Anarchy in archaeology as Sex Pistols’ graffiti is rated alongside cave art
Published 22/11/2011 | 07:27
GRAFFITI drawn by The Sex Pistols in a rented house in the 1970s are "pieces of art" that merit comparison with prehistoric cave paintings, archaeologists claim.
Dr John Schofield, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said they are worthy of being preserved as heritage pieces and should be preserved despite being offensive and rude.
The markings discovered on the walls of the flat the group rented in London in the mid-1970s lend themselves to archaeological investigation as much as drawings made by early humans in the caves of Lascaux in southern France, he insists.
It was even suggested that the intact Pistols graffiti - found behind cupboards in the property in Denmark Street, central London - may be of greater significance than the discovery of early Beatles recordings and is "a direct and powerful representation of a radical and dramatic movement of rebellion."
Researchers carried out a detailed analysis of the graffiti's content and cultural significance, concluding that while it could be considered rude, offensive and uncomfortable, its presence confirms the flat as an important historical and archaeological site.
The drawings lie in the upper room of a two-storey 19th century property now used as offices in the famous street known in the 60s as Tin Pan Alley.
The bulk of them are by John Lydon, or Johnny Rotten, and consist of eight cartoons depicting himself and other members of the band, as well as their manager, Malcom McLaren, and other Pistols' associates.
Researchers are deciding whether or not the property should become a conventional heritage site with a blue plaque to mark its historical significance.
Dr Schofield said: "So could Denmark Street be Punk's Lascaux?
"The tabloid press once claimed that early Beatles recordings discovered at the BBC were the most important archaeological find since Tutankhamun's tomb.
"The Sex Pistols' graffiti in Denmark Street surely ranks alongside this and - to our minds - usurps it."
He described the site as 'anti-heritage' because it goes against what agencies and heritage organisations usually wish to preserve.
But he said: "We feel justified in sticking our tongues out at the heritage establishment and suggesting that punk's iconoclasm provides the context for conservation decision-making.
"Our call is for something that directly follows punk's attitude to the mainstream, to authority; contradicting norms and challenging convention.
"This is an important site, historically and archaeologically, for the material and evidence it contains. But should we retain it for the benefit of this and future generations?
"In our view, with anti-heritage, different rules apply. The building is undoubtedly important, and could meet criteria for listing or for a blue plaque, if not now then in time.
The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.