Launched without notification, with the clock already running and only two days until the first exhibition event… Highways England’s announcement of the public consultation for the A303 at Stonehenge brought to mind Monty Python’s ‘Spanish Inquisition’:

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“Nobody expects the Stonehenge Imposition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Road!”

“Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Road!”

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Less than seven weeks have been given for busy individuals and archaeology, heritage and wildlife groups to examine the proposals and formulate their stances. The number of the one-day-only exhibition venues are also few, and apart from one event at the elite HQ of the Society of Antiquaries in London, the area in which the exhibitions are being held is ludicrously parochial for a World Heritage site (WHS). Blink and the exhibition briefly pops up elsewhere then gone again.

 

China is to ban ivory trading! It’s a huge step towards the end of elephant poaching. But it’s more – it’s an endorsement of Lord Renfrew’s mantra: “collectors are the real looters” and a recognition that  demand and supply are the same force. Most people accept that but those with vested interests in denying it do so. Thus, US antiquities dealer Dave Welsh says the Renfrew hypothesis is “an unproven assumption“. Well, it won’t be soon for in three years Earth will have loads more elephants, thereby demonstrating Renfrew was right.

..

elephants.

Of course, that begs the British question: how come that in his own country Renfrew’s rule is acknowledged to apply to elephants but not to recordable artefacts? Why is it legal in Britain to acquire or sell recently dug-up but unreported antiquities when everyone except those with a vested interest can see it damages the common interest?

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Mike Pitts has just written [our emphasis in red]:

“There is going to be a consultation this spring to consider options for the A303 road tunnel past (not under) Stonehenge. Will the press report this in a balanced, understanding way, or will it focus Brexit-style on the loud voices obsessed with stopping a tunnel regardless of any proper consideration of the current situation and potential outcomes? And… whoops, this one has already happened. As I write, the Guardian has exactly theses words in a headline and subhead, quoting Dan Snow and Tom Holland. These are good men both, a forceful TV presenter of military history (Snow) and a masterful writer on classical history and presenter of Radio 4’s Making History (Holland). But, pace the Guardian, neither is an expert on Stonehenge archaeology or the Stonehenge tunnel. Nobody beyond involved engineers can be a tunnel expert – we still have a great deal of detail to learn. I’m not sure what Michael Gove had in mind in his infamous dismissal of “experts”, but tabloid-style use of the word like this does nothing for public understanding or respect for specialists. You do not become an expert by making the most noise (as I’m sure Snow and Holland would agree).”

He’s right, the press shouldn’t say Messrs Snow and Holland are tunnel experts as they aren’t and never claimed they were but he has missed the fundamental point: they don’t need to be. The problem isn’t the tunnel but the huge new approach roads which will have to be constructed. You don’t have to be a tunnel expert or a Stonehenge expert to know that would cause enormous damage to the World Heritage landscape, something which is being loudly ignored in the press and on websites by the powerful pro-tunnel lobby.

(Incidentally, the phrase “loud voices obsessed with stopping a tunnel” follows his previous statement that the Stonehenge Alliance acts like“the archaeological wing of Donald Trump’s social media campaign”. Fortunately they seem to have opted not to retaliate in kind or to be diverted from voicing their democratic opinion in a dignified manner. Good for them!).

