Four eminent legal scholars have concluded that nothing gives U.S. presidents the authority to abolish, shrink or otherwise weaken national monuments. Sixteen presidents have designated 157 monuments and no president has ever tried to revoke a monument designation.

However, President Trump is determined to rescind or at least shrink monument status on 27 such sites (including the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah).

 

President Trump displays an executive order reviewing previous national monument designations made under the Antiquities Act at a signing ceremony on April 26.

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It can be confidently assumed that over in Britain the leaders of English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust are privately dismayed. How then can they justify the fact they are actively lobbying for the shrinking of the protection and sacrosanct status given to the World Heritage Site at Stonehenge?

 

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On the left, English Heritage’s new information board. On the right, the future. The two small developments have been dropped (they were standard Developers’ try-ons). The main one hasn’t.

Archaeologists are discussing “what to do about detecting rallies.” Trouble is, they have no power to enforce change. That ability rests solely with landowners for without their permission there can be no detecting at all.

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So it’s vital for the resource (and their own interest) that farmers understand the issues. Yet often they’re offered an incomplete picture with detectorists simply suggesting the landowner should “trust” them to do the right thing. Far better if archaeologists advised farmers to firmly respond with:

No, I’d prefer that YOU trust ME, not vice versa. Instead of taking some of the finds away without showing me, bring them to me, without exception. (They’re mine.) I’ll submit them to PAS for recording and I’ll get them valued (by an independent expert). Then I may let you have some of them. Trust me.”

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Not true.

Doesn’t the Public deserve better?

We’re proud to have been highlighting heritage issues for over fourteen years so we were interested to see that a special international meeting to discuss research and global policy focusing on the communication of World Heritage values is to be held (7-8 October, Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site). The event will be immediately followed (9-10th October) by the third annual conference of World Heritage UK, where practitioners will join to explore the many ways to communicate World Heritage to different audiences.

The Stonehenge World Heritage Site has straddled 3.5 miles of the A303 for 30 years and the only attempt to communicate the outstanding features of the landscape to the occupants of in excess of 8 million vehicles a year which pass through it, were tiny entrance sign at either end, signs that were unreadably filthy until replacement this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the WHS.

“Communication” is not a term that Historic England , the National Trust and the English Heritage Trust are famous for. Perhaps they will attend the conference and learn about “focusing on the communication of World Heritage values”.

This week Mike Heyworth, Director of the CBA tweeted: Off to the British Museum to chair meeting of the Finds Best Practice working group. What do we do about metal detecting rallies?” We suggest the answer depends if they wish to protect the archaeological resource. And landowners. Or PAS. For as the meeting participants will be aware:

  • Common sense and evidence suggest numerous items found at rallies aren’t reported, even if PAS are in attendance.
  • Common sense suggests nighthawked finds from elsewhere are brought to rallies to be “laundered”.
  • Common sense suggests many other finds from elsewhere are laundered at rallies (because rally rules on sharing with landowner are lax or non-existent).
  • The rules of most rallies ignore both the official metal detecting code and the official advice on running rallies.
  • Items found at rallies are very, very rarely shown to the landowners (and everyone knows exactly why but no-one admits it).
  • Thousands of European detectorists come to British rallies to do all of the above because it’s illegal for them to do it at home.

So the answer to Dr Heyworth’s question, What do we do about metal detecting rallies?” must surely be crystal clear to the Finds Best Practice working group: one or all of them should tell the Government that rallies damage the resource, aid and abet criminality, deprive farmers of their entitlement, corrupt the PAS database and attract to Britain thousands of people  keen to do to our resource what they are prohibited from doing to their own.  The Government can then at least make a properly informed decision. If, instead, they merely tinker with the detecting code, we think they’ll be letting down everyone except detectorists and the PAS.

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From a correspondent……

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“Remember recent criticism rightly broadsiding the National Trust (NT) over actions in the Lake District plus a report of a hit on the finances of the “bullying” NT where “Donations have fallen by £2.5 million a year since 2010, while revenues from commercial activities rose by almost £10 million in the past year”? Interesting then that at Avebury the NT pleads “we are a charity” whilst locals seethe over the closure of public toilets in the High Street. The background includes the NT obtaining alcohol licenses for their premises on top of opening a fast food outlet in the largest stone circle in the world. Let us not overlook the NT have a food outlet in the Manor too as well as a restaurant and shop alongside the nearby barn. Now we also hear of some sort of snack van “trial” in the car park, which will add yet more competition for the village pub, community run shop and fundraising “teas for tourists”. The writing was on the wall when the NT’s giant promotional signage appeared on a footpath (pictured).

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Time to allow the public to judge if the commercial assault on Avebury is in any way justified – declare a list of NT staff working at Avebury, drawn up along with what their role is in Avebury together with their salaries and expenses! And while the NT are at it what about the staff just up the road in Swindon too? The Times reported last year the NT has 9 board members sharing £1.3M and nearly 100 staff on over £60,000 a year. And the NT can’t afford to keep the public toilets open in Avebury High Street?”

It will be hard to do both: continuing to allow fox hunting on its land while marketing this ….

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Watch this space in the next few weeks.

(Maybe they’ll re-think their support for damaging the Stonehenge landscape at the same time?)

Despite remaining unswerving in its support for major damage to the Stonehenge landscape The Trust has been given a golden opportunity to partly mend its conservation credentials. It arises from this news item:

“Pro-fox hunting campaigners are plotting to use a predicted Conservative landslide at the general election to repeal a 2004 ban of the blood sport, according to a report. Tory Lord Mancroft, chairman of the Council of Hunting Associations, described the 8 June vote as “the chance we have been waiting for” to overturn the ban, according to an email seen by the Daily Mirror.”

If ever there was a moment for The Trust to announce it is going to ban fox hunting of any sort on its land it’s now!

[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box].

If you Google “knowledge loss”+”metal detecting” you get lots of hits but almost all from us or Paul Barford and only one from PAS. That begs a question: how come it’s us not them highlighting the scandal of massive knowledge loss due to non-recording (especially now Sam Hardy has shown there are far more detectorists and ergo far greater knowledge loss than previously thought)?

But at long last a PAS employee (FLO Adam Daubney) has just said (in a Public Archaeology Twitter Conference): in terms of knowledge-loss, non-reporting presents a far greater threat to the archaeological record than illicit activity.”

Quite. So wouldn’t now be an ideal moment, instead of celebrating 20 years since PAS was set up, for those who lead it to also come clean and inform the Government that the project hasn’t reversed the destructive reality and needs re-thinking? Twenty years of giving the taxpayer and heritage stakeholder a different impression is surely enough?

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