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Dear Fellow Landowners,

It’s that time of year when thousands of us will be offered a bottle of whisky to thank us for allowing people to detect for the past year. But before you swoon in a flood of rural gratitude may I suggest you respond by saying:

“How kind! However, it would warm the cockles of my heart far more if, instead, you reveal to me, right now, your eBay trading name.”

(It’s very clear some people are paying a very high price for their whisky!)

Seasons Greetings,

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow,
Worfield,
Salop instead

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There have been countless theories about the design of Stonehenge but this one, which appeared in the Guardian in 2012, is memorable:

“A team of academics have revealed the “sonic experience” that early visitors to Stonehenge would have heard. Scholars from the Universities of Salford, Huddersfield and Bristol used an American replica of the monument to investigate its audio history. Salford’s Dr Bruno Fazenda said they had found the site reacted to sound “in a way that would have been noticeable to the Neolithic man”. He said the research would allow a “more holistic” view of its past.

In February, scientist Steven Waller published a paper suggesting the design of Stonehenge could have been inspired by music. Dr Fazenda, who has been involved with the acoustic testing of the monument for four years, said his own research had not revealed if this was the case or not. “Stonehenge is very well known, but people are still trying to find out what it was built for,” he said. “We thought that doing this would bring an element of archaeology that so far hasn’t been looked at.”

The auditory effect of Stonehenge in Neolithic ears is indeed a fascinating subject. But what about the auditory effect of Stonehenge on modern ears?  Auditory illusions are still happening at Stonehenge – for how else can one describe the sound of people in official or prominent roles claiming that the damage caused by a mile of new dual carriageway across the World Heritage Landscape is an improvement to that landscape?

One day academics will try to make sense of how and why Trumpism – the blatant repetition of a plain untruth – was applied to our national icon.

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Not this Prime Minister. (As if!) It was Baldwin in 1927. He wrote to the press, with others, saying “So long as it remains in private hands, there is an obvious danger that the setting of Stonehenge may be ruined” and promising that “the land purchased will be placed under the guardianship of the National Trust”. The appeal was successful, and true to that promise 1,444 acres of land surrounding the stones were transferred to the National Trust.

That should have been that. If you protect the setting and archaeology by placing it into the guardianship of a body that boasts “forever, for everyone” you’re entitled to expect that’s what will happen. And so it did, until recently, but now the Trust is supporting the short tunnel and the massive new damage it will bring and that volte-face has been described by the current Government as “pivotal” to the scheme going ahead.

The Trust has yet to explain exactly why it has moved beyond “protecting” to “destroying to improve”. It was given no mandate for that in 1927 nor by its Founders nor by UNESCO. Its only mandate came from its own 2017 AGM, doubly besmirched by the Chairman using the proxy votes to achieve it and by hundreds of Members claiming they were disenfranchised by mysteriously not getting their ballot papers or getting an adequate warning of the vote

So the Trust can cite no convincing mandate, only it’s own judgement of what’s best for Stonehenge. Yes, everyone gets that, but the question remains, by what authority or philosophical rationale does it claim the right to make that judgement? All anyone has heard about that is an echoing, guilty silence!

 

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Of course, as a “Green” she’ll be bitterly attacked by those with a vested interest in exploitation. Which brings us to Central Searchers. They say the reason so few finds from their rallies get recorded is that the FLO [Helen Geake]has a standing invite to our digs but we never see her.

But that’s nonsense, they can easily report finds whether an FLO is there or not  (and incidentally, four FLOs attended their summer rally!) The real reason is their notorious Rule 14: “finds can be retained by the detectorist alone as long as its value is no more than £2,000“.

You can guess the sort of people that attracts. And even if something worth far more is found it’s likely the farmer will still get nothing – for guess who says what it’s worth? (And of course, in those circumstances, neither the farmer nor PAS will be shown, lest the alarm is raised. No wonder FLOs hate attending.)

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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It’s almost a year since the US left UNESCO. Will Britain follow? Apparently not, for when International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt suggested we stop supporting UNESCO she was slapped down by Number 10: “There has been no change to our commitment to Unesco.”

But it’s not certain. Back in 1985, the Thatcher Government launched some Trumpish populism against UNESCO: its activities had “too often been used as a medium for Communist rhetoric” prompting a youthful Jeremy Corbyn to say it was not about that but about “the power of the far-right in the United States.”

Does that sound familiar? And something else said back then has a modern resonance: UNESCO had “spent too much money in Paris on too many meetings and too many studies, often of doubtful value.” Er … like meetings in Paris expressing strong opposition to the short tunnel for instance?!

That opposition is the grit in the pro-tunnel vaseline. Might the British Government conclude it would be best if UNESCO was no longer supported and could be presented to the public as a mere bunch of expensive timewasters? (We do wonder how would that play in the consciences of pro-tunnel archaeologists!)

Communist timewasters, the grit in the tunnel vaseline

Yet again a Highways England press release has revealed more than they intended. They announced a further six weeks of work on and around the A303 Countess roundabout from Monday, November 4, involving the drilling of boreholes and digging of trial pits, but then comes this strange claim:

The survey work in no way pre-empts the outcome of the Development Consent Order Examination, which concluded earlier this month.

So: they are saying their excavations won’t pre-empt the scheme outcome or (according to the dictionary) forestall it, prevent it from happening or make it unnecessary or impossible.

So as we’ve previously feared, it seems that if “Unlucky Henge” or other archaeology is found during survey work, it won’t affect the scheme! (Indeed, the question arises, would the details even be published until it’s far too late?)

American Joseph LaFargue’s reaction to the imprisonment of the Leominster Hoard thieves was: “Finders keepers…losers weepers is what we say here in the good old U.S. of A”.

Of course, the view of American metal detectorists wouldn’t normally matter, but for the fact that hundreds of them come over here on organised detecting holidays to find what they can. How many of them think like Joseph?

The holiday companies say everything found by their clients is reported to PAS and may end up in a museum. But their customers are fresh off the plane from a culture where, apart from on Federal land, you really can help yourself and keep it. How many American detectorists can be trusted to divest themselves of their life-long conviction that a government taking a man’s property away from him is an unacceptable and despicable feature of European socialism? Should our customs officers be alert?

So you’ve been on a £2,000 history holiday have you sir? Anything to declare?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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For over 20 years detectorists have been cajoled and flattered in a mostly vain hope their behaviour will improve. But now “speaking softly” has been supplemented with “carrying a big stick”: two detectorists (and a crooked dealer) have been jailed for 10, 8.5 and 5 years for theft and concealing a hoard.

Hopefully, these severe sentences for treasure theft will send a signal to the thousands of detectorists who don’t show landowners and/or PAS their non-treasure finds. That too can involve theft, despite any dubious “finds agreements” so they’ll know fines or even imprisonment are possible.

Are we about to relearn after 20 years of “education and outreach” that the most effective element of the strategy is intolerance? The rest of the world knows it is and indeed Britain has its own compelling proof: wild birds’ egg collecting is no longer a real problem thanks to (a.) adequate punishment and (b.) the lack of a quango constantly telling the public “responsible egg collecting” is fine!

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At last! The end of the back-slapping, laissez-faire, look-the-other-way, let-farmers-and-society-be-ripped-off strategy?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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John Aubrey, Monumenta Britannica:

“… southward from the Towne stand two great stones, sixty-five paces distant from one another. The east stone is nine foot high, and as much broad: halfe a yard thick. The west stone is eight foot high and about six foot broad, halfe a yard thick.” “One of these stones was taken down by a farmer about the year 1680 to make a bridge of.”

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