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Ok, in these days of lockdown where ‘normal’ life has changed for us all, it’s time for a bit of speculation. Imagine you’ve hit the big one, a seven figure sum from the lottery, and decide to donate a percentage of your win to benefit archaeology. How much would you donate, and what would you spend it on?

There are several archaeological areas of investigation that could benefit from your new-found altruism. But which would you choose? Here are some of the available options:

Pre-excavation investigations

Is there a site crying out for archaeological investigation local to you? Has your area’s archaeological society already begun desk-based assessment on the site? Would the site benefit from a non-invasive on-the-ground assessment – e.g. geofizz or other survey work?

Excavation

Would you consider funding, or part-funding an excavation in your area? Many digs are funded by volunteers paying to learn excavation techniques from the professionals, or by using unpaid/student labour. But project plans must be paid for, as must hire of essential equipment and qualified personnel.

Post Excavation Activities

Conservation

Two aspects of conservation to consider are that of the site itself, and that of any finds associated with the site. Both of these options are potentially very expensive. Consider that if the site is a heritage building, costs may well run into the millions. And finds? Even a small dig can unearth large quantities of pottery, flint etc. If you’re lucky enough to unearth Roman mosaic, or even early medieval ‘treasure’ then the costs can rise dramatically.

Documentation

Often the poor relation in terms of PR, but an essential part of any excavation, that is all too commonly overlooked. Yet the compilation of results and subsequent publication of the report is often the true treasure of any dig and often the only lasting legacy – remembering that all excavation is ultimately destructive.

Other areas of opportunity

Restoration

This can be a contentious area, depending upon the subject of the restoration. Arguments can arise as to the authenticity of materials used, and even the original form (Crosby Garrett helmet, anyone?) Done poorly, restoration can ruin the ambience and appearance of a site. Done well, huge benefits can accrue in terms of longevity, tourism etc.

Security

Heritage crime in all its forms is on the rise. The Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) now has a special unit to deal with such issues. Areas of particular concern include:

  • Architectural theft – in particular, metal and stone
  • Criminal damage – in particular, damage caused by fire (‘arson’)
  • Unlawful metal detecting (‘nighthawking’)
  • Unlawful disturbance and salvage of maritime sites
  • Anti-social behaviour – in particular, fly-tipping and off-road driving
  • Unauthorised works to heritage assets
  • Illicit trade in cultural objects

Could your contribution be used to pay for some form of security measure for your favourite or local heritage site? Maybe a CCTV installation, alarm system or on-site guardian?

Are there any areas we’ve missed? We’d be very interested to know your thoughts as to the amount you’d potentially be willing to contribute, and how (and where) you’d consider spending the money. Also, what benefits would accrue from your financial assistance? Please let us know in the comments below, or maybe you’d like to contribute a short article about your pet project that could be funded in this way. You never know, a lucky winner could be reading!

Note: No-one connected with the Heritage Journal has had a win of this nature yet (as far as I know!)

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We have received this comment:

 

paulintheswim It is now blatantly obvious that English Heritage, Historic England, and the National Trust’s photo on the left is dishonest, and the photo on the right is one that an honest person would take. As Heritage Journal said yesterday, it has been taken “from far away with a very long lens to make it appear very close and overwhelming.”

This photo is using trickery to deceive people and give a completely false impression.

Please would English Heritage, Historic England, and National Trust explain themselves in the comments section below.

 

In order to help the Government’s plans, Highways England and their allies such as English Heritage have been busy telling the public the stones are completely blighted by traffic. Well, the road is there alright, and it carries traffic, but to say Stonehenge is somehow ruined is nonsense.

 

For starters, if you think the position is THIS, you’re mistaken. It’s not the A303, it’s the A344 which was closed and grassed over in 2013! That didn’t stop English Heritage presenting the picture of it in their blog last year. Why??

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Second, if you think THIS is how things are, you’re mistaken. Yes, it’s the A303, but taken at peak time from far away with a very long lens to make it appear very close and overwhelming. Why did English Heritage, Historic England, and the National Trust do that and put it in their joint statement?

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Here’s a much more honest photograph:

As you can see, the A303 is FAR further away and the intrusion is FAR less than the roads lobby tries to suggest – and the “blight” they talk about is FAR less than the massive new “remedial damage” they plan to inflict on the World Heritage Landscape in defiance of UNESCO’s wishes!

