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If you’re here you probably like ancient sites and want to see them fully appreciated and preserved. The Journal is a community resource for everyone that feels that way so why not join in and add your voice or images??

We’re always looking for contributions – news, views, pictures, you name it – anything that helps raise the public profile of these places. If you’re out and about over Easter and visiting an ancient site or perhaps attending a related event (you can get some ideas from our Diary of  Prehistory and Heritage Events ) and you feel you have something worth sharing why not get in touch?

Thanks! Enjoy the break. Most of us will be away but we’ll leave someone in charge of the shop for if you’d like to get in touch, particularly if you have any news.

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The remains of a two thousand years old Roman wall (yes, Roman – we’re thinking of extending our remit beyond the prehistoric) in Winchester has been removed and “turned to rubble” to make way for new houses. “It’s desperately sad” said Colin Cook, of the Winchester Area Tourist Guides Association. “As far as I can see it’s gone away on a lorry. There is no possibility of rebuilding it anywhere else.” 

A Council spokesman said “preservation of part of the surviving remains of the city wall within the site is not possible” and earlier Professor Martin Biddle, a world-renowned archaeologist had said that so long as the site was fully excavated and recorded, he did not feel the wall was necessarily worth preserving. “Cities are living things” he added.

Indeed, but a 2000 year old wall? Couldn’t the 14 new houses have been built further out where perhaps a 1950′s toilet block or a wooden bus shelter could have been sacrificed to progress? Was there nowhere else where Winchester’s housing stock could have been expanded by 14 except in the heart of the city where houses  prices (and profits) are sky high? Was preservation of part of the surviving remains of the city wall truly “not possible”? It all seems a bit Oddwestry.

At long last an academic has said about detecting: “a disjuncture exists between law (which defines activities that are illegal) and morality (which identifies behaviour that is wrong).” Morality, see? We’ve been obsessing about it for years while academics and archaeologists haven’t. Now it’s in the academic mainstream and hopefully archaeologists will start saying it too, the simple proposition that wantonly not reporting finds is immoral.

Diogenes of Sinope who believed that virtue is better revealed in action than in theory

Diogenes of Sinope: “Virtue is better revealed in action than in theory”

In addition, plain speaking has just broken out among detectorists. A very senior member of the Detecting Wales Forum has just said, rather elegantly: “The often recited old mantra of  “we save history” is laughable at best we don’t save history we dig up pieces of metal from history which are pieces of the jigsaw puzzle picture of history, for every detectorist who records ALL their finds over 300 years I’ll show you at least 10 that don’t so in fact we steal history by taking away parts of the full picture.”  At almost the same moment another self-evidently thoughtful detectorist has said on his blog that although detectorist find many hoards … “it does not in my opinion justify the wholesale failure to record 1000′s of other items as maybe society has lost more with these unrecorded items?”

We ought to sue all three for plagiarism. Like us they risk personal abuse but what’s been said can’t be unsaid. It IS immoral to deliberately avoid reporting all your recordable finds and the vast majority of detectorists DON’T report all theirs. Sad that the Portable Antiquities Scheme still avoids saying either. Once, back in 2001, it was happy to say “The Scheme believes that people have a moral obligation to their heritage”, but that was quickly dropped to conform with the wishes of those who want reporting to be a purely voluntary matter, not a moral obligation. It’s been a bad choice, damaging to heritage, unfair to the public and in the end embarrassing to the Scheme.

It has also been insulting to many reasonable detectorists for it is surely not true they’d record less if it was now said to be morally obligatory? Only people who are already determined not to record would react like that. If that is the case – and it seems very likely that it is – it would have to be said that the policy has been based on a massive misjudgement and needs to be amended. Which is why we see the three quotes as encouraging. A few more and we could be speaking of early cracks in the prevailing paradigm.  The sooner the better. Perhaps academics hold the key. Institutions like Glasgow University’s “Trafficking Culture” focus on illegal  activity. Maybe in the case of Britain they should study the impact of immoral activity, the knowledge loss from which is demonstrably vastly greater?


Update 7 April 2014
There have been some interesting reactions to the above article elsewhere, none of them clear, so perhaps it would be reasonable to invite archaeologists (particularly those who the public are likely to hear) to respond to the core question to which the public is surely owed an answer:
Is wanton failure to report recordable metal detecting finds immoral? Or not?

