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by Alan S.

Regular readers will know that Heritage Action and the Heritage Journal have their origins in the online community attached to the Modern Antiquarian (TMA). But before TMA there was an earlier site dealing with the ancient monuments left by our remote ancestors – the Megalithic Portal (MP). TMA was born from the book of the same name by Julian Cope, but up until now, the Megalithic Portal has only had an online presence. That has now changed with the publication of “The Old Stones”. We purchased a copy to take a look.

Listing over 1000 sites across Great Britain, it certainly lives up to its strapline “A Field Guide to the Megalithic Sites of Britain and Ireland”. Andy Burnham, Founder of the website and Editor of the book, and his team have done a good job of putting this collaborative guide together, using contributions provided by visitors to the website dating back almost 20 years.

Description

There is a glowing foreword by Mike Parker-Pearson, and Introduction by Andy Burnham and a very useful introductory essay by Vicki Cummings which provides a “whistle-stop guide to a range of monuments” found in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain.

Following this beginning section, the bulk of the book takes the form of a gazetteer, interspersed with short articles archaeologists and other well-known contributors to the website. For instance, our own Sandy Gerrard writes about Stone Row monuments, and Joshua Pollard covers the Development of the Avebury Landscape. All of the expected sites are present, along with some surprises along the way. Care has obviously been taken in the selection process.

There is a map for each area of the country with colour coded pages, and each site includes location information with a descriptive paragraph or two. Complex monuments are broken down into their component parts, e.g there is an entry for the Rollright Stones, split into The King Stone, The King’s Men, and the Whispering Knights.

There is a good selection of photographs, all taken from the website and individually credited to the contributors concerned in a comprehensive index section at the back (sadly, none of mine were included).

Conclusions

It’s interesting reading a book where you know or recognise so many of the contributors. The book is extremely colourful and well-compiled, and well worth the money although I have some personal doubts as to its use as a practical ‘field guide’. This is due to its weight and size – I wouldn’t want to be carrying this on an extended walk. The size also brings another potential issue; at 416 pages on good quality full colour paper it is over 1″ thick, and I’m not entirely sure that the binding will stand up to rough usage without pages coming loose. However, a Megalithic Portal smartphone app is also available which can be used ‘on the road’, leaving the heavy tome to be used at home for armchair trip research.

It could have been much heavier! Several categories of monuments included on the website have been deliberately excluded from the book, such as Mesolithic and Iron Age sites, Holy Wells and Springs, Early Christan Crosses etc. Hopefully, this means we’ll be able to look forward to a Volume 2 in the future: “The Old Other Stuff” maybe?

The Old Stones is available direct from the Megalithic Portal Shop now for £27.99+p&p, and will be available from Amazon from September 20th.

The 14th card in our Tarot Tuesday draw is card IXX of the Major Arcana, The Sun.

The Sun: “Abundance, Achievement, Joy, Productivity, Success

The Sun is a card full of life, joy, and energy. It reveals positive achievements, successful endeavors, and an overall manifestation of good fortune in your life.

Creation of a stone circle back in prehistory would certainly have been considered an achievement. So how much more of an achievement would a multiple circle be considered?

Photo courtesy of Mark Camp

Yellowmead on Dartmoor consists of not one, two or three, but four circles, one within the other, which were identified and restored in 1921 after a fire had destroyed the heather which hid the stones. A survey and small excavation in 2008 determined that the restoration had indeed been performed accurately.

Of course, it could be argued that any circle will reflect the shape of the sun, but in this case, the multiple circles accentuate the effect, and would doubt have bought joy to the builders for their successful endeavours.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Let us know in the comments.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

Incisive as ever, Professor David Gill says the 6 academics seeking to minimise Sam Hardy’s conclusions “may wish to reflect on whether or not their own position is endangering the finite archaeological record. Quite. Their assertion that “unreported finds are not damage” is simply wrong and must be damaging because it will result in fewer artefacts being reported.

He also highlights that Dr Hardy said his work corroborates the detecting community’s perception that fields are eventually emptied of finds. Detectorists have coined their own phrase for it, “hammered sites”. For academics to tell amateurs there’s no harm in destroying a site and telling no-one what they find is remarkable.

We look forward to an early statement from PAS commencing with “upon reflection”….

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Galliers Homes are building 19 houses in Newport, Salop (£365,000 each, so £7 million in total). They’re donating £500 to a local school for a piano. Not a lot but not unique: “We always consider the community” said a spokesperson.

So will there be a gift for Oswestry where Galliers want to build 6 times more houses (worth £43 million pro rata) in the setting of the famous hillfort? Six pianos maybe? Or lots of books? (Two books they won’t be donating though: “The greatest hillforts of England and how not to ruin their settings” and “How to ban philistine councillors from making decisions affecting cultural treasures”.

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Galliers Homes: “We always consider the community

 

It appears that around 3,500 people have responded to Highways England’s third consultation. The Stonehenge Alliance say that to their “certain knowledge” 80% of the responses were outright objections. This is what that looks like:

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Highways England has said it isn’t looking for objections – just modifications to the scheme already decided upon after a first consultation. [Why??????]

That first consultation prompted a 77% objection rate whereas now the figure has risen to 80% and yet, true to form, Mr Parody of Highways England is claiming authority to go ahead:We will continue to develop the scheme, taking into consideration the views received from both the statutory and supplementary consultations.” Note, as usual, he doesn’t use the six letter word UNESCO, which is on the side of the 80%. 

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Coincidentally, George Monbiot has just said it all (about the Oxford-to-Cambridge Expressway):

“Where democracy counts most, it is nowhere to be seen. The decisions that shape the life of a nation are taken behind our backs. With occasional exceptions, public choice is reserved for trivia. The most consequential choices, as they are the longest lasting, arguably involve major infrastructure. The number of disasters in this field is remarkable. A classic paper by the economic geographer Bent Flyvbjerg, Survival of the Unfittest, explains that there is an innate tendency on the part of policymakers to choose the worst possible projects, as a result of the lock-in of fixed ideas at an early stage. This is caused, his evidence shows, not by accidental error or even delusional optimism, but by “strategic misrepresentation”. Advisers become advocates, and advocates become hucksters boosting their favoured projects.

Instead of asking “Do we need this scheme?”, the government agency Highways England, which is supposed to offer objective advice, opens its webpage with the heading “Why we need this scheme”. It claims, against the evidence, that the expressway will enhance the “attractiveness of the region” and “provide a healthy, natural environment, reducing congestion”. It is the kind of propaganda you would expect in a totalitarian state.”


 

Our Tarot Tuesday card this week is card IX of the Major Arcana, The Hermit.

The Hermit: “Detachment, Guidance, Solitude, Soul-searching and introspection, Thinking and reflection

Our site for this card dates only from the 18th century, although it lies close to several ancient monuments, so qualifies for inclusion here.

Daniel Gumb created a cavehouse on Bodmin Moor, close to the Cheesewring and the Hurlers stone circles. He was no hermit, but a stoneworker who lived on the moors with his wife and children. He was also a stargazer and mathematician. He used the reclusive environment he lived in to further his studies in these subjects, using the roof of his cave as an observatory. The rocks around his home were carved with his calculations. Many still survive.

Sadly, with the expansion of the Cheesewring quarry his excavated cave is no longer in its original location, but has been reconstructed nearby and this can be visited today.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

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We ask because 6 academics organised by PAS are trying to minimise Dr Sam Hardy’s conclusions and now say “unreported finds are not damage, but at worst a zero-gain“ which is clearly untrue. Now Raimund Karl of Bangor Uni is saying Sam’s figure of 27,000 detectorists “must be discarded” (even though one Facebook detecting page alone has 23,000 Members!)

Surely if academics are telling us “laissez faire” isn’t really harmful, we British have a problem. We’re blessed with thousands of years of buried history yet uniquely we have NO laws stopping people helping themselves to 99.9% of it and saying nothing. This Summer has shown just how much that matters.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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The 6 academics organised by PAS to discredit Dr Sam Hardy’s paper have said: “unreported finds are not damage, but at worst a zero-gain“! Really?! If something should be reported but isn’t, is that no loss to science?

It makes a mockery of 20 years of pleading: “All archaeological discoveries have the potential to add to our knowledge” (Council for British Archaeology) and “If recorded, these finds have the potential to tell us much about the past” (PAS) and hands detectorists a cast iron excuse not to report what they find.

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We trust PAS will speedily withdraw this untruthful, foolish and damaging statement which it wasn’t founded to say and isn’t funded to promote.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Our latest video from a tour of Cornish antiquities shows Zennor Quoit, famously saved from demolition in 1861, by William Borlase (a great grandson of Dr. William Borlase and vicar at Zennor). A local farmer proposed to convert the monument into a cattle–shed, but the Reverend intervened and successfully offered a financial incentive of five shillings to the farmer to build it elsewhere. The farmer had already built stone posts on the site ready to erect it, and these can still be seen today.

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

Our Tarot Tuesday card this week is card IV of the Major Arcana, The Emperor.

The Emperor: “Authority, Father figure, Masculine influence, Rational, Stable

Counterpart to the Empress, the Emperor signifies a powerful influence, generally male in nature.

It is generally acknowledged that there are two main authorities in any civilisation: Church and State. Looking at the first of these, there are many examples where the Christian church has subsumed earlier important sites. A famous letter from Pope Gregory to Mellitus in June 601 is quoted (by Bede) encouraging the use of pagan temples by converts to Christianity:

Tell Augustine that he should be no means destroy the temples of the gods but rather the idols within those temples. Let him, after he has purified them with holy water, place altars and relics of the saints in them. For, if those temples are well built, they should be converted from the worship of demons to the service of the true God.

Looking at the ‘male’ aspect of this card, there is one site that has been subverted by the church from its original purpose that stands literally head and shoulders above all others. The tallest monolith in the UK, the mighty Rudston Monolith.

Image by Moth Clark

Standing nearly 8m tall (and reputed to be as deep below as above ground) the stone stands in the churchyard and has been capped with a metal ‘hat’ – the stone was originally as much as a metre taller. The stone is part of a wider complex of monuments which includes cursii and barrows and is seen as a phallic focal point for rituals in local folklore. The current church is Norman in date, although it’s possible that an earlier Saxon church occupied the same site (see the Bede quote above).

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

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