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titanic

At a press conference at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre this morning the Government will stitch up the World Heritage Site: announcing the short tunnel that will result in portals and infrastructure that will impact on the archaeology and settings – and starting the clock running on public consultation… starting now and ending 5th March!
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Public exhibitions will be staged at the following locations:
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• The Manor Barn, Manor House, Winterbourne Stoke on Saturday, 14 January (11am-5pm)
• Antrobus House, Amesbury, on Wednesday, 18 January (2pm-8pm)
• Shrewton Village Hall, The Hollow, Shrewton, on Friday, 20 January (5pm-9pm)
• Avon Valley College, Recreation Road, Durrington, on Saturday 21 January (11am-5pm)
• Larkhill Primary School, Wilson Road, Larkhill, Tuesday, 24 January (5pm-9pm)
• The Manor Barn, Manor House, Winterbourne Stoke on Friday, 27 January (2pm-8pm)
• Salisbury Guildhall, The Market Place, Salisbury, on Saturday 28 January (11am-5pm)
• Grove Hall, Church Street, Mere, near Warminster, on Saturday 4 February (11am-5pm)
• Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, on Monday 6 February (2pm-8pm)
• Antrobus House, Amesbury, Wednesday, 8 February (2pm-8pm).
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Following the consultation, the preferred route will be announced later in 2017
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PLEASE GET YOURSELF THERE AND MAKE YOUR FEELINGS KNOWN!
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monday-digger

Where’s this?

jan17-puzzle.

[Clue: traditionally believed to be the burial place of Welsh royalty.]

By Dr Sandy Gerrard

A recent press report in the Express & Echo should concern everyone with an interest in the archaeology of the South West English uplands.  Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and Exmoor are particularly rich and important archaeological landscapes where the impact of the past can be easily appreciated.

On Dartmoor alone around 5,000 Bronze Age houses together with hundreds of hectares of field systems and enclosures survive in close proximity to thousands of cairns, hundreds of cists and the largest concentration of stone rows anywhere in Britain. Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor together provide a unique insight into the character of life and death in prehistoric times. Nowhere else in Britain is it possible to explore and appreciate the true impact of prehistoric people on the landscape. In recent years this incredible resource has been slowly disappearing beneath a sea of gorse, bracken and purple moor grass as farming practices have been adjusted in response to subsidy changes.

According to the Express & Echo article fresh plans are being drawn up to accelerate this process by returning parts of the moor “to the wild”. It is not clear which parts the bureaucrats have in mind, but we can be sure that given the extraordinary wide distribution of archaeology that important archaeology that we have all taken for granted could soon no longer be visible. Hopefully Historic England will fight this proposal and prevail – any other outcome would be disastrous.  Any attempt to deliberately conceal our heritage from us all should be opposed with the utmost vigour. Inevitably once the archaeology was out of sight it would soon be out of mind.

If this plan goes ahead much of Dartmoor’s amazing archaeology will be lost from sight. The fate of the largely invisible stone row at Spurrell’s Cross could await many cherished archaeological sites in South West England.

If this plan goes ahead much of Dartmoor’s amazing archaeology will be lost from sight. The fate of the largely invisible stone row at Spurrell’s Cross could await many cherished archaeological sites in South West England.

 

In a “hobby” replete with falsehoods it’s the commonest of all: “I can’t report the finds as my farmer won’t let me“. On that basis, millions of artefacts, whole swathes of knowledge, are lost to science and history.

But actually detectorists can’t pin it on farmers, for they are all well aware of PAS’s simple advice: if you can’t report, don’t detect. Here’s the latest case of blaming farmers: an NCMD official on Twitter (he of the “I’m a Detecting Liaison Officer” and “it’s best to lie to French farmers” fame):

twitter.

No Mr Maloney, it’s not the farmer’s call. It’s the call of the thousands of your colleagues who persist in detecting when they’ve been told they can’t report. Shame the FLO didn’t correct you on behalf of farmers but PAS has been putting your interests above those of landowners for 20 long years so it was never going to happen, was it?

(Mind you, saying “they rarely give me findspots” is a blinding flash of honesty against a background of PAS misinformation. What’s the betting she’ll get a private message saying please never again tell the truth in public?)

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A guest post from Jim Rayner, a good friend of the Heritage Journal:

Anyone attending recent solstice celebrations at Stonehenge will have noticed that the old A344 northern stock boundary fence remains in situ and now acts as a ‘new’ boundary marker for monument field. Promises to reconnect the Avenue with the stones and create a ‘permissive route’ along the line of the old road have failed to materialize. Tim Daw has been following the story on his sarsen.org website in some detail.

stonehenge-site-of-proposed-new-gate

Apparently, the official position is that the down-land grass needs more time to establish and works to create a new shuttle bus turning circle are on-going. Hopefully, by the end of 2017 these changes will be complete, but it is unlikely that this will have involved the removal of the fence. In practical terms this means the Avenue will still be separated from Stonehenge and people cannot spread-out down from the stones during Managed Open Access (MOA).

