They appear to have had a faster metabolism to help cope with cooler temperatures.
We were also fortunate in being able to draw upon some educational specimens kindly supplied by the Natural History Museum. We also put out the casts of skulls of Homo heidelbergensis, the ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals, a Neanderthal and a modern human skull. We pointed out some of the differences between Neanderthals and modern humans: Neanderthals have elongated rugby-ball shaped crania whereas modern human skulls tend to be more spherical like a football.
Neanderthals needed roughly double the recommended calorie intake of an adult today. This seems to have been an adaptation to living in cold temperatures. They also had more robust bones, perhaps another adaptation to their preferred hunting strategy of ambushing prey, getting close to the animals to stab them with a fire-hardened stake (a copy of a 300,000-year-old-spear from Schöningen is shown in the Rediscovering Neanderthals exhibition) a flint-tipped spear, even jumping on the backs of the animals concerned. It used to be said that Neanderthal skeletons showed a similar pattern of breakages and fractures to that of modern rodeo riders, but this seems to be typical of most hunter gatherers who get close to their prey, so perhaps it isn’t saying much about Neanderthals per se. Although Manchester Museum doesn’t have Neanderthal bones in its collection we do have plaster casts and they show how powerful the Neanderthals were. A thigh bone or femur from Spy in Belgium is much more robust than a modern human femur.
We also showed stone tools used by Neanderthals including a 50,000-year-old worked quartzite flake from the cave sites at Creswell Crags in Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire and a 130,000-year-old Levallois point from a Middle Eastern cave site. It came as a surprise to some visitors that the younger object appeared to be more crude than the older example. Of course, this was not because the Neanderthals were less skilled at working stone. It was because the quartzite is considerably harder and it simply wasn’t possible to create a carefully-shaped tool, even with Neanderthal lithic technology.
It was also interesting to see the reactions on visitors faces when we explained that when modern humans entered western Asia and encountered Neanderthals about 130,000 BC it was the Neanderthals who had the edge. It is not clear why, unless the Neanderthals were better adapted at that time to the climate in that part of the world. When modern humans left Africa and entered Europe about 40,000 BC they seem to have had the edge and the Neanderthals became extinct relatively quickly. Perhaps modern humans were better at hunting. Pat Shipman has suggested the domestication of dogs made them more effective hunters. Recently it was argued that modern humans brought with them diseases from the Tropics to which the Neanderthals had little or no resistance. At some point modern humans mated with Neanderthals. This much seems to be coming from the DNA analysis. Some of us have inherited red hair, freckles and certain addictive behaviour from Neanderthals.
During the conversations we had with the visitors we often referred to the depiction of Neanderthals in popular culture. We showed a DVD and a music CD featuring Neanderthals. There was even a postage stamp of the supposed ancient musical instrument made by Neanderthals from Divje Babe site in Slovenia but this is no longer accepted as evidence of singing Neanderthals.
There was a steady influx of visitors throughout the day and many went away saying they would go up to the third floor to see the Rediscovering Neanderthals exhibition. Many were families with young children and one father even wore a themed sweatshirt. It’s an entertaining take on the old chestnut about humans becoming more advanced as they evolve, the weaponry evolving from a handaxe to a spear to a Kalashnikov to Darth Vader’s lightsaber. It was an ironic comment about human destructiveness linked to evolution and progress. From this perspective perhaps the theory of modern humans committing genocide against Neanderthals isn’t so far-fetched after all.
Thanks to all the staff and students from FLS who supported the Big Saturday and especially to Loren Souchard who talked to the visitors in what is her second language.