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by Nigel Swift

Much will be written by professional archaeologists about the latest (and worst) episode, aired last night. Meghan Dennis. an archaeologist at York University, probably wins 3 prizes for succinctness: “The 1st remains of the episode are found. Disclaimers go up. The footage shows they lie”….. “Gun wankfest time” …. “Overall, this show continues to be a cesspool of bad practice, unethical excavation, and poor science and outreach.”  (A fourth prize for succinctness should go to a Ryan Grove for an unwittingly relevant tweet: If you want to know who the assholes are in a community, suggest the adoption of a code of conduct. It’s like asshole kryptonite.”)

However, while lack of technique is a matter for comment by experts, lack of decency is something we’re all entitled to protest about so here’s my even more succinct characterisation of the series: “A horrible subject treated horribly.”

Nevertheless, I hope anger over the actions of three British detectorists abroad doesn’t divert attention from the less overtly obnoxious but cumulatively far more damaging bad practice by thousands of others at home. A small minority of nighthawks has performed that service for years. An even smaller number of Nazi War Diggers shouldn’t be allowed to do the same. A massive non-reporting rate, farmers ripped off and EBay chock-a-block all warrant the attention of archaeologists too. Self evidently, outreach has only reached the reachable. Here’s one solution:
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Ethical detector.

But assuming that can’t be done then the only solution to bad practice in both Latvia and Loughborough is to call for laws which make good practice mandatory instead of voluntary. Occam’s Razor, anyone?

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Dr Sandy Gerrard’s ongoing series of posts concerning stone row alignments, and their associated landscape tricks and treats have been generally well received here on the Heritage Journal.

Such has been the reaction that a decision has been made to give his articles and associated research a more permanent, focused home. To this end we are delighted to announce the creation of a sister site for the Journal, and new web resource: ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ which we are working to make public in March 2016.

StoneRowsLogo

This new web site will eventually include a full gazetteer of known stone rows covering the length and breadth of Britain, organised on a regional basis – Dartmoor is the first gazetteer area to be completed but other areas will be populated in the coming weeks and months.

gazetteer

There will also be a full analysis of rows by type, length and number of stones available at launch. As time goes on, further information will rapidly be added, including links to other resources, and it is hoped that this site will grow into a major resource and focus for stone row-based study in its own right.

Research

A further announcement (and working link) will be made available closer to launch date, but we wanted to give an early ‘heads-up’ to all those who are interested in this area of study, so watch this space!

The love just grows and grows for Old Oswestry hillfort.

Shropshire councillors may have voted to throw open its ancient landscape to development, but defiant residents will be scaling its ramparts on Valentine’s Day in a hug of protection for the Iron Age icon.

Hug weekend 2016_logo

Following the success of last year’s inaugural hug, campaign group HOOOH is staging a weekend of events embracing the archaeology and landscape of one of Britain’s most celebrated hillforts.

Running February 13 and 14, the Old Oswestry Hug Weekend will include a heritage seminar, craft workshops, art exhibitions, music event, as well as a mass hug of the hillfort itself.

Expanding on its well-received seminar in 2014, HOOOH will be hosting a full day symposium in Oswestry’s Memorial Hall on Saturday 13 February.  Invited speakers will explore Old Oswestry’s multi-faceted archaeology and heritage landscape as well as modern-day planning threats to it.

The hillfort hug will take place from 1pm on Sunday 14 February, culminating in a procession along the ramparts with lights and drums. It attracted over 450 people last year and was supported by a national social media campaign, #hugyourheritage, created by the Council of British Archaeology.

HOOOH is also delighted to announce that the hug event is being supported by a number of local artists with an exciting series of exhibitions under the banner ‘Artists Hugging Old Oswestry Hillfort’ (AHH!).

AHH logo white background

Members of art groups, Inside Out Art and Borderland Visual Arts, are busy creating artwork, including paintings, sculpture, textiles and jewellery, inspired by the 3,000-year-old monument and its landscape. Many will be on display in time for the hug weekend.

From February 1 to April 4, Oswestry’s Heritage & Visitor Centre will be showing an exhibition of AHH! work entitled ‘Views of, and on, Old Oswestry Hillfort’.

Sketch by artist Holly Hayward depicting Lady Guinevere hugging the hillfort and clutching Oswald’s tree.

Sketch by artist Holly Hayward depicting Lady Guinevere hugging the hillfort and clutching Oswald’s tree.

