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Another Bank Holiday weekend, and another Pathways to the Past celebration with CASPN. And so it was that we set out from London at an ungodly hour for the drive to West Penwith. A few hours later, and we hit the infamous roadworks on the A30, the traffic giving every indication that the road into Cornwall was actually full and that no more visitors could be accommodated. But thankfully, after an hour or so’s delay, we were on the move again, and arrived at our destination just outside Penzance.

Sadly, we were too late for the first walk of the day, and so had some time to get unpacked and gather some provisions for the next few days before heading out for the afternoon walk, entitled ‘Round and about Little Lookout Tor’. The meeting point at Bosiliack was already quite busy when I arrived, with a good crowd already gathered. After renewing my FOCAS membership and getting reacquainted with old friends, around 45 people set off up the track to Greenburrow engine house, led by our guide for the day, David Giddings.

The industrial archaeology and traces of the connection between Greenburrow and the wider ‘Ding Dong’ mining area were discussed briefly, then we were off once again. The next stop was a kerbed cairn near to the Boskednan Nine Maidens stone circle, the first stop on a suggested processional route towards Carn Galver.

How many enthusiasts fit on a cairn? All of them!

How many enthusiasts fit on a cairn? All of them!

We continued on to the stone circle, where a quantity of material on the ground caused some confusion. Consensus was reached that it was probably dog hair, from someone grooming their pet – there was a lot of hair there. A brief explanatory note from David about the circle, it’s setting and known history then we moved on, having the much truncated outlier menhir and denuded barrows and cairns pointed out – more evidence of an important track/processional way? – before reaching the larger cairn which has been much cleared by the CASPN team. It now looks quite open, and the quartz stone which I’d previously visited last year takes pride of place.

We could now see Little Galver, our next destination and David set off across the moor, leaving the main path which we’d been following until now behind us. A parish boundary stone was pointed out as we passed a field boundary, with ‘Z’ for Zennor on one side and ‘G’ for Gulval on the other.

We then spent some time at Little Galver as there were two major points of interest here. A ‘propped stone’, which many geologists agree must have been man-made, with a small stone wedged underneath two very much larger stones, and a lookout point created by two stones leaning to make a triangle, through which the highest point of nearby Carn Galver could be seen by an observer kneeling down. Many people took turns to look through the gap and discussed the possible uses and meanings of such a feature. I’ll have to return here at some future point for a proper look around.

Propped Stone-800px
Lookout Point-800px

It was then time to descend off the moor, into the Bosporthennis valley, criss-crossed with many post medieval and Victorian field boundaries. As we descended, David pointed out that many of the boulders around us were actually the remains of a Bronze Age field system which had survived the reclamation of the moors evidenced before us. Here also was a ‘proto-courtyard house’, an early example of a possible roundhouse with a courtyard tacked on.

Again, locations of cairns, barrows, roundhouses and courtyard dwellings were pointed out, in one case the cairn having been intersected by a field boundary and outbuilding, but still visible for all that!

Our next target was the enigmatic ‘Beehive Hut’, a strange structure with corbeling and a small adjacent room, all built into a later field boundary. Was this the beginning construction of a fogou, or something else? Comparison was made with the side chamber at Carn Euny being of similar construction.

The clock was against us at this point, and it was time to make our way back to the meeting point, passing by another courtyard house (with a ruined later medieval outbuilding in it’s centre) before ascending onto the moor once more to retrace our steps, where a different approach view of the Nine Maidens was seen, the three large (recently re-erected) stones standing out, highlighted against the horizon.

All in all, a very enjoyable (if tiring after my long drive) afternoon, which opened my eyes further as to just how much heritage is all around us in this area. David is a knowledgable and entertaining guide and I’d recommend attending one of his walks if you get the chance!

mollycoddling

A US study has concluded that legalising hunting doesn’t reduce illegal hunting. Which begs an important question for Britain: has legalising metal detecting reduced nighthawking? That’s what was intended (and is still claimed by those who oppose regulation) but it’s hard to see how for nighthawks require three things to prosper and in Britain they have been given all three:

> Legal clubs into which they can merge and gain information
> Legal rallies at which they can launder stolen finds by find spot falsification
> An official body to which they can submit stolen goods to be legitimised!

Nighthawks abroad enjoy no such benefits (and that’s why some of them are known to bring items here to avail themselves of ours and even perhaps to receive treasure rewards). So although our liberal arrangements are based on the belief that they reduce criminality the reality may be less certain and less comfortable. Perhaps making it easy for criminals is helpful to criminals. What an obvious observation, yet who mentions it?

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An experiment by University College London has just shown that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected. According to Prof Mike Parker-Pearson: “It was a bit of a shock to see how easy it was to pull the stone.”

It reminded us of experiments starting in 2005 organised by Gordon Pipes, a carpenter from Derbyshire and a member of Heritage Action. He formed a group of interested amateur antiquarians, including mainly our members, called ‘the Stonehengineers’ and staged a demonstration (appropriately, at the National Tramway Museum) of a method he believed may have been used. He called it “stone rowing” and his idea was that lifting the stones on levers and moving them along in a series of short steps would involve less friction and therefore require less effort than hauling them on rollers – so far fewer people could have been involved.

Subsequently, joined in by many well-known archaeologists Gordon demonstrated both stone rowing and traditional hauling methods at the Channel 5 Stonehenge Live event. The spectacular feature was that about thirty people were easily able to pull a 14 ton block (equivalent to 3 or 4 blue stones) uphill. As we wrote at the time …..

