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Archaeologist Paul Barford was due to fly out to Egypt next Wednesday as part of an excavation team and has naturally been monitoring events extremely closely. This article and a number of others on his blog give an impression of just how dangerous the current situation is for Egypt’s treasures.

Here’s one of the three or four gentlemen recently guarding the Seti I temple
Image Credit Paul Barford. December 2009

a guest feature by Mark Patton.

Silbury and the Roman road by William Stukeley

When, in 1865, Sir John Lubbock and James Fergusson argued, in the pages of the Athenaum magazine, as to whether the Roman road passed around Silbury Hill (as Lubbock thought, making the hill itself prehistoric) or beneath it (as Fergusson insisted, making the hill post-Roman), far more was at stake than simply the dating of one of England’s iconic monuments. The argument, fundamentally, was about whether archaeology should be seen as an adjunct to history, its discoveries sterile unless they could somehow be related to the written record; or as an essentially scientific pursuit, allowing prehistoric cultures to be understood on the basis of the material evidence alone.

Lubbock, however, was not the first to beat the drum for scientific archaeology on Salisbury Plain. The Guernseyman, William Collings Lukis, a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge, was ordained as a priest at Salisbury Cathedral in 1842, and subsequently served in the parishes of Bradford-upon-Avon, East Grafton, Great Bedwyn, Collingbourne Ducis and Marlborough, before moving to Yorkshire in 1862. During his time in the county, Lukis served as an officer of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, and began to explore those prehistoric monuments which were to fill the pages of his later publications. In 1849, he visited Silbury Hill with the Archaeological Institute and made a drawing, recently rediscovered in the collection of the Devizes Museum[1], which appears to show a slump of material into the shaft that had been dug into the mound by Edward Drax in 1776.

Lukis’s publications, which include a series of articles published in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association and elsewhere in the 1860’s, as well as his better known volumes, Rude Stone Monuments (1875) and (with William Borlase) Prehistoric Stone Monuments of the British Isles: Cornwall (1885), were among the first to deal scientifically with British megaliths, and to reject any frame of reference that related them to Roman descriptions of the pre-conquest religions of the British Isles.

The spade and the sieve,” he wrote, in 1864, “have scattered to the winds all opinions of [megaliths] having been erected as altars for [druidic] worship…A man who…will gravely maintain that these monuments were not sepulchral chambers, but altars for human sacrifice, runs great risk, if not of being immolated on a capstone yet of being pulled to pieces and thoroughly pounded and smashed on the altar of his own rearing, by archaeological gentlemen who, however amiable and gentle they may appear… are somewhat merciless when they catch an unlucky propounder of improbable and strange doctrines wandering within the limits of that domain which they are pleased to consider legitimately their own”[2].

Lukis’s view offended against the prevailing historical orthodoxy of men such as Sir John Gardner Wilkinson who, four years earlier, had written:

If we are not to trust to the authority of Roman writers who mention the druids, what is to be our guide? And if history is to be unceremoniously put aside, on what are we to depend for any information respecting the inhabitants, the manners and the religion of Britain and Gaul, or the state of any other country of antiquity? We may at once cease to read history if mere speculations are to take their place”[3].

The spade and the sieve had been Lukis’s constant companions throughout his childhood, more so, it would seem, than editions of Caesar or Tacitus. The third son of the pioneering archaeologist, Frederick Corbin Lukis, William had played an active role, together with his brothers and sister, in their father’s excavations of megaliths on Guernsey and Herm in the 1830’s and 40’s. With remarkable prescience, Frederick Corbin Lukis[4] had commented on the absence of metal objects from the “primeval” layers in the Guernsey megaliths, and their presence in later strata, prefiguring by several years the development of the Three Age System by C.J. Thomsen and J.J.A. Worsaae in Denmark. William’s elder brother, Frederick Collings Lukis, was among the first archaeologists in the English-speaking world explicitly to adopt the Danish model, and to follow Worsaae in his insistence on an “…inquiry into the history of these early monuments, without prejudice, by means of the antiquities alone.[5]”

