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Welcome to the first in an occasional series, looking through an A-Z of ancient sites in the UK. Some will be well-known, others much less so, but we hope that each site featured will show an aspect of our ancient heritage that inspires people to get out and visit.
This first article has been submitted by a new contributor to the Heritage Journal, Katherine (Cait) Range. Katherine lives in Texas, USA but has frequently visited the UK to satisfy her passion for our heritage, of which prehistoric sites form a large part. We look forward to further articles from Katherine in the coming months.
Apron Full of Stones
This intriguingly named site is a large ring cairn, located on the eastern edge of Kingsdale Beck, east of Kirkby Lonsdale near Ingleton, in the Yorkshire Dales. (map link)
Excavated in 1972, the cairn was built within a single period, most likely Bronze Age (as suggested by a small collection of flints), and its kerb is formed of boulders. A cremation burial was found during the excavation but there were no grave goods in accompaniment. An interesting fact is that the stones are gritstone and sandstone which seems strange in an area that is largely limestone. One suggestion for this is that the stones represent glacial deposits which had been scattered over a wider area. Those stones were then gathered, possibly as a precursor to farming activity, and then used to construct the cairn. It has also been suggested that this is not a cairn at all but may be a small henge. This idea, however, has not been pursued beyond a suppostion.
The locals in times past tended to devise fantastic tales that would explain the reasons for the existence of many of these sites. And such is the case with this one. Legend has it that the Devil was collecting stones in his apron in order to build a bridge over the Lune at Kirkby Lonsdale when his apron string broke and the stones fell out on the edge of Kingsdale Beck. The tale goes on to tell that the Devil was building this bridge at the request of an old woman who wanted to cross the Lune to search for a stray cow. The Devil, not being one to do a good deed for nothing in return, had extracted the price to be the soul the first creature to cross the bridge (assuming it would be the old woman). But the old woman was as cunning as he and as she came along to the bridge the next day, she threw a bun across first and a dog leapt out in front of her to get it. The Devil was thus cheated of his payment of a soul.
1. “The Yorkshire Dales: South and West” by Dennis Kelsall and Jan Kelsall (Cicerone Press Limited, Feb 15, 2012)
Following on from our recent forays into the world of music, looking at pieces entitled ‘Stonehenge’, comes a timely piece from the BBC, concerning acoustic research by London’s Royal College of Art upon the stones in the Preseli Hills, the source of the Stonehenge bluestones.
With this study, thousands of stones along the Carn Menyn ridge were tested and a high proportion of them were found to “ring” when they were struck.
“The percentage of the rocks on the Carn Menyn ridge are ringing rocks, they ring just like a bell,” said Mr Devereux, the principal investigator on the Landscape and Perception Project.
“And there’s lots of different tones, you could play a tune. In fact, we have had percussionists who have played proper percussion pieces off the rocks.”
A musical instrument where stones are used as an acoustic device is known as a ‘lithophone‘, or sometimes as a ‘stone marimba’. Though we’re not entirely sure that something of the size of Stonehenge could quite qualify for that name!
And a brief message for all our Cornish readers: Gool Peran Lowen! Happy St Piran’s Day!
In our previous article on music titled ‘Stonehenge’, we included some artists and songs that many antiquarians may well be familiar with. In this second article, we list 5 further songs called ‘Stonehenge’ which may not be quite so familiar!
The band came together in 1996 as members attended the New England Conservatory of Music and the Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA. After constant gigging in the area, they recorded their debut album, Coalesce (1998), as a septet. The Miracle Orchestra, along with fellow Boston musicians and friends, the Slip, are part of a developing trend of jazz-rock revival. The music is both upbeat and improvisational. It is these attributes that the Miracle Orchestra successfully embodies. ‘Stonehenge’ was included on the album “Three Sets: Vol 3“, a live album of three differing jazz bands released in 2001. Uplifting.
Kellianna – Stonehenge (5:41)
Kellianna is a pagan artist who performs songs and chants inspired by myth, magic, sacred places and ancient times. ‘Stonehenge is included on the album “Lady Moon“, released in 2004. A relaxing, affirmative chant.
Ted Heath – Stonehenge (3:11)
No, not the Tory politician! Ted Heath was one of the most famous big-band leaders in Great Britain of the 1950s. His bands played modernized swing music that was always danceable but occasionally had worthwhile solos played in the tradition. A live version was included on the “Ted Heath at Carnegie Hall” album, first released in 1957, and re-released in 2005 as a double album with “Ted Heath’s First American Tour”. Laid back swing – time for cocktails!
