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We’re holding a Heritage Journal picnic at the Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire on Sunday 14th September. All are welcome. Just pop along from about midday and bring lots of food and chat – and some megalithic books to swap if you’d like.

See you here! [Image Credit: Jane Tomlinson, Heritage Action]

“X” marks the spot! (or we’ll be at a local pub [to be announced] if the weather is poor).

This will be our 8th public Megameet since 2003 and the first one we’ve held away from Avebury. If you haven’t been, The Rollrights are a fascinating place to visit, 3 sites within a couple of minutes walk from one another with a unique atmosphere and a host of myths and legends.

Picnic anyone?

Picnic anyone? See you on Sunday 14th September!

In the meantime, don’t forget the Rollrights Open Day (see below).

NOTE: Established 2500 BCE !

NOTE: Established 2500 BCE !

Saturday 26th July:

Chipping Norton Amateur Archaeology Group presents Exploring the astronomy of special places.

10.30am
—1.00pm Tours of the Stones and Dowsing (led by members of The Rollright Trust)
1.30—4.00pm Talks about astronomy, folklore & ancient sites (Venue: Long Compton Village Hall SP2885 3230)
1.30pm Introduction
1.40pm A Story Walk through the Heavens, Lizzie Bryant. (Professional storyteller)
2.20pm Archaeo-astronomy: finding out how and why heavenly bodies mattered at the Rollright Stones and other special places, Professor Clive Ruggles (Leicester University, expert archaeo-astronomer)
3.00pm, Astronomy: discovering special places in the heavens, Dr Chris Lintott [TBC], (Oxford University, presenter of BBC’s Sky at Night)
3.40pm Questions
4.30—6.00pm Demonstration: Site surveys for astronomical alignments (led by Clive Ruggles Venue: The Rollright Stones)
All Day Demonstration: Telescopes and other astronomical equipment (led by members of CNAAG Venue: The Rollright Stones)

For years the Government has facilitated the targeting of large areas of green space (including heritage site settings) for housing development on the basis that there is insufficient usable brownfield land. (Many people suspect that the real reason has more to do with the “advice” they’ve been getting from the big builders who coincidentally can make far bigger profits by building in picturesque locations. Who knows)

Lately the Government seems to be coming round to the idea that there ARE such sites but it remains vague about how many. Now the CPRE has launched an interesting campaign to establish and demonstrate to them just how many usable yet undeveloped brownfield sites and buildings are going to waste across England. As they put it: ever helpful, we want to show them just how much potential there is”. Accordingly they’re asking the general public to nominate suitable brownfield sites that may have been overlooked in official plans and submit them for inclusion in the CPRE’s ‘WasteOfSpace’ map of England.

If you know of one (or more!) please send them a photo, ideally with a short description and an address or postcode. You can send the image by:

  • emailing wasteofspace@cpre.org.uk
  • tweeting @CPRE with the campaign hashtag #WasteOfSpace
  • posting to the Facebook group #WasteOfSpace

by Sandy Gerrard

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cart.

During 2012 Cadw considered the Bancbryn stone alignment for scheduling.  In October, some 9 months into the process, they were approached by the “South Wales Guardian” for an update. The people of South Wales were informed that: “No evidence was discovered to support the firm dating of the feature, but investigations concluded the most likely interpretation is that this is a relatively modern grazing boundary or route marker.”

Recently it has to come to light that at the time this statement was released the assessment process had not even started. Amazingly it would appear that Cadw published their conclusion before they had even started the assessment. Might this be the reason they appear to be unwilling to accept the prehistoric interpretation?

Sadly, as well as being somewhat premature the Cadw statement completely ignores the investigations reported in the Heritage Journal here which demonstrated that the interpretations favoured by Cadw were utterly untenable.  Is Cadw in the habit of ignoring the evidence that does not suit them or is this a one off?

Either way an explanation would be appreciated.

Last month we suggested Glasgow University’s Encyclopaedia entry on nighthawking is incomplete as they quote only four categories: Not declaring potential Treasure finds, Searching without permission, Detecting on scheduled monuments and Not disclosing finds to a landowner (except if prior-agreed). In our opinion they’ve missed a fifth, very significant one: Not disclosing the true value of finds to a landowner (constituting theft).

