You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2011.

Children’s ‘finger painting’ in one of the caves at Rouffignac, France. Photo PA
Writing in The Guardian today Caroline Davies reports that –
“Stone age toddlers may have attended a form of prehistoric nursery where they were encouraged to develop their creative skills in cave art, say archaeologists. Research indicates young children expressed themselves in an ancient form of finger-painting. And, just as in modern homes, their early efforts were given pride of place on the living room wall. A Cambridge University conference on the archaeology of childhood on Friday reveals a tantalising glimpse into life for children in the palaeolithic age, an estimated 13,000 years ago.”
More here and here.


La Cotte, Jersey. Image credit Man vyi, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In the final episode of the series Alice Roberts goes in search of our Stone Age ancestors, visiting La Cotte in Jersey where she meets a team of archaeologists hoping to shed new light on the Neanderthals, and embarking on a kayak survey of the coastline looking for undiscovered sites hidden in the cliffs. At the Natural History Museum she sees evidence of cannibalism and the ritual use of human skulls. Alice also meets a team who are hoping to unlock the secrets of Stonehenge, not on Salisbury plain, but in the Preseli Hills.
Screened on Friday, 30 September 2011 on BBC2 from 9:00pm to 10:00pm. See also Neanderthal survival story revealed in Jersey caves by Becky Evans.

We have reached the moment of decision for Stonehenge” announced Baroness Birk, parliamentary under secretary of state, “Either we protect it or we continue to allow people to trample over the site and allow posterity to look after itself. I am not prepared to consider the latter alternative”. Accordingly, visitors are to be kept behind a picket and rope fence 100 feet from the centre of the circle. The restriction is necessary, according to conservation officials, because of the enormous numbers of people that visit who have been wearing and chipping away at the stones, have obliterated the grit and gravel suface and trampled the site to mud. The bluestones are soft and showing signs of wear and some of the incised carvings have been rubbed away by careless feet and curious fingers.


Actually, we have to confess this story is thirty five years old. It’s about what the Government announced as their new “hands off” policy in 1976 … enge&hl=en  and which they have imposed very strictly ever since (except on one night every year at Summer solstice when they completely ignore it). We thought we’d bring it up again, at the risk of being accused of nagging, because there has been no answer to our recent enquiry … he-stones/ about whether the talk of restoring the monument to splendid isolation meant all the fences are to be removed and people are therefore going to be given free access to the stones once again. Are they? Is the policy maintained since 1976 going to be reversed or not? Have the reasons given  to Parliament back then turned out to have been mistaken?

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales is a Royal Warrant body established in 1908 and currently a Welsh Government Sponsored Body in the portfolio of the Minister for Heritage. It is directed under its Royal Warrant ‘to provide for the survey and recording of ancient and historical monuments and constructions from the earliest times (including the ancient and historical monuments in, on or under the sea bed within the United Kingdom territorial sea adjacent to Wales) by compiling, maintaining and curating the National Monuments Record of Wales as the basic national record of the archaeological and historical environment’.

Mission Statement:

The Royal Commission is the investigation body and national archive for the historic environment of Wales. It has the lead role in ensuring that Wales’s archaeological, built and maritime heritage is authoritatively recorded, and seeks to promote the understanding and appreciation of this heritage nationally and internationally.

More here.

Heritage Action’s Jane Tomlinson describes her maps as love letters to the places shown. That’s certainly how her latest one strikes us. If you love Avebury you’re bound to find it absolutely brimming with interest.

You can read more about it on Jane’s website here.

Keep off my land! Landowner wins right to bar ramblers from Dartmoor’s tallest Tor.

Ramblers and climbers have been banned from one of Dartmoor’s most historic sites. The beautiful Vixen Tor has been closed off for good after landowner Mary Alford won an eight-year battle to keep walkers off her land.  Her victory comes after a fight which included two planning inquiries and a series of mass trespasses to protest against the Tor’s closure…

Read more here.

Earlier article by Heritage Action.

