NEWS - Clarence Bicknell - rock engraving slab sent to the British Museum

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Valerie Lester, Clarence Bicknell’s biographer, continuAN00790984 001 les to work through the Bicknell family collection near London. A file provided by Dr Christopher Chippindale shows much of the research he did into Clarence Bicknell which led to his publications including in Antiquity Magazine in 1984 and his High Way to Heaven in 1998. Among them is Clarence's letter to the British Museum in London offering them an engraving on a stone stone which indeed they accepted and which is on display to this day in the museum, exhibit 1897,1229.1. Details at


Letter from Clarence Bicknell to the British Museum


Bordighera, Italy
1st  September 1897

Dear Sir,

I have been spending he summer in a valley of the Maritime Alps, about 4 hours walk from Tenda. In and above the Fontanalba, at 2 hours walk from us, the rocks are covered with figures, similar to the well-known ones by the neighbouring Laghi delle Meraviglie. The former, however, seem hardly known, and as far as I am aware, the late Prof. E. Celesia  of Genoa is the only person who has published some description of them in a “Bollettino del Ministero della Istruzione Pubblica, maggio 1886”, which I have not yet read.

I have spent so far 11 long days up there, exploring and making some drawings and rubbings, and yesterday I and my servant managed to bring home a piece of rock, detached from a large rock surface on which we counted about 308 figures, with a figure on it of which I will send you a rubbing.

I write to ask you if you care to have this for the B. Museum? If so, as soon as I return to Bordighera, I will send it off.  The thing, whatever it be, figured on the rock, is one of the commonest types. It has always been taken for granted by the numerous writers (I do not know what M. Emile Rivière  says) that they are heads of sheep, goats, cows, chamois, ibex, deer, elks &c &c. Perhaps some may be, but I am inclined to think they more probably represent insects. I could send you copies of my drawings taken on a small scale, merely to show the variety of designs – or a few photos of some of the rocks, if they would be of any use or value to you.

I am , dear Sir,

Yours faithfully

Clarence Bicknell (long-form sbritish museum logoignature)

If you accept my offer, I beg that you will let me know after its arrival what you have paid for carriage &C., as I do not think it possible from Bordighera to pay the whole amount. The piece of rock is about ½ metre long and 20 c. wide, and is pretty heavy, as we found out yesterday in bringing it down the mountain sides.

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