You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2010.

From the Save Bremore Heritage Group;

“There will be a Demo outside the Fingal Co Co Offices Main Street Swords this Friday (April 2nd) 1-2pm
Please join with us on the day that the Draft Development Plan goes on display. We really need everyone who can possibly spare an hour of their day please.”

If you are able to get there at all, please consider it.

unearthed: A lecture by Dr Simon Kaner, Assistant Director, Sainsbury Institute, on Thursday, 17 June from 6pm.
Venue: Hostry, Norwich Cathedral, Norwich NR1 4EH.
An accompanying archaeological exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich will run from 22 June – 29 August unearthing “…some of the mysteries of small figures and brings together prehistoric Balkan and Japanese Jomon figures, offering us a chance to get up close to these ancient objects and consider their significance and use.”

A lecture entitled, The green treasures from the magic mountains: the ‘life story’ of the magnificent Neolithic axehead from Breamore, will be given by Alison Sheridan at Devizes Town Hall, Wiltshire, from 7:00 pm on Tuesday, 15 June 2010.

“The ‘magnificant’ Neolithic jadeitite axehead was found at Breamore, just across the Wiltshire border in Hampshire, although its exact findspot is not known. Before being acquired by the Museum in 1916 it had been used as a paper knife – but because it tore more leaves than it cut it was thrown out of a window! It fell on a stone and the end was chipped.”

The Breamore axehead is on display at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes. More here – and here –

Dr. Colmán Etchingham, a lecturer in the history department at N.U.I. Maynooth, has called for the full excavation of a major early Christian and Viking site at Woodstown, Co. Waterford. Or at least a commitment from the government to do the same. Speaking in his position as chairman of the final session of the “Viking Woodstown and Hiberno-Norse Waterford” conference, this week, Dr. Etchingham also stressed the crucial work of the “Save Viking Waterford Action Group” in rescuing the site from disappearance under the N25 Waterford City bypass;

According to Dr Etchingham, Government policy would have otherwise “allowed the road to run through the site”.

You don’t say?

…“The conference has shown that less than 5 per cent of the site has been subject to archaeological investment to date.

“What has been found is wonderful but it is tantamount to glimpses of what could be there.” Dr Etchingham said that the site is “one of the most important” sites to be found anywhere in western Europe.

“Public investment in excavation would provide jobs in the region and would help tourism in the area,” he added.

The site should be excavated over a long period of time to a high standard, he said.”


Here’s hoping that you get the commitment, but don’t hold your breath. Frankly, it seems amazing that they reprieved the site at all. Regarding the former, I note the following from An Taisce, back in June 2004 and whistling in the wind, as usual;

“1. The Minister’s Announcement: The Minister for the Environment, Mr. Martin Cullen T.D., has signalled his intention to sanction an excavation of the internationally important Viking site at Woodstown, Co. Waterford. An Taisce welcomes this declaration of intent.

2. An International Panel: The National Monuments Committee of An Taisce feels it is imperative that this excavation encompasses the entire site, rather than simply the ‘road- take’. The excavation of a site with the potential and significance displayed at Woodstown can only be credibly directed by an Internationally recognised group of experts. This formula has already been successfully used on major Viking excavations such as Birka ( Sweden) and Kaupang ( Norway).The acclaimed results of these excavations were achieved under the auspices of a pan-European group of experts, including the Irish representative, Dr. Patrick F. Wallace, Director of the National Museum of Ireland and former Director of the Wood Quay Viking site. If the island of Ireland is to retain credibility regarding our shared European Heritage, it is imperative that such a body be tasked with conducting such prospective investigations of the Woodstown site.”

Keep trying though. That’s the thing.

According to the “Viking Waterford” website, the excavation to date – “much of it by JCB” (and whose textbook will carry a chapter on that ‘technique’?) – has uncovered; “over 600 features such as house-gullies, pits and fireplaces… and over 5000 objects, including silver ingots, ships nails, coins from Byzantium and Viking weaponry.” Not bad for less than 5% investigated – no wonder they’re itching to get in there properly.

Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, was founded by the Vikings in 914 CE. Its name, although it sounds both English and descriptive, is in fact an anglicisation of the Old Norse “Vedrafjord”.


Stonehenge in 1877

Beware of ruins; the heart is apt to make
Monstrous assumptions on the unburied past;
Though cleverly restored, the Tudor tower
Is spurious, the facade a fake

From Beware of Ruins by A D Hope

Not within our usual sphere, although definitely prehistoric and we’re going to chance it. The Belfast Newsletter this week carried news of the proposed visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim;

“Work is set to start in the coming months on the long-awaited visitors’ centre at the Giant’s Causeway.
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB] revealed it is to provide £9.25 million funding to deliver replacement visitor services at the World Heritage Site.”

In the same week that the “Keep the Staffordshire Hoard off Ebay” appeal was bumped past its target by £1.29 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund – it seems that big Heritage pledges are in vogue at the moment. The Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Trust have already promised about £7 million between them and the remainder of the £18.5 million needed for the Giant’s Causeway project must now come from public donations.

Of course, there’s money to be made as well;

“Mr Clarke added that the new North Coast centre will help promote tourist destinations beyond the Causeway.

“This will provide opportunities to grow the tourism sector by signposting visitors to other attractions in the region, increasing the time that visitors stay in the region and increasing the amount spent by visitors.”

He added: “As we will be able to offer a lot of things to see in a tight geographic area, we are going to need more hotel development.

“We are hoping to have a four-star hotel for visitors along the Causeway Coast and would encourage investors into the area.”

We’re also hoping that this proposed ancillary development won’t cover all surrounding. The centre itself, designed by Dublin architects Heneghan Peng, appears to be well considered and carefully unobtrusive – “hidden from the coastal landscape by a grass roof.”

The Cove, Avebury. Image credit Willow

A seminar at Devizes Town Hall on Saturday, 22 May 2010 from 10:00 am.

A joint research seminar organised by the Prehistoric Society and the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in association with the Avebury Archaeological and Historical Research Group

Recent work in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site has transformed our understanding of both landscapes, demonstrating how much we can still learn from well-focussed research about even the best-known aspects of prehistoric Britain. With major projects like the Stonehenge Riverside Project, the Longstones Project, and the Silbury Hill Conservation Project recently published or in the post-excavation stage, this seminar will present and assess what we have learnt, and discuss future research directions. It will also inform the revision of the Avebury Research Agenda and aid integration between the two parts of the WHS, which are too often treated entirely separately. A range of speakers, all of whom are currently engaged with research at Stonehenge or Avebury, will discuss what we know and what we still need to know about the landscapes, monuments and material culture of this most significant area for British prehistory.

More here –

by Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

I was in London this week and dropped in to have a look around the British Museum. Amongst the other treasures and only for these few months, perhaps, are some small items from the Staffordshire Hoard. On the day that I visited, these same were housed in a couple of desk-high display cabinets, underneath some explanatory notices and in the corner of a bright, open, upstairs room. Beside the doorway, on the adjacent wall, was a glass donations box containing all manner of money. Unless £3.3 million could be raised, it seemed that the famous Staffordshire hoard would be sold and, obviously, dispersed on the open market.

Although the news since is that the money has been found and the hoard saved, as a unit, for the nation, I’m just puzzled as to how this situation could have arisen at all?

