You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2012.

Stones of Stenness, © Tim Clark

New this year: a monthly roundup of the Journal, for new readers and those who may have missed something!

We started the year with a quote  from Wendell Berry, which neatly summarises not only the Green Movement, but also applies to many aspects of heritage conservation.

Our series looking at local archaeology societies, started in December, continued throughout the month, covering the NorthEastSouthWest, Yorks and Humber and West Midlands areas. More still to come next month! We also started a new short series, looking at the various types of Barrow in the landscape.

We briefly delved inside the mind of Mike Heyworth, Director of the CBA, reviewed the 25th Anniversay edition of Meyn Mamvro magazine, and outlined some of the folklore surrounding ancient sites.

On the Damage and Desecration front, we listed Five Things Not To Do at Heritage Sites,  and highlighted the cost of ‘affordable’ housing that has been developed within a stone’s throw of Avebury. Meanwhile, a Planning Decision at Naseby has put a potential dent in English Heritage’s recently published guidelines regarding the “setting” of monuments. And there’s  news from Wales of the possible discovery of a new stone row, immediately threatened by development.

With regard to Treasure Hunting, we looked at how PAS could provide a simple outreach service to landowners and outlined some points that landowners may wish to consider before granting permission to detect on their land, before suggesting a new version of the STOP campaign from the 1970s.

The “Stop Taking Our Past” (STOP) Campaign of the 1970s failed to align our laws with those in the rest of the world which curb unstructured artefact hunting. Hence anyone in England and Wales can still legally dig up and keep almost anything and tell no-one – and thousands do. It’s hard to see the status quo changing soon as it’s supported on three massive pillars: inertia, reluctance to admit Britain’s mistake and defence of vested interests. The first two have weakened in recent years but the third grows ever more blatant.

Doubtless things will change one day but meanwhile the damage that prompted the original STOP campaign continues unabated. Most finds still go unreported and our past is still being taken. So who can deny that for as long as Britain chooses not to regulate the activity a NEW “Stop Taking Our Past” campaign is needed – and which archaeologist could fail to support it if this time it calls not for an end to detecting but an end to non-reporting?

Here’s a flyer that says it all. If you’re a history lover, archaeologist or ethical detectorist please spread the word. Why wouldn’t you?

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Update 7 February 2012:

The nSTOP Campaign (new Stop Taking Our Past Campaign) just got a big boost. Well two actually. Mr Shane Rear, owner of the (“premier”) UK metal detecting forum – Detectorist.co.uk – tweeted to the CBA’s Mike Heyworth, Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt and English Heritage asking: “Can you confirm you have given endorsement and ok’d to state endorsement on this flyer?” to which Dr Heywoth has replied “I’ve had no contact with Heritage Action re new STOP campaign, but I support the point they are making”. We confidently anticipate similar responses from the others since all the flyer says is that they don’t support metal detecting without reporting all finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is not un-adjacent to stating the Pope is against Sin.

So we can take some satisfaction from the fact that despite being nobodies and no-account heritage busybodies as we’ve been variously described, it is beyond dispute that our central complaint against artefact hunting equates with what official bodies believe.

But we mentioned TWO big boosts. Well the other one comes from the detectorists. We concluded the article with “If you’re a history lover, archaeologist or ethical detectorist please spread the word. Why wouldn’t you?” Yet so far we have seen zero support for nSTOP from detectorists. Which is quite a low number out of eight thousand. All we’ve seen is three detectorists (two in our Comments plus Mr Rear) clearly trying to undermine the nCampaign. So why do we see that as a boost? Well, PAS exists on the basis things will get ever-better whereas we have been saying no, a ceiling has been reached. The stats tend to show that’s true. But this is the worst bit: responsible, “ethical” detectorists display a clan loyalty towards their non-reporting colleagues that makes them unwilling to support serious action to improve things – even such entirely harmless, entirely beneficial initiatives such as this.

So that’s why we claim a second boost. The value of the nCampaign is being illustrated by the lack of support it is attracting from detectorists, indicating in our view a reality that The Establishment hasn’t been publicly acknowledging but which it now has to confront: a lot of  (most?) detectorists will NEVER properly co-operate if at all, however harmless the request (such as this one) – and in addition those who DO believe in recording seem to rank group solidarity and the freedom of their colleagues not to do so above the interests of archaeology. Irrational yes, you can’t support recording AND support non-recording by others, but how else can their silence be interpreted? The mantra “it will get better in time” hasn’t been heard in official circles for a long time now so maybe the truth HAS dawned, but has yet to be admitted?

