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Hopefully, this was the colour of the faces of those in English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust who are lobbying to defy UNESCO by causing a mile of massive new damage to the World Heritage Landscape surrounding Stonehenge, upon hearing that last night Stonehenge was nominated Britain’s Greatest Treasure.

English Heritage says the best way to do it is like this:

“We want to get more young people engaged in archaeology and history at our amazing sites across the country. This is why we have started the Saturday Archaeology Club at Wrest Park….”

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Bravo!

But consider this: weren’t a large number of the present generation of archaeologists inspired not by digging in a pretend pit but by their first sight of the iconic view of Stonehenge as they went on their summer holidays – you know, the view English Heritage are lobbying to hide from all potential young archaeologists forever!

What unworthy motivation impels present archaeologists to deprive future archaeologists of the transformative childhood thrill which they themselves enjoyed?

Bodies acting as heritage guardians hate accusations that they act in an inconsistent way as it’s the one thing they can’t wriggle out of. So here goes:

1. English Heritage have put Turner’s house on the At Risk Register “because houses like this should go on forever” while lobbying for the Turner vista of Stonehenge to be hidden from tens of millions of travellers forever!

2. The National Trust are calling for the same thing without dropping their “For ever, for Everyone” motto!

3. And no, Historic England, can’t escape the charge. Back in November we pointed out they were supporting the tunnel which would remove the sightlines to Stonehenge while at the same time opposing the Tulip tower in London on the grounds it would interrupt sightlines to the Tower of London.

You might reasonably expect all three would try to explain the inconsistencies to the public, but no, government lapdogs rarely defend lapdoggery. But in the case of Historic England, at least, they’ve been let off the hook – the Mayor of London has said no to the Tulip so they’ll never have to explain their inconsistent position to anyone! Lucky them!

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Phew!

Here is Constable’s painting of Old Sarum in 1829.

Who can deny the surrounding landscape is a vital part of the whole?

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No-one. Yet at Oswestry an equivalent landscape is in peril, purely for money.

Following our recent complaint that the Staffordshire Hoard is still being looted, someone has pointed out “there’s security there so don’t distort the truth”. Well, we know about the “security” and photographed this single notice 6 years ago:

.notices2

It post dated our revelation that nighthawking was going on and simply said: “this site is being monitored” – which, we’re willing to bet, meant an occasional drive by by a security officer. Not a lot of use on a dark night in a field high above the road and hence invisible from it and when manufacturers have given oiks the ability to mute the sound and light from their detectors. And of course, it disappeared very soon and hasn’t re-appeared.

Perhaps we need to point out that this is the site of the world’s greatest Anglo Saxon assemblage.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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When you go against your reason for existence to please politicians it’s only a matter of time before it decides to come back to bite you.

And now it has happened. At the same time English Heritage are lobbying so hard for the “Turner View” of Stonehenge to be hidden from millions of travellers forever, another arm of their organisation has announced they’ve put Turner’s house on the At Risk Register “because houses like this should go on forever”! Ouch! What could be worse?

Well, it could get worse for if, as may happen, the Stonehenge tunnel is cancelled, what will English Heritage’s press release look like next morning? “Hurrah, we never really wanted it to happen” or “What a shame, we bitterly regret there’ll be no new damage to the World Heritage Landscape”?!

Archaeologists undertaking dedicated research projects within the World Heritage Site quite rightly sieve 100% of the entire ploughsoil. By contrast, Highways England has just told dismayed archaeologists that only a small amount of the topsoil removed during landscaping would be sieved for objects of scientific and historical interest as 100% sieving would take too long and prove too expensive! Instead, they will sample between 4 and 14%!

Professor Mike Parker Pearson has estimated that as a result half a million prehistoric artefacts could go unexamined and be lost to science. In response (see the Daily Telegraph (10/07/2019), Jim Hunter of Highways England said: “We are confident we can deal with the archaeology in an appropriate way …”

What possible confidence can the public have in that assurance?

We’ll be holding our 17th annual gathering for stoney people in the SE quadrant of Avebury Henge (go through the entrance opposite The Red Lion) from midday onwards on Sunday 21st July (or in the Lion if wet). Please bring a chair or a rug, a picnic, books to swap and tall tales of tall stones.