Setting aside the fact that the metal detectorist wouldn’t even have been able to do his detecting in Ireland, in the first place, and ignoring the temptation to suggest – like a game show – progressively halving his ‘prize fund’ for each day he hoovered around himself before informing the authorities (let’s just imagine that he found it while digging his garden and reported it straight away), this would be the legal position here;

Under the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994 , Section 2 (1);

“..,there shall stand vested in the State the ownership of any archaeological object found in the State after the coming into operation of this section where such object has no known owner at the time when it was found.” (That owner wouldn’t be Terry or Fred, I’m afraid);

Section 4 (2);

“No person shall purchase or otherwise acquire, sell or otherwise dispose of an archaeological object which has been found in the State after the coming into operation of this section unless the object is one in which the rights of the State have been waived under this Act.”;

Section 9 (1), in cases where the object is of sufficient archaeological or historical interest;

“..,the Director (of the National Museum) shall, as soon as practicable, take possession of such object and may retain it on behalf of the State.”;

And Section 10 (1), (4);

“The Director may, following consultation with the Minister and the Minister for Finance and with their consent given in writing, pay to each or any of the following, namely, the person who has found an archaeological object, the owner of the land and the occupier of the land on or under which such object was found, a reward where the object is retained by the Director on behalf of the State.”


“Nothing in this section shall impose an obligation on the Director to pay a reward unless he is satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so.”

It seems straightforward, sensible and equitable and saves all the scrabbling and haggling to pay off someone who wouldn’t have ownership rights anyway. In fact, the whole thrust of the 1994 Act is towards the preservation of our historical record for those who will come after us.

So, here’s a metaphor, which I got by googling ’depletion of fish stocks’. This 2006 article is from the Washington Post and I’ve taken the liberty of trimming it to fit. You can, of course, follow the link included to read the complete article;

“An international group of ecologists and economists warned yesterday that the world will run out of seafood by 2048 if steep declines in marine species continue at current rates, based on a four-year study of catch data and the effects of fisheries collapses.

The paper, published in the journal Science, concludes that overfishing, pollution and other environmental factors are wiping out important species around the globe, hampering the ocean’s ability to produce seafood, filter nutrients and resist the spread of disease…

…”We really see the end of the line now,” said lead author Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Canada’s Dalhousie University. “It’s within our lifetime. Our children will see a world without seafood if we don’t change things.”…

…”It’s like hitting the gas pedal and holding it down at a constant level,” Worm said in a telephone interview. “The rate accelerates over time.”…

…Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco said the study makes clear that fish stocks are in trouble, even though consumers appear to have a cornucopia of seafood choices.

“I think people don’t get it,” Lubchenco said. “They think, ‘If there is a problem with the oceans, how come the case in my grocery store is so full?’ There is a disconnect.”…

…Yesterday’s report suggests it is possible to resolve this puzzle. The researchers analyzed nearly 50 areas where restrictions had been imposed to stop overfishing and found that, on average, the range of species in the water increased by 23 percent within five years. That provides reason for optimism, Worm said, because it means sound management can halt the decline of fish stocks worldwide.
“It’s not too late to turn this around,” he said. “It can be done, but it has to be done soon.”

Greed is not good. As of today (March 24th, 1.57 pm) the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter stands at; 10,729,594 artefacts removed (since 1975). How do you get your head around that?

by Nigel Swift, Heritage Action

Not content with flouting archaeological guidelines at their Foxham rally  the members of Colchester metal detecting club are holding one at Boxted which seems equally unheroic. It’s strictly members only and there’s no mention of it being in aid of charity this time – in fact it seems more of a help yourself, surprise buffet type of event with only the members benefitting.

“Finds over 300 years old and over £300 in value and items subject to treasure trove to be divided 50/50 with the land owner.”

That’s nice. So we can deduce that if a find is worth £300 or more then the finder gets £150 or more (up to utter oodles, one assumes) and if it’s worth £299 (and who makes the assessment?!? Guess! Go on!) then the finder gets £299 and the farmer gets nowt. Such love of history! Such lack of interest in money!

That's £299 for me and nothing for the landowner. And there's another £299 for me and nothing for the landowner. Oooh and there's another £299 for me and .......

