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Current Archaeology (CA) Magazine (editor Lisa Westcott) is published monthly by Current Publishing who also produce the bi-monthly Current World Archaeology Magazine. As you’d expect from the differentiation in titles, Current Archaeology concentrates on archaeology in the UK, whilst the World version looks further afield.

Current Archaeology is available on subscription at £38 for 12 issues. The World version is £20 for 6 issues. A joint subscription costs £50. CA is quite slimline, produced in full colour on high quality gloss paper.

Each issue usually focusses on just 3 or 4 main articles as well as the usual editorial and news/reviews sections that you’d expect. The main articles usually provide in depth information about a recent dig or geographic theme – recent editions have included articles on ‘UnRoman Britain’ and ‘British Hoards’. Whilst  not written to full academic standards, the magazine can build up into a decent body of reference. Each issue also has a one page article titled ‘Odd Socs’, each issue covering one of the more ‘minority interest’ organisations. The back cover usually contains a GB map with pins to denote the geographical areas covered within the issue.

All-in-all Current Archaeology is eminently readable and well worth the current subscription price.

A walk to Lidbury Camp, led by former Wiltshire County archaeologist Roy Canham, will take place from 1:00pm on Saturday, 30 April 2011.

“Lidbury Camp, on the downs above the River Avon between Enford and Upavon, is an Iron Age hillfort first excavated by William Cunnington in the early 19th century and again by Maud and Ben Cunnington in 1914 (see article in WANHM Vol 40 (1917), pp12-36). William Cunnington discovered eleven Iron Age storage pits in close proximity and recorded the presence of two ‘British’ villages close by, while Maud Cunnington found Romano-British pottery overlying the Iron Age remains. An undated linear ditch and bank run nearby. Finds from Maud Cunnington’s excavation are in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum.”

More here – http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk/events/index.php?Action=2&thID=598&prev=1

Image credit Tim (Moth) Clark, Heritage Action

“Just in this tiny area of hillside I counted three still with capstones on and at least six more wrecked ones and traces of several more. It also seemed obvious that a nearby quarry (limestone is second favourite building material only to concrete ’round here) may have destroyed numerous others.

“Scrambling up the red hot ridge we were soon passing dolmen after dolmen not knowing where to start looking; there were just TOO MANY dolmens to investigate!!! All wonderful, all unique… Up here, there may even be more dolmens than exist in the whole of the England, Wales and Scotland! …’More donads!?’ said the driver enthusiastically!”

Jane Tomlinson, Heritage Action

Image credit Tim (Moth) Clark, Heritage Action

“- Over there is the baptism site.
– Over there is Jericho.
– Over there Mount Nebo, from where Moses saw the Promised Land and subsequently died.
– And right here I was standing in the midst of a necropolis built by civilised, farming people who lived probably 4,000 years before Jesus. Their beautiful tombs are ignored by coach parties of tourists, their magnificent pioneering achievements almost forgotten, overshadowed by the life of a rebellious son of carpenter. They even seem virtually unknown in Jordan itself, and this seems to be the case for dolmens in the other countries that the Jordan Valley runs through.”  Jane Tomlinson, weblog on The Modern Antiquarian

In the words of the World Monument Fund:  

Dolmen sites throughout Jordan are being lost at an alarming rate, and the unparalleled landscape of Damiya is now threatened by developmental pressures from quarrying operations. With only a negligible barrier left to protect them, many of the fragile dolmens are now suspended on quarried pillars and left vulnerable to collapse. Despite efforts by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities to document the structures, they are unable to abate the destruction that these highly invasive quarrying processes will exact on these ancient vestiges.

However, it seems things are now moving (literally!). We picked up this update to the story from the Past Horizons website:

After two years on the World Monuments Fund Endangered Sites List, the dolmen fields of Damiya have hopefully been spared any further destruction, with the formation of a new archaeological preserve in the Jordan Valley.  The Department of Antiquities (DoA ) Director General Ziad Saad, confirmed yesterday that a deal had been reached with the mining company last month to set aside a 60 hectare area in the northern part of the field – which  contains most of the dolmens – as a national archaeological park.”

