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The penultimate card in our Tarot draw is card X of the Major Arcana, Wheel of Fortune.

Wheel of Fortune: “Change, Destiny, Good luck, Lifecycles, New direction

Previous sites in this series have largely had an obvious connection to the drawn card. Our site this week is a very personal choice, and possibly the most subjective one in the series. Some years ago I managed to get my mobility-impaired wife to this site (with some difficulty).

After visiting each of the stones in turn, she told me “this used to be a court!” On further questioning, she insisted that each stone had a particular feeling and that judgements or decisions over disputes would be made at each stone for a particular issue.

The stone circle at Boscawen-Un was erected in the Bronze Age. A Bardic group (Cornish: Gorsedd) may have existed in this area, because in the Welsh Triads from the 6th century AD, a Gorsedd of Beisgawen of Dumnonia is named as one of the big three Gorsedds of Poetry of the Island of Britain. (Wikipedia)

The feelings that she received from each stone (clockwise from the quartz stone in the west) were as follows:

  • Court/Legal
  • Fishing
  • Love/Honour
  • Home
  • unreadable/odd
  • Children
  • Wealth
  • Crops
  • Sun
  • Sight/Visions
  • Pentagram/Star
  • Tin Mines
  • Comfort/Safety/Ownership
  • White/Brightness
  • Revenge
  • Cattle/Livestock
  • Birth/Infants
  • Travel/Protection

If the circle was used for such purposes, it would certainly have lead to change or new directions for those involved in such decisions. A true ‘Wheel of Fortune’!

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

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

After so many years of  us being blaggarded by detectorists and derided by PAS Rescue has published its Policy for the Future conforming with much that we and Paul Barford have been saying! Their central assertion, the absolute game changer, is that Rescue believes that unregulated hobby detecting and other fieldwork does not contribute sufficient value or information to our understanding of the past to justify the damage caused to the wider archaeological resource”.

Revelling in being entirely vindicated is childish, so we’ll refrain.

Their message couldn’t be clearer: unregulated metal detecting isn’t sustainable so Britain shouldn’t tolerate it. That’s perfect timing in a week when we proposed that “sustainable metal detecting” is the only metal detecting that is justifiable in a country which respects its own heritage and that new phrase has generated a rise in Google hits in a few days from zero to 1,670. It seems like a concept whose time has come, but only if the CBA gets on board too. But why wouldn’t it? Here are some more things Rescue said that we’re virtually certain CBA agrees with:

  • We have concluded that the current system for regulating the recovery of archaeological evidence by non-professionals in the UK is inadequate.
  • The PAS has been unable to sufficiently advocate for archaeological methodologies and rigorous survey practices to underpin artefact collecting
  • Rescue calls for a national investigation into the feasibility of a licensing system for all archaeological work, including metal detecting.
  • We will advocate for all metal detecting, fieldwalking, excavation and other intrusive survey to be subject to prior authorisation
  • Rescue will also advocate for the introduction of legally enforceable compulsory reporting of all recovered archaeological material
  • We will support the creation of antiquities legislation for England that requires all offered for sale to be fully and legitimately provenanced….

It’s to be hoped the CBA will confirm that it DOES indeed agree with all that Rescue has said on this matter because for the Council for British Archaeology to be at odds with the Council of The British Archaeological Trust would surely be an intolerable situation for British archaeology?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Yesterday PAS held its annual symposium. I’d have loved to go but age, infirmity and a conspicuous lack of an invitation precluded it. The most memorable bit, for me, was reading that a FLO had said “it will take time to change culture – it’s gradual.” I nearly fell off my peacock throne for I remember the early days of PAS, 15 0r 20 years ago and a thing called the PAS Forum (all records of which have now disappeared) in which that very same FLO said that very same thing to me weekly, over and over and over. Now there are as many or more non-reporting ignorami stealing knowledge as then so “gradual” has turned out to be a word not a process, as Rescue has finally come to see.

It would be good if the proceedings are published soon but neither I nor the stakeholding public should hold our breath on that. Still, Mike Heyworth of the CBA was there, maybe he’ll publish whatever he said. I’d love that, for I recall that in November 2011 in British Archaeology, he called for ….

“more research to be carried out on the damage to archaeological sites and lost knowledge due to rallies, to provide a counter-weight to arguments put forward by the vested interests of rally organisers. If CBA members and readers of British Archaeology hear of any examples of “treasure hunting” or detecting rallies causing damage to archaeological sites, then please contact the CBA director in York. It is helpful to build up a portfolio of examples across the country to present to the government when future opportunities allow.

Well that’s something we can help him with! How many rallies cause damage? All of them surely (and there have been hundreds since he asked the question) – unless of course he can name a single one where the participants all reported all their finds and we bet he can’t. Wouldn’t it be great if it turns out he told the symposium that CBA supports what Recue has just said about unregulated metal detecting (simply that it doesn’t yield enough knowledge to justify the damage). We certainly think so and in particular that rallies are never best practice, never responsible, never harmless, never sustainable, can never be rendered otherwise by the attendance of PAS, and also that it’s a national disgrace that the biggest rally this year had a majority of foreign attendees.