PS ………………

English Heritage have now tweeted their answer to Mr Rear: “We advocate responsible detecting & reporting of all finds but we are not aware of the new STOP campaign & have not signed up to it” to which Mr Rear has replied (still conspicuously anxious to get them to appear opposed to the aim of the nSTOP Campaign) “Thank you for your clarification, it is as I thought and will EH be asking for the endorsement to be removed?”

Er, no Mr Rear, they won’t be. They didn’t sign up to it as they weren’t asked to as there was no need. The flyer wording informs landowners of what the official bodies have publicly announced that they think (and EH has just reiterated it for you with admirable clarity) . So there is as much chance of them telling us to remove their name from it as there is for the Vatican to tell us to desist from saying the Pope’s against Sin. Get it? (Of course you do!) .

PPS, 11/12/2012….  writing in our Comments another detectorist, anxious to claim we were wrong to say our campaign reflected what The Archaeological Establishment believes, opined that he was sure that “some of those listed will be contacting you in the coming days asking you to remove reference to them in your flyer.” That was ten months ago and we have received no such requests.

QED!

To repeat, the campaign does indeed reflect exactly what The Archaeological Establishment believes is right. Landowners should treat with extreme caution any detectorist, forum owner, Metal Detecting Federation Chairman, Treasure Hunter or “Amateur Archaeologist” at their door who tries to claim otherwise for any reason whatsoever.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Following on from our recent article, this is a guest article by Sandy Gerrard, one of the co-discoverers of the threatened stone row at the proposed Mynydd Y Betws wind farm. A brief bio of Sandy is at the end of the article.

We welcome any comments from other parties involved in the wind farm. 

On January 2nd 2012 Helen and myself were invited to have a look at an area of moorland which had been fenced off at Bancbryn as part of the wind farm development on Mynydd Y Betws. This development has caused considerable local disquiet for a number of reasons and some of those actively campaigning against the wind farm wondered whether the archaeological work in advance of the development had been carried out properly.  We visited on a pleasant day with no wind although at one point we were pelted by hail stones the size of marbles – very painful.  There are currently three scheduled monuments on Bancbryn and we decided to head straight there. What we found certainly justified the trip. Within moments we had identified several sites including a number of stoney mounds,  a few hollows,  a line of pits with associated banks and leading into and returning out from the fenced off area – a line of stones.  In amongst these archaeological features but significantly not actually touching any of them were the scars of archaeological trenches indicating that excavation had indeed happened but appeared to have missed all the visible archaeology.  We took a few photographs and headed off to have a look at other areas where further earthworks were identified although we could not be certain if they were going to be directly affected by the development since there was no fencing in place.

Helen contacted the local archaeological trust to inform them of our discoveries.  They were initially very dismissive of our claims saying that the hillside had been extensively studied.  Eventually they agreed to accompany us on a visit and a date was set. On the morning of Monday 16th January we met up on site.  We asked if an earthwork survey had been conducted as part of the archaeological evaluation and were told that they had not felt it necessary since the ‘desk based’ assessment had not indicated there was a need. We expressed our dismay at this decision and we then proceeded to the site.  We showed the DAT officer the features we had identified and he explained to us that they had not been found previously because the area had been under thick vegetation.  This response may be challenged on many levels.  What evidence did he have that the archaeology was not previously visible since an earthwork survey was not conducted in any case? In addition earlier photographs of the area appear to show a low grass cover! However, for the sake of clarity let’s just accept the explanation that this area adjacent to three scheduled monuments was covered in a high sward of vegetation making it impossible to see the archaeology hiding beneath. If this was the case why on earth was the vegetation not cleared? After all a brand new road was going to be built which was to be capable of taking lorries each weighing over 100 tons, this was serious civil engineering not some puny track for a bloke on a pushbike then.  Surely construction works on this scale would have a somewhat negative impact on any archaeology which might have inconveniently stumbled in the way of such progress.  Our visit confirmed there were indeed archaeological remains and we are confident that future work will demonstrate that they are (I mean were) of some importance.  If we accept these remains were not seen during the mitigation work because they were hiding unhelpfully or even shyly beneath a carpet of vegetation then it is imperative we bear such a possibility in mind when carrying out research. It is perfectly understandable that archaeology slips through the net for a variety of reasons and indeed if it did not we could be accused of spoiling the fun for future generations! However when one is in the ‘last chance saloon’ as archaeologists we must remember  anything we miss will be lost for ever ,so surely we should try extra hard to record everything that is visible and ensure that the site record is as complete as humanly possible?  It is difficult to believe that it is acceptable in any way to squander such a chance by not carrying out an earthwork survey first and then during the works failing to ensure that the archaeology is even looked at properly.  If such work had been carried out in this instance and had been looked at, it is tempting to speculate the various features would have been spotted immediately. After all it took us less than 5 minutes to spot four separate monuments.

