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!

by Sandy Gerrard

Cadw record that scheduled monument BR226 “Standing stone near Traeth Bach” is at SN 96388 25380. Trouble is there is no standing stone at this location.  Adjacent to a modern ditch there is a large horizontal slab, but no standing stone.

he standing stone near Traeth Bach is said by Cadw to be here.

The standing stone near Traeth Bach is said by Cadw to be here.

About 105m north west of the scheduled area there is a small standing stone. Perhaps this was Cadw’s intended target, the local archaeological trust certainly believe this to be the case although the Royal Commission do not record this second stone as benefitting from scheduling protection.   I guess the dimmest of lawyers would have no trouble persuading a jury that the mix up caused by the scheduled monument being shown in entirely the wrong location was wholly responsible for the unfortunate accident that befell this antiquity.

This stone standing near the scheduled area may have been Cadw’s intended target.

This stone standing near the scheduled area may have been Cadw’s intended target.

Moving on and assuming that it was indeed the standing stone rather than the recumbent one that was assessed by Cadw in the first place it is worthwhile examining the reasons why Cadw attempted to schedule this feature. Sadly, an examination of the available documentation reveals that there is actually no evidence to corroborate its alleged prehistoric origin and indeed according to the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust it is listed by the Royal Commission in the Boundary Stones section in the Inventory. A further clue to the true purpose of this stone may be gleaned from its position adjacent to a small clapper bridge across a leat. The stone could have alerted travellers to the presence of the bridge and it is therefore much more likely to be a waymarker than a prehistoric standing stone.

The setting of this stone suggests that it is much more likely to be a post-medieval waymarker than a prehistoric standing stone.

The setting of this stone suggests that it is much more likely to be a post-medieval waymarker than a prehistoric standing stone.

The small clapper bridge (denoted by the ranging rod) across the leat is close to the standing stone and it would therefore seem more likely that the stone was erected to guide travellers to a suitable crossing point.

The small clapper bridge (denoted by the ranging rod) across the leat is close to the standing stone and it would therefore seem more likely that the stone was erected to guide travellers to a suitable crossing point.

Clearly this is not definitive proof of a mundane post-medieval explanation, but without any evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation this would seem to be only logical explanation on the table.  The stone after all stands next to a low bridge which would not have been visible from a distance.  It’s odd that this evidence has been “overlooked”.

Elsewhere Cadw choose not to schedule a site because there was “insufficient evidence” to support a prehistoric interpretation. This excuse looks increasingly fragile as it is clear that Cadw are content to schedule sites without providing any evidence to support a prehistoric date, when indeed a careful examination of the context of the site would have revealed that another explanation was a whole lot more likely.

Why are sites with a decent post-medieval context being scheduled as prehistoric, whilst those with a decent prehistoric context are dismissed as post-medieval? An inept, biased and subjective scheduling assessment process might be the answer!

As if failing to regulate artefact hunting isn’t embarrassing enough there’s now further humiliation for Britain: the French are complaining that increasing numbers of English people are travelling to France to metal detect. Jean-David Desforges (Head of “Stop the Pillage”) says they come “in search of  a nice little earner” despite it being a crime in France. The French Culture Ministry has a very clear opinion on the activity: “These uncontrolled digs are a real problem because it is a catastrophe for science.”

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Ed the hero

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Makes yer proud to be British don’t it?! Last month the nation was informed by Country Life magazine (briefed by the Portable Antiquities Scheme?) that critics of the British system are “scholars of the old school” (in other words, out of touch and wrong) and that Dr Lewis, Deputy Head of PAS, “actually welcomes” the activities of metal detectorists. Stupid French. And Irish.  And indeed every other country on the globe. They just don’t understand the lack of need to regulate artefact hunting like the British do (“a catastrophe for science” indeed! Damn fool French Culture Ministry!) so us sending our artefact hunters over to impose our Truths – a bit like we used to send missionaries – is exactly what they all need.

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V SIGN

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Well OK it’s a false headline, she was actually fined €600 for stubbing out a cigarette on the pristine beach of Alghero in Sardinia but it reminded us that we hadn’t finished ranting about how we British allow Stonehenge to be disrespected. Compare and contrast her cigarette stub with this…..

Solstice litter

How did we sleepwalk into a position where we tolerate treating our national icon in that way in full view of the rest of the world? On one day of the year only (no-one would dream of dropping a molecule of litter there on any of the other 364). There has to be a way to stop it and it’s clearly up to those who say they respect Stonehenge most to come up with a clear, practical proposal to achieve it. (Clue: numbers!)

Update 1 September 2014
EH has just announced the date for the next few Round Table meetings. Believe it or not there will be nine of them before next year’s summer solstice…..