It would be great if he’d said all that, and that rallies should all be legislated into the dustbin of history – and  he intends to say so in the next British Archaeology! At a time when Rescue has just come out so clearly in favour of action it’s surely not sensible for the CBA not to do the same?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Here’s what the new view will replace forever …..


English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust say the tunnel will “enhance appreciation” of the Stonehenge Landscape. In a Joint Statement they have said:

“Our priority is to care for and conserve Stonehenge for future generations. As part of this, we would like to see the stone circle returned to its intended landscape setting so that it can be understood and appreciated in context, without the experience being ruined by traffic.

and English Heritage has added:

A tunnel won’t remove the stones from sight. Removing the busy and noisy road means that there will be more opportunities for people to get out of their cars and explore the world heritage landscape that has for years been severed by the road.”

The public is being misinformed. You can’t “enhance” something by hiding it from 99% of those who usually see it. For free. By any rational assessment, that’s heritage theft by those whose sole function is heritage preservation.

…. which English Heritage
[“We bring the story of England to life for millions of visitors each year“],
Historic England
[“We are the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment“]
and The National Trust
[“We look after the places you love“]

are working so hard to create?



Only three cards left in our weekly draw and this week’s is card 00 of the Major Arcana, The Fool.

The Fool: “Carefree, Foolish, Important decisions, New beginnings, Optimistic

The Fool is considered a powerful card associated with new beginnings and the closure of old ways. With this in mind, today we look briefly at one of the major changes between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, that of funerary practices.

In simple terms, during the Neolithic the remains of the dead would often be dismembered and the bones collectively held in chambered tombs such as West Kennet Long Barrow, Wayland’s Smithy etc. As the Bronze Age began this trend for communal burial began to fade out, to be replaced by single (crouched) burials and cremation practices. So rather than chambered tombs holding the remains of many people jumbled together, the dead would be placed individually in barrows such as those found at today’s site: the Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows.

© Google Maps

This Bronze Age barrow cemetery, dissected by the modern A35 road in Dorset, consists of some 44 separate barrows of different types including bell, disc, and bowl barrows, and can be easily viewed in passing from the main road. Many of the barrows have never been excavated.

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

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

By Nigel Swift

Smash a display case in the British Museum and it would be front page news. Do the equivalent in a field and it’s pretty much a secret. How come? The answer is simple: PAS. It was set up simply to educate yet from the start it has minimised the public’s awareness of the damage and its scale. As a result the public’s knowledge is stolen daily on a massive scale and the public isn’t told. No PAS, it isn’t enough to say “Yes, the use of the excavator was pretty poor...” it was legal knowledge theft from the rest of us by ignorami without consciences who the farmer should never have allowed past his gate. How dare you not say so for 20 years?

We first said so in 2005 when 480 acquisitive people told an elderly Lord close to Avebury don’t worry we all report our finds to PAS. It was a lie that has been repeated ever since. Yet PAS attacks us for saying so – we don’t understand, we exaggerate, we should “get on the train to Liaisonville”. (Yes, seriously! Many times!) Just last week a FLO said our article  is “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” and “full of half-truths and outright lies”. (Please read it. Is it?)

As always I am resentful: we’re member of the public and stakeholders and hold that our mantra “ordinary people caring for extraordinary places” applies not just to visible monuments but to buried archaeology. Plus we DO know what we’re talking about, I’ve studied detecting for 2 decades, far longer than most FLOs. Here are 450 articles, 3 million words I’ve written about it, not because I hate detecting or my mother was frightened by a detectorist but because I’m hopelessly infected by a conviction that mass non reporting is mass knowledge theft. It’s happening every week, entirely legally, a British cultural scandal and cultural loss and someone ought to highlight it weekly if PAS won’t.

And no, PAS, praising the good guys does NOT change that reality, or convert the others, it hides it and provides the perfect environment for it to flourish as all can see.

I may not be able to keep it up much longer so that FLO will have the field more to himself, but for the record nothing I’ve written has knowingly been what he claims about our latest article, “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” or “full of half-truths and outright lies” (as anyone who reads a few of the articles at random will see.) We believe the large scale damage and the ignorance should be known to every farmer, every taxpayer and every stakeholder – as it’s their cultural knowledge that is being silently destroyed and nothing detectorists or PAS say will change that truth. The detecting that’s owed to buried archaeology is sustainable metal detecting not responsible metal detecting. I respect the understanding of those who work for PAS sufficiently to be certain they all agree with me. But they need to say so.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

By Nigel Swift

PAS and tens of thousands of detectorists tell farmers and the public that metal detecting is mostly beneficial. Clearly that implies that well ordered and aspirational detecting should be called “beneficial metal detecting”. But it can’t be, for such a phrase would  stick in the craw of the authorities since random removal just isn’t beneficial. Hence they’ve come up with a different term: “responsible metal detecting”. That has 8,300  Google hits and an official Code of Conduct and is defined as doing it in a recommended responsible fashion. Not a beneficial fashion, NB.

