Junction Earthworks, Ohio [Photo by kind permission of Jarrod Burks]

Junction Earthworks, Ohio [Photo by kind permission of Jarrod Burks]

Last month many people in Ohio were understandably scandalised that their local Hopewell Culture monuments and their surroundings were up for auction and that some of the setting was being targeted by developers. So they launched a campaign, raised $375,000 from the public, obtained various grants and successfully bid for the land at the auction.

In total they bought the 89 acre earthworks tract, two separate tracts of forest (for which they were bidding against developers), and a third tract of river corridor along Paint Creek. The total cost was about $1.1 million at an average of $5751 per acre. They now intend to create a park and preserve and will be raising more funds for land restoration and stewardship, a hikng trail, and interpretive signs. See more here.

SOLD to the nice people who care for Heritage!

SOLD to the nice people who care for Heritage!


If only the same could happen in Oswestry, but unfortunately the price tag there, just for the bit of the setting that’s being targeted by developers, would be more than 10 million pounds. Which explains a lot!

So, you’ve done the planning, taken your Go-Bag and had a wonderful time out and about exploring some ancient sites. If you’re anything like me, you take plenty of digital photos when visiting our ancient heritage sites. But what do you do with those images once you get home?

After a trip, a large majority of people will just hand around their camera, tablet or phone and let people view the pictures that way. Some selected pictures may get uploaded to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Most people will download the photos to their PC (often into the ‘My Pictures’ folder on Windows) and look through them that way. Many will take the camera card into a shop and print off selected pictures – the larger supermarkets offer this service these days.

But what if you want to review the pictures a month, six months or a year or more down the line? Could you easily find the relevant batch of photos? Could you identify a shot of e.g. a particular cairn, barrow, megalith or dolmen from all the others? With a little post-trip preparation you can organise the images from your visits, making them simple to identify and review.

Where was that? When did I go there?

Where was that? When did I go there?

First of all, a warning for the unwary: There are a plethora of applications available to organise a digital image library, for Windows, Mac and Linux systems at various pricing levels, which provide facilities for import, renaming, tagging, geotagging and other facilities, including full EXIF data editing. Some of these systems are aimed at the professional end of the market, with pricing and complexity to match. Others are free, but with a hidden ‘price’. I personally like Picasa from Google, but be aware that the licensing means that any images uploaded to their online web libraries will become available for Google’s use as they see fit. See section 11 of the Picasa EULA as an example. Other services such as Flickr have similar terms, so if control of your image content is commercially important to you, be aware of what you’re signing up for!

But assuming you have no immediate need of an online image library or cloud backup services, let’s go through what you can do to get minimally organised.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it's place.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it’s place.

Location – First of all, decide where to keep the photos on your system. If your default ‘My Pictures’ folder is not too untidy already, this is as good a place as any to get started, but be aware that an image library can grow large, particularly if you take lots of pictures over a long period (I personally have digital images going back to 1995, nearly 20 years worth!)

Folders – there are lots of ways to organise the folders for your photos. I tend to a ‘tree’ approach. A folder for each year, then sub folders for each trip I take. The sub folders are named by yymm and dd if necessary, followed by an indicator for the trip – in my case the main county. Multi-day trips may be split by further sub folders for each day, or each site if it’s an image-heavy trip!

Downloading – transfer the photos from your camera/tablet/phone to the PC as soon as you can. There are various ways of achieving this depending upon your device, but one rule of thumb: Once the photos have been transferred, clear them off the device! There’s nothing worse than after the next trip having to sort out which photos belong to which trip, or downloading duplicates. So drop them from the camera once you’re sure they’ve been copied safely.

Image Re-Naming – Most photos are downloaded from the camera with meaningless numeric names – DSCNnnnn, or IMGnnnn or similar nonsense. A handy trick is to multi-select the files you wish to rename (Tile view is useful for identifying simlar photos) and rename them en-masse. Doing this, the files will all have the same name, but with a sequential number appended. A word on naming conventions – I like at all times to have the date that the image was taken in the file name. So for instance, three pictures of Stonehenge taken at midsummer may be named ’130621 Stonehenge (1)’, ’130621 Stonehenge (2)’ and ’130621 Stonehenge (3)’. If you’re working on older images, and aren’t sure where/when they were taken, the EXIF data held within each image will hold clues, and may even have the geotagging information to give you a precise location.

Tidying up – Finally, remove (read DELETE!) any photos that aren’t up to snuff. Out of focus, poor composition, or even just ‘uninteresting’ photos should be removed from your library unless there are *very* good reasons for retaining them. When showing your photos, or organising them into a photo-book as a permanent record to show people, you want them to think kindly of your photographic skills, so dump the rubbish shots!

