Don’t miss our Egg-citing Dinosaur Egg Hunt and other Family Activities this Easter

Dinosaur Egg HuntDorset County Museum will be running two different events for children during Easter Holidays. Both are completely FREE thanks to generous sponsorship from Battens Solicitors.

On Wednesday 1st April discover about the burial customs from ancient times looking at how people were buried and what special objects were chosen to go into the grave. There will also be an opportunity on Wednesday 8th April to learn more about the famous horned Ooser mask displayed in the museum as well as have a go at making one. Both activities take place between 10.30am and 12.30pm and there’s no need to book.

To coincide with the Easter Holidays from Saturday 28th March to Saturday 18th April. Families will have the opportunity to enter ‘The Dinosaur Egg Hunt’ where children will be encouraged to find clues throughout the museum’s galleries for a chance to win some fabulous prizes.

Dinosaur Egg Hunt PrizesTo enter, a trail sheet can be purchased for £1 from the front desk; all proceeds will go towards the Museum Development Appeal. Once the questions to the answers are completed, the sheet can be handed back to the front desk. All correctly answered quiz sheets will have a chance to win prizes like the large chocolate dinosaur egg created by Angel Cake Company and the egg supplied by Waitrose. An animated wooden skeleton model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex donated by Wise Owl Toys and a Triceratops model donated by Louis Ormston. However everyone who enters will not leave empty handed as they will receive a small prize for participating.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Spring holiday family fun at Dorset County Museum

Iron Age Round HouseHoliday Family activities continue to be FREE at Dorset County Museum thanks to generous sponsorship from Battens Solicitors.

The activity during spring half term is on Wednesday 18th February. Find out all about the amazing round houses that Iron Age people lived in on top of Maiden Castle and all over Dorset, then build your own model to take home. This takes place between 10.30am and 12.30pm and there’s no need to book.

At Easter the family activities focus on some of the burial customs from ancient times – looking at how people were buried and what special objects were chosen to go into the grave. There will also be an opportunity to find out more about the Museum’s famous horned Ooser.

Dorset County Museum welcomes families and has a range of family trails and plenty of activities for children in the galleries.

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

Dates of Family Activities at the Dorset County Museum as follows:

  • 18th February: Make a Replica Iron Age Round House – 10.30am and 12.30pm
  • 1st April: Brilliant Burials and Skeletons – 10.30am and 12.30pm
  • 8th April: Make a Dorset Ooser Mask – 10.30am and 12.30pm

Archaeology Gallery at Dorset County Museum being redeveloped in spring 2015

Dorset County Museum Archaeology GalleryThe Archaeology Gallery at Dorset County Museum is currently being redeveloped as part of a £250,000 project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership (AONB).

Upon its completion in autumn 2015 the new gallery will become the visitor centre for the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership. Ultimately it will link in with information panels to be displayed along the ridgeway itself helping visitors explore the AONB and understand the sites that can be seen there today.

“This is a very special project for us,” said Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum. “The archaeology of Dorset is the history of over 10,000 years of human habitation in the county – our collections are nationally significant and cover the entire period from paleolithic times to Saxon and Viking Dorset.”

When the new Ancient Dorset Gallery (the new name for the former Archaeology Gallery) opens at the Museum, the centrepiece will be a special display of the Viking skeletons found during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road in 2009.

Jadeite Axe

Jadeite Axe © DCM

During the initial work (December to March 2014) the existing gallery will be open but artefacts from some display cases will be removed for conservation. Other key objects will be redisplayed in the museum during this time.

The design of the new gallery will ensure that when work starts on the Museum’s planned Collection Discovery Centre, the improved displays will be moved into the new extension at minimum cost.

While the work is being undertaken, visitors will be able to enjoy a special spotlight loan from the British Museum of three jadeite axes and some mace heads from their own collection. Dorset County Museum’s own jadeite axe will be displayed alongside these loans.

For further information visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org. Dorset County Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10.00am to 4.00pm.

A British Earthwork by Rev. William Barnes

Maiden Castle, Dorchester, DorsetA British Earthwork by Rev. William Barnes

[An Archaeologist speaks.]

