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Cocktails with Keiller*

November 21, 2014

I may be going around in self-referential circles because this post is again tangential to Richard Morris’ Times Anvil but owes far more to Lynda Murray’s A Zest for Life. I’ve been re-reading this and thinking about the stories I was told about Keiller when I was a student in Wiltshire, I’m sure most were untrue but given the tale about the raincoat, laundry basket and umbrella who knows? One of the stories I’m sure is true was that when the new owners came to drain the pond at Avebury Manor they discovered it was full of empty champagne bottles (and discarded Gentleman’s Relish pots).

Reading Lynda’s book, and discovering Keiller died of cancer in 1955 I couldn’t help thinking ‘How did he live to be 66? His liver must have been pickled!’ Murray quotes from a letter he wrote after attending the Oxford University Ski Club Dinner ‘. . . sixteen of us consumed a hundred and fifty cocktails before the meal began. I clearly recollect doing my share up to this point, after which point I do not very clearly recollect anything’ (Keiller 1932 in Murray 1991: 62). There are other remarks about his alcohol consumption, but it was Murray’s reference to Antonia White’s complaint that Keiller always made a scene over the correct mixing of his martini cocktail that sent me off in search of an authentic Martini recipe to share with you. I quickly discovered cocktail books are very serious in their approach to their subject, Keiller was not alone in getting worked up over the correct mix. The slightest change results in a whole new drink and presumably if the instructions are not followed precisely cocktail calamity will result and wealthy archaeologists will make a terrible scene! The following is from The Classic 1000 Cocktails by Robert Cross – with asides from me:

To make a Martini

The correct implements must be used: a mixing glass, frosted cocktail glass, barspoon [presumably any old long-handled spoon simply will not do] and hawthorn strainer [not, as I supposed, a small sieve made out of hawthorn, but this] are essential.

Any Martini ordered ‘on the rocks’ should be served in a Rocks glass three-quarters filled with broken ice cubes. This presentation seems to be becoming more common [is it just me or does he sound like he strongly disapproves of this new-fangled drink?].


The Martini can be prepared with olive or twist etc. If a twist is specified, see Methods and prepare this first.

Ensure the glass has been thoroughly chilled, or fill it with crushed ice and discard this just before use.

Half fill a mixing glass with ice cubes (see Clean Ice in Methods) and add the ingredients. Stir with the long-handled barspoon. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston stir its Martini exactly 12 times! [I think this is what passes for humour in cocktail writer terms].

Remove glass from fridge, or crushed ice from glass.

Place the hawthorn strainer over the top of the mixing glass and strain into the glass. Add the specified twist or comestible and serve. After squeezing the twist, some people prefer it to be discarded.

[Finally we get to actual recipes]

Dry Martini Cocktail (4:1)

Dry/Plain flavour

A drink of very subtle flavour.

President F.D. Roosevelt (1892-1945) made one of these in front of the television cameras to celebrate the end of Prohibition.

3 msr gin

3/4 msr dry vermouth

1 teaspoon orange bitters (Optional – popular in the 1930s. A dash or two of the similar curacao/triple sec was used in the earliest Martinis).

Stir and strain into a frosted glass.

Add either twist of lemon or green olive.

When a green olive and a Jalepino pepper are used, this is a Hot Martini.

When a black olive is used, this is a Buckeye Martini.

For an Extra Dry Martini (8:1), use only half the vermouth shown in a Dry Martini.


Martini Cocktail (2:1)

Dry/Herb flavour

The standard Martini. A drink of subtle flavour and something of an acquired taste. [That's a phrase that always fills me with suspicion - why would I want to work at enjoying a drink?]

2 1/2 msr gin

1 1/4 msr dry vermouth

1 teaspoon orange bitters (optional)

Stir or strain into frosted glass. Add twist of lemon or green olive.

If an olive stuffed with an almond is used, this is a Boston Bullet.

If 1 teaspoon each of lemon vodka and dry orange curacao are included and a lime twist added, this is a Fourteen Club Martini. [Who, or what, the Fourteen Club is, or was, isn't explained, thankfully!]


