Welcome to the Little Chef of the ancient world

By Clare Chapman in Munich

(Filed: 28/11/2004)


Their dried-out food, cheerless service and overpriced petrol have made motorway service stations the bane of modern travel.


However, archaeologists have found evidence that they are not such a modern phenomenon after uncovering the remains of the Roman equivalent of Newport Pagnell services.


Deep beneath a bus terminus in the town of Neuss, near Dusseldorf, they have found the 2,000-year-old foundations of a roadside rest-stop complete with forecourt, chariot workshop, restaurant and an area to give horses water and hay.


A Roman traveller would have been able to order a quick meal before setting off on the wide road - which ran the length of Germany - or book a room and spend the night. There may not have been sweets or hamburgers but travellers could buy other essentials such as clothes, preserved meat and olives.


Sabine Sauer, the archaeologist leading the team which spent the past year investigating the site, said: "We've nicknamed it Big Maximus, because people would have pulled their chariots into the forecourt and ordered pork cutlets and wine, before heading back on the road."


The foundations of the first building excavated were found when the team was asked to survey the area for a new underground carpark. Dr Sauer, the city's chief archaeologist, said: "The area has many Roman settlements and roads. We expected to find some some Roman remains, but had no idea we would find an ancient service station."


The remains found so far cover 240 square yards, and the team believe that the entire Roman complex - which appears to run beneath several existing buildings - may have been twice the size.


"Big Maximus" was situated on the main road from the Roman settlement at modern Xanten, near Duisburg, to Cologne. The route followed the Rhine and formed part of the Roman Long Road - the equivalent of the M1, from the North Sea to Brindisi in southern Italy.


At the time Neuss - known to the Romans as Novaesium - was a small settlement, with little need for any other large public building. In its heyday it would have been used by passing sailors as well as travellers on foot, horseback, chariot and wagons.


Because it was only possible to travel by day, historians believe that there would have been similar rest-stops every 20 miles or so. The Neuss building could have housed up to 30 travellers and their animals overnight.


Martin Haidinger, an historian at Vienna University who has advised on many excavations in central Europe, said: "This gives us a fascinating insight into another chapter of Roman life and confirms that some aspects of society were remarkably similar to our own."


The archaeologists have uncovered signs of a workshop, where local mechanics would have repaired chariots. Roman crockery also suggests that its restaurant did as flourishing a trade as any motorway Little Chef. Dr Sauer said: "We haven't found any brown sauce sachets, but have uncovered many ceramic plates, pots and pans.


We have found the rubbish tips - and although much of the organic waste has long since rotted away, we have clues to what they ate from discarded pottery. There were spice jars, containing garum sauces from North Africa, similar to what one might find in a Thai restaurant today.


"We know from the bones that they ate a lot of meat - chicken and pork - as well as bread, rice, lentils and fruit. There were desserts of sweet cakes, cooked with sesame seeds and almonds. There must have been a flourishing trade: there were many fragments of wine amphora, and broken plates."


The building was more substantial than other Roman properties in the area, with strong foundations to bear the weight of at least two floors. "It would have been visible from far away, a welcome sight for weary travellers," said Dr Sauer.


A recent survey of modern motorway service stations in Europe gave those in Germany higher marks than those in Britain, and Dr Sauer believes that had there been a similar study in Roman times the Neuss station would have gained good marks.


"From what we have found, the food and accommodation was probably good, and the building was a high standard," she said.


It was built from high-quality tuff stone and included underfloor heating and an overhanging slate roof to trap the warmth of the sun.


Neuss town council has now abandoned its plan to build a carpark on the site and will instead develop it as an amusement park, with the Roman remains at its centre.


Ancient hunters off hook for bison


By Diedtra Henderson



WASHINGTON - Big game hunters could be off the hook in the latest effort to explain the steep decline of bison populations thousands of years ago.