Update (2)  7 April 2014
By happy happenstance this year’s Conference of the Institute for Archaeologists (“Setting standards for the study and care of the historic environment”) starts on Wednesday in Glasgow, the very place where the “metal detecting is a matter of morality” issue was flagged up. As a result we’re perfectly entitled to fantasise, nay ask, that the event kicks off with an emergency resolution…..


If the timescale proves too tight perhaps other events could address  the issue? Next month Egham Museum is holding what looks like a fascinating one day “Collections and Identity Conference” which would surely be ideal, especially as one of the themes is “What do objects tell us about their collectors”.

Failing those two, surely some archaeologists, curators or academics will address the subject very soon? Won’t they?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


by Nigel Swift


We’ve had some clues lately. We now know Responsible Detecting is NOT digging up German soldiers using unqualified people and disrespectful behaviour to make a crass TV show called “Nazi War Diggers”. Nor is it digging up treasure from what was perceived to be a grave in Kent instead of leaving it to professionals. (Although, bizarrely, PAS is yet to condemn the latter and many detectorists have said both incidents were “fine”!). Personally I think I know exactly what the term means. It means working for the public’s benefit, not your own. I’m confident every archaeologist thinks that too but in Britain there’s a political and tactical need to avoid offending artefact hunters so most of them don’t express it, not in in public anyway. Eight words unsaid, that’s what makes Britain’s portable antiquities policy bonkers for it lets anyone claim “responsible detecting” is whatever it suits them to say it is.


Three detectorists have just illustrated the fact. The worst says a responsible detectorist simply “adheres to the letter of prevailing laws“. (Yeah right, the laws that leave you free to not report 99.9% of finds and indeed to put them into a crusher!). Another says you should  report your finds but that the NCMD code is fine (even though it doesn’t require you to report 99.9% of finds!) The third says you should avoid damage and report your finds – and to signal that belief he has resigned from NCMD.  So he’s the only one of the three that comes within a million miles of responsible but he’s hardly typical. It’s the same with detecting clubs. All say they favour responsible detecting yet all but one don’t insist on Members adhering to the official Code or reporting 99.9% of finds. They tell farmers their Members are code-bound and responsible but they don’t tell them that!


Thus the claim “I’m a Responsible Detectorist!” acts as a magic open sesame at farm gates. All the farmer knows is what he is told in the press ad nauseam, that there are just two sorts of detectorists – a tiny minority known as nighthawks and all the rest, who are “responsible”. If only, if only officialdom and more archaeologists would stop saying that and tell landowners the real truth (an article in the farming press perhaps?) that “the rest” comprise every shade of responsible and none and that the term can only mean protecting the public’s interest. How about “The deliberate recovery of buried portable antiquities always involves the unearthing of knowledge and no-one should annexe, conceal or destroy it.”? Which bit of that should landowners not have been officially told all these years? It would make such a difference to conservation if they were. But not upsetting detectorists seems to outrank conservation or telling farmers the truth in many official quarters in Bonkers Britain.


Keep calm and carry on. Nothing to see here. Agenda driven amateurs eh? Tsk!


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


"Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

The Environment Secretary and MP for Oswestry, Owen (“Hill Fort? What hill fort?”) Paterson is not a man to change his mind merely because of evidence (ask the badgers and foxes!) So he’s sticking to his guns on biodiversity offsetting despite it’s efficacy being seriously challenged. He and the government had cited the success of schemes in Australia but those have now been branded “disappointing” by a leading expert over there – “I am very disappointed with the gap between the principles of biodiversity offsetting and practice. The science indicates that it is not feasible in the majority of circumstances to destroy biodiversity at site A and simply reinstate it at site B.” The Institute for European Environmental Policy suggested the same thing: “offsets more often than not provide ‘equivalent biodiversity’ that is grossly inferior to that which was destroyed.

The suspicion. of course, is that pushing offsetting is a fig leaf to help developers. Sandra Bell, nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth, says  The government should pull the plug on these madcap ‘offsetting’ plans and get on with delivering its commitments to protect and boost wildlife through better planning.”  A total of over 140 environment groups from around the world have now signed a statement condemning the policy: Offsetting will not tackle biodiversity loss, but may impoverish communities. Its introduction allows, or even encourages, environmental destruction with the promise that the habitat can be recreated elsewhere. This is beneficial to the companies doing the damage, since they can present themselves as a company that invests in environmental protection, thereby greenwashing its products and services. It only serves to permit the commodification of nature”.

