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When we read in the Telegraph this week that “English Heritage is continuing to push for the A303 [at Stonehenge] to go into a tunnel” many of us may have turned for a moment into a version of Dame Edith Evans !

Not that any of us would be against the idea of a tunnel at Stonehenge, who could be? But a couple of things need keeping in mind:

First, there’s no money for it and not likely to be for a long time. Or to be more precise, the Government doesn’t think it’s worth spending the money on it rather than other things.

Second, there are tunnels and tunnels. In the past the Government has consistently supported only “cheap and damaging” ones so before anyone starts celebrating because EH is pushing for a tunnel they should find out what sort of tunnel they have in mind. Originally the Government  wanted a cheap “cut-and cover” one that would have involved excavating a massive trench across 2 miles of the World Heritage Site causing mind-blowing loss of archaeology – and EH supported them. Then more recently the Government wanted to build a “short tunnel” with associated massive damage due to the building of roads in massive cuttings each end – and EH supported them again in the teeth of opposition from nearly every archaeological and conservation organisation including the National Trust, the Council for British Archaeology, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth.

So bravo if EH are quietly pushing for a Stonehenge tunnel – but only if it’s a long, deep-bored one that all the main archaeological and conservation organisations support.

Dear Fellow Landowners,

silas8

I’m so happy! My brother Moses who lives in West Sussex has sent me this from the minutes of Billingshurst Parish Council that will help me enormously when people come asking if they can metal detect on my land:

“Mr Ray Deefholts wished to speak about agenda item 9 on metal detecting. Mr Deefholts stated that he is a member of the Federation of Independent Detectorists and is seeking permission from the Council for himself and two friends to use metal detectors on Parish Council land. Smaller items found will remain in the possession of the land owner i.e. the Parish Council, but Horsham Museum may be interested in these finds. Other finds may fall under the Treasure Act….”

Well! Mr Ray Deefholts can have a pint with me any time and I suggest from now on if anyone comes asking to metal detect your land “for the love of history” you ask if they’ll be using the Deefholts-Billingshurst methodi.e. what they find will remain in the possession of the land owner (you!). It’s a pretty neat question because if you don’t see them for dust after that you’ll know they weren’t proper history lovers or amateur archaeologists at all, whatever they or others had told you before !

Good luck,

Silas Brown

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NOTE: The Worlingworth History Group is persisting in holding a metal detecting rally in aid of  church repairs today (see here and here). It will not use the Deefholts-Billingshurst method – so the smaller items found (that often add up to thousands of pounds) will not be available to aid the church when they could and should have been. So they’ve been physically and intellectually mugged as they may now know and have only gone ahead to save someone’s face. The only consolation is that it’s more than likely they’ll quietly but firmly refuse any request for a repeat exercise next year!

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[For more from the Brown family put Silas in the search box]

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Rather than needlessly upsetting a sizeable proportion of global visitors to the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre that will inevitably be offended by a display of human remains, let alone the spectacle being posed disrespectfully upright like a titillating prop in a fairground Ghost Train,….

…. wouldn’t it be simpler (and cheaper) to purchase Budget Bucky? for £182.75 ?

bucky

P. S. – Buying Bucky might have another advantage as well. The new “Stonehenge Social Media Content Executive” (part of whose job will be to help manage “the reputation of the English Heritage brand”) may find life a lot easier!

A guest post by Heritage Action founder member, ‘Goffik’.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the modern megaliths of North Wales. I know full well it’s far from comprehensive, but these were just the sites that we stumbled across on our travels. We had no idea that any of them existed until we chanced upon them, and so they were – each and every one – a complete surprise!

One that inexplicably slipped my mind at the time was one of the newer modern stone circles – built, as it was, in 2010 – called “Poet’s Corner”. It is to be found in the fabulous Greenwood Forest Park, in Snowdonia. Each of the 16 enormous slate slabs – all locally sourced from Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda – has been engraved, by Maricraft Slate World in Blaenau Ffestiniog, with Welsh poetry, which is translated into English on a nearby information board.

Modcicle

The feeling upon entering this circle is quite amazing. The stones are huge, and you get a wonderful sensation of security and isolation, and being separated from the outside world. Quite an achievement in a 3-year-old structure in the middle of a theme park!