Heartening news. But this next bit struck us as “odd”…

Under the new agreement, 23 dolmens that remain within the mining concession area will be relocated to the protective zone, which was recently registered as an archaeological site and DoA property.”

Someone should make the point to the Jordanian authorities that when it comes to megalithic monuments, location is all, and then some. Moving them does not “save” them, it robs them of much of their essence and serves only to give the appearance that conservation is happening. It’s a model that we hope no mining companies will be allowed to get away with elsewhere! The Dolmens have been there for 6,500 years and limestone is astonishingly plentiful. Sounds familiar.

Emma’s Grove Round Barrows, Gloucestershire
Image credit and © C. Brooks

Pallab Ghosh, science correspondent for BBC News, reports that –

“Neanderthals cooked and ate plants and vegetables, a new study of Neanderthal remains reveals. Researchers in the US have found grains of cooked plant material in their teeth. The study is the first to confirm that the Neanderthal diet was not confined to meat and was more sophisticated than previously thought. The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The popular image of Neanderthals as great meat eaters is one that has up until now been backed by some circumstantial evidence. Chemical analysis of their bones suggested they ate little or no vegetables. This perceived reliance on meat had been put forward by some as one of the reasons these humans become extinct as large animals such as mammoths declined due to an Ice Age. But a new analysis of Neanderthal remains from across the world has found direct evidence that contradicts the chemical studies. Researchers found fossilised grains of vegetable material in their teeth and some of it was cooked.”

More here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12071424

See also – 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/dec/27/neanderthals-cooked-diet-us-research , http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1341983/How-Neanderthal-cuisine-far-sophisticated-thought.html and http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/neanderthals-could-cook-study-finds-2170403.html

by Nigel Swift

It is hard to see how antiquities collectors can deny Lord Renfrew’s charge that “collectors are the real looters” since looters loot because buyers buy. However, in Britain things are worse than his mantra conveys. Here, incentivising looters is not even the main potential negative consequence of purchasing portable antiquities.

Under our system “looting” is defined very narrowly – or to be precise, many things that are defined as criminal elsewhere are perfectly legal here – including the removal, taking home and selling of artefacts from more than 90% of our known archaeological sites. By any reasonable yardstick, that is looting – particularly since, as the Portable Antiquities Scheme openly admits, most detectorists don’t report most of the details of what they find and therefore offer zero mitigation for their actions.

For any would-be ethical purchaser of British antiquities an appreciation of this reality is obligatory: ILVUD (information loss via unethical detecting) is far, far worse than ILVID (information loss via illegal detecting) for the simple reason that unethical detectorists are very numerous (as PAS concedes) and criminal ones aren’t (as both PAS and all detectorists constantly stress). Hence, those two respective numbers fix the truth like a fly in amber: collectors who buy from the UK may sometimes be the real looters but they are far, far more often the real unethical detectorists and must be complicit in vastly more damage than if they bought only from looters!

In view of its crucial significance for the conservation of Britain’s archaeological record it is remarkable that most collectors, particularly in the US, appear to be unaware of that reality – or more particularly, it is remarkable they haven’t been made very well aware of it. But in fact, official UK advice, along with Renfrew’s mantra, countless press accounts, every dealer and every detectorist all consistently imply that night hawking, not unethical detecting, is the main problem.

I might legitimately enquire, as a member of the public, a stakeholder and a taxpayer (as well as an alleged ignoramus and consequent ignoree), why that is and why, for thirteen years, the true problem hasn’t been both acknowledged and efficiently addressed by British officialdom strongly advising collectors in the US and elsewhere to ensure there’s a PAS number on every artefact known or suspected to have been recently dug up? Here’s a wild guess: frit the NCMD et al will go crazy on behalf of a large number of their non-recording and loudly (E) baying members who will see such a thing as an attack on their “freedom” to “choose not to report”? So another instance of dictatorship of the rampaging Proletariat? Or a fruitful partnership of equals? (They being Cameron and PAS being Clegg?)

