You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2014.

by Alan S

Our Review of the Heritage Journal Year concludes with a look at some of our stories from the final part of the year.

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September

We continued our campaign of highlighting scheduling discrepancies in Wales, starting with Traeth Bach, then Mynydd Illtyd,  before returning to Bancbryn once again.

Some better news from Wales involved the rejection of an application for a wind farm at Bedlinog.  A similar application in the Forest of Dean was approved, but highlighted the community bribes which are included in such applications, but often never seen through to their conclusion.

Following a favourable Scottish report into the economic impact of the historic environment, we asked again for heritage to be given the protection it so deserves to allow us all to prosper.

Meanwhile in Oxfordshire, several members and friends of Heritage Action got together for their annual ‘Megameet‘, which was held for the first time at The Rollright Stones.

And the erosion of the archaeological record continued with a metal detecting rally at the site of the famous Weyhill Fair.

October

Following the rally at Weyhill Fair, we made a last ditch attempt to get the area scheduled, before any further damage could be done.

But the big story this month was the re-emergence (pun intended) of plans for a short tunnel at Stonehenge.

There was a glimmer of hope for Oswestry Hillfort,  and Northumberland – but is it all an election ploy?

Our Prehistoric A-Z looked at the Coldrum Stones in Kent, and we pleaded with the National Trust (yet again) not to allow use of ancient monuments and heritage sites to be damaged or used in advertising stunts.

Cadw really haven’t been doing themselves any favours, when it’s so easy to find inconsistencies  in their scheduling decisions.

November

More details emerged about the plans for a short tunnel at Stonehenge, with very little concern being expressed by the major players about the archaeological damage that would result. Apart from ICOMOS-UK and UNESCO that is!

With so much heritage and archaeology at risk, we felt it would be timely to provide a reminder of how to report Heritage Crime – something which we intend to repeat on a regular basis from now on.

And speaking of crime, the question or ‘brandalism or art‘ just won’t go away it seems.

This month, we turned our attention to look at prehistoric Stone Rows.  Dr Sandy Gerrard has provided an (ongoing) series of articles looking to find some commonality of structure  and purpose behind these enigmatic prehistoric monuments.

The Carwynnen Quoit project finally completed, with the publication of a booklet detailing all aspects of this community project, which was about so much more than just raising the stones. I’ve got my copy, have you got yours yet?

When is conservation not protection? When ‘conservation’ is defined by English Heritage! Luckily, their definition was rejected when part of Offa’s Dyke was saved from a potential housing development, thanks to a local campaign group.

December

The Stonehenge tunnel saga continued to dominate  (as we suspect it will for much of 2015, as more detailed plans are released).

Our Stone Rows series continued, with some interesting parallels being drawn (see what I did there?)

Whilst we’re accused of harping on about some issues, Greenpeace proved our often-made point about copycat brandalism.

And as the public hearing into the development plans for Old Oswestry Hillfort opened, we published an open letter by senior academics, in defense of the hillfort. We await the outcome.

And finally, metal detecting. It’s been a bad year for depletion of the archaeological resource, with several major hoards coming to light, almost always in poor circumstances, with ill-disciplined excavation and greed at the forefront. We end the year with a plea to all archaeologists to finally speak up.

Of necessity, this review has been a brief overview of some of the stories we’ve presented, so we’ll wrap it up there, wishing all our readers a healthy and prosperous New Year.

No doubt 2015 will have a few surprises up it’s sleeve, and we’ll be here, making the establishment as uncomfortable as we can by discussing the embarrassing issues in Bonkers Britain as usual. So don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter or here on WordPress/RSS to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Personal Note: This year has been a difficult one personally, having lost my step-son unexpectedly in January and the family having been beset by various serious (and ongoing) medical issues throughout the year, which has somewhat curtailed my opportunities to get out and among the stones this year. I’m hopeful that I’ll personally be able to return to a (closer to) normal service of providing visit reports and Bank Holiday drives in 2015.

Our Review of the Heritage Journal Year continues with a look back at the summer months.

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May

Our look at our ancient sites continued this month, with a view of the Bleasdale Circle and Billingborough Fen,  and we took a road trip to visit West Stow, in Suffolk. Following this visit, we touched upon the exclusivity of some sites which are, often of necessity, not as welcoming to handicapped visitors as they might be.

Meanwhile, with the news that Heritage Tourism is booming, we suggested a way in which
funding for heritage  could be increased. Despite this increased interest in Heritage, RESCUE, the British Archaeological Trust, are crying out for new members and supporters, a theme which was covered at their AGM this year.

With Prehistory now included in the national curriculum, we highlighted a couple of examples of teaching resources from different parts of the country. And speaking of prehistory, we delved into our own archives, travelling back nine years to our participation in a major piece of experimental archaeology – the theory and practice of ‘stone-rowing‘.

