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A couple of weeks ago, Current Archaeology magazine once again held their annual conference, Current Archaeology Live!, at Senate House in London. And once again, we were fortunate enough to be present to live tweet the event, bringing you all the news as it happened. Many of the talks could merit an article here in their own right, so this brief review has been posted in several parts, of which this is the last for this year’s conference.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

And so, suitably refreshed after lunch on the Saturday, the seventh and penultimate session of the conference, ‘Early Medieval England‘ kicked off the afternoon proceedings, introduced by Karly Hilts, Assitant Editor of Current Archaeology. The talks in this session were slightly shuffled from the published program, in order to better present them in chronological order, so first up was Dr Catherine Hills, talking about ‘Spong Hill and the Adventus Saxonum‘, the coming of the Anglo Saxons.

So, was there a violent invasion, a mass migration or a takeover by a ruling elite? We began by looking at weapons deposited in lakes in Denmark, such as Illerup which held a large number of sophisticated weapons, far too intricate for supposed ‘savage’ Angles, Jutes and Saxons to have produced. This suggests large groups of organised people, rather than small primitive bands. Looking at Spong Hill, over 2000 cremations have been found so far, many more than would have been expected for the size of settlement. Many artefacts found are typical of those found in northern Germany, the chronology of these is imprecise, but being refined. Pots and bone combs provide clues as to a possible sequencing – pots with similar designs and stamps are being grouped and plotted. Could these denote family groups? Many of the grave goods have been typologically dated to the early 5th Century. The conclusion (so far)? The invasion was not a single event. There is evidence of connections with N Germany and Jutland over a long period.

Next to take the podium was Prof Martin Carver, who gave us a glimpse of ‘Sutton Hoo: a slice of England‘. The famous Anglo Saxon features at Sutton Hoo overlie a Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age landscape, with many of the prehistoric finds sitting on the 300’ contour. These include Neolithic pit burials, a Beaker settlement, late Bronze Age enclosures and Iron Age field systems. Commonly, Anglo Saxon mounds are placed on earlier Iron Age banks, and that is the case at Sutton Hoo. There are three cemeteries there, and Martn ran through the chronologies. A 6th century family burial ground contained cremations and inhumations. The 7th Century ‘princely’ ship burial and a later cemetery of executions, dated to the 8th-10th Centuries. This latter contained 39 bodies, grouped around a gallows site. All had been decapitated or garotted, one still had the rope around it’s neck. Pictures of some of the now famous grave goods were shown, and it was explained that the chronology suggests a political sequence for the site. From family cemetery, to chiefdom, to a Christian kingdom where dissidents were punished.

Martin Carver in full flow!

Martin Carver in full flow!

Finally to round off the session, Prof Julian Richards, on ‘The Viking Great Army at Torksey‘. There has been very little hard archaeological evidence for Viking raids, but Torksey was mentioned in the AS Chronicles, in 872, as somewhere the raiding army camped over winter, but until recently the actual camp site had not been identified. Metal detectorists reported finding Viking artefacts near Torksey, which identified the site, and the project to investigate the site began. Its aims: to identify the nature and extent of the camp, and whether the camp contributed to Torksey’s subsequent industrial growth.

Seventy detectorists have been working on the 20 hectare site at Torksey for some years, not all have reported finds to the PAS, but over 1500 finds have been logged to date, mostly early Medieval.

Over 300 Anglo Saxoncoins included some Northumbrian small change – stycas – as well as some dirhams from as far as Arabia. This is the largest number of Aracbic dirhams found in Britain to date. Also, lots of bullion and scrap metal was being processed; hack silver, hack gold and some forgery (gold plated copper alloys). Evidence of metalworking whilst camped? Also some lead gaming pieces have been found. The landscape is constantly changing; deep ploughing and blown sand are bringing more finds to the surface. The Winter Camp is north of the current village, a later Burgh is near the current village, where some 15 kilns have been excavated – a sizable Burgh. The lack of pottery at the camp site indicates that it pre-dates the Burgh.

And all too soon it was time for a last tea break before the final session, entitled ‘Time Team and Geophysics‘. Dr John Gater regaled us with anecdotes from Time Team, ‘Geofizz, what have we learned after 20 years?

There’s no doubt he got off to a good start, with “In 1993, Archaeology became sexy overnight”, accompanied by some hilarious shots of the various team members. John then explained about the early use of ‘geofizz’, the creation of a new word to explain the use of science to understand archaeology, at the Athelney Abbey dig. Time Team was unusual in that geofizz usually was used on development sites anything up to a year before the excavations began. With Time Team, feedback was almost instantaneous, and exciting! Even Ribchester was exciting, although the early interpretation was completely incorrect. Roman road? field boundaries? No – modern football pitch markings!

After the laughter died down, John explained the different types of survey; Resistance Survey, Magnetometry, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) etc. Although the 3 day format didn’t allow time for experimentation, GPR Was a great leap forward, useful on greenfield sites and allowing a not just a plan, but a 3D model with depth information to be created. The plan of Brancaster was compared to the early plan of Athelney. One a 2D plan, the other a full 3D model, showing the improvements made over time. John’s one regret, was making it all look too easy. A very entertaining and educational talk to finish the conference.

And that was it. Editor in Chief Andrew Selkirk provided the closing remarks, reminding us all of what we’d seen and heard over the last couple of days, and it all too soon it was time to pack up and head home.

Was it all worth it? Certainly! And with any luck and a prevaling wind, I’ll be back next year to report it all again..

A couple of weeks ago, Current Archaeology magazine once again held their annual conference, Current Archaeology Live!, at Senate House in London. And once again, we were fortunate enough to be present to live tweet the event, bringing you all the news as it happened. Many of the talks could merit an article here in their own right, so this brief review is being be posted in several parts.

The second day started out with a session sponsored by Current Archaeology’s sister magazine, Military History Monthly looking at ‘The Archaeology of World War One‘. The first talk in this session was a harrowing tale of a hidden war, as Matt Leonard told us about ‘Digging in the dark: modern conflict archaeology beneath the Western Front‘.

Although most people know of the trench warfare, not so well known is the hidden aspect of the battlefield, and Matt brought this to life be describing the ‘sense-scape’ that the troops would have encountered in the tunnels and caves below the ground – “Ordinary soldiers saw very little of the war, but tasted, smelled and felt all of it.”

Matt described three key areas of the battlefield: trenches, subways and fighting tunnels. Each had a different sensory environment. He graphically described breaking through into enemy tunnels and having to fight in the pitch black, by touch – German uniforms had epaulettes, Allied uniforms didn’t. So if you felt an epaulette, you stabbed! Within this hidden world, some tunnels were as much as 100m below ground, or as close as 1m to the surface. Troops could hear the enemy through the tunnel walls. This was all very powerful, emotional stuff!

Dr Stephen Miles then brought us to the present day, talking about ‘Seeing the Western Front: archaeology, history and battlefield tourism‘. With over 6 milllion dead, along 416 miles of the Western Front, ‘grief tourism’ is now big business. There are over 1000 military, and 200 civilian cemeteries spread along the Front. In the Westhoek area of Belgium some 326,000 people a year visit, 52% are British. People want to see where the big battles happened, and also to visit family members. This tourism started as soon as the war finished. In contrast to the previous talk, the point was made that most visitors are ‘sight-seers’, other senses are very secondary to the experience. The way that the military cemeteries are laid out is in stark contrast to the confusion of the trenches. There are many reconstructed trenches – an important aspect of Western Front heritage – very little of the original trench systems are extant today. There are many unexploded shells still in/on the ground, but fieldwalking tours damage context and provenance. This makes it difficult to interpret the landscape. This is important because this interpretation allows the memories to live on. The conclusion? Tourism is a cultural vehicle for reinscribing memory.

To wrap up the session before coffee, Dr Nick Saunders told us about the history of ‘The scarlet flower: the remembrance poppy from Flanders Fields to Afghanistan‘. He explained that the remembrance poppy (a hybrid of the opium and corn poppy) began in 1915, but associations of this flower with memory, death, and pain go back thousands of years, based upon use of the opium poppy to dull the senses. There are references in the Trojan Wars, Classical Greece, and after the American Civil War veterans homes were full of opium dependents. John McCrae’s poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’ was one of the first literary images to really connect the poppy to WWI – the poppy no longer being associated with forgetting/dulling pain & grief, but rememberance. Moina Michael in New York was the first person to start handing out poppies for donations to help war veterans. Anna Guerin in France set up a factory to make silk poppies, extending the idea internationally. By 1922, the British set up their own factories, staffed by disabled veterans. The point was made that the poppy as material culture is now political and full of power and meaning. “The lightest of petals carries the heaviest of burdens.”

A welcome coffee break, and a chance to look once more at the stalls comprising the Archaeology Fair. Burdened with purchases, we took our seats for the next session, sponsored by another title from the Current Publishing stable – World Archaeology magazine, and introduced by Editor Caitlin McCall. The session was entitled ‘Back to the Beginning‘.

Prof Thomas Higham first told us about ‘Modern Humans, Neanderthals and Denisovians‘, looking at some of our earliest human ancestors. After talking through some of the anatomical differences between Neanderthals and modern humans, the science of radio carbon dating was discussed. With very old samples (30,000 years for neanderthals?) Decay and contamination is a problem. The best material for dating is bone collagen, but this only comprises 20% of the bone, and is relatively quick to decay. As reliable dates are important for understanding how and when humans and Neanderthals interacted, some cutting edge techniques are beng used – such as Ultrafiltration are being used to help remove contaminants and provide more accurate dates from samples. Using these techniques and revisiting previous samples suggests that Neanderthals died out around 40,000 years ago, nevertheless there was an overlap between the them and us of around 2000 years. DNA analysis suggests that interbreeding did occur – modern human DNA overlaps anywhere between 1-3% with Neanderthal’s. A relatively newly discovered hominid, Denisovans has been identified via DNA from a molar and fingerbone of a 9 year old girl, in Russia. Although remains from this time are very small and scarce, preservation has allowed up to 70% survival of their DNA, and the genome has been sequenced. An exhibition about these species is currently on at the Natural History Museum.

Next, Prof Klaus Schmidt explained about ‘Göbekli Tepe: the first human holy site?‘. At 11,000 years old, this is considered to be one of the world’s oldest temples, situated in modern day Turkey. The project has been running for 20 years, but literally has only just ‘scratched the surface’ so far. A fascinating slideshow of the excavations was displayed, with wonderful carvings, depictions of figures and animals througout the complex, which is divided into a series of rooms or courtyards.

Gobleki

One of the carved pillars at Göbekli Tepe – Wikimedia Commons

The site rises to a height of 15m, across an aree 300x300m, and dates to the pre-pottery era Neolithic – so almost Hunter-Gatherer stage. The layout and extent of the statuary and carvings shows this is not a settlement – some of the pillars are anthropomorphic – the first deity figures? Quarries for the pillars have been identified less than 200 m from the main site. The number of animal depictions suggest a story is being told, but sadly there was no time for questions, but just time for one more talk in the session before we broke for lunch.

Prof Brian Fagan from California spoke eloquently and entertainingly about ‘The Intimate Bond: Animals and Humans over 15000 years‘, concentrating on the Donkey! Described as the ‘pickup truck of the world for 5000 years’, donkeys as we know them today were first domesticated in NE Africa some 5000 years ago. Donkey burials were found at Abydos, dating from 3000 BC. They were respected, working animals, noted for their ability to dehydrate slowly but rehydrate quickly, and to travel 15-20 miles a day, easily. Although respected, bone analysis shows that they were worked hard and often overloaded. We were told how they were used extensively in caravans across the Eastern Sahara. Some of these trade routes have been documented on cunieform tablets. Donkeys also appear on many murals in Pompeii, showing their ongoing use as beasts of burden. Fun fact: there are 40 million donkeys in the world today!

But all too soon it was time for lunch and a chance to grab some fresh air. Come back tomorrow to read about the final sessions of the conference…

Part 1
Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, Current Archaeology magazine once again held their annual conference, Current Archaeology Live!, at Senate House in London. And once again, we were fortunate enough to be present to live tweet the event, bringing you all the news as it happened. Many of the talks could merit an article here in their own right, so this brief review is being be posted in several parts.

During lunch in the Friday, there was a minor incursion when a small group of protestors gained access to the building, despite the best efforts of security. They walked up and down the corridors, yelling through a megaphone which was so distorted in that their message was somewhat lost. This disturbance delayed the afternoon session by 10-15 minutes when the protestors eventually dissipated.

And so the afternoon session, entitled ‘Rescuing the Past‘ began. Much to my delight, this session coninued the morning’s theme of covering the prehistoric and Roman periods, looking at some specific rescue archaeology projects and their results.

The first talk in the session returned to the early Mesolithic with Fraser Brown telling us about ‘Settling Man: an Early Mesolithic house and Bronze Age vilage, Ronaldsway Airport, Isle of Man‘. The planned expansion of the airport, as well as creating land where once was sea, involved the largest archaeological investigation on the island to date. The area around the airport was found to be archaeologically rich – “like building on Salisbury Plain” was how Fraser described it. Two of the major finds were a Bronze Age linear settlement almost 1km in extent, and a Neolithic house which produced many wonderful finds of stone axes, pottery etc. These sites were originally discovered in the 1940’s when the airport was originally constructed, but have now been revisited using today’s techniques. In addition, Mesolithic pits and scatter were found to the east, eroding out of the cliffs. Some 1700 ten-litre buckets of spoil were excavated to be processed, allowing for a full 3D reconstruction of the finds. Analysis of the finds has shown a Mesolithic structure to be 10000 years old, where carbon deposits suggest the house burned down. Returning to the Bronze Age settlement, ceramic distribution maps suggested a centralised midden between three houses. This has been interpreted as a possible foundry.

Next, Alistair Barclay told us about ‘Kingsmead Quarry, Horton: early Neolithic houses and other discoveries‘. I had previously attended an Open Day at Horton but this time round the focus was very much put on the four (possibly five, count ’em!) Neolithic houses discovered at the site, rather than the gold bling. Four million pounds has been spent on Rescue Archaeology at Horton to date, and it’s quite rare to find one neolithic house, let alone multiple houses. The houses were of two types, gulley and post constructions. The earlier gulley houses had some finds, but no hearth material. However, they were much deeper at one end, suggesting that the structures were possibly load-bearing. Could they have had a second storey? Or at least an upstairs sleeping/storage area? Intruiging. The later post houses were much less interesting finds-wise, but the houses bear an uncanny resemblance to some found hundreds of miles away (at Lismore Field). Evidence of travel/contact between the two groups possibly? Radio Carbon dating has proved problematic, but a date of some 3700BC (Early Neolithic) has been put forward. Of course, it’s not possible to talk about Horton wihout mentioning the later Beaker burial – inhumation from this period is rare in the Thames Valley, inclusion of gold grave goods is rarer – and the Beaker lady managed a bit more time in the spotlight.

Finally in this session, Sadie Watson from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) told us about ‘The Walbrook: recent discoveries from the banks of Roman London’s river‘. Comparisons with Pompeii (see Current Archaeology issue 280) will naturally tend to dull the shine of any discoveries, but the excavations at the Bloomberg site on the banks of the Walbrook have produced a stunning amount of Roman finds. In fact, less than 1% of all the finds there to date are non-Roman! The river banks have provided a good state of presevation, whilst 50 yards away, the gravel offers no chance of preservation at all. the finds included a huge military assemblage: shoes and boots, armour, cavalry gear etc. along with large numbers of fist and phallus amulets. A slideshow showed the breadth of some of the finds to be analysed in full, including a curious decorated leather panel. But the star finds were some wooden writing tablets, including a rare inked tablet, which are very slowly being deciphered. The project has a web site at walbrookdiscovery.wordpress.com.

All too soon it was time for a tea break, before the keynote speech, ‘Archaeology, a very dry field‘ given this year by Dr Francis Pryor, and dedicated to his colleague Mick Aston.

A brace of Time-Teamers, at Teatime

A brace of Time-Teamers, at Teatime

Francis’ talk featured his two favourite subjects; Farming and Flag Fen (and a lot more besides!) He firstly took us quickly through his sheep farming year, then applied what he knew about these farming techniques to interpretation of Bronze Age field systems at Flag Fen. There was a remarkable fit between the two, but he pointed out that you also have to take into account ancient belief systems in order to be able to interpret the site correctly. He believes that intensive farming (up 1000 sheep) went on at Flag Fen, and outlined the possible economic impact on trade this would have led to, with metalwork from very disparate areas having been found there. All in all, a very entertaining talk to round of the first day of the conference – and he even managed to get in a huge plug for his latest venture, an archaeological detective novel!

Following the Keynote speech we moved across the corridor once again for a drinks reception, entertainment by a brass quintet of HM Guards musicians playing a selection of pieces with a WW1 theme, and the awards ceremony. The Current Archaeology Awards are special in that all the winners are voted for by the readership, from a shortlist of possible candidates in each category.

This year’s winners (with hearty congratulations to them all) were announced by Julian Richards, as follows:

  • Book of the year: Julian Bowsher, Shakespeare’s London Theatreland
  • Research Project of the Year: Return to Star Carr
  • Rescue Dig of the Year: Sands of Time: Links of Notland
  • Archaeologist of the Year: Richard Buckley
The award winners, with Julian Richards

The award winners, with Julian Richards

And so ended the first day, though many stayed for more drinks, and I believe a restaurant meal was arranged for the more hardy souls. But I had a commute to face in order to be bright-eyed and bushy tailed for the following day.

More to come…

Part 1

Part 3

A couple of weeks ago, Current Archaeology magazine once again held their annual conference, Current Arcaheology Live!, at Senate House, in London. And once again, we were fortunate enough to be present to live tweet the event, bringing you all the news as it happened. Many of the talks could merit an article here in their own right, so this brief review will be posted in several parts.

Senate House - Wikimedia Commons

Senate House – Wikimedia Commons

The conference is an opportunity to both look back over the previous 12 months, and to look ahead. As editor Matt Symonds mentioned in his introductory piece for the conference program, interest in World War One is running high in advance of the centenary of its outbreak, and 75 years ago, as World War Two was on the horizon, the Sutton Hoo ship burial was excavated. Both these events were to be covered in the conference, as well as the annual Current Archaeology Awards, voted for by the magazine readership.

But first things first. As usual, the conference talks were split into themed sessions on a roughly chronological timescale, and so Friday morning’s session was entitled ‘In Search of the Prehistoric‘, overseen and introduced by Julian Richards (of Meet the Ancesteors fame, a label he’ll never be rid of!) The session comprised of three talks, the first, by Dr Chantal Conneller, telling us about ‘Star Carr: throwing new light on early mesolithic settlement‘.

She described the work being done at Lake Fixton (location of Starr Carr), where the ‘lake’ is filled with peat, giving excellent preservation conditions. We heard how a hewn aspen log platform was uncovered in the 80’s and how the current excavations are hoping to answer some of the many outstanding questions before the site is lost as the peat dries out. Although Flixton is known as a mesolithic centre, it’s only the site at Star Carr itself that has so far produced such unique finds – the antler frontlets possibly being the best known. It’s now thought that these were possibly deposited in the lake, as a sign of respect or thanks to their prey. Feildwalking and test pitting has significantly extended the Starr Carr site, with evidence of occupation appearing well beyond the bounds of the original excavations. More antler frontlets have been found, along with a concentration of bone and lithic fragments, thought to be within a post built hut – possibly the earliest ‘house’ known in Britain! This leads to the idea that the site was used for much longer than first thought, possibly for (that word!) ritual use – a place people returned to again and again. Open days will be held throughout August this year at Flixton island, as Star Carr is on private land, and not accessible to the public at any time. It sounds like the Open Days will be well worth a visit. More information can be found on the project web site at www.starcarr.com and the excavation was covered in issue 282 of Current Archaeology magazine.

Professor Julian Thomas then told us about the ‘Halls and barrows on Dorstone Hill, Herefordshire‘, where early Neolithic enclosures and sites were identified from aerial photography. Excavations in the 90’s found a possible enclosure, but this latest dig showed burnt clay sealed under the turf, surrounded by a collapsed stone bank. On investigation, the bank had been revetted by a timber palisade. The mound was not defensive in nature, and the burnt clay (now found to be daub), suggested a a building burnt in situ. Further structural elements such as post holes flanking a central aisle were then found, suggesting a long hall. What seems to have been found was a hall, deliberately burnt, transforming a house of the living into a house of the dead. The resulting mound was then capped with turves, pined into place with stakes, the fabric of the previous building thus being incorporated into the long mound. A series of later stone cists were found on the north side suggesting later use of the earlier monument. Various stone tools; a stone arrowhead with impact damage, a stone axe head and flint tools have been found at various points on the site. It was evident that the site had been used, from the early Neolithic through to at least the early Bronze Age. More details of the excavation can be found in issue 285 of Current Archaeology magaine. Digging recommences in July, Open Days will be announced nearer the time.

To close off the prehistoric session, Dr Vicki Cummings then gave a fascinating talk about a personal favourite subject of mine: ‘Building the great dolmens of Britain and Ireland‘. Vicki’s talk focussed upon Portal Dolmens, very few of which have been excavated. Those which have have been dated to 4000-3000 BC, some of the first British monuments. Garn Turne was the focus of a case study, looking at how the dolmens would have been constructed, as this example is though to be incomplete, having collapsed during construction. See Current Archaeology issue 286 for details of the Garn Turne dig. The presentation included an impressive photo collection of portal dolmens. Many are found in Cornwall and Wales but by far the majority are in Ireland. The point was made that excavations of such monuments usually focus upon the chamber, and not so much on the portal entrance. Common points from all the examples: the capstones are important, in general, the smaller the capstone, the greater the angle. The capstones (anything up to 160 tons) are usually finely balanced upon no more than 3 uprights, the point of contact often being as small as 1 square cm. The question was asked about functionality. Are dolmens more about ‘ostentatious displays of large stones’ rather than creating chambers that can be used? Garn Turne suggested a quick guide to building a dolmen:

  1. Find an outcrop.
  2. Dig a pit around it. That’s the capstone!
  3. Shape the capstone (flatten the underside by tilting it to work the stone)
  4. Lift the capstone, using chocks.
  5. Replace supports with uprights.
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Vicki takes questions (via Julian)

Apart from a short announcement from Julian Richards about the upcoming Wessex Archaeological Field Academy (see the website coming soon), that was it for the first session of the day, a lot to take in, and time for a cup of tea.

The tea break was used to take a first look at this year’s ‘Archaeology Fair’, a selection of stalls from various archaeolgical suppliers. The bookstalls in particular proved very popular during all the breaks, and I spent far more than I had budgeted for across the two days.

The morning continued with the second session entitled ‘Researching Roman Britain‘, introduced by Matt Symonds. Neil Holbrook kicked off the session, with ‘Developer archaeology and the Romano-British countryside: a revolution in understanding‘. This talk looked at the breadth of Romano-British sites across the UK, pointing out that life c=should not be judged just by some 2000 Roman villas excavated so far – mainly concentrated in the south of the country. There were also over 100,000 farms across the length and breadth of the country populated by the other 98% of the population. The point was made that excavating a Roman site isn’t always a case of ‘remove the turf, find a mosaic’. Everyday life was much harsher than villa life. In the last 20 years there have been around 9000 rescue digs which have turned up something Roman, but there is often no time/resource to analyse these finds. The Roman Rural Settlement Project is now looking at the data from these rescue digs, with over 2100 sites recorded by the project to date. The project aim is to remap Roman Britain, showing the success of the Empire’s ‘British Project’, and making all information available on the Internet. LINK (Google ‘Roman Rural Settlement Project’)

Dr Miles Russell then took the stand to update us all about ‘The Durotriges Project: tribe and prejudice in later Iron Age Britain‘. The Durotriges were an archaeologically distinctive tribe, good for study with their unique coins, pottery and the fact that on the whole they buried their dead, rather than cremate. Mortimer Wheeler’s “war cemetery” with evidence of hasty interments got a mention, along with quotes from his archaeological report which read more like something from an adventure novel with their picturesque accounts of Roman attacks against Maiden Castle. With Niall Sharples suggesting (1991) that Maiden Castle may not have been a viable settlement when the Romans arrived, the project aims to re-evaluate and reassess the transition from a Durotrigan to Roman lifestyle, and was featured in Current Archaeology issue 281

Finally, before breaking for lunch, Operation Nightingale discussed their work at Caerwent, ‘Romans, Rifles and recovery: Operation Nightingale excavations at Caerwent military training area‘. As with their previous presentations here, the talk was split, with Sgt Dairmaid Walshe outlining the Operation Nightingale’s importance as a recovery process for injured soldiers. The major project is based at Caerwent, and Phil Abramson told us a little about the site (which includes a scheduled monument) and how during the work the Process is as important as the Finds. The Process includes all aspects of the project, from planning through excavation to finds processing and post-ex documentation. Soldiers and civilian volunteers can be involved at all stages, which raised the thorny question: Community Archaeology, or cheap labour? There is no single answer to this, unfortunately, but the pendulum is swinging toward the former rather than the latter. Dave Hart, a former Lt Corporal then told us how he was wounded in Afghanistan, but also came to love archaeology in Kabul, and has been involved in 10 Operation Nightingale projects to date. You can read more about the project in Current Archaeology issue 282

And so then we broke for lunch. Stay tuned for the next installment!

Part 2
Part 3

Soon after the recent sad demise of the proprietor of the Federation of Independent Detectorists comes a worrying development. FID was already no friend of either conservation or landowners – its “Code” doesn’t require members to  report to PAS and its “finds agreement” leaves farmers wide open to abuse by crooks. But things have now got worse – Central Searchers has taken it over.

That organisation repeatedly holds rallies at venues opposed by archaeologists. In addition it maintains a notorious rule: farmers get no share of any find worth below £2,000, as secretly judged by the detectorist! Both issues, their rally venues and rules have now been hidden from public view for the declared purpose of avoiding them being repeated by “troublemakers”! The organisation isn’t small – last year 500 detectorists (i.e. 12.5% of all detectorists) paid it £30,000 to attend its Summer Rally. Unsurprisingly, it demonstrably attracts many of the worst characters in detecting – and indeed in Society. Now it controls the second largest metal detecting body in Britain with many thousands of members.

Will FID’s already awful code and finds agreement be retained (despite its controlling body being regularly in breach of both)? Or will new, worse standards be imposed? Who knows? Either way, it seems that after 16 years of expensive public outreach a major portion of “metal detecting” has fallen prey to what some might see as kakistocracy – government by the most unqualified or unprincipled citizens. It often happens in states which lack a comprehensive network of governing laws and no-one could deny that metal detecting in Britain with it’s reliance upon laissez faire and voluntary behaviour is akin to a lawless state. It’s profound food for thought for The Establishment. If Britain’s portable antiquities policy was working as originally intended or currently claimed, Central Searchers would have withered away long ago for lack of support.

Wouldn’t it.

Update 17  March 2014
It seems Central Searchers may have been holding an inappropriate rally in the face of official opposition just before the above article was published. Here’s the Comment that has been posted:
“This is awful..I found this blog after searching for info on what I observed just yesterday..15 march 2014…driving along the A14- almost exactly the same place by the looks of your photos…at least 150 people across a ridge field, all with metal detectors..I wondered if it was an organised search for something so googled it and found this article…I cannot believe that the profit of a few has overridden the good sense of so many, our heritage is truly endangered…”

What will it take for there to be official condemnation? We’ve had threats sent to us by Central Searchers rally attendees and the people who stopped on the A14  layby to photograph the previous rally had to drive away as they were approached by an aggressive group led by this fellow.

A14 gentleman

When will the authorities break their silence about what is going on along the A14 corridor and elsewhere?

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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We received awful news yesterday afternoon from Emma Alsop on the Peak District Prehistory facebook group of yet another paint attack on a stone circle. This time its the latest in a long history of vandalism on the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor.

Copyright Emma Allsop

Copyright Emma Alsop

She reports green and yellow paint on every stone, evidence of which you can clearly see in the photos. She also said “There are also newly scattered ashes round the circle (someone’s remains I presume)”. Hopefully the person who left that there may be able to help work out when this was done.

Copyright Emma Allsop

Copyright Emma Alsop

We have passed the information on to the relevant authorities. If you have any information which may help, please comment below and we will pass it on.

Update:
We have now visited and taken pictures of the damage to all of the stones – see here

A STONE ALIGNMENT AT BANCBRYN, MYNYDD Y BETWS, CARMARTHENSHIRE (PART FIVE)

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Abstract
In January 2012 a previously unrecorded alignment of stones was identified on the southern slope of Bancbryn, Carmarthenshire. Subsequent research has indicated that this stone alignment shares common characteristics with examples in South West England and sits firmly within an area previously identified as containing a significant number of prehistoric cairns. A scheduling assessment conducted by Cadw has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation. This article seeks to re-examine the evidence and utilise it to present a persuasive interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Case for a prehistoric stone alignment at Bancbryn (continued)

30. “At Merrivale, Dartmoor, the stone alignments appear to separate a group of ceremonial monuments from a concentration of hut circles and settlement sites.”

Discussion: The stone alignment at Bancbryn is not known to separate ritual and settlement areas, but the idea that alignments can perform the function of separating different zones is one that has a very real significance at Bancbryn. Looking along the upper part of the stone alignment on Bancbryn, Hartland Point (Devon) forms a very obvious distant but precise focus on clear days.

bancbryn27

This relationship is clearly of interest and almost certainly of significance. Walking downhill (southwards) along the upper length of the alignment an observer always has Hartland Point just visible over the shoulder of the intervening hill. The position and orientation of the alignment precisely allows this juxtaposition to be maintained until at the point where it is finally lost, the axis of the alignment shifts more significantly westward. This type of visual relationship is one recognised as significant in prehistoric studies. From the point where Hartland Point disappears the alignment instead becomes focussed on the sharp sided valley west of Banc John which has a very similar profile to Tor Clawdd which framed the left side of Hartland Point. The alignment without any doubt therefore takes full cognisance of Hartland Point, but is this deliberate or a coincidence? The fact that the upper shifts in orientation of the alignment all result in maintaining the same view to Hartland Point and the alignment shifts significantly at the point where Hartland Point disappears below the horizon supports the idea that there is a strong element of deliberation. This suggestion is further strengthened by the observation that the stone alignment effectively also denotes the edge of a small area on Bancbryn that benefits from views to the sea and Devon. This small area also contains a large number of cairns. This compelling evidence which indicates a direct and powerful visual link between the stone alignment, adjacent cairn cemetery and the distant Devon coast is one that can only be challenged by dismissing the idea that stone alignments could separate areas and more importantly that in the siting of monuments visual relationships played no part in prehistoric society. It is therefore perhaps fitting to finish with Cadw’s own observation regarding the distribution of the cairns that “It would be reasonable to assume from the relative positioning of these sites that they had visual relationships in antiquity” (Cadw, R., 2006).

Map showing the extent of the small area from which views of Devon are possible (white). The south eastern edge of this area is precisely denoted by the stone alignment. Views from within the Bancbryn cemetery include much of Bideford Bay whilst along the alignment itself the view is restricted to Hartland Point only. Devon is not visible from the Lletty’r crydd cemetery.

Map showing the extent of the small area from which views of Devon are possible (white). The south eastern edge of this area is precisely denoted by the stone alignment. Views from within the Bancbryn cemetery include much of Bideford Bay whilst along the alignment itself the view is restricted to Hartland Point only. Devon is not visible from the Lletty’r-crydd cemetery.

View from the stone alignment looking along its axis towards Hartland Point. The shifts in the alignment ensure that this remarkable visual relationship between Tor Clawdd and Hartland Point is maintained as you walk along the upper part of the alignment.

View from the stone alignment looking along its axis towards Hartland Point. The shifts in the alignment ensure that this remarkable visual relationship between Tor Clawdd and Hartland Point is maintained as you walk along the upper part of the alignment.

View from cairn B adjacent to the alignment. Despite being only 10m away from the position the photograph above was taken three times as much of Devon is now visible. The stone alignment denotes the edge of a small area where Devon is rapidly revealed as you walk through it. The fact that there are also so many cairns within this area would signify that it was of considerable interest to the prehistoric inhabitants.

View from cairn B adjacent to the alignment. Despite being only 10m away from the position the photograph above was taken three times as much of Devon is now visible. The stone alignment denotes the edge of a small area where Devon is rapidly revealed as you walk through it. The fact that there are also so many cairns within this area would signify that it was of considerable interest to the prehistoric inhabitants.

View from cairn C. Although only 140m from Cairn B much of North Devon is now visible. Views such as this are confined to the small area which is accurately denoted along its south eastern side by the stone alignment.

View from cairn C. Although only 140m from Cairn B much of North Devon is now visible. Views such as this are confined to the small area which is accurately denoted along its south eastern side by the stone alignment.

Conclusion

Much has been made of the lack of evidence to support a prehistoric explanation for the stone alignment at Bancbryn. Assessing the site against the scheduling assessment documentation indicates that such claims are hard to defend. There is an abundance of evidence and it all points one way. By contrast if the currently scheduled Welsh alignments were subjected to the same detailed scrutiny many would perhaps be found wanting. The stone alignment at Bancbryn survives within a very pertinent prehistoric context not evident at other Welsh alignments and clearly conforms to all of the characteristics of this type of monument. The similarities with the longer Dartmoor alignments are powerful as is the direct and compelling visual link with Devon. All of this together with a simple but sound statistical explanation for the apparent absence of long stone alignments within the Welsh archaeological record creates a persuasive evidence based interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Acknowledgements

I have had considerable help from a number of people whilst preparing this article. I would like to thank Nigel Swift for commenting constructively on all aspects and Sophie Smith for digging out hard to find information as well as being a harsh critic of my more outlandish ideas. Helen Woodley has also provided a stream of incredibly useful ideas and was the first to spot the Hartland Point link. George Currie has helped hone the illustrations and provided incredibly helpful feedback. Finally Helen Gerrard has skilfully edited the result and been an inspiration through the discovery process.

Sources

Butler, J., 1997, “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume 5 – The Second Millennium B.C.”

Cadw, 2006 “Erection of 16 Wind Turbine Generators – Mynydd y Betws” (Letter to Carmarthenshire County Council)

Monument Class Description for Stone Alignments published by English Heritage and available at http://www.eng-h.gov.uk/mpp/mcd/index.htm

________________________________________________________________________

We hope you agree that this series of articles is both interesting and thought provoking. Cadw has indicated that it would welcome the opportunity for a wider debate regarding the attribution and future management of this feature. We will be happy to pass on any feedback you may have.

________________________________________________________________________

A STONE ALIGNMENT AT BANCBRYN, MYNYDD Y BETWS, CARMARTHENSHIRE (PART FOUR)

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Abstract
In January 2012 a previously unrecorded alignment of stones was identified on the southern slope of Bancbryn, Carmarthenshire. Subsequent research has indicated that this stone alignment shares common characteristics with examples in South West England and sits firmly within an area previously identified as containing a significant number of prehistoric cairns. A scheduling assessment conducted by Cadw has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation. This article seeks to re-examine the evidence and utilise it to present a persuasive interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Case for a prehistoric stone alignment at Bancbryn (continued)

20. “Because of uncertainties about the dating of stone alignments and the duration of their use it is impossible to determine which regularly associated monuments represent contemporary associations.”

Discussion: This is a problem associated with all stone alignments and does not detract from their significance.

21. “Cairns, however, frequently occur at the end of an alignment (especially type I alignments), at some point along the course of an alignment, or beside an alignment.”

Discussion: There is a cairn at the head of this alignment and another beside it. A further small number of mounds close to the alignment may also relate to it although because there are considerable doubts over their identification they have been omitted from the mapping in this paper. These mounds were depicted in an earlier publication. The presence of a cairn at the head of the alignment and another close by is yet another feature shared with the two longest Dartmoor alignments.

Stones leading towards the cairn at the head of the alignment

Stones leading towards the cairn at the head of the alignment

Stone alignment in foreground passing a small cairn

Stone alignment in foreground passing a small cairn

22. “During a recent survey of the Plym Valley, Devon, it was found that all seven stone alignments in the study area had cairns at their up-slope ends.”

Discussion: Cairns are often found at the upper end of single alignments. There is a cairn at the head of the Bancbryn stone alignment.

23.”Standing stones and cists represent further classes of monument that were in use at broadly the same time and which are also sometimes spatially associated with stone alignments.”

Discussion: Neither of the two longest Dartmoor alignments are known to be directly associated with separate standing stones or cists. The presence or absence of these features really does not affect the interpretation as many alignments are not connected with cists or individual standing stones.

24.”In most cases the axis of the stone alignment is eccentric to any associated monuments such as cairns, circles, cists, or standing stones, suggesting that the construction of the stone alignment post-dates the construction of these associated features. This is also the case where stone alignments cut across the top of cairns or cists.”

Discussion: The Bancbryn alignment occupies the space between two discrete clusters of cairn. The broad axis of the Bancbryn cemetery is 233°, whilst the Lletty’r-crydd cemetery is 142° and the orientation from the top of the alignment to the bottom is 214°. Inspection of the plans confirms this eccentric association.

25.”In many upland areas stone alignments lie within concentrations of monuments, usually just outside field systems of various classes within areas that are rich in burial and ceremonial sites.”

Discussion: This certainly describes precisely the situation at Bancbryn. The stone alignment lies within an upland area rich in burial and ceremonial sites a short distance from historic fields.

26. “Detailed surveys on Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor over the past few years have significantly increased the number of stone alignments recorded and our understanding of those already known. This is principally because most stone alignments are found in relatively remote areas and are not easily seen from aerial reconnaissance or casual survey”.

Discussion: Even on Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor which have been subjected to considerable archaeological attention, fresh discoveries of stone alignments continue to be made. Once discovered there is universal surprise that the structure had gone unnoticed for so long. The discovery of a stone alignment usually follows a change in vegetation or a particularly intensive piece of fieldwork. This type of archaeology is very likely to be overlooked by walk-over or desk based surveys.

27. “The former position of most fallen or robbed stones will be marked by their socket cut into the subsoil. Some alignments are wholly or partly preserved beneath blanket bog.”

