You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2012.

“Artefact hunting (done right) is good for you – and Britain”. That seems to be the message of Britain’s Secret Treasures. Who could disagree? Well, nearly all of the world’s archaeologists and governments for a start – but they’re conspicuously absent from the screen. Then there are the home-grown spoilsports who think half a million finds with less than immaculate provenance doesn’t make up for the four million finds not declared to PAS in the same period!  Where’s the knowledge gain and national benefit from those? So it’s like this, nice and simple: to present a balanced account, five nights of jubilation about Britain’s Secret Treasures should have been followed by forty nights of outrage over Britain’s LOST Treasures. Only then would the public see the true, proportionate picture.

The Council for British Archaeology was involved in these programmes – with little enthusiasm no doubt as they stand for “archaeology for all” not “exploitation by some”. But they hoped that at least the series would increase “best practice” – though why that would happen after all these years and how boosting the number of artefact hunters would benefit Britain is unclear. Now though, they’ve come out with a remarkable article – perhaps as a reaction to the way the programmes came over, entitled “Archaeology is about Knowledge, not Treasure”.

They say things that don’t usually get said. Things that unashamedly champion archaeology not the collecting of it:

  • Remains in the ground “are best left undisturbed”!
  • If you are thinking of rushing out to buy a metal detector “think again “
  • “in many cases, it is better to wait… as long as it remains safe then it is better to leave the evidence for future generations to investigate with better techniques and with better-informed questions to ask.”
  • “intervention is only justified if the evidence is at risk of being lost or damaged”
  • “any excavation work has to be carried out carefully to ensure that we extract as many clues as possible not just about any objects that are found”
  • “Team up with an archaeology group”
  • “The best way to extract evidence from the ground is via controlled, high-standard archaeological excavation.“
  • “There are many groups across the UK who are capable of such high standards, both in the professional and voluntary sector, and it is best to join up with a local archaeology group if you have a passion for history and heritage”.
  • “Ethical metal detecting…. care is needed to ensure that ethical codes are followed”

Bravo to CBA for unashamedly expressing why they prefer Archaeology to artefact hunting and pointing out precisely why talk of combining the two is a foolish and impossible British aberration: if  “the best way to extract evidence from the ground is via controlled, high-standard archaeological excavation” and “intervention is only justified if the evidence is at risk of being lost or damaged” then of course a large proportion of artefact hunting cannot be hailed as valid by archaeologists. The talk of “common ground” between the two is nonsense and always was. Define it if I’m wrong – or ask those that speak of it to do so!

One thing needs clarifying though. What can they mean by “ethical” detecting and “ethical” codes? Not the NCMD or FID codes for sure, as those don’t insist on reporting to PAS! Nor the official Code of Responsible Detecting – as that doesn’t mention any of the things listed by CBA above. In fact, the only Code that comes within a hundred miles of satisfying at least some of what CBA say is required….. is OURS!

So far though, after over a year and a half, zero detectorists have agreed to it so perhaps what CBA needs to decide next is what they consider should be done about an activity that they believe should be conducted to a particular ethical standard when there is scant evidence that anyone other than a tiny minority is willing to operate to that standard or anywhere near it. Bearing in mind that all early indications suggest the programmes are going to cause a huge increase in both detector sales and would-be treasure hunters, the issue has perhaps become more urgent than ever before. Take a look at our erosion counter. For the next few months should we double the rate at which it shows depletion going on?


UPDATE, an hour or two later:
We aren’t entirely naive amateur spoilsports with the wrong ideas about both artefact hunting and these programmes apparently. Mike Heyworth of the CBA has reiterated on Twitter that people should get involved in archaeology not treasure hunting and English Heritage’s Archaeology spokespersons no less have just re-tweeted his message!

English Heritage ‏@EHArchaeology  RT @mikeheyworth:    Watching ITV’s #secrettreasures? Get involved in #archaeology, not treasure hunting. Suggestions here

I think that settles it, especially when you read precisely what his suggestions are. They display no compromises at the expense of our communal heritage whatsoever, just as they shouldn’t. But are words enough?


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting


by Sandy Gerrard

Regular readers of the unfolding drama on Mynydd y Betws will not be surprised to learn that the Dyfed Archaeological Trust response to the Cotswold Archaeology Report on the stone alignment is that they “are content with its contents and the interpretation, which better suits the archaeological information.”

The report that “better suits the archaeological information” states that the row was “probably a waymarker between Bryn Mawr and the twentieth-century adit workings.” These workings are described by the Royal Commission as bell pits in a report published in 1917 which states they are likely to be late 18th or early 19th century in date. Cotswold Archaeology and Dyfed Archaeological Trust appear to have ignored this crucial archaeological evidence and I would suggest that this might make their conclusions somewhat unreliable.

After “detailed archaeological investigations” Cotswold Archaeology has concluded that the coal mining pits were dug in 1926  i.e. some nine years after they were first described by the Royal Commission! Cotwold Archaeology also described them inaccurately as adit workings yet Dyfed Archaeological Trust are “content” with this explanation.Why when the quickest of glances at their own records would have indicated that the information used to justify the report’s conclusion is wholly inaccurate?

Furthermore why is the Dyfed Archaeological Trust so eager to accept an interpretation that is completely contradicted by its own records? They claim the conclusion “suits the archaeological information”. It does not. It only suits the subjective view they have selected and is convincingly disproved by the information they have chosen to omit. We are being asked to believe that the Royal Commission recorded the coal workings some nine years before they were created. It would be helpful if someone from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust could explain how this is possible. The only suggestion that I can think of is that the Royal Commission in the early 20th century had access to a time machine.