Our early summer competition, purely for fun, presented a series of severely pixellated pictures of burial chambers.  How many did you manage to guess right?

June

Vandalism at Tara and developer damage at Offa’s  Dyke  reared their head early in the month. Elsewhere, Carwynnen Quoit awaited its capstone, which was successfully raised at Midsummer, whilst at nearby Boscawen-Un an offering left in a dug hole was the subject of some debate in the comments section. How much damage is’acceptable’?

Of course, Midsummer is known for the celebrations at Stonehenge, but we highlighted
Solstice celebrations  at a few other  locations too.

And speaking of Stonehenge, we asked ‘Is The National Trust still opposed to a “short tunnel” at Stonehenge?‘ – from later events, it seems the answer was a resounding No!

July

Continuing with the Stonehenge tunnel theme, we stated: “a tunnel that is slightly longer than a short one is still a short one, and is still massively damaging”. And of other campaigners, we suggested “It would be nice if they all started (complaining) about (the short tunnel) NOW, and didn’t wait until December when the die is cast and the chances of changing anything will have all but disappeared.” Sadly prophetic words.

Out and about, we visited some heritage within a Cornish hillfort, looked at a tale of a moving mediaeval cross, and featured Castlerigg in our continuing A-Z of prehistoric sites. Pigwn stone alignment was also featured, which led into a series of posts asking some serious questions  of the scheduling process in Wales.

With the archaeological digging season in full swing, we suggested some sites worth a
visit. Our ‘Inside the Mind‘ series, which had been on hiatus also reappeared, via an interview with Professor Niall Sharples.

Sadly, the subject of monuments being used to advertise various causes, via so-called ‘brandalism’ returned yet again, and the Friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury WHS stated “Sooner or later a monument is going to be damaged beyond repair“.

August

Our second most read post of the year highlighted some unwelcome shenanigans at Stonehenge during the Solstice celebrations.  This occurred despite English Heritage making the position about criminality at Stonehenge very clear.  And this.

The economic cuts that are causing the loss of many County Archaeologists and their services was highlighted by a story involving the Director of the CBA finding Roman bones in a utility company’s road digging! And Sandy Gerrard provided another thought-provoking piece asking ‘Is destruction of heritage ever a good thing?

We continued to question the scheduling inconsistencies in Wales, looking again at the case for Bancbryn, and comparing with Gwern Wyddog and the Burial Chamber at Pen-yr-Alttwen.

Our much-maligned Artefact Erosion Counter  passed another milestone this month – 12 million recordable finds! Much-maligned, yet still no-one has proposed a better model for measuring the loss… and some people still wonder why we continue with the metal detectorist stories. But we will continue to ask, ‘How much loss is acceptable?’

Our review concludes tomorrow, so come back then!

Ok, so as the saying goes: “Once is an accident, twice is a habit, three times is a tradition”. So with no further ado, we present our now traditional (!) Review of the Heritage Journal Year.

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January

2014 started much the way the previous year had finished, with stories of potential environmental and heritage  landscape damage due to development. We introduced our Events Diary, a new page listing various walks, talks and other events that catch our eye (don’t forget, if you have an event you’d like listed, drop us a line to bring it to our attention!) And as holiday planning is a traditional January activity, we pointed out some Top 10 lists for ‘staycationers’ to consider.

We have been quite scathing toward Cadw (and will continue to be) for their handling of the Myndd Y Betws affair, but in fairness we have to point out the good side of their work too, in this case teaching schoolchildren about what may have gone on at our ancient sites.

The Oswestry Hillfort story continued with a Protest Meeting at the end of the month, we tried to clear some of the fog surrounding the Stonehenge road saga and our continuing general campaign against depletion of the archaeological resource provided a handy infographic for other countries considering setting up a PAS-like scheme.

February

This month was dominated by news from the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort campaign, with several stories devoted to the inconsistencies in the arguments for the development proposals.

There was good news on the teaching of Prehistory in schools and the English Heritage commissioners expressed some concerns about the forthcoming split/reorganisation into two separate bodies.

At Stonehenge, there was still no word on which tunnel English Heritage were supporting so while we waited, we gave you five musical tributes to the stones to listen to. Which was your favourite?

Oh yes, and we faced down some critics of our stance towards the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

March

We featured another five (lesser known) Stonehenge songs at the start of the month, and started a new occasional series, a Prehistoric A-Z, with a look at the Apron Full of Stones.

Our (now infamous) Artefact Erosion Counter clicked over 5 million recordable finds since the start of the PAS (which had recorded just shy of 1 million objects in the same period). By an unhappy coincidence, our story about the Medway Finders Club dig which unearthed Anglo-Saxon artefacts was, by a long chalk, our most read story of the year.