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What’s more, Simon Jenkins, ex-Chairman of The National Trust, has cut through the false narrative of “a tunnel intended to restore tranquility” with devastating accuracy…

The A303 bottleneck could be cured by leaving the existing road one way westbound and finding an alternative pathway to the south for an eastbound route. The landscape would look much as it does now but without the jams. Motorists would continue to get an uplifting glimpse of their past. The Wiltshire hillside would be scarred but it would not be torn open. Millions of pounds would be saved.”

At a standard cost of perhaps £10 -£15 million per mile, it might only cost £50-£75 million to build that eastbound route, compared to £1.5 billion for the short tunnel scheme, plus it would reduce the traffic intrusion by 50% and the queues by 100%!

 

Not yet.

But one day…

Dear Fellow Landowners,

In a few weeks, we’ll all be getting requests to detect our fields once more. So now is a good moment to keep in mind that if you hear this: “Oh yes, I’m a responsible detectorist and a member of NCMD which supports responsible detecting as laid out in the Code of Responsible Detecting” it’s a big fat lie. The NCMD has REFUSED to sign the latest Code!

They say it’s because the Code lacks “clarity” on the subject of detecting on Registered Battlefields. But the real reason is that archaeologists have refused to say it is OK for NCMD members to detect on them unsupervised. (No wonder. A couple of unsupervised detectorists can obliterate the traces of a battle forever in a single afternoon!)

So, if you DO hear that lie please consider your decision very carefully.

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Battlefields are treasured places, evoking emotional responses and understanding of our history in ways that can only be conveyed by their physical presence in the landscape. But battlefields are vulnerable to various modern-day pressures, many of which are outside the planning process and difficult to manage.” – [Historic England]. “More than 9 out of 10 adults agree or strongly agree with the statement ‘It is important to me that heritage buildings and places are well looked after” – [DCMS]. Allowing unsupervised metal detecting on battlefields and most other places is the opposite of looking after them.

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow,
Worfield,
Salop

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Not just a host of top archaeologists, not just ICOMOS, not just UNESCO, not just the National Audit office, not just the AA, not just a host of Environmental and Archaeology organisations, not just The Transport Action Network but now Chris Stark, the head of the Committee on Climate Change, (an independent body formed under the Climate Change Act to advise the Governments and Parliament on tackling and preparing for climate change) has said about the Government’s massive road-building programme which includes the A303 past Stonehenge:


“It would be better for the economy and the fight against climate breakdown for the billions of pounds allocated for road-building to be invested in broadband – especially in light of the coronavirus crisis, which has led to many more people working from home.

“The government mustn’t be investing in anything likely to increase carbon emissions, I expect that video-conferencing will become the new normal and we won’t return to travelling the way we did. I would spend the roads budget on fibre. You would get a huge return to the economy with people having better connections. You would save people’s time and increase their productivity.”


 

It’s intriguing for (as one might expect) Highways England has already rejected that view and implied roadbuilding is good for the environment, but English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust are yet to join them. Where will those three bodies find a kamikaze spokesperson to say the tunnel is still a good idea? Our bet is that the current crisis has blown away all professional support for it within those organisations leaving Highways England as an embarrassing outlier.

Stonehenge has recently been likened to Lego. However, it has two features that Lego doesn’t, and which make it cleverer than Lego: the tongue and groove joints which hold the ring of lintels together horizontally are rounded and the mortice and tenon joints that hold the lintels in place vertically are domed.

Joints used in the outer sarsen circle © Historic England (illustration by Peter Dunn)

As a result, the structure has a greatly increased ability to shift laterally following ground movement or settlement without catastrophic failure, hence prolonging the life of the monument (by millennia, we now know!)

So were those unique design features an attempt to make Stonehenge almost immortal? No-one can know but it’s nice to think so. It’s true that neither modern nor ancient carpentry employ rounded or domed joints so why else would Stonehenge be so different unless the builders were aware heavy sarsen would be in danger from ground movement and they were trying to future-proof their monument?

Newton, Darwin and Einstein’s enormous contributions to humanity’s knowledge and wellbeing started off as theories, which were then shaped into facts.

