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By Alan S.

For our next look at the ancient sites of West Penwith we visit the (reconstructed) Merry Maidens circle, near Lamorna.

Other sites nearby include the Pipers, Gun Rith and Boscawen Ros standing stones.

Look for more videos in this series in the coming weeks.

Avebury is temporarily closed by the National Trust due to the effects of the weather. Perfectly understandable but why try to make it about the Trust? Jan Tomlin, their Avebury and Stonehenge manager said:

We’ve not taken this decision lightly. The National Trusts pledge is to protect Avebury and the other sites we care for, for ever, and for everyone, and it’s a pledge that we take very seriously indeed” and Dr Nick Snashall, their archaeologist added “… it’s our responsibility to make sometimes difficult decisions that will ensure it’s here for another 5,000 years and beyond.

Just how heroic in its own opinion can one organisation be?

And how blatantly two sided? For at Stonehenge this same National Trust is pushing for a short tunnel which currently means a cutting for a new four lane expressway that is at least 60 metres wide and over 8 metres deep over 1km in length inside the World Heritage Site. A cutting that is predicted to trash a Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement opposite the Winterbourne Stoke barrow group.

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Dear Fellow Landowners,

What do you make of this:

Allectus: “Has the farmer got a machine with a ditching bucket (they usually have) he/you can use? …..If he has, that’s the way to go mate.”
Donington Mudman: “Cheers A, I’m meeting the farmer on a Saturday, he says he might put the plough through it next week for me. Didn’t think about asking him to given a deeper dig, I’ll see what he says.”
Alloverover: “Allectus is right mate, as a first port of call try and get the farmer to scrape 6″ off at a time, depends how interested he is if he will do it or not, and how much you can tell him it might be worth his while”.

Surely most of us farmers don’t want to deliberately damage archaeology? So the question is, what on earth did this lot say to convince that farmer it was OK?

“Don’t worry there’s probably nothing there?”
“Don’t worry there’s probably lots there, we’ll be rich?”
“Don’t worry, archaeologists would approve?”

Seems likely. So please, before you let anyone onto your land, watch how they walk. And talk.

Best wishes,

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow,
Worfield,
Salop

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Figure 1. The stone row excavation. The large hollow beside the nearest stone was formed by flowing water, probably in the period immediately after the last glaciation (Scales 1m and 25cm).

In January 2012 a long line of small stones was identified amongst the prehistoric cairns on the southern slope of Bancbryn in South Wales. Survey work revealed that it led for 717m from a small cairn and terminated in a now recumbent boulder (Figure 2). In all 173 stones were identified and whilst many were recumbent most were edge set. The stone row was discovered just as the work on a new wind farm started and it was cut in two places by access roads. The timing of the discovery was unfortunate and rescue excavations carried out at the time predictably failed to reveal any dating evidence. The report produced by the excavators suggested that the feature was more likely to be of post-medieval date, but the evidence cited to support this contention was inaccurate, selective and just plain wrong.

Figure 2. Plan of the stone row showing the position of the excavation trenches.

Over a period of years, the arguments deployed by the excavators have been successfully dismantled, whilst at the same time detailed characterisation of the site and extensive research into stone rows nationally has resulted in a strong case to support its prehistoric origins. It was possible to demonstrate that this form of row is found only in SW Britain with examples recorded on both sides of the Bristol Channel (Figure 3).

Perhaps the most exciting discovery at Bancbryn was the very precise visual relationship with Hartland Point in Devon.  Work elsewhere has now demonstrated that precise visual relationships with prominent natural and broadly contemporary artificial sites is commonplace and indeed a characteristic of the longer rows.

Figure 3. Distribution of long stone rows greater than 100m long consisting mainly of small stones.

So, from the fiasco at Banbryn some good has come as it has spawned both renewed interest in this enigmatic type of site and provided a new focus permitting a better understanding of the rows.

In 2017 there was an opportunity to have another look at the Bancbryn stone row. Funding from the Section 106 wind farm agreement provided resources for an examination of a small number of sites on Bancbryn and as well as the stone row, two cairns and a solitary stone were partly excavated. A report on the work is now available and can be downloaded here. A shorter guide to the archaeology on Bancbryn and vicinity is available here. Both reports are published by Dyfed Archaeological Trust who organised and carried out the excavation work.

One of the cairns was found to have a kerb and is probably of Bronze Age date, another was probably early medieval in date, had ard marks below and surprisingly contained some Roman glass. No dating material was found associated with the stone row, but it was possible to refute the previously suggested historic interpretations and demonstrate that the surviving evidence was entirely consistent with a prehistoric date.

