You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.

The Red Lion, Avebury. Image credit Willow

It’s that time of the year again when we look forward to sun and summer, and our annual (this year being our fifth) picnic at Avebury. As the weather has not been too good for the last two years the picnic on the grass has normally ended up in the Red Lion, with people scattered amongst its many rooms. Fingers crossed for fine weather this year but, if not, the Red Lion in Avebury will again be our venue. Otherwise, the picnic will take place by the recumbent stone  in the south-east quadrant of the Avebury Henge from noon onwards on Saturday, 21 August 2010. All are welcome. Bring your own food and drink, or eat at one of several pubs around Avebury.

Watch this space for further updates.

Update 1.    If the weather’s poor, head for the large front room at the Red Lion (on the left as you enter from the front) and look out for people wearing a Megameet T-shirt. The sign below will also be on one of the tables (or by the recumbent stone above if we meet outside). People will start meeting from noon onwards so just come over and introduce yourself.

“Items from the 1969 excavation of Marden Henge have recently been made available on-line.

“Another 3,500 records of items in the collections of Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes have been uploaded to their website, including the records of artefacts found during the 1969 excavation of Marden Henge.

“The prehistoric site at Marden is 8 miles south east of Devizes and halfway between Avebury and Stonehenge and is currently being re-investigated by English Heritage. Marden Henge is the largest henge monument in Britain, enclosing an area of around 14 hectares with its enormous bank and ditch. New and important discoveries have been made, including the floor of a prehistoric rectangular building, estimated to be some 4500 years old!”

More here –

The PDF file on the summer news has some interesting tidbits. 

There is a new  ‘mimic’ design Iron Age roundhouse ‘remains’ at the viewpoint of Bwlch Pen Barras.

Talk of a newly discovered fort or defended enclosure, the site is located to the north-east of Caer Drewyn (a spectacular stone built hillfort in Corwen).

Plus successful restoration work is being carried out on the damaged heathland on the Llantysilio Mountains caused by motorbikes.  “The illegal circuit on on the edge of Moel y Gaer hillfort and the damage alongside the Moel y faen quarry has been repaired by a contractor, Tim Faire.  Tim has harrowed a native grass seed mix and suitable fertiliser into the damaged area and spread a total of 50 large rounds of heather bales.” 

Heather and Hillforts PDF file

By Alan S>
A team consisting of several English Heritage archaeologists and archaeological scientists led by Nicola Hembrey (Project Manager) and Vicky Crosby (Excavation Director) plus their Project Executive (Michael Russell) along with other team members from archives, conservation, graphics, geoarchaeology, geophysics, logistics and zooarchaeology, have started conducting, “…five weeks of digging eight evaluation trenches to focus our attention on a poorly-understood phase in Silbury’s history – the Romans. How did the Romans understand this place?”
More here – and here –

Do metal detectorists have a script telling them what to say to the press when they find a big hoard? It seems possible – the rewards are often huge and life-changing yet have you ever heard one not say –it really doesn’t matter, it’s only the history that I care about? We doubt it!

The latest example comes from Dave Crisp, finder of a huge Roman hoard which is likely to cost the hard-pressed taxpayer £1 million in rewards to him and the landowner. Here’s what he said: “I’m over the moon. The money doesn’t matter. Obviously it’s nice, but the significant thing for me is I’m the person who made the biggest discovery of Roman coins ever found in Britain.”

In that case Dave, please be aware that in Colchester campaigners still need just £170,000 to prevent one of the very few Roman chariot racing tracks ever found outside Italy being covered by a housing estate….

And the Roman Museum in Canterbury is facing closure through lack of funds due to the credit crunch.

As is the Roman Museum in Caernarfon!

So how about it Dave? Do you fancy saving a Roman chariot track or keeping two Roman museums open (bearing in mind that [like all metal detectorists] your sole concern is history and, as you have told the press,the money doesn’t matter“).


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


The Irish Times has named ‘Knockacareagh’ as the town land in which the former Kilmurry ring forts were located;

North Cork gardai have called to the farm and archaeologists from the monuments section of the Department of the Environment are now assisting in their investigation. If this is the correct area, then the two ring forts (of Knockacareigh), located some 500m apart and to the north and south of a house and separate farm buildings, are described in the Archaeological Inventory as follows –

(W3745 6513) A particularly impressive example;“In pasture, on ESE-facing slope. Oval area (57.9m E-W; 48.2m N-S) enclosed by earthen bank (H 2m). Shallow external fosse to SW and NW; filled in to W between bank and N-S roadway. Bank partially stone-faced with boulders internally. Stone-faced entrance (Wth 4m) to E. Remains of cultivation ridges cross interior on E-W axis. Plan (UCC) shows fosse surviving to W and N. Garden of house extends up to S bank.”

(W3729 6463)  Interesting evidence of slope-compensation, but had already been suffering from considerable agricultural damage; “In pasture, on SE-facing slope. Roughly circular area (33.5m N-S) defined by earthen bank (H 2m); external fosse (D 0.65m) to W and S; outer bank (H 1m) to SW and S. Numerous cattle gaps across bank. Field-clearance material dumped in fosse to W. Interior appears to be raised on S side to compensate for hillslope; crossed by remains of cultivation ridges on NW-SE axis; W half heavily overgrown.”

Link to the website of ‘Friends of the Irish Environment’.

“Antiquity smugglers smiling to the bank….”