Backup! – Now you’re organised, the final step is to make sure you have backups of your photos. Whilst cloud-based storage is currently flavour of the month, don’t forget to check the terms and conditions and make sure you’re not giving away any rights to your images that you’re not happy about. Also, be aware that online companies may withdraw services at any time, or change their conditions with very little warning, so make sure you have an offline back too if you go the online route. I like the Western Digital Passport USB drives. They’re small, draw power from the USB lead (so no mains lead needed), come in various capacities and are relatively inexpensive.

I hope this brief guide has been useful. If you have a different strategy for organising your own digital images, let us know in the comments.

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.

First a rich farmer took a bulldozer to one of the Priddy Circles….

Priddy bank destruction closeup

Then the local hunt posed on one of the nearby Priddy Nine Barrows hoping to see an animal running for its life …


Now,  illegal off-roaders in 4×4 vehicles and motorbikes have caused substantial damage in the Blackmoor Reserve near Blagdon. The land is within the Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Monument.    English Heritage staff have discovered deep ruts and surface erosion on part of the former lead and silver mining complex at Charterhouse which was first used in Roman times.


The lead mines at Charterhouse [before damage by off-roaders] – Ron Strutt, Wikimedia

Mark Harrison, policing and crime adviser of English Heritage, said: “Wheeled traffic, whether bikes or off-road vehicles, can quickly erode historic earthworks and can cause very substantial harm to irreplaceable heritage sites. We call on local people to be vigilant in reporting any such activity they may encounter.” (To which we’d add – and bulldozers and large groups of horses!)


This was done on April Fool’s day. It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humour, but wouldn’t it be better if public monuments weren’t used as public canvasses – even for a short time or without causing damage or “for charity”.

As we see it, each time it happens it increases the chances of someone uncaring or unhinged copycatting elsewhere to make a political, religious or “humorous” statement of their own in a way that’s physically damaging. There have been lots of “harmless” incidents, especially at hill figures, but also harmful ones and of course there’s been the recent incident where paint was daubed on the The Nine Ladies stone circle. It’s an obvious enough proposition,  the idea that all monuments should be promoted as sacrosanct, even from apparently harmless stunts. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if all monument guardians took that line and publicised it on their websites?

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


The Welsh Government is holding a public consultation on whether the “ignorance defence” for damaging an ancient monument (saying the accused was unaware of its status or location) should be restricted.

Successful prosecutions are very rare. Between 2006 and 2012, Cadw received reports of 119 cases of unlawful damage to scheduled ancient monuments in Wales but there has only been one successful prosecution under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 in the last 25 years. That is surely a ridiculous state of affairs? Over the years hundreds of the most important sites have been damaged and only once has a culprit been punished! What do YOU think? Responses have been invited from any individuals or groups with an interest in the historic environment of Wales. You can submit your views here.

Of course, there are certain measures that could be taken to discourage heritage crime, certainly at the Nine Ladies. You’re welcome to suggest some of your own!



People often say “I rather like wind farms, they look sort of majestic”.

Indeed. But presumably it’s all a matter of personal taste and also where and how many.  So here’s a perfectly genuine current proposal for a wind farm in an area that contains at least thirty scheduled ancient monuments. (Can you count how many turbines there are and work out the location?).

Does “where” matter? Are developments on that scale acceptable in some places? Which places? Please nominate specific areas or landscapes in Britain or Ireland where developments on the above scale would be reasonable!

So the clocks have changed, Spring/Summer is here, and thoughts inevitably turn to trips out to savour and enjoy our ancient heritage. Nearly two years ago now, we featured an article, ‘6 ways to enhance your visit to a prehistoric monument‘ which listed essential equipment to assist and enhance understanding of any monument visited.

As an avid reader of technical computing blogs, a common theme I’ve noticed on such blogs is the concept of a ‘Go-Bag’ – an easily packed pre-prepared bag containing all the goodies which may be required at very short notice for whatever reason. There are several variants on this theme, the EDC or Every Day Carry bag, the Go-Bag and at the top-end, the Survival Kit. Many proponents of these bags are looking at them from the ‘survivalist’ viewpoint, see the 10 C’s of Survival, but the concept can easily be adapted for day trips spent visiting our heritage sites.

Just a few of the items from my bag. Compass, Wipes, Charger and Tripod missing, Phone used to take the picture!

Just a few of the items from my bag. Compass, Wipes, Charger and Tripod missing, Phone used to take the picture!

The contents of my own Go-Bag change from time to time, as better/different options become available or kit becomes outdated. Indeed, I have a great deal of redundancy built into my bag, with both technical and ‘old-school’ versions of several of the essentials. So what exactly is in my bag a) as standard, and b) included dependent upon context? Let’s get the all-in-one technology out of the way first.