We’ll be close to the old chapel where “Stonekiller” Tom Robinson often worshipped. Public Historian Brian Edwards tells us that Stukeley called Tom “a mallet” for knocking up his wife with their fifth child when she was around 50, forcing him to increase his stone-breaking activities to get enough money to support them all.

Tom has been invited but may not turn up ….

By Nigel Swift

The more I hear the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the discovery of The Staffordshire Hoard the angrier it makes me as I’m convinced some of it is still in that Hammerwich field or has been stolen at night by scruffs. And I have proof – or at least, evidence infinitely stronger than any claim it has all been recovered.

1.) After the first survey in 2009 and follow-up excavation in March 2010 archaeologists were confident it had all been found. But when they went back (after ploughing) in December 2012 they were “stunned” to find another 90 pieces (some small and possibly from a second hoard and some large and judged to be part of the original one.) One said  “It’s absolutely amazing. In the last search they used top-quality equipment to go over the area, which they use to find underground stuff in Afghanistan. They were absolutely certain there was nothing else down there.” Well, they were wrong. [In fact, both US and British forces were using Ebex 420H machines with little depth capability, (mines are mostly shallow) and not recommended by the manufactures for finding very small targets!]

2.) That 2012 survey included a team of metal detectorists using their own machines. A crucial error seems to have been made for very few if any of them yet had the new, highly expensive £1,500 deep-seeking machines (launched by Minelab in October 2010) so it was a “partial” search at best and some objects were surely missed due to that?

3.) To be clear, Minelab said their new machine, the GPX5000, “can easily find small objects at 24 inches” (15 inches below most ploughsoil). Surely the Hoard deserves investigation using that equipment? The nighttime scruffs will certainly have thought so and would have increasingly acquired the new equipment in the subsequent years (or even the GPZ launched 6 years later which Minelab says “could find gold 40% deeper than the GPX“!) Against that, the claims by archaeologists about the adequacy of their “two detailed surveys” and “geophysics and trial trenching” look damagingly mistaken.

4.) I have taken many photos at the site including a sequence over several weeks in February 2013. Dozens of holes, some very deep, and trails of footsteps have convinced me nighthawking activity is regular every time the crops are removed. What are they finding still, especially at the bottom of the deep holes? Nothing? Coke cans and plough fragments, (but well below the plough zone?) Or a few deliberately buried bejewelled golden Anglo Saxon objects which surpassed all the others but had to be broken apart and melted down to avoid prosecution? You tell me.

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5.) And then there’s this: the original finder, Terry Herbert, has just revealed in the local Express & Star that the children of two previous farmers of the land told him that an ancient burial mound existed on the site and that he believes “there are another 100 or so pieces in there.” Not that he could possibly know but that statement together with the ten year publicity means that as soon as the current crop comes off, which will be soon, there’ll be another glut of nightime scruffs up there. Anyone who reveres the hoard ought to guard that field. We’ve previously featured ten nearby archaeology societies. Maybe they could organise something?


[Incidentally, I’ve written to the Archaeology Forum 5 times about “the growing threat posed by the new deep seeking metal detectors such as the GPX 5000, the Blisstool LTC64 V3 and and the GPZ 7000 which leave the remaining Staffordshire Hoard open to theft” but without any reply.]


Anyway, all this is why I get angry about the current hoard celebrations. Any remaining objects shouldn’t have been left and are still vulnerable to criminals using detectors which are light years ahead of what the archaeologists had available. It’s not right for the sector to enthuse to the public about how great the found objects are without making totally damn sure they’ve got them all. That might mean a hundred supervised volunteer amateurs and students each with a GPX 5000 borrowed or hired from Minelab, covering a lot more land for as long as it takes to do the job properly. What better priority to which to allocate limited funds?


PS  I’ve just noticed this article was published yesterday on the exact 4th anniversary of my last call for the authorities to  “arrange for a survey of the field using a large number of Minelab GPX 5000 and similar machines as soon as possible“!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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