The temporary change of Paul Barford’s blog to invitation-only status following concerted efforts and threats by a group of artefact hunters matters for one stark reason: few involved with the activity, be they detectorist or archaeologist, publicly question its overall effect, whereas he does. Why he’s right to do so can be expressed in 3 brief paragraphs:


1. It  is very clear that metal detecting forums and metal detecting clubs mislead the public (see here and here) but so do the two national bodies: both signed the official Code for Responsible Metal-Detecting yet only ask Members to adhere to their own codes that don’t mention the official one or the need to report finds to PAS. So all three types of detecting bodies project a “responsible” public image yet demand no such behaviour from Members.

2. That wouldn’t matter (as misinformation can easily be countered) except that The Establishment has been arrayed in a way that it too feels a need to adopt a highly positive attitude to artefact hunting and a rosy account of PAS’s progress lest it loses the support of  those detectorists that co-operate with it as well as its government paymasters. So it’s a potent mix – an activity with an incentive to misrepresent itself and a quango with an incentive to let them.

3. Thus, any farmer will tell you (having heard it ad nauseam) that criminal nighthawks are a problem but legal detectorists aren’t as they’re “responsible”. But equating “legal” with harmless is a distortion,  as PAS’s figures show: most detectorists don’t adhere to the official Code or report all their finds – and since these legal but non-reporting detectorists vastly outnumber nighthawks they cause vastly more cultural damage than nighthawks do.


So that’s how it is, landowners thinking legal means “harmless”, the public thinking metal detecting is in the national interest and no-one now asking if mining hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites for artefacts each year is damaging. Things couldn’t be more different abroad, with not one country taking Britain’s lead or setting up a Portable Antiquities Scheme of their own. Rónán Swan, Acting Head of Archaeology for the National Roads Authority in Ireland expressed the general foreign view: “It’s inconceivable to me that you can have metal detecting on archaeological sites by non-archaeologists”.

Nevertheless, the British three monkeys approach to heritage conservation and protection, that has never reduced the rate of recreational erosion by even a fraction, now seems set to continue unopposed. All my fields are hammered, I now have to travel a long way to detect moaned a detectorist years ago – and on the basis of the present trajectory it seems we may have to say All OUR fields are hammered within this generation – but no-one is saying so. Despite any denials, there’s an unofficial and official  distortion going on and Paul Barford, who in my view is a better friend to Heritage than those that are party to it, is silent.


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


English Heritage has announced that –
A detailed survey of every stone that makes up Stonehenge using the latest technology, including a new scanner on loan from Z+F UK that has never before been used on a heritage project in this country, has resulted in the most accurate digital model ever produced of the world famous monument. With resolution level as high as 0.5mm in many areas, every nook and cranny of the stones’ surfaces is revealed with utmost clarity, including the lichens, Bronze Age carvings, erosion patterns and Victorian graffiti. Most surprisingly, initial assessment of the survey has suggested that the ‘grooves’ resulting from stone dressing on some sarsen stones (the standing stones) appear to be divided into sections, perhaps with different teams of Neolithic builders working on separate areas.


A first glimpse of the model can now be viewed here.

Two wind turbines are in the planning stage to be built at North Balnoon, in Aberdeenshire. The stone circle, which is mostly destroyed is not impacted directly but it is the visibility or landscape significance to the circle which will be ultimately compromised by the wind turbines. Wind energy is an important part of Scotland’s renewable energy technology, the goal of the government is to achieve  “a target of generating 31% of Scotland’s electricity from renewable energy by 2011, and 100% by 2020, which was raised from 50% in September 2010.  The majority of this is likely to come from wind power”.  There will be many more  turbines being built in the future, environmental and archaeological surveys will be an important part of the process.

Megalithic Portal have details here.

Objections can be sent to – The Aberdeenshire Council. Planning Application ref; APP/2011/1277

Crickley Hill Camp from Birdlip
Image credit Heritage Action (but you’re welcome to it)


The year might age, and cloudy
  The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
  Breathed from beyond the snows,
  And I had hope of those.

From When summer’s end is nighing by A E Housman.


September 2011

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