You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.

Carreg Coetan Arthur, Pembrokeshire, South Wales
Image credit Littlestone
Access to Carreg Coetan Arthur is via the Carreg Coetan culs-de-sac off the Pembrokeshire National Park Road out of Newport. Park on the main road and walk the few metres back along the culs-de-sac. The cromlech is in a well-cared for, fenced off area with an information board next to the end bungalow on the right.
Administrative authority: CADW ( ).
Heritage Action Cared for Rating **** (out of 5).

Suggested improvements: Sign from the main road indicating location. Signs instructing visitors not to climb on the stones.

See also moss’ feature on Three Cromlechs in Pembrokeshire here –

A guest article by Colin Coulson

St. Mary’s church at Lastingham, North Yorkshire, is remarkable on a number of counts. The crypt below – said to be the only complete crypt in Britain – was built by St. Stephen between 1078 and 1086. It contains decorated stone fragments which go back to the eighth century.



The first church here served the monastery founded by St. Cedd in 659, and it is from that early period that we find Lastingham’s greatest enigma. You see, it wasn’t easy to convert the English to Christianity. Pope Gregory the Great issued some very novel instructions in order to make it happen. “Do not destroy pagan temples, but convert them to Christian use so that the people will feel more comfortable coming there.” “If the people insist on sacrificing an animal, let them do it – just so long as they sacrifice it to God.” Both of these are to be found in a letter from Pope Gregory to Abbot Mellitus, who had come to England with St. Augustine. The letter is dated 601 and is quoted extensively in Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica. All sorts of ‘softeners’ were employed to make people more comfortable with Christianity. Pagan deities, such as Brigid, suddenly became Christian saints. Wells, probably the home of pagan water spirits, were maintained but re-named after prominent Christians – St. Helen’s Well, St. Hilda’s Well, and so on. Bede records that even the great Christian Spring festival bears the name of a pagan goddess, Eostre.

In Lastingham crypt, there is a door lintel said to be from St. Cedd’s monastery.



This lintel is made of oak. Now, what does that mean? Was it a Christian ‘softener’ for local pagan people? Or was oak used simply because it is a strong, durable building material? There’s no way of knowing. But then, at one corner, we find … an acorn! And that is much less ambiguous.



The Lastingham question doesn’t end there, however. There is neither cross nor any other Christian symbol on this lintel. So was it crafted by St. Cedd’s builders at all? Or is it from a pagan temple which Cedd converted to Christian use?

We’ll probably never know. St. Cedd died of plague here in 664 a.d., and is buried to the right of the crypt altar. Sadly, he took the story of the Lastingham lintel with him.

Remarkable evidence revealed………….

Pentre Ifan, Pembrokeshire, South Wales
Image credit and © Littlestone

Access to Pentre Ifan is along a footpath from the road; there is parking space by the road for four or five cars. The cromlech is in a well-cared for, fenced off area at the end of the footpath and has a good information board showing, among other things, an artist’s impression of how the structure may have originally looked.

Administrative authority: CADW ( ).
Heritage Action Cared for Rating  *** (out of 5).

Suggested improvements: Better off road parking facilities. Clear signs instructing visitors not to climb on the stones. One or two benches where people could pause and reflect on the monument and its surrounding setting.

See also moss’ feature on Three Cromlechs in Pembrokeshire here –

““THE Stonehenge megaliths have been stolen!?” So exclaims Professor Munakata at the outset of a rollicking adventure set at the British Museum, in the form of a manga, or Japanese cartoon. Over the past five months, readers of Big Comic, a Japanese fortnightly magazine, have followed the exploits of the fictitious ethnographer as he gets embroiled in a bizarre plot to force the repatriation of the museum’s prized objects.
“The strip, called “The Case Records of Professor Munakata”, was introduced 15 years ago by Yukinobu Hoshino, one of Japan’s most notable manga artists. Portly, bald and impeccably dressed with cap, cape and cane, the professor is Japan’s anti-Indiana Jones. He does not invite danger but bumbles into it. The strip does not follow any set formula but takes on serious issues.