The grassy downs of Dorset,
Rising o’er our homes of peace,
E’er teem with life and riches
In the sheep and precious fleece;
And charm the thoughtful roamer
When, like us, he climbs to scan
Their high-cast mounds of war – the works
Of Britain’s early man,
Whose speech, although here lingers yet
His mighty works of hand,
Has ceased a thousand years to sound
In air of this green land,
And startled may it be to hear
The words of British kin —

An gwaliow war an meneth,(1)
An caer war an bryn.(2)

Their breastworks now are fallen,
And their banks are sunken low;
The gateway yawns ungated,
And unsought by friend or foe.
No war-horn (3) calls for warriors,
And no clear-eyed watchmen spy
For tokens of the foe, around
The quarters of the sky.

No band, with shout and singing, (4)
Sally forth with spear and sword,
Staying foes at wood or hill,
Or at the waded river ford;
Or else to take the hill, and fight
To win, or die within

An gwaliow war an meneth.
An caer war an bryn.

There were lowings of the cattle
By the rattling spears and swords;
There were wails of weeping women
And grim warriors’ angry words —
“Be every Briton fearless, or
For ever live in fear;
And bring his ready weapons out —
His bow, and sword, and spear! (5)
For what have we to fight the foe?
Our children and our wives!
For whom have we to fight? For those
Far dearer than our lives!
And we, to shield them all, will die,
Or else the battle win,

Yn (6) an gwaliow war an meneth,
Yn an caer war an Bryn ! “

But now, in sweet, unbroken peace,
May Dorset land-folks sleep;
In peace may speed the gliding plough,
In peace may graze the sheep;
In peace may smoke our village tuns,
And all our children play;

And may we never need nigh banks
To keep the foe at bay!
And blest be lord or farmer
Of the land, who wins our thanks
By sparing from the spade and sull
These olden British banks,
And not destroying, for a crown
Or pound that he might win,

An gwaliow war an meneth,
An caer war an bryn.

Notes:

(1) – “The ramparts on the mountain.”

(2) -“The stronghold on the hill”  

This is In the old Cornoak or Cornish-British, that of our West of England.   The modem
Welsh would be —

“Y gwaliaie ar y mynydd,
Y au caer ar y bryn.”

Au pronounced ace; y like e in le, French ; ” mynydd,” munneethe.

(3) – Cadgorn.   The bugle-horn was used for hunting, war, and drinking.

(4) –  By the laws of Hoel Dda, when the Welsh marched to battle the bards were to go before them singing a national song, now lost, called “Unbenaeth Prydain” (“The Monarchy of Britain “). This, however, was later than the time of the upcasting of our earthworks.

(5) -A law triad gives, as law-bidden weapons which every man was to keep ready for battle, a sword, a spear, and a bow with twelve arrows.

(6) – In.

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Up Close and Personal: Contemporary Reflections on Ancient Wessex

Chris Miller © 2012

Chris Miller © 2012

Deep personal experience has prompted surprising responses by 24 contemporary artists to Dorset County Museum’s rich collection.  The exhibition – Encounters – which opened at the Museum in February, appeals to a wide audience, both young and old.  It contains an fascinating range of concepts in a variety of different, and in some cases highly unusual, media.

The members of Wessex Contemporary Arts have worked with the Museum’s support to present works that are both a response to the collections and a development of their own working practice. The archaeological holdings of the Museum have, not surprisingly, been the focus of the largest number of artists.

There are several workshops and ‘meet the artists’ events scheduled throughout the spring months to bring the Encounters concept alive and encourage a greater understanding of how contemporary arts can be part of everyone’s experience.

The artists, all from Wessex Contemporary Arts, will be there personally to talk about their work between 10.30am and 12.00pm on 4th and 11th April. Come along to meet them, hear about their work and find out what inspired them.  Some of the artists are also running workshops to encourage tactile engagement with processes and concepts that are at the heart of Contemporary art.  The next of these,  an experimental drawing encounter with artists Jindra Jehu and Louise Roll, takes place at the Museum on Saturday 30th March between 10.30am and 12.00pm.  This is excellent value at just £3.00 per person, it is suitable for all ages and there is no need to book.

