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A novel way to let visitors contribute to the care of the country’s most famous chalk giant has been set up by the National Trust. Visitors snapping photos of themselves near the Cerne Abbas Giant with their smartphones will now also be able to text a donation to support his upkeep.
Charity fundraising in this way is likely to be the next big thing, it seems. Combined with QR codes it could prove to be an unobtrusive and secure way of financing the upkeep of lots of ancient sites. What’s not to like?
“Jaw-dropping & beguiling”
So said Lord Avebury about this aerial video of Silbury. It’s a must-see.
The solution to everything!
It seems that after each Glastonbury Festival the organiser Michael Eavis uses 14ft metal detectors to ensure his cows don’t ingest coins and other metal waste. Could British archaeology learn from this? Archaeologists could clear ploughed fields of metallic artefacts using Mr Eavis’s hoovers rather than having to rely on random people with 9 inch coils and uncertain propensities to report. Not just some but all metal finds could be delivered in large sacks direct to the BM where PAS could sort though them.
Cynics in Saville Row suits or cheap Tesco’s army gear who claim this idea is ridiculous could have it slowly explained to them that it’s exactly what they’ve been striving for, but far better. The fields would be emptied of their artefactual content in a far more thorough and speedy fashion than at present and the PAS database would greatly expand and contain much more accurate data – all of which have been the aims of British portable antiquities policy for 15 years.
There would be additional massive benefits as well. 100% not 30% of finds would get reported. Find spot data would be perfectly accurate. No-one would dig into archaeology. No farmer would be hoodwinked. Millions in Treasure payments would be saved. Everything that ought to be in a museum would go to one and everything else could be sold for good causes rather than being annexed for the benefit of individuals. What’s not to like? Oh, and PAS could run telly programmes – “What’s in the Sack?“. They’d be ever so educational.
STOP PRESS: This very morning the pending TV programme “Hoard Hunters” has launched a website. See for yourself what it’s going to be about. http://hoardhunters.com/ Remarkably it has described both itself and the rock-bottom level the public presentation of archaeology has been reduced to in this country in 8 succinct words:
“A sort of Top Gear meets Time Team”
The crocodile that shed monetary tears
There’s a public appeal to enable Middlewich Town Council to buy a rare 17th century ring valued at £1,900. The finder, local detectorist Michael said: “we’re all made up that it looks like the ring is going to stay in the town as there was talk of Chester buying it”. No Michael, there was never any danger of that, all you needed to do was renounce you £950 reward – and you still can. After all, if you’ve been metal detecting for say 5 years we’ve already spent a total of £900 persuading you to adopt best practice so fair’s fair eh?
Here’s a video of a sea trial of the fantastic Bronze Age boat that has just taken place in Falmouth harbour. What’s striking is how amazingly stable it seems. It makes you wonder, would a bigger version be capable of towing a raft loaded with a couple of blue stones?
by Sandy Gerard
In March last year 18 questions relating to the archaeological situation on Mynydd y Betws were asked. During May the answers provided by Cadw were published here. I also asked my local Assembly member (Mr Rhodri Glyn Thomas) to ask the Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT) the same questions and he kindly did this on my behalf. Having had no response in October I asked Carmarthenshire County Council for a copy of the DAT response and this was passed to both Mr Thomas and myself shortly afterwards. A commentary on the DAT response was then produced and sent to Carmarthenshire County Council. This series of articles present DAT’s responses in black and my own comments upon them in green. See part 1 of the series here.
10. The explanation for Evaluation Trench 43 is not consistent with the evidence.
Evaluation trench 43 examined the mining pits. We understand that this had to be abandoned for health and safety reasons as asbestos cement was identified within the mining pits. Cotswold Archaeology had recorded much of the trench before the asbestos was revealed. However, it was clear that they are modern industrial mining features, parts of which could be removed by the development without significant loss to the historic environment of Mynydd y Betws
A truly remarkable answer. The excavation was limited to half-sectioning modern dumped material in these features and no attempt was made to reveal the primary deposits. It is therefore hardly surprising that the conclusion was wrong. A cursory glance at the Royal Commission volume for this area would have provided much more accurate results and an explanation for the depth of dumped material. This excavation was effectively abandoned even before the 1917 turf level was reached.
