Pitt Rivers’ Models at Salisbury Museum

On Friday 21 October a small group of us squeezed into a rare bit of space in the reserve collections of the Salisbury Museum to view some of the wood and plaster models that Pitt Rivers made of his archaeological sites and his excavations. As with everything Pitt-Rivers, the attention to detail and the presentation of these models are remarkable. The General’s mission to communicate in as many media as possible the importance of his finds in Cranborne Chase is again evident. The models are heavy, especially those carved in solid wood and, as usual, it was estate craftsmen who were trained up to produce them. Some of the models features accurate contour lines (every 2 inches!), and are coloured to represent green sward, topsoil and underlying chalk. Little models of skeletons repose in crouched burials in the bottom of pits and pins mark the find spots of artefacts. Jane Ellis-Schon and the Salisbury Museum have been making special boxes to hold these models, some of which had not seen the light of day for many decades. This is a work in progress and we look forward to hearing whether one of the largest models which has not yet been removed from the stacks might not be of Winkelbury. Jane believes that, in company with many other techniques used to such creative ends by Pitt Rivers, it was his military experience that inspired the construction of these models; they are without parallel in the history of archaeology.

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We are very grateful to Jane to allow us a glimpse of the important resource that the Pitt Rivers collection constitutes, once again making the connections between landscape, archaeology and artefacts that many museums strive to achieve, but not all do.

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