You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2012.

Billions being lost at Stonehenge?
According to a recent study Stonehenge is worth £8.3 billion to the UK economy whereas the Eiffel Tower is worth £344 billion to the French economy. Could this suggest Stonehenge is significantly under-utilised and capable of generating a much larger national economic benefit some of which could be spent on protecting other heritage sites? The idea chimes with our current series of suggestions of possible new uses for Stonehenge.

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Scary!
There have been a lot of pictures of Northumberlandia, but here are some official ones. Take a look at the one at the bottom middle! Aaaargh! What’s the betting there’ll be a Doctor Who episode filmed right there?!

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A henge in London?
A group of folk have identified a ‘henge and roundhouses’ on Google Earth in West London. Not much to go on yet, though EH have agreed there is nothing previously recorded in the area. One to keep an eye on….

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Just to make it clear….
Heritage Action was formed long before the other Heritage Action over the pond (the REALLY Nasty Party)! We aren’t as big as them but we’re doing OK, with 2820 Twitter followers. More to the point, we agree with just about nothing they say and all our followers are charming!

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For more Cheers and Boos put cheers in the search box.

The following story was posted on Orkneyjar.com yesterday, and is so good, we felt it worth repeating!

A new ‘virtual’ tour of Maeshowe at the winter solstice is now available online.

The animation was unveiled at a  special reception in Kirkwall on Tuesday evening.

The virtual tour of Maeshowe has been created using 3D laser-scanning data collected to aid with the conservation and interpretation of the site through the Scottish Ten project – a collaboration between Historic Scotland, Glasgow School of Art and CyArk to document Scotland’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and five international sites using cutting-edge digital technologies.

The animation can be seen on Historic Scotland TV’s YouTube channel.

Maes Howe © Tim Clark 2004

Great job, Police and English Heritage, catching a nighthawk . The first time there’s been had been such a co-ordinated team approach. So long live ARCH – The Alliance to reduce crime against heritage!

What a crying shame this was said though: “Behaviour such as his removes part of our heritage and will not be tolerated.

Please, Police, English Heritage et al, in future if you’re going to highlight the “heritage loss” aspect of nighthawking rather than the theft aspect can you not give the public the least reason to believe that illegal metal detecting is the main cause of heritage loss through metal detecting. It isn’t. Legal detecting by those who don’t report their finds is far more widespread and the cause of vastly more heritage loss than nighthawking. And IS tolerated.

The public has a right to understand that. Thanks.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Although some commentators are predicting the death of RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, as a way of disseminating news on the internet, it is still going strong as a technology, and every day there are more ways to tap in (literally, with the advent of tablet computing and apps such as FlipBoard) to its power.

Personally I still like the Google Reader web interface for managing the many news feeds I follow, although there are also many apps available in whichever app store or marketplace your device uses to help you keep on top of things.

Among my many watched feeds are a series of archaelogy or ancient heritage sites, and I thought it might be useful to review some of these over a series of posts. The following are in no particular order:

24 Hour Museum

“Latest news, exhibition reviews, links, event listings and education resources from thousands of UK museums, galleries, heritage sites, archives and libraries, all in one place.”

There’s a very useful map widget on the front page of this site, showing locations and details of events and exhibitions. There is a general newsfeed available, or dig down using the navigation bar to a preferred topic and subscribe to the individual newsfeed(s) of your choice.

Ancient Digger

“Anyone can appreciate and learn about history and archaeology when it’s taught in a way that appeals to all generations. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, academic, archaeologist or anthropologist, historian, professor, or student, Ancient Digger is striving to teach all of you about world heritage.”

Only a single feed as far as I can tell, this one covers world-wide archaeological news, so UK content can get a little lost.

Heritage of Wales News

“The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales has a leading national role in developing and promoting understanding of the archaeological, built and maritime heritage of Wales, as the originator, curator and supplier of authoritative information for individual, corporate and governmental decision makers, researchers, and the general public.”