In the circumstances it is therefore difficult to accept that it is “clear that they are modern industrial mining features” as actually it is clear that they are not. Furthermore, the only matter that is clear is that it is now known that these remains were not recorded at all, with instead the work being devoted entirely to examining the rubbish that had been dumped into them. Given this, it necessarily follows that the Trust have no way of knowing whether a significant loss to the historic environment has occurred. At the very least an opportunity to understand the historic environment has been squandered. Are the Trust at least willing to admit to that? Why is the Trust satisfied that a heritage asset of some considerable age has been damaged without any proper recording?
11. The excavation strategy employed by Evaluation Trench 43 is very curious.
We do not agree with Dr Gerrard that the positioning of the trench in anyway affected the interpretation of these feature.
A trench that included at least one dump could have provided dating evidence and information on the character of the material being mined. The positioning of the trench meant that this potentially crucial information could not possibly be recovered. These features include three main elements – the pit, its fill and dump. The decision to look at only two is rather like excavating the ditch of a barrow but ignoring the mound itself. The decision to excavate these features in this manner may have contributed to the erroneous result.
12. The mining pits extend into the area of Turbine 16.
See 10 above
See 10 above.
For all previous and subsequent articles put Mynydd Y Betws in our Search Box.
Rock art revealed
The highest concentration of ancient rock art ever discovered in the Highlands has been found on hillside farmland in Ross-shire http://www.ross-shirejournal.co.uk/News/Ancient-rock-art-uncovered-in-Evanton-31012013.htm
“Sado 81″ reveals all!
“Does anyone of You sell or keep those-say sixpences and come to the landowner to give him the 50% of it? Well- I dont….. I cant imagine myself giving say £12.50 (50% value) (if I had a good day detecting) to the person who owns 2000 acres with 1000 dairy cattle….. My farmers will get 50% value of items CLASSED as TREASURE only. Am I doing something wrong here?”
Yes Sado, you are. The objects are 100% his not yours so if he hasn’t agreed then it’s theft. Think of it as nighthawking but far worse as there are far more of you than them. Your inconsequential £25 a week (100% value) could be £1200 a year and if just 3,000 detectorists do the same as you that’s an inconsequential £3.6 million being stolen from farmers by legal detectorists annually. Now, what was it you were saying about nighthawks giving detecting a bad name?
PS, Paul Barford has much more to add http://paul-barford.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/focus-on-uk-metal-detecting-sixpence.html Concealing finds IS nighthawking says Glasgow University.
ARCH on the march
The more we hear about ARCH, the Alliance to Reduce Heritage Crime, the better it seems. The plan is simple – to create “an England-wide series of effective partnerships between organisations and communities to protect heritage” and that’s what is happening. Conferences and training events have been held and English Heritage has tons of guidance for all concerned on it’s website. We noticed that “Guidance for sentencers” is coming soon – how good is that?! (“Maximum is there to be occasionally used Your Honour”!) The campaign appears to have struck a big chord with the public. Awareness events have been held in many cities and the latest one in Lincolnshire has been extended. (Incidentally, at that one the museum is running a Fakes & Forgeries competition where you can win a truly, truly irresistible Sherlock Holmes teddy bear!)
Sheep’s clothing in Wales
The Pembrokeshire Prospectors are the poster boys of responsible detecting, so full of rules Mother Theresa would find it hard to get in and they’ve even just published a second book of their finds. But they have a dirty little secret: nowhere in their rules, constitution or code of conduct do they require Members to follow the official Code of Responsible Detecting or report their finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme! There’s only one explanation: they have Members that aren’t prepared to comply with the very practices that are supposed to distinguish responsible detectorists from the selfish remainder. What a scandal that Pembrokeshire landowners are being bamboozled in this way and that PAS doesn’t do it’s job by telling them.
(If PAS put up a web page warning farmers about this scam – which is hobby-wide with nearly every club doing the same – or if the Pembrokeshire Prospectors contact us saying they’ve made the necessary changes we’ll be happy to amend this article. What could be fairer?)
And in case you still can’t see an end to Winter…
Here’s a reminder of a bit of comfort we posted a couple of years ago
By Sandy Gerrard
Amongst the simplest monuments to schedule are individual barrows. They survive as a discreet mound with a surrounding ditch. Indeed it sometimes feels as if the legislation is tailored to make their designation easy. It is therefore perhaps surprising to note that even the scheduling of a single barrow is not without its problems. Indeed an examination of a recent example reveals a number of entirely avoidable mistakes and contradictions.