It really matters. Consider this: The Establishment encourages each landowner to sign a “finds agreement” giving away much of  his property in advance “to avoid future disputes over ownership” even though he already owns it all so there can never be a dispute. Worse, they have left it to detectorists to compose the agreements and unsurprisingly they’re mostly excruciatingly unfair, decreeing they alone can rule whether to show and share each find depending on whether they alone judge it worth over £300 (or £2,000 under the awful rule used by Central Searchers.)

Incredibly, that’s the basis on which most artefacts, tens of millions of pounds worth a year, end up 100% owned by detectorists with the landowner never having seen them. It beggars belief why anyone would think it was fair to ask a landowner to agree to such a system. The detectorist may be honest but some are not and the agreements are a perfect way to steal, simply through grossly undervaluing  finds (just in their own minds, not even out loud!) as a means to avoid showing or sharing them. Who could doubt that false valuation is likely to comprise the dominant (and most convenient and lucrative) element of nighthawking and the one that causes most cultural damage (for having stolen the items the culprit is hardly likely to report them to PAS!). Well, Glasgow University, it seems!

Moral philosophy at a Central Searcher's Rally....

Moral philosophy at a Central Searcher’s Rally….

Their Encyclopaedia stance certainly looks pretty irrational: not disclosing finds is nighthawking, not disclosing value isn’t! Explain that to the poor old landowner! It also has damaging consequences for the rest of us as it renders comfortable The Establishment’s silence-cum-complicity in the whole unregulated finds agreement system and causes the knock-on consequence of finds not being reported to PAS. Maybe the University will reconsider. The omission isn’t merely academic it has real-world negative consequences in real-world Bonkers Britain. Everyone knows that scrofulous behaviour often gets ignored for political reasons but surely academia is above all that?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Following our recent moan about Northumberlandia being decorated for a good cause comes another instance ….

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keep wilts(See the Facebook Group “Keep Wiltshire Frack Free“)

Once again it will no doubt be suggested that it’s OK as it’s a good cause but since the cause could be promoted elsewhere, please indulge those of us who feel “good cause” isn’t an excuse to do whatever comes to mind and don’t do it. In the words of Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Friends …….

Sorry, I don’t agree with using monuments for advertising no matter how much I agree with the sentiment of the protest. It demeans the site, encouraging people to use it merely for any reason without respect for the importance of the monument. We have had incidents of individuals daubing paint on the stones themselves not that long ago. Protest about fracking, I’ll gladly stand at your side, but do it where there isn’t a monument.

As the Old Oswestry Hillfort Campaign has said…..

The day has come, dear reader. Shropshire Council are taking the Sam Dev report to Full Council this Thursday [that's today], and have published the results of the consultation on soundness which a lot of us responded to. There is a lot to read, if you follow this link then scroll down to no. 22 the papers are all there. Interestingly enough, despite many of us asking for notification to attend this meeting I don’t know of anyone who had been contacted, and I only found this by accident last night….

You might think that because there’s a lot to read the decision will be very complicated. But no, it couldn’t be simpler. Either Shropshire Council will vote to damage the setting of the most important ancient heritage site in Central England or they won’t. Either they’ll reject the views of a whole raft of independent experts or they won’t. Either they’ll ignore the clearly-expressed views of local people (which the Government says must be taken into account) or they won’t. Fingers crossed we don’t hear phrases like “equitable compromise in all the circumstances” or “regrettable but unavoidable”. For the avoidance of doubt, damaging the setting of the hill fort is no more unavoidable than this was ….

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Whoever did this should be ashamed ..... but at least he didn't claim expenses for doing it!

Whoever did this should be ashamed. But at least he didn’t claim  expenses for doing it.

by Sandy Gerrard

Much has been made of the lack of conclusive evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation for the stone alignment at Bancbryn on Mynydd y Betws.  All of the alternative explanations lie in tatters but still Cadw will not even accept the idea that the prehistoric interpretation remains the most plausible explanation. Instead they prefer to stick with the line that there is “insufficient evidence to propose scheduling the feature as a prehistoric stone row”.  Cadw will not say what they think it is, preferring instead to emphasise the lack of positive evidence. In many ways this is an understandable position.  They are essentially saying that as we have no definite proof that it is prehistoric it would be unwise to add the site to the schedule of ancient monuments. However, this position would seem to contradict their usual “modus operandi” where mounds of stones, hummocks, single standing stones or indeed even lines of stones have happily been added to the schedule with no conclusive evidence being provided to justify their interpretation.