Discussion: It is acknowledged that not all stones will be marked by sockets cut into the subsoil. The reason for this position is clear. Small stones could be erected firmly by insertion into the turf and topsoil alone without the need to disturb the subsoil. Large stones on the other hand would need additional support and a socket cut into the subsoil would have provided this. The absence of socket holes (should this prove to be the case) should therefore not represent a barrier to acceptance of the prehistoric explanation.

28. “Preservation is generally good and most recorded examples are fairly complete, with perhaps 60% of the stones still standing. Most contain some fallen stones.”

Discussion: Fallen stones are a feature of stone alignments. Those alignments that have not been restored tend to have a larger percentage of fallen stones. The 60% mentioned in the Monument Class Description is not dissimilar to the 54.2% edge set stones at Bancbryn and again reinforces the prehistoric explanation. The Bancbryn alignment in common with other upland alignments is fairly complete. Despite the apparent fragility of this resource, examples often survive surprisingly well and this is also the case at Bancbryn. The looseness of some stones is a characteristic that is shared with other alignments of this type.

29. “Because of the size of the stones used in most alignments they are very vulnerable to damage; small stones can be hidden from view by rough grass and bracken and are therefore vulnerable to being inadvertently knocked over or removed, large stones are highly desirable for walling, road building, or other construction work.”

Discussion: The small stones at Bancbryn were hidden from view by heather and molinia. This comment does not relate to the assessment process but does emphasise that monuments of this type are fragile.

 

Concluded in Part Five

A STONE ALIGNMENT AT BANCBRYN, MYNYDD Y BETWS, CARMARTHENSHIRE (PART THREE)

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Abstract
In January 2012 a previously unrecorded alignment of stones was identified on the southern slope of Bancbryn, Carmarthenshire. Subsequent research has indicated that this stone alignment shares common characteristics with examples in South West England and sits firmly within an area previously identified as containing a significant number of prehistoric cairns. A scheduling assessment conducted by Cadw has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation. This article seeks to re-examine the evidence and utilise it to present a persuasive interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Case for a prehistoric stone alignment at Bancbryn (continued)

11. “It must also be borne in mind that the ends of a stone alignment may have been “restored” in the past to make them look more impressive”

Discussion: The Bancbryn alignment has not been restored. The survival of large numbers of recumbent slabs combined with the fact that the structure was not recorded by antiquarians means that it has not been interfered with in this way. This enhances its importance since it has not been modified.

bancbryn22

ABOVE: The terminal pillars at Drizzlecombe were re-erected in 1893.

12. “The spacing of stones along the length of an alignment is often uneven although again some allowance must be made for the possibility of lost or fallen stones and for the movement of stones since they were erected.”

Discussion: The spacing of stones along the Bancbryn alignment as a whole is typically uneven but within some segments spacing is sometimes rather more regular. Some of the stones are also slightly out of line. These characteristics are also shared with SW English alignments.

Regular spacing evident along this length of the alignment

Regular spacing evident along this length of the alignment

13. “The number of stones in an alignment is loosely related to its length, but three stones is the minimum for any alignment”.

Discussion: 175 stones (including three found during excavation) have been recorded at Bancbryn. This is the equivalent of one stone per 4.17m. In common with other long alignments stones have been lost or are buried but this number compares very favourably with Butterdon Hill where the figure is one stone per 3.67m and the Upper Erme where an average spacing of 3.60m has been noted. The broad similarities in stone spacing is of significance and provides further evidence of a direct parallel between the Bancbryn alignment and the longest Dartmoor stone alignments.

14. “The terminals of many stone alignments are elaborated in various ways, although it must be emphasized that the attention given to alignment ends during “restoration” work makes assessment difficult.”

Discussion: The cairn at the upper end and the large stone at the lower end represent elaboration which has not been affected by restoration. Single alignments often have cairns at their upper end and a large stone at the bottom. Indeed this is the classic form of the site and both features are present at Bancbryn.

15. “The use of larger than usual stones at terminals has already been noted, and in the case of stone alignments with two rows of uprights a large stone is sometimes set between the rows at one or both ends to block entry to the space between the rows of uprights. These are known as blocking stones.”

Discussion:-Blocking stones are a feature of double or multiple alignments only. The Bancbryn alignment is of the single alignment type.

16. “Local stones were generally used in the construction of stone alignments.”

Discussion: Local limestone stones were used in the construction of the Bancbryn alignment. Some of the differences in appearance between the Bancbryn alignment and those built in other geological zones may simply be the result of the different character of the available stones

Limestone blocks were used in the construction of the Bancbryn stone alignment

Limestone blocks were used in the construction of the Bancbryn stone alignment

17. “There is no common orientation discernible among known alignments, and in many cases the terminals are not inter-visible suggesting that these monuments were not established as sighting-lines.”

Discussion: Understanding of orientation has progressed since this was written. Work by Jeremy Butler on the Dartmoor alignments has identified that there is tendency for them to be orientated upwards towards the north-east quadrant. The Bancbryn alignment conforms to this as do the stone alignments on Bodmin Moor. In common with many alignments the terminals at Bancbryn are not inter-visible.

18. “The function of stone alignments is not known; they are presumed to be ritual or ceremonial structures.”

Discussion: This statement does not help with the assessment process though it worth emphasising that Cadw in 2006 described the area as “a complex interconnected ritual landscape” (Cadw, 2006). Such landscapes often have stone alignments within them.

19. “Stone alignments are generally dispersed monuments, although occasionally up to four examples may be found within a few hundred metres of one another as at Shoveldown, Dartmoor, Devon.”

Discussion: There are a significant number of alignments within the area. All lie north of Bancbryn with Saith Maen some 15km away being the nearest. The others are Cerrig Duon (19km), Nant Tarw (20km) and Trecastle Mountain (25km). Two of these sites consist of alignments comprising only very small stones.

 

Continued in Part Four

A STONE ALIGNMENT AT BANCBRYN, MYNYDD Y BETWS, CARMARTHENSHIRE (PART TWO)

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Abstract
In January 2012 a previously unrecorded alignment of stones was identified on the southern slope of Bancbryn, Carmarthenshire. Subsequent research has indicated that this stone alignment shares common characteristics with examples in South West England and sits firmly within an area previously identified as containing a significant number of prehistoric cairns. A scheduling assessment conducted by Cadw has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation. This article seeks to re-examine the evidence and utilise it to present a persuasive interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Case for a prehistoric stone alignment at Bancbryn

There is a considerable body of evidence to support a prehistoric explanation for the stone alignment. If as a starting point one believes in the possibility that the prehistoric peoples on either side of the Bristol Channel shared cultural links and beliefs then there is no reason to doubt that archaeological remains belonging to that period will share similar characteristics. Much has been made of the fact that the alignment is longer than other Welsh examples and therefore unlikely to be prehistoric, because Welsh examples are shorter. The irony of this position is hard not to notice. If the alignment had been largely destroyed it would have perhaps been more readily accepted.  Fortunately, despite recent incursions the alignment survives very well and this should aid analysis of it. The case for a prehistoric origin for the alignment at Bancbryn is a solid one based on several separate strands of evidence that are cumulatively compelling. Indeed given the scrutiny lavished on this alignment, one wonders how many of the currently scheduled examples could offer such robust and convincing evidence to support their identification.