The scheduled bowl barrow 550m south-east of Dairy Farm highlights that even the straight-forward can be made confusing. The barrow was first scheduled in 1997, but is now being re-scheduled in 2012. The reason for this double handling is not given, but the most likely explanation is that it was plotted in the wrong location in the first place. A number of aspects concerning this new revamped scheduling are worth considering.
In the Reasons for Designation section much is made of the ditch fills and the features below the mound, but the survival of the mound itself is not seen as a reason for protecting the site. This seems curious given the type of site. Even more bizarre however is the statement that the site “will contribute valuable information regarding” amongst other things “the distribution of settlement in the area”. Not sure how a single barrow can help enhance our understanding of an entirely different group of monuments. In the diversity section much is made of other nearby sites which are also protected, but concludes that they are separated from some of the others by “an existing gravel quarry.” The presence of the gravel quarry is obviously a sound reason for offering this site protection, but I am not sure how well this fits within the diversity section. A very odd juxtaposition of ideas. When considering the period criteria, the documentation bravely states “Bowl barrows are funerary monuments“, but elsewhere within the same report it says “Many, but not all, covered single or multiple burials or had burials inserted into them”. So are they funerary monuments or not? This last statement also curiously implies that only barrows with no primary burials had burials inserted into them at a later date.(On a really pedantic note, within the documentation section of the report this single barrow is suddenly transformed as if by magic into “The monuments”.)
The next section notes that bowl barrows “are funerary or ceremonial monuments”. This statement implies that barrows with burials somehow did not have a ceremonial function. I wonder what evidence EH has uncovered to support this particular position? The report then goes on to say that barrows were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds and are commonly surrounded by a ring-ditch. This is an incredible simplification as obviously many mounds are composed of both earth and rubble. I also believe that rubble mounds are generally thought of as cairns. Describing the ditch surrounding a barrow as a ring-ditch is unhelpful and confusing. Ring-ditch is not an appropriate term where the mound is said to survive. However, despite saying that the barrow mound survives elsewhere in the documentation later on the report says the “survival and precise location have been established more recently by magnetometer survey”. This might suggest that the site should indeed be thought of as a ring-ditch rather than a barrow. This is all very confusing when the identity of the monument keeps morphing from one thing into another. The next bit is if anything even more baffling – “Important evidence of earlier activity is often preserved beneath barrow mounds, which may be preceded by a lengthy sequence of construction and use.” Wonder what that means?
The report notes that “aerial photography and geophysical survey allow for the accurate plotting and measurement of the barrow” but then goes on to spoil things by noting that “the diameter of which measures about 12m from the outer edge of the ditch.” Seems odd to me that such an accurate measurement should result in only an approximation. Furthermore, the dimensions are expressed in such a clumsy way that the size of the barrow remains a mystery because we have not been told the width of the ditch.
The scheduling is provided with a 10m buffer zone which means “the scheduled area forms a circle measuring 32m in diameter.” This very generous “buffer zone” means that more than 85% of the scheduled area contains no known archaeological remains and the nationally important archaeology is limited to less than 15% of the total area. Some might argue that this is somewhat generous and others that a 85% buffer should be applied to all future schedulings.
Bottom line though is that this scheduling, in common with others that have been looked at in recent weeks, is riddled with mistakes and contradictions.
[For other articles in the series put Scheduling in the search box]
Weather proof (and vandal proof) stones
Stilts at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Lantern Procession is proving very popular. 500 people are expected to take part this year. Is it authentic? It’s a fair bet that it is, although organiser Mr Rhind-Tutt says “we’ve even got a stilt walker signed up!” Who knows though, that might be exactly what happened in the old days, maybe people weren’t allowed on the sacred ground! We suspect that EH will be having a word though, if it’s wet and the stilts are making deep holes.
Archae-irony for all!
As a tweet from the CBA’s Festival says….
Congratulations to Corfe Castle – the first Festival of Archaeology 2013 event!