For anyone still awake and caring at this point I can reveal that ‘the twist’ is ’3-6cm length of pith-free citrus peel, held over the drink and twisted in the centre to release a little essential oil on to the surface. Add twist to drink unless otherwise stated. See Garnishes.’ Let’s not and pretend we did, eh?

So, there you have it, recipes for a Martini Cocktail, quite possibly neither of these is the recipes Keiller required, or there may have been some variation in how he thought they should be mixed, but rather than do any more research I’m off to make myself a cup of tea – I prefer leaf to tea bag but the choice is yours, add the milk before or after the tea it’s up to you, have it as strong or as weak as you like, sugar optional. My only stipulations are make sure it’s an ethical blend, ensure the water is properly boiling and, unless you’re a vegan, serve in a bone china mug/cup.

Have a great weekend


* When I began HARN blogging I promised Ulf and Kate I wouldn’t write about food, knitting or my cats, this may look like the thin end of the wedge and I know I’ve mentioned the cats but I promise never to blog about knitting, unless I can work it into a relevant post, obviously!



November 14, 2014
Wiltshire, OS and police map

Wiltshire, OS and police map

I’ve been thinking a great deal about Wiltshire in the past few weeks. It all stems from reviewing Richard Morris’ Time’s AnvilIn a casual aside he suggests one of the reasons Wessex and the chalklands have been given so much prominence in archaeology is because so many archaeologists came from that area (Morris 2013: 151). This remark kept coming back to me and to my surprise I felt increasingly irritated by it and also very defensive of the county. I knew I was over-reacting, but in my head I repeatedly argued that, in fact, Wiltshire and the rest of Wessex is very important in British archaeology. It may not have the earliest occupation sites, it may not have the significance it had in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and obviously Piggott’s Wessex Culture is no longer accepted by prehistorians, but that doesn’t mean the county is irrelevant to archaeology – Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill and the whole landscape around Windmill Hill – surely they rate as important in archaeological terms?

Windmill Hill - image from English Heritage

Windmill Hill – image from English Heritage

As part of my interior argument with Morris I began to catalogue all the sites I’d been involved with: I’ve dug a Mesolithic flint working site next to Avebury circle, been involved in the excavations on Windmill Hill, at West Kennet and other Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, investigated the water meadows and environment of West Overton, I’ve been through the archives of All Cannings Cross, Battlesbury Camp and Yarnbury Castle, I’ve visited Littlecote Roman Villa, the Baths at Bath (technically Somerset, I know but close enough!) admired Wiltshire Saxon churches and if you want medieval archaeology then Wiltshire can supply that too. Tudor and Elizabethan architecture more your thing? Try Avebury Manor, Corsham Court, Lacock Abbey or Longleat. The Georgians are equally well represented, as are the Victorians and if you want modernism it’s here too. And, as if that wasn’t enough, there’s an ongoing major experimental archaeology project.

Overton Down Experimental Earthwork image from

Overton Down Experimental Earthwork image from

It was only when I read Helen’s article about Dora Emerson Chapman, who was married to Alexander Keiller,  that I began to unpick why I was being so oversensitive. As you may have gathered I’ve spent a lot of time in Wiltshire, particularly the area around Avebury. As an undergraduate I went there annually, it’s where I learnt how to be an archaeologist and, at the same time, learnt how to be an adult. It was the setting for outrageous behaviour, appalling hangovers, hilarious evenings, fantastic friendships, and many other superlatives that I’m sure you too will have experienced (although I hope only I had the misfortune to experience the day of the ex-boyfriends). And, as a postgraduate I repeatedly returned to do research. As a student I’d been taught about Aubrey, Stukeley, Colt Hoare and Pitt Rivers, but those annual Wiltshire fieldtrips had also introduced other, less well known, archaeologists. Anyone who has visited Avebury or Devizes museum will be aware of Alexander Keiller or the Cunningtons and the mark they made on the Wiltshire landscape.

