You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2015.

Rescue said it rather well:

“Whilst this might represent a tasty windfall for the finder and the landowner, for the rest of us – the other 60 million plus inhabitants of the British Isles – it represents nothing but yet another lost opportunity to add to the knowledge we have about the Saxon period ….Unfortunately these hoards are rare, so there might never be another one and we might never be able to answer the many questions surrounding them. But you won’t read about that in the papers.”

But actually, the papers DO contain some thought-provoking quotes if you look, like the Head of PAS saying their £1.3 million funding is too low (“I’m not sure whether we’re going to be able to renew the contracts for nine of the 32 posts that we’ve got in the scheme from the 1 April”) and Ed Vaizey not addressing that but instead praising “the finders and landowners who have graciously waived their right to a reward” while failing to mention that the vast majority don’t and we pay them far more than PAS gets.

But the best quote is from the BBC for it says the payout just from the Lenborough Hoard “could be £1.3 million” – which is the same as PAS’s allowance for a whole year! (Despite the fact it was hoiked out far too fast due to pressure from people who couldn’t control themselves or be bothered to arrange for it to be guarded overnight!. Selungnorami.)

No Way 4

Compare and contrast the people who didn’t call Atif with the sort of people that are going to THIS today! (No mention or praise or reward for them then Ed!)

So it’s all there in the papers, just under the spin: Britain IS utterly bonkers. And no, our portable antiquities system is not “internationally admired” as has been trumpeted this week (who feeds Ed Vaizey these lines?). Not enough for any country, anywhere, ever to have adopted it anyway! How come? The things you’re liable to read in the papers, they ain’t necessarily so and sometimes they’re utter foutaise as my French archaeologist friend says. (Look it up, it’s rude!)

Update 17 Feb 2015
Meanwhile, look what happens when a finder isn’t selfish and self-serving. See HERE


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


The South-East henge wall, carefully and precisely sliced into oblivion

In response to our enquiries English Heritage recently supplied us with this Press Statement outlining the latest position:


“Given the national and international significance of the Priddy Circles, English Heritage felt it important that the damage caused to the monument should not be repaired without some archaeological investigation taking place. Therefore, a programme archaeological work was designed by English Heritage, focusing on the parts of the monument that had been either been damaged or disturbed. The work was commissioned to run alongside the evaluation phase of the reinstatement works, which was necessary to inform decisions on whether to restore areas of the circle that had been subject to earthmoving.

Over Spring and Summer of this year, English Heritage, together with archaeological contractors AC Archaeology, undertook a programme of assessment and evaluation, including a geophysical survey of the damaged parts of the site. The results of this work helped in the design of an archaeological excavation which was carried out in September and October 2013, and focused on an area of deep wheel-rutting caused by the creation of a track way through the site during the unauthorised works.

The fieldwork is now completed and post-excavation analysis and recording are currently underway, including the use of specialist scientific dating techniques by English Heritage at our laboratory in Portsmouth. The results will be published in due course, and it is hoped they will advance our knowledge and understanding of this rare and early monument type, in addition to helping inform management decisions for the Priddy Circles and similar monuments elsewhere.

The final part of the reinstatement works is due to take place early in the New Year, when some reconstruction of the bulldozed circle bank will take place. This is a limited piece of work with two objectives – firstly, to restore some of the form and legibility of the circle and secondly to cover over and protect important Neolithic archaeology which had been left exposed by the damage. When this work is completed, Mr Penny’s obligations under the Voluntary Agreement will have been met and the Scheduled Monument will once again be in a stable condition for posterity.”


If you are aware that the final stage, “reconstruction of the bulldozed circle bank” has taken place we should be grateful if you would let us know.

See further update

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


Leading up a gentle north facing slope of Ringmoor Down at SX 56336 65805 on Dartmoor is a single stone row. The row is aligned approximately NNE to SSW and is at least 369m long. Walking along the row from its lower NNE end the nearby sea is hidden from sight. At a distance of 100m from the top of the alignment the sea starts to appear and as you proceed it seems to emerge out of the ground. On a clear winter afternoon a beam of reflected white light should be visible extending westward from the cairn at the top of the row when viewed from a particular spot on the alignment. This is clearly something that can be checked in the field and the next stage will be to record the precision and character of this phenomena. The incorporation of natural phenomena in this way would have surely enhanced the appearance of the row and added a temporal element to its use but proving an element of deliberation is obviously going to be more difficult to accomplish. The strongest evidence for deliberation is provided by the considerable number of instances of observable inter-relationships between alignments, the surrounding topography and the daily ever changing lighting conditions.