“It became clear that hauling could be made far more efficient than had previously been demonstrated, particularly by using far smaller rollers. In the end the consensus was that both methods might have been used – hauling for level, solid ground and rowing for when the ground was problematic or steeply sloping. It was certainly felt it would be difficult to imagine stones being manoeuvred around corners or over streams or lined up to precise positions without a degree of rowing being used.”

The Stonehengineers with "Foamhenge" in the background.

The Stonehengineers in 2005 with “Foamhenge” in the background.

The army is building some new houses at Bulford, a couple of kilometers from Stonehenge and they’ve discovered a couple of 5,000 year old neolithic henges. The houses will still be built but a green space containing the henges will be left untouched.

By contrast, not far away and very soon, it is intended that bulldozers will dig out the entrance trenches to the “short tunnel” inside the World Heritage Site. There will be a host of archaeological sites in that area and you’ll have heard that the line chosen will minimise the impact on them. It’s important to understand though, that if two more henges (or ten, or anything else, no matter how precious) are found to be “inconveniently” placed, the line of the road won’t look like this….

fantasy

No, it will look far more like this, it’s a certainty. Any diversion will be marginal or impossible so “minimising the impact” means about as much as a politician’s promise.

actual

That in a nutshell is what the Stonehenge Alliance and others are upset about. So please sign their petition if you haven’t done already. The road lobby, you see, wearing the smiling professional face of EH, HE and NT, is likely to be far more ruthless than the army.

The Erosion Counter has just passed 12,500,000, showing 500,000 artefacts have been dug up in just 21 months. We’ve always said 70% of them don’t get reported but the Portable Antiquities Scheme disagrees, saying only 66% aren’t reported. We’ll settle for that.

Here’s what it means: if each unrecorded find is an inch wide then our country is allowing 4.5 miles of artefacts to disappear unreported every year. Or if you prefer, in the 18 years since this spiffing system began, they’d stretch from the PAS office in Bloomsbury to English Heritage’s office in Swindon.

18 years1.

Makes you proud to be British! “This arrangement has proved to be successful and has grown and been nurtured by responsible detectorists within my organisation who have striven to make the Portable Antiquities Scheme the success it is today and the envy of the world. Long may this be the case.” [Evidence by the National Council for Metal Detecting to the DCMS, June 2012]

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The Oswestry carve-up of the public’s heritage (courtesy of the developers, Shropshire Council and  English Heritage/Historic England) continues apace. The latest reminder of just why development shouldn’t be happening near the hill fort comes here, a list of no less than 14 reasons its setting should be sacrosanct. Each of them is compelling but we thought we should highlight one in particular. Dirty tricks are well known chez Shropshire but this one doesn’t even try to hide itself.

Oswestry carve up 3.

….. A “hub for artefact finds” with “over 100 findspots reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme” yet here’s a photograph of a man from the BBC and the leader of HOOOH and the Director General of the Council for British Archaeology contemplating a sign that now ensures no further finds will be unearthed until permission has been well and truly secured. How is that different from telling the police you’d rather they didn’t dig up your patio? Answers to Historic England.

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Oswestry carve up 2.

by Jimit

Further to my previous report 3 months ago I have just been back to West Kennet Long Barrow and my previous fears are beginning to be realised…..

wklb2

The stupid ‘Portholes’ are completely mudded over and a torch is now essential. The top is still fenced off so the new steps cannot be used so people are now eroding a new path to the top. The grass on the concrete is showing signs of stunted growth and browning already. Goodness knows what it will be like at the end of the summer.

Rant over….for now…

English Heritage has reacted to our recently expressed concerns about it wanting to increase the maximum number of visitors it can transport at peak times. It has said it’s about efficiency not increasing attendance figures and its planning application statement said so – “The application is not intended to facilitate growth in visitor numbers.”

However, what it is intended to facilitate and what it will facilitate are not the same thing. We still feel that if you take 900 people an hour to the stones instead of 600 then that will mean 50% more people processing round the stones in the following hour – whether that’s what you intended or not.

Incidentally, it’s not just us who are concerned about this matter. See “UNESCO fears English Heritage will milk Stonehenge under pressure for cash”  and UNESCO’s specific warning: “Such pressure may result in lowering expenditure, such as specialized or expert personnel, maintenance, standards of archaeological curation, etc., and also in increasing revenues: by channelling in more visitors for shorter times….”

À prominent National Council for Metal Detecting official, JC Maloney, has just expressed both sides of the metal detecting  argument in a single sentence. Asked how often people find “hammered coins” he explained: Certain parts of the country they are relatively abundant, within these areas are “hotspots” trade sites, hoard sites, long gone villages, fair sites etc”. Yes, that’s the whole aim of detecting. Finding hotspots where the finds are most plentiful and only moving on when they dry up. But that’s also the whole problem, something Britain has painted its archaeologists into a silent corner about. A hotspot is the very place that shouldn’t be randomly denuded to the point of extinction. The exact place. Not the adjoining field. Not the one over the road. That precise one, beyond all argument. And these….

Kington1

That’s information about Kington, Herefordshire, a village selected at random, as shown on a national database of “hotspots” designed for purchase by metal detectorists. It shows 274 mostly unprotected archaeological and historical sites within a 10 km radius. If you live near there and feel like trying your luck on a bronze age site this afternoon you have 86 to choose from. 

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As if to prove the theory that graffiti begets graffiti, one of the stones in the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor has been carved into yet again. The damage was spotted on Wednesday by a local who has informed the Police.

May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies - Credit: Emma Gordon

May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies – Credit: Emma Gordon

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May 2016 damage to a stone at Nine Ladies – Credit: Emma Gordon

This is the third time in a couple of years this site has been targeted, yet again seemingly by an ignorant visitor to the site. Perhaps its time for the authorities to consider more proactive measures including cctv to stop such flagrant abuse.

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