Acclaimed musicians Louise Innes and Charlotte Brennand to perform at Dorset County Museum

Louise Innes

Louise Innes

On Thursday 15th May at 1.00pm, a special lunchtime concert takes place in the delightful Victorian Gallery at Dorset County Museum.

Acclaimed mezzo soprano Louise Innes and prize-winning piano soloist Charlotte Brennand will perform songs by Purcell, Haydn, Faure together with lighter material by Cole Porter and Jerome Kern.

Louise Innes made her Covent Garden debut in 2010 singing the role of Mercedes in Carmen. She has toured internationally, performing at famous venues including La Scala, Milan, the Paris Opera and in Seville with the National Orchestra.

Charlotte Brennand

Charlotte Brennand

Charlotte Brennand began her career as a soloist, accompanist and chamber musician, winning many prizes. She has worked with a range of distinguished conductors, performed at many prestigious events and was the pianist for Radio 4’s play, Little Nell.
This concert is a fantastic opportunity to hear two first class international artists. The performance will last for approximately one hour and all are welcome to attend.

The concert is FREE but a donation of £3.00 is requested to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on

Active Faults & Ancient Places: Archaeoseismology in the Aegean by Prof. Iain Stewart

Professor Iain Stewart

Professor Iain Stewart

Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth, is giving a lecture at Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester, on 22nd April 2014. The subject of his talk is Active Faults and Ancient Places: Archaeoseismology in the Aegean.
Professor Stewart is a geologist, well known for presenting several BBC TV series including How Earth Made Us, Journeys From The Centre Of The Earth and Earth: The Power Of The Planet.

The lecture has been organised in partnership between Dorset County Museum and Thomas Hardye School as part of the Community Lecture series. All Community Lectures are well attended and entry is by ticket only – tickets will be available from the Thomas Hardye School office approximately two weeks before the lecture. To avoid confusion, tickets are not available from the Museum. For more ticket information click here

The lecture will take place in the Thomas Hardye School theatre and will commence at 7.00pm.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on

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Flamenco Guitarist performs at Dorset County Museum

Roger Cox Flamenco GuitaristOn Thursday 10th April there will be a special lunchtime concert at Dorset County Museum.

Talented flamenco guitarist Roger Cox will perform a Lecture-Recital at the Museum, combining a discussion of the history and meaning of Flamenco with guitar performances of the music. There will also be a display of photographs and texts about the history of Flamenco to accompany the event.

Roger has been playing flamenco guitar for 25 years and is always happy to share his love of this dramatic music and the Andalusian tradition that is its lifeblood.

The concert will last approximately one hour and is free to attend. Everyone is welcome and to cover costs, a small donation of £3.00 is requested. The concert will take place in the Museum’s Victorian Gallery at 1.00pm on Thursday 10th April 2014.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on

‘The Bishop, the Devil and the Boot’ – Katherine Barker’s reading of Sherborne Museum’s medieval wall painting

Somerset & Dorset Family History Society

Early in March, the SDFHS Research Centre hosted a talk by Katherine Barker for the Sherborne Museum Association on a medieval wall painting discovered in 1962 during renovations to a house in Sherborne. Katherine has very kindly enlarged on her original note describing the talk, to enable us to provide a more thorough record of her investigations: –

The house was ‘Tudor Rose’ in Long Street and the painting, found during the removal of what was discovered to be a heavily papered-over medieval partition wall, was the only one of six surviving wall panels to show a human figure – a bishop raising his hand in blessing. Dr Clive Rouse dated the painting to about 1500, although he could not identify the bishop; but it was not until 1977 that a previously overlooked, badly-abraded, part of the painting was seen by Nicholas Cooper to portray a tall boot standing in…

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The Cerne Giant – Landscape, Gods and the Stargate by Peter Knight

The Cerne Giant – Landscape, Gods and the Stargate by Peter Knight

The Cerne Giant – Landscape, Gods and the Stargate by Peter Knight

Peter Knight lives in Wiltshire and is the author of eight books on ancient and sacred sites around the world. He is well-known for his talks, workshops and field trips which allow people to connect in new ways with the special sites they visit.

His illustrated talk at Dorset County Museum is about his new ground-breaking book, The Cerne Giant – Landscape, Gods and the Stargate. Peter will discuss the iconic Dorset hill figure that inspired him, together with the myths and legends that surround the figure and the dramatic site it occupies.

Copies of Peter’s book will be available on the night. The talk starts at 7.30pm on Thursday 10th April and the doors will be open from 7.00pm. All are welcome to attend and entry is free although donations are encouraged.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on

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#MuseumWeek comes to Dorset County Museum

#MuseumWeekDorset County Museum will join museums and galleries from across the UK and Europe on Twitter later this month for the first ever #MuseumWeek, a project that will connect people to artwork, culture, history and science in new and interactive ways.

#MuseumWeek will take place from Monday 24th March – Sunday 30th March 2014 and will give Twitter users direct and unparalleled access to some of Europe’s leading museums and the people behind them in 140-characters bursts.


Follow us @DorsetMuseum

Dorset County Museum will join other UK organisations already signed up include the Science Museum (@sciencemuseum), the Natural History Museum (@NHM_London), the Victoria and Albert Museum (@V_and_A), the British Museum (@britishmuseum), and the Tate (@Tate).