Thus, by the time William Collings Lukis arrived in Wiltshire, two decades before Lubbock published Prehistoric Times, there was already little doubt about the direction in which his archaeological researches would take him. He was in no great hurry to publish (the church, together with his growing family – he married Lucy Fellowes in 1851, and they would have nine children – took up most of his time), but neither was he waiting for Lubbock or anyone else to show him the way forward. Lukis and Lubbock reached their essentially similar conclusions about prehistory largely independently of one another, guided, in Lukis’s case, by the evidence of “the spade and the sieve,” and the influence of his father; and, in Lubbock’s, by a conceptual framework borrowed from the natural sciences, and strengthened by his long association with Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley.

Mark Patton’s biography of Sir John Lubbock is published by Ashgate (2007). For more information on the Lukis family, see Heather Sebire (ed) 2009 Pursuits and Joys: Great Victorian Antiquarians and Intellects – The Lukis Family of Guernsey and their Contemporaries. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

[1] B. Edwards 2002 “A Missing Drawing and an Overlooked Text: Silbury Hill Archive Finds.” Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine 95, 89-92.

[2] W.C. Lukis 1864 “On Cromlechs.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 22, 249-263.

[3] J. Gardner Wilkinson 1860 “The Rock Basins of Dartmoor, and Some British Remains in England.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 16, 101-132.

[4] F.C. Lukis 1844 “Observations on the Primeval Antiquities of the Channel Islands.” Archaeological Journal 1, 142-151.

[5] F.C. Lukis 1849 “On the Sepulchral Character of Cromlechs in the Channel Islands.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 4, 323-337.

The Heritage Journal (which has been continuously maintained by Heritage Action since March 2005) has existed in its present format for exactly two years today. Since being published in its new form, on 27 January 2009, it has contained over 600 features and images and received over 650 comments to them. In this time our readership has soared and continues to rise month by month. The Journal is read by archaeologists, both professional and amateur, writers, poets and painters, in fact anyone with an interest in, or who is concerned with, the conservation of our prehistoric heritage.
Please support us in our aims, either by informing us of sites under threat, or by contributing features or images of interest to the Journal for publication.
Thank you.

A guest article supplied by Graham Salisbury

They are mystical stones, and of medicinal virtue. The giants of old brought them from the farthest coasts of Africa, and placed them in Ireland, while they inhabited that country.”  (Geoffrey of Monmouth, The British History of, translated from the Latin by A. Thompson and J. A. Giles, James Bohn, London, 1842, p.158 [Bk 8, Ch. 11].) 

I am indebted to Robert Temple for the bulk of the information contained in this article and the majority of the illustrations used appear on his website at 

In a seldom visited and uninviting part of Morocco, not far from the Atlantic coast, away from major tourist attractions and decent roads lies a remarkable and enigmatic megalithic site. 

Figure 1: Old Print of Mzora from 1830 by Arthur de Capell Brooke from

The Mzora stone ring (also spelled variously Msoura/Mezorah) is situated roughly 11km from the nearest town of Asilah and about 27km from the fascinating, overgrown ruins of ancient Lixus. It is not easy to reach and guide books to the area are of only very limited use (for a detailed discussion of its precise location including GPS co-ordinates see  A small display in the archaeological museum at Tetouan is the most the majority of visitors see or hear of this extraordinary place.

Mzora is largely absent from the historical record but Plutarch, in the first century A.D., may have referred to Mzora in his Life of Sertorius. He describes the Roman General Quintus Sertorius being told by local inhabitants about a site they knew as the tomb of the giant Antaeus who had been killed by Hercules. There are many other ancient accounts that place the tomb of Antaeus in close proximity to both Lixus and Tangier and it is quite plausible that Mzora is the inspiration behind these stories. (Temple, Robert (2010). Egyptian Dawn. London: Century. P386-7).