Thu 2 October 2014
Thu 6 November 2014
Thu 4 December 2014
Thu 8 January 2015
Thu 5 February 2015
Thu 5 March 2015
Thu 2 April 2015
Thu 7 May 2015
Thu 4 June 2015

“Believe it or not” is an appropriate phrase because if they are like the ones held for the past decade they’ll only be concerned with minor matters or with endless, fruitless variations of “give us more access” followed by polite refusals (because agreeing to do so would conflict with EH’s statutory duty to protect). Not one of them, probably, will be concerned with the one thing that’s needed: restricting numbers so that adequate control can be maintained.

We didn’t quite believe it when we first heard it, but we’ve found a video of it. Look what happened at this years soltice gathering:

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The shock isn’t the one person dancing on top but the thousands cheering him. They clearly aren’t druids or pagans or megaraks or archaeologists or EH staff or anyone that gives a damn about Stonehenge, they’re just there for a laugh. That would be OK if the number allowed into the circle was just at the level that allowed EH to exercise some control to prevent not just that sort of incident but also other things that happened this year – chalk, candle wax and resin on the stones and excrement near them.

Next year solstice will be at a weekend so numbers will be higher still so here’s an idea. Why not cancel all those “Round Table” sessions and let all who care for Stonehenge (Druids, pagans, megaraks, archaeologists and EH staff) have a single meeting to decide the reduced number of people inside the stones they will all co-operate to bring about next June? That would certainly deliver increased protection to the stones, an enhancement to the reputation of genuine druids and pagans and a boost to EH’s international image as an efficient guardian of a world heritage site. It’s pretty simple, if you oppose “restricted access” you are putting the welfare of Stonehenge second. Who can deny that’s true?

by Sandy Gerrard

A recent news feature in the Dundee Courier highlights a basic problem with the way that the destruction of heritage is viewed. The story concerns the discovery and excavation of human remains in Stirling. The cemetery is being excavated in advance of a housing and retail development with building work due to commence later in the year. The discovery is variously described as exciting and fascinating and clearly much new and potentially important information will be gleaned.

This much is not in dispute – it is excellent that the archaeology is being looked at and the remains treated with respect. At the end of the process the archaeology will inevitably have been destroyed and all that will remain is the record compiled by the archaeologists and the human remains hopefully reburied with the absolute respect mentioned in the newspaper.  This is the inevitable result of progress and indeed many of our wonderful archaeological palimpsests are a direct result of our understandable need to change our surroundings. So would it not be more honest to admit that sometimes the past must be sacrificed in the interest of the present and future. In Stirling the spin put on the destruction of a small part of the city’s heritage takes some beating. According to one of their councillors:

“The development of this key city centre site is clearly important, but it is also important that we preserve and protect the city’s rich past in the way that is happening now in the excavation phase of the project.”

It is difficult to understand how the complete destruction of heritage can ever be remotely described as preservation and protection. Taking this approach to its logical conclusion Stirling’s rich past would be best served by destroying it all but making sure to place the artefacts in a museum and the records in an archive. The idea that destruction can ever be seen as a way of preserving and protecting our heritage is one that needs to be challenged at every opportunity.  Our understanding can certainly be enhanced by destruction, but every time a site is destroyed tangible remains are lost and the chance to learn more using enhanced investigative techniques in future has also vanished. We need to face this reality and stop hiding behind the idea that somehow because we have made a record of what was there that is somehow miraculously preserved and protected – it is NOT, its gone and its gone for ever.

The point of optimum learning

This is destruction not preservation or protection.

Dear Colleagues,

Tolstoy ploughing

A while back a farmer said about a detectorist: In 3 years he has amassed a fine collection of habob and baler tines, mower blade, rotaspreader flails, hedgetrimmer flails chinese lanterns and drinks cans, but nothing of even minimal value“. This week a detectorist showed his finds from a field to another farmer who responded: “Do you know, I’ve had about 16 detectorists on that field over the past twenty years, and not ONE has showed me a thing. I thought they weren’t finding anything.

None of them has ever found anything? Sure! But the big question is how many others are there who have been systematically ripping off farmers and the public? Two things suggest there are lots: first, the Erosion Counter is massively higher than the number of artefacts reported to PAS and second the NCMD “Model” finds agreement asks farmers to agree to let detectorists not show a lot of finds if they alone judge them to be not very valuable. Hardly a sign of straight dealing is it? In fact you’d have to question the motives of anyone who wrote or offered you such a blatantly unfair contract.

So please be careful. Insist on nothing being taken home without you seeing it and let no-one onto your fields without solid documentary proof they’ve been reporting lots of finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme for a number of years (which is a basic indication at least of whether they are acquisitive and dishonest yobs or not). If you ask any archaeologist or PAS or DEFRA they’ll say that’s a very, very good idea. I’d heed their opinion if I were you.

Best wishes,

Silas Brown
Grunter’s Hollow Farm,
Worfield,
Salop

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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