Ironically, a National Council for Metal Detecting representative recently characterised the CBA Portable Antiquities conference as….“all a part of a sustained attack on the hobby which the CBA and their seedy band of followers view as an easy target.”  But when it comes to making themselves easy targets and acting in an utterly seedy way the Colchester Metal Detecting club seems to take the heritage biscuit.

Are they typical? Well that’s a ticklish question in search of a British heritage professional or resource protection agency with the pluck to ask it! Ten million seven hundred thousand artefacts dug up since 1975 and the landowners who own them not getting a penny for any of them that are worth less than £299? Can that possibly be right? Or even partly right? Even at an average value of only £20 per artefact that suggests farmers have had more than two hundred million pounds worth of goods removed from their fields and not been paid for them (except for a very grateful “bottle of whisky at Christmas”)!

Is this the process British archaeology is in partnership with because it’s mostly “responsible”? I think I must have missed the train to Liaisonville so remove my critical faculties and beam me up Roger!


Heritage Action vindicated at Portable Antiquities conference

Largest detecting forum confesses to undermining PAS

PAS to support metal detecting sales push

Metal detecting and helping Donald Trump: two additions to the British education syllabus?

Wiltshire metal detecting rally flouts archaeological guidelines

 Metal detecting at the end of the noughties: bad just got worse.

 Metal detecting: a letter to English Heritage

 Metal detecting: £3.2 million reward for reporting the Staffordshire hoard should have been £32 million claims detectorist!

The Staffordshire Hoard and Metal Detecting? My Irish Eyes see an Illegal Activity

Legalised metal detecting? “No thanks, we’re French (and we give a damn about our resource!)” – Official. 

Quote of the Week #3: The National Council for Metal Detecting on why current delays in rewarding their members are “unacceptable”

Quote of the week #2: Metal detectorist Michael Darke on what his share of YOUR £500,000 means to him

NEWS: Metal detectorists dig up 11,000 ancient artefacts in amazing two week period. Every fortnight!

The National Trust – Little Solsbury Hill is a walled village of the early Iron Age, occupied from about 300 bc to 100 bc. At first the area near the edge of the hill was cleared to a rock base, on which substantial  timber  framed houses were built.  A 20 feet wide rampart was then made, faced inside and outside with well built dry stone walls and infilled with loose stones . The outer face was at least 12 feet.  After a period some of the huts were burnt down and the rampart was overthrown, the site was never occupied again.

So says the National Trust sign that greets us at the gate to this hill fort.  Solsbury Hill as it is better  known, stands just outside Bath, it is on a high eminence and a walk up the steep lane, with the car parked down in the village of Northend, is the best way of getting to the top. It occupies a spectacular position, the Cotswolds are just coming to an end here, and the River Avon curves on its way past below.  But it is the A46 road that lies in the valley under the hillfort that was the scene of a road protest in 1994, it is perhaps remembered best for.  The controversy that surrounded the widening of the A46 road was to bring to a halt a further 300 road widening schemes which the conservative government of the time was trying to implement.

Sadly it did not stop the road widening scheme under the hillfort, and a grass maze today overlooking the road is a reminder of the ‘tree top’ protest of 1994.  This was not the Stonehenge ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ spectacular, but it caused much controversy in Bath  at the time because of the force used against the protesters by both the police and security guards.

It was beautifully documented in a book by Adrian Arbib, and this montag of photographs illustrates the young people who stood up against this road scheme. Today, a different generation of  eco-warriors or protestors,  will still take to tunnels or stand firm against the ‘might of the law’, as  the protest against the motorway under the Hill of Tara showed, or in the case of the Prittlewell ‘Bling’ king protest at Southend, another road scheme.

There is of course the ‘eagle’ featured in  Peter Gabriel’ music, he wrote a famous song about this hill, and though there are not many that have seen an eagle fly above this hill (if any in fact) it is well to record for posterity, the small histories of Solsbury and not to forget of course, that it maybe one of the (many)  conjectured sites to have hosted the Arthurian Battle of Badon.

Article by Moss


March 2010

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