Obviously as an undergraduate I was way more interested in Keiller, Lynda’s book hadn’t been published then but the stories about Keiller were still circulating. Unless it’s corroborated by Lynda I have no idea what’s true and what’s fiction, and I’ve undoubtedly forgotten much of what I was told, all of it scurrilous, all of it entertaining! It was only as a postgraduate that I became interested in the Cunningtons and realised that the offspring of William Cunnington of Cunnington and Colt Hoare fame had continued the family interest in archaeology. When Keiller was using his vast wealth to dig Windmill Hill and re-errect stones at Avebury Ben and Maud Cunnington were the active archaeological members of the Cunnington clan, digging a wide variety of sites in North Wiltshire. A clash between these two camps was inevitable: on the one hand a respectable middle class woman, daughter of a doctor, married to a leading Devizes merchant and, by marriage, part of an archaeological dynasty stretching back 100 years; on the other a wealthy upper-class man who cared nothing for parochial morality or mores, drank far too much, flaunted his mistresses, and, worst of all, possibly only had a dilettante interest in archaeology. Add in the death of the Cunningtons’ only child (a doctor) in the First World War and Keiller’s survival of the same and a feud was unavoidable. As a story it has everything, class, gender, heroic tragedy, sex, alcohol, fast cars and, um, archaeology. Ok so archaeology isn’t a necessary ingredient in most such stories, but here it was very important to the combatants, the correct way to do archaeology, the correct people to do archaeology and the purpose of archaeology. And, it was this interplay of competing ideas about archaeology and the influence of class and gender that sparked my interest in history. My very first published history of archaeology paper was a study of Maud Cunnington and necessarily also discussed Keiller. Sadly the heroic tragedy, sex, alcohol and fast cars were only mentioned in passing while the archaeology took the lead role – perhaps I should go back and rewrite it? On second thoughts, given how much I’ve struggled to read this, perhaps I’m not cut out for drama.

Anyway, wrenching this post back to a semblance of a point, I realised I was reacting so irrationally and defensively to Morris comment because my life has been so intertwined with those chalklands, excavation, research, family  – they all lead back to Wiltshire and no matter how far I’ve moved away from those early influences they’re still an important part of who I am today.

My next question is – am I alone in this or do we all have places (or people) we can identify as the starting point of our journey along the history of archaeology? If not, why did you become a historian of archaeology? Answers – please, I’m intrigued! – in the comments, as Howard’s pointed out the weblink to the email account isn’tworking at the moment

Have a great weekend



HARN at TAG Manchester?

November 7, 2014

The list of accepted sessions for TAG 2014 has been posted online.While there are no specific history of archaeology sessions this year I’m sure plenty of you will be at the conference. My question is – what, if any, presence should HARN have there? Should we have a stand? Try to be included in the promotional literature? Would you like a HARN social event? If so, what sort of event?

Either email me here or leave a comment below.

Have a great weekend


A Conversation with Disney Professor Cyprian Broodbank

November 7, 2014


You are warmly invited to ‘A Conversation with Disney Professor Cyprian Broodbank’ next Wednesday, 12th November!

Tea and cakes will be served from 4pm, with the sharing of Professor Broodbank’s personal histories from 4.30pm. This promises to be an engaging and entertaining event – and we hope that many of you can join us!
To be held in the South Lecture  Room, Department of Archaeology, Downing Site. For a map of this location, please click here.

For any queries, please email

With best wishes from the Personal Histories Team

Archaeology Among the Ruins

November 5, 2014

HARN member Debbie Challis has sent us notice of her upcoming talk

Exhibition special event – Archaeology Among the Ruins

A group explore the ruins of the South Portico at Thebes

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Enjoy a free live speech-to-text lunchtime lecture in The Queen’s Gallery, join us as we look at the photographer Francis Bedford who accompanied the Prince of Wales’s on his tour of the East in 1862. Although Bedford’s work fitted into a long western tradition of picturing the ‘the Orient’, during this period photography was also becoming increasingly respected as a science.  Using Bedford’s later studies of antiquities Dr Debbie Challis (Petrie Museum, University College London) explores the effect photography had on another emerging science: archaeology.

Booking advisable.