An easy solution would be for English Heritage (EH) and the National Trust (NT) to install a gate. This gate would only be opened for short periods during MOA and would be staffed by security and subject to all the usual EH terms of conditions of entry. Better still there would be two gates side-by-side, one for entry and another for exiting. Not being able to walk up to the Heel Stone from the Avenue (in one single movement) detracts from the experience (see video below). It could well be argued that the current fence restricts ceremonial access, is inauthentic and even contributes to overcrowding in the centre of the circle. MOA is an on-going process and everything needs to make things better for all concerned. In this regard, a simple set of gates could really help.

So, what do you think? Would an ‘Avenue Access’ gate, only to be used for ceremonial access at very limited times and fully controlled by EH’s security team be a good idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

President Obama has just created the Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, granting federal protection under the Antiquities Act to the geological formations and 2,000 square miles of desert surrounding them.

bears-ears-1

But sadly, Congress is bent on repealing every shred of Obama’s legacy and to open up public lands to development and drilling. Hence there’s no way the area will remain sacrosanct. Local Republicans are willing to protect the area but only if damage can be done where they consider it’s necessary. To this end they intend to repeal not just the designation but the Antiquities Act itself. How could they be so crass? (Well, for example, this very morning House Republicans have gutted an independent ethics watchdog, putting it under their own control, in a secret ballot hours before the new Congress convened for the first time, so anything is possible.)

The rejection of “sacrosanct” in favour of “sometimes sacrosanct” is now familiar in Britain – see Historic England’s Advice Note apparently providing themselves with justification to support massive damage to the Stonehenge landscape: “a small minority of landscapes will be so sensitive that the degree of alteration or addition without loss of significance may be very limited, particularly where there is a consistently high level of archaeological interest or architectural consistency” BUT: Works other than those of a minor nature are likely to be acceptable only where they would be in the best long-term interests of the conservation of the remains or there are other important planning justifications.”

The question arises, if the Stonehenge Landscape isn’t sacrosanct, where is? And how come the change has been brought about by a quango acting on unpublished Government orders, and not subject to an ethics watchdog, independent or otherwise? What can one say? Well, simply that logic dictates that those who work for organisations which support the short tunnel and think of their organisations as superior to Trump’s Republicans are deluding themselves.

As the calendar changes, we’ve looked back and reviewed the past 12 months. Now it’s time for another beginning, looking forward and making plans for the coming year.

new-year-resolutions

Our suggestions for resolutions back in 2013 still stand as admirable targets to strive for and we would commend them all to anyone interested in our past heritage. Here they are again:

  1. Visit new sites
  2. Join a local Archaeological Society
  3. Take a course
  4. Attend a conference
  5. Involve the family
  6. Contribute to the Heritage Journal

But this year, forgive me for speaking from an entirely personal viewpoint when looking forward…

A long held dream of moving to, and living in, West Cornwall looks to be coming to fruition for me in the following 12 months, and with it early (semi-)retirement! My hope is that this will allow me time to get more involved on a day-to-day basis in helping to preserve and understand our ancient heritage.

Once settled, and health allowing, I intend to volunteer for the CASPN clear-up days when I can, and will see if/how I can help the Cornwall Heritage Trust in their work too. I hope to be attending more walks and talks with both CASPN and the Cornwall Archaeological Society. And of course, writing! I have plenty of ideas for articles for the Heritage Journal, and possibly even a book or two, but these require a large commitment of time for research which I just don’t have at the moment.

So what will you be doing to preserve and understand our ancient heritage in 2017? Please let us know in the comments below.

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