We were sent these two pictures by Sandy Gerrard who is currently in Scotland ….. with the remark “Amazing the conclusions you can jump to if you don’t assess things in context….”

pic1

Not sure who or what he was getting at but they’re certainly interesting pictures. The first has all the characteristics of a prehistoric multiple stone row. However, the second complete with context shows that these stones rather than being prehistoric are grave markers within a cemetery.  We guess he is trying to say that disregarding the context can lead to all sorts of blunders. Whether it be stone rows or solitary standing stones their context has much to tell us and should never be ignored.

Grave markers and chapel (Teampull Eion) within the historic cemetery at Bragar, Isle of Lewis

Grave markers and chapel (Teampull Eion) within the historic cemetery at Bragar, Isle of Lewis

If you visited your Granny and she showed you this flyer and said two nice young men had emptied her loft for her last Tuesday how would you feel?

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flyer

You’d be angry no doubt, especially if she said they told her there was nothing but rubbish and she hadn’t heard from them since. Yet it’s a fact that the wording of that flyer encapsulates the essence of the National Council for Metal Detecting model search agreement which thousands of detectorists get landowners to sign!

If the flyer is intolerable so is the agreement. We’ve been saying as much for years but very recently we’ve gained an ally. The Portable Antiquities Scheme is to advise landowners to ask to see all archaeological finds” . It’s the equivalent of the Government or police warning old ladies not to agree to let someone take things away unseen from their loft.

So, if you’re a landowner who has ever signed an “I needn’t show you everything” agreement we suggest you cancel it now. Ask for  a “PAS compliant” one instead. It’s an inescapable fact that not showing everything before going home is unacceptable behaviour – both we and Tesco’s have said so for years and now PAS says so too.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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It’s a weekend of Megameets!

Firstly on Saturday, there is an informal meet in the depths of Cornwall, at the stone circle in Duloe, south of Liskeard as part of the Mines and Megaliths walk. Combine a love of all things prehistoric with chat about the industrial archaeology of Cornwall – famed for it’s mining.

Mines and Megaliths. A walk in the shadow of Caradon Hill on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Footpaths and quiet country lanes lead to some well known sites, but also some hidden industrial remains that make up part of Cornwall’s World Heritage sites. Meet Outside the Crows Nest Inn (Please don’t use their carpark). 10am 574 Western Greyhound from Liskeard at 9.56am; 573 service from Looe at 9.02am connects with this. Walk will last approx 3 hours.

Duloe Circle. © AlanS

Duloe Circle. © AlanS

Then on Sunday, it’s a final call for those intending to come along to the Rollright Stones for our annual ‘Megameet’. Meet at 12:00 midday, just south of the circle (or the Red Lion at Long Compton if inclement). Bring a book (or several) to swap, have  a chat with lots of lovely like minded people and enjoy the King Stone, the King’s Men and the Whispering Knights. Oh, and don’t forget a snack to eat or share! See you there!

rol

Here are the details of the latest teacher training days for teaching prehistory in primary schools from the admirable “Big Heritage”:

big heritage

There was an interesting statement by a planning inspector recently:

“The information submitted in support of the application includes reference to an annual financial contribution (£3,000), being made available from the income generated by the proposed wind turbine, for community projects.
Even if this was a matter that I could properly consider there is no mechanism in place to secure any such payment. I have not therefore taken it into account in determining the appeal.”

It seems the reason he ignored the “community bribe” was that there was no mechanism to guarantee it would be paid – but if there had been we can be pretty confident he would have been influenced by it. Such payments are commonplace these days and since the basis of decisions is to balance damage with public benefit, inspectors can hardly not take them into account. So if you’re a cynic (which some of us realists are accused of being) you could say that if you have deep enough pockets you can buy the democratic decisions you desire. Indeed, you could claim the situation is unchanged since the era of the Rotten Boroughs where you could pay locals to vote for you.  In planning terms it’s a case of “have money, can develop” and we can all point to likely instances of that.

There’s a major defect in the thinking though. Yes, the locals might get a new Community Hall if a development goes ahead – which is a great benefit from the local perspective but what about the national perspective? Is damage to a nationally important scheduled monument made more acceptable nationally by the fact some locals at say, Upton Snodsbury, will be able to have their barn dances without the roof leaking? Probably not!

In addition of course, some incentives aren’t worth the paper they aren’t written on. Four years ago the northern setting of Avebury’s henge was badly damaged by a housing development…..

Todays Northern Approach

…… amid talk that the locals would at least be compensated by the provision of affordable housing elsewhere in the area, which would mean young people needn’t leave the village. Anyone seen those?

by Sandy Gerrard

The Planning Inspectorate in Wales has recently rejected an application to erect three wind turbines at Bedlinog on the edge of an area containing a large number of multi-period archaeological sites. Most significantly the main reason given for the decision is the impact the development would have had on the historic environment.  Indeed this concern is eloquently expressed so: the introduction of very large modern moving structures into a landscape which had not significantly changed since the pre-industrial age would cause significant and extensive harm.”