Booking information for this event and the accompanying exhibition Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East can be found here

Book Review – Time’s Anvil: England, Archaeology and the Imagination

October 31, 2014

Well, despite me saying I wasn’t sure it deserved all the rave reviews, I did change my mind to a certain extent. I think I was having an off day and suffering from grumpiness. Also, I’d been reading Philip Reeve books to my son and no matter how good a history of archaeology may be, it can’t compare to post-apocalyptic worlds with predator cities or steampunk adventures in outer space. Be that as it may, Time’s Anvil is still pretty good even if it’s not as compelling or revelatory as the reviews suggest.

This is not the history of archaeology as written by Brian Fagan, John Romer or William Stiebing. It’s not a linear history of ‘great men’ – although it does occasionally stray into that territory. This is a serious attempt at popular history similar to Simon Winchester’s The Map that Changed the World or Bill Bryson’s At Home not quite hitting the highs of Stephen Jay Gould, but getting pretty close.

I think the main problem is that Richard Morris is trying to do too many things in one book and inevitably something has to give. He says the book is about the history of archaeology, how archaeology has been portrayed over the years and how the past has been understood at different times, how the past changes with new information and the dismantling of preconceived ideas. Additionally this is the history of himself within archaeology, his personal history of who he is and how he became involved in archaeology. He also discusses time, epochs and moments, punctuated equilibrium and how the past is created rather than found (although oddly he also believes some historical truths can be found) and how interpretation is contextual:

‘History is enquiry, and that enquiry is prompted by scepticism . . . History’s subject is change, its causes and means . . . the thrust of a question will alter according to who asks it, when, or why and within what framework of thought or knowledge’ (Morris 2013: 4).

Another major theme is Englishness and ‘the English’ and what this means and the mythology behind the ideas. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the book also includes several critiques of the tiny amount of history taught under the British Government’s National Curriculum and critiques of historians who ignore archaeological discoveries.

Looking first at the positives:

Richard Morris treats his readers with respect, he expects them to be au fait with ideas about time, evolution, history and archaeology and supplies an impressive bibliography for those who want to read further. He talks about chronologies, Bayesian statistics and taphonomy, I don’t think I’ve ever come across these in a history of archeology and certainly not a popular one.

This is not a sequential narrative of ideas about the past from antiquarianism through to the modern-day, you won’t find the usual suspects of Camden, Aubrey or Stukeley here. Nor does Morris discuss each ‘age’ in turn–there is very little about the Bronze and Iron Ages or the Roman occupation of Britain. However, unlike many historians of archaeology, Morris doesn’t see archaeology as limited to prehistory, instead post-Roman, medieval, ecclesiastical, industrial and contemporary archaeology are all covered.

He also makes the point that not only do historians and archaeologists carve up the past into artificial frameworks, we then assign characters to these divisions – the ‘Bronze Age’, the ‘Iron Age’, the ‘Roaring 20s’ – and the assumption is that this compartmentalisation reflects a cultural reality and the material evidence will reflect the social, political or ethnic entities we’ve invented e.g. ‘Celtic metalwork’, ‘Norman churches’ and ‘Georgian Houses’.

Morris hops about in his narrative and this book is full of unexpected information such as the development of modern theatre from passion plays and religious games, his lengthy discussion of Major Allen and the development of aerial photography, archaeology’s role in the conservation movement, and how investigations of battlefield archaeology have not only changed how we understand events such as the English Civil War but have also rehabilitated of metal detectorists into mainstream archaeology. His unpicking of the myth of England as an Anglo-Saxon creation leads to a chapter about deserted villages (Tall Nettles) and another on the amazing discoveries at the supposedly Anglo-Saxon village of West Heslerton (Becoming English). In turn these chapters are used to develop his contention that we need to think carefully about the words we use and our own preconceptions, he asks what do we mean by ‘village’? By ‘English’? Why are the Neolithic clearances and settlements not given the same weight as later land use? Why do we see a deserted village as a failed enterprise? He also – as I understand it – suggests that rather than classifying settlements by period, ‘Roman villas’ or ‘medieval villages’, we should look at the places where they occur ‘it may be that the underlying characteristics have as much or more to do with place as with time’ (Morris 2013: 206).