“Unconfirmed reports indicate a thief could earn as much as $50,000 (N7.5 million) for one monolith, even though there are laws, both at national and international levels, against such trade. Assuming 120 monoliths can still be accounted for, deduct this figure from 450 and the difference is 330 stones gone. Multiply 330 by $50,000, and you get $16.5 million. At an exchange rate of N150 to $1, Nigeria has lost N2.5 billion! It is, however, worth noting that the nation loses much more than money, each time a piece of antiquity is lost. Whenever such tragedy strikes, we lose a bit of our soul, so to speak.

Sadly, thieves will always try to lift classical objects; not only because of the perceived large sums involved but because of lax laws, which prescribe rather lenient penalties for such heinous crime as selling one’s soul and that of the entire nation in one fell swoop. To worsen matters, the apathy of Nigeria’s federal authorities toward antiquity objects, be they Bakor, Benin, Esie, Ife, Igbo Ukwu, Nok et cetera serves to egg looters on.
Nigerian authorities may not care about Bakor Monoliths, but neither the inextricable relevance of these antiquities to world heritage nor the perilous conditions to which they are subjected is lost on the global community. “

More here….

Prompted by his discovery of two additional series of steps on the sides of Skellig Michael, archaeologist Michael Gibbons has speculated that the UNESCO World Heritage Site may have had a number of settlement phases. He has also contended, given the remains of a fort above the monastery, that arriving monks may have taken over a “pre-existing citadel” – possibly one of the so-called “high forts” of the Dingle peninsula and the Blasket islands.

The archaeologist, a critic of the Office of Public Works’ conservation efforts on the island, argues that; “Staircases are the key to Skellig Michael’s historical chronology, since the sixth century or further back, and up until the period when the Commissioners of Irish Lights would also have created access routes,.. The different staircases may indicate a far more complex pattern of settlement than previously documented, or they may also indicate a far more daring pilgrimage circuit was created on the island, at a time when it was a pilgrimage site.”
The report by Lorna Siggins, of ‘The Irish Times’, is here;

Oh for God’s sake. What next? This report was in today’s Irish Examiner;

“THE Department of the Environment has launched an investigation into the complete destruction of two ancient ring-forts.”

Two ring forts in Kilmurry, south-east of Macroom, Co.Cork, have been completely destroyed in the course of “works” on a farm. According to the article; ”no above-ground trace remains. All their earthen banks have been removed and filled in.”

“…The Friends of the Irish Environment group has now written to Environment Minister John Gormley calling for the full weight of the law to be brought to bear in this case. “While the vast majority of farmers and land owners have the greatest respect for our archaeological heritage, often at their own expense, there remain elements in the farming community who believe that they can destroy these sites at will because of the wide-spread historic lack of enforcement,” spokesman Tony Lowes said.”

There’s a question worth posing. To what extent has Irish culture created this situation? Or rather, created the environment that allows such behaviour, like poisonous vermin, to breathe and breed? Think about our reluctance, for example, to make a fuss about something (and never if it‘s a neighbour); our national admiration for ‘chancers’ and for rule-breakers; or the ridiculously soft approach to enforcing the law in these cases.

And what kind of message was sent out when the Government itself tweaked legislation to let roads cut through national monuments? That heritage doesn’t really weigh that heavy in the balance, perhaps? Or that nothing will happen if you unilaterally ‘work’ away with that digger, beyond a bit of a reprimand and probably not even that. The road-building process at least left records behind, but even an optimist wouldn’t depend on that distinction registering (in a potential monument-remover’s mind). Tony Lowes continues;

“The full weight of the law must be brought to bear in this case. The message must go out across Ireland that however few these individuals are, they will not be tolerated and the national heritage will be protected.”

Studies have shown that the surface features of our ancient heritage are being constantly and less obviously, eroded – as it is – by the likes of careless ploughing, by the rubbing and trampling of livestock and by unchecked vegetation growth, but this act, if the report is accurate, is so blatant and so provocative, that it cries out for an example to be made. I’m sorry for the medieval turn, but this time heads need to go on pikes at the wall. And maybe if heritage is seen to be taken seriously from above, it will begin to be taken seriously on the ground.

Under section 12 (3) of the National Monuments Amendment Act (1994) ;

“When the owner or occupier (not being the Commissioners) of a monument or place which has been recorded under subsection (1) of this section or any person proposes to carry out, or to cause or permit the carrying out of any work at or in relation to such monument or place, he shall give notice in writing of his proposal to carry out the work to the Commissioners and shall not, except in the case of urgent necessity and with the consent of the Commissioners, commence the work for a period of two months after having given the notice.”

The pre-euro penalties are set out in Section 13;

A person who contravenes section 4 (1), 4 (2), 5 (1), 5 (2), 5 (6), 7 (2), 8 (3), or 12 (3) of this Act shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable—

( a ) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £1,000 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both, or

( b ) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding £50,000 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both.”

The ‘Green’ Department of the Environment have been active on a number of issues lately and this one will, most likely, not be ignored. Not least because they may wish to put clear distance between the Government’s and the NRA’s, use of ‘preservation by record’ (on Tara and its associated monuments) and what could possibly be referred to, in this case, as ’destruction without record’.

Field trip to the English Heritage archaeological excavation near Silbury Hill, Wiltshire and the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury.
Wednesday 1 September 2010.
10.30am – 4pm.

“The Icon Archaeological Group field trip will be visiting a research excavation being undertaken by the Archaeological Projects team at English Heritage.  The excavation is evaluation the recently revealed Romano-British settlement located in the fields surrounding Silbury Hill.  The day will include a guided tour of the excavation by the project manager as well as the opportunity to hear about the recent Silbury Hill conservation project.

“In the afternoon the field trip will move on to the site of Avebury and a guided tour of the Alexander Keiller Museum.

“A buffet lunch will be provided at the Red Lion Pub, Avebury.”

More here –


August 2010

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,376 other followers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: