You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2013.

In the final part of our review of the past year here on the Heritage Journal, we look at some of the stories we covered  from September through to December this year.

2013over

September

We continued our ‘Fascinating Facts’ series throughout the month, looking at dog kennels, four-posters, the folklore of the Stanton Drew area and asked “what is a henge?”  One of our members also wrote about the Modern Megaliths of North Wales, following his recent trip there.

The plight of Oswestry was further discussed as we asked, “why build there?“, and published a guest blog from a local campaigner. Further south, Stonehenge continued to be in the news as the building of the Visitor Centre gathered pace toward the December opening.

In Heritage Crime news, we started another short series of ‘Embarrassing Inconsistencies‘ and highlighted a statement from Rescue about the ongoing cuts in service.

Our campaign against unethical metal-detecting continued unabated, despite all attempts to discredit us.

October

Much the same stories continued throughout October. On the planning front, Owen Patterson displayed a remarkable amount of ‘front’, by suggesting a kind of ‘Heritage Offset‘ scheme for builders and planners. This prompted a guest article from another of our readers. Even the Chairman of the National Trust got into the act! And this in a month when hundreds of ancient sites were rediscovered, thanks to LIDAR. Of course, we couldn’t mention planning without returning to the Oswestry Hillfort story once again.

The Stonehenge plans moved forward, and we gave some first impressions, reported on the closure of the A344 and reminded people what might have been.

In terms of Community involvement, statistics showed the true impact of the budget cuts, and we commented on English Heritage’s volunteer recruitment plans and the HLF award to the CBA for Community Archaeology Training Placements.

meanwhile, on one of our regular trips to Cornwall, we reported on three ‘on the ground’ projects there. Firstly, the work being done to reinstate a fallen monument at Carwynnen, then attempts by volunteers to clear up a lesser known site, the Mulfra Courtyard Houses. Finally, we drew attention to some serious neglect issues at the Men an Tol and nearby sites, which are being tracked in detail by the Save Penwith Moors group.

With the (food) harvest safely gathered, it was time for another harvest to begin in earnest, with metal detectorists out in force. We pointed out another ‘Embarrassing Inconsistency‘, showed that our own Artefact Erosion Counter is wrong, and pointed out why we think artefact hunting is so wrong.

November

The month started off with our most read post ever. Indeed, on the day it was briefly the most read WordPress.com posting in Britain, which apparently upset one of our webmaster colleagues. We can’t think why!

Over in Wales, we returned again to the Mynydd y Betws story, and whilst a lot of media fuss was made of a new Archwilio Android App, we pointed out some deficiencies which should really have been addressed before its release.

In Planning news, we continued asking questions about the situation at Oswestry, and there were questions about Stonehenge too.

We also attended a very good Community Archaeology Open Day in Cambridgeshire, and celebrated Dr William Stukeley‘s birthday.

December

And so to December. The  Oswestry planning issue was still looming large so a local author took to our pages with an important question to start the month, and our own Sue Brooke gave an indication of what the future may hold for Oswestry. We could only await the outcome with bated breath.

With English Heritage’s fate seemingly sealed by a  new funding deal, we tried to summarise and  interpret what those closest to the deal were saying.

The Stonehenge opening went well by all accounts, though the impending ‘advance booking’ requirements drew some adverse comments. We were concerned for some regular inhabitants of the stones, and also about the ongoing suggestion that EH want to continue to press for a tunnel.

An archaeological ‘blogging carnival’ started in November, and we published our responses to the first two questions. More to come, maybe?

Celebrating the birthday of Sir Richard Colt-Hoare, we moved into the festive period, and in a first for us, published a short Christmas Eve Quiz (answers to come very shortly, stay tuned!)

In an attempt to look forward rather than back as the year draws to it’s final end, as far as metal detecting is concerned, there appears to be a faint chink of light in the far distance.  What will the future bring I wonder, for those of us with an interest in,  and concern for, the distant past?

Old Father Time

That’s it for another year. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the variety of news that we’ve covered during the year, and that you’ll stick with us for another year of news and views on heritage matters. If there’s a particular subject you’d like to see covered, or if you’d like to contribute to the Heritage Journal in any way, please feel free to get in touch with us – the link is there on the menu bar. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you’re out celebrating tonight, enjoy yourself but stay safe: don’t drink and drive!

