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The Scots: A Genetic History by Alistair Moffat and James F Wilson
One very interesting fact to emerge from Alistair Moffat and James F Wilson’s research is that the large numbers of redheads in Scotland maybe the result of inbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans; Neanderthals are thought to have had predominantly red hair. The following is an extract from the excellent review of the book by David Robinson.

I’m not sure how the numbers of survivors are worked out, but they are impressively small. All people that on earth do dwell – apart from those in Africa – are apparently descended from a mere 300 who made the journey out of our home continent. Again, the numbers are unexplained but a cause of wonder.

As is the peopling of Scotland. All Scots, Moffat reminds us, are immigrants, but DNA evidence allows us for the first time to be more precise about from where. It must be hard, you can’t help thinking, for any geneticist to be a racist, given that we’re all originally African. But even racist nostalgia for a once-pure bloodstock takes a battering from genetics. In Scotland’s case, for example, the people here longest were originally from either side of the Pyrenees, while most of the rest of us are basically Irish. As far as the Romans are concerned, they came, saw and conquered most of Britain, but genetically speaking, they hardly left much of a trace behind.

See for the full review.

Great news for all who know and admire the incomparable Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes … re_museum/ But it is to be hoped that this Tweet from the Chief Executive of English Heritage was a slip of the keyboard;
“Our architects DCM working on new Stonehenge museum. Will be excellent building & we’ve got almost all the money to pay for it!”
Ummmm, new Stonehenge museum?!

There are few that would welcome “mission creep” in what ought to be a very simple, inexpensive, low-profile and low-impact visitors’ facility conceived simply to replace the existing horrible one, particularly if it damaged a nearby established museum that is renowned the world over for its Stonehenge-related collections. When was anything else put to the public? Was it in the public consultation?

Journey through the Ice Age by Paul G. Bahn and Jean Vertut

“The cave art and carved objects left by our Ice-Age ancestors have enthralled all who have seen them with their sophistication and sheer beauty. They provide a tantalizing glimpse of our ancient past and form our most direct link with the beliefs and preoccupations of Palaeolithic people – highlighting their accute powers of observation, their astonishing mastery of a wide range of artistic techniques and their sophisticated adaption to, and incorporation of, the natural shapes of the walls, bones and stones on which they drew.”

Beautifully illustrated with photographs by the late Jean Vertut and others. 240 pages. Twelve chapters, Notes, a Bibliography and an Index. ISBN 1 84188 030 2 or on Google books via the link above.

See also –

Megalithomania is the story of one man’s journey across 10 years (and counting) around the stones of Ireland. Tom Fourwinds’ site is a catalogue of over 2200 sites, containing more than 10,000 photographs of Irish sites, and is a testament to his stamina and zeal.

There are various ways to navigate around this clean looking site. You may choose to read the chronological blogs of the individual journeys, each entry of which includes a linked list of sites visited. Some of these are fascinating, and show just how much can be done in a single day if you’re single-minded enough! Or you may choose to browse through the sites by monument type, or by county. Of course, a ‘quick search’ for a site name is always available.

Each site page contains the usual site location metadata – Tom appears to know his stuff when it comes to geolocation and includes information about the site coordinates and the different coordinate systems listed – and links to varous online maps. Visitors can also add a selection of sites to a list, and download GPS POI files for personal use.

As well as the usual Visit Reports and photographs, where available there are also 3D anaglyph images, 3D animations and videos for selected sites. Each page also contains links to a selection of other sites of the same monument type, and local sites (within 50km). Visitors can give their own ratings (1-5 stars) for each site, and these are displayed on the page.

Registered members can also make use of, and contribute to the Forums which cover a range of topics for Ireland in different time periods, the UK, Europe and worldwide.

As expected, the site is part funded by a shop, selling Tom’s own books, ‘Monu-Mental About…’ – there are three books in the series so far. He even sells 3D glasses so the anaglyph images can be enjoyed in all their glory.

One interesting aspect of the site is that it also contains a wiki – Megawikimania. As Tom himself declares: “The purpose of this Wiki is to gather as much information about Irish Prehistoric and Historic monuments and sites in one place. This information can fall into several categories: excavation, directions, current condition, folklore, access, significant alignments (stellar & landscape) and general“. The wiki is maintained by trusted registered members of the forum and will extend the content of the site far beyond what Tom himself has covered via personal visits, though the wiki appears to be in its early days at the time of writing, with just over 250 sites included.

In summary, this web site can only get better, and is a must-have link for anyone interested in the site of Ireland.