You may be wondering what place an article about modern stones has on a journal concerned with preservation of ancient sites. For the vast majority of people, megalithic structures barely register on their everyday lives. Many don’t know of the existence of stone circles, other than Stonehenge. To bring to people’s consciousness the possibility that other such structures exist, and to instill in them a feeling of respect toward them, is surely a good thing. Hopefully, seeing these modern stones will encourage people to want to find out more about their origins, and that they will have a connection with them.

A modern circle is often, also, more accessible for some, as accessibility wasn’t always to the fore in our ancestors’ thoughts when constructing their monuments! And who knows? One day, with any luck, they, too, will be thousands of years old…

If you’ve visited, or know of similar modern circles in your area, Please do write in and let us know of your thoughts about such places. Many thanks to Goffik for sharing his. 

RESCUE –The British Archaeological Trust has issued a powerful statement in response to the latest  report on Local Authority staff resources and in particular the ongoing loss of specialist professional advice in the fields of archaeology and building conservation.

“RESCUE believes that the country is close to reaching a point at which the provision of services designed to safeguard our historic environment is no longer adequate to meet the challenges that present themselves on a day-to-day basis. The report reviewed here is the fifth on such issues and the information that it contains is paralleled by the experience of other heritage organisations. The catalogue of losses continues to mount in spite of the publication of such reports and expressions of concern at the worsening situation. At what stage will we decide to act collectively to support under-resourced and vulnerable services and thus ensure that our historic sites and landscapes receive proper protection through the planning process?

See their whole Statement here: http://rescue-archaeology.org.uk/2013/09/22/heritage-in-crisis-rescue-responds-to-the-fifth-report-on-local-government-heritage-staff-resources/

Wltshire Council has just published an advert for an Independent Chair of Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Partnership. It’s because it has been agreed that both parts of the WHS should work more closely together with input from English Heritage, the National Trust and Wiltshire Council so co-ordination is needed. So “The post holder will champion Stonehenge and Avebury’s World Heritage status.”

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Hurrah! What could be more justified or better timed? The combined WHS is a huge earner of foreign currency (which will soon rocket as the Stonehenge admission fee goes up to £13.90) and Avebury has recently been judged by “Which Magazine” as the second best World Heritage site in the whole world.

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But the advert also says:

It may on occasion be appropriate for them to attend the Stonehenge and Avebury local Steering Committees.”  

It is hard to set prescriptive time requirements but candidates should expect to be able to dedicate at least two days per month to the role.”

…. Hmmmm!

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Shouldn’t the “champion” of Stonehenge and Avebury be full time and paid and attend all important committees? Why is he being asked to play such a diminished role and who will be making the decisions on the 29 days of each month when he’s absent? Let’s hope he proves more than a “token”. In fact, let’s have someone immensely strong minded whose expertise lies not in archaeology but in running a big company and promotion and marketing on a global scale – and who will absolutely insist on going to all the main meetings!

We’ve had a period when wind was king and Planning Inspectors lent over backwards to deliver what the Government wanted, i.e. more and more on-shore turbines so as to meet the UK’s renewable energy targets. Inevitably, a lot of heritage sites have been damaged in the process.

But suddenly last month the thing went into reverse and the PM said we shouldn’t expect to see many more on-shore developments. But why? It’s unlikely the heritage lobby has been heeded. More likely, it’s that those voters who fear turbines will lower their house prices are now being courted. Quite a change of status from being labeled as selfish nimbies or yokels to be bought off with the promise of cheap electricity! But why now? Just a guess, but maybe the “nimbies” along the route of HS2 have brought home to the Government strategists the electoral consequences of upsetting householders….

whouses

But the U-turn has taken a bizarre twist. In order to demonstrate it’s a decision based on logic not vote-catching the Government has commissioned a study to see if turbines DO affect prices. A bit late, eh? And who has ever doubted they do? But that’s what’s happening. Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary has commissioned it (see http://invezz.com/news/real-estate/5070-do-wind-turbines-impact-uk-home-prices). It has been said that Ed Davey’s Department of Energy and Climate Change was trying to block it on the grounds it would indeed show what it will indeed show!

Weird or what? Half the Government is getting ready to say wind turbines drive down house prices and the other half is allegedly wanting to deny it! Still, that’s half a step ahead of America. See this …..

wind

That article was based on a study supported by – guess who? The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (Wind and Water Power Technologies Office) of the U.S. Department of Energy !

