Friday, January 25, 2008

In Search of Early Wales ... in Cardiff

I was in Cardiff today as part of the Tercentenary Celebrations of the Society of Antiquaries. It gave me chance to see the thought-provoking exhibition, "In Search of Early Wales", at the National Museum (Amgueddfa Cymru).

What was I to make of near contemporary photographs of (I presume) "insurgents" (or "freedom fighters"?) displayed next to the section on the Roman army? And how about a letter from a Medieval English soldier besieging a Welsh stronghold juxtaposed with images of a British "squaddie" posting a letter in Basra, Iraq?

And it was good to see the remains of the "Red Lady of Paviland" (in fact a male skeleton), found in a cave on Gower (near Swansea) and dated to c. 2700 BCE.

The finds are on loan from Oxford and helpfully contributing to this interpretative display on the archaeology of Wales.

But should we also recall the campaign to have the Paviland remains displayed in Swansea (Robin Turner, "Campaign to bring 'Red Lady' back to Swansea after 180 years", Western Mail, December 27, 2004)?

Whatever the outcome of this particular debate, the National Museum should be congratulated on putting together a stimulating display which gets to the heart of national identity.

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