The site itself is a Neolithic ellipse of 168 surviving stones of the 175 originally believed to have existed. The tallest of these stones is over 5m in height. The ellipse has a major axis of 59.29 metres and a minor axis of 56.18 metres. At the centre of the ring, and quite probably a much later addition, is a large tumulus (the tomb of Antaeus?). Not much remains of this tumulus today, the bulk of the damage to it seems to have been done by excavations undertaken in 1935-6 by César Luis de Montalban. It was he who cut across the mound in two intersecting trenches leaving the distinctive ‘X’ shaped scar visible today (Temple, Robert (2010). Egyptian Dawn. London: Century. p378).

Figure 2: Aerial view of Mzora Stone Circle from Google Earth

The only professional survey of the site was conducted in the 1970s by James Watt Mavor, Junior of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, USA. It is this survey that revealed Mzora to be not only remarkable in its own right but to have implications for the history of megalithic sites in Britain. 

Figure 3: Mavor Survey and Aerial photo comparison 

As hinted at by Geoffrey of Monmouth above, Mzora, incredibly, appears to have been constructed either by the same culture that erected the megalithic sites in France, Britain and Ireland or by one that was intimately connected with them. The ellipse is constructed using a Pythagorean right angled triangle of the ratio 12, 35, 37. This same technique was used in the construction of British stone ellipses of which 30 good examples survive including the Sands of Forvie and Daviot rings.

Of the use of Pythagorean triangles in British sites Professor Alexander Thom remarked: 
“The remarkable thing is that the largest, the 12, 35, 37, was known and exploited more than any other with the exception of the 3, 4, 5.” Thom, Alexander (1967). Megalithic Sites in Britain. Oxford: OUP. p.27. 

Figure 4: Mavor Survey Ellipse from 

Furthermore it appears that the same unit of measure, the megalithic yard (or something remarkably close) used in the construction of the British sites surveyed by Thom, was also used in the construction of Mzora:
“If a ‘megalithic yard’ of 0.836 metres … [is used] … then the major axis and the perimeter of the ring take on values nearly integral.”Temple, Robert (2010). Egyptian Dawn. London: Century. p379.

Thom proposed that achieving a circumference measured in whole numbers was of paramount importance to the builders of megalithic rings:
“When Megalithic man set out a circle with a diameter of 8 units he found the circumference very nearly 25 units but in general he could not get nice whole numbers like these for both the diameter and the circumference simultaneously. Probably the attraction of the ellipse, and we know of over 30 set out by these people, was that it […] was easier to get the circumference near to some desired value.” Thom, Alexander (1967). Megalithic Sites in Britain. Oxford: OUP. p.31. 

Mzora isn’t the only stone circle in Africa to share its construction methodology with British sites. The Nabta Playa stone ring in Southern Egypt conforms to Alexander Thom’s “Type I egg” geometry. 

But there are further wonders. According to the diagram below by James Watt Mavor the following astronomical phenomena are marked by the circle:

Stone 30 marks the summer solstice sunrise.

Stone 146 marks the summer solstice sunset.

Stones 61 and 62 mark the winter solstice sunrise.

Stone 118 marks the winter solstice sunset.

Stone 47 marks the equinoctial sunrise

Stone 132 marks the equinoctial sunset

Temple, Robert (2010). Egyptian Dawn. London: Century. p391.

 Figure 5: Mavor Survey Stone Numbers from

In Mzora we have a fascinating and important site that challenges many assumptions about stone circles in Britain as well as raising a great many more questions. At present the site is unmanaged, exposed and vulnerable. It is a great injustice that this monument isn’t given world heritage status and the protection it richly deserves.

For further discussion of the importance of this site see Chapter 8 of Robert Temple’s book, Egyptian Dawn (2010).

