It’s hard to quantify how bad it is. Some are appalled but others say “it was only a 30cm wide tube”. So how can the severity be assessed? Perhaps by comparing this incident with others. Remember 2015 when contractors working for English Heritage contaminated a large swathe of land close to Stonehenge with asbestos? They worked in secret for two nights removing it (not secretly, just out of hours said English Heritage) but the point is the damage, or at least some of it, was rectified, sort of.

So which was worse, that incident or Blick Mead? It has to be Blick Mead simply because whatever has been destroyed (and we don’t know) has gone forever and can never be brought back. The damage is at the very top of the scale of destruction and that fact should be publicised far and wide. Already the tunnel has cost us all dear.

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Highways England:

 

English Heritage (on “Mythbusting“):

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Really?

Last week, Highways England’s contractors drilled two boreholes directly into the most sensitive area of Blick Mead. These boreholes, installed for measuring water levels in relation to the A303 tunnel scheme, were excavated without anyone present from the Blick Mead team that over many years has painstakingly researched 100% of every bucket of material recovered from the site.

Not for the first time we are obliged to question the lack of awareness and sensitivity in the approach Highways England have adopted in their surveys on behalf of the A303 tunnel project. Does anyone honestly still believe Highways England’s claim this Stonehenge tunnel scheme is a “heritage project”? Come off it Highways England! Come off it Historic England! Come off it National Trust! Come off it English Heritage Trust! This is self-serving vandalism!

Pictured Andy Rhind-Tutt discovers the Highways England borehole that has been sunk in the path of the auroch hoof prints the Blick Mead project revealed in 2017.

Once again, it’s time to decide who gets your vote in this year’s Current Archaeology Awards, which celebrate both the projects and publications that have made the pages of Current Archaeology magazine over the 12 months, and the people judged to have made outstanding contributions to archaeology.

CA_awards-logo1

As always, there are four categories to vote in, and winners are decided purely on the number of public votes received. Click the following links to see the nominees in each category:

We were pleased to see the Megalithic Portal‘s book, The Old Stones has been nominated for this year’s Book of the Year, and have cast our vote in that category accordingly.

Voting closes on 11 February 2019, and the winners will be announced at the special awards ceremony on 8 March at Current Archaeology Live! 2019. Entry to the awards reception is included as part of the ticket for CA Live! – for more details, see the conference web page.


There may be a prize…. Winner to be announced 26 December!


 

For many a year we’ve complained PAS has lent over too far not to criticise detectorists when it was called for. To that end there has been too much demonising of nighthawks without explaining to landowners that legal detectorists, through non reporting, do vastly more damage.

But on Twitter this week there’s been a distinct change. One FLO stressed “whilst not a crime, non reporting of non Treasure items still results in the same knowledge loss” and another was even clearer: “Non-reporting is a much larger threat to the archaeological resource than is being posed by criminality.”

So what’s going on? Could it be that PAS, thinking it might soon be Brexited away, has stopped worrying about offending detectorists and, freed from its reticence, has resolved to protect the resource by telling landowners the truth? In particular about exactly how awful mass commercial detecting rallies are? If so then something good could come from the end of PAS. Like this …..

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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And with one leap they were poorer financially, culturally, socially and intellectually….. One of the very first consequences was a savage reduction in heritage protection.

The National Trust is running a “boast piece” on Twitter about how it looks after dormice on its land: “Every year, before hibernation, our licensed handlers check on the dormouse population at the places we care for” ….. “Sleepy dormouse are being cared for by our rangers”

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Good. But it does beg the question:
If dormice were a lot bigger (but still ginger) would the Trust allow people with horses and dormouse hounds to career across their environment, against the wishes of 89% of the public, swearing blind they were just following a trail so no dormouse would ever be hurt?

We think the Trust has run out of excuses and knows it – as illustrated by its latest Tweet to a questioner: “Hi, we’ve replied to a huge number of questions on our trail hunting position over the last year, and our organisation has made a number of changes to our licences, to ensure we allow a version of this legal activity that’s compatible with our aims. Given our limited resource as a charity, we aren’t able to respond further to clarify a position outlined in full on our website.

But the website gives no further justification, how could it? It seems to us that an organisation that doesn’t do right by one native British mammal shouldn’t seek to get public praise and support for the way it looks after another.

We recently received a letter from one of our readers, who wished to remain anonymous. Although only conjecture, the letter makes some interesting points regarding the proposed Spanish amendments to the World Heritage Committee’s drafts to the UK re the A303 scheme at Stonehenge. We reproduce the letter here in full:

Dear Sir/ Madam,

Why Spain’s stance on the A303 scheme near Stonehenge?

I wish to support our country. Often I scratch my head at money seemingly taking some precedent in decisions, but one wonders whether it is more important to protect wonderful sights and have imagination fuelled beyond the calculations. Some say yes, some say no, and many do not seem to care, their imaginations increasingly filled by with ever the reality of being able to put a plate on the table and spend more time with their loved ones.

For the last 100 years the car has become a necessity for many, and a driver, excuse the pun, for economic development and continued growth, it keeps people in purpose and freedom. Granted, there are probably too many of them, but this is what we do, we find things and make them into something else that enables a cycle, just like how people once built Stonehenge and made it from boulders from a landscape far away. But there is only one Stonehenge, unlike the cars; and whatever you may think of it, be it a big calendar, a grand gathering place for people to share or enlighten or a sacred place, it’s just there and it’s made it this far.

And so, to question of the Spanish intervention at the WHC42; backed by Burkina Faso, Hungary, Brazil, and Zimbabwe. It was interesting to see that the Spanish amendments (see below) to the World Heritage Committee were in order to undermine protection advised in the initial drafts presented by the WHC mission to the UK.

One wonders whether it has anything to do with potential tenders to Ferrovial / Cintra who are lined up as possible contractors (the others being Hochtief or Skanska/Strabag) and the proposed £1.6 billion finance scheme, or a timetable? I infer no wrongdoing or bias here, or indeed any lack of integrity, noting that the qualified diplomacy on display at the WHC was very impressive. However we must be careful with wanton speculation as there could be a plethora of other reasons; some have said Gibraltar, others may note that the WHC Spanish delegate is the wife to the ex-Secretary of Spain for Industry and Tourism, who knows, the PP in Spain are noted for dodgy deals?

But perhaps if the site wasn’t protected and debated about as it has been, the less scrupulous amongst our own might have bulldozed it already and stuck a big Mickey Mouse ride and a McDonalds on the site for a fist full of dollars; no EH jokes required.

Of course, we are not in the halls of power to make the decisions about cashing in and developing the land or highway, or for me, even comprehend other significances that may be a bit stranger. But if it is the case that it may be done deal, then the best possible solution needs to be found, as was originally proposed by the mission who came to assess the site of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), so that other people can wander past, or get some vibes, or whatever in generations to come.

Sometimes I think it is just that simple, imagination is a treasure. Is it greater to us folk, than not sitting in a traffic jam for a bit longer, and is it worth more than a public/private contract deal that could literally cut corners?

We have failed in the past through not knowing how to best understand or protect our places of interest, and we learn and guide from this. The OUV should be looked after, all agree, looked after for future generations; but only to the very best of our engineering and planning ability, and with the utmost credence given to the concerns of the community whose work it is to protect and learn and teach from our heritage, alongside the developers. The Spanish amendment reduces this real value for this scheme required for some of the community and was unnecessary. And just maybe, if they were around today, the engineers of Stonehenge might well agree.

Kind regards,

(redacted)

London

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