A recent detectorists’ newsletter says the Portable Antiquities Scheme is “the largest Community Archaeology Project the country has ever seen”. PAS often says so, many institutions repeat it and it has even been stated in evidence submitted to Parliament

But no amount of repetition can make metal detecting Community Archaeology. It’s just not the same. Britain has a huge and honourable tradition of the latter with over 500 clubs for true amateur archaeologists – and you could argue it extends further, to all who have a benign interest in archaeology, including the tens of thousands that read websites like this and the millions that visit monuments and sites and museums who (crucially) look but don’t take. Aren’t they actually part of a vast Community Archaeology Project? And what about these people…

Amateur archaeologists don’t get money from the taxpayer or remove or sell that in which they are interested. Nor have they been dubbed heroes by a previous culture minister. Nor has the current culture minister recently been photographed “trying his hand” with them – like Ed Vaisey has recently at a metal detecting club. (It was pasture Ed, was that a wise photo-op? And did you realise their Code of Conduct doesn’t require members to report to the PAS but like all the other clubs uses a get-out clause – “acquaint yourself with current NCMD policy relating to the Voluntary Reporting of Portable Antiquities” – i.e. if you don’t want to record, that’s OK!).

It’s so easy to distinguish true amateur archaeology from the faux variety. It’s NOT how much you say you love the past it’s whether you lay personal claim to it. For true amateur archaeologists there are NO POCKETS NEEDED!  All else is bluster, and if someone turns up at your farm gate covered in pockets and pouches they’re not amateur archaeologists. Simple.

Surely other archaeologists and institutions shouldn’t support PAS’s claim to be the country’s main Community Archaeology Project, particularly right now? Isn’t there a danger that the government will find it convenient to present Archaeology in the Big Society as a dumbed down acquisitive activity – a Thatcherite Big Grab Society, devoid of any pretence that the society that is being bigged up even exists. Why else did Ed Vaisey visit that metal detecting club??? 

Much better for CBA, EH, NT et al to say to government: “If you have enough dosh to spend £1.5 million a year on PAS, maybe in fairness you could set up another body to balance things out, a quango to promote genuine amateur archaeology. It wouldn’t cost much as they wouldn’t need encouraging or persuading to do the right thing. If the government says the Big Society requires lots of volunteers let them all be deserving beyond dispute.

And pocketless.



More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


by Nigel Swift

You’d think, if Princess Anne’s policemen ask for your mother’s maiden name then the least they could do in return is talk to you about the Gatcombe Lodge Long Barrow but they won’t. It’s actually in full view, only a few tens of yards off the public right of way, so it seems unlikely their denials they’ve heard of it are sincere. It’s badly mashed up; maybe they’re ashamed of the state HRH has let it get into and the lack of an information board. Royal personages hijacking the common heritage. Who’d a thought it?

Technically it is a blind-entranced Severn-Cotswold type similar to Belas Knap but for all practical and Royal purposes it’s a bit of a mess. Once you get close up it’s pretty big and there are lots of stones still on it.

“You mean TheTinglestone” says one of the officers. “You can’t go to that either”.

“Either?” you wonder. Does that mean you can’t go on the other one that he says he has never heard of?”

Either way, he has made his point. You’ve been warned. You can get a distant view of The Tinglestone from a nearby lane but you’d better not approach it.

Looks interesting, but I guess most people will never know for sure.

Princess Anne obviously thinks it is as all her pedigree Clumber Spaniels, Bull Terriers and Shire Horses have the suffix “Tinglestone”.


See also Princess Anne’s neolithic heritage: Part 1

Ham Hill War Memorial. Creative Commons
© Jim Champion

Stone will continue to be quarried from Ham Hill Country Park near Yeovil, Somerset,  for the next 80 years after planning permission to extend the site was agreed.  The Iron Age hill fort, near Norton sub Hamdon, is the only place in the country where ham stone can be quarried but as of July 2010 it was estimated the current reserve would only last for 18 months.

Permission has now been given by Somerset County Council to extend the quarry to the east of the current site. Output will be limited to 6,000 tonnes a year although that figure is more likely to be 3,000 tonnes.  It is estimated the new site will be produce stone for the next 80 years and that 80 per cent of the quarry output would be used locally.

English Heritage said the plans presented a dilemma because, while ham stone was needed to restore historical and important buildings, extending the quarry could impinge on a historical site. Giving its view of the plan, it said: “Ham Hill is both the main source for the continuing supply of ham stone, used historically for many important buildings, and is the site of the largest hill fort in England. This presents a policy dilemma.” Taken from…

One of the largest hill forts in the country, Ham Hill has been quarried since Roman times, it is the only source of the honey-toned Ham stone, and has been used for the dressed ashlar stone of many fine historic houses, though now it seems to be more used for stone fireplaces and garden walls.  English Heritage does indeed have a policy dilemma, a choice between preserving a large fine hill fort or allowing more quarrying for the next 80 years, a slow erosion of Ham Hill.