Swinside, Cumbria

 

Swinside2

Swinside
Image Copyright George Hopkins and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

We continue our look at the past year here on the Heritage Journal, highlighting some of the stories we’ve covered.

2013over

May

We started the month examining the looming crisis of storage of archaeological finds,  and some of the less pleasant aspects of being a Finds Liaison Officer. On a lighter note, we exposed some of the absurd and sometimes hilarious spam comments we’ve received on the site.

The Caerau story finally concluded but Mynydd y Betws  was still in the news.

We hit the road this month and took drives around the Home Counties  and looked at some Wessex  Hillforts,  the latter inspired by our earlier ‘Guess the Hillfort‘ competition. We also suggested 5  Ideas for School Trips.

June

Midsummer and the Solstice featured strongly this month, with Stonehenge stories and Postcards appropriately to the fore.

A visit to the British Museum left us with feelings of disquiet, and we also discussed some of the technological issues surrounding ‘Preservation by Record‘.

This month we said goodbye to two long-standing institutions, Professor Mick Aston, and the A344 at Stonehenge.

In travels, we highlighted another blogger’s trip to Orkney, and looked back at one of our member’s early memories of visiting his local sites.

July

This month was a cause for some celebration here at the Heritage Journal, as it was our 10th birthday, and as (mostly) unqualified amateurs, we gave a consumer’s view of the value of public engagement. Some aspects of that engagement were highlighted through the month: An opportunity to take part in a geofizz survey in Hertfordshire,  visit a dig at Avebury, and to provide feedback to English Heritage about some experimental archaeology at Sarum.

We took a look at the Vale of Worship in Glamorganshire, and had an update from the Caerau project.

In Ireland, we heard of damage to a ring fort, and the failure of the commercial archaeology model over there. Elsewhere, we once again implored people not to climb on Silbury Hill and pointed out a Russian initiative to increase fines for heritage damage.

August

We started the month looking at the relative punishments for heritage crime, and the reasons for them, before reviewing a couple of particular aspects of the new Planning Guidance for Renewable Energy.

And talking of planning guidance, the possible plight of Oswestry hillfort was brought to our attention this month.

Our stance regarding Ethical Detecting once again drew a storm of abuse, all of which confirms our belief that Ethical Detecting is a good idea!

Out and about, we revisited Mynydd y Betws once more, and paid visits to the Norton Henge dig and to the site of the Staffordshire Hoard.  Our new occasional series of ‘Fascinating Facts‘ also began this month, with a look at Zennor Quoit.

To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.

Trippet Stones, Cornwall

 

Trippet Stones

 

Trippet Stones – Image Copyright Sandy Gerrard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In attempting to establish something of a December tradition here on the Heritage Journal, we once again take a look back at the past year. Once again, the year has had it’s ebbs and flows in what has been a very bad year generally for the heritage sector, with budget cuts very much the order of the day, and seemingly still ongoing.

2013over

So what did we highlight, month by month?

January

It wouldn’t be a new year without resolutions, so we listed some of ours which others may have liked to follow. But we began the year by discussing two prominent threats to buried archaeology: deep-seeking detectors (a theme we were to return to throughout the year) and bracken control.

A holiday in Cornwall allowed us to catch up with goings on down there, with updates on an archaeology experiment, and the need for education. We also started a series which was to continue throughout the year, of ‘Postcards from a World Heritage Site‘,  focussing on stories from Stonehenge and Avebury.

January also saw the start of another regular feature, Diary Dates, which started on a geographic basis but soon morphed into a monthly feature highlighting events and exhibitions around the country.

February

Our popular ‘Inside the Mind‘ features continued sporadically throughout the year, but an attempt at a similar series showing the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officers sadly came to naught.

We began celebrating the birthdays of various antiquarians throughout the year, starting with William Borlase. We also gave a (very brief) history of archaeology in Britain, and a guest post showed how one county is tackling the regular inspection of its ancient monuments.

The damage caused by metal detectorists is never far from our thoughts, and a TV series glorifying finds was particularly upsetting. Another guest post showed the desecration of a wedge tomb in Ireland being used as an outhouse!

Meanwhile in Wales, the ongoing story of the archaeological issues at the Mynydd y Betws windfarm continued. And we began a look at the Caerau hillfort, subject of a Time Team program, from the viewpoint of one of our newer members, Sue Brooke.

March

Many of the stories above continued throughout March, with bracken control, Caerau hillfort and Mynydd y Betws all receiving ongoing updates. Referring to the situation at Mynydd y Betws, we reflected on similar monumental settings on Dartmoor and showed that the battle for preservation of ‘setting’ is far from over.

We took exception to a statement in an article in the respected Post Hole student journal, and our Artefact Counter appeared to be backed up by the CBA.

On a brighter note, we covered the events at the Current Archaeology Live conference,  held in London. An enjoyable event which we’ll be returning to in 2014.

April

Who says we don’t have an effect, no matter how small? April started by pointing out an outrageous rule on a metal detecting club’s website, a rule that was suddenly changed (for the better) the very next day!

The Caerau story continued through the month, as did the examination of the Dyfed Archaeological Trust’s response on Mynydd y Betws.

There were four more WHS Postcards through the month, and another visit to Cornwall to see several old and much loved friends.

We finished off the month with a peek ‘Inside the Mind’ of Sue Greaney, of English Heritage.

Plus of course, all our usual news, views and diary dates were included!

To be continued in Part 2, tomorrow…

Tinkinswood, Glamorgan

 

Tinkinswood

Tinkinswood – Image Copyright Gareth James and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

1light-endtunnel

by Nigel Swift

For me (until recently anyway) 2013 would have gone down as the year the Culture Minister hailed responsible metal detectorists as real heritage heroes while the top officials of the PAS stood by and beamed. It amounted to misleading by omission as it is never pointed out that “responsible detectorists” are criminals elsewhere for perfectly rational reasons and in addition constant praise for any sector of metal detecting actively lends a cloak of respectability to the majority who claim they too act responsibly when they don’t. It’s a view widely shared by professionals but careers, funding, credibility and votes prevent it being admitted.  Still, archaeologists and officials are ordinary, rational people and some of them confide in me.

So I was cheered to find something that far outranks Mr Vaizey’s faux pas. It’s Stories We Tell: Myths at the Heart of ‘Community Archaeology’  a paper by John Carman of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity. We’ve always maintained there’s no possible common ground between archaeology and artefact hunting (see here) and that “outreach” can never bridge the gap. Mr Carman has said precisely that: “The ultimate—and possibly depressing—conclusion of this paper is that in conducting public archaeology (whether we call it ‘outreach’ or ‘community participation’ or ‘democratic archaeology’ or any of the other terms identified by commentators: see e.g. Carman2005:86; Smith and Waterton2009:15–16) we are always and inevitably—and despite any desire to the contrary—dealing with people like ourselves. This of course is neither what we imagine we are doing nor what we would prefer to do: what we intend is to ‘reach out’ to those who would otherwise not have access to us and our work. But in the end all we can do is talk to those who already speak in our language and share our values.

The evidence is clear. 15 years of outreach has persuaded only 30% of detectorists to conform only to a grossly emasculated version of archaeological and conservation ethics. 15 seconds of such outreach would have got 100% of Heritage Action members on board with no emasculation needed! Ditto thousands of amateur archaeologists – tell them what’s ethical just once and they’ll do it. It all depends who you outreach to. People taking stuff for themselves aren’t acting for the common good and no amount of outreach can make it otherwise. As Mr Carman says: “For us to alter our behaviour to accommodate the excluded—by changing what we do—will mean that we will cease to be archaeologists. For them to change to accommodate us will mean they lose their own sense of who they are. As archaeologists we can do nothing about this because we would cease to be archaeologists if we did.” Maybe one day, what he says will be admitted and British policy on portable antiquities will change from cajoling those who clearly won’t listen to absolutely insisting they all act in the common interest. Mr Carman’s insight will surely prevail over Mr Vaizey’s foolish pronouncement in the end.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Hingston Hill, Devon

 

Hingston Hill

Hingston Hill – Image Copyright Patrick Baldwin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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mememe
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Thanks to Paul Barford – “A Boxing Day Hunt”  …..

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Mitchell’s Fold, Shropshire

 

Mitchell's Fold

Mitchell’s Fold – Image Copyright Dave Croker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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