The stone row is probably the most important of the features we found and as it is associated with over 30 cairns some of which are kerbed it seems to form the focus of an incredibly important ceremonial landscape where the form of space between the numerous earthwork and built elements are as integral and important as the earthworks themselves. I have spent much of my archaeological working life on Dartmoor and for one moment as we walked along the row I felt as if I had somehow magically been transported in an instant 100miles south. This is important because the form is so identical as to suggest a definite and tangible link between these people.  The small size of the stones reflects what was available and even on Dartmoor some of the rows are formed by similar sized stones. On our first visit it was not possible to trace the full length of the row.  Helen has been back and using a hand held GPS traced it for 700m.  The row is aligned south west to north east which is the most common alignment for South West England rows. So it looks like a row, is associated with the sorts of things rows normally hang out with and even the alignment is right!  Many of the stones peep through the peat and many more are probably lurking below.  The similarity with the English examples is striking and may even give some of my colleagues in the South West an excuse to brave the Severn crossing to see for themselves evidence for ancient cultural links and a row not built with granite.

The discovery of this exciting monument has been tempered by the realisation that it is being cut into three parts by the new roads and the feeling that if it had been known about before it could have perhaps been saved in its entirety.  Is it greedy to wish that the whole site could have been protected? It is now too late.  The site is delicate and the huge diggers which have been trundling across it have already caused irreparable damage. As well as the inevitable damage to the row its whole setting is going to be mangled by the new roads and neighbours – the 110m high turbines. It is to be hoped that the row will survive its amputation and outlast its temporary ignominy. To this end I have asked Cadw to schedule the monument as a matter of priority to ensure that any straying diggers do not complete the destruction.

The other great sadness is that the archaeological profession in Wales has seen fit to ignore us.  Finding archaeology would appear to be a crime. Community Archaeology – I think not. First they refused to accept that you could have found something then they exclude you from the process – perhaps because you questioned the strategies which precipitated the situation.  Who knows – perhaps they will tell us one day. Both DAT and Cadw promised to keep us up to date with developments. DAT promised during the site visit to let us know straight away what they would be recommending and Cadw have simply refused to acknowledge a request for information despite initial assurances that they too would keep us informed of the exciting developments.  So 10 days after informing them of the discovery we are reduced to finding out what is going on and their current thinking from press releases alone.  Between Helen and Myself we have more than 50 years’ experience of working in moorland environments and have profitably involved locals in many of our projects. Perhaps this experience is considered a threat? Who knows – we certainly don’t. Perhaps it was because we were accompanied by wind farm observers? Perhaps it’s because we live in the area and overlook the hill? Or might it be that they would rather not have admitted to missing such an obvious and potentially important archaeological monument? Could it be a combination or all of these things or perhaps something else entirely appropriate? It would be great if they could tell us one day! Or perhaps we’ll just have to wait for the press release.

In the meantime we sincerely hope that having demonstrated there is amazing archaeology on this hillside they will now carry out full earthwork surveys to record what is about to be destroyed before it is too late and follow these up with a thorough excavation of the two segments of row and the other features which because of their potentially great age have carelessly stumbled into the path of the oncoming road!

Sandy Gerrard, 25th January 2012

Sandy is a former English Heritage designation officer for 20 years.  Much of this time spent on Dartmoor scheduling monuments. Now a freelance consultant mainly working on a large-scale mitigation project connected with a large mine in Devon. Have also excavated and surveyed extensively in South West England and South Wales.  Interests include the impact of bracken on archaeology and the historic tin industry.

For previous and subsequent articles put Mynydd Y Betws in our Search Box

Scorhill, Devon. © Tim Clark

A new weekly brief roundup of articles of note, that we haven’t featured this week.

Today is a double landmark for the Heritage Journal. This is our 1,000th post since we switched to our current WordPress format and coincidentally it is also 3 years to the day since we did so. So we thought it a good moment to start an occasional series in which we revisit some of our earlier posts. We are calling it “As We Were Saying”….

Three years ago we posted  Stonehenge – the great escape  in which we celebrated the fact that at last an end to decades of frustrating delay, indecision and inactivity was in sight. Now, three years later…. well, there’s still cause for celebration. Despite recent suggestions to the contrary the various tunnels that might have permanently damaged the World Heritage Site have almost certainly been consigned to history, thanks to the National Trust, lots of other organisations and the world recession. Hurrah for the banking crisis!

