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Archive for January, 2011

flint-handaxe-1

My lovely flint hand axe knapped by Bruce Bradley in the early 1970s at Cambridge

These musings on the stone called flint and its poorer-quality relation chert are prompted by the recent discovery of 120,000-year-old stone tools in the United Arab Emirates. Read more about that here.

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This 120,000-year-old chert hand axe was discovered in the United Arab Emirates

Those tools are made of chert, a fine-grained silica-rich microcrystalline sedimentary rock found in limestone. But when it is of fine quality and found in chalk, it is called flint.

Worked flint is beautiful – hard, glassy, grey, touchable. I first held it in my hands when studying prehistoric archaeology in the early 1970s.

At the time Bruce Bradley (now Professor) was studying for his PhD in experimental archaeology at Cambridge University. He was famous even then for his flint-knapping technique – it was said that it was lucky he wore spectacles as they were covered in tiny chips from the flying fragments of stone and he would otherwise have been blinded.

When he left he sold off many of his pieces. I have to admit I didn’t go to the sale myself, but my fellow student Matthew Spriggs picked up some flint tools for me. Thus I acquired the large hand axe, an arrowhead and a small sickle, all of which are pictured here.

And thanks to the miracle of Google, I find Matt is now an archaeology professor in Australia. I wondered what had happened to him!

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A close-up of the beautiful flint-knapping on this hand axe by Bruce Bradley

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Excellent flint arrowhead knapped by Bruce Bradley at Cambridge, England, in the early 1970s

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peacock-paul-larne

A peacock by Paul Evans

I love birds and I love design, so here I am beginning an occasional series about birds that have become style icons in some way. This includes their use for company logos and their place in art. I am starting with the peacock…

There are many peacocks in captivity at stately homes in the UK and they can be seen in the grounds of our own Cardiff Castle in the city centre. They occasionally escape or sit on the outer walls and make a racket with their loud cries.

The peacock is the wonderful show-off male of the blue peafowl (Pavo cristatus), which is the national bird of India and regional bird of the Punjab.

NBC-peacock

The original NBC peacock logo, left, and as it is today

Perhaps the most widely known peacock logo is that used by NBC. It was created in 1956 by John J Graham and was first used on a black background for effect. The idea was to publicise NBC’s colour TV content and parent company RCA’s colour TV sets. Read a lot more on Wikipedia here.

That’s one of the main selling points for the peacock in design – it’s SO colourful. Trawling the web, I found quite a few peacock logos. As usual, click on the picture to go to the source…

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Thomas Swain's logo for the Peacock Players gaming casino

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The logo of event planners Peacock Marketing Group

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mahonia-01

A late-flowering Mahonia that has survived the snow and ice - the soft focus was not intentional, I'm still experimenting with my Nikon macro lens...

When the snow and ice of late December had cleared, the first flowers I saw were these lovely golden bells of Mahonia. This is not my amazing huge Mahonia x media “Charity” that flowered early, but another variety.

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A few of the Mahonia leaves have turned red...

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botanic-oak-01

A bare oak tree in front of the Great Glasshouse at the Garden of Wales in January 2011

I have already posted my pictures of the flowers in the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in winter. As I mentioned (more…)

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The Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in January 2011 - Protea 'Pink Ice'

In the depths of winter there is a surprising haven filled with blossoming plants in the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire.

An even greater surprise is the fact that the garden is open FREE to visitors during January 2011 – although a donation would of course be much appreciated.

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The Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in January 2011

While the outside world is under ice, the Great Glasshouse maintains an environment suitable for plants from regions with a Mediterranean climate – as the website puts it: “hot dry summers, cool moist winters, dazzling sunlight, strong breezes and the occasional ground-clearing fire create perfect conditions for many plants to thrive on the scrubby, rock-strewn landscapes”.

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Ice on a water-lily pond at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in January...

I have to admit that when the Great Glasshouse was unveiled in the year 2000 I was disappointed that it was not a lush tropical house, but I have come to appreciate its subtlety.

Six areas of the world are represented: California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, South Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. These regions cover less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, but contain more than 20% of all known flowering plant species.

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The Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in January 2011

The Great Glasshouse was designed by Norman Foster and Partners and is the biggest single-span glasshouse in the world. At first it reminded me of a Teletubbies house, although the website says: “Poised on the Welsh landscape like a giant raindrop, it protects and conserves some of the most endangered plants on the planet”.

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The Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in January 2011

Anyway, it is a wonderful place to visit to photograph or draw or paint the plants, all year round…

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The Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in January 2011

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botanic-polylepis

Can you tell what it is yet?

Does this remind you of anything? I spotted it at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire the other day.

The picture shows the sawn-off stump of a Polylepis australis in mid winter. And here’s the rest of the tree, rather the worse for wear after very harsh frost and snow – although it is probably adapted for the cold since it comes from the endangered mountain forests of the South American Andes…

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Polylepis australis

Maybe you don’t see it yourself, but my first thought was Wall-E!

Wall-E

Wall-E, cute robot from the Disney/Pixar film of the same name...

I will soon be posting more pictures from the National Botanic Garden of Wales, but I felt this one deserved its own mention…

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The back of Aberglasney House from Bishop Rudd's Walk, January 2011

All is resting in the garden at Aberglasney House in Carmarthenshire at this time of year, but still a great deal of interest remains for plant enthusiasts – as well as great home-cooked local food in the little Gardeners’ Cafe!

The brassicas in the kitchen garden (more…)

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