Clumps of cattle hair on one of the stones in the Tregeseal stone circle, Cornwall
Image credit Ian Cooke

For the second time longhorn cattle introduced as part of a Higher Level Stewardship conservation grazing scheme onto Carnyorth Common near St Just have destabilised a stone of the ancient Tregeseal Circle – two years ago some 4 or 5 stones were loosened – after only a week or so being back on the Common after their winter ‘break’. Clumps of cattle hair on many stones show that they are using them as rubbing posts. It is only a matter of time before this herd of about 16 animals create more havoc.

That this has happened shows our concerns, relayed to Natural England several years ago, are fully justified that the presence of these animals will not only damage this important archaeological site but, as has been witnessed by local regular walkers of this moor, has also caused a dramatic drop in the number of walkers and horse riders over the past two years.

Save Penwith Moors consider the current Higher Level Stewardship agreement covering this Common – declared in a Natural England document of 2007 to be in “good” condition –

· is an unnecessary and very expensive waste of public money (about £20,000 a year for 10 years) in an era of drastic public spending cuts;

· a ruin of the moor through visually intrusive new barbed wire fencing, gates and a cattle grid;

· intimidating and potentially dangerous presence of free-roaming cattle that can – and do – frequently graze on the north-eastern part of the Common for which there is no known ownership and is not part of the area for which HLS payment is currently being made, and where two new gates were installed under the Natural England HEATH project under very dubious legal circumstances.

It is high time that this scheme for Carnyorth Common is abandoned and all the new (and old mid-1980s) stock proofing removed. Most of these issues are now being assessed by the Parliamentary Ombudsman as part of a complaint of alleged maladministration by the Natural England HEATH project and Higher Level Stewardship agreement.


Carnyorth Common, Cornwall
Image credit Ian Cooke

Carnyorth Common (St Just), not grazed for about 50 years but declared in a recent Higher Level Stewardship report to be in “good condition”. Yet cattle have still been put there to graze at some £20,000 per annum. Why?

19th March 2011. Press Release by:

Ian McNeil Cooke (Co-ordinator)
Men-an-Tol Studio
Cornwall TR20 8NR

Tel: 01736-368282 Email:

“A prehistoric site on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire could become a World Heritage Site. Creswell Crags, a series of limestone caves occupied between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago, has produced numerous tools and unique rock art.”

More here – and here –
See also –

Rotherwas, verb. To ruin; to bring to naught; to put an end to; to annihilate; to consume for no justifiable reason.

Remember the Rotherwas Ribbon?

It’s right under here. It’s been rotherwassed.

If you think the road seems quiet, it is. It’s little used as it connects a small moribund-looking industrial estate which has an existing connection to a main road to the same main road a couple of miles further on. A government Inspector ruled that grants would not be given for building it as there was no need for it to be built.  Twice. He was right. Twice. And everyone in Herefordshire knew it. That’s why it was dubbed from the start “the road to nowhere”.

Strangely, although the ribbon was discovered during the road construction it somehow didn’t get reported to the full Council for many months. And although the County Archaeo said it was on a par with Stonehenge and unique in Europe somehow English Heritage decided they’d delay scheduling it for “some time” (which was the one and only way the road could have been legally stopped) and they still haven’t, and have now dropped it as a topic. As a matter of fact, it conformed with every one of the statutory criteria for scheduling better than any ancient monument you can name, bar none.

1000 people were taken to see it by bus, but somehow two separate prompt applications for a place by the Heritage Action Chairman both got accidentally overlooked until he was informed of this the day after the bus trips had all suddenly ended.

Somehow, it wasn’t protected from flooding and would you believe it… it flooded, and was damaged. It was said not to be damaged but trust me, I went and it was.

A couple of elderly protestors, including an octogenarian, were prosecuted for protesting (they did a sit down in the Council chamber, the dangerous terrorists). Yes, I did say octogenarian. A member of the Majority group on the County Council  told the Council Meeting that he thought a “pile of broken ceramics had got washed down the hillside”. Word was spread that a landowner was resistant to anyone investigating the extent of the ribbon across his land. He point blank denied that was the case. At one point the High Court ruled that Herefordshire Council had manipulated the democratic UDP process to allocate land for housing at Bullinghope simply to fund the Rotherwas Road.

Since the road has been built it has been established the ribbon stretches for hundreds of yards and is even more significant than previously thought and of course it is totally, totally unique.

The road is little used. There are lots of factories lying empty on the industrial estate and plenty of development land up for sale but unsold. The whole place smells of misapplied investment. Oh, and Advantage West Midlands, the quango that pushed the whole scheme through? That’s to be wound up. On the grounds it isn’t delivering value for money.


March 2011

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