This newsfeed duplicates each post (in Welsh and English) so 50% of the newsfeed will be redundant for most readers.

Council for British Archaeology

“An independent charity, our overall aim is to open up the UK’s rich heritage for all and safeguard it for future generations. Connect with the UK archaeology community, and uncover the latest stories, research and resources.”

Sadly, the only RSS Newsfeed that seems to be available concerns the CBA’s new publications, but there is a news page available which strangely is not RSS’d.

Much of the news reported is about the CBA rather than the wider world of archaeology and heritage. An opportunity missed in the recent site revamp perhaps?

The Stone Age Tools Museum

A simple, straightforward blog, containing news from around the world about Stone Age Tools.

Orkneyjar

“Welcome to Orkneyjar – a website dedicated to the preserving, exploring and documenting the ancient history, folklore and traditions of Orkney – a group of islands lying off the northern tip of  Scotland”

An excellent site covering news of excavations and events in the Orkneys, from the Paeleolithic through to Medieval sites.

Watch for coverage of more newsfeeds soon, as I delve further into my list. Actually, although we’ve listed 6 sites above, there is one other that should be on your list: The Heritage Journal! Just click on the RSS symbol at top left to subscribe to our own newsfeed. If you have a good source of news that’s not in this list, why not share it in the comments so others can also enjoy?

Those who care for Ireland’s heritage should look at Ken Williams’  picture here

It’s an absolute stunner (as usual for Ken), but makes you want to cry…

You can see more of Ken’s amazing work on his Shadows and Stone website.

Here is the FIFTH possibility (see our original article in which we asked for ideas. More please.)

OK, it’s not quite new (it will be held a second time on 20th December 2012 ) but it’s so good we just had to mention it.

Amesbury Lantern Parade © Andy Rhind-Tutt, former Mayor of Amesbury

A while back someone put in a Freedom of Information request to find out the total cost of policing the summer solstice but Wiltshire Police refused to say. Maybe their computer melted. There’d be no such risk in the case of the superb (and quite likely authentic) Lantern Procession along the line of the original Avenue! More details of this year’s event can be found on the Visit Amesbury Facebook page, or see the  BBC report on last year’s event.

(For more Stonehenge ideas put New Ways in the search box)

Summer seems to be running a little late this year, so with that in mind, we’d like to try something a little different next month, and Dear Reader, we’d like your help to do it!

As regular readers will know, we’re advocates of getting out and seeing our (pre-Roman) archaeological sites as often as possible, and we’ve previously written on how to prepare for and enjoy such visits.

Picnic at Saint-Alban du Rhône photographed by Gabriel Veyre (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons. Note: We do not condone clambering over monuments. This photo was taken in another age, in another country and does not represent current best practice.

Now, if we can, we’d like to get an idea of how many people are actually visiting the monuments and where they’re going. So if you’re planning a day out (or longer) in September; be it a hike across the moors to see some rock art, a day out with the family to a curated ‘attraction’ such as Stonehenge, a stroll across the local common which has some barrows still visible, or even if you’re working on an archaeological dig somewhere, please let us know.

It would help us immensely if you could fill out our short survey form about your visit, it  would be very much appreciated. All personal details will be held in confidence and not shared with any third parties.

  • Date of visit
  • Site(s) visited
  • Number of people in your party
  • Reason for selecting this site
  • General impressions of the site and your visit

Or feel free to Tweet us or drop us a line via our Facebook Page. We’ll collate statistics for the returns we receive, and will provide summaries of the sites visited. If you’d be happy to write a full blog post about your trip, we’d love to see that too!

We look forward to hearing about your trips throughout next month!