Oswestry arts venue, Hermon, will also be showcasing a number of AHH! installations during February and will be hosting drum and light-making workshops on February 6 and 13. It is also staging ‘Hillfort Live’, an evening of ‘hillfort-centric’ music and performance on February 13 from 7.30pm.

A third exhibition will run at Oswestry’s Willow Gallery from April 23 to May 21, incorporating photos and film of this year’s hug.

Campaigner Dr George Nash said: “This is yet again another extremely visual display by the people of Shropshire and the Borderlands showing their support for this iconic monument. Let’s hope Shropshire Council with its new leader can see and hear what the people are saying, which is simply ‘No’ to development.”

Llanarmon-based artist Diana Baur, spokesperson for AHH!, said: “Local artists are making works that reference the hillfort, visually expressing its importance for future generations and the fight to protect its setting. Plans are being laid for the exhibition to then travel further afield linking to other areas where our national heritage is threatened.”

HOOOH is campaigning against the reassignment of the hillfort’s eastern hinterland – and heart of Oswestry’s heritage gateway – for an estate of 117 houses. Despite overwhelming opposition and calls from the highest echelons of British archaeology to reject the development, it was recently approved by Shropshire Council on the SAMDev local plan.

*Anyone interested in stewarding at the hillfort hug can contact HOOOH on 01691 652918 oroldoswestry@gmail.com

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

TWMap

The double stone alignment at Trowlesworthy includes two roughly parallel lines of stones aligned north east to south west leading for 127.5m from a kerbed cairn (SX 57644 63985) on the lower slopes of Great Trowlesworthy Tor. The alignment is far from straight and several minor shifts in its orientation give it the sinuous character found at many rows. The row is built mainly from medium sized orthostats (average 0.37m high) although at least one more substantial stone (now recumbent) lies a short distance above the Old Bottlehill Mine Leat which cuts the row in two. There is no blocking stone at the south western end and it may therefore have originally been longer. A detailed plan of the row together with details and discussion is available the “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume 3” by Jeremy Butler.  A second row is situated to the north of this one and will be considered fully at a later date. At this stage it is perhaps worth noting that the second row includes a single line of stones and despite its close proximity has no views to the sea, a situation paralleled by the second row at Hart Tor. Analysis of sea views from the Trowlesworthy rows is to some extent hampered by the nearby china clay works at Lee Moor which have undoubtedly altered the local topography, but despite this the character of the sea views is still obvious and have not been significantly altered.

The Trowlesworthy double stone alignment in common with many Dartmoor stone rows is built across the sea view/no sea view interface. This means that views to the sea are visible from parts of the row but not from others.  In this instance the sea is visible from the upper part of the row and not from the lower length.  The largest stone (now recumbent) together with a significant shift in alignment denotes the point at which the sea view appears and disappears depending on the direction of travel. The presence of the largest orthostat and alignment shift suggests that this was a significant point along the journey denoted by the row and its precise correlation with the sea/no sea view interface is consistent with the familiar pattern being found at many stone rows. The observation first made at Bancbryn of a close and measurable visual link with the sea is one that is repeated time and time again. The construction of rows across the sea/no sea view interface is too common to be a coincidence and strongly supports the hypotheses that the siting of many rows was influenced by a need to acknowledge this phenomenon. A programme of statistical analysis is underway to establish and quantify the precise character of this relationship and demonstrate the degree of correlation between the Dartmoor rows and the types of sea view that exist. An initial pilot has suggested that the distribution of Dartmoor rows correlates with particular views towards the sea but also that other types of view and reveal are of significance. Cumulatively the evidence that is being gathered illustrates that the rows were erected in particular locations to enable particular types of view and reveals to be “experienced” by those walking along them and it would therefore be surprising if these experiences were not reflected in the activities being carried out.

Simplified plan showing the row and cairn. Views to the sea exist from the stones coloured  black, but no sea views are available from the part of the row coloured red.

Simplified plan showing the row and cairn. Views to the sea exist from the stones coloured  black, but no sea views are available from the part of the row coloured red.

The cairn at the top of the stone alignment. Note the way in which the row’s orientation shifts to ensure that it reaches the kerbed cairn. The orthostats denoting the cairn are larger than those used to build the row.

The cairn at the top of the stone alignment. Note the way in which the row’s orientation shifts to ensure that it reaches the kerbed cairn. The orthostats denoting the cairn are larger than those used to build the row.

