Archaeology: American Library Association Award



I was one of the contributors to Paul Bahn’s, Archaeology: The Essential Guide to Our Human Past (Washington DC: Smithsonian, 2017) [website]. The volume has been selected as one of the American Library Association Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2017.


In Britain the volume has been published as Archaeology: The Whole Story (London: Thames & Hudson, 2017) [website].

English Heritage: sponsored by Gateway


Finchale Priory, 1987 (reprinted 1989)

English Heritage (e.g. Dartmouth Castle, Longthorpe Tower) and Historic Scotland guidebooks (e.g. Birsay, Smailholm) carried the logo of Gateway Foodmarkets Ltd. Advertising on official guidebooks has a long history.


Aydon Castle, 1988 (reprinted 1990)


Warkworth Castle, 3rd ed. 1990

Dryburgh Abbey: book cupboard


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill

A book cupboard is located on the east side of the cloister at Dryburgh Abbey. It is adjacent into the main east processional doorway into the church, and on the other side the library and vestry.

J.S. Richardson (in the ‘Blue Guide’) noted: ‘Near the processional doorway is a wall-press or aumbry, once fitted with doors and shelves to contain the books used in the cloister’.


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill


An Inventory for Scotland



The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) presented its final reports in the form of a well illustrated overview of its work from 1908 until its conclusion in 2015. This beautifully designed study includes commentary on the impact of different technologies on how the historic landscape and its features can be mapped and recorded.

Brian Shefton: Classical Archaeologist



Oxford University Press has published a series of essays on refugee scholars who found a home and a welcome at the University of Oxford from 1930.

My contribution was on Professor Brian Shefton (1919-2012), who was brought to England with his parents in the summer if 1933. His father, Professor Isidor Isaac Scheftelowitz, initially found a home at Montefiore College in Ramsgate before moving to Oxford in the summer of 1934. Brian was a scholar at Oriel College, Oxford, where he came under the influence of Paul Jacobsthal and (Sir) John Beazley. His studies were interrupted in 1940 when many refugees of German origin were interned on the Isle of Man. Brian enrolled in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army serving in Yorkshire and Scotland. In 1944 he transferred to the Education Corps.

At the cessation of hostilities Brian returned to Oxford to complete us studies, and in 1947 obtained a School Scholarship at the British School at Athens where he assisted with the excavation of Old Smyrna. During this period he collaborated with colleagues at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) on the publication of some of the pottery from the Agora excavations. One of his significant publications from this time was on the monument to Kallimachos from the Athenian Acropolis.


Nike from the Kallimachos monument on the Athenian Acropolis © David Gill

In 1950 he was appointed Lecturer in Classics at Exeter, and in 1953 moved to King’s College, Newcastle (now Newcastle University). One of his achievements was the creation of the Greek Museum (now incorporated in the Great North Museum). Among his research interests was the distribution of Greek and Etruscan material in Central Europe, a topic no doubt inherited from Jacobsthal.


Brian Shefton lecturing at the opening of the Great North Museum © David Gill

Gill, D. W. J. 2017. “Brian Shefton: classical archaeologist.” In Ark of civilization: refugee scholars and Oxford University, 1930-1945, edited by S. Crawford, K. Ulmschneider, and J. Elsner: 151-60. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Isles of Scilly: guidebook


1949 (repr. 1952)

Bryan H. St. John O’Neil prepared the original guidebook for the Isles of Scilly in 1949. A (posthumous) second edition appeared in 1961, and it continued in print until at least 1971 (5th impression with amendments).

The guide was divided into sections: The Stone Age and Before; The Bronze Age; The Early Iron Age; The Roman Period; The Dark Ages; The Middle Ages; the Sixteenth Century; The Civil War; Later History. There is specific discussion of three burial chambers: Bants Carn; Innisodgen; and Porth Hellick Down.


1961 (2nd ed.; 1971, 5th impress. with amendments)

The second edition is expanded to cover eight (rather than seven) monuments in State Guardianship. There are more plans and illustrations, including one’s for King Charles’s Castle and Cromwell’s Castle.



English Heritage has now published a volume Defending Scilly by Mark Bowden and Allan Brodie (2011). This has three main sections: Introduction; Scilly’s military heritage; Scilly and the sea. There are generous colour illustrations that cover a range of defences, not all in state care.

Terry Levinthal guest blog: On inventories

927_inv_cover_fullConservation professional Terry Levinthal (Director of Conservation at the National Trust for Scotland & Board Member of BEFS) has been reflecting on Inventories for us:

“Three interesting publications crossed my path today. The first, given to me by Diana Murray, former Head of the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS – now subsumed into the new NDPB Historic Environment Scotland) is called “An Inventory for the Nation” which records the 107 year journey of the Commission to produce a permanent and enduring record of the archaeology and antiquities of Scotland.

The second, which arrived by post later in the day was volume 144 of the Proceeding of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (SocAnt). A good proper academic read if there ever was one, I was drawn to an article by James Scott Pedre titled, “Mingary in Ardnamurchan: a review of who could have built the castle.” It was interesting to see liberal references to some of the RCAHMS’s publications, including the seminal Inventories of Argyllshire.

The third publication (actually the first, if I can call it a “publication”) that drew my attention came from the BBC’s Breakfast newscast, which I enjoy most mornings over the first coffee of the day. James Donal Wales was interviewed on the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Wikipedia, the free, open content, collaborative encyclopedia that would accept contributions from ordinary people. Loved and pilloried by all, I was struck by his mission of democratizing knowledge.

In flicking through An Inventory for a Nation, I was also struck by a quote from Roger Mercer, the Commission’s Secretary between 1990 and 2004, where he said, “Published Inventories have not ever really be a practicable, or, perhaps a desirable proposition.… By their nature, they seek to define, and as a result they tend to fossilise what must inevitably be a subject of constant reassessment”. As essentially a national collection for the antiquities of Scotland, this is an undeniable fact. Collections change; our understanding matures; different perspectives re-define.

However, in returning the Volume 144 of the SocAnts Proceedings, I was immediately struck on the timelessness of the Argyll Inventories and how they remain relevant and essential for modern scholastic purposes. The Inventories were referenced in numerous occasions, as were other works such as MacGibbons and Ross work on castles in Scotland (1889).

In essence, these Inventories provide a definable baseline; a point from which later works can be measured. James Wales spoke about his memory of an encyclopaedia, where as a child he would receive updates from the publisher on sticky labels and with his mother would painstakingly stick these over the corrected pages. These corrected passages never actually disappeared; they simply were hidden from view. Can we same the same about the edits to Wiki pages?

With no such fixed baseline, such as Argyll. An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments, Volume 1, Kintyre and the subsequent suite of other volumes, it would prove more challenging to conduct such a review as James Scott Pedre has done.

As such, it is comforting to have been given An Inventory for the Nation, which at least draws a measurable line from which future historians, scholars and management committees may wish to review in times to come. As our national heritage agencies merge and change in response to new challenges, being able to go back to review progress is more important than ever.