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Enlightenment: The Birth of Archaeology
The Stockbridge urn
This collared urn was found turned upside down covering a human cremation and other objects in a round barrow at Stockbridge in Hampshire. It is similar to material discovered on Salisbury Plain by Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838) of Stourhead and William Cunnington (1754-1810), a wool merchant from Devizes.
Hoare and Cunnington have been called 'the fathers of archaeological excavation in England'. For over a decade they surveyed, excavated and classified the finds from ancient barrows and earthworks and Roman sites around Salisbury Plain.
They published their findings in a book entitled Ancient Witshire (1812-21). The old-fashioned spelling of 'Auncient' on the title page of this book suggested a romantic view of the past, but the Preface justly declared that 'We speak from facts not theories'. The book set a new standard in the publication of antiquities. It presented accurate surveys of monuments such as Stonehenge and Avebury with maps showing the distribution of different types of site. The artefacts were also carefully illustrated in the groupings in which they had been found.
Hoare dedicated the volume to Cunnington who had developed the methods of excavation and supervised most of the digging. Cunnington had taken to archaeology after his doctor told him he must 'ride out or die' but he did not live to see his work in print. The material Hoare and Cunnington discovered is now in Devizes Museum.