[AN ASIDE: This amazing disconnection between reality and its presentation by the Establishment hasn’t gone entirely unremarked (although it has gone unheeded). Paul Barford has been highlighting it at length and depth for many years. I rather suspect he is regarded less as wrong and more as dashed inconvenient – like a talkative witness to an otherwise perfect stitch-up (in this case of nighthawks, who are being fitted up with the vast quantity of information theft committed by others!) Me too, along with my colleague Gordon Kingston, we’ve blown a lay whistle or two, but not being archaeologists I don’t think we’re even inconvenient. We are “bears with very small brains” as one American apologist for the dealers’ lobby called me. It’s true. I’m not smart enough to understand why it is that while criminal information-theft is awful and worth an expensive high-profile nighthawking survey the vastly greater quantity of legal information-theft is worth a commensurately huge wink. Grrr! If only Paul and I were just a pair of winkers (as I’ve seen theorised) things would be so much more harmonious!]

Anyway, official guidance for purchasers saying “don’t just avoid looted items, avoid the (far more numerous) unrecorded items” is long overdue. Rocket science the latter ain’t, in fact in England and Wales it has been made easier to do than anywhere else on earth so “too complicated” isn’t a realistic defence. The lack of a PAS number on any known or suspected recently dug artefact is really easy to spot! I did suggest such a thing a couple of years ago on Britarch but despite some encouragement nothing has surfaced since. It really should – if only to avoid people saying “British archaeologists are also the real unethical detectorists”! (Which Heaven forbid! Who would say such a damning thing and on what basis of logic?!)

So until it gets done officially I feel free to sketch something out (can’t do harm can it? Might even do some good while we’re waiting). In fact I’ve set up a notional Association for purchasers who’d like to do more for Britain than demonstratively and noisily quaff Renfrew Light. I can hear it asked, in a range of styles; by what right do I propose first an Ethical Metal Detecting Association and now an “Association of Ethical Purchasers of British Portable Antiquities”? The answer is none, but there’s a yawning and damaging gap that should be filled but hasn’t been – so why not, pending official action? So here’s the logo – and the website is here.  

We all know how “its legal innit?” has worked for the personal benefit of artefact hunters for the best part of four decades. Why shouldn’t “caveat emptor innit?” be allowed to work for the personal benefit of the rest of the British population?

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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It’s time…

        

 

To dream…

    

 

Of Summer…

   

 

by Chris Brooks, Heritage Action

Image credit and © C. Brooks

As you drive west along the Roman Fosse Way from The Gibb crossroads in North Wiltshire, Lugbury Longbarrow can be seen sitting in a field on the right hand side some 350m away. Be careful though, if you’re not looking and drive too fast, it can be easily missed. In my opinion it is best visited in either the spring or autumn, and to find it turn left at The Gibb from the direction of Castle Combe direction and drive along the narrow lane (the Fosse Way) down through the wooded hill. The road crosses a very small stream at the bottom (often dry in the summer months but pretty when in full flow) and then as you clear the wood it rises again.

If you are driving, start to slow down at this point for as you rapidly approach another narrow wooded area that crosses the road in front of you, you have reached the closest point to the barrow by road (ST 83383 78504 or 51° 30’ 18.77”N 02° 14’ 26.84”W for those with GPS or Map). There are normally plenty of places to park that are clear of the road and will not obstruct access to the farmer’s fields. Facing west and on the right hand side of the wooded area (called Three Stones Plantation) the sign posted bridleway to the barrow can be accessed via a small gate with one of those ‘long metal levers that pull back a bolt’ arrangements.

The field can be quite muddy even in drier weather, and lately in the summer months the barrow has been engulfed in a crop of maize making it almost impossible to see from the tree plantation let alone the road. Walk up by the side of the plantation and providing it is not hidden by crop, the barrow can be seen a little way ahead (at ST 83086 78557 or 51° 30’ 20.48”N, 02° 14’ 42.28”W).