Beware the philanthropists bearing gifts!
Dr Simon Thurley says the wealthy must start to fund our public buildings. Seems a good idea. The philanthropy solution to the retreat of the State. But one thing is a worry: what if “the wealthy” are wealthy landowners or wealthy mining companies? (As they may well be). What if they generously offer to give money towards the upkeep of a castle in one part of the country but also happen to want permission to build executive houses right up to a hill fort in another part of the country? It would be good if it could be explained how rich people who pay pipers in one place won’t call the tune to make themselves richer in another. Let’s face it, this idea probably originated with the Government so it’s worth asking the question!

How good is this!

EHphist

It’s from the introduction to a teaching aid issued by English Heritage. Prehistory being given prominence in the curriculum. We like that. As our colleague “Tombo” wrote for us in 2004 in “Reclaiming Prehistoryit’s time for “the myth of barbarism to be lifted from our prehistory and for our ancient places to be given the care they deserve.”

Naughty but funny…
http://twitpic.com/dd94kr

US social media is said to be “buzzing” about treasure hunting and many TV programmes about it are being aired. Inevitably the format has spread here with “Hoard Hunters” and even the PAS-inspired “Britain’s Secret Treasures” (after which sales of detectors rocketed).

So now there’s a “Cacheology Society of America”. There’s a touch of “dirt track survivalism” about it but could it catch on here? It seems it has – for there’s also a “Cacheology Society and Institute of the United Kingdom”! It could be just baloney, as its mission sounds unconvincing – to recover caches of lost treasure “for the expansion of mankind’s study, education, instruction, collecting, showcasing, and the preservation of caches that time and the environment rapidly and thoroughly destroy, thus erasing vital and irreplaceable historical records and artifacts of the entire world.

Tolkein’s Smaug: academic, consevationist or cacheologist?

Tolkein’s Smaug: academic, conservationist or cacheologist?

But here’s a big question:

What if it isn’t baloney? What if we get lots of British “cacheologists” lawfully targeting archaeological sites in the hope of finding treasure caches and claiming it was “for the expansion of mankind’s study? Would the Government approve, despite the damage caused in the process? Well, we know the answer. It’s a resounding “yes” for there are many thousands of people out today doing exactly that.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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We suggest financing repairs to your historic church by selling the right to dig up, take home and sell on EBay lots of your other history is irrational and damages both history and your good name. Here are 5 things those who suggested it may not have mentioned:

1. The Irish Culture Minister recently said : “Archaeological objects must be excavated in a structured scientific manner, with careful recording of their association with other objects, structures, features and soil layers. Failure to expertly record the context from which an object has been removed results in an irreplaceable loss of knowledge of the past.”

2. English Heritage has guidelines on how to run proper professional metal detecting surveys that maximise knowledge-gain and minimise damage. As you’ll see, your event is nothing like that.

3. The Council for British Archaeology say: “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. Any disturbance of the relationship between finds and the features they relate to within the ground will result in a loss of knowledge unless it is undertaken carefully using archaeological techniques and with full recording. Digging for objects can destroy archaeological evidence. Even objects apparently adrift in plough-soil have an archaeological setting.”

4. It costs about £1000 a day for archaeologists to attend “detecting rallies” like yours (so says a County Council adjacent to you) and they come to mitigate the damage not because they approve – ask them!

5. If you wish to get involved in proper Community Archaeology there are lots of other ways – see here. They can even involve lots of metal detectorists, it’s not hard, here’s an excellent current example.

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On the other hand, your event is perfectly legal in Britain (although it would get you jailed in most countries!) and one delighted detectorist has written that your group are “true pioneers and their joint venture could well lead to other similar events provided they remain courageous enough to cock-a-snoop at supercilious archaeologists”  while another (in America!) says that “anyone that would wish an event like this to fail is one sub-par human being” So the choice is yours. You can be the toast of artefact hunters. Or you can heed archaeologists.

You poster says: “Do you want to be there when the exciting discoveries are being made? Then come along and watch the detectorists in action” and “Now Worlingworth gets its opportunity to make HISTORY!” Yuk! That sounds to us the sort of misplaced concept of Archaeology that could only have come from artefact hunters. So we suggest you have a long private chat with some archaeologists. (You’ll find not one of them will be willing to supply you with a quote saying “this event is harmless and we support it” so you can draw your own conclusions!)

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