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CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY 101

The World Archaeological Con­ gress has suffered another severe blow with the defection of the Council for British Archaeology. At its winter meeting the Council voted narrowly to continue to support the congress, but when the Congress lost its official status and the International Committee decided to transfer the official Congress to Mainz, a new situation arose. Thus Tom Hassell, the president, over-riding the views of some of the officers, used his presidential prerogative to call for a postal ballot of the member societies. Many of the societies in turn balloted their members, and to everyone's surprise, the ballot overturned the decision of council by a considerable majority 83-46. As a result the CBA not only withdrew its support from the Congress, but also renounced the session it was organising, and the exhibition it was setting up. This now means that all the main official bodies in British archaeology - the British Academy, the Antiquaries, the Prehis­ toric Society and the CBA have now withdrawn from the Congress.

It is not clear how far the CBA's decision was due to the changed circumstances, or how far this suggests that those who attend council meetings do not reflect the views of the membership of the CBA as a whole. A number of the vicepresidents and officers were unhappy about the result of the ballot, but a move at the summer meeting of Council to set aside the result on the grounds that the Council was sovereign over its members, fizzled out.

Nevertheless, the Congress is still taking place at Southampton from 1st—7th September and has even received new strength from Leslie Alcock; as a member of the former Executive Committee, Professor Alcock resigned with the rest of the committee, but he has now decided to join the new committee and to organize one of the sessions. Over 1,000 delegates have now registered and paid, and more are expected who have registered but not paid due to currency restrictions. The cost is still £200, and registrations should be made to: Martlet Conference Services, The Manor House, Brighton BN4 4UB.

The British Museum Exhibition

The new exhibition "Archaeology in Britain", at the British Museum, has one big and obvious surprise: it is light and airy. The recent fashion in exhibitions has been to hold them in pitch darkness with fitful illumination of the objects. Here the objects can be seen in full daylight.

In prehistory the highlights are the reconstruction of the Sweet Track from the Somerset Levels and the reconstruction of the Garton Slack chariot burial. This is not one of the chariot burials in neighbouring Wetwang Slack that we featured in CA 93, but another chariot discovered only last year by Ian Stead. This lacked the weapons of the Wetwang burials, but the wheels of the chariot, instead of being laid flat, were buried upright leaning against the side of the grave pit.

In the Roman section they have concentrated on just two aspects: soldiers and religion, but the one section where I would slightly disagree with the BM emphasis concerns the Saxon and medieval section. Here I feel the current excitement lies in the recent discovery of the 'wic' towns and the Saxon palace at Northampton, but this is hardly mentioned in the exhibition. Instead they concentrate on the countryside and deserted medieval villages, though there is also a stunning model of the Saxon monastery at Jarrow, and also a superb computer simulation (by IBM) of the interior of the Saxon Old Minster at Winchester.

The highlight of the exhibition is Lindow Man. I found him slightly disappointing in that only half of him survived, and he was rather squashed and leathery, and not as impressive as the German and Danish ones. But there are continuing problems over his date. Three sets of radiocarbon dates have been obtained. Firstly there are those obtained by conventional methods from the peat that surrounded him, which has been dated both by Harwell and by the British Museum at dates around 300 BC, and this is the date they are adopting for publication. The other dates are done by the two new super-duper small measurement laboratories at Harwell and at Oxford, which can date minute samples of the body itself, of the hair, bones and skin. However whereas all the Oxford samples come out consistently in the 1st century AD, all the Harwell samples come out consistently in the 5th century AD. At one time they thought that the difference might be due to the differing pre-treatment at the laboratories, so they swapped samples following pre-treatment, but the resulting measurements came out within the respective series for each laboratory. The archaeological world waits with bated breath to see how this problem is resolved.

Professional coup

The armed forces are once again taking over British archaeology.

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