Proponents of the overkill theory blamed the first Americans -- who crossed the corridor connecting what are now Alaska and Siberia -- for hunting bison within a whisper of disappearance.


Those super-hunters are also considered responsible for pushing massive mammals, including woolly mammoths, short-faced bears and North American lions into extinction.


A team of 27 scientists used ancient DNA to track the hulking herbivore's boom-and-bust population patterns, adding to growing evidence that climate change was to blame.


"The interesting thing that we say about the extinctions is that whatever happened, it wasn't due to humans," said the paper's lead author, Beth Shapiro, a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at Oxford University.


By the time people arrived, "these populations are already significantly in decline and on the brink of whatever was going to happen to them in the future."


Bison's DNA indicates an exponential increase in diversity with herd sizes doubling every 10,200 years. Then, 32,000 to 42,000 years ago, the last glacial cycle kicked in, beginning a long cooling trend. Bison genetic diversity plummeted.


No significant wave of humans appeared in the area's archaeological record until more than 15,000 years later, the authors write in today's Science.


The Science paper refers to dates in radiocarbon years, a technique that doesn't match up precisely with conventional calendars. For instance, 12,000 years before the present in radiocarbon years equates to 14,000 calendar years, Shapiro said.


Cold "and arid conditions increasingly dominated, and some component of these ecological changes may have been sufficient to stress bison populations" throughout the area, the authors said.



Inscribed Bricks Unearthed South of Iran



In the latest round of archeological excavations at the historical site of Enshan, Fars province, Iranian and American archeologists have unearthed several inscribed bricks and a seal dating back to the mid-Elamite era (1100 BC).Enshan is regarded as one of the capitals of the Elamites and is rich in cultural heritage artifacts ranging from the Elamite to the Achamenid era (3500 BC to 500 AD). 


Dr. Kamyar Abdi, an instructor of Dartmouth College in the United States told Cultural Heritage News (CHN) agency that in the course of excavations in the past several weeks, his team unearthed six bricks dating back to 3,000 years bearing inscriptions identical with those from the Elamite era.

He said that the bricks are baked and studies on them will reveal useful information about the mid-Elamite era which is of special significance in archeological studies.


Abdi said that the bricks will be handed over to the experts of inscriptions for deciphering. Meanwhile, American explorations have so far led to the discovery of 25 bricks bearing inscriptions whose translation indicated that Melian historical mound is the same place as Enshan historical city.


The third round of excavation at Enshan historical city was carried out by 20 experts which included two American archeologists from Michigan University and Dartmouth College.


Specialists from Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) from Tehran, Abhar and Marvdasht are accompanying them.


In addition to the bricks, one clay seal was also unearthed.


Abdi said that portrait of a human being has been inscribed on the seal. Studies will be carried out to identify the date of the seal.


Melian historical site or Enshan historical city is located at Beiza district of Sepidan in Fars province. Its area is 200 hectares.



More ancient sites to be submerged by Sahand Dam

Tehran Times Culture Desk


TEHRAN (MNA) -- In the marathon to submerge Iran’s ancient and historical sites, this time officials plan to flood a number of ancient sites through the construction of the Sahand Dam near Hashtrud in East Azerbaijan Province, which will become operational next year.


Archaeologists have said that over ten ancient sites in the region, some from the fifth millennium B.C., will buried under the water, an official of the East Azerbaijan Province Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department said on Saturday.


“Construction of the dam was only announced to the officials of the department after it was 50 percent completed,” said Mohammad Feiz-Khah.


“The dam will cause serious damage to Iranian cultural heritage,” said Bahram Omrani, the deputy director of the East Azerbaijan Province Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department.


“We plan to ask the East Azerbaijan Province Regional Water Authority to reduce the height of the dam to save some of the sites,” he added.


The Iranian media recently reported that ancient sites from the Elamite era are being submerged in Khuzestan Province by the Karun-3 Dam, which came on stream on November 7.