The lack of dating evidence, whilst disappointing, was not a surprise as stone rows are notoriously difficult to date and it is worth remembering that none of the Welsh rows have been dated either. Indeed, only the row at Cut Hill on Dartmoor has been dated with any degree of precision. Most importantly nothing was found to disprove the prehistoric interpretation, whilst at the same time the form, character and context of the row is entirely consistent with a prehistoric date. Hopefully this work will now mean that this incredibly fragile and enigmatic monument will receive the care and consideration that it deserves.

There’s a welcome new innovation at Avebury – a second hand book shop. Named Cobblestones second-hand books, after the cobbled floor of the old stables in which it is housed, it has been launched by The National Trust after volunteers who sold pre-loved books at the Avebury site persuaded the Trust to do so.

Jan Tomlin, general manager of the National Trust Wiltshire Landscape said: “We’re absolutely delighted with Cobblestones second-hand books, and hope people will enjoy browsing through the wide selection of books on sale. The dedication, professionalism and enthusiasm of our wonderful volunteers has driven this project forward and it’s resulted not only in the partial refurbishment of this lovely building, but the money raised will also help the National Trust to look after Avebury and our other Wiltshire sites as well.”

We wish the new venture well and especially if lots of prehistory books can be provided. In our experience people who are enthusiastic about ancient sites have a huge appetite for books about the subject and we have held a book swap at our Avebury Megameets for many years. We haven’t yet visited Cobblestones and would  be grateful to hear from any readers who have.

WEXIT is short for turning your back on the world by damaging a World Heritage Site when UNESCO doesn’t want you to. The short tunnel lobby (Highways England, English Heritage, Historic England and the hapless, internally-dreadfully-conflicted National Trust) would have you believe they’re wexiting for the good of Stonehenge but there’s evidence it’s because the Government wants them to. For example, take a look at Highways England’s two current proposals about “views”:

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.   (1.) They say views are essential and they intend to create lots of new ones: New plans for roadside beauty spots to stimulate drivers, combat fatigue: Motorways and larger A-roads, often derided as brutal, empty concrete spaces, will be redesigned to offer panoramas of the countryside. Highways England, the government-owned company, has published a ten-point plan to guide the design of the strategic road network in which roads will be better moulded into their natural surroundings.”

   (2.) Yet they also say the very best view, this one long enjoyed by tens of millions of travellers, isn’t essential and they propose to eliminate it!

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Tangled web eh? How can that be explained other than by thinking the short tunnel lobby is out to serve the Government’s agenda not the welfare of Stonehenge?

The unfragrant British inspired European Council for Metal Detecting have taken their plea for Europe to adopt the British model of laissez faire detecting to the European Parliament. Here they are putting their exploitative case to Janusz Lewandowski, Poland’s EU Commissioner.

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Why him? Well, basically, he’s crazy. Here’s one of his famous quotes:

“The thesis that coal energy is the main cause of global warming is highly questionable,” the commissioner said. “Moreover, more and more, there is a question mark put over the whole ‘global warming’ as such.”

Let’s hope he becomes an advocate for unregulated metal detecting too!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Christopher Beasley:
Treasure doesnt come about often. But with other finds our club has a contract with farmer only single find worth over 2 grand are to be shared with farmer. So theres no point in hideing your find on our group”
https://www.facebook.com/groups/AFUDGE/


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Imagine! What a marvellous in-it-for-the-history heroic metal detecting club that must be (and there are many others) that says a find of £1,999 doesn’t have to be shared with the actual 100% owner “so theres no point in hideing your find!

But (asks a cynic, not a detectorist or employed by PAS): would all who are sufficiently lacking in a sense of fair play to join such a club and to operate such an agreement always tell the farmer the truth about a find worth £10,000+?

Of course they would. They’re all bound to be fine people – or at least, all but a tiny number of them. In metal detecting only nighthawks are devoid of morality or are criminals. That’s so important to remember. Ask PAS. They’ve been telling you and the Government so for 20 years!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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“A Stonehenge Tunnel that only goes under National Trust land and ruins the World Heritage Site either side? REALLY?

 

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(Many thanks to Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site Friends for getting to the heart of the matter so succinctly. Bear in mind the Government said the Trust’s support for the short tunnel was “pivotal”. In other words, without the Trust it may not have progressed at all!)

Number 27 comprises Highways England publishing a plan showing Blick Mead in the wrong place and then explaining the mistake by saying “The document in question is a land ownership boundary plan. The plan shows indicative general features and was never intended as a geographical map.’

Well, we’d perhaps be more inclined to believe them (slightly) if it wasn’t for the other 26 instances of public bodies misleading the public about the Stonehenge tunnel that we’ve highlighted in the Journal. But as things stand we prefer the interpretation of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust: “They are either negligent, lying or incompetent”

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The above plan “shows indicative general features and was never intended as a geographical map”.

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