We’ve been corresponding with the BM (Susan Raikes, Head of the Dept of Volunteers & Audiences). It looks like they’re going to desist from implying metal detecting is citizen archaeology.

We had put to her that using that phrase misinforms landowners by omission for it fails to reveal what her predecessor accepted – that 70% of detectorists  don’t report their finds. Her reply was heartening: “Thank you very much for this – I have noted your point. I don’t believe that we have ever used the term in the way that you describe it here, and I will endeavour to ensure that this sort of misinterpretation cannot be inferred from our use of language in the future. With thanks.”

That’s massive. Even if she’s implying it’s only us misinterpreting, she’s accepting misinterpretation is possible and she’ll act to prevent it. So hopefully “citizen archaeology” will now be dropped from their statements on metal detecting. About time too. Archaeologists never gave them permission to hijack their cherished reputations (just look at Rule 1.4 of the Institute for Archaeology: A member shall not undertake archaeological work for which he or she is not adequately qualified!) Now, if the phrase is dropped (and can no longer be quoted at farm gates) it will be an undeniable benefit for landowners, archaeologists and heritage. Britain (and its landowners) can return to the rest of the world’s notion of Archaeology: an activity that doesn’t involve digging randomly, selectively or for personal benefit!

REALISATION1.

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Egypt and the United Nations agreed yesterday to reroute a nearly completed motorway from the Giza Pyramids, saying the cost did not matter when it came to rescuing the only surviving wonders of the ancient world.

The eight-lane motorway, which passes within two miles of the three 4,500- year-old pyramids and the Sphinx, could be dismantled as early as next week, said Abdel-Halim Noureddin, Egypt’s chief antiquities official.

Mr Noureddin acknowledged the Egyptian government made a mistake in 1985 when it approved plans for the road near the plateau, listed as one of 440 UN World Heritage Sites. However, the important thing was rectifying the error.”

[ Cairo agrees diversion for pyramid motorway, The Independent 5 April 2005 ]

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(Note: Stonehenge is not in Egypt it is in Britain. It is not in the care of the Egyptian Government but the British one together with The National Trust and English Heritage who claim to be world exemplars in good conservation practice.)

We noticed last week the 2005 paint damage has almost disappeared ….

May 2005 and July 2016

May 2005 and July 2016

Eleven years it has taken. Which prompted us to wonder: if there was a severity scale for vandalism, how would you measure it? Maybe “how long will the change last” is a good measure. On that basis, breaking a lump of stone off is worst as that change is forever and painting the stones, thereby changing them for 11 years, comes second.

Then there are other, smaller changes which we noticed there….

SAM_1121

SAM_1124

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Easily tidied up (except for the candle way which is a real pain for those who look after the site). But this one also looks minor, but isn’t…..

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A polished pebble that has been forced in and now can’t be removed except by damaging the stone. So on the “how long will the change last” scale it could be there indefinitely and is one of the worst bits of damage. Best not do it then? In fact, best not change the stones at all? Instead, just capture some reflected photons, like this respectful American visitor did ….

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or leave no trace of your visit, like this Polish immigrant did …..

admiral

Part of the Stonehenge tunnel lobby has been tweeting this scary image, apparently showing how desperately a tunnel is needed….

cropped view

The millions who don’t know the area might think the traffic flows up the hill and goes right by the stones. Trouble is, the image on Twitter isn’t as wide as the original so doesn’t make it clear that the road up the hill was a minor side road. Here’s the original ….

uncropped

Rather different, eh? But that’s not all. The image is an old one and the place is nothing like that now because the road up the hill has been closed and turfed over for years! The reality is more like this ….

noroad

Hmmm. So FAR less indicative of a pressing need for a tunnel (especially an horrendously damaging short one). We are reminded of our own warning last February “Look out for fibs, foutards, re-interpretations and smokescreens.

You might think killing for fun is largely under control. But no, apart from fox hunting you can enjoy hunting with bassets, beagles, bloodhounds, mink hounds and rabbit hounds. If you ask what’s the appeal you’ll be told lots of lyrical stuff. But Engels, writing to Marx, was rather honest: “Such a thing always excites me hellishly for a few days, it is the most magnificent physical pleasure I know …. I was in at the kill”

So why bring it up? Well, the Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles are holding another metal detecting rally and PAS are going again. As we said last year, you can search the world and never find such a crass event where cultural exploiters fill the coffers of wildlife exploiters and officials from a national museum sit at a folding table legitimising it all.

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It's no longer legal to do it to hares so they've switched to rabbits.

Killing for fun. (Well it’s legal, innit!)