As the end of their 2012 dig season came to a close, so the Norton Community Archaeology Group  (NCAG) held an Open Day at their Stapleton’s Field dig on what was the hottest day of the year so far. This is the third season of an ongoing project design (PDF links) begun in 2010 to investigate crop marks on aerial photographs which suggested a possible henge structure. Although most participants in the dig are amateurs, the summer excavation work is directed by North Hertfordshire District Council’s Archaeology Officer, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, and advised by local archaeologist Paul Palmer.

Stapleton’s Field from the air, 1976 © G R Burleigh

I headed up the A1 to Letchworth in good time for the start of the open session and decided to take a slight detour to look at the museum in Letchworth. It is housed in an elegant Edwardian building facing Broadway Gardens, in the centre of Letchworth, beside the Library. The ground floor contains a wildlife exhibition – lots of stuffed animals and birds. The ‘Before the Garden City’ exhibition is on the first floor, sadly inaccessible for the disabled except via two flights of stairs via a small mezzanine floor. The exhibition itself is quite extensive, though some renovation work is being carried out: some display cases were empty or partly so, information boards referred to missing exhibits etc. but despite that, it gives a good flavour of the depth of archaeology in the area. NCAG have a display there too, outlining their excavations and findings.

I had heard that the museum also had a roundhouse, but when I enquired at the desk was told this is in the museum garden, only viewable on ‘open archaeology days’, but that I might be able to see it from the children’s section of the library next door. I declined this offer, and set off for the dig site.

I parked on a grass verge on Norton Road just west of the bridge over the A1, and set off around the footpath to the site. Across the field I could see a good crowd, obviously being told about the site. Was I too late?

The first tour in progress.

I found my way eventually, having taken a turn onto the wrong footpath and being stymied by barbed wire fencing frustratingly separating me from the site and causing me to walk the length of the field twice to gain access, just as the tour was ending. I would estimate between 80-100 people on that first tour, a good turn-out!

There were gazebos set up with some information boards, both on general archaeology techniques (geofizz etc) and the site dig in particular, and as I was perusing these, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews was announcing that a second tour was about to start. Again, a good 70-80 people were gathered, having missed the first tour.

We started by the south corner of the 40m square excavation, where Keith explained a brief history of the dig site and the mystery of a ‘square enclosure’ around the suspected henge. The enclosure turned out to be a Roman ditch, with lots of roof tile, and some evidence of iron smelting and manufacture in the area, although no forge was found. Keith postulated that the area was a site for manufacture, and possibly sale of iron goods, the ditch being a defensive mechanism to keep out burgulars. Any buildings may have been timber-framed structures, built on (rather than in) the chalk base. The lack of a forge could be explained if the forge were to have been built into the bank of the henge which was slightly uphill, and subsequently ploughed out and scattered, leaving no trace. This would make economic sense at the time, as building a forge was a large undertaking, and why not use what’s already there?

Keith explaining the Roman ditch

The ditch in section

We then moved uphill to the west of the excavation, where barely visible remains of a chalk ring could be made out on the ground. This was the remains of the henge, which was composed of not one, but two banks; a large outer bank some 55 metres or so in diameter, and a smaller inner bank and ditch. This has been interpreted as a possible ‘missing link’ between the earlier formative-henge monument type, and the later classic henge form. If this is the case, then this makes the site very important indeed.

The smaller bank had an entrance due East, and a central, flat chalk platform which may have been used to view the equinoxal sunrise – important dates in the neolithic farming calendar. A cremation burial was also found within this inner bank, along with a large post hole – for  a ‘totem’ pole possibly? The cremation was of an adolescent, some 8-9 years old, as evidenced by a milk tooth found within the remains.

The excavation from the west

The bank and ditches have been dated via various pottery finds of known types. The cremation mentioned above having been in what may have been a collared urn style pot, but one of much better quality than usually associated with the type.

There was some discussion of the wider landscape, the ‘Baldock Bowl’ as Keith has called it – the subject of his recent talk at the Welwyn Archaeological Society Conference“it’s like someone dumped a lump of Salisbury Plain in Hertfordshire!”