Quite often while walking in this area both muncjac and buzzards can be seen along with the normal plethora of bunnies, squirrels and other animals. On a normal day I can’t say the site is particularly tranquil because as you draw near you realise the sound of heavy traffic coming from the M4 to the north. There are also high tension power lines that run from the north over to the west which get in the way of many a beautiful sunset. On cold dark days when the clouds are heavy with rain and the crows bark from the swaying treetops, the place can feel quite foreboding. My son always refers to it as ‘that creepy one’ when we sometimes talk about Lugbury.

I however like this barrow, it give you a glimpse that this was once an important place with its three great stones perched at the eastern end of the low mound. If you can get up here on a warm morning in the spring the traffic is much less intrusive, the birds sing from the same trees and life’s problems can be put out of your mind. Just sit down with your back to the stones and enjoy the warm sun, bird song and the solitude.

In recent years this barrow was cleared of much of the debris that sat upon it, and the overgrown elder bush and brambles that surrounded the stones were cut back. For a brief period the stones stood proud at the end of the mound in the warm sunshine but nature, as always, wins the day and the barrow is again being engulfed in her green shroud. The elder too is fighting back and is now springing up in at least three different places around the stones.

Image credit and © C. Brooks

The English Heritage Risk Register describes the barrow as ‘A Scheduled Monument At Risk’ with a declining Trend (EHRR 12290). Unfortunately, and as is often the case, the plough has bitten into the edges of the mound reducing the dimensions over time. The good news is that earlier this year an area around the mound (and well clear of it) has been pegged out. On my last visit in early December this area was still untouched so it looks as if things have changed for the better… at least for the time being.

The Wiltshire SMR describes Lugbury as 54.5m long, 24.2m wide and 1.8m high but I am not sure that what can be seen now fits these dimensions and anyway different sources give you different figures… maybe I will get around to measuring it myself one day. The mound itself is quite low at about a metre high at its eastern end. Here are sited the three stones that form an open chamber and make the barrow worth the visit. Two of the three stones that form the chamber are approximately 2m x 1m and about 100-200mm thick and are orientated parallel to each other so that a larger stone measuring 2m x 3m rests against them. The SMR suggests that this large stone is a cap stone but others suggest this is the remains of a false entrance.

One of the unusual features of the three stones is the large ‘bite’ at the base of the big supported slab. Somebody once told me it had been worked but I am not sure myself. There was another theory that it could have been used to place things inside the mound but I don’t believe there has been anything found there… Who knows! There is a suggestion that the ditches running either side of the barrow, and created during its construction, are still visible. However I have failed to see these even when the lighting conditions have been favourable. We could do with a good aerial photo to check this out. Like the nearby Lanhill a little way to the south the barrow does not command any sort of view from its low lying position but does have the little stream running close by. This is likely to have been significant during the barrow’s use and may have been used as part of the burial and reburial ceremonies that would have taken place.

Antiquarian History:

The barrow is presently called Lugbury but it is thought this is relatively new as it has been know by several different titles in the past including Little Drew, Nettleton and on a 1773 map by Andrew & Dury it is called Lockstone. It was first noted by John Aubrey in his ‘Monumenta Britannica’ in the seventeenth century –

“It lies in the parish of Nettleton, but close to Littleton Drew, in Wiltshire, just outside the boundary of our county. It measures 180 feet in length, and 90 feet in breadth, its greatest elevation being six feet. Its direction is nearly due east and west. There are three stones at the east end, on the slope of the barrow, thirty feet from its base; the two uprights are six feet six inches apart, two feet thick, and four feet wide; one is six feet six inches high, the other five feet six inches. Resting on the mound and leaning against the uprights is a large stone, twelve feet long, six feet wide, and two feet thick. A cistern was discovered about sixty feet from the east end, containing one skeleton. Another cistern was found on the south side. Three other cisterns were also found, about ten feet long, four feet wide, and two feet deep, formed of rough stone. The total number of skeletons found numbered twenty-six. Several flint flakes were also discovered.”