©Graham Salisbury 2011

Ten thousand years ago, before the melting ice from the end of the last Ice Age led to a huge rise in sea levels, the map of Britain looked very different to what it is today…
As temperatures rose and the ice melted, the land joining Britain to the continent became home to great grasslands, forests, marshes and lakes. It was populated by a wide variety of animals, birds, fish – and humans. For a time ‘Doggerland’, as it has been dubbed, possessed rich natural resources that would have drawn people northwards from the European mainland. For a couple of thousand years, perhaps, before it began to be swamped by meltwaters from the end of the Ice Age, it would have been a mini-paradise for the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who dwelt there.
First broadcast on 24 April 2007 the programme will be shown again this evening on More4 from 10pm.
See also Britain’s Atlantis – our inaugural feature here of 27 January 2009.

From “Duloe” by Harry Guest
Image credit Heritage Action


Looking towards Carn Meini from Foel Drygarn Hillfort
Image credit Moss

Building modern shelters, or walker cairns from the stones of  bronze age burial cairns, is a destructive process and we have written about it before, but as always there are others who restore the damage done to the cairns.  This time it is students from Pembrokeshire College restoring the three great burial cairns sited on top of Foel Drygarn hillfort, which is situated within the Presceli hills.

Army Preparation Course students have helped to repair a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.The group of 14 from Pembrokeshire College joined the National Park Authority’s Archaeologist and Rangers to help reinstate damaged Bronze Age burial cairns on the Preseli Hills…  More here  from NewsWales.

West Kennet Long Barrow
Image credit Willow

These barrows of the century-darkened dead,-
Memorials of oblivion, these turfed tombs
Of muttering ancestries whose fires, once red,
Now burn for me beyond mysterious glooms;
I pass them day by day while daylight fills
My sense of sight on these time-haunted hills.

Could I but watch those burials that began
Whole history – flint and bronze and iron beginnings,
When under this wide Wiltshire sky crude man
Warred with his world and augered our world-winnings!
Could I but enter that unholpen brain,
Cabined and comfortless and insecure,
That ruled some settlement on Salisbury Plain
And offered blood to blind primeval powers,-
Dim Caliban whose doom was to endure
Earth’s ignorant nullity made strange with flowers.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

“The vilest deeds like poison-weeds – Bloom well in open air”  

The Keyston Metal detecting Rally took place a week ago adjacent to the busy A14 dual carriageway in Cambridgeshire and in full view of umpteen thousand passing motorists. It was on 200 acres of ridge and furrow pasture, the fourth time in a year Central Searchers have targeted such land, flouting the Code of Responsible Detecting, the official Guidance on Metal Detecting Rallies, the wishes of many decent detectorists and all archaeologists bar none. Worse, these particular ridge and furrow fields were identified in The Midland Open Fields Survey as “of regional or national significance and perhaps, according to English Heritage, “of international significance”. 



As usual, there has been no official public comment about it. Leaving the complaining to the likes of us is hardly an effective conservation strategy on the part of the Establishment since anything we say gets dismissed by those who find it convenient or profitable to do so.  It’s also unfair to leave us looking like the only ones opposed since who can even pretend to deny that the most unprincipled events, by their very nature, attract the most unprincipled detectorists  so we are left as the focus for anger and threats from the likes of Central Searchers customer “Big Mick” who has left us the message “A word of friendly advise! we know who and where you are”.

Only two rally organisers agreed to the official guidelines. Central Searchers wasn’t one of them (and one of the two has pulled out). We can’t help thinking that if this landowner had been given a full official account of the implications this event might not have taken place. So all in all it seems high time (and a duty owed) for PAS, CBA, EH and DEFRA to make it crystal clear to landowners, detectorists and the tens of thousands of people that travelled along the A14 last Saturday that what was going on was damaging and that such rallies are against all professional advice and wishes. After all, those thousands of landowners and motorists may well think that since rallies are obviously not nighthawking (and are often dressed up as “for charity”) they must be beneficial – for that is the broad message that has been constantly delivered to them for years!