All of these points are used to support his contention that archaeologists and historians still prefer the easy answers of a singular account rather than the complex fluidity revealed by excavation. And this is another positive, Morris is an opinionated and impassioned archaeologist, his irritation with the narrowness of school curriculum history, of lazy thinking historians, of archaeologists who don’t look outside the trench or their own limited interests, comes through very clearly and makes for an invigorating read.

I’m not so sure about his placing of himself and his life in the narrative, it’s an intriguing approach and there are chapters where this works very well, particularly chapters 1 and 9  (Heartland and A Company of Saints) which deal with his family and involvement in archaeology and the consecration of the church where his father was the vicar. But there are places where this inclusion feels clunky and strained chapters 6, 13 and 14 (Notes from a Dark Wood, Nickel Plate and Brummagen, and Cousin Jack). It is, as many phenomenologists have discovered, a delicate trick to get the balance right and while Morris should be applauded for the attempt I’m not convinced it entirely works.

The book does occasionally feel like it’s been written for effect rather than for ease of reading, because it covers so many areas and so many subjects it is easy to lose track of where he’s been and where he’s going with his argument. And again, some of the connections feel strained, particularly the Epilogue which I’ve now read several times and still feel I’m missing the point. Perhaps everything doesn’t connect after all?

Some of the explanations Morris suggests are unconvincing, he argues Danish 20th century archaeologists were interested in daily life and economy because they were a nation of small farmers, in contrast British archaeologists emphasised conquest and colonisation because of their colonial interests. It’s a nice idea, but the Danes had and still have colonial interests and many Brits still farmers. It also overlooks Childe, Clark and all the other early 20th century archaeologists writing about the effect of environment on settlement and economy.

While Morris largely avoids the grand narratives of other popular histories there is a lot here that we’ve heard before – the Gothic swooning over ruins giving rise to the Romantic movement and interest in archaeology. The importance of Lyell, Darwin and Hutton to the development of archaeology – I’m not arguing Lyell and Darwin were unimportant but does it really need to be repeated in such uncritical detail? And, having read Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle I no longer believe anyone has actually read Hutton’s work. Morris also celebrates Pitt Rivers and Wheeler for their contributions to fieldwork, but, while these two undeniably changed fieldwork practice, again there is no critique. Wheeler and Pitt Rivers are accepted on their own estimation and praised for their diligence, for always being on site, for keeping all the artefacts recovered, for their recording and publication record. Surely we all now know that this is a myth? Likewise his praise of Bersu’s work at Woodbury is undermined by his ignorance of 1940s understandings of prehistory. These may seem like minor points but Morris’ stated intention is to unpick such myths and repetition of received truths makes our job so much harder.

I do have some minor, personal, gripes with Morris’ work – surely his belief that the majority of archaeologists are unaware of the importance of landscape and multi-period archaeology is out of date? A quick look at recent archaeology publications or around the internet shows that the much of the work now being done is landscaped based. Also, I found the poetry selection tedious rather than enlightening, I appreciate that he studied English at university but as the daughter of English teachers I have limited tolerance for highbrow literature – as I guess I’ve already reveled at the beginning of this review! And, I found his referring to the different forms of Homo sapiens as ‘Old Ones’ and ‘New Ones’ as irritating as fingernails dragging down a blackboard. I see why he’s avoiding categories, but surely he could have found less whimsical terms?

Rather than end on that grumpy note, I will reiterate that this is an interesting take on the history of archaeology. Go and read it and tell me what you think.

Have a great weekend


Two important announcements

October 30, 2014

In the continuing series of thoughts about art and archaeology HARN member Helen Wickstead has been in touch. Unlike my vague bletherings Helen has written a brilliant article  Dora Emerson Chapman, painter and archaeologist which you can read here – Public Catalogue Foundation Newsletter.

Helen’s email reminded me that HARN member Nathan Schlanger sent  this notification about Issue 5 of the Cahiers de l’Ecole du Louvre (October 2014). The issue is dedicated to the theme of “L’Archéologie en construction: objets, images, dispositions”. The French texts are accompanied by English abstracts.

Hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow with a book review but it’s half term here and Halloween so I may be too busy carving pumpkins, dressing up and eating all the sweets my children have charmed from my neighbours.




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