In related news, the Gilan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department has announced that 16 historic sites will be submerged by a dam that is to be constructed on the Pol-Rud River near the city of Rudsar in Gilan Province.


In addition, construction of the Sivand Dam has begun in the region of Teng-e Bolaghi, four kilometers from Pasargadae, the ancient capital of the Achaemenids. The dam is scheduled to be completed by March 21, 2005 and afterwards a part of the ancient city will be buried under tons of mud from the Polvar River. Pasargadae was registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List last July.


Archaeologists have also said that the Gilan-e Gharb Dam is threatening a number of ancient sites dating back to the first millennium B.C. in Iran’s western province of Kermanshah.



3,000-year-old family grave


An unplundered family grave, dating back over 3,000 years, has been discovered in the southern Peloponnese, the Culture Ministry said yesterday.


The Mycenaean chamber tomb, an artificial cave dug into the soft rock, was found during terracing work on a knoll near the village of Peristeri, some 47 kilometers southeast of Sparta. It contained the skeletons of nine adults and a child, and was furnished with grave goods made of clay, bronze and semiprecious stones — including a steatite seal-stone, a bronze razor and a pair of tweezers used by Mycenaean women to pluck their eyebrows. The child’s bones were ringed with upturned vases.


The finds, tentatively dated to between 1340 and 1050 BC, were extracted during a feverish dig carried out around the clock for security reasons, in which state archaeologists and laborers were helped by local residents.



Gallic war treasure discovered in southern France

Sat Nov 27, 2:58 PM ET   Science - AFP


BORDEAUX, France (AFP) - French archaeologists said this week they had discovered an exceptional Gallic war treasure in the south of the country, including rare war trumpets and ornate helmets.


The some 470 objects, or fragments of objects, were found at the end of September during a dig at Naves, in the department of Correze in southern France, in a ditch hollowed out of a Gallic-Roman temple, they said.


"The exceptional character of this discovery lies mainly in the presence of five almost complete carnyx," Christophe Maniquet, an archeologist at Inrap, France's national institute for Archeological studies, said.


"They are celtic war trumpets which were used to scare off the enemy, by confusing the battle," he said.


He said it was the first time these ceremonial musical instruments had been found in one piece. The long, bronze tubes, measuring more than two metres long, have flags on the end, four of which bear the head of a wild boar, the fifth a snake.


"In all, in the world, there have only been fragments of these instruments, in Scotland and Mandeure (eastern France). We only know these trumpets through drawings," he said, saying they had in particular been seen represented on coins.


The searches of the temple, including into the first occupations, which date back to the first century BC, started in September 2001.


In addition to the traditional warfare -- swords, sheathes and spearheads, the archaeologists made another special discovery: nine war helmets, of which eight in bronze and one in iron, with their rearpeaks.


One of them was particularly original, being decorated with a swan, while another was decorated with golden leaves.


"We have only found around 20 helmets in the territory of the ancient Gaul," Maniquet said.


The discovery does not end there.


Also unearthed in the search are bronze animals' heads -- boars and a horse.


"These animals could be war signs, placed at the end of the poles which guided soldiers during battles," he said.


There are only five kinds of this kind of sign.


Experts say the experts could be a real "war trophy", and appear to have been buried for religious reasons.


"The fact of having buried them amounts to a ritual of offering," he said.


Most of the collection has been sent to a laboratory in Toulouse to be cleaned, carefully studied by archaeologists and then restored.


"We hope to see these objects on show in a museum in two or three years' time," Maniquet said.


"All specialists, whether English, German or Italian, of the Celtic period will come rushing to see these exceptional objects."



Stone age relics found off coast


The site of a stone age settlement, preserved under layers of silt, has been discovered off the coast of the Isle of Wight.


Included in the find is a fire pit, presumed to be an oven, which was first used about 9,000 years ago.


The settlement, now thirty feet beneath the sea and 500 yards off the coast of Bouldnor, was found by divers.