  • Mobile Phone – my current weapon of choice is the Samsung Galaxy S3, an Android-based phone.
  • Tablet Computer – I double up here. I have the Asus Nexus running Android, and an iPad Mini Retina for iOS. Why both? Quite simply, there are apps I use which are available only on Android, and others which are only available on iOS. I may go through the apps I use in a future post.
  • Camera – a now aging Nikon Coolpix s3000, but I also have the phone and iPad for photography, so I’m well covered there. The S3000 is particularly useful for ‘timer’ shots. (I also have a Nikon DS3200 DSLR and an old Canon eOS DSLR, but you can have too much of a good thing!)
  • Device Charger and cables – I got mine from Proporta a couple of years ago. It can recharge any one of my devices almost fully – or give a boost to a couple at a pinch. I should probably consider an upgrade.

All the above are usually packed as ‘last minute’ items, due to pre-charging needs. Items which always sit in the bag ready to go are as follows:

  • A5 Sketchbook – I’m no great artist, but it can be useful to make a quick sketch of a site or feature sometimes.
  • Pencils and Pen – a box of sketching pencils of various weights, 4H to 4B is usually sufficient.
  • Binoculars – a small set of Nikon Sport Lite 10×25 bins, which is sufficient for most general uses.
  • Gorillapod mini tripod – used when taking those ‘timer’ shots mentioned above.
  • Compass – a basic compass from Millets or similar should suffice, just check its accuracy from time to time!
  • Babywipes – useful for getting grass/mud stains off equipment, clothing and body parts.
  • Torch and spare batteries – I quite like the Rolson 9 LED torches – small and very bright.

And finally, obviously dependent upon the location of the planned trip:

  • Maps – OS Pathfinder 1:25000 are the bees knees. There are mobile apps which can replace these to an extent, but don’t be reliant on batteries – carry a paper copy, particularly if travelling any distance ‘off-road’.
  • Guidebook/Gazetteer – or your reference material of choice for the intended location/site – I have a variety of e-books on my tablets which helps keep the weight down.

Remarkably, this all currently fits in a small shoulder bag, but I’m considering swapping to a rucksack, if only to make room for a bottle of water and some snacky bites. I’m also considering getting a collapsible ranging pole, to provide some scale in my pictures, but that would take even more room, so I may need to review the contents again in future.

But after charging batteries the night before a trip, I can currently be ready to go in minutes with all of the above. So what have I forgotten? What’s unneccessary? And better still, what’s in your bag? Why not share your preparations for at trip with us?

Mr Graham Hancock has launched a bitter attack on the new Stonehenge arrangements. He’s entitled to of course but it loses it’s potency in the absence of any explanation of how HE would do things better, given the practical difficulties. As such it’s reminiscent of some of the output from the more loopy wing of the Free Stonehenge movement. How would they – and he – improve the quality of a visit to Stonehenge while still meeting a global demand currently running at more than a million people a year?

It’s hard not to have sympathy for some things he says ( “officials who have imposed their control on the site” – a lighter, less proprietorial touch would be welcome from those who are currently paid by the taxpayers)  but one wonders what evidence he has for saying People are still able to walk in the surrounding fields half a mile or so away nearby the Neolithic long barrows and round barrows in the vicinity of Stonehenge but I have no doubt that this freedom, too, will soon be removed.” Dare we say none? 

Here are some more of his criticisms that may initially evoke sympathy but not when it turns out he offers no solution:

“This weekend I took friends visiting from Peru to see Stonehenge, Britain’s most renowned ancient monument, which they were naturally very keen to see. We were stunned and horrified by what we found there. This world heritage site is managed on behalf of humanity by “English Heritage” who are clearly gripped by a bureaucratic, unimaginative mindset and who are in the process of turning the megalithic circle and its surroundings into something with about as much charm and mystery as Disneyland. Anyone who has been to Stonehenge within the last year will know that things were bad before, but they are a thousand times worse now. One must go first to the newly built visitor centre about a mile from the henge, and then be taken by shuttle bus or on a little supposedly ecologically friendly “train” drawn by Land Rover to the site where you are of course not allowed to approach the stones themselves but are kept at a distance by ropes and barriers. The theme park atmosphere induced by the shuttle bus and/or “train” ride completely destroys the mystery and creates an atmosphere in which the megaliths appear to be held captive, tamed, forced into obedience by the narrow-minded officials who have imposed their control on the site. No longer does it feel in any way that this is an English heritage or a British heritage or a world heritage monument of great mystery and spiritual power but rather that we are confronted by a beaten, destroyed, subjugated, enslaved monument castrated by the dead hand of bureaucracy.”

All good exciting stuff but the one thing that’s missing is an account of precisely how Mr Hancock or those of the Free Stonehenge persuasion would retain the unspoilt mystery of the monument and free it from “control” AND still let a million people a year experience it? No Visitor Centre? No transport system? No ropes? No rules? Everyone allowed inside and indeed many claiming they shouldn’t be constrained at all and jumping ON the stones – like at Summer Solstice, but every day?! Is  that what’s being called for? Or do they have a cunning plan that’s yet to be announced?  If it’s “anarchy” we vote no!


April 2014
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