Not that everything at Stonehenge is fine. As usual it is enveloped in a fog from which tiny packets of information are occasionally allowed to escape. For instance, three years later and with the first sod ready to be turned we have no idea who the financial philanthropists are or what effect they may have on the project. Nor what the transit system will look like. Nor whether the Summer shenanigans are to be curbed. No doubt the Public will be told when they are deemed worthy, which may be a while yet!

Word has reached us of a newly discovered stone row on the site of a proposed wind farm in Wales. Unconfirmed reports say the row at the Mynydd y Betws wind farm development had been “missed” by archaeologists researching the site prior to work starting. This is somewhat worrying given how clearly visible the row is in the photos and that it has now been damaged by work taking place.

Bancbryn stone row

There are two roads scheduled to cross the stone row but work has now stopped in the area around the row pending clarification by archaeologists working for Cambrian Renewable Energy Limited, the company building the wind farm. We are watching for further updates with worry as this country’s recent record with important sites discovered during development isn’t exactly glowing, see Rotherwas Ribbon et al.  Preservation in situ under a road isn’t an option as far as we are concerned.

JCB yards from Bancbryn stone row

For any subsequent articles put Mynydd Y Betws in our Search Box.

 

The official West Midlands region contains the large conurbation that includes Birmingham and Wolverhampton, but also covers the predominantly rural shire counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

There is some confusion in the use of the term “West Midlands”, as the name is also used for the much smaller West Midlands county.

West Midlands region. Creative Commons

The region contains five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), including all of the Shropshire Hills, Malvern Hills and Cannock Chase, and parts of the Wye Valley and Cotswolds. The Peak District national park also stretches into the northern corner of Staffordshire.

Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society

Founded in 1870, the Society, promotes the study of archaeology and history in Birmingham, Warwickshire and West Midlands County by the investigation, preservation and restoration of local antiquities and historic buildings and by the publication of these activities in its Transactions.

Ordinary Membership is £15, and receive the Transactions, the newsletters of the Society and get discounted rates for attendance at Society events and excursions. A full range of lectures is held on a regular basis.

Coventry and District Archaeological Society

CADAS has a full programme of informative lectures, and a regular Bulletin, as well as an active Fieldwalking Group.

The society is involved in:

  • Local historic projects, working alongside partner organisations.
  • Excursions to sites of interest.
  • Society led projects, involving field-walking, excavations and research.
  • Assisting professional archaeological units on local digs.

Membership is £12 and provides free access to lectures, the Society Bulletin (10 per year) and involvement in projects. A lst of recent Bulletin articles is available on the web site.

Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society

Shropshire, on the border between upland Wales and lowland England, has had a complex and turbulent history. This fascinating past is reflected in a wealth of archaeological sites of all types and periods and in a rich collection of archives. The society campaigns for the recording and protection of Shropshire’s rich and varied archaeological heritage. They also promote and publish original research into the county’s history and prehistory. There is a full program of walks and talk and an annual lecture.

Members (£14) receive a 6-monthly newsletter and a copy of the Transactions, and have access to the society library.

Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society

Membership is £18.50 and provides access to newsletters and an annual Transactions volume. There are the normal Lectures and Excursions also available, as well as the opportunity to partake in both desk-based research and on-site surveys. Past Transactions are available to download online for members only (a fee is payable per volume).

Worcestershire Archaeological Society

The stated aims of the society are to:

  • Promote research in archaeology and history of the area
  • Work for the understanding and care of all kinds of antiquities
  • Take part in archaeological research
  • Publish its work and exchange information with similar bodies
  • Collect and make available relevant publications
  • Arrange appropriate excursions
  • Exchange in holding exhibitions, seminars, lectures and classes
  • Commission and publish works that will advance its cause
  • Affiliate with similar bodies sharing similar aims

The society undertakes a range of activities in pursuit of its general aims. Membership is £20 and provides Lectures excursions and a bi-Annual Transactions as well as a 6-monthly Newsletter.

North Worcestershire Archaeology Group

A relatively young group, formed in 2009, their aims are not only to investigate, analyse and record the history and archaeology of the region, but also to encourage interest and participation from the wider community. Single membership is £10 and members get the opportunity to be proper archaeologists, working alongside an experienced team of amateurs and professionals.

Their website (link below) contains details of a variety of projects that the group is undertaking – the emphasis seems to be very much about getting involved!

South Worcestershire Archaeological Group

The group aims to encourage local people to learn about archaeology and history. They offer walks and visits during the summer and lectures and workshops during the winter. They also undertake fieldwork when possible, including geophysical prospecting. The group has links with the Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeological Service (WHEAS), which enables members to be involved with community excavation projects. They have also worked in association with the National Trust at Croome Park over several years and with archaeology students at the University of Worcester.