The remains of this once great barrow are, as is nearly always the case, the result of being raided… sorry… excavated by Richard Colt Hoare in 1821 and then again in 1854-5 by G.P. Scrope. Thurman et all write –

“Here, notwithstanding the weather, the more zealous, ladies as well as gentlemen, visited the fine old position on which the ancient Castle of the Dunstanvilles formerly stood, lying about half a mile beyond the present mansion house and thence crossed the valley which forms the pleasure grounds, to inspect a cromlech and mound, near the Foss Road, known by the name of Lugbury. Labourers had been already at work, and had arrived at three interments, nearly perfect. The company then adjourned to a tent in Mr. Scrope’s grounds, where about a hundred sat down to an excellent collation, highly consolatory under the adverse circumstances of the weather. This being disposed of, Dr. Thurnam entered into an explanation of the discoveries at Lugbury cromlech; and with numerous addresses from Mr. Scrope, the Rev. Mr. Fane, of Warminster, and Mr. Britton, who, at the age of 85, made a gallant response to the toast of the “Beauties of Wiltshire,” the afternoon passed pleasantly away. They then inspected Castle Combe church, where Mr. Fane gave an extempore lecture for nearly an hour, upon architecture, as illustrated by the building before them.”

According to L.V Grinsell a golden wheelbarrow resides within the barrow area; he mentions a quotation in his 1967 book ‘Barrow Treasure, in Fact, Tradition and Legislation’ –

Littleton Drew, Barrow Lane: anyone digging in the vicinity is asked, ‘are you digging for the golden wheel-barrow?’ (Rev. R. B. Lamplugh, vicar, to L.v.G., about 1950.) The Lugbury long barrow (in Nettleton parish) is near.

To anybody who is in this lovely area of the Wiltshire-Gloucestershire board, please make room in your schedule for a worthwhile visit to this forgotten place.

Image credit and © C. Brooks

The Menin by Paul Nash (1889-1946)

An ‘umble presentation milords, ladies and gentlemen by Littlestone.

’twas the night before solstice
when all through the land
not a stone stood standing not one to be found.
The Druids and bards had all done their best
but greedy developers made sure of the rest.

Ancient stones were fired and set into walls
while some lay silent under churches and halls.
Ditches were filled and banks cut down
and barrows were ploughed without even a frown.

Once where the sun had shifted and shone
now shadowy memories of stones long gone.
Cold banks and ditches and barren wet holes
were all that remained of the megaliths’ souls.

Trucks now thundered through circles once clear
while builders and quarrymen smashed without fear.
’twas like seeing an oak cut down in its prime
the terrible things done to our stones at that time.

Then came a cry for the wise-ones to stand
against the destruction of stones in our land.
A gathering of minds at info@heritageaction.org.uk
came to the rescue and into the fray!

Yeah!

There were Swifts, Wallies and Norfolks and others untold
standing firm against wreckers evil and bold.
There were big stones and little stones all having their say
but one in particular stood proud that day.

Squonk! was his name standing true and sound
and declaring to those both here and around
that ‘henges’ and ditches and banks to be sure
are part of our heritage and our hearts and much more!

Yeah!

LS (with apologies to Clement C Moore).

NB I first became interested in our prehistoric heritage through The Stones Mailing List, hosted by Chris Tweed (Squonk) and encouraged into lively debate there by people such as Andy Norfolk and Wally. Sadly the The Stones Mailing List is no more but thanks, still, to Chris and former contributors to his List – to them a Happy Winter Solstice, and warm season greetings to all who care about our prehistoric heritage from me and everyone else on the Heritage Action team. Yeah!

Laura Barton, writing in the Guardian yesterday, reports on the route of the high-speed rail link that –

“At stake, too, is the preservation of the Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest road — a pathway followed since prehistoric times by herdsmen, travellers and soldiers, running from Wiltshire, along the chalk ridge of the Berkshire Downs and on to the River Thames at the Goring Gap. It passes the stone circle at Avebury and the White Horse at Uffington, as well as Grim’s Ditch, Wayland’s Smithy and Barbury castle. It runs, too, right down Wendover high street, past the clock tower, built in 1842 and now repurposed as the visitor centre, then out towards Wendover woods. There is an ancient feel to this land, something rich and deep and solemn.”

More here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/dec/20/heartache-over-high-speed-railway

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