Beware the jaws that bite, eh?! ;)


Hervan Menhir © Alan S. Heritage Journal

Hervan Menhir © Alan S. Heritage Journal

Hervan  (in Cornish hyr means long and ven means stone) Menhir (in Middle Breton men means stone and hir means long) …..  so “Long Stone Long Stone” ) is situated on the Lizard and once marked the boundary of Predannick moor. Whether it has prehistoric credentials is not clear (so far as we and Google can say) but now it forms what may well be Britain’s best rockery feature in some lucky person’s back garden.

Heritage Daily is an independent online magazine for archaeological and associated disciplines, dedicated to the heritage and historical sector. In a recent feature on hillforts they point out that: “There are around 3,300 structures that can be classed as hillforts or similar “defended enclosures” in Britain” and they present a list of the ten most impressive examples.

The second one on that list is Old Oswestry. They describe it as “one of Britain’s most spectacular and impressive early Iron Age hill forts in the Welsh Marches near Oswestry in north west Shropshire. It remains one of the best preserved hill forts in the UK …. with stunning panoramic views across North Wales, Cheshire and Shropshire.”

The above counts for nothing in planning law – the place is scheduled and has a setting, that’s all. But on the other hand it is something that Oswestry and Shropshire councillors should keep in mind. If they vote to damage the setting in any way they are not damaging something inconsequential that is hidden away unregarded in North Shropshire, but something that is important in both national and world terms.

Let them not delude themselves about the scale of what they would be doing – or that just a small amount of damage wouldn’t matter. Never mind the talk, which of them was elected to put an estate of houses just here? >>>>



A Comment from Trish Farrell:

Well said. Everyone needs to email their concerns to the portfolio holder for Planning at Shropshire Council, Cllr Malcolm Price at: This is also part of a national disgrace the National Planning Policy Framework that is overriding all previous consultations between councils and their constituents over allocations of development land under SAMDev and similar.

NPPF apparently states that if councils do not have a 5 year land supply then any policy they have set down will be overruled by the NPPF’s presumption if favour of development. Shropshire currently has a small short fall which means its Core Strategy policies cannot stand. It seems that Mr Price is as unhappy with this situation as anyone else. He makes this plain in an interview on Radio Shropshire. Go to 2h13m at to hear his comments.

Then you need email the Minister for Planning Nick Bowles. All this is contributing/underlining the Old Oswestry situation. The NPPF basically opens the door to developers. If they do not get what they want they can threaten councils with judicial reviews which will then mean huge financial penalties at public expense. Since communities all over Shropshire are in uproar over what is happening to them (E.g. Shifnal now earmarked for 1600 houses way beyond what the community agreed with Shropshire Council), you may understand how Shropshire Council’s hands are now tied.

Finally, if you think this is all wrong, write to your MP – wherever you live.


and a Comment from Diana Baur:

Speechless with frustration about the appalling way democracy – if it ever was around – has effectively been binned – and by a coalition government – what hope is there. Can smell the leather of jackboots oozing all over this.



In Britain you need an official licence to play a harp in the street….

but you have official license to metal detect our heritage onto eBay!

And not just if you’re British. Everyone in the world is free (nay, welcome) to do it. Here’s a Polish metal detecting rally. Not in Poland, where they’d be locked up, but in Bedfordshire.



More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting




This is not something prehistoric but it IS about heritage. It’s a child’s burial stone that used to be at St Mary’s Church in Foy, Ross on Wye. The top half was stolen two years ago and the bottom half last month.

Whatever the penalty, it’s not enough.

If you have any information please contact the police on 101


Last Friday the Local Council of Xaghra on the island of Gozo, Malta sealed a twinning agreement with the Councils of Mergo in Italy and Chevaigné in France. It’s a nice place, Xaghra, it’s a shame a comparable British town with a similar obligation to protect a nearby ancient site hasn’t twinned up with them. Oswestry for instance…

Alas, that could never be, as there seems to be a bit of a cultural gulf between the two places. At Xaghra you see, two brand new two-storey terraced houses are being proposed in the buffer zone of the Xaghra Stone Circle, which forms part of the Ggantija complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site and there’s an awful stink being kicked up about it. (Yes, you read it right, two!)

Heritage Malta (a sort of Maltese English Heritage) has objected to the development saying that any development in this buffer zone would not only endanger the world heritage status of the Ggantija temples but of all six Megalithic sites in Malta and Gozo. So naturally a town which seems likely to be about to reject two new houses in a buffer zone is going to be less than keen to twin with a town where Government planning rules enable someone to try their luck with an application to build 188 right next to a world famous hill fort – with a sporting chance of getting at least some of them approved!


April 2014
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