Following the damage caused at Mynydd Y Betws following the construction of a wind turbine, Dr Sandy Gerrard provided a solid case over five days for a prehistoric interpretation of the Bancbryn stone alignment.

We provided a full  report  of the Current  Archaeology Live conference, which we hope to attend once again in 2015, and gave an update on the restoration works at Carwynnen Quoit, where the first upright had been re-erected.

The Nine Ladies circle at Stanton Moor  was subjected to a paint attack, and we reported on a potential threat to a portion of Offa’s Dyke at Trefonen.

April

We started the Spring month with a look at essentials for a heritage trip ‘go-bag’,  with some good additional suggestions in the comments. We followed up with some suggestions for organising photos from your trips. Fully prepared, we grabbed our bag and took a drive around Early Hertfordshire.

Sadly, April marks the start of the silly season for some, and this year it was the turn of the Alton Barnes white horse to suffer from the April Fools. Elsewehere, illegal off-roader activity caused damage in the Mendips.  Meanwhile at Stonehenge, the debate rumbled on and we made some predictions.  We also provided a timely reminder that “Heritage ONLY survives because “someone” has stopped its destruction”.

The Prehistoric A-Z continued with a look at Arbor Low and we looked at the possibilities afforded by local Heritage Trails.

Tune in tomorrow for more nostalgic links in the second part of our 2014 review!

2015.

In parts of the US 90% of Native American archaeological sites have been vandalised. The Government is trying to stop it. In parts of Britain more than 90% of archaeological sites have been metal detected. The government isn’t trying to stop it. You might think they and British archaeologists don’t care, but they do. It’s just that having bottled out of legislating and set up a voluntary system that has largely failed there’s not a lot of appetite for acknowledging the reality.

But silence shouldn’t be taken as acquiescence. Most archaeologists do want the activity legally regulated. That bold assertion is easily proved: see how little response this prompts: if you’re a British archaeologist reading this (and we know there are several thousand of them who follow us on Twitter) and you DON’T think metal detecting needs legislative control just say so now in our Comments section. 

On the other hand, over the past few years the mood music has definitely been changing. Dare we hope that 2015 will be the year when a lot of archaeologists come clean and openly declare that the Emperor has no clothes and that the activity needs to be legally regulated? Professor Dennis Harding of Edinburgh University is already on the side of archaeology not expediency. Of the road built at the Hill of Tara he said (in stark contrast to the soothing words currently offered by some archaeologists at Stonehenge): it is “an act of cultural vandalism as flagrant as ripping a knife through a Rembrandt painting”. Of metal detecting he says (in stark contrast to the vacuous, saccharine chattering of our culture ministers):

“when government ministers, knowing no better, commend metal detecting as legitimate archaeology and are allowed to do so virtually unchallenged by the very scholars who should be upholding the highest and most rigorous academic research standards, et tu Brute seems to be the only appropriate comment”.

Will 2015 reveal lots of archaeologists and academics willing to echo his words? Or will it take another five or ten years?

.

truth.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Dear Santa,

santa

.       All I want for Christmas is a neolithic flint sickle from Ramsgate!

 

.              Season’s Greetings to all our contributors and readers!

.

decs

A demonstration by Stonehenge Alliance supporters at yesterday’s winter solstice celebrations expressed what everyone ought to be telling the British Government about the length of the proposed tunnel:

No Compromise

Please spread the message far and wide – especially if you are living abroad. It’s your World Heritage Site too and now the protest has gone global! As well as the petition for those living in Britain  there’s now a second one for the rest of the world. Please add your voice to defend one of the world’s most iconic archaeological landscapes.

__________________________________

Opposition to the UK Government’s plan to widen the A303 with a 2.9km tunnel close to the Stones is spearheaded by the Stonehenge Alliance, which is supported by the Ancient Sacred Landscape Network, Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Friends of the Earth, and RESCUE: The British Archaeological Trust.

 

MUSCULAR 1.

MUSCULAR 2

.

What prompted that? Well back in July we highlighted that Britain’s largest metal detecting shop, Regtons, was marketing lots of the night vision equipment loved by nighthawks as “metal detecting accessories” and we asked the public to write and ask them to stop. It took a while (and our reminders in August and  September) but at last they’ve deleted all such items from their site. Well done Britain, you look a tad less oikish today.

But here’s the thing. It’s not the first time we amateurs have got detectorists and suppliers to act properly by highlighting what’s going on – but it shouldn’t be our rôle, it’s surely something archaeologists, especially those who are paid to outreach, should be doing. Back-slapping people who are going to co-operate anyway is only half the job. Highlighting to the public those who aren’t is the other (and no, kidding them that most of the knowledge-loss is down to criminal nighthawks when actually it’s predominantly down to legal misbehaviour won’t do).

