A recent gorse fire on Carn Brea, near Redruth in Cornwall, could provide an opportunity for further investigation of this interesting site. The fire – cause currently unknown, but arson is suspected – covered an area of around 3 hectares on the night of 26th May. The gorse (which burns easily and gives off a lot of heat – it was a source of fuel in past times) had grown quite high and dense in the affected area, and strong winds hindered firefighters attempts at controlling the blaze. I was actually in the area only last week, and Carn Brea is a well know landmark, providing good views on a clear day to an extensive section of the north coast of Cornwall, from Godrevy to St Agnes.

Carn Brea in flame - credit to Darrin Roberts

Carn Brea in flame – credit to Darrin Roberts

Carn Brea was first investigated in the early 1970’s by a team led by Roger Mercer, and their findings led to a new site classification: the Early Neolithic Tor Enclosure. Dating from nearly 6000 years ago, stone walls were built up between outcrops of the granite bedrock to form defensive enclosures around the top of the hill. Signs of early habitation were found, in the form of ‘lean-to’ buildings against the insides of the enclosing walls. In addition, up to 700 leaf-shaped arrowheads were among some outstanding finds – evidence of a past attack on the settlement. Nearby outcrops of rock suitable for manufacture as axes and edge grinding stones, blanks and incomplete and finished axes found on the site suggest the settlement was used for the manufacture and trading of tools. These investigations showed that the east end of the hill was the focus of most activity, whilst the fire was on the northwest flank, which was most heavily covered in vegetation. The hill displays evidence of human use almost continually since the Neolithic, with mining, quarrying and the building of a monument and a castle in more recent times.

Whilst gorse fires are dangerous, and damaging, the eco-structure tends to recover quite well from such events and the clearance factor can open up the landscape to inspection where before only vegetation was visible. It is to be hoped that the opportunity will be taken (once fire investigations have completed) to further survey the area in the weeks to come.

For more information about Early Neolithic Tor Enclosures, see Simon Davies’ excellent paper (PDF link)

The following guest post has been supplied by the UK wing of Blue Shield:

ukbslogo

The UK National Committee of the Blue Shield (UKBS), the British wing of a global organisation frequently referred to as the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, is leading a nationwide campaign to get the UK Government to finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two protocols of 1954 and 1999. Professor Peter Stone OBE, Chair of the UKBS, said:

The 1954 Hague Convention is the primary piece of International Humanitarian Law concerning the protection of heritage during armed conflict. While many in the UK have reacted with justifiable horror and indignation at the recent appalling destruction of ancient sites, libraries, archives, and museums in the Middle East and Africa, few seem to realise that the UK remains the only Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, and arguably the most significant military power (and the only one with extensive military involvements abroad), not to have ratified the 1954 Hague Convention.

After the 2003 US/UK led invasion, the then Minister for Heritage, Andrew McIntosh, announced in 2004 the Government’s intention to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention as soon as Parliamentary business allowed. This claim has been repeated by every relevant Minister since. In November 2011, Jeremy Hunt, then Secretary of State at DCMS, made a joint UK Government and British Red Cross Society pledge “to make every effort to facilitate the UK’s ratification… and to promote understanding of the principles and rules of the Convention within the UK”. Ratification has cross-Party support and the support of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the Department for Overseas Development; and the Ministry of Defence. Professor Eleanor Robson, Chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, added:

ISIS’ current rampage across northern Iraq and Syria is drawing urgent international attention to the plight of cultural heritage in times of war. By ratifying the 1954 Hague Convention, the UK Government would send a clear signal of its commitment to protecting civilian communities and their histories if it should ever intervene in this conflict or others, and provide the armed forces a clear mandate to do so.

For its campaign to be successful, the UKBS needs everybody who values cultural heritage in all its forms to write to their local MP urging them to pursue this matter. This can be done either by email or post. For those who would like guidance or some information to help them write their letter, a template (which can be adapted as necessary) and a fact sheet on the UKBS and the 1954 Hague Convention can be downloaded here and here. If anyone does not know the name of their MP or how to contact them, that can found here.