I think it’s high time the tricksy linguistic cover provided by the term “responsible metal detecting” was replaced by a more accurate and aspirational one both as a guide to proper behaviour by detectorists and as an aid to better decision making by farmers. I think the proper term for gold standard, acceptable detecting is “sustainable metal detecting”. That says it all. I support sustainable metal detecting one hundred percent.

Bizarrely “sustainable metal detecting” gets you zero Google hits but we’ll now try to change that radically. By all that’s fair and honest and “responsible”, detectorists and PAS should adopt it too. If they don’t it will speak volumes.

So let’s see ….

After just 24 hours “sustainable metal detecting” now gets you 144 Google hits – 143 from us, 1 from Paul Barford (who originated the term with reference to Beach detecting) and NONE from PAS or metal detectorists. We’ll let you know how the phrase progresses and who uses it…… Updates: Now, after 48 hours it gives you 298 Google hits and after 3 days you get 517 Google hits.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Things rarely turn out as forecast. The management of Stonehenge is evidence. Anyone seen the land trains lately? Or been told how much money was lost? Now the Telegraph’s travel article has highlighted how pro-short tunnel dialogue is coming from an organisation that is hopeless at anticipating consequences. For example:

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, would be wise to divert his attention and money to the visitor centre first …. Don’t even think about going unless you’re prepared to queue for a long time.

It wasn’t the sight of the £50.20 walk-up family ticket price that did it, shortage of shuttle buses back from the gnarly stones themselves, or the naff bluestone gift bracelets that marred our experience, it was the toilet queues. 50-minute wait anyone? Horrible history indeed. It was a hot day and as we approached it was obvious that all wasn’t quite right when we saw a few people using the bushes directly outside the visitor centre for a quick toilet break.

Seeing the stones for the first time you can really see why the likes of Sir Tony Robinson, the Time Team presenter, has described the new tunnel as a “most brutal intrusion” – anything that would put this majestic open-air temple at risk doesn’t seem worth it.

It wasn’t getting any better ….. As we waited for a shuttle bus to take us back to the visitor centre there was a long, snaking queue, a distinct lack of buses and staff, and lots of tempers beginning fray as people weighed up whether to wait it out or take the long walk back. We were still there 25 minutes later.

Back at the visitor centre… we arrived to an ancient British scene: the toilet queue. Here, there was no information as to why a whole toilet block had been closed, resulting in a queue of around 80 people and a wait of nearly an hour… and the best we could get from the scant ‘customer services’ was that “they were aware of the situation” and it was “under control”, which didn’t extend to verifying if the toilet paper had run out. It had.

I imagined the man hours it had taken to create Stonehenge, I tried to be philosophical. All built with tools of just stone, wood and bone. That must have taken some organisation, some cooperation – a history lesson for the current owners and wannabe tunnel builders.

Contrast that with “opening day” when English Heritage claimed the Visitor Centre was “fit for purpose” and that “in high season a shuttle should be heading down the road every four minutes.” For avoidance of doubt, not a penny of the (probable) 2 billion pound tunnel cost is aimed at solving any of the above problems and no-one is claiming it will. Better to spend one thousandth of it on rectifying the current visitor experience.

This week’s draw in our ongoing series is card VIII of the Major Arcana, Strength.

Strength: “Energy, Facing problems, Strength, Vitality, Willpower

One of the great mysteries of the Neolithic period concerns exactly how the monuments were constructed. The question of how much energy and manpower would be needed when facing the problems of monument construction has been investigated and various theories have been put forward by experimental archaeologists. But it’s only when looking at one of the largest capstones in Britain that the real strength and willpower needed becomes apparent.

Image © Jane Tomlinson

The capstone of Tinkinswood Burial Chamber weighs around 40 tons and it has been estimated that upwards of 200 people would have been needed to shift it into position.

Tinkinswood is a fine example of the Cotswold/Severn regional type: a long wedge-shaped cairn, containing a rectangular stone chamber and would have originally been covered with an earthen mound. When excavated in 1914 over 900 human bones from at least 40 individuals were discovered in the single chamber, the vast majority of which had been broken. At this time one of the supports was ‘renovated’ with a brick built replacement.

Nearly 100 years later, a community archaeology project identified that the capstone, thought to have been quarried locally, was not from the assumed location at all. The origin of the stone has yet to be identified.

Tinkinswood from “On the St Lythans and St Nicholas’ Cromlechs and other remains near Cardiff.” JW Lukis, in Archaeologia Cambrensis 6.22 (April 1875).

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

Previous articles in this series can be found here.


October 2018
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