The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology hope to gather funds for a full investigation.


A small flint tool was also found embedded in a piece of wood near the oven.


More details of the finds will be given at a public lecture in Newport on Thursday.



Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2004/11/25 12:44:36 GMT




Eagle secret of Bronze Age burial




ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Scotland have made a "hugely significant" discovery by unearthing the best and most comprehensively-dated Bronze Age site in the UK.


The tightly clustered group of 29 cremation pits, one containing eagle talons, was uncovered at Skilmafilly when the gas maintenance company Transco was excavating and installing its £56 million gas pipeline from St Fergus to Aberdeen.


With no previous indications of the burial site, either from ground-level observations or aerial photographs, the pits were stumbled on by chance. Transco called in archaeological contractors to check the site while the pipeline was being installed.


Of the 29 pits containing remains, 11 revealed cremation urns with ashes, some of which were laid to rest individually, others seemingly as families. The remains belonged to a community living in the area west of Peterhead, in Aberdeenshire, between 2000BC and 1500BC. In all, the remains of at least 35 people were unearthed.


There were also several important artefacts from the period. An ornate stone bead was found, as were bone pins and antler toggles, probably used to fasten the garments of the deceased, which went on the pyre with the person.


A skilfully crafted flint leaf-shaped knife was discovered with the ashes of an old man, and two golden eagle talons were found in an urn containing the remains of a child and two adults. It is the first time the talons of a golden eagle have been found in a Bronze Age burial site, and experts believe it indicates that the community believed in an after-life, with their purpose perhaps being to protect the child in the journey to the next world. It also serves to indicate the prestige in which the bird was held at the time, possibly being revered and serving as a religious totem.


Previously unused radio carbon dating techniques developed at Groningen University in the Netherlands allowed researchers at CFA Archaeology in Musselburgh to date the ashes and bones accurately.


Dr Melanie Johnson, post excavation manager at CFA Archaeology, said: "The fact that we have dated every single person that we found cremated is hugely significant in archaeological terms.


"We do not stumble across sites like this very often, and it also helps with dating all the objects that were found with the deceased."


Many of those buried were suffering medical ailments, including cranial pitting, dental disease, spinal degeneration and arthritis, all of which were relatively common at the time and do not indicate that the community was in uncommonly poor health.


Dr Alison Sheridan, the head of prehistory at the National Museums of Scotland and an expert on the Bronze Age, said: "There is a huge amount we can learn from this site, in particular from the accuracy with which it has been dated."


Dr Sheridan said the remains belonged to members of a "self-sufficient farming community". She said: "We don’t know very much about their houses because, being organic, you very rarely find traces of their buildings. However, in all probability they would have lived in fairly substantial roundhouses and their lives would not have been miserable, by any means."


The population of Bronze Age Scotland is difficult to estimate, but Dr Sheridan said it would have been at least several thousand in this community’s time. She concluded: "They would have had trade routes in tin from Devon and Cornwall, and the flint may have come from the north-west of Scotland. You could dress them in modern clothes and if they walked down the street they’d be indistinguishable from us."



Viking map may rewrite US history

Agençe France-Presse

Friday, 26 November 2004


Experts are testing the map to see if it is really evidence for Vikings landing in the New World first, not Columbus (Image: Climate Monitoring & Diagnostics Lab)

Danish experts will travel to the U.S. to study evidence that the Vikings landed in the New World five centuries before Columbus.


A controversial parchment said to be the oldest map of America could, if authentic, support the theory that the Vikings arrived first.


The map is said to date from 1434 and was found in 1957. Some people believe it is evidence that Vikings, who departed from Greenland around the year 1000, were the first to land in the Americas.


The document is of Vinland, the part of North America believed to be what is today the Canadian province of Newfoundland, and was supposedly discovered by the Viking Leif Eriksen, the son of Erik the Red.