As visitors to these monuments we appreciate how the seasons and time of day influences the ambience and quality of any photographs we may take. The stone alignments in particular regularly alter their appearance with constantly shifting shadows being amongst the most obvious daily changes. The stone alignments were not built in splendid isolation they were created for a reason by a society who we know were interested in the astronomical cycles, seasons and the complex  form of the world they inhabited. It should therefore not come as a surprise to find tangible evidence of these interests expressed in their alignments. The sheer number of visual links that are being identified means that the likelihood of these being random coincidences rapidly diminishes and instead it is much more likely that they form part of a broad pattern of shared relationships with special places and natural events in the landscape. Visual associations between sites of this period are accepted as significant with the siting of many monuments being the result to some degree of particular topographic features. We are dealing with a society where ritual played an important part in their lives and it is perhaps interesting to note that often it is evidence of their rituals that survive whilst domestic sites remain difficult to identify.


Kerbed cairn at the top of the stone alignment. View from north.


The lower end of stone alignment. View from north. This length of the alignment has no sea views.

Views from the alignment

A series of images from Google Earth are presented below. The first one represents the view from the lower (NNE) end of the row and each subsequent image is taken from a point along the alignment with the last one being from the cairn at the top.


Looking south from the northern end of the row. This spot lies within a natural basin and there are limited views in every direction.


200m from the top. As one proceeds along the alignment more and more of the surrounding landscape comes into view but still there is no view of the sea.


100m from top the sea becomes visible. At mid-day during the winter months it might look like a beam of light shining from the cairn at the top of the row.


50m from top more and more of the sea becomes visible. The relationship between the sea and the cairn at the top will be worth investigating in further detail.


A pair of sea triangles are visible from the cairn at the top.


Map showing the arcs of visibility from the cairn at the top of the alignment.  Each sea triangle would have been illuminated at a different time by the winter sun and may have added a temporal dimension to the ceremonies. The eastern arc would have been illuminated from about 1.15pm until 2.30pm and the western arc between 3.20pm and 3.35pm.

Previous articles in this series:

Old Oswestry hillfort has inspired a national call to show heritage some love this Valentine’s. Campaigners are staging a symbolic hug of the 3,000 year old Iron Age monument on February 14 while a decision is awaited on proposed housing in its shadow. See HERE!

Now the social media campaign #hugyourheritage is calling for the nation to join in the spirit of the event by tweeting selfies with the ‘I love heritage’ logo.


Launch details reveal: “History and heritage are important. Support Old Oswestry Hillfort and hug your heritage on Valentine’s Day! We are urging as many people as possible to take part in person or online and demonstrate their support for an iconic and nationally important hillfort.” Participants are being asked to reserve their tweets at Thunderclap, the crowdspeaking platform which will mass-share the message on Valentine’s Day.

Meanwhile, the live hug on Old Oswestry, organised by Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH), will take place at 1pm, meeting first at Gatacre playing field. Anyone interested in helping to steward the event should contact HOOOH on 01691 652918 or go to

Three days after Cadw were asked to consider the Bancbryn stone alignment for scheduling the responsible Cadw officer informed her colleagues that she was starting to lose her temper.  This outburst was attached to a proposed reply to a couple of emails sent to Cadw on 16th and 17th January 2012.

What can have been said to have triggered this outburst?

These e-mails:

  • asked to see the evidence that the area had been covered in dense vegetation.
  • expressed concerns that it was now apparently acceptable practice to ignore areas covered with dense vegetation during an assessment on areas adjacent to scheduled archaeology that are to be destroyed.
  • expressed surprise that no archaeological earthwork survey work has been conducted as part of this project.
  • asked that a fresh survey be conducted as a matter of priority.
  • informed Cadw that Dyfed Archaeological Trust had claimed that they did not have time to monitor this development in the field.
  • expressed concern that an earlier response had suggested that mitigation would be limited to a watching brief.
  • asked that a scheduling assessment be carried out as a matter of priority.
  • asked to be kept up to date with progress.
  • requested that the site be accorded sensitive handling.

Whatever the reason it was surely a somewhat inappropriate reaction to genuine concerns expressed in a constructive manner.