The sinuous form of this row is obvious when viewed along its length from the south west. The large stones at the top of the photograph surround the cairn. The form of the row strongly suggests that perhaps it was an established path that was subsequently denoted by stones. The large recumbent stone is indicated by a red arrow. This is the point where the sea becomes visible for the first time as you walk up the row.

The sinuous form of this row is obvious when viewed along its length from the south west. The large stones at the top of the photograph surround the cairn. The form of the row strongly suggests that perhaps it was an established path that was subsequently denoted by stones. The large recumbent stone is indicated by a red arrow. This is the point where the sea becomes visible for the first time as you walk up the row.

View from the south east of the row.  The hillside is littered with substantial blocks of granite but the builders of the row selected smaller more manageable stones.

View from the south east of the row.  The hillside is littered with substantial blocks of granite but the builders of the row selected smaller more manageable stones.

The lower length of the row has no views to the sea. View from south west.

The lower length of the row has no views to the sea. View from south west.

Views from the alignment

Three images derived from Google Earth are presented below to illustrate the character of the reveal. As you walk up the hill towards Great Trowlesworthy Tor a view to the sea appears at the point where the largest stone once stood.

From the bottom of the row the view southward is restricted by rising ground. Only a modern china clay tip is visible beyond the immediate horizon.

From the bottom of the row the view southward is restricted by rising ground. Only a modern china clay tip is visible beyond the immediate horizon.

The sea is suddenly revealed when you reach the largest stone.

The sea is suddenly revealed when you reach the largest stone.

Although now partly obscured by a china clay tip originally a thin slither of sea would have been visible from the cairn at the top of the row.

Although now partly obscured by a china clay tip originally a thin slither of sea would have been visible from the cairn at the top of the row.

TWarc

Map showing the arc of visibility from the upper (north eastern) end of the alignment.  The view to the sea is most impressive in the middle of the day during the winter months.

Source: Butler, J., 1994, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Volume Three, 169-71 and 205.

Previous articles in this series:

A damaged Monet. What has that got to do with it?

A damaged Monet. What has that got to do with it?

In 2014 we complained here and here about a detecting rally on the site of Weyhill fair, saying ….

“Sites really don’t come better than this!” said the organiser, and he was right ….. Everything dropped on those 60 acres forms an almost unique whole, a continuous record of social and commercial interaction in one small place over seven and a half centuries …… So it’s just crying out for a comprehensive archaeological field survey one day ……

Yet instead tomorrow (Sunday) it will be dug over by who knows whom from who knows where with a propensity to report amounting to who knows what, using no survey methodology but instead a totally random approach followed by irrational selectivity. So by Monday the site’s uniqueness will be gone forever as multiple holes will have been punched in the record and an unknown number of material and abstract components of  history will have been respectively quietly pocketed or destroyed and hence put beyond the reach of science…… It’s a bloody shame really. I’m no archaeologist, just a no-account amateur, but I know when something irreplaceable is being needlessly destroyed….. It’s scandalous.”

But they’ve announced they’ll be back again in March (a third visit I think) and this time, for just £35 you can help yourself for the whole weekend! Well worth it, as it includes one field that was “very productive and everyone agreed had a lot more to offer.” Strange, innit. No-one’s allowed to come back and have a second bash at a Monet but you can go back and have multiple bashes at Weyhill Fair ’till it’s all gone!

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“Sites really don’t come better than this!” 700 years of History, and not statutorily protected? Then we all have a legal right to take bits of it home for ourselves, yes? It's legal, innit?

Sites really don’t come better than this!” Absolutely! 750 years of History, entirely unprotected by law. What’s not to like?

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Update 11 Feb 2016 …. We have just been reminded by a correspondent that as a result of a very recent recent legislative change, if Weyhill Fair was in Wales then (in theory anyway) it could be scheduled and protected. It’s as if you are free to mess up a Monet in Minehead but not in Merthyr!

Update 6 March 2016 ….. It has been revealed that PAS “will be in attendance on Saturday only”.  The implications for the site are clear. If the hero-attendees could be trusted to report what they find on Sunday there would be no need for PAS to attend on Saturday.

Update 14 August 2016 ….. Are they going back for a fourth bite in September? “Anton Rotary Club are pleased to announce their autumn dig on land a couple of miles north west of Andover, Hampshire and adjacent to the the fields that we detected last spring” and “Directions and post code will be emailed a few days beforehand”.

Seems possible, but that they realise what they are doing is profoundly wrong so this time they’re not boasting about Weyhill Fair or that “Sites really don’t come better than this!”

