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By Alan S.

Another stop on our video tour of Cornish antiquities sees us climb up onto Chun Downs to visit the Neolithic burial cairn of Chun Quoit.

Wath this space for more videos to come. Previous videos in the series can be found here.

The next card drawn for Tarot Tuesday is The Tower, card XVI of the Major Arcana.

The Tower: “Destruction, Dramatic change, Loss and ruin, New start, Unexpected events

An ominous card. Portraying disruption, conflict, unforeseen and traumatic events.

When thinking of a tower, the first monuments that come to mind are the Scottish brochs, all of which are now in a ruinous state, and whose function is still not fully understood. But this does not fit the ‘destruction and dramatic change’ aspect of the card. Thus we must look elsewhere for an interpretation.

It has been suggested that the coming of the Romans was a factor in the building of the brochs as fortified strongholds. Whether this is the case or no, the Roman period was certainly a time of dramatic change in Britain, and for at least two major settlements, a time of unexpected loss and ruin, and a new start.

I’m talking of course of the destruction wrought by the Queen of the Iceni, Boudicca, upon the towns of Camulodonum (Colchester) and Verulamium (modern day St Albans).

A section of Roman Wall, alongside the River Ver.

We have reported in the past on a project to geo-survey the area within and around Verulamium, which provides a good indication of the extent of the town at the time of the attack. The town, of course, had a new start and was later rebuilt to become an important centre for the church. St Albans Abbey, the remains of the Roman town in nearby Verulamium Park and the associated museum are all well worth a visit.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

See our other subjective Tarot interpretations here.

This week a number of pro-detecting academics have presented a pre-determined view of detecting. We think numbers of detectorists versus the number who report all their finds is all that matters, nothing else, so Dr Sam Hardy’s conclusions can’t be wished away or spun. It’s the numbers, stupid.

Anyway, for now, perhaps we can demolish one of the planks of pro-detecting, the claim that nighthawks have no connection to “ordinary detectorists”. Logic, not spin, says otherwise. From gathering information at club nights to laundering finds by reporting them to PAS, it’s impossible to be an efficient wrongdoer without being “respectable” much of the time. Plus, as we said back in 2010:.

“It actually boils down to a spatial distinction. A metal detectorist that steps through a hedge becomes a nighthawk and is the devil’s companion according to all other detectorists and PAS – and a nighthawk that hops back over a fence becomes a metal detectorist, and a saint according to all other detectorists and PAS. Like photons, these human versions of the wave-particle duality can flit from one state of reality to the other, depending upon where they are at any particular moment – which no-one can ever know for certain, on account of how dark it gets at night in this country.

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Here’s how it works….

1. Ed Vaizey, Britain’s most respectable detectorist.
2. Ed if he stepped through the nearest hedge.
3. Ed Vaizey, Britain’s most respectable detectorist, next day.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Several years ago (May 2012 to be precise), we posited a mobile app that would allow visitors to heritage sites to report any damage or details of other heritage crimes direct to the appropriate authorities. Heritage crime is any offence which targets the historic environment.

We spent some time thinking about the design of such an app, and how it could work in practice; what functionality would be necessary or desirable, how the lines of reporting would work, and so on. We received a couple of feedback comments to say that a couple of groups were also researching such a thing, but sadly we did not have the resources (or the skills and experience) to take the idea any further ourselves. And we never heard back from those commenters about any progress on their work.

However, an app has recently come to our attention that would appear to meet many of our suggested requirements. Historic England in partnership with Country Eye has made reporting heritage crime quick and easy with a free app. The app looks to be potentially useful according to the introductory video:

After downloading, the app requires the user to register, with the usual details; name, email address, postcode and mobile phone number. Sadly, we were unable to progress beyond this point as every attempt to register was met with a 404 error. This may be due to the app’s one serious shortcoming: it is (currently?) only valid for users in the county of Kent. As we tried to register with a non-Kent postcode, this may have led to the error.

Despite our failure to be able to give the app a tryout for review, it’s encouraging to finally see an attempt by the market to provide something which we first envisaged six years ago. We can only hope that the wider Kentish population becomes aware of the app and that its use is successful in reducing heritage crime in the area.

But dare we hope that this app, or something very similar, will become available on a nationwide basis in the not too distant future?

As we continue drawing the cards from our Tarot deck, in hopes of using the cards’ meanings to subjectively identify suitable prehistoric monuments, the next card drawn is The World, card XXI of the Major Arcana.

The World: “Certainty, Completion, Positive, Reward, Satisfaction

What better illustrates the world than a circle? A circular horizon, encompassing all that can be seen, the whole world from a single point. There are so many wonderful stone circles to choose from but in this instance, we head north to Cumbria, and the Sunkenkirk circle at Swinside.

Image © George Hopkins via http://www.geograph.co.uk

Walking the track for a mile or so from the nearest road is certainly satisfying as the circle comes into view and grows larger as you approach it.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

It’s common knowledge the Trust allows trail hunting in defiance of public opposition but now it has demonstrated it is behind the times in another respect. It has long  prohibited metal detecting unless supervised by its archaeologists which is fine but it has missed a crucial point when it says:

If you metal detect without a licence you’ll be asked to leave the property. We may take action to reclaim items taken from our land without permission. We’ll report unauthorised metal detecting on Scheduled Monuments to the police.”