Not the first “festival” at that superb venue though. A metal detecting manufacturer has run annual rallies on land overlooking the castle for many years and they’ll be there again in 2013 despite some concerns they may have nearly cleaned it out
– “Finds were seriously reduced up there anyway this year because its had us on it for twelve years and finds dont get replaced”
(You may recall a telly programme featuring a nice responsible “metal detecting survey” there a few years ago amidst lots of hoo-ha about how it was the future and highly beneficial for the viewers. But the cameras are long gone, the collector-boys have kept coming, again and again and again and it’s nearly all been cleaned out … Archaeology for all, see?)
US archaeos take the Mick over Stonehenge
It’s lucky the Stonehenge fence is soon to be removed. Look at this leaflet on a table at a recent archaeological outreach event in Texas. Who says Americans don’t do irony?!
Philately celebrates megaliths
Stamps have been issued to celebrate Jersey’s archaeological history. Five stamps have been issued featuring images of dolmens from across the island.
Glasgow Uni shines a light
Glasgow University has produced a stonking good article on why people refer to illicit antiquities rather than illegal ones. One passage in particular shone like a beacon:
“Writers in this vein emphasise the point that while the criminal justice system tends to operate a strict binary distinction between criminal and non-criminal (or guilty and not-guilty), in reality some actions can be harmful but not illegal (Passas and Goodwin 2004). This is often because the criminal justice system has not yet caught up with the movement of contemporary sensibilities around harm (Hillyard et al. 2004). Some social actions may therefore be generally condemned, usually due to the perceived harm they cause, while not (perhaps yet) being illegal—they are ‘lawful but awful’ as some commentators have put it (Passas 2005).”
Excellent. Perhaps it is time Glasgow added “metal detecting” to their growing list of definitions. There would be illegal metal detecting (which is illegal) and illicit metal detecting (metal detecting without reporting to PAS, which is legal but officially described as harmful).
But of course, they would also need to define the middle bit - metal detecting that does include reporting to PAS. That definition presents the mother of all ticklish problems for in Britain such activity is labelled as “responsible” but abroad it’s still considered wrong and unacceptable. So come on Glasgow, you can’t possible have definitions that don’t include metal detecting. But how will you define it? Like PAS does or like all your overseas colleagues do?
- An unusual find in a newly discovered Causewayed Enclosure in Cornwall.
- Thirty museums and Heritage sites have closed in the last two years.
- A new website highlighting the environmental archaeological record provided by the excavations at Howe, near Stromness, has been launched.
- Bronze Age artefacts at risk from the tides in Northumberland
The National Heritage List for England is an incredibly useful source of information concerning our designated heritage. A fairly sophisticated search engine allows the user to retrieve various categories of information fairly easily. If you happen to know the number of the asset you are looking for there is a window where this can be entered. It is therefore perhaps unfortunate that the search tip suggests that the information should be entered in a box below when in reality it is the box above that should be completed. This may seem rather trivial, but yes I admit it I spent a short time looking for a box below. More importantly if simple details like this are wrong can we be confident in the contents? During the coming months we will explore the contents of the Heritage List giving us an insight into the character of what is protected and whether the list is robust enough for the challenges of the 21st century
A final thought for today. As this mistake has gone un-noticed for more than a year does this mean that nobody is using this resource? This would be a great shame as this is an important source of information for anyone involved or interested in the protection of our heritage. Perhaps English Heritage would like to tell us how many people have used the online version of The National Heritage List for England?
[For other articles in the series put Scheduling in the search box]
Hot on the heels of a recent windfarm industry opinion that it was important to tell host communities they will gain “the benefits of change”if they don’t oppose windfarms, comes this….
For once, an accurate account of nighthawking:“Metal detector enthusiasts armed with spades have been targeting a historic North-East site” Metal detectorists, see? Not a different species, just people who frequent detecting clubs and forums (as metal detectorists themselves frequently admit), who happen also to go out stealing. How can nighthawks be properly targeted if that reality isn’t thoroughly understood and acknowledged? It can’t. So good.
More excellent news (though not a police matter), is the quote from Inspector Mark Harrison, national policing and crime advisor for English Heritage: such people come “to steal property that belongs to the land owners, and more importantly, they are stealing the knowledge that belongs to all of us.”
Hurrah! Although, to be really perfect in terms of informing the public he would need to add a few words:
they are stealing the knowledge that belongs to all of us, though very little compared with that far bigger group that acts legally but doesn’t report finds to PAS! Surprising. Never officially said. But absolutely true!
For more Cheers and Boos put cheers in the search box