Self-centred acquisitive oiks knowing they’re doing wrong but doing it anyway? Surely not?!

PPS, and they say, as do most rally organisers, “As usual ALL profits will go to our chosen charities”.  It’s a lie and a widespread one,  a neat playing with words. What they find goes in their pockets, not to their “chosen charities”. Ask them.

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With just five weeks to go, it’s time to book your ticket, if you haven’t already done so, for the best conference in town! Current Archaeology magazine’s annual ‘CA Live’ conference returns to Senate House in London at the end of February, and we’ll be there live Tweeting the event once again.

CALive

Although the full lineup has yet to be finalised, the session schedule already looks very enticing:

Friday 26th February

  • 9:30-11:00 In Search of the Prehistoric, introduced by Julian Richards, speakers to be confirmed.
  • 11:30 – 13:00 Rescuing the Past:
    • Neil Holbrook – The Cirencester Roman Tombstone
    • Ben Ford – Excavating Westgate
    • Dan Atkinson – Chatham Dockyard
    • Ronan Toolis – Trusty’s Hill
  • 14:30-16:00 Around the Ancient World:
    • Barry Cunliffe – Birthing Eurasia
    • Ray Laurence – Roman Roads: movement migration and mobility
    • Andrew Robinson – The Indus civilisation: lost and found?
  • 4:30-5:50 Keynote: Professor Mike Fulford

…followed by the Reception, Awards Ceremony (have you voted yet?) and entertainment.

Saturday 27th February

  • 9:30-11:00 Osteology of Trauma:
    • Ray Baldry – Sedgeford’s Anglo-Saxon skeletons
    • Louise Low – the Ridgeway Hill Vikings
    • Martin Smith – Violence in the Neolithic
  • 11:30:1300 Warfare in Roman Britain:
    • Mike Bishop – Roman Military Warfare
    • John Reid – A Seige at Burnswark?
    • Philip Crummy – Boudicca and the Fenwick Treasure
  • 14:30-16:00 Experiments in Archaeology:
    • Ryan Watts – Butser Ancient Farm
    • Pieta Greaves and Eleanor Blakelock – The Staffordshire Hoard
    • Zena Kamash – Food for Thought
  • 16:30-17:00 David Breeze – 40 Years on the Frontier

Ticket details are available from the CA Live web site. I hope to see you there, please stop and say hello if you spot me!

 

We have been invited by Doug Rocks-McQueen to once again participate in the Archaeology Blogging Carnival. This year’s theme is ‘Archaelogy’s Greatest Challenges’, and so we herewith humbly submit our own contribution:

It’s no secret that in 2016 and beyond the short tunnel debate will become progressively more passionate and complex. However, there’s a fundamental truth looming over it that hasn’t been fully debated but which will have to be properly addressed. It’s that under Article 4 of the World Heritage Convention Britain has committed itself to the protection and conservation of the whole Stonehenge World Heritage Site.  “Protection” is the action of protecting, or the state of being protected and its antonyms are harm and destruction. “Conservation” is the act of preserving, guarding or protecting and it has exactly the same antonyms, harm and destruction.

You will have heard (from EH, NT et al) lots of talk about a “once in a generation chance” and enhancing, improving and restoring, and about minimising new damage and delivering a better situation for traffic, pedestrians and skylarks. But there’s a fundamental unvoiced problem. None of those aspirations, whether they’re beneficial or not, is protection or conservation and it’s an undeniable fact that no matter how or where a short tunnel is designed or positioned it WOULD involve substantial harm and destruction, which are the antonyms of protection and conservation.

Hence, it’s surely the case that if we wish to abide by the Convention we simply can’t build a short tunnel (or indeed construct surface dual carriageways). On the other hand, if we are determined to go ahead we’ll have to ditch the Convention. Or flout it. Or use fancy words to lie about what we thought it meant when we signed it. Anyone who has followed what EH and The Trust have been saying will know that process has started, with frankly partial and selective accounts being employed to win the public over.

It would be great if 2016 saw a rising tide of archaeologists, lawyers and others saying hang on a moment, have you actually read what the Convention says? The Stonehenge Alliance has already done so and the CBA and others – notably ICOMOS UK, have indicated that they are very troubled about how building a short tunnel can be reconciled with our Convention commitments. It’s likely they will need a lot more than lyrical words and videos to convince them a short tunnel is supportable.