The final irony is that the Cadw officer “forgot” to send the reply!

Mynydd y Betws - A rich archaeological landscape seriously let-down by those entrusted with its care?

Mynydd y Betws – A rich archaeological landscape seriously let-down by those entrusted with its care?


Read all about it in The Daily Mail here .
What  a relief. Campaigners at Stonehenge are going to have “a key voice”!

Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of 13 pieces of Yupik artwork (including miniature baskets and carved walrus ivory pieces) stolen from locked display cases over the weekend. The items taken were small and said to have been chosen in a manner that made their disappearance unlikely to be noticed.

“These stolen items are part of our rich cultural heritage” said Dan Winkelman, YKHC managing director,  “they still belong to the community and should be returned. We feel absolutely violated in hearing about the theft”.

A Government spokesperson concurred.

Meanwhile, across the pond, no-one was offering a reward for the recovery of any one of the 10 million bundles of historical knowledge legally stolen by non-reporting artefact hunters since 1975.  They included lots of good stuff but no-one knows exactly what, as that’s the awful nature of the theft and the blessed ally of denial. They are the ultimate instances of “disappearance unlikely to be noticed”.

“These stolen items are part of our rich cultural heritage” said a heritage busybody on a website. “They still belong to the community and our region and should be returned. We feel absolutely violated in hearing about the theft”.

A Government spokesperson pretended not to hear.

Alaskan stolen article  #13 is .... a carved ivory "story knife".

Alaskan stolen article number thirteen is …. a carved ivory “story knife”.

ritain's stolen bundle of knowledge number ten million is ..... gone.

Britain’s stolen bundle of historical knowledge number ten million is ….. gone.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


 The British tend to be very supportive of 3 things: The NHS, the National Trust and Sir David Attenborough and although they get vocal about the faults of the first two. they’d be furious if someone tried to take them away. It wouldn’t be Britain without them. But just lately something’s gone wrong at the Trust.

To their credit, for years they (and their boss) have valiantly fought “conservation creep” (the drift in the official definition of conservation from “safeguarding” to “maintaining and managing change”), as befits a charity that works “to preserve and protect historic places and spaces – for ever, for everyone“. But recently at a notorious and (we thought) uncomfortable live AGM it was announced they wouldn’t be opposing a “short” Stonehenge tunnel (thus ditching “safeguarding special places” in favour of “managing change”). All of them? Or were some of them wishing they were in a tunnel? I don’t know. All I do know is that the Trust wasn’t always like this. Remember their press releases a decade ago, e.g. “National Trust calls for full delivery of Stonehenge vision” (2003) and “Don’t sell Stonehenge short” (2004)?


Tragically, it is widely acknowledged that the above has been the pivotal factor in getting the short tunnel adopted as Government policy.

Given its laudable record you’d think the Trust could be trusted to express the true reality, i.e. that tunnels harm nothing but access roads destroy everything (and the short tunnel requires dual carriageway-sized trenches inside the WHS). In 2002 English Heritage’s chief archaeologist said of a trench proposed for the then cut and cover scheme: the thought of gouging that massive trench across such a precious landscape just brought tears to my eyes. The Trust’s leadership should reveal to the public if their trench will make them cry but instead they (and EH) seem to be implying the trenches will bring net benefits and that the damage can somehow be worked round or minimised. But they can’t and it would involve sleight of hand to present a plan that purported to. The archaeological landscape there is just too rich, there’s no room to insert a harmless trench.

It looks as if NT and EH have simply stopped resisting massive harm to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and the only “harm” they are still trying to avoid is the harm to their own reputations. Hence this headline in November (days before the Government announced the short tunnel and months after they’d told the Government they’d support it!): “We want a longer A303 tunnel at Stonehenge says English Heritage and National Trust“. And these two “wriggles” – one by NT: “We would love a 4.5km tunnel to be announced, to be on the table, but what we did was try to take a proactive, pragmatic approach to what might be acceptable to us(a “pragmatic approach” which they had never, ever, ever considered acceptable before!) and one by EH: “What this is about is the Government gets the traffic moving but we protect what’s special about Stonehenge and all the other monuments.” (See? EH has managed to do what no parent ever can: choose which child to save and which to let perish!)