On Saturday 27th April Bill Crumbleholme is holding a workshop for adults on Neolithic Grooved Ware Pottery, and on Saturday 11th May Susan Hughes is running a portrait drawing workshop – this activity is suitable for adults and children over 13.

Both activities cost £7.50 per person and advance booking is essential – contact the Museum Shop on 01305 756827 for further details and to book.

Encounters: Wessex Contemporary Artists meet Dorset County Museum runs until 7th June 2013 and entry to the exhibition is free.  For further information pick up an exhibition leaflet at the Museum shop or visit the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

New Exhibition: The Past Made Present at Dorset County Museum

Great British Summer by Louise Roll © 2012

Great British Summer by Louise Roll © 2012

Encounters: Wessex Contemporary Artists meet Dorset County Museum.  At last, an exhibition of contemporary art that can be accessed and enjoyed by all. 

Works by a total of 24 artists are displayed in the exhibition which opened this Saturday at Dorset County Museum.  At the exhibition preview over 200 people enjoyed exploring the new works of art, many displayed alongside artefacts from the Museum’s unique collections.  Jo Saurin, one of the artists and a curator of the exhibition said, “This is not an exhibition designed to intimidate the visitor but to encourage them, through encounters with fragments of the past, to unearth buried memories and make them contemporary. Encounters focuses on shared ancestry, poignant memory and loved landscape and there are links throughout with objects and ideas held by the Museum.”

Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum said, “This is one of the most challenging exhibitions we have worked on for some time, but also one of the most fascinating.  For me, the mixture of brand new works of art displayed alongside the iconic artefacts which inspired them is particularly interesting.”

The artists, all from Wessex Contemporary Arts, will be there personally on three mornings to talk about their work – come along between 10.30am and 12.00pm on 21st February, 4th and 11th April to meet them, hear about their work and find out what inspired them.  Some of the artists are also running workshops to encourage tactile engagement with processes and concepts that are at the heart of Contemporary art.  Obfuscation is not part of this exhibition.  Pleasure, recognition and personal involvement is.

The Museum’s archaeology collection has been the focus of the largest number of artists with the Dorset landscape, the coast and Maiden Castle close behind.  Poetry, library books, farming, mourning jewellery and fresco painting have also inspired other parts of the show.  Another strong category explored by some artists is enquiring into the whole concept of the Museum itself.  Visitors will see how this examination of these collections has led to the creation of many original works of art from richly coloured paintings inspired by ancient pottery to delicate bowls beautifully crafted from leaf skeletons, fish scales and other natural objects.

Encounters: Wessex Contemporary Artists meet Dorset County Museum runs until 7th June 2013 and entry to the exhibition is free.  For further information pick up an exhibition leaflet at the Museum shop or visit the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Roman Mosaics

The Dorset County Museum has twelve mosaics on display from the Roman period, mostly fragments. Many are from Durnovaria, Roman Dorchester. The study of these fragments and the many others found in the County identify some as the Durnovarian school of mosaicists who provided a rich variety of designs for pavements constructed throughout the Fourth Century A.D. These designs are noted for their use of sea beasts, gods, goddesses and other ornament. None are identical.

In the entrance doorway of the museum is a mosaic made up in 1908 with tesserae from the surround of a pavement found behind 45 South Street, Dorchester, during building operations in 1905. In the entrance passage is a fragment of the geometric mosaic found beneath the pavement showing the sea creature theasos, found at Dewlish.

Mosaic found in Dewlish in 1975

Mosaic found in Dewlish in 1975 © DCM

On the wall above the reception desk to the right is a fragment from a mosaic depicting a sea creature procession or theasos, found at Dewlish during the excavations of 1975.

To the right of the Durngate Street pavement and under the staircase to the gallery is a complete mosaic from a plunge bath excavated on the site of the Romano-British villa at Hemsworth. It was presented to the museum by the executors of Lord Aliington in 1905.