Any interpretative assessment needs as a starting point to define and agree the characteristics of the type of heritage being scrutinised. The most detailed and readily available resource for this purpose is the Monument Class Description for Stone Alignments published by English Heritage and available at http://www.eng-h.gov.uk/mpp/mcd/index.htm . This document was specifically written to permit the objective assessment of stone alignments for scheduling purposes and therefore would seem the most appropriate tool to inform this discussion. Quotes from the Monument Class Description appear below in italics.

1. “A stone alignment comprises a single line, or two or more roughly parallel lines, of upright stones set at intervals along a common axis or series of axes. The number and size of stones in known alignments varies greatly, but the minimum number of stones required to form an alignment is three. The word alignment here refers to the juxtapositioning of the stones forming the monument itself rather than to any supposed or observed orientation on other monuments and/or topographical features.”

Discussion: This definition is not entirely accurate as some accepted rows consist entirely of recumbent stones, whilst many include significant numbers of horizontal slabs and edge-set stones. The Bancbryn alignment includes a single line of at least 175 stones of which a small number are upright, 52.4% are edge-set and the remainder are recumbent. These stones are set or lie at intervals along a series of axes and in common with the small stones forming Dartmoor alignments the edge-set stones are aligned along the prevailing axis.

The stone alignment at SN 68835 10223

The stone alignment at SN 68835 10223

2. “Stone alignments are rarely absolutely straight; many are slightly curved or comprise conjoined segments of different orientation. In general, however, each stone alignment has a single and distinct axis, albeit a rather broad one in some cases.”

 Discussion: The Bancbryn alignment in common with all long stone alignments is not absolutely straight and comprises conjoined segments of different orientation. Preliminary analysis of the plan has identified 15 segments each with a slightly different alignment. The alignment as a whole is broadly orientated at 214° and varies between 198° and 230° with most of this variation being found at the upper end.

One of the more obvious shifts in orientation

One of the more obvious shifts in orientation

The same orientation shift after return of vegetation

The same orientation shift after return of vegetation

3. “Stone alignments vary in length from about 40m, up to over 3000m, one of the longest being the example on Stall Down, Dartmoor, Devon. The most common length is about 150-200m.”

Discussion: The alignment at Bancbryn is just over 700m long and therefore within the accepted range for this type of monument. The length is certainly longer than currently accepted Welsh alignments but given that the longer examples are very rare it would not be surprising for only a very small number to survive within Wales.  On Dartmoor where at least 77 stone alignments have been recognised only four are longer than 700m. This represents a mere 5.2% of the total. By contrast the number of accepted alignments in Wales is at least 15. Acceptance of the Bancbryn alignment would mean that 6.25% of the known resource would be of the long variety – interestingly a very similar percentage to the situation on Dartmoor. Wales has far fewer stone alignments than Dartmoor and it is therefore hardly surprising that this very rare form of the monument has up until now proved elusive.  It is, however, surely not valid to state that the alignment does not conform to the expected form when in fact viewed as part of the whole resource it does so perfectly.

The Butterdon Hill stone alignment on Dartmoor measures 1973m long

The Butterdon Hill stone alignment on Dartmoor measures 1973m long

4. “The size of the stones used in the construction of stone alignments varies greatly, both between monuments and within the length of individual structures”

Discussion:  Most of the stones within the alignment are relatively small (between 0.30m and 0.50m) although some are more substantial.  The average stone height and size is similar to many South Western English and some Welsh stone alignments.  The variety of stone size within the Bancbryn alignment is a recognised feature of prehistoric examples.

Different sized stones are a recognised feature of stone alignments

 The stone alignment at SN 68835 10223. Different sized stones are a recognised feature of stone alignments

5. “Stones which project less than 1m above ground level are most common, although a few alignments, mostly short ones, contain only very large stones over 2m high.”

Discussion:  Many of the Welsh alignments fall into the recognised group of short alignments with large stones. It is clear however that the different types are not mutually exclusive. In SW England short alignments of large stones and long alignments consisting mainly of small stones exist. There is no evidence to suggest that where examples of one type are found the other will not be. Stone alignments with very small stones are known within the Welsh archaeological resource and therefore the small size of the stones at Bancbryn represents no obstacle to a prehistoric explanation.

6.  “Where slabs of stone were used they were usually set with their long axis on the orientation of the alignment”.

Discussion: The edge set stones at Bancbryn in common with other alignments are predominantly set with their long axis along the orientation of the alignment.

7. “There is little evidence that the stones in any stone alignments were deliberately placed in graduated order of size”.

Discussion: The stones have not yet been individually measured, but visual inspection would suggest that the stones have not been placed in graduated order of size.

8. “In many cases the stone at each end of an alignment, terminal stones, are larger than those used elsewhere in the monument.”

Discussion: The largest stone within the alignment denotes the south western end. This stone is now recumbent and measures 0.62m by 0.52m by 0.25m. This feature provides particularly strong evidence to support a prehistoric identification.

The recumbent terminal stone

The recumbent terminal stone

9. “In other cases the end of an alignment may just fade out with a series of small stones then nothing.”

Discussion: This means that terminal features do not always survive but at Bancbryn characteristic terminal features have been identified. The presence of these features enhances the prehistoric interpretation.

10. “When assessing and measuring alignments it is important to check the ends very carefully to determine whether the visible terminals are likely to be the real ends of the monument or whether the line may continue under a blanket of peat or as a series of small stones”

Discussion: The areas of the alignment towards the ends have both seen more disturbance than the central length which survives very well. The north eastern end had been disturbed by historic trackways and more recently by wind farm infrastructure whilst the south eastern end has also seen vehicular damage. Despite this the terminals are well defined.

Part of stone alignment has recently been destroyed by wind farm infrastructure

Part of stone alignment has recently been destroyed by wind farm infrastructure

Continued in Part Three

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