If you are still unsure of the need for the UK to ratify the 1954 Hague Convection, the UKBS ask that you please watch this three-minute film Protecting cultural property during war.

The UKBS is an entirely voluntary run organisation comprising academics and heritage professionals from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. You can stay up-to-date with its work and the progress of its campaign by following it on Twitter and Facebook. If you require any further information or have any outstanding queries, please do not hesitate to contact Philip Deans, Campaign Assistant for the UKBS, at philip.deans@ncl.ac.uk. Finally, to help the UKBS keep track of the campaign, it is also asked that when anyone does write to their MP, would they please let the UKBS know using the email address supplied above.

Try this test. Go to Stonehenge and deliberately tread on a Marsh Fritillary caterpillar. You’ll risk prosecution. Now jump around on the stones and the same thing applies as that’s against the law too. Yet you and hundreds of others can do it with impunity on 21 June. Why? Because there are so many people packed into the monument it’s impossible to exercise control. EH’s PR Department must cringe every year, especially on 22 June when they release a press release saying everything went well but the photographs show they weren’t in control.

But maybe a change is coming. We hear EH’s Historic Properties Director has grasped the PR opportunity of picnics and kite flying and happy family gatherings (which were OUR suggestions, see here!) and coincidentally some Free Access campaigners are also calling for a daytime picnic adjacent to the stones and they’ve been invited to a “private meeting” to discuss it!

Could this be the moment when the problem is solved? Yes, providing EH says instead of, not as well as. There’s no point in expanding the celebrations into the daytime unless there’s an end to the worldwide negative PR created by nocturnal overcrowding inside the stones and the damage and disrespect it brings.

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So here’s our fantasy picture of what solstice could and should look like,  since it and Stonehenge belong to everyone in equal measure. Ordinary people having fun celebrating solstice near to but not within the stones – no huge expense, no massive security, no litter, no graffiti, no damage, no stone-standing, no climbing on them, no “personal alcohol allowance”, no ejections, no endless moaning, no faeces, no middle-of the-nighting, no crazy calls for unrestricted access, no arrests and no embarrassment and humiliation for EH and Britain! Isn’t that better? Who or what is preventing it happening?.

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So here’s our fantasy picture of ordinary people, all equal stakeholders  having fun celebrating solstice near to but not within the stones (which is something no-one can show is less likely to be traditional than what happens now). They could start at dawn if they wished – the sunrise view from outside is much better and the place is now thought to have been designed to facilitate that – and if they were outside the stones there’d be no huge expense, no massive security, no litter, no graffiti, no damage, no stone-standing, no climbing on them, no “personal alcohol allowance”, no ejections, no endless moaning, no faeces, no crazy calls for unrestricted access, no arrests and no embarrassment and humiliation for EH and Britain! Isn’t that better?

Who needs a history book?! The depressing cul-de-sac that is Britain’s portable antiquities policy can be deduced from just three flyers…. . .


First, British archaeologists expressed outrage…. .

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StopCBA.

Then they settled for “do it if you must but please tell us what you find”. And that’s where we’re stuck, 17 years later, with most finds still not being reported. Meanwhile, over in Ireland they have THIS flyer in every library and police station….. . .

.irish flyer.

It says things that are unspeakable in Britain, things like unregulated detecting “causes serious damage” and it’s illegal to do it “without the prior written consent of the Minister”  and that will only be forthcoming if “the greatest possible level of archaeological knowledge is obtained”. The British Government and all 8,000 British archaeologists bar none strongly agree but the boat you see, it mustn’t be rocked..

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So there we are, two countries, one of which makes the other’s policies look ludicrous. However, there’s a third flyer, something we published 3 years ago, that could save Britain’s blushes for now, without waiting for legislation. Both CBA and EH have signalled that its aims correspond with theirs so it’s an open door waiting to be pushed…..