Mosaic pavement found in Durngate Street, Dorchester in 1905. The Durngate Street pavement is one of the few in Britain which bear a signature; in this case a 'fruit and leaf motif. © DCM

Mosaic pavement found in Durngate Street, Dorchester in 1905. The Durngate Street pavement is one of the few in Britain which bear a signature; in this case a ‘fruit and leaf motif. © DCM

Through the doorway into the museum’s Victorian Gallery is a pavement from Durngate Street, Dorchester, found and removed to the museum in July 1905 and laid to be walked upon as part of the building. A typical example of the Durnovarian School, the crested serpents and the leaves form an obvious link with that from Hinton St. Mary, at present in store in the British Museum.

By the side of the main staircase is a portion of a mosaic found near South Street, Dorchester in 1894. It was the first mosaic to be placed on display in the museum. It was presented by Mr. Alfred Pope in 1895.

Roman masterpieces in Dorset

This mosaic pavement discovered at Olga Road, Dorchester in 1899 © DCM

This mosaic pavement discovered at Olga Road, Dorchester in 1899 © DCM

The other mosaic in the museums’s  Victorian Gallery is from Olga Road, Dorchester, found in 1899 and presented to the Museum by Mr. Alfred Pope in 1900. It was taken up and re-laid by subscription. This design contrasts with that from Durngate Street and has similarities with mosaics at Corinium, Roman Cirencester.

To the left of the Olga Road pavement is the doorway into the museums’s Temporary Exhibition Gallery where the polychrome mosaic from Fordington High Street, Dorchester is displayed. This mosaic also has similarities with those in Corinium and possibly dates from the Second Century A.D. It was found in October 1927 and presented by Messrs. T. J. Walne and O. C. Vidler when it was taken up and relaid to walk upon as part of the building.

This decorative mosaic found in Fordington, High Street, 1927 . Shows what may be the image of the Roman god of the sea, Neptune surrounded by fish and dolphins © DCM

This decorative mosaic found in Fordington, High Street, Dorchester, 1927 . Shows what may be the image of the Roman god of the sea, Neptune surrounded by fish and dolphins © DCM

There is a repair made in antiquity to the three strand guilloche around one of the circles containing a stylised flower and there are the remains – six red tessarae – of a figure which once occupied the central octagon.

Upstairs from the Temporary Exhibition Gallery is the Archaeological Gallery: Victim of Time, where there are three further fragments of mosaic on display.

In the Roman section there is a fragment of guilloche and stylised flower border presented in 1899 by the Directors of the Devon & Cornwall Bank (now the National Westminster Bank), Dorchester. It was found when building operations were underway for the new Bank.

The, Dorchester Prison mosaic, 4th Century. A tinted photographic lithograph. John Pouncy, 2nd December 1858. Using one of his new experimental photographic processes. This mosaic was presented to the Dorset County Museum by the Governor of Dorchester Prison in 1885, after its removal from the Prison chapel where it had been relaid in 1858. It was set on the north wall of the museum staircase masked by the overhanging portrait of James John Farquharson, 1857.

The, Dorchester Prison Mosaic, 4th Century. A tinted photographic lithograph. John Pouncy, 2nd December 1858. Using one of his new experimental photographic processes. This mosaic was presented to the Dorset County Museum by the Governor of Dorchester Prison in 1885, after its removal from the Prison chapel where it had been relaid in 1858. It was set on the north wall of the museum staircase masked by the overhanging portrait of James John Farquharson, 1857. © DCM

Also in the Conservation section there is a mosaic roundel depicting Oceanus or Neptune, which once formed the centre of a pavement found during the excavation of the Romano-British villa at Hemsworth in 1831. The pavement was lifted in 1908 and presented by the executors of Lord Allington in 1929. The identifying features on the head of this sea god are crab legs and two crab claws on the forehead.

Half way up the main staircase and at the first landing – and temporarily covered by a large oil painting – is a geometric mosaic, found in the County Prison burial ground whilst digging a grave for James Seal who was executed for murder on August 10th 1858, when it was taken up and presented to the Museum.

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