Hooray. The landscape that is going to be protected is very similar in character to the one at Mynydd y Betws.  Essentially it is a multi-period palimpsest some of which is scheduled. There are however also some important differences:
> The nearest scheduled site would have been 570m from a turbine rather than the 72m at Mynydd y Betws
> Three turbines were proposed rather than fifteen.
> The turbines were to be built on enclosed land near to the moorland rather than on the moorland itself.
> The turbines were to be built to one side of the archaeology rather than in its midst.

When the Planning Inspectorate considered the Mynydd y Betws proposal, where the impact of the proposed scheme was considerably more intrusive and damaging to the historic environment than at Bedlinog they stated:
“The turbines would be large man made features of far greater scale than anything which currently exists. However they would be, if allowed, by their nature a temporary feature with a permission for 25 years.”
“the effect on the setting of those Monuments within the site, whether they are burial cairns or more recent upland farmsteads, would not be unacceptably harmful.”

Hopefully this radical change of heart means that in just a few short years and on the back of the lessons learnt at Mynydd y Betws the desecration of irreplaceable archaeological landscapes is no longer to be tolerated.  Certainly this decision should help those fighting to safeguard our heritage and should be warmly welcomed by everyone with an interest in our uplands.

“the introduction of very large modern moving structures into a landscape which had not significantly changed since the pre-industrial age would cause significant and extensive harm.”  Planning Inspectorate (2014).  An example of significant and extensive harm at Mynydd y Betws.

“the introduction of very large modern moving structures into a landscape which had not significantly changed since the pre-industrial age would cause significant and extensive harm.” Planning Inspectorate (2014). An example of significant and extensive harm at Mynydd y Betws.

Submitted by a Correspondent:

THE SELFIE – A SHORT HISTORY

VIP at SH

When in 1651, exactly 363 years ago yesterday,  Charles II visited Stonehenge he didn’t do it to cross it off his “Bucket List”. Charles didn’t take advantage of any “photo opportunity” moment, indeed he would have shunned recognition. Nor did he arrive with a massive entourage, his servants preferred Salisbury Fair.

What changed between the visit of Charles and the visit of Barack Obama in 2014, is the selfie – everyone increasingly wanting to write themselves into the story. To borrow from one of the American President’s predecessors: it is not what the present can do for Stonehenge, but what the monument can do for the present. As well as the long past, it is surely time for visitors to be reminded to spare the monument’s future a thought…

PAS is to revise its Guidance for Landowners, substituting its weak comment “landowners may wish to see the objects” with a strong warning: “ask to see all archaeological finds”. We (and Farmer Brown) have called for this for ages but they’ve been frit to upset detectorists. Well, they will have now! The NCMD model contract has 4 magic words,  “over the value of” which allow detectorists to mentally “value” finds and on that basis take most home unshown.

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over the value.

So the hitherto obliging cat is about to inconvenience the pigeons. Thousands of detectorists have got farmers to sign away their right to see most of what’s found but PAS will now be telling farmers to ensure they see everything! Interesting times. Will NCMD amend its contract in line with PAS and say members must now show ALL archaeological finds? Or will they (and their members) say “no, we prefer things just as they are”? We’ll soon see!

What we won’t see is PAS estimating how many artefacts (some cumulatively very valuable, some individually very valuable) have been taken home unshown during the time it hasn’t grasped this nettle. Nor will we see it saying we amateurs were right all along (although this change is a clear admission of that). But it would be nice if they at least acknowledged that notional, octogenarian farmer Silas Brown was correct. It would be consistent with this new (and actually historic) stance of protecting the interests of farmers not others.

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Silas: "Why has it taken you 18 years to advise us farmers to make sure we see ALL archaeological finds?"

A massage from Silas:  “Why has it taken you 17 years to advise us farmers to make sure we see ALL archaeological finds?

 

Update Paul Barford has highlighted an intriguing additional aspect of this significant change of heart on the part of PAS…… “They’d do even better if they were to advise them [landowners] also to sign off each object, so that the new owner’s title to sell is documented – something nighthawks cannot do. This would be in line with the recommendations of the April 2009 Oxford Nighthawking Report (page 110).”

In fact it seems to me this affair has a very intriguing implication: since PAS is now saying it wishes the landowner to see all archaeological finds then it is also saying it now wishes its database to comprise fully provenanced finds……

Update 2
Paul suggests that: “to establish legal possession of the artefacts they bring along to the PAS, the searcher should in each case present for checking a signed agreement (a) to access and search a given area and (b) a signed document releasing the individual find under consideration. Otherwise the FLO could be handling stolen property, and in the event of false data getting placed on the public record, laundering an illicit antiquity, also be liable to charges of fencing”.

There’s little doubt FLOs unwittingly record stolen and falsely attributed artefacts – and hence launder them – but I’m personally no fan of finds agreements as a solution. Their advice to landowners that agreements “avoid future disputes” is without foundation as agreements add nothing to the landowners’ rights under the good old law and actually act as an opening to bamboozle them, nothing more. A simple “bring all my archaeological artefacts to me, irrespective of value” is all that’s needed – and THEN, once items are found and delivered, a signed release of any item the farmer is willing to give up (after he has checked them with a third party). Only then need a valuation or share be discussed and also at that point the artefact hunter should pay for (or sign a document confirming he will pay for) whatever he is being given.

