The Margaret Pilkington Memorial Lecture: The Alderley Edge Project
In 1953, the then schoolboy Alan Garner rediscovered a 4,000-year-old wooden shovel first found in the Alderley copper mines in 1875. In 1991, he presented it to the Manchester Museum in The University of Manchester. In 1995, the Derbyshire Caving Club unearthed a hoard of Roman coins in an old mine-shaft. These two dramatic discoveries inspired the Alderley Edge Landscape Project, a research venture by the Museum and the National Trust, stewards of the Edge, intended to study the entire physical and human landscape of Alderley, exploiting the many disciplines in the Museum, the University and the local area, at a time when such intense cross-disciplinary working was regarded as unusual, if not eccentric. As the Museum's Keeper of Archaeology, John Prag was asked to coordinate the project.
Alderley Edge has a rich, complex history of geology, archaeology, early mining and social history. For many people it remains a special place, and its legend of a sleeping king, a wizard and a hoard of treasure is still very much alive. In 2016, The Story of Alderley: Living with the Edge was published under John's editorship by Manchester University Press. No other village has enjoyed such a comprehensive study of its story; the book concludes with Alan Garner’s retelling of the famous legend, setting a familiar tale told by his grandfather in a whole other world of prehistoric ritual and sacrifice.
Although organised as part of the Arts Section’s programme, this lecture unapologetically crosses the usual disciplinary boundaries and will, we hope, appeal equally to those interested in the artistic, historical and sociological aspects of the Alderley story.
About the Speaker
Appointed Keeper of Archaeology at Manchester Museum in 1969, John Prag was given a personal chair of Archaeological Studies at the museum in 2004. He is now Honorary Professor in the museum and Professor Emeritus of Classics in The University of Manchester.
A Greek archaeologist at heart, John is fascinated by multidisciplinary research: his interests include Greek iconography, facial reconstruction, ancient portraiture, chemical analysis of pottery, and the application of ancient DNA research to kinship studies. He is the author or co-editor of over 60 articles and six books, and is currently working on a new edition of The Oresteia: Iconographic and Narrative Tradition.
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