King Missile – Stonehenge (1:29)
Essentially a vehicle for the musings of John S. Hall, King Missile merged off-kilter spoken word monologues with eclectic, mildly psychedelic rock & roll. Hall’s dry, absurdist sense of humor colored much of the group’s output, blurring the lines between comedy, Beat poetry, narrative prose, and simple rock lyrics. ‘Stonehenge’ appears on “They“, an album described as having ‘a warped sense of humor’, released in 1988.
Ruins – Stonehenge (3:51)
Japanese post-punk prog rock by Tatsuya Yoshida. Released in 1990 on an album also entitled ‘Stonehenge’, there’s not really musch can say about this one! Enjoy?
And that concludes our round-up of Stonehnege songs for now. From 1950′s Swing, through the free festival and post punk eras, to New Age noodling and dreaminess. there should be something there for everyone.
If you have a favourite ‘Stonehenge’ track that we missed, please let us know via the comments section.
Many of our readers will be familiar with the long-running struggle against Stancliffe Stone, a quarrying company active in the Peak District, and in particular the area around Stanton Moor, home of many prehistoric monuments, among them the Nine Ladies stone circle. In 2009 a victory of sorts was felt to be won, and the protestors vacated their camp after ten years occupation. They cleared up immaculately and left the site, close to the Nine Ladies, in its peaceful, natural state. A brief history of the ongoing quarrying of the moor can be found on the Friends of the Peak web site.
But it seems that Stancliffe Stone are ready to try again. The pressure group ‘Stanton Against the Destruction of the Environment’ (SADE) have recently put out a plea for people to raise objections to a series of planning applications regarding the Dale View quarry, to the north of Stanton Moor.
The Dale View Quarry can be seen on the image above, top centre. SADE have issued the following statement aimed initially at people living or working in the area (reproduced here with permission):
Dale View Quarry – Alarming Developments
You may already have noticed due to extra lorries and the huge size of the hole in the ground that Stancliffe Stone Ltd are undertaking an aggressive new attitude to quarrying at Dale View Quarry, Stanton-in-Peak. This is the quarry that was at the centre of so much media attention when the eco-warriors were in the district.
The company has recently lodged four new development applications with the Peak District National Park Authority which – if approved – will have massively detrimental effects on local landscapes and communities.
Please take a few minutes to object to these applications as they will affect us all, with increased traffic, dust, noise and a bigger and bigger void spoiling our wonderful views – the views which draw tourists to our area. Far more people in the Dales rely on tourism for their livelihoods than rely on quarrying!
Please also encourage family and friends to object and forward this email as widely as possible. We’re aiming for hundreds of objections. If you’ve already objected to any applications, thank you, but please be aware two important new ones are listed below.
The four applications to object to are:
1. New Application NP/DDD/0214/0131
Proposal: Construction of saw shed for two stone cutting wire saws, crane and water recycling system. Please object if you don’t want the sound of stone-saws reverberating round the district.
2. New Application NP/DDD/1013/0973
Proposal: That the company be allowed to not comply with 17 of its commitments to restore the land back to its original form before taking out more stone. If you think the quarry’s an eyesore, you’re right – the company’s failed to meet any of its restoration and re-landscaping commitments and now wants that failure made legal.
Proposal: A single wire saw and compound. The company has already begun work on this installation without planning permission but has been stopped – temporarily at least – by a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with the Peak Park. Note this is in addition to the first application above – are we to have three stone saws? Or is the company going for a belt-and-braces approach – if they don’t get two saws, they might get one?
Proposal: Relocation of the ugly black shed you can see from the quarry entrance. This is a retrospective application – the company moved the shed without permission from its previous site, where it didn’t have planning permission either.
How to object
Please object as soon as possible. The company planned to start stone-sawing after Christmas and is impatient at the delay caused by SADE getting involved. All these applications are likely to be put before the Planning Committee in March or April.
The easiest way to object is to visit the Peak District Planning Search page and click on the links against the individual applications. Scroll down the official-looking page where you’ll find a box inviting your comments. If there is more than one objector in your household, please make separate objections – numbers count. Don’t forget to include full contact details or your objection may be discounted.
If you’d prefer to write a letter, please include the relevant application numbers from the list above. Send your objection to:
The Minerals Planners,
Peak District National Park Authority,
Bakewell DE45 1AE
It is our view at the Heritage Journal that the most invidious of these is application 2 in the list above, as this makes a mockery of any and all promises made in the past to ‘make good’ any damage to the environment. What good are agreements if they can be revoked at a later date? If you live, visit or work in the area please consider raising an objection to all these proposals.
Heritage Action and the Heritage Journal, as previously documented, had their beginnings on a web site forum “The Modern Antiquarian“, after the book of the same name written by Julian Cope. Mr Cope is possibly better known for his prime activity as a musician, and yet I don’t recall having had many musically themed entries here on the Journal.
A search on the major music sites for names of ancient monuments brings up a plethora of results, depending upon the monument selected. We decided to start with an obvious one – ‘Stonehenge’. This alone returns over 600 songs on AllMusic.com, with many more on Spotify and YouTube – although the YouTube results are somewhat skewed by videos of festivals, documentaries and travelogues, and duplicate entries. But here are five versions that may, or may not be familiar.
This tribute by the Norwegian comedy duo, brothers Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker, from a few years ago created a minor stir amongst the antiquarian community at the time of it’s release in 2011. The absurdity of the lyrics, and the fact that the video is played ‘straight’ make it a classic of its type. Like Marmite, you’ll either love it, or hate it.
Hawkwind and their various offshoots have released more songs than you can shake a stick at, all with the name ‘Stonehenge’ in the title somewhere. This version of ‘Stonehenge decoded’ was recorded live at the 1984 free festival at the stones, and released on the subsequent ‘This Is Hawkwind, Do Not Panic‘ album released the same year. We cannot condone the desecration of the stones depicted in this video. Possibly best appreciated whilst ‘under the influence’.
Black Sabbath – Stonehenge (1:58)
You’d hope that a track called ‘Stonehenge’, from the band whose Stonehenge stage set, when it was discovered to be too large to fit inside most venues wound up serving as inspiration for the ultimate rock & roll spoof movie (This Is Spinal Tap) would be memorable. However, this track, taken from the “Born Again” album released in 1983, is nothing more than an experimental sound-bite instrumental filler. Disappointing.
Spinal Tap – Stonehenge (5:01)
Another ‘spoof’ band, Spinal Tap have had considerable success, both in the album charts and on live tours on the back of the original ‘rockumentary’, “This is Spinal Tap” (1984). The band members are portrayed by Michael McKean (as David St. Hubbins), Christopher Guest (as Nigel Tufnel) and Harry Shearer (as Derek Smalls), along with various temporary drummers who all meet with unfortunate ends. One of many high points in the film.
The Disrupters – Stonehenge (3:42)
The Disrupters were a British anarchist punk band who formed in late 1980. Originally influenced by the early punk bands of the late 70s (The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash etc.) the band were eventually drawn to the anarchist scene. The track, ‘Stonehenge’ was included on the album “Gas the Punx“, a ‘Best Of’ collection of studio recordings from 1981-1986, released in 2005. Energetic, if a bit repetitive.
Stay tuned for more, pop-pickers! (I’m showing my age now…)
There are now less than two weeks to go before the Current Archaeology Live conference, to be held at Senate House in London in league with the UCL Institute of Classical Studies, on February 28th and 1st March. Once again, the Heritage Journal will be present and live-tweeting the event (#CALive) across the two days. This will be our third year covering the event in detail.
The line-up for this years event, as previously, covers a range of time periods. The Friday morning session starts with the prehistoric period, covering the sites at Starr Carr in Yorkshire, Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire and Garn Turne in Pembrokeshire. The Roman session will take us up to lunch, looking at the Roman countryside (Neil Holbrook), the Durtriges Project digs by Bournemouth University and the work at Caerwent carried out by Operation Nightingale.
The Friday afternoon session looks at ‘Rescuing the Past’ with Mesolithic Ronaldsway, Kingsmead Quarry, Horton and London’s Pompeii all covered before the keynote speech by Francis Pryor, which leads into the Current Archaeology Awards ceremony in the evening (voting is now closed!)
The conference continues on Saturday with a session on the Archaeology of the First World War (sponsored by sister magazine Military History Monthly), a Current World Archaeology session entitled ‘Back to the Beginning’ which includes a look at Early Hominins (topical with the current exhibition on Neanderthals at the Natural History Museum in London), Gobekli Tepe and Early Domestication.