That is at odds with the latest Official Advice to Landowners:

“Anyone removing objects from land without the landowner/farmer occupier’s permission is committing theft” and farmers should “call the police, and also make it clear to any attending officer/s that action should to be taken against the offender/s….”

So the official advice isn’t to tell the police just when its a scheduled monument. Anyone caught detecting without a licence on ANY Trust land will be stealing artefacts (and knowledge) and the police should always be called. So we look forward to them amending their text to conform with the latest official advice. We also hope they’ll remove this bizarre statement:

“We recognise that most metal detectorists are highly responsible and report their finds”.

What utter, damaging rot.  The Trust should do its homework.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Last year a Tunisian PhD thesis rejected Newton, Einstein, Copernicus and Kepler and said the Earth is flat, unmoving, young and the centre of the universe. Not here though, here evidence matters. Mind you:

Hundreds of studies use PAS statistics but while the Guide for Researchers warns against some data distortions (selectivity in reporting finds and lower reporting rates when FLOs aren’t at rallies) it doesn’t stress a far worse danger: find spot falsification (or lying by detectorists as most people call it).

How widespread is it? Well, some detectorists admit to it on their forums. Plus everything ever “reported” by nighthawks is lied about. But worst are lies likely to arise from finds agreements: if you’ve  agreed to share in Yorkshire you can say your finds came from Yeovil, where you haven’t, and earn thousands.

How come PAS doesn’t stress that? Well, if PAS could say it happens about 5% of the time that would be OK as researchers could reflect it. But they can’t – because no-one has the foggiest how often it does! All that’s known is that there’s opportunity and massive incentive and hence there’s an unknown but probably very large degree of error in PAS based PhDs. So no snootyness about Tunisia please!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Via Twitter, our attention was recently drawn to a project that looks to be of interest, primarily to those in the north of the UK, but also to anyone with an interest in the cultural overlap between Britain and Scandinavia.

The NATUR: North Atlantic Tales project is:

looking for people, projects and institutions who would be interested in working with an artist from overseas and who have stories to tell that connect Northern English and Scottish cultural heritage with any of Iceland/Norway/Denmark (and vice versa) including:

  • Professional museums and archives
  • Personal collections and archives
  • Music, moving image and photography collections (both catalogued and hoarded)
  • Societies, groups and communities that can trace those connections
  • Researchers working across our partnering countries
  • Academics and academic departments connecting our partnering countries
  • Personal Testimony

It seems to us to be a worthwhile project, and the highlighted item above could well be a chance for our metal detecting friends (responsible or otherwise) to share some of the knowledge of what they’ve found or otherwise obtained. From our own perspective, we’re thinking primarily of ‘Viking’ related materials but the project’s scope seems to far beyond just the physical artefact connections:

The first NATUR project will broadly interrogate 7 themes through the archives of each country that shaped and continue to forge a shared Northern identity – folklore and language, merchants, fisheries, industrialisation, conflict, oil, and women’s history.

Cuerdale hoard viking silver british museum

So if you have any collections or other input which may fit the scope of the project, why not contact them through their website and offer to share your knowledge?

Our recent highlighting of jarring proposals for Clifford’s tower in York prompted comments pointing out that wasn’t the only case…..

What about Norwich Castle…..

And Tintagel Castle…..

And Harlech Castle….

Note the adequacy and seemliness of the existing (lower) bridge at Tintagel and the jarring modernity of the proposed new one (which has a gimmicky gap in the middle for goodness sake!) And note the startling unseemliness of the new bridge at Harlech. Lest anyone doubt it, look how Harlech looked when it had a less self-important bridge ….

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So why is it happening? Why are ultra modern features being imposed upon monuments from another age? English Heritage/Historic England’s Conservation Principles acknowledge that aesthetic values “may be amenable to restoration and enhancement” but that’s hardly an invitation to impose change so radical that it will shock and be regretted forever. Plus, there’s a nagging suspicion that sometimes the change is about a quango saying, Ozymandias-like, “look at me, this is my legacy”. Does that apply at Stonehenge?

The next Tarot Tuesday card drawn in our series is Justice, card XI of the Major Arcana.

Justice: “Balance, Equality, Fairness, Justice, Law and legal matters

The important aspects of this card imply a positive resolution for victims, whilst for perpetrators, it can be a warning to change your ways before retribution is wrought.

Once again we can turn to the current situation at Stonehenge, and consider the fairness of the tunnel, from the perspective of the site itself. How would the ancestors who developed the landscape over so many years feel about what can be seen as a desecration of their work? Would they see it as a desecration, and what retribution would they bring upon those who are involved in the decision making?

Only time will tell if there will be a legal challenge to the tunnel, or maybe even a protest encampment similar to that seen in the past at Newbury and Winchester…

Which heritage site would you associate with this card?

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