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Read, Watch and Listen

Bronze Age copper alloy palstave axe

This is a Bronze Age copper alloy palstave axe, from which a metallurgical sample has been taken during the mid 20th century. The meanings of the red dot and the text ‘No. 2’ are obscure. The text ‘FOUND IN FORTY ACRES FIELD NEAR WORTHING 1871’ is copied from earlier text, and the date seems to be a mistaken transposition for 1877 – when E.C. Patching discovered a hoard of 40 bronze axes buried in a ceramic urn at this West Sussex location. The text is a reminder of the dangers of introduced errors with each layer of copying and re-writing museum documentation (Pitt Rivers Museum Accession Number 1884.119.111).

Picturing Seizures 1

Paul Richer, Études cliniques sur l'hystéro-épilepsie ou grande hystérie, 1881. This, and the illustration following, depict attempts by medical artists to provide an illustrative account of an epileptic seizure. The physical, high-speed movements of the body are difficult to capture in a static image. Nevertheless, the artist has managed to give a visually striking picture of the stresses under which the human body contorts. The stark line drawing makes clear how such images are an intertwining of medical and artistic representation. © Wellcome Library, London. Creative Commons CC-BY.

Wallpaper designed by A W N Pugin

Registered by Frederick Crace & Son on 12 October 1848. BT 43/84/54787. The architect and designer A W N Pugin was a pioneer of design reform and promoted a revival of Gothic art, which he associated with the Christian values of a pre-industrial age. He is perhaps now best known for his work with Charles Barry on the new Palace of Westminster, for which this wallpaper was made. It was inspired by fifteenth century Italian textile design, and reflects Pugin’s belief that three-dimensional effects in wallpaper should be avoided as ‘dishonest’. Instead the pattern should be flat, reflecting the flat surface of the wall and what he termed ‘truth to materials’.

Prehistoric discoidal flint knife

This prehistoric discoidal flint knife has been made by being bifacially flaked and ground on the edges. The 20th-century label has been made for display purposes in the Pitt Rivers Museum, but includes information from the museum’s documentation and almost certainly from other earlier labels that do not survive. As with other objects, the text provides information about its modern history. ‘Rev. J.C. Clutterbuck’ was a vicar in the village of Long Wittenham, which is on the River Thames in south Oxfordshire. Pitt-Rivers acquired various other Romano-British objects from him, from London and Oxfordshire, as well as this object. (Pitt Rivers Museum Accession Number 2007.74.1)​

Picturing Seizures 2

Paul Richer, Études cliniques sur l'hystéro-épilepsie ou grande hystérie, 1881. Richer’s illustrations (in the previous image and here) also defamiliarize our assumptions. The figures are both athletic and balletic but also monstrously deformed and racked with pain. These images depict the wonder as well as the abjection of the material human condition. © Wellcome Library, London. Creative Commons CC-BY.

Green Purbeck Marble

Digital Photograph 2013

©Rose Ferraby

The polished surface of this stone glimmers with the sectioned remains of ancient shells. The gaping Unio and whirling Viviparus shells give a clue as to its identity. Though not strictly a marble, the high polish taken by this limestone has been made use of since the Roman times. A band of landscape in Purbeck is pitted and uneven where the marble was dug for cathedrals and tombs. It continues to be highly valued.


Plaster cast of a 400,000-year-old Palaeolithic hand-axe

This object is a plaster cast of a 400,000-year-old Palaeolithic hand-axe. A label bears the text “FOUND AT HOXNE, SUFFOLK IN 1797”, which is re-written onto the object – a reference to a discovery by John Frere, who published his ‘Account of Flint Weapons Discovered at Hoxne in Suffolk’ in the journal Archaeologia in 1800. The object is one of  ‘3 casts of implements in the British Mus’ that Pitt-Rivers recorded in his collection. It demonstrates the importance to Pitt-Rivers of acquiring casts of museum objects for comparative purposes. The original axe is still held by the British Museum today (Pitt Rivers Museum Accession Number 1884.122.2).​