It would be easy to justify building a short tunnel if the Convention was ambiguous. But it’s all too clear, so we anticipate that some desperate tactics and interpretations will be put forward. A compliant Attorney General and a dodgy dossier are not unknown in our recent history, so who knows? Something reminiscent of a dodgy dossier at least, seems already to exist – the scary and false claim that if a short tunnel can’t be had a surface dual carriageway may be imposed. Fortunately the Stonehenge Alliance has utterly discredited that, rather forensically!

Nevertheless the short tunnel agenda has many powerful supporters and we can anticipate all sorts of claims. In particular, look out for a re-working of the Vietnam war quotation, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it”. We are confident a version of that will be voiced: “It was necessary to cause damage to the World Heritage Site in order to unify and enhance it.” Unfortunately for the short tunnel supporters the Convention doesn’t offer the option to interpret its provisions creatively merely because to do so would be financially convenient. No matter how it is dressed up a short tunnel would break the solemn promise we’ve made to the world.

Please don't let them tell the World it's not.

Please don’t let them tell the World it’s not.

This Sunday there’s a metal detecting rally just south of Oswestry. Not near the setting of the hillfort you understand, detecting is forbidden  there……

no detecting

…. which is strange, as an archaeological report on the land reckoned: “The owners of Oldport Farm confirm that their land is often combed by metal detectors who informally report finds of musket balls, presumed to date to the Civil War period”. Often combed by metal detectors, eh? Yet now they’re banned. Pourquoi? Supply your own theory, but here’s mine: “someone” doesn’t want anything found that might put a spanner in the money-making works, things like important archaeological artefacts and evidence that might prompt talk of protecting the land from development!

You won’t have heard that from officialdom though. Not in their remit, see. Although, you might hear some of them quietly singing …
If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.
Not that “someone” needs to worry that detectorists might mess things up. The Portable Antiquity Scheme recently admitted they think 70% of detecting finds don’t get reported to them and there’s no reason to think things would be different in Oswestry. Indeed, I refuse to believe that a bunch of detectorists who kept coming back often were only finding a few musket balls and nothing else. Unless they were all insane. Which I doubt.

However, getting permission to build houses in a scheduled monument’s setting involves attending to every detail, including trying to ensure no-one picks up (literally) anything that might ruin everything. Thus, it’s not just detectorists but human beings that are banned from the land and it’s worth noting there’s STILL a notice  about not stepping off the path because of chemicals. (Still? Really? Is this Chernobyl?)  As a result, we have this bizarre spectacle …..

A man from the BBC and the leader of HOOOH and the Director of the CBA wanting to inspect an important piece of land but being told to "keep out" (or perhaps to "Keep off our pension fund"?!

A man from the BBC and the leader of HOOOH and the Director of the CBA wanting to inspect an important piece of land on behalf of the local, national and international public but being told to keep off all parts except those parts they have a legal right to go on (or perhaps it is saying “Keep off our pension fund”?!

 

[Image Credits: huwdavies.photo@btinternet.com and HOOOH]

As the sunlight faded in last nights episode of Nazi War Diggers and the four participants visibly chafed at the bit to dig up a dead soldier, 7 dishonest words were spoken that were also probably used at Lenborough a year ago…..

An hour to be thorough
An uncivilised person is someone who chooses to do what they want rather than what they should. That surely applies to the brigands in both Latvia and Lenborough, and indeed in Channel 5 HQ.  All of them falsely claim they acted in the public interest not their own and that anyway what they did was “legal”.

Unfortunately the latter claim is broadly true so it is to be hoped that the hundreds of archaeologists and other civilised people who will today be condemning what was shown on the telly last night will reflect that the primary blame, in both Latvia and Britain, lies in the laws that allow such things to be done. If so then something beneficial may have come out of it.

Update: Perhaps however no-one should hold their breath. See this, part of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists’ complaint to Channel 5:
“CIfA is concerned that the show did depict a style of ‘excavation’ that must have destroyed a great deal of potentially important archaeological information …….  and the apparent focus was on artefact recovery only”
…. Fine. Yet that’s a perfect description of the behaviour of thousands of British metal detectorists every single week and CIfA and most British archaeologists express zero “concern” about that.

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How did you get on with last week’s puzzle? A wider view may help …..

january puzzle answer.

January puzzle answer 2.

It’s British Camp, Malvern, as seen from The Kremlin Inn, Clee Hill, 30 miles away.

Suggestions for future puzzles very welcome.

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