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Stop6 .

(Vistaprint will supply 5,000 flyers for about £70 – enough to put one in every public library and police station in England and Wales. If PAS, CBA or EH can’t afford to pay that then we could. Alternatively here’s a version the public could print off and deliver to their local library or police station. Why not? It’s their heritage knowledge that’s not being delivered.) .

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PS…… In fact, you could print it off and apply to put it on your Parish Council notice board or sweet shop window. After all, if you don’t, this is the sort of message farmers will get (which appeared just two days ago): “Please let us onto your land….. We will pay the farmer or landowner £10 cash per member on the day of the search (which normally takes place between 8am and sunset) and also give 50% of the value of any item found worth over £500 to the landowner.” . There’s no requirement to show recordable non-Treasure items (99.999% of them) to PAS. History ISN’T something that should be treated like that. As the Irish know.

The Council for British Archaeology’s Local Heritage Engagement Network are holding an event in London on 20th June, entitled ‘Activism, Advocacy and Supporting your Heritage’. The event is designed to help attendees gain skills and confidence to begin to engage in local advocacy and activism to support their local historic environment, or to increase the impact of their present advocacy work.

Speakers will provide up to date background information to threats facing local authority archaeology and heritage services. They will discuss what can be done to protect and advocate for these services, as well as present examples of best practice from community groups currently engaged in campaigns. The programme also includes workshops which will allow for discussion of attendee’s present work and how it could be adapted or used for advocacy impact and will provide information on how to get in the media, and get your message across to members of the public and decision makers.

Anyone is welcome to attend this event – you do not need any previous experience of heritage advocacy. There is a small cost to attendees (£5), to cover refreshments during the break and speakers travel expenses.

Bookings can be made via the Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/local-heritage-network-training-activism-advocacy-and-supporting-your-heritage-tickets-16747136135 web site, but be quick! Tickets are going fast!

Once again, CASPN‘s  ‘Pathways to the Past’ event, a weekend of daytime walks & evening talks among the ancient sites of West Penwith is rapidly approaching. 2015 is the ninth year of this event, which has only gone from strength to strength. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several of the previous year’s walks, but sadly my holiday dates don’t coincide this year – poor planning on my part!

CASPNlogo

There is a good mix of items this year, so to help you plan your time, here’s the full line-up for the weekend of May 30th/31st 2015:

Saturday May 30th

10.00-12.30pm Catching the light of the sun and moon

A guided circular walk with Cheryl Straffon & Lana Jarvis to visit prehistoric sites that were aligned to the sun and moon, including the Mên-an-Tol, the Nine Maidens barrow & stone circle and Bosiliack barrow.

Meet at Mên-an-Tol layby beside Madron to Morvah road [SW418 344]

2.00-4.30pm Living at the Edge

A guided walk with archaeologist David Giddings to visit the lesser-known Nanjulian courtyard house settlement, perched at the edge of the land between St. Just and Sennen.

Meet at Nanjulian off the B3306 St.Just to Sennen road [SW360 294] TR19 7NU

8.00-10.00pm Hot Metal: the discoveries that changed the world

An illustrated talk by Paul Bonnington about the invention of metal making and the effect this had on the Bronze, Copper and Iron Age societies.

At the Count House at Botallack. TR19 7QQ

Sunday May 31st

11.00-12.30pm Sites on the Scillies

An illustrated talk by archaeologist Charlie Johns, exploring some of the unique and beautiful ancient sites on the Isles of Scilly and the prehistoric people who built them.

At the Count House at Botallack

2.00-4.30pm Stories in the Stones – the Merry Maidens and more

A guided walk with archaeologist Adrian Rodda to sites in the Lamorna area, including the Merry Maidens stone circle, associated standing stones and Tregiffian entrance grave.

