by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Cadw have been at pains to emphasise that without solid evidence of a prehistoric date they will not consider scheduling the Bancbryn stone alignment.  The same diligence does not appear to have been afforded to other assessments. The most cursory of glances reveals that the schedule is littered with curious anomalies and during the coming months I hope to look at some of these and discuss the implications for our understanding and appreciation of the tangible remains of the past.

Does it matter that so many of our cherished sites are poorly understood, and is an inadequate and at times laughable Schedule of Ancient Monuments bad for our archaeology?

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No hard evidence exists to support the alleged prehistoric date of this mound yet in common with many others it is scheduled.

Huge numbers of monuments do not have any evidence to support their inclusion in the schedule beyond the fact that a particular feature or group of structures looks like or resemble similar sites for which there is conclusive evidence.  This may sound dreadful, but in reality this is a sensible way of ensuring the protection of our heritage without the constant need to damage sites by checking their credentials.  The result is that sites are assessed by looking at them and comparing them with the known resource. So a pile of stones on a hilltop is interpreted as a Bronze Age cairn and a stone standing alone in a field as a prehistoric standing stone. No evidence to support the dating is sought and the cairn and standing stone are happily added to the schedule despite the lack of conclusive evidence to support their interpretation.

Turning to a more enigmatic site type – lines of stones leading from mounds are generally interpreted as stone alignments and the case is even stronger if the line of stones in question sits comfortably within and makes sense of that prehistoric landscape. Dating evidence to support a prehistoric date for most stone alignments is entirely absent and therefore using Cadw’s “Bancbryn scheduling assessment method” they should also fail to meet the grade for protection.  Sadly, the bar has clearly been set very high for the Bancbryn stone alignment. At Bancbryn proof of a prehistoric date is seen as essential pre-requisite to scheduling whereas most other “prehistoric” archaeology has been added to the schedule without the same level of scrutiny.  This shocking lack of consistency must surely concern those who care passionately about our heritage and its protection.