Half a job is not unadjacent to deliberately misleading landowners and the general public. About 560 of the 790 recordable items dug up today won’t be reported and will be lost to science. Merry Christmas.

decs

UPDATE: An artefact hunter writes that it’s a lie, it was not “letter-writing pressure” that caused Regtons to give up their “night vision franchise” although he/she doesn’t explain what did. Right. Sheer coincidence eh?

I think in the real world we can take it that whether it was letters or not, the publicity about their behaviour (which many detectorists have publicly condemned) was what did it.  Muscular outreach does work better than limp wristed appeasement.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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humbug solstice.

(Can one say that about Solstice as well as Christmas? Oh well….)

Scrooge might well get grumpy about English Heritage’s announcement about tomorrow’s event: “The [Winter Solstice at Stonehenge] is traditionally celebrated at the sunrise closest to the time when the sun is stationary”.

Is it? Doesn’t their own latest research indicate Stonehenge was designed to view winter sunsets not sunrises – and from outside the stones not inside?! Yet tomorrow they’ll let thousands into the circle to hoot and holler at the rising sun and won’t let on to them that they think they’re in the wrong place and 16 hours too late!

Shouldn’t EH, not the attendees, specify what the authentic celebration should be? After all, it is they who commissioned the research, it is they who are discomforted by the event and it is they who would save loads of money by not having to stage a massive free shindig inside a world heritage monument in the middle of the night!

.

UPDATE  Mon 22 Dec: Stranger and stranger (x3) ….

From the Western Daily Press this morning:

“Dozens of people turned up to the stones yesterday morning for the sunrise, but were told they had come a day too early”  and

The winter solstice sunrise is the most important moment in the pagan calendar – the moment of rebirth when the days begin to get longer again. It was the moment Stonehenge was aligned for – not the summer solstice sunrise.”

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the Hook Lake double stone alignment on Dartmoor is examined.

HookLake Map

The double stone alignment at Hook Lake within the Erme Valley is surrounded by hills and it is therefore remarkable that it includes a view towards a sea triangle formed by Stall Moor on the right and Stalldown Barrow on the left. The stone alignment itself includes a double row of stones leading downslope for 227m from a kerbed cairn at SX 64110 65330. The row is partly incorporated into a later prehistoric round house and enclosure. A sea triangle is visible from the top of the row and diminishes in size as one walks down along the row and finally disappears approximately 100m from the lower end. This characteristic of alignments including a length with very restricted views to the sea and another length with no sea views is repeated at a significant number of alignments and the frequency strongly suggests an element of deliberation. The hypothesis being presented is that the alignments were deliberately located and positioned in places where specific landmarks such as sea triangles would change in form as you walk along the carefully defined routeway. Utilising the natural topography the alignment builders were able to replicate this time and time again at different places on the moor.

HookLake

The stone alignment in the foreground is incorporated into the later prehistoric enclosure wall

HookLakeGE1

From the top of the alignment the sea triangle is a prominent and eye-catching natural phenomenon. Under specific lighting conditions and at a particular time of day it would have manifested itself as triangle of bright light.

HookLakeGE2

Half way down the alignment the sea triangle is considerably reduced in size and 100m from the end the sea disappears from view.

HookLakeGE3

The lower length of the row has no views to the sea. This Google Earth image is from the lower end of the row illustrates that the sea is no longer visible.

Profile Analysis

An examination of cross-sectional profiles from the row to the sea allows the arc of inter-visibility to be plotted onto a map. The juxtaposition of the nearby hills block other views to the sea and thereby create the small clearly defined triangle of visible sea.

HookLake ProfMap

This map shows the maximum arc of visibility from the Hook Lake double stone alignment. This diminishes rapidly as one moves downward along the row until just over half way the sea disappears behind the lower slopes of Stall Moor.  The alignment is situated within a valley with much higher ground on three sides and indeed the restricted partial view to the sea is all the more remarkable because of prominent hills on the remaining side.

HookLake Profile

Cross-sectional profile along the centre of the arc of visibility indicates that the nearest visible sea is just under 32km from Hook Lake.

This article is the latest in a series by Dr Sandy Gerard, looking at the commonality of features in a variety of stone rows in the southwest.

Previous articles in this series:

The very long list of archaeological sites within the World Heritage Site that may be damaged or destroyed by the construction of approach roads to the Too-Short tunnel has just been added to:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-30540914

See also this account in the Saisbury Journal http://m.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/11677854.Stonehenge_tunnel_could_destroy_key_archaeological_site_say_scientists/

Archaeologist David Jacques said: “Britain is beginning across this time period. Blick Mead connects a time when the country was still joined to the mainland to it becoming the British Isles for the first time” ….. whereas MP for Salisbury John Glen said “The evaluation of the A303 improvements will be meticulously planned and all representations will be evaluated.”

No John, be open and realistic. That’s not exactly what is going to happen is it?!

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