All too soon the tour of the site was over, and Keith was answering questions from the couple of dozen people who had remained. As I left, I overheard plans being discussed for next season’s excavation in 2013.

An interesting day of outreach to the local community, who were obviously (from the numbers present) very interested in the early story of their local area. Well done to all involved!

Note: Apologies to all involved for any inaccuracies in my account above, I was working from memory rather than notes.

All pictures above © Alan S. unless stated.

To clarify:
Our recent story, “NCMD to make reporting all finds to PAS compulsory!” wasn’t a hoax. Their  Chairman’s statement  is on the PAS website and is very clear:

The National Council for Metal Detecting will be replacing its existing Code, a part of its Constitution, with the new one. Adherence to the Code when metal detecting is a condition of membership

Of course, that was said back in May 2006 and has been neither amended nor actioned. As a result for more than six years countless landowners have been given the false message that NCMD membership obliged people to adhere to the official code and to report all finds to PAS, when it did no such thing.

So to be clear: our article wasn’t a massive hoax, it was ABOUT one.”

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The NCMD has now explained how this all came about. No, they are NOT going to adopt the official Code and make it obligatory for all members to report all their finds to PAS. It was all a silly “mistake” on their part as when they announced in May 2006 they’d replace their Code with “the new one” they actually meant to say “a new one” but they spotted the error too late! Imagine, Dear Reader, suddenly telling your Bank after six years you hadn’t meant you’d pay the loan back but a loan back. Or telling your wife after six years you hadn’t meant you’d marry this woman but a woman!

It doesn’t add up, as the other signatories would surely agree. If you make a mistake you admit it as soon as you know. Yet it has taken till now, (and our article) for them to confess. And what a stunning confession it is: the “historic agreement” wasn’t ever an agreement because it’s wording, “all parties are committed to ensuring its members abide by the advice set out in the document” was untrue.

Whether it was a mistake or deliberate hardly matters since it wasn’t corrected. But for what it’s worth our bet is that there was no mistake and that they signed it knowingly – but then found their members wouldn’t play ball. There was certainly an unholy row to that effect on the forums. Then came the real mistake. Instead of saying so and honorably withdrawing from the agreement on the grounds they couldn’t deliver, they let it stand.

Anyway, they’ve now publicly admitted they aren’t and never were intending to insist members adhere to the official Code so it’s incumbent on The Archaeological Establishment to acknowledge the fact. In particular they really have a duty of care towards the landowners of Britain to explain that an NCMD card is not evidence a man at their door is obliged to act responsibly and report all finds to PAS. The sooner the better. How many false claims along those lines have been made in order to gain access to fields since 2006?

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Three Cheers for MOLA
Three cheers for MOLA, for a series of three entertaining talks in under an hour on the theme of ‘What Lies Beneath’ as part of the Developing City exhibition at the Walbrook Building in the City of London this week. The exhibition itself closes on the 9th September, so get there soon!

The first talk covered the rise and fall of Roman London, the second the Medieval London of the Hanseatic League and trading connections with Europe, and the third covered the edge of London, the archaeology of the Lea Valley area around the Olympic Park, from Bronze Age settlements through to post war industrial use.

For a free event it was excellent value for money! More please.

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Another attack on the Green Belt?
Allies of George Osborne, the Chancellor, are said to be considering another attempt to loosen the rules on building in the countryside as part of a new drive to stimulate the UK economy.

Quite why building tens of thousands of executive homes on the prime bits rather than affordable ones on the scrubby bits is so essential to economic regeneration has never been explained but that seems to be back on the agenda. Last time, the National Trust played a pivotal role in rebuffing the plans. Since then there has been a change in the NT leadership and it is yet to be seen if that will be significant.

“George has even less time now for all of the green groups,” one Government source was reported as saying….

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Yummy stratigraphy!
What can we say? Archaeology so good you could eat it!

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For more Cheers and Boos put cheers in the search box.

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