After lunch, Early Medieval England gets a look in, with Martin Carver talking about Sutton Hoo and talks about Spong Hill and Torksey thrown in for good measure!
Finally to wrap up, John Gater will be telling us all about Time Team and Geophysics.
All in all, an interesting two days of talks lined up, with hopefully something for everyone, not forgetting the Archaeology Fair held during the conference, where there will be a dozen stalls packed with books, equipment, and much more for everyone to browse between sessions. It’s not too late to book your tickets! We’ll see you there…
Every year, the Current Archaeology Awards celebrate the projects and publications that have made the pages of Current Archaeology magazine over the 12 months, and the people judged to have made outstanding contributions to archaeology.
The nominations have been public for a while now, and there are only a few days left to register your vote, as voting closes on the 7th February!
There are four categories to vote in, and winners are decided purely on the number of public votes received. Click the following links to see the nominees in each category:
Winners will be announced at the Current Archaeology Live! 2014 conference, to be held on the 28th Feb – 1st March at Senate House, London. The Heritage Journal intends being at this event once again (our third attendance), to tweet, report on the talks, mingle, and attend the awards. So say hello if you see our ‘blue dolmen’ logo. See you there!
Another month, and another question in the blogging carnival being run by Doug’s Archaeology. The carnival allows arcaheology-related blogs to participate in answering various questions about why and how the blogs are composed, and what experiences can be gained from running an archaeology blog. Whilst we’re not strictly an ‘archaeology’ blog we’ve been invited to participate thus far.
So, this month’s question is: “What are your best (or if you want, your worst) post(s) and why? Compare and contrast your different bests/worsts.” Looking at the carnival posts so far this month, many participants seem to have gone for the ’highest/lowest hits’ approach, and that’s one we can certainly relate to here. As previously stated, our hit rate is fairly constant, with a slow but steady increase over the months and years. The Heritage Journal, in it’s present incarnation has been running since 2009, but has been running in various forms since March 2005. In that time, we’ve posted an article pretty much every day, with a few exceptions – weekends tend to be quiet in terms of our readership so we miss an occasional Saturday. That’s a lot of articles to pick a best/worst from, we have published over 1650 posts so far! That adds up to over 400k hits since 2009, as measured by WordPress – I’m not sure if that includes RSS readers and other aggregators/republishers, which may swell the numbers still further.
If we were to look at statistics alone, then some of those early posts (and the first few dozen seem to have disappeared without trace from WordPress, so I can’t say what the first story was about) would win the ‘Worst’ title hands down – our readership was minimal, and getting even a dozen or so hits was seen as something of a victory. On the other hand, some of our most recent posts have almost gone ‘viral’, one story last December racking up over 4500 direct hits on the day of publications, and nearly doubling that figure in total hits since. And those figures don’t include those readers who head straight for our main page, rather than the story-specific links that we broadcast on our social media channels.
But enough of stats. Let’s take a brief look at why our figures have increased over the years, without looking at specific stories, and also what might cause them to dip.
Firstly, many of our early posts were very focussed on an audience that was quite different from our current readership. We were aiming primarily at antiquarian enthusiasts like ourselves, people who like to get out and about in amongst the stones, lumps and bumps that form our prehistoric heritage. At the same time, we were (possibly naively) hoping to attract ordinary members of the public, hoping to encourage them to maybe take note of what excited us about these places. However, over the years, that approach has changed. We still run articles that would hopefully be of interest to newcomers to our hobby, highlighting specific sites or site types. We now concern ourselves much more with planning matters (windfarms, housing and road developments), threats to the archaeological resource – whether that be from the aforementioned developments or from unenlightened detectorists – and reporting on community archaeology project successes.
As a consequence of this shift in focus, our readership now includes a lot more ‘professionals’; archaeologists, students, and decision makers. This was shown by one of our more popular posts looking at the work that volunteers do at digs. This morphed into a discussion about pay rates and amateurs versus professionals, with comments from all sides of the argument.
