[From the Journal, April 2010 ….]

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It’s actually quite easy to forgive the surroundings, a near-derelict military camp just East of Crickhowell, as this stone has a self-contained charm of its own that allows it to blend in perfect harmony with an adjacent tree and keeps your eye from straying to the adjacent MoD squalor.

It’s not instantly clear these days why the stone was placed here on what was and is a flat and featureless flood plain of the River Usk, but if you paint out the buildings from your consciousness it seems clearer, perhaps. There are distant hills in every direction, the Black Mountains to the North and the Brecon Beacons to the South, forming a full circle of peaks. Which of them, if any, were considered auspicious by those who first erected the stone? Who knows? Perhaps they all were.

by Nigel Swift

Rescue’s reaction to the recent presentation to them about a possible detecting institute was polite but suggested they were underwhelmed – it’s only positive comment, that it might provide “a route to incorporating good quality detecting effectively on commercial excavations” meant very little. Training wouldn’t make people supervised by archaeologists walk straighter, swing lower or place a marker more accurately when they heard a beep!

Plus, working on such projects is only about 0.0001% of what detectorists do. What about the rest of the time, when they’re not? Many years ago I and an enlightened detectorist devised the FIRST Institute of Detectorists, proposing better personal standards when working alone…..

It was totally rejected (and he was condemned as a “traitor”) – for a very simple reason: detectorists AREN’T archaeologists or anything like them and don’t want to be! It’s the artefacts, you see, they want them for themselves, or the money, far more than the knowledge, so every request for them to act more like archaeologists is a request for them to be what they don’t want to be. Simple really. Legislation, not pious words, is what is needed.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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According to Guy Shrubsole (Who Owns England?) just 25,000 landowners have control of half of the country. From that Paul Barford has made a leap of logic: it would be better to spend time and money outreaching to those 25,000 landowners who would mostly listen than to detectorists, who mostly don’t!

The reality is that it’s not PAS or archaeologists who control whether detecting takes place, it’s landowners alone and if they’re properly informed via the broadsheets and farming magazines they’ll be immune from farm gate baloney.

Thirteen simple, but true words, “most detectorists don’t report most finds so are the antithesis of amateur archaeologists“, read by the right people, would do far more good than 20 years of expensive outreach to the wrong people. It would be a massive leap forward for conservation. Detectorists would at last have to prove they were “only interested in the history” not just say it!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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You might well think so, because they recently said:

Whilst we recognise the need for improved public transport, we will oppose any scheme that will irreparably damage such a wonderful place when alternatives are available.”

But don’t get excited, they were talking about opposing the East-West rail route near Cambridge, not about the Stonehenge short tunnel scheme which will irreparably damage an even more “wonderful place”! Words don’t travel when uttered by the National Trust it seems. See the Trust’s oh-so-carefully chosen words in response to the identical threat at Stonehenge:

“An ambitious plan to divert traffic through a tunnel beneath the site could provide an overall benefit to the whole World Heritage Site, providing it is located and designed with the utmost care.”

Yet common sense dictates that the short tunnel plan cannot provide an overall benefit to the World Heritage Site. Whatever the claimed visit enhancements a mile of brand new dual carriageway driven across the surface of the WHS in defiance of UNESCO’s wishes will cause  undeniable, incalculable, irreversible loss and damage forever to both the outstanding universal value and Britain’s international reputation.

So by all means let the Trust fight against heritage damage on the East-West rail route but let it not pretend to the public at the same time that it is not itself being a key enabler of far greater damage in Wiltshire.

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If you haven’t yet signed the Stonehenge Alliance petition please consider doing so here


 

 

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Replicas, yes, but still awe-inspiring.

In 2017 The One Show ran live broadcasts from an archaeologist-aided detecting rally in Water Newton. It didn’t turn out well for it was later admitted the assurance that “all artefacts will be recorded” didn’t happen. As a direct result archaeologists were forbidden from organising any more such events.

But on Wednesday the One Show featured one of the very many “detecting holidays” for Americans which have sprung up. None of them pretends to be archaeological research, they’re purely to make money (£1,500 a head in this case). As one of the Americans said, “it’s very reminiscent of pirate treasure”.

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There’s a case for bitter complaint, but to whom? Not to the BBC as they’re advised by PAS. Not to PAS, for it was there, uncritically implying to 10 million people that Britain’s archaeology is fair game for unthinking, repeated, unstructured exploitation by any random person from anywhere in the world.

Hopefully the CBA, Rescue or others will react, as the timing is perfect since there’s a current national consultation on the future of metal detecting. Maybe part of that should be that the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group is asked to view the 2007 and 2019 episodes of The One Show?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Exactly 16 years ago a hurricane of looting was unleashed in the Iraq Museum, Baghdad and then roared all over the country to Iraq’s archaeological sites, the cradle of civilisation, destroying the memories of mankind in order to supply thousands of “respectable” middle class collectors in Europe and the USA, a process that is continuing today.

It can’t be stressed too often that it’s not just something that is happening far away. Today thousands of people of many nationalities will go out in the fields of Britain and most of them will take our memories for themselves, and not tell us, or to sell. It’s a reality that is constantly spun otherwise but is constantly true. So it’s to be hoped that the Rescue AGM, which is happening today, won’t resolve to change Rescue’s policy:

Rescue believes that unregulated hobby detecting and other fieldwork does not contribute sufficient value or information to our understanding of the past to justify the damage caused to the wider archaeological resource”.

Isn’t it true that metal detecting has to be seen as needlessly damaging unless it conforms to the standards and aims of Archaeology, not in just some but every respect?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Those observing the current Stonehenge Scheme examination proceedings would be well advised to keep just two things in the front of their minds:

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.                                 .First: this 2018 Joint Statement ….
“Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage welcome the work done by Highways England on the design of the proposed A303 road at Stonehenge.” : The options put forward today by Highways England go a long way towards protecting and enhancing the World Heritage Site (WHS), according to the three agencies responsible for its care and protection

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.                  .. . Second: This image of The Hill of Tara’s landscape

 

 

 

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