Indeed one does not have far to look to see an example of this apparently inconsistent behaviour.  No conclusive evidence currently exists to support a prehistoric date for the scheduled cairns at Bancbryn. No finds or other dating material has been recovered from any of them and indeed the entry in “Coflein” the Royal Commission’s online database notes:  “The scanty remains of 14 to 17 cairns, most of which have central mutilations, suggesting that, although no structural elements are apparent, the cairns may have been ritual in nature. Alternatively the cairns may have been claerance (sic) heaps, robbed in the hope of their being sepulchral.”

Coflein also helpfully publishes an extract from the scheduling documentation which states: “Remains of an extensive burial cairn cemetery, probably dating to the Bronze Age, situated within open moorland on the summit of Bancbryn. “

So despite considerable doubts about the identification and date of the mounds at Bancbryn, Cadw were happy to schedule this particular monument without any actual evidence to support its date or function.  Insufficient evidence was not an obstacle in this instance so why is the same level of proof not being applied to the associated stone alignment? The Cadw scheduling process seems somewhat haphazard. Sometimes hard evidence is needed but on other occasions no evidence at all. This inconsistent approach to the protection of our heritage should be a concern to us all.

One of the scheduled cairns at Bancbryn. This cairn is scheduled despite a lack of hard evidence to confirm its date and function.

One of the scheduled cairns at Bancbryn. This cairn is scheduled despite a lack of hard evidence to confirm its date and function.

On Friday a detectorist wrote:
“recently i went to a 2-day all expenses paid conference at York university dedicated mostly to pre and early medieval coinage. The archies were praising the efforts of detectorists big time, as the finds recorded on the PAS database are giving a insight into our history that simply would NOT be possible with conventional archaeology. Me and my fellow detectorists came away very proud of our hobby and the recognition it was receiving by the academics. There was also talk of adding MD training to archaeology degrees!!!”

For the avoidance of doubt amongst artefact hunters:
1. The archaeologist is yet to be born who thinks the way most detecting happens – collecting for personal benefit and not reporting – is praiseworthy. So please don’t confuse utilising the data that a minority produces with being supportive of the behaviour of the majority.
2. Any talk of  “adding MD training to archaeology degrees” would have been about the use of detectors in structured archaeological surveys, NOT about training undergraduates to exploit the common inheritance in a “random”, “selective” or “secretive” fashion for personal fun or profit.

It’s likely the academics made that clear at the time – or thought they did. However, the lesson to be learned is that it’s important to explain things VERY clearly to artefact hunters. If they come away from an academic conference (an academic conference, for goodness sake!) feeling “very proud of our hobbythere must have been a pretty dire communication failure.

Site of the University of York Faculty of Metal Detecting. Funding is proving problematic.

Site of the University of York Faculty of Metal Detecting. Funding is proving problematic.

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Update: Actually, Paul Barford has just pointed out the list of speakers at the Conference (including a number from PAS and a US dealer for whom provenance tends to be too unimportant to mention on his website). Judging by that perhaps I was too hasty. It’s quite possible the detectorists who attended were told that metal detecting was a fine hobby and no downside was mentioned. Britain isn’t just barmy it’s stupid and deserves to be ripped off to the tune of nearly 12 million bundles of history.

Update 2: Paul asks “Now, why is a dealer offering unprovenanced artefacts  with no indication upfront of either licit origins or licit export, invited to speak at a professional conference in Great Britain alongside archaeologists and museums people?” I don’t know Paul. I also don’t know why a metal detectorist went there “all expenses paid”. Nor do I know why none of us who are taxpayers and stakeholders who think the behaviour of most detectorists stinks and is causing great damage to history weren’t invited to attend. All I know is something is very wrong and it doesn’t happen abroad.

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BTW, I was unable to get out and about for Friday’s “Day of Archaeology” – but I spent most of the day composing and tweaking the above article. They also serve who sit and moan. Someone has to.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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naff

There are some who think Northumberlandia is a pretty naff monument, a way in which a mining group avoided the expense of putting their slag back in the hole, and there are those who think decorating it in a particularly naff fashion (see A Landmark puts on a Bra for Charity) is no more than it deserves.

However, as our headline indicates (borrowed from here, with thanks), there are those (including us) who think it’s a bad idea. While 99% of people can see there’s a clear difference between using a public monument to make a point in a harmless way and doing the same thing in a damaging way…  there are some who can’t.

F4J

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