This might seem revolutionary, something detectorists would furiously reject and PAS would baulk at recommending to landowners – but the funny thing is it is how normal, educated honourable people would behave in any other sphere outside metal detecting. It is how YOU would behave without doubt, is it not dear Reader? Of course it is. The fact it doesn’t happen within metal detecting and hardly anyone complains is a measure of just how bonkers Britain has become with regard to this lucrative “hobby”.

Let artefact hunters start acting like the rest of us and let PAS wake up and make that central to how they define “best practice”.

Update 3

Oh dear!! In response a detectorist writes:

“Speaking of the anti detecting squad, over in the world of stupid there has been a barrage of blog posts aimed at destabilising this beneficial and fun hobby. One topic that has got the anti’s a bit moist is the PAS stating to landowners that they should ask to see all finds that have been made on their land. Here are a couple of blog posts from the anti’s, one on Paul Barfords blog and one on the Heritage Journal blog.

I love the way they portray it as some BIG thing, however i don’t agree, it seems quite minuscule if I’m honest.

I don’t see why any metal detectorist who cares about what they do would have any problem showing the landowner who very kindly granted them permission to search on their land. In fact as far as I’m aware the vast majority of honest metal detectorists do show the land owner everything they find…. “

No big thing is it? Well it’s not your property is it! If it was, maybe you’d think otherwise. Anyway, if you and all your mates show the farmer everything you all won’t mind calling for the thousands of finds agreements that allow you to not show most of the finds to be ripped up forthwith.

Will you?

An affirmative answer from thousands of detectorists is not anticipated. Talk is cheap.

 

Update 4

Not a single word about giving up the dodgy clause of course, but oh dear, oh dear, oh dear another artefact hunter has popped up to say farmers are too busy or too uninformed to report finds so it needs to be the detectorist that does that, and then the farmer can be shown his property later!

But they are HIS finds. Only a crook or a twerp would find excuses not to hand him his property. In any case, if we’re talking competence, it’s politically incorrect but clear to anyone that cares to look at their respective forums that MOST farmers are intellectually and educationally far better equipped to ensure PAS has access to finds than MOST detectorists.

Not that competence comes into it. It’s ownership and the minimising of opportunities for dishonesty or neglect of obligations that matter – how many detectorists at rallies take stuff home, report it to PAS and then bring it back and give it to the righttful owner? Almost none. Where are the owner’s rights in  all that? If you find something on someone’s land you take it straight to them. That’s normal behaviour in the whole of the rest of society. Anything else is indefensible and the rest of us don’t need to hear fallacious reasons justifying anyone acting otherwise.  These people really are a pain.  Anyway, here’s the bottom line. Let detectorists read it  v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y:

Now that PAS is to advise landowners to ensure they see all archaeological finds, artefact hunters have been stripped of any justification for continuing to act under the provisions of the current NCMD contract which provides for them NOT to show all finds. Oh, and of course that means showing him all finds before they leave his premises. That’s how Tesco’s like it. Why shouldn’t farmers have the same rights?

 

 

There’s not much doubt the graffiti at the Millenium Circle at High Ham Country Park near Yeovil was deliberate – see here  – as the words “Stoner was here” were daubed on one of the stones. However, 2 days later 200 miles away there was a different sort of incident at The Nine Ladies Circle - see here.

pink

Is dressing stones up in bright pink material and causing no physical damage an act of vandalism? Especially if you do it as an “act of love and gratitude for their eternal being”? And you leave a note saying you did it as a  response to previous vandalism there and you believe the Universe must be realigned”?

It’s a moot point but this chimes with one of our bugbears. Best not to mess about with ancient monuments AT ALL lest copycats do harm at another one.  “No physical harm” and “in a good cause” doesn’t make it OK (National Trust at hill figures please note!)  Simple really!

by Alan S

For those not in the FB Megameet group, here are the details I posted there yesterday:

Ok folks, less than 2 weeks to go! We meet at the Rollrights (see their website at http://www.rollrightstones.co.uk/ for a full downloadable audio tour) from around Midday on Sunday 14th September. Gather for a chat and picnic in the clear area just south of the circle, a stroll among the stones and don’t forget the bookswap! I’ll also be looking for ideas for articles for the Heritage Journal, so please bring along any ideas you may have (and feel free to volunteer!) Also don’t forget change for your admission fee – it’s only a couple of quid, and goes toward upkeep of the site, such as the wheelchair tracking laid a couple of years ago to aid access and prevent erosion.

rollright20420small1

In the case of possible inclement weather, the backup plan is to meet in the Red Lion at Long Compton (see http://www.redlion-longcompton.co.uk/) – to find the pub head east from the stones then turn left (NW) onto the A3400. The pub is on the left about a mile and a quarter from the junction.

See you there!

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