They – and Britain – really have no moral right to do this. As Kate Fielden of the Stonehenge Alliance has pointed out: “the fact is, our Government is committed under the World Heritage Convention to protect the whole site, not just parts of it. Compare that simple statement with what the NT’s Assistant Director of Operations said on BBC Somerset: (no longer available but here’s an accurate transcript) : “We’ve been doing work to see if we can assess different portal locations against, you know, what’s important in that landscape and we think there may be some alternative portal locations that weren’t necessarily considered before…. which would have an overall benefit for the site….. there IS going to be an impact where the tunnel comes out …. but we’ve been trying to find some locations where there’s a sort of net gain if you like for heritage and the landscape”. Got that? They’ve found places to put the trenches they hadn’t thought of before and are saying that if those are used there’ll be an overall benefit for the site!

Well, ALL portal locations would cause massive damage, there are no magic ones that don’t and anyway they surely don’t have the moral right or mandate to pursue a “net gain” at the expense of destroying part of the site do they? If they think otherwise let them first explain to the world, with absolute precision, how this UNESCO statement on world heritage is wrong: “The deterioration or disappearance of any item of the cultural or natural heritage constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world.”

The current bottom line is that the NT is proposing to support bequeathing to future generations a Stonehenge fashioned through the juxtaposition of short-term electoral manoevering and the fact its two guardians have taken their eyes off the ball. “This ancient place will finally have the future it deserves” wrote the Trust’s archaeologist recently. Actually, isn’t it the reality that if those trenches are dug  Stonehenge will have the future it doesn’t deserve, forever, for everyone. Is it the role of today’s National Trust to countenance such a thing? Can we please have back the Trust that most Trust supporters (and it’s employees perchance?) would wish for?


If you’re opposed to what’s happening, please sign this petition for those living in Britain or this petition for the rest of the world

Or you might like to contact the Trust by phone, post, email or online and tell them their current stance isn’t in line with your instinct or what their instinct used to be and they should do something both radical and right: think again. The Trust is not a natural Government lapdog so this is one of those rare occasions when public opinion just might change what’s happening.

(National Trust employees are not excluded from this invitation!)

RESCUE – the British Archaeological Trust have been campaigning for many years against cuts to archaeological and museum services around the country, lobbying local councils, politicians and others with influence in governmental circles.

Logo: RESCUE, the British Archaeology Trust

Logo: RESCUE, the British Archaeology Trust

For a similar number of years, they have also provided advice so that members of the public such as you and I can assist in their campaigning, by lobbying our local bigwigs on archaeological issues of local and national  importance.

As part of this campaigning, their useful guide, “Fighting Back: Some suggestions as to how to campaign to save museums, archaeological services and the historic environment” has been updated afresh for 2015 and version 5.2 of this very useful document is now available for all to download.

You don’t have to be a member of RESCUE to follow the advice therein, but the more people that sign up for membership, the more weight their arguments carry within the corridors of power, so please consider signing up. Individual membership costs a shade over £1 a month, less than a cup of coffee!

By Dr Sandy Gerrard.

As part of the planning conditions imposed by the Planning Inspector at Mynydd y Betws he stated: “No development shall take place within the site until a programme of archaeological work has been implemented in accordance with a written scheme of investigation approved by the Local Planning Authority in consultation with Cadw”

In August 2010 the necessary approval was obtained with a Cadw Officer stating:

“I have read through this WSI and can confirm Cadw’s agreement to what is a comprehensive programme of work linked to the appropriate professional standards.”

Please can someone tell me how can a Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI) which does not include any earthwork recording in a landscape which Cadw described in 2006 as having a “density of visible upstanding archaeological sites and monuments of many periods” be described as comprehensive?

Furthermore the Planning Inspector had already stated in his report when mentioning archaeological sites that it would appear from the site inspection that some are not specifically recorded.”

So why did Cadw and Dyfed Archaeological Trust not insist that at least these were recorded prior to destruction?

If they had perhaps a field system through which a road was driven would have at least been noticed before it was destroyed.

Field system on moorland at Mynydd y Betws.

Field system on moorland at Mynydd y Betws.

Field boundaries highlighted in red formed part of a field system at Mynydd y Betws

Field boundaries highlighted in red formed part of a field system at Mynydd y Betws

The same area after the construction of the wind farm. Most of the boundaries were destroyed without any attempt being made to record them.

The same area after the construction of the wind farm. Most of the boundaries were destroyed without any attempt being made to record them.


February 2015

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