Meet at Boleigh farm on the B3315 Penzance to Lamorna road. [SW436 349] TR19 6BN

8.00-9.00pm Community Archaeology

To round off the weekend, Richard Mikulski will chat about community archaeology projects. At the North Inn, Pendeen.

Each individual event is £5 but free to members of FOCAS (Friends of Cornwall’s Ancient Sites). You can join FOCAS (Friends of Cornwall’s Ancient Sites) at the beginning of the individual event, by telephoning 07927 671612, or by e-mailing: focus@cornishancientsites.com

A telling contrast is on display at this very moment in the tranquil, picturesque Worcestershire village of Wichenford…..


. In the village centre there’s this poster on the Parish Council notice board. It’s all about persuading the 200 residents to do some “gleaning” – that’s gathering left-over produce from the local fields so it can be given to needy people.

gleaning.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the village hundreds of people from all over Britain have been persuaded by a foreign detector manufacturer to come and do a spot of self-seeking (and a coin dealer has been invited to set up a stall, naturally) …. .

.ML.

By any measure, the first activity is selfless and involves no depletion whereas the second is the opposite in both respects. They say the quality of a civilisation can be measured by its relationship with its land. Makes you half proud to be British.

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The Institute of Art and Law blog has published a review by Richard Harwood QC of the recently introduced Historic Environment (Wales) Bill. Two matters struck us as particularly significant:


1. In the case of damage to a monument the bill proposes that any defence should require due diligence to be demonstrated, not just lack of knowledge. 2. A remark by Mr Harwood: “Perhaps the most significant amendment that could be added to the Bill is to introduce a statutory duty to have special regard to the desirability of protecting scheduled monuments and their settings, to match the greater protection already given to listed buildings.


We can’t help reflecting that such provisions would have great benefits on both sides of Offa’s Dyke. In fact, the Journal would have a lot less to write about!

As a boy I was furious when the bit of Enville Common where we played cricket every Sunday was suddenly fenced off and planted with small trees. Here they are now ….

enville trees

Fortunately for young cricketers the Enville Estate practices sustainable forestry and shortly a lot of them are to be felled and the land will revert to how it was in 1955, for a while at least. I plan to take my grandson there to play cricket.

What has this to do with the price of beans? Well, it crossed my mind it’s a good example of harmless change. A circle has turned and no harm has been done. Whereas, the change that’s proposed at Stonehenge is on a line not a circle. If EH and NT and Mr Cameron and the road lobby get their way a new massive scar across one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the world will still be there long after all of them aren’t – and indeed long after there’s no more petrol.

It’s amazing what you can find when you look. Back in 2007, Dartmoor expert Alan Endecott discovered an arc of recumbent stones high up on the moor, some 1700 or so feet (525m) above sea level.

Initial investigations of the area are now completed, and what Alan discovered has been identified as a previously unknown stone circle, some 112 feet (34m) in diameter, and consisting of 30 or 31 stones with extensive views in all directions. This is the highest stone circle recorded on Dartmoor thus far.

sittaford circle

The stones were previously all thought to be upright, due to the surviving presence of packing stones and the large stones themselves, all of a similar size, may have been quarried from nearby Sittaford Tor. The location of this new circle places it within an arc of known circles in the NE moor, which includes Buttern Hill, Scorhill, Shovel Down, Fernworthy and the Grey Wethers double circles, described by some as a ‘sacred arc’ which suggests some measure of wider landscape planning by the circle builders. Preliminary radio-carbon dating of samples taken from underneath the stones suggests that they had fallen close to the end of the 3rd millenium BC, some 4000 years ago.

Geophysical work at the site has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Funded scheme, Moor Than Meets The Eye. Although full results are not yet available, initial results have identified a possible linear ditch just outside the eastern side of the circle.

The find was announced in the announced in the January 2014 edition of the Devon Archaelogical Society Newsletter, No.117. Further investigation is planned later this summer, we’ll be watching this one with interest!

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