Three researchers from the Danish Royal Library and School of Conservation hope that modern techniques developed in Denmark will be able to "shed more light on this document whose authenticity is questioned worldwide", said Rene Larsen, head of the School of Conservation in Copenhagen and the leader of the project.


The trio will on Monday begin their work on the map, which is kept at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Connecticut.


The three have been "authorised to, for two to three days, photograph, analyse with microscope and undertake various studies of the document and its ink, but not alter it", Larsen said.


He said the results of the study would be presented early next year.


"We hope that the new techniques that we have developed in Denmark ... will help to better [date] the document and ink with which the map was drawn in order to lift the veil on its authenticity or counterfeit," he said.


The map was considered a sensation when it was found. Experts largely agree that the parchment dates from the 1400s, but by the 1970s some experts had begun arguing that the ink used contained materials that were only developed in the 20th century.


U.K. chemist Professor Robin Clark, from University College London, has meanwhile said he believed the document was a fake.


He based his conclusion on the work of another researcher, Dr Walter McCrone, who in the 1970s found that the ink contained a derivative of titanium dioxide, which did not exist until the 1920s, according to the journal Analytical Chemistry.



The Vikings: A Memorable Visit to America


Exploring the New World a thousand years ago, a Viking woman gave birth to what is likely the first European-American baby. The discovery of the house the family built upon their return to Iceland has scholars rethinking the Norse sagas


Roughly 1,000 years ago, the story goes, a Viking trader and adventurer named Thorfinn Karlsefni set off from the west coast of Greenland with three ships and a band of Norse to explore a new land that promised fabulous riches. Following the route that had been pioneered some seven years before by Leif Eriksson,


Thorfinn sailed up Greenland's coast, traversed the Davis Strait and turned south past Baffin Island to Newfoundland—and perhaps beyond. Snorri, the son of Thorfinn and his wife, Gudrid, is thought to be the first European baby born in North America.


About three years after starting out, Thorfinn—along with his family and surviving crew—abandoned the North American settlement. After sailing to Greenland and then Norway, Thorfinn and his family settled in Iceland, Thorfinn's childhood home.


Just where the family ended up in Iceland has been a mystery that historians and archaeologists have long tried to clear up. In September 2002, archaeologist John Steinberg of the University of California at Los Angeles announced that he had uncovered the remains of a turf mansion in Iceland that he believes is the house where Thorfinn, Gudrid and Snorri lived out their days.


The location of Thorfinn's family estate in Iceland could shed new light on the early Norse experience in North America. The only accounts of how and why Vikings journeyed to the New World, not to mention what became of them, are in Icelandic sagas, centuries-old tales that have traditionally vexed scholars struggling to separate Viking fantasy from Viking fact. Steinberg's find, if proved, would give credence to one saga over another.


By Steinberg's admission, he found the imposing longhouse—on the grounds of one of northern Iceland's most visited cultural sites, the Glaumbaer Folk Museum—"by dumb luck." For decades, visitors had gazed upon the field in front of the museum, unaware that evidence of one of the grandest longhouses of the Viking era lay just beneath the grass.



Moors murders scientist traces buried medieval village

MARTIN WILLIAMS November 23 2004


A LOST medieval village has been discovered by a scientist who led a search for Moors Murder victims.


Professor John Hunter and a team of 15 have discovered what is believed to be a buried medieval crofting settlement while carrying out general field survey work in and around a harbour village in the Western Isles.


Artefacts buried under the clachan of Rodel, on south Harris, may provide evidence that the community was once an international trading centre, with vessels arriving from Scandinavia and also the Mediterranean.


It is not yet known what remains could be found if further investigation is carried out.


Up to 30 houses are understood to be buried on a croft next to St Clement's Church, recognised as one of the grandest examples of medieval buildings anywhere on the Western Isles. Professor Hunter and his team, from the University of Birmingham, used geophysical technology to scan the ground and provide a "footprint" of the hidden village.


Homes were thought to have been arranged around two separate streets with one winding up to the site of the current church of St Clement's.