Another factor in the popularity of a post is a more judicious use of marketing tactics, with regard to article titles. In this regard, we can recommend a short (free) report, entitled ‘Headline Hacks‘ which is full of suggestions and templates for titles that could improve your traffic. Using some of the suggestions in the report, it’s been our experience that any title that alludes to a list of some kind, or includes the words ‘how to…’ will garner more than the average number of hits. Likewise, any title that could be considered ‘contentious’ (such as our ‘Ed Vaizey insults every archaeologist and heritage professional!‘ story which gave the high numbers mentioned above) or is unexpected improves our hit rate. Most of our ‘dips’ can be related to either straying from our main focus, or forgetting to utilise the recommendations in the report.
Any discussion of marketing tactics wouldn’t be complete without a mention of social media. There’s a fine balance between announcing a new post, and spam. We use Twitter and Facebook, but to be honest, interaction with our readers on both leaves a lot to be desired, and is something we’ll be looking at during this coming year.
Finally, content. Anything that references Stonehenge, or Time Team, even by association (barely a day goes by without at least a couple of hits on our ‘Inside the mind of…’ stories on Raksha Dave from 2012 – or Carenza Lewis from 2013) is guaranteed to be an ‘above average’ article in terms of those pesky hit rates. Great content, that an audience can connect to, is what draws readers in. If you write it, they will come.
And for us, at the end of the day, despite all this talk of numbers and hit rates, it’s only about the content and raising awareness of sites under threat. And those high hit rates can only help spread the word, right?
See also our earlier responses in the carnival:
To read other blogs participating in the carnival, search Twitter for the hashtag #blogarch.
Now that the December hullabaloo has died down, (what? You’re still celebrating??) January is traditionally a time for the holiday brochures to make an appearance, and cold evenings huddled around a fire are spent dreaming of the sunnier, warmer days of summer ahead, and how to spend them. If you’re not one of those who go flying off to foreign climes, but prefer to explore the ancient heritage of the British Isles in a so-called ‘Staycation’, you may well be looking for some ideas.
Luckily, our friends over at the Heritage Daily have recently been putting together a few ‘Top Ten’ lists which may inspire you.
Firstly to set the scene, a list of the Top Ten Archaeological Discoveries in 2013. Not so much here on places to visit, though my personal favourite ‘local’ henge at Norton in Hertfordshire is included here. Whilst there’s not that much to see on the ground at Norton, taking in the wider landscape of the ‘Baldock Bowl’ can reap some rewards, whilst a few miles away is the largest longbarrow in Hertfordshire, just outside Royston.
If stone circles are your ‘thing’, a list of the Top Ten Circles in Britain should provide plenty of inspiration. From Brodgar in the north, to Stanton Drew and Stonehenge in the south, all the major circles are here.
Hillforts seem to be coming under attack from developers lately (see our recent stories on Oswestry), so why not get out and see a few while they’re still relatively free of housing? The Top Ten Iron Age Hillforts list features some spectacular forts, from East Lothian in Scotland, down to the South Coast.
If your tastes verge toward the more ‘modern’ side of ancient heritage, the Top Ten Roman Forts list should do for you, though we’re straying outside our ‘mainly Pre-Roman’ remit here As you’d expect, Hadrian’s Wall features prominently – if you’re a Romanist and haven’t walked it yet, I’m assured you’re missing out! But there are also shore forts from around the coast, so whichever part of the country takes your fancy, there should be something there for you.
So plenty there to get your travel plans under way, whether it be for a day trip, long weekend, or something a little longer. Why not tell us your plans for this year? Which sites are you hoping to see for the first time? Which old friends will you be revisiting? Let us know via the Comments.
The eagle-eyed among you will notice a new item in the navigation bar above, a link to an Events Diary. This new page displays our Google Diary entries, and lists on a monthly basis the various prehistory-based events that we’ve uncovered as being of potential interest to our readership.
It is our intention to populate the calendar each month with basic details of the following types of events:
- Site Clearups
- Community Events
- Open Days
However, we cannot possibly check every archaeology or museum web site to collate information, so that’s where you come in! If you are an events organiser, or involved with a local archaeology society and would be prepared to help us by adding your own prehistory events, please contact us and let us know. We can talk through the process if necessary, and thus potentially increase the audience for your events. Similarly, if you’re a regular speaker and would like some exposure for your talks, get in touch.
If you have a Google account and would like to copy an existing event to your own calendar, just click on the event to see the details, and then click on the ‘copy to my calendar’ link provided.
The Events Diary will not totally replace our regular ‘Diary Dates’ postings, which are maintained by Sue Brooke, and will continue to highlight events such as exhibitions which may open across a range of dates (weeks or months).