Dorset County Museum will join others across the UK and Europe by including the hashtag #MuseumWeek in their Tweets for the week, meaning users can follow along on Twitter. In addition, every day there will be a different theme including #MuseumSelfies, #MuseumMemories, #MuseumMascot and more.


Follow our #MuseumMascot @PliosaurKevan

A full list of participating UK organisations can be viewed here #MuseumWeek UK

Mar Dixon (@MarDixon), an expert in social media and museums and host of the @CultureThemes project, said: “Every day of the year museums and cultural institutions across the world are using Twitter in exciting and interesting ways to tell the stories of their collections to new audiences. 

“#MuseumWeek will shine a light on these activities, giving a real-time glimpse into the workings of museums across the UK and Europe, 140 characters at a time.”

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New Book of a remarkable Viking age mass burial near Weymouth featured in British Museum Viking Exhibition

Archaeologists excavate mass grave of executed Vikings

Archaeologists excavate mass grave of executed Vikings

In 2009 during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road in Dorset archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology made one of the most exciting, and disturbing, archaeological discoveries in Britain in recent years. Around 50 skeletons, predominantly of young adult males, were found in an old quarry pit. All had been decapitated. Their heads had been placed in a pile located at one edge of the grave, and their bodies thrown into the pit. Archaeologists knew they had found something special as they uncovered the tangle of human bones, but it was only as the scientific analysis of the skeletons progressed that the full international significance of the discovery became clear. What the archaeologists had found was a mass grave of executed Vikings.

Oxford Archaeology Project Manager David Score said: “To find out that the young men executed were Vikings is a thrilling development. Any mass grave is a relatively rare find, but to find one on this scale, from this period of history, is extremely unusual.”

Angus Campbell, the former leader of Dorset County Council and now Lord Lieutenant for Dorset, said: “We have a tremendous historic environment here in Dorset but we never would have dreamed of finding a Viking war grave.”

The excavation, commissioned by Skanska Civil Engineering on behalf of Dorset County Council, combined traditional archaeological methods with revolutionary digital and three-dimensional recording to identify the exact position of each individual. After the skeletons were carefully lifted and removed to the laboratory, experts undertook forensic studies of the bones and applied a raft of scientific techniques to gain as much information as possible about who the individuals were and what circumstances led to their dramatic and gruesome demise.

The results suggested that the burial took place at the time of, or shortly after, the men’s execution which had probably been performed at the graveside. Using methods normally employed to investigate modern day mass graves, it was estimated that between 47 and 52 individuals were present. The individuals may have been stripped of their clothes prior to burial, but were unbound. Defence wounds on the hands, arms and skulls imply that not all men died without a struggle. Wounds to necks and shoulders indicate that the process of decapitation was no less chaotic, and in some cases several blows of the sword were required to remove the heads.

Chemical analysis of the teeth suggested that none of the men were from anywhere in Britain,  but originated in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, the Baltic States, Belarus and Russia.

Dr. Jane Evans of the British Geological Survey, who carried out the work on the teeth, said: “These results are fantastic. This is the best example we have ever seen of a group of individuals that clearly have their origins outside Britain.”

One individual had deliberately-filed teeth (Photo 2), which may have been a symbol of status or occupation

One individual had deliberately-filed teeth, which may have been a symbol of status or occupation

Examination of the bones indicated that most of the men were 18-25 years old. The youngest was in his early or mid teens, while the oldest was over 50. One individual had deliberately-filed teeth, which may have been a symbol of status or occupation. The phenomenon has previously been recorded in Scandinavia, but until now was unknown in the UK.

Curiously, many of the individuals suffered from infections and physical impairment, and none of showed convincing evidence for previous war wounds; hardly the picture of an elite group of Viking warriors. The burial was radiocarbon dated to AD 970-1025, which places it in the reign of Æthelred the Unready or Cnut the Great. This was a time in England of Viking raids, war, hostages and retribution, but ultimately questions of how the men came to be in Dorset remain open.

There has been a huge response to the discovery, both in the UK and internationally. Over 7000 people attended an exhibition dedicated to it in Dorchester in 2010, and stories have appeared in newspapers and media outlets around the world. The mass grave has also featured on TV. An item about it was shown on the Swedish science programme, ‘Vetenskapens Varld’, and the burial was the subject of an hour-long special, Viking Apocalypse’, on the National Geographic Channel

‘Given to the Ground’: A Viking Age Mass Grave on Ridgeway Hill, Dorset, by Louise Loe, Angela Boyle, Helen Webb and David Score.

‘Given to the Ground’: A Viking Age Mass Grave on Ridgeway Hill, Dorset, by Louise Loe, Angela Boyle, Helen Webb and David Score.

In recognition of its global importance, the burial will feature in ‘Vikings: life and legend’, a major exhibition exploring the world of the Vikings from 6th March to 22th June 2014 at the British Museum. Visitors will be able to see a display of some of the skeletons and learn more about the individuals buried and the ground-breaking investigation. Elements of the exhibition, including the skeletons, will move to the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin from September 2014 to January 2015, where visitors will be able to walk around a specially reconstructed burial pit and see the skeletons in their original positions.

This extraordinary story of conflict and punishment in early medieval Britain has now been published by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society in a new book , ‘Given to the Ground’: A Viking Age Mass Grave on Ridgeway Hill, Dorset, by Louise Loe, Angela Boyle, Helen Webb and David Score. The book will be available to buy at the British Museum and can also be purchased from Oxbow Books.

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