Harris Development, the economic regeneration body which invited the study, is now to seek funding to support further investigation of the area next year and a possible excavation of the site.


It sees an opportunity to turn the lost village into a key area for tourism and is already tentatively considering providing an interpretation centre.


Professor Hunter is a forensic archaeologist and assisted police in 2001 as they tried to find victims buried on Saddleworth Moor by murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley in the 1960s.


The professor, who had a firm grounding in archeological studies on Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles before carrying out forensic work, said: "I think that it is important for Scotland generally because it is not often that you get a discovery of medieval settlements. They are fairly elusive.


"One of the problems we have with looking at the Middle Ages is that there does not appear to be much remaining of buildings and settlements. We are okay before and after that but we don't seem to have anything around then."

Duncan MacPherson, development officer for HDL, said there was a lot of excitement about the discovery.


"It is definitely exciting and we are looking forward to find out more about it."

Professor Hunter, head of ancient history and archaeology at the University of Birmingham, was earlier this year brought in to help Northern Constabulary solve the mystery disappearance of Renee MacRae, 36, and toddler Andrew, three, who vanished in November 1976, days before her burned out BMW car was found abandoned in a lay-by.


But it was in the late 1980s that he began to develop an interest in forensic archaeology, where archeological skills are applied to criminal investigations. His interest in this area led him to establish the Forensic Search Advisory Group, which acts as a central support agency for police forces in the search and recovery of bodies.


He was named Archaeologist of the Year by the Council for British Archaeology eight years ago for his work in the field.



Waterloo lessons could aid medics 


British soldiers in a dramatisation of the Battle of Waterloo


The battle of Waterloo could help doctors fight death from multiple organ failure - the number one killer of intensive care patients.


Scientists at University College London are launching a study into why multiple organ failure kills some critically ill patients but not others.


Professor Mervyn Singer said impressive survival statistics from the battle may provide a clue.


He said they showed the body's ability to heal itself under harsh conditions.


Of the 52 privates in the 13th Light Dragoons wounded by sabre, gunfire and cannon injuries at Waterloo, only two subsequently died.


Professor Singer said: "Despite the non-existence of antibiotics, blood transfusions, life-support machines and other paraphernalia of modern intensive care, most of these soldiers recovered, often from life-threatening injuries.


"Yet with all our technical advances in medicine, mortality rates from conditions such as sepsis (bacterial infection of the bloodstream) haven't improved dramatically over the past century.


"The question we need to ask ourselves is whether our present understanding of underlying pathology in medicine is leading us down the wrong path, and whether our current interventions may even be injurious to the healing process."


Professor Singer said modern treatments trigger changes in the patient's inflammatory and immune responses, or influence other factors such as hormone release and circulation in ways we do not fully appreciate.


"Even lowering the temperature of a feverish patient may be counter-productive.


"We may need to be more strategic in our treatments and therapies, tailoring them to how the body responds naturally to sepsis and other critical illnesses."


Survival statistics from the battle of Waterloo throw up an even more radical theory - that multiple organ failure, triggered by severe trauma or subsequent infection, may actually represent the body's last-ditch attempt to survive in the face of a critical illness.


By switching itself off and becoming dormant, as with hibernating animals during extreme cold, the body may thus be able to tide itself through the critical period.


Support for this theory comes from the fact that the organs invariably recover, to the point of appearing remarkably normal, within days to weeks when the patient survives.


The UCL team will carry out a large study of multiple organ failure induced by sepsis, which kills around a third of patients in intensive care.


Ultimately, they hope that by understanding why people either survive or die from this condition, new therapies can be developed to reduce the period of illness and death rate.


Preliminary work suggests that the body's ability to store and use energy efficiently may play a part in determining whether a patient will recover.


The hormone leptin, which regulates hunger, body weight and metabolism, seems to play a key role.