Can anyone think of a reason why Dyfed Archaeological Trust believe that it is possible to describe and record archaeological remains years before they have been created?


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

See also this website and Facebook Group

Many thanks to all who attended our seventh annual Megameet at Avebury, helping to make it the best attended and most successful yet. It was also the first for several years that could be held outdoors. Special thanks must go to Bucky and Loie from Maryland who were on their fourth trip to Avebury and their third to a megameet!

See you all next year!

The Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments of Thornborough, North Yorkshire

Sat 21 July; 13.00-17.30

To the north of Ripon, in Yorkshire’s North Riding, are some remarkable prehistoric monuments. No less than six giant henges, along with many other Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, can be found here, suggesting this was a special landscape between 4000-1500 BC. The most famous of these monuments is the alignment of three henges at Thornborough.

It is a truly spectacular icon of Neolithic Britain – and its story offers an enthralling insight into prehistoric life. This event, organised by the Thornborough Heritage Trust, is dedicated to Thornborough’s remarkable prehistory. An introductory talk (1-2.15pm) by Dr. Jan Harding, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Newcastle University, will be followed by an opportunity to handle prehistoric finds, including flint and pottery found at Thornborough (2.15-3.30pm). The event will culminate in a two hour walk of the monument complex (3.30-5.30pm), , An entry fee of £1 per person will enable participants to attend the talk, handle the artefacts, and go on the walking tour. Refreshments will be available for a charge. The event will be held in the West Tanfield Memorial Hall. The village of West Tanfield can be found on the A6108 to the north of Ripon in North Yorkshire. Limited parking is available outside the hall.,

Location: West Tanfield Memorial Hall, West Tanfield, Ripon HG4 5JU.

We have recently received a large number of comments via anonymous proxies. Some of these have seemed genuine but most have been antagonistic or deliberately disruptive. To ensure genuine debate we will now be deleting all comments which have come via anonymous proxies.

If you are a genuine poster who uses them for legitimate reasons, please email us at and we will make a special case for you.”

If “The People” are the vast majority that don’t attend the summer solstice event then for once The People were catered for at Stonehenge the other night – and what a difference it made! Mike Pitts  says it all on his blog in admirable words and pictures……

“The other night at Stonehenge…. Like summer solstice but with gentility – the Stonehenge Fire Garden. The stones close and personal and erratically wrapped in flames and paraffin smells in the growing darkness, thousands of people politely queuing, one man making gentle electronic music surrounded by a quiet crowd, a comfortable friendly gathering with no manic focus and no camera-hunger fancy dress artists being chased by the press. Soft, arty French eccentricity from La Compagnie Carabosse”

In Stonehenge we have one of the world’s greatest venues and meeting places, yet isn’t it an asset that is massively under-utilised? Haven’t we sleepwalked into allowing it to become associated with only one sort of gathering – and one that is hardly admired abroad ? Is it too much to hope that just as the monument’s physical environment is undergoing major improvements, so the emphasis on how it is celebrated might also be changed? A move towards gentle, respectful  events reflecting the taste and behaviour of the majority, things like the Fire Garden and the Amesbury Lantern Parade?

Power to the People!

Sorry, we can’t show you a picture. We had been given a press pass and were ready to go and then circumstances prevented us. It’s a real shame as it was a once-in-many lifetimes event and images of it will no doubt be shown in every country on earth. Which makes the mystery all the greater:

Why was it missed off the original Olympic route? Why was it then added at a late stage as a “private” event for the press alone at 5.00am? How is this consistent with 13,500 people being allowed in exactly three weeks earlier?

Oh, and how come we had to sign a piece of paper pointing out that if we encouraged anyone to climb on the stones we’d be slung out – when previous solstice videos show not one but thousands of people, tipsy with alcohol that English Heritage had authorised them to bring in, raucously cheering and encouraging someone to climb to the top of one of the trilithons?

UPDATE: And we’ve just realised: last night was the first of the Fire Garden events. It ended at midnight so the public would all have been ushered away by 1.00am and at 4.30am the carpark was re-opened for the press so they could witness the private torch event. In view of that, how on earth can public exclusion from such an iconic event be explained or justified in any conceivable practical terms? They were already there!

Listen! Is that a pin dropping?

Megameet 2016

See HERE, a picture of the recent event at the Boscawen Un stone circle in Cornwall – “A cry of peace for a world in conflict …….”

How refreshing! A gathering at an ancient stone circle that didn’t involve disrespect, overcrowding, boozing, drugs, arrests or stone-climbing – just a harmless use of the site that didn’t necessitate any official involvement or security measures or cost to the taxpayer. Typical in fact of the low-key way in which tens of thousands of real enthusiasts use ancient sites up and down the country every day of the year.

Hurrah for the quiet majority! To make things perfectly fair, shouldn’t they be given taxpayers’ money by English Heritage to facilitate their visits?

English Heritage have confirmed that the sentencing of Roger Penny, the man responsible for the levelling of part of a Priddy Henge, has been delayed yet again. He was due in Taunton Crown Court for sentencing last Friday 6th July. However Taunton Crown Court apparently cancelled most of their cases including Mr Penny’s for unstated reasons.

Mr Penny’s hearing has been rescheduled for the 31st August. Hopefully it will take place on this date and justice will finally be done. He originally pleaded guilty at the Magistrates hearing in April to permitting the execution of works affecting a scheduled monument which took place between April and October 2011.


July 2012

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,376 other followers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: