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by Sandy Gerrard

Last week a new App was launched which allows all of us to view information about archaeological sites in the whole of Wales. According to the Daily Mirror “Wales has become the first country in the world to have all its archaeological treasures made available at the touch of a button.” BBC News less dramatically reports that “The app will also allow the public to interact and add new information.” The Welsh Assembly Minister for Culture, John Griffiths, acknowledged that “The historic environment records of Wales were already available online, but with the launch of the app Wales will make this wealth of information, collected by generations of investigators, available to mobile users, allowing them a glimpse of the hidden heritage all around us.” In the spirit of the event the Dyfed Archaeological Trust stated “We look forward to interacting with users and being able to update and add new records as a result of their discoveries.”

These claims are well worth examining and from my viewpoint there was nowhere better for a test run than the mangled Mynydd y Betws landscape. It may come as no surprise whatsoever to find that the stone alignment at Mynydd y Betws does not figure on the app. So not quite “all” then! Whatever your favoured interpretation there can be no doubt that within this rich prehistoric funerary landscape there is an alignment of stones and that the Dyfed Archaeological Trust are aware of its existence. So why would they choose to deliberately exclude this feature from their records? This might appear to smack a little of censorship. Are embarrassing sites to be deliberately excluded or perhaps they have launched their new tool before bringing their records up to date? Evidence to support the second solution is sadly abundant.

The record for a scheduled cairn at SN68950998 states “This monument shold be considred for scheduling as part of significant funerary landscape on Bancbryn, which shoulkd also include cemeteries PRNs 551 and 868 and ring cairn PRN 45120”. Ignoring the interesting spelling for moment (we all have off days) it is perhaps worth pointing out that this site was actually scheduled a number of years ago.

More disturbing given the claims by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust that “The app will also allow the public to interact and add new information” is the mis-plotting of the Banc Y Bryn coal mine. The site is shown 1.07km from its actual location. This is worrying given that this area had been the subject of several archaeological evaluations and none of these had picked up on this very obvious error. Moving on though, it is perhaps even more disconcerting that I pointed out to the Dyfed Archaeological Trust HER on 7/09/12 that the site is actually centred a long way away at SN 68834 10333. So over a year after telling them that their records were wrong they have not updated them.

Interestingly the entry for the nearby Banc y Bryn cairns notes “The extent of the cemetery and the close proximity of the other monuments makes this a significant funerary landscape and one that should perhaps be scheduled,”  So the stone alignment leads through “a significant funerary landscape” but we should not be surprised that it receives no mention as after all despite pointing out to them over a year ago that the site was already scheduled they have failed to update their records. How often is this the case and therefore just how useful a tool is this? A further four cairns on Bancbryn are also recorded as unscheduled when in reality they are. It is clear there are problems with the data and when I raised this issue last year was informed: “the information is all available here in various stand-alone databases and as tables in our GIS platform, not to mention as fieldwork reports. But this information is on our internal systems, it is just not currently available on Archwilio. All DAT staff have full access to it at all times.”

So there we have it. DAT staff have access to all the information, but Archwilio contains only a proportion of the available information and clearly if the Mynydd y Betws area is typical much of this is inaccurate and significantly out of date. Not sure any of this was mentioned at the launch!


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November 2013

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