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


by Chris Brooks, Heritage Action

Credit and © C. Brooks

I visited this gorgeous little cromlech in May 2010 during my 3 day tour of South West Wales. It’s a dramatic part of the country, with both mountainous regions and spectacular coastlines. It also just happens to have a concentration of prehistory equal to anywhere in the country. A burial chamber called Gwal-y-Filiast or ‘The Grayhound’s Kennel’ is one such place and a fine example to boot!

I parked in a lay-by on the Login road at 51 54 09.22N & 4 38 43.73W which is off another minor road between Llanglydwen and Cefn-y-Pant. At the time of writing the lay-by had plenty of room for parking but had been partially covered in builders’ rubble, presumably to stop large numbers of travellers from parking there.  This could be a problem for subsequent visitors if the whole lay-by is covered in the future. There may be other places to park further up the road if this becomes the case.

Walking back from the lay-by (away from the junction with the other minor road) for about 250m you will find a track on your right. There was a little wooden sign when I was here last but it was difficult to read. With the right sort of vehicle you could probably drive down the track but I wasn’t going to risk it in my car and so off I trotted.

In May everything is coming to life and turning green. The birds are flitting to and fro through the trees and bushes, busy with their nests. Although a little overcast the weather was warm and it wasn’t long before I was down to my t-shirt. At this point the track falls gently down and curves around to the left.


Credit and © C. Brooks

After a short distance you arrive at a little community of buildings where there is a lovely, and I assume natural, pond and a tree with a beautifully huge fungus growing from it. Just stand for a while by the wooden gate, a little way in front of you there is a giant mushroom carved from a tree on the right hand side of the track.

Go through the gate and carry on down the lane. The higher land on the left is pasture but on the right the land drops away steeply towards the Afon Taf which can be heard faintly amongst the twittering birds and wind rush in the trees. At this point there seems to be a lot of fallen trees and branches obstructing the path, not deliberately placed there and very easily negotiated.

The track steepens even further and the river can be clearly seen and heard down to the right and the track continues to bend to the left. As we approach another gate, this time metal, the ground becomes much more boggy. In the winter months I would imagine this to be much worse and could be quite slippery so care needs to be taken. The walk back up will be hard going too so bring a stick or cane. As it happened I found a really straight fallen branch that served the purpose.

I reckon the walk so far had been about a kilometre or so and just after the metal gate the track splits in two. A quick check of my map suggested that the left hand fork (which rises back up hill slightly) is the one to take and this is confirmed as the little cromlech comes into view nestled on the slopes of this lovely place.

Image credit and © C. Brooks

The cromlech is quite small, I would say no more than 2m at best. The cap stone sits atop of what was probably six small uprights (but could have been five) with now only four still in situ. Those at the front are slightly taller (about chest height) than those at the rear but because the chamber looks out over the river valley the cap stone remains relatively level. There is also room to sit in the chamber even for a slight oversized person such as myself. It also seems to be surrounded by a number of outliers which almost form a circle around the burial chamber. One large one in particular sits only a few meters away and I can not imagine it doesn’t have anything to do with it but I suppose the others could be natural.

Image credit and © C. Brooks

In this tree covered area everything is covered in moss and so quite often the hard face of these sort of places has been softened into an almost dreamy world. You can almost imagine the woodland animals and mythical creatures coming out to play when the humans have gone! I spent some time just being there and really didn’t want to leave. I am not one for feeling energies and all that stuff but I just like being there.

I took so many pictures (and a video) as I wanted to capture as much as I could to take it home with me. I always love the way the shape of these monuments change as you walk around them. Sometimes, looking back at the photographs now, it is hard to believe you are looking at a single place. Such a lovely site, highly recommended and worth the slog back up the hill to the car… just don’t forget your stick and your wellies.


January 2011

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