“Mr Hoshino trained in classical Japanese painting, but abandoned it for his love of manga (which means “pictures run amok”). He has produced works on history and folklore as well as science fiction. Like his medium, his method combines the old and the new: he draws with a traditional Japanese brush dipped in ink, but adds occasional colour on a Mac.
“In the current adventure Professor Munakata is the first to realise that the stolen megaliths are pawns for the return of the British Museum’s controversial treasures, such as the Elgin marbles which Greece has long been demanding. He uncovers a French plot to infiltrate the museum and snatch the Rosetta Stone (the ancient artefact that provides the key to Egyptian hieroglyphs) in order to return it not to Egypt but to France, which first discovered and translated it. Eventually, it is Professor Munakata’s “reverse pyramid” strategy that prevents the megaliths from being dumped atop the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral from a blimp.
 “The first two episodes of “Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure”, in Japanese, are on display at the British Museum until October 23rd. The complete series will be published in English by the British Museum Press in March 2011.”

More here –

See also – with its take on real and imagined heritage loss!


Section of the Ridgeway near Wayland’s Smithy. Image credit Moss

“BARRIERS installed along Britain’s oldest road have helped cut poaching and hare-coursing, according to police.

Oxfordshire County Council installed the temporary barriers between Hill Road, Lewknor and Hill Road, Watlington, on the Ridegway National Trail. And they have already seen results with a drop in crime. The blocks were fitted in April to stop poachers, harecoursers and deer stalkers in cars accessing the track, known as the Icknield Way, and to stop thieves driving to isolated farm buildings.

“The pre-historic Ridgeway track runs from Avebury, Wiltshire, to Ivinghoe near Dunstable, across South Oxfordshire.”

More here –

See also –

Most of the gates giving access to the Avebury stone circle have a small sign on the gatepost asking visitors not to camp, light fires, cycle or climb the stones. The signs are only about ten inches by six, and the four individual signs within them are even smaller, and consequently very easy to miss. While most people would think twice about camping, lighting fires or cycling within the circle, not so the ‘sport’ of Climbing the Stones! Witness the father below with his three girls taking it in turns to climb the stone pictured while said father looks dotingly on.
Heritage Action site inspectors  however have seen much worse; adults climbing the Cove (even while one stone was still tilting at a dangerous angle prior to remedial work to correct the tilt) and the same at the Diamond and Devil’s Chair stones (not to mention people climbing and jumping from one Stonehenge lintel to another as shown in a 2009 video of the summer solstice ‘celebrations’ there). People, of course, should be more responsible but perhaps most of them are totally unaware of the accumulative damage they are causing the stones each time they climb them, or the possible danger they risk to themselves each time they do so.
But whose fault, actually, is it that this mistreatment of our prehistoric monuments is allowed to continue? Surely at Avebury the signs should be bigger and more prominently displayed, along with larger signs by, or on, the gates. Perhaps individual signs such as the enlarged National Trust one shown below should also be placed at strategic points within the circle.
As it says on the small National Trust sign at the top of this feature –
That being your wish and your concern, National Trust (and English Heritage), it is now incumbent on you to make it so!

See also –

Lunchtime Talk at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum.
Sir John Lubbock, 1st Lord Avebury.

An illustrated lecture by Adrian Green, Director of Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. Beginning 1:00 pm. Wednesday, 10 November 2010.

“Sir John Lubbock was born in 1834 and brought up near Downe in Kent.