Membership is £12 for individuals.

Useful Links

Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society
Coventry and District Archaeological Society
Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society
Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society
Worcestershire Archaeological Society
North Worcestershire Archaeology Group
South Worcestershire Archaeological Group

Oswestry & Border History & Archaeology
Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society
Kidderminster and District Archaeological and Historical Society

© James Mitchell

Last April the funding package for the Stonehenge Visitor’s Centre and improvements was said to be almost in place – money is coming from the Government, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, from English Heritage’s profit from its commercial activities and fundraising and £2 million from their historic reserves of money given philanthropically over the years.

But not quite all. As the article says – “Today’s announcement means there is now just £3m to raise – a sum English Heritage is confident of getting to allow work to start in 2012.”

That was last April. By all accounts it is still proposed to start the work next April so it seems highly likely the remaining funding has now been secured. Yet no announcement has been made about it.  Shouldn’t the details have been made public by now, particularly if it is coming from new “private philanthropy” as the government seems to want, so that everyone can be reassured that there IS such a thing as a free lunch? No-one wants to be paying for over-priced philanthropy burgers!

Howard Carter in festive mood....... Wikimedia Commons

The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) are coordinating the highly successful Festival of British Archaeology once again this year.  The Festival includes hundreds of special events individually organised and held by museums, local societies, national and countryside parks, universities, and heritage organisations across the UK. The Festival presents everyone the opportunity to learn about their local heritage, to see archaeology in action, and to get involved, from formal lecture sessions to hands-on archaeology to family fun events.

The CBA has been organising an annual UK-wide celebration of archaeology and heritage since 1990. The ‘Festival for British Archaeology’ grew out of ‘National Archaeology Week’ (NAW). Before that, the event took place over one weekend and was called ‘National Archaeology Days’ (NADS).

This year the Festival runs for the two weeks from Saturday 14th to Sunday 29th July 2012. If you are organising an event for this year’s festival, and wish to be included in the Festival Program, events can be registered on the Festival web site now.

In this short series we hope to provide an insight into the many types of Neolithic and Bronze Age barrow dotted around our landscape. But let’s start with a simple question:

What is a Barrow?

The English Heritage Monument Type Thesaurus  defines a Barrow as an “Artificial mound of earth, turf and/or stone, normally constructed to contain or conceal burials.” This is of course a very general description, there are many types of barrow within this definiton, and we’ll be providing examples of some of these in forthcoming articles. The first barrows appeared around five to five and a half thousand years ago (c3500-3000 BCE), and were of the Long Barrow type. Barrow construction lasted for some two thousand years and by c 1500 BCE, barrows in the Neolithic/Bronze Age style were no longer being used, although there are some later Roman (Six Hills  in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Thornborough Mounds  in Buckinghamshire, Bartlow Hills  in Essex), Viking (Repton in Cumbria and Ingleby in Derbyshire) and Anglo Saxon (e.g. Sutton Hoo) barrow constructs remaining.

Six Hills in Stevenage © Alan S.

Types of Barrow

Barrows fall into two main forms, the Long Barrow and Round Barrow. Although earlier in date, Long barrows are often more complex and may have one or more stone chambers within to hold the burials. Round barrows are later and much simpler, often being a mound of earth thrown up over a central inhumation, though there are several sub-types of round barrow, such as bowl, bell, disc, pond, saucer  etc.

West Kennet Long Barrow © Jane Tomlinson

Where are they found?

Quite simply, just about anywhere from the Shetlands to Lands End in Cornwall. Barrows and associated monuments seem to be pretty ubiquitous in the UK. If an area appears to be lacking in barrows, it’s probably because they’ve been ploughed out – many barrows are damaged by modern farming practices. Whilst some cannot be missed due to their size, such as the Kenwyn Four Barrows straddling the A30 northwest of Truro in Cornwall, others are barely discernable as minor ‘lumps and bumps’ and can disappear completely from view when fields are in crop.

What were they used for?

The obvious answer is burials, but research suggests it was more complicated than that. There are various theories as to barrows being used not only as sepulchral monuments, but also as delineators of territory or waymarkers for trade routes. Many barrows show no signs of ever being used for holding burials or cremated remains, whilst in others, where bones have been found, they have been much younger in age than the monuments, suggesting either continued use, or a much later re-use of an existing monument.

 Further Reading

We shall be continuing this series over the next couple of weeks, but for more in depth reading, we can recommend the following books, available via Amazon:

Useful Links

NMR Monument Type Thesaurus
Wikipedia article
H2G2 article
Barrows in Wiltshire

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