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PS – A message to the Finds Liaison Officer scheduled to attend: Can’t you just say no? We’re quite certain you’d like to. Here’s a message from George Bernard Shaw you could refer your bosses to …

“What is not disputable by any person who has ever seen sport of this character is that the man who enjoys it is degraded by it. We do not bait bears now (I do not quite know why); but we course rabbits in the manner described in one of the essays in this book. I lived for a time on the south slope of the Hog’s Back; and every Sunday morning rabbits were coursed within earshot of me. And I noticed that it was quite impossible to distinguish the cries of the excited terriers from the cries of the sportsmen, although ordinarily the voice of a man is no more like the voice of a dog than like the voice of a nightingale. Sport reduced them all, men and terriers alike, to a common denominator of bestiality.

The triviality of sport as compared with the risk and trouble of its pursuit and the gravity of its results makes it much sillier than crime. The idler who can find nothing better to do than to kill is past our patience….. There are plenty of innocent idle pastimes for him. He can read detective stories. He can play tennis. He can drive a motor-car if he can afford one….. Satan may suggest that it would be a little more interesting to kill something; but surely only an outrageous indifference to the sacredness of life and the horrors of suffering and terror, combined with a monstrously selfish greed for sensation, could drive a man to accept the Satanic suggestion…..

There are now so many other pastimes available that the choice of killing is becoming more and more a disgrace to the chooser. The wantonness of the choice is beyond excuse. To kill as the poacher does, to sell or eat the victim, is at least to act reasonably. To kill from hatred or revenge is at least to behave passionately. To kill in gratification of a lust for death is at least to behave villainously. Reason, passion, and villainy are all human. But to kill, being all the time quite a good sort of fellow, merely to pass away the time when there are a dozen harmless ways of doing it equally available, is to behave like an idiot or a silly imitative sheep.”

G. B. S.  March, 1914.

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This year’s Day of Archaeology will take place next week, on 29th July, and judging by the comments on their sign-up page will include many new participants this year!

For those that aren’t aware, the Day of Archaeology project aims to provide a window into the daily lives of archaeologists from all over the world. The project asks people working, studying or volunteering in the archaeological world to participate in a “Day of Archaeology” each year in the summer by recording their day and sharing it through text, images or video on the website.

doa-noyear

The project is run by a team of volunteers who are all professional archaeologists, and taking part in the project is completely free. The whole Day of Archaeology relies on goodwill and a passion for public engagement!

The project has been running since 2011, and last year we documented some of our thoughts on the year’s events.  It will be interesting to see if anything has changed for this year’s coverage.

Volunteers team up with English Heritage on hillfort maintenance

Local love for a Shropshire heritage site is being put to good use through a progressive new volunteering initiative. 

Earlier this year on Valentine’s Day, residents of Oswestry on the Shropshire/Wales border congregated on Old Oswestry hillfort in a symbolic hug of protection. Now they are turning their affection into hands-on support with the monument’s maintenance under the supervision of its national guardians, English Heritage.

Members of the HOOOH Community Group, which is promoting local engagement in Old Oswestry’s future, are recruiting volunteers to help English Heritage with landscape management and monitoring. Tasks will range from scrub clearance and pond maintenance, to taking fixed-point photos and supporting environmental initiatives to aid the hillfort’s preservation and upkeep.

(L to R): HOOOH Community Group volunteers Neil Phillips, Rob Baur and Katie Jones install a ‘No Bikes’ sign as their first task working with English Heritage.

(L to R): HOOOH Community Group volunteers Neil Phillips, Rob Baur and Katie Jones install a ‘No Bikes’ sign as their first task working with English Heritage.

English Heritage is also keen to work with other local organisations including colleges with expertise and interest in undertaking potential biodiversity and animal management initiatives on the fort.

The scheme is one of just a few in England involving local volunteers in landscape maintenance combined with environmental and wildlife initiatives at an English Heritage site. It is hoped that the success of the partnering at Old Oswestry will pave the way to more volunteering of this type, especially at unstaffed and more remote properties.

English Heritage is the charitable trust which cares for over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites across the country – it became separate from Historic England, the government service championing and offering advice on heritage, in 2015. As part of its mission as a charity, English Heritage is committed to including the wider community in its work and expanding opportunities for volunteers. Currently, around 2,000 people are involved with volunteering at some 50 of its 400 sites.

Volunteer involvement

HOOOH Community Group member, Neil Phillips, and heritage adviser, Tim Malim, recently met with English Heritage representatives to discuss the scope of volunteer involvement.

English Heritage has an established management plan in place for the hillfort, though recent wet summers have impacted on control of undergrowth, particularly around the ‘ponds’ or pits on the western side. New gates installed in 2015 have improved access for the landscape contractor. An additional log bench is due to be installed this year by the ‘floating’ path at the western entrance.

During a tour of the hillfort, plans were discussed for clearing overgrown areas, especially bracken, with minimal disturbance to wildlife. This would include an annual cutback of willow and woody growth in the winter, and control of bracken in the summer.

A newt and ecology survey was undertaken earlier this year to help assess what additional tasks can be tackled, and when, alongside regular grounds maintenance during the next 12 months. English Heritage will be updating its landscape maintenance plan to offer a range of opportunities for volunteers, including a programme of pond clearance this autumn.