“In 1865 Lubbock published ‘Pre-historic times, as illustrated by ancient remains, and the manners and customs of modern savages’. He invented the terms Palaeolithic and Neolithic to denote the Old and New Stone Ages. He was also an amateur biologist and a close friend of Charles Darwin, who also lived in Downe.” It is to him that we owe Bank Holidays…

More here –


Prehistoric rock art panel. Maghernaul, Isle of Doagh, Donegal, Republic of Ireland
Image credit Ken Williams
A guest feature by Ken Williams
This is one of the very, very few panels out of the 25-30 that have been recorded in the area that was still easy to locate and visit. On my last visit the field was quite overgrown but has been mostly cleared so I thought even more would be visible. Unfortunately as you can see from the photo the situation has gotten worse. I couldn’t find the panel where I thought it was but stumbled across it (or a tiny part of it) when making my way back up the track. I was literally dumbstruck, part of the panel was under the tyre tracks and the rest was covered in clay and stones between them. Seems to me this is more likely due to pure luck rather than design. The panel has been clearly visible in the field since at least 2007.
The area has a bad record when it comes to management of the archaeology, several unique panels were blown up in the 1980’s and blasting has continued right up to the last few years as more houses are built. It’s impossible to check a number of very rare designs as the fields have become massively overgrown and neglected.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme has wanted to send a leaflet on metal detecting to landowners for years (we think we were the first to suggest it to them) but detectorists have resisted furiously (threatening “strike action” unless it was abandoned or severely emasculated). Now, things are coming to a head – see this leaked new draft on a detectorists’ forum.

Some parts are excellent…

  • For instance, it asks landowners to refuse requests “to plough deeper in the hope of recovering further objects.” Quite right, as that’s simple vandalism for personal gain.
  • In addition, it says (hallelujah!) “Most archaeologists view metal-detecting rallies as extremely damaging to archaeology”. About time too! An inadvertent but undeniable admission that as responsible archaeologists they don’t attend rallies to carry out joint projects or to be “partners” to detectorists, but to mitigate the damage from what shouldn’t be happening.

But other parts are awful…

  • Despite acknowledging rallies are extremely damaging it recommends  “metal-detecting rally organisers should follow the Guidance on Metal-Detecting Rallies in England and Wales” to reduce damage. But surely in the circumstances the only responsible advice is “don’t allow rallies, they are extremely damaging, period”? Surely, anything else simply abets damage.
  • And it mentions the NCMD and FID codes of conduct. Why? Only the official code is agreed and approved and neither of the others requires detectorists to comply with it so by definition they aren’t “good practice” and are bound, inevitably, to mislead farmers into thinking otherwise. So surely it is inarguable that mentioning them in an official letter abets damage.
  • Despite PAS having been set up purely to mitigate damage caused by the hobby the document actually promotes and therefore expands the activity. E.g. it reassures: “Today, most archaeologists recognise the benefits of responsible metal-detecting” (ignoring the facts that responsible detecting is a minority practice and most of the world’s archaeologists consider the net effect of detecting is malign.) And it says it is especially good for “retrieving and recording finds vulnerable to corrosion and damage”- despite there having been no comprehensive studies on the scale and distribution of deterioration, which is localised at worst, so that random, selective removal of artefacts from everywhere cannot possibly be an appropriate conservation response. Surely, official bodies have no business repeating unscientific mantras designed to persuade not inform since it abets damage?

PAS would do well to note the reassurance given to detectorists by their most prominent ally: I cannot however see any evil statement in the document. not one.”  We don’t ask for evil statements but we do ask for the unvarnished truth to be told. Clearly this document is perceived as not telling certain uncomfortable truths landowners are entitled to hear – the things, for instance, that we have been telling them for years on our website (that PAS has never, ever suggested were wrong.)

It’s pretty simple, this proposed letter has brought things to a head. Officialdom must demonstrate whose side it is on. Either farmers are told the truth by the signatories (prompting the fury of metal detectorists) or they are told half truths (or worse) to persuade them to allow metal detecting on their land. It might have been easy to be economical with the actualité (and we do understand why) when delivering talks to farmers but that’s simply not possible in a published document. It’ll show.


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


See also Paul Barford’s article on this subject.


August 2010

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