In 1998, Mike Parker Pearson and Ramilisonia theorised that there was a ceremonial way linking Durrington Walls with Stonehenge (linking the “land of the living” with the “land of the dead”). This theory was met with considerable scepticism but in 2005, Mike’s team excavated a 30 metre wide specially constructed flint “roadway” leading from Durrington Walls to the River Avon (in line with the midwinter sunrise). Then in 2008, they discovered Bluestonehenge further downstream, and this then linked up in a long ‘ceremonial way’ to join the (previously known) Avenue straight into Stonehenge (in alignment with the midwinter sunset). These two discoveries (and an enormous amount of painstaking work!) proved that the original theory was correct.

Mike now has an exciting new theory about the importance of western burial grounds to Stonehenge. This can be found in his written representation dated 3 Jan 2019. For example, he says “dating to before Stonehenge, the long barrows’ distribution may have a bearing on why Stonehenge was located where it is” and “may be related to the one or more stages in the construction and use of Stonehenge”. Suffice to say that the western burial grounds are crucial to discovering a lot more new information about Stonehenge.

A lot of great discoveries started out as theories which later turn out to be true. We think that a lot of archaeologists would trust Mike’s judgement and vast experience and say that, IF the tunnel is approved, then it will plough through the western burial grounds and much of Stonehenge’s fascinating history will be lost………forever!

The renowned academic, Professor Dame Mary Beard, has added her voice to nationwide concerns over major development in Old Oswestry hillfort’s historical setting.

The Much Wenlock born classics professor, writer and TV presenter is among numerous celebrities who have been reacting on social media to Galliers Homes’ proposals for 91 houses as the consultation deadline approaches.

Others include the academic and TV personality, Professor Alice Roberts, Francis Pryor of Channel 4 Time Team fame, as well as John Challis, Boycie from Only Fools and Horses, and Viv and Ralf from Channel 4’s Gogglebox. The award-winning author and Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, also tweeted her support.

The social media activity saw a surge in objections, which Shropshire Council’s planning office confirmed caused temporary problems for some people submitting comments online, according to campaign group HOOOH.

Oswestry Town Council, Cambrian Heritage Railways and OBHAG (Oswestry & Border Archaeology & History Group) are among local stakeholders maintaining their opposition. Influential national heritage bodies have also objected, including the CBA (Council for British Archaeology), RESCUE (the British Archaeological Trust) and The Prehistoric Society.

Heritage experts insist that development will damage Old Oswestry’s landscape setting and harm its significance contrary to national planning rules. The proposals also contravene Shropshire Council’s local plan policy, with half of the development extending beyond Historic England’s stated northern limit.

In Professor Alice Roberts’ objection on Shropshire Council’s website, she states: “Old Oswestry Hillfort is one of the best preserved hill forts in Britain. The proposed plan exceeds existing limits to development, and fundamentally fails to respect both the national importance of this site and its importance to local people. The development would have an irreversible impact on this very important piece of our national heritage.”

A spokesperson for HOOOH said: “The Inspector’s criteria for rubberstamping this land allocation six years ago in Shropshire’s SAMDev plan have fundamentally changed. Oswestry’s targets for annual housing delivery are being scaled back, while changes concerning the legal status of the adjacent Cambrian line as an operating railway prevent the development from meeting key sustainability criteria on pedestrian and cycle access.

“New studies reaffirming the high value of the landscape around the hillfort north of Oswestry have seen Shropshire Council rule out any further allocations within this most sensitive of areas in their local plan review to 2036. The slim justification for housing that councillors and the Inspector were led to believe in 2014 no longer stands, and the site should simply not be developed.

“The masterplan for the current application entirely fails to meet Historic England’s requirements on the northern limit for building and acceptable design, and therefore Shropshire’s northern planning committee has compelling grounds to refuse permission.”

These are the third set of plans to be submitted by Galliers Homes within a year, prompting huge opposition each time. Objections on the planning portal (as of 19 April 2020) have reached almost 200, exceeding total objections to each of the previous and subsequently withdrawn submissions.

The 3,000-year-old hillfort is widely referred to as ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age’ for its unique design and pivotal importance together with its landscape for the understanding of Iron Age society.

The deadline for public comments is today (April 20). People can view the planning application and make representations by searching 20/01033/EIA via the link: https://pa.shropshire.gov.uk/online-applications/

HOOOH said: “If people experience problems registering and submitting comments on the planning portal, we recommend that they email them instead to:  planning.northern@shropshire.gov.uk.”

Further information on the 8-year planning wrangle over Old Oswestry’s setting and issues concerning development is available at www.oldowestryhillfort.co.uk

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