Dr Paul Glynne, who is also working on the study, said: "We think that some septic patients become deficient in leptin and this leads to energy failure and subsequent organ dysfunction.


"Exploring the relationship between leptin, body energy regulation and the severity of critical illness will reveal whether leptin, or one of its downstream targets, could potentially be developed as a new therapy for septic patients with organ failure." 





12:03 - 26 November 2004


A man equipped to steal treasure from an important archaeological site was caught red-handed with the help of the police helicopter.


Raymond Tebble was spotted with a metal detector and a spade at night in a field where Roman and Iron Age coins have been unearthed, near Market Harborough.


Tebble had travelled from South Shields. He was jailed for a month after admitting going equipped to steal and his metal detector was also confiscated.


Tebble's conviction was welcomed by museum bosses, who hope it would deter people from trying to loot the site.


Market Harborough Magistrates' Court heard how on August 10, Tebble was spotted on the site - deemed to be of world importance - by a passer-by who called police. Patrols with sniffer dogs were sent to the scene and the force helicopter was scrambled. It trapped Tebble in its search beams but two camouflaged accomplices with him managed to escape.


The court heard there was a problem with looters at the site, declared Crown property at a treasure trove inquest earlier this year.


Annelli Pritchard, defending, said metal detecting was Tebble's hobby. She insisted he was not a thief, had no previous convictions and had not gone on to the site. She told the court the two men were birdwatchers.


Magistrates' bench chairman Joy Russell, said the fact that Tebble had travelled a long distance and not co-operated with police by refusing the identify his accomplices, were aggravating features to the case.


She added: "We cannot find any mitigating features in this case."


After the hearing, Leicestershire County Council finds liaison officer Wendy Scott said: "We welcome the conviction and hope it discourages others. This is an exceptional archaeological site."


Harborough MP Edward Garnier said: "I have had meetings with constituents who are members of Leicestershire Archaeological Society who have tried to guard the site. I am very pleased an arrest has led to a jail sentence, although I am not sure one month will have much deterrent effect."



Tuesday 23 November 2004 09:30

Department for Culture, Media And Sport (National)




A comfortable 1920s eight bedroom house in the suburbs of Oxford is to become a Grade II listed building, Heritage Minister Andrew McIntosh announced today.


Despite having no special architectural qualities, the house is to get the extra protection from alteration or demolition that listed building status confers, because of its historical importance.


For it was there - between 1930 and 1947 - that Prof. JRR Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and virtually all of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, recently voted the 'most popular book in Britain' in a BBC survey.


Andrew McIntosh said:


"Buildings are usually listed because of their fine architecture or unique design. But we can also give protection to buildings that have historical association with nationally important people or events. Professor Tolkien's house in Oxford is a fine example of this.


"The house is largely unaltered since Tolkien's time, with original doors, doorhandles and ornate window catches. As such it is an important part of our national heritage, and worthy of the additional layer of protection that listing brings."


Notes to Editors


1. The house - at 20 Northmoor Road, Oxford - was built in 1924 by Fred Openshaw, a local architect, for Basil Blackwell, the owner of Oxford's famours bookshop. JRR Tolkien lived in the house from 1930 to 1947 and is known to have written The Hobbit and most of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the drawing room. The interior plan, as well as numerous features, survives unaltered except for the removal of a wall between the former study and drawing room (by Prof. Tolkien) in order to increase the size of his study, presumably to accommodate the increasing number of reference books required to write his work. The main purpose of listing a building is to ensure that care will be taken over decisions affecting its future, that any alterations respect the particular character and interest of the building, and that the case for its preservation is taken fully into account in considering the merits of any redevelopment proposals. The listing covers the whole of the building. Any significant changes to exterior, interior or within the curtilage of the building would require listed building consent. The listing is not restricted to features mentioned in the list description.


2. The criteria for listing are set out in Section 6 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment (PPG15). This can be found on this web page: http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_planning/documents/page/odpm_plan_606900.hcsp