Volunteers, with Maggie Rowlands and Tim Malim in the foreground, get to grips with locations for taking monitoring photography on the hillfort.

Volunteers, with Maggie Rowlands and Tim Malim in the foreground, get to grips with locations for taking monitoring photography on the hillfort.

Tim Malim said: “Managing the earthworks is a complex mission, with the need to balance several conflicting interests. Uncontrolled vegetation is a threat to the monument, and one of the best methods for managing this is through grazing the ramparts. But access to water and steep slopes make this difficult without unsightly fencing being introduced.

“Another balance has to be achieved between wildlife and the historic monument. There is a need to control the rabbit population and cut down scrub undergrowth and bracken, while maintaining habitats for newts and linnets at critical times in the year.”

English Heritage West is responsible for over 135 scheduled and listed sites across a substantial area stretching from the Scilly Isles to Cheshire.  The Charity is keen to involve local groups and volunteers as “outreach caretakers” to undertake maintenance tasks and site monitoring.

As a first task, HOOOH volunteers have installed ‘No Bikes’ signs to deter bikers from scrambling over the 3000-year-old scheduled earthwork and causing severe erosion scars. Help is also being sought with a fixed-point photography project to document the impact of on-going maintenance work.

Push-bikes are prohibited as a new safeguard against damage to the 3000-year-old monument which is known as ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’.

Push-bikes are prohibited as a new safeguard against damage to the 3000-year-old monument which is known as ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’.

Before leaving, the English Heritage team visited the Artists Hugging the Hillfort exhibition at the Willow Gallery in Oswestry. With over 60 art pieces, including work by local school children, they were impressed by the local pride and strength of feeling shown for Old Oswestry.

Volunteer Neil Phillips said: “As one of many local people that have been inspired by Old Oswestry since childhood, this is a constructive and rewarding way to be more closely involved in its conservation. The HOOOH Community Group is proud to contribute through the volunteers’ initiative, following the example of the town’s archaeology and history groups, as well as the hillfort landscape improvement project, which have long championed the hillfort.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer should contact Mr Phillips in the first instance on 07751 160576.

 

It’s always fascinating to see new entrants to the blogosphere, particularly those which focus upon heritage matters in geographical areas which interest me personally. The CornishBirdBlog appears to have been started earlier this year, and the About page tells us a little of the impetus behind the site:

After visiting 50 countries in 9 years I came home and realised that some of the best sunsets are found right on my doorstep. I want to share my walks around Cornwall and my thoughts with you. (And a little bit of local history too, the fun stuff I promise!) I should just add that I am not a professional historian, all the research is my own and I have formed my own opinions and stories from it – nothing should be taken as 100% fact.

CBBHdr

In the few months since starting, there have been many interesting stories published on the site, from tales of shipwrecks, local folklore, treasure (the latest story tells of the Rillaton gold cup), lost Cornish kings, Roman roads and other ancient trackways, Cornish crosses, standing stones and other ancient sites, and some interesting historical Cornish characters. Yes, some of the stories are well known, but others are more obscure, and deserve a wider audience.

So if you’re interested in Cornwall’s history and heritage, why not pay the Cornish Bird Blog a visit, take a look around the archives, and leave a comment or two. Don’t forget to say we sent you!

An extraordinary 86% of detectorists on the Minelab forum said they supported Brexit (far higher than every district of the country). The reason is clear, they have long feared Europe would get Britain to regulate what they do. Not now though and, as a bonus for detectorists, Europe’s environmental stewardship payments will now end, leaving thousands of protected acres available for unregulated detecting once again. So there’ll be jubilation in the club room at the back of the Pig and Whistle and many similar venues.

Brexpig

So is there an upside? Yes, if you see yourself as European:

> In Europe The Assembly’s wish for further legislative control of detecting will no longer be obstructed by a single country.
> In Europe any further international conferences held by PAS praising themselves and unregulated detecting won’t be heeded.
> Equally the British inspired European Council for Metal Detecting will be dead in the water (for who in Europe will now listen to the Brits?)
> No national museum within Europe will be telling European landowners that metal detecting is  “citizen archaeology”
> In Europe there won’t be hundreds of legal, unregulated mass digs followed by
boastful videos belting out the  lyric “We do not fear what lies beneath, We can never dig too deep!

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The Journal has been around quite a while and one of the advantages of that is that we can look at our archives and find things which EH, NT et al, those who are trying to say (and DO say) that UNESCO/ICOMOS think a short tunnel would be spiffing, would rather everyone would forget.

Here’s a beauty from exactly 11 years ago, in July 2005:

"Heritage Action welcomes the news that the A303 improvement 
scheme that threatened the loss of archaeology and further 
intrusion into the surroundings of Stonehenge has been withdrawn.

ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, has 
also welcomed the news. They say: "We believe that the review 
announced by the Minister allows time for serious consideration 
to be given to alternative schemes for upgrading the A303
that do not involve cutting across the heart of the World Heritage Site".

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