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Historic England is running another photograph competition to celebrate “historic places and cultural sites across the globe”. This year it is asking people to “scour their own photographic archive and share the most astonishing imagery of those places which dominate our past.”

We can exclusively reveal that the image below will NOT win. Why? Because it is the view of Stonehenge from the A303 that Historic England is campaigning to hide forever from millions of travelers, including youngsters who will grow up to be future archaeologists.

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No image like that will win because of the embarrassment it would cause for Historic England, now and far into the future but since the “Turner view” of the stones from the A303 is one of the most photographed ones in the world it’s likely that lots of people will send their own. Each will act as a powerful visual rebuke…

That’s the question posed by a short-tunnel supporter in 2017.

It’s a real puzzle. What would an uncultured, pro-oil, climate-change-denying, conservation-opposing, Bears Ears National Park attacking, Iranian cultural sites threatening, 22 Arizona sites damaging, UNESCO opposing, waterways dumping, truth-obstructing, pipeline-supporting president do about Stonehenge?

It’s not hard to deduce. He’d do exactly what English Heritage, Historic England, and The National Trust want to do about it.

An unfortunate juxtaposition!

Maybe it is these words from an academic that have led Rotary International to be the main suppliers of land for detecting rallies: “Empirical studies increasingly testify to the capacity for archaeological and cultural heritage sites to engender wonder, transformation, attachment, and community bonding among diverse individuals… these sites have the power to ‘enchant’ and, in so doing, they are seedbeds of human generosity, ethical mindfulness, and care for the world at large.”

But that soaring rhetoric doesn’t convey that things are very different when money or personal acquisitiveness comes into play. Did anyone from Rotary ever look at any detecting forums or go to a rally or look on eBay? Things may look the same in Britain’s fields, but they’ve changed.

Below is Sir Mortimer Wheeler outreaching to the public 85 years ago and on the right is a recent Dunmow Rotary Club Metal Detecting rally. At the latter, the interest is rather more than purely academic, to say the least. Note the finds on the right are in a glass case. You might wonder why. It’s because things have changed. Detecting rallies are NOT “seedbeds of human generosity, ethical mindfulness, and care for the world at large” and endlessly trumpeting that a minority of detectorists are “responsible” can’t change that fact.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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This week there were some truly annoying statements on Twitter from PAS officers: “Make clear which Code of Practice you intend to adhere to so that landowners can make informed decisions about access to their land” but “Of course we would prefer that people adhere to the @findsorguk CoP”.

Why does PAS talk in that wimpish fashion, implying that not being responsible is a matter of choice? Frit to be seen to be displeasing detectorists? It’s crazy. Farmers and detectorists should be told that only the PAS CoP insists on reporting all reportable finds and is the only one that conforms to the official definition of responsibility agreed by all the archaeological bodies and is, therefore, the only one that is responsible.

How come it is down to amateurs, ordinary members of the public, to see that obvious truth and to state it? We recall that back in 2009,  having searched in vain for a clear expression of opinion by an official body relating to the moral issues which recreational and entrepreneurial digging for archaeological artefacts raise, we suggested this, which PAS can’t possibly disagree with and which therefore should govern what they say …

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          A Portable Antiquities Charter [Heritage Journal, March 2009]



1. Archaeology, whether static or portable, is a physical manifestation of History.

2. Consequently, while physical archaeology may be owned individually or collectively it also has an abstract component, knowledge, which is a common inheritance and therefore collectively owned.

3. Physical ownership can be conveniently defined by laws. Knowledge cannot be. Hence, knowledge is indisputably owned but cannot be effectively asserted by its owners, which is the antithesis of ownership. It follows that if society’s claim to ownership of its own history is not to be surrendered it must be actively asserted, if not in law then as a moral principle.

4. From this moral principle flow the following moral assumptions which society has a duty to itself to declare and act upon in relation to the knowledge unearthed during the deliberate recovery of buried portable antiquities by any individual or group, whether motivated by pleasure, interest, profit, conservation or scholarship:

(I) No single individual or group can morally lay claim to, annexe, conceal or destroy it.

(ii) Any deliberate unearthing or removal of buried archaeology, irrespective of legal rights, ownerships or permissions, cannot be held to be moral unless it is done with the consent of and in a manner approved by wider society including the delivery of any and all knowledge relating to the act which society may require.



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Let PAS never again imply that the detectorists’ own NCMD or FID codes, written by two bodies that refuse to endorse the PAS code and which don’t require all reportable finds to be reported, are an acceptable option.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Ever wondered how we got in this mess, where a body whose role is to protect “an internationally-important collection of historic sites and artefacts … for the benefit of this and future generations” is supporting massive new damage to the Stonehenge World Heritage landscape?

One of the reasons arose 10 years ago, in the late summer of 2010. The news came that 177 taxpayer-funded bodies were to be axed and 129 merged in a “bonfire of the quangos:. An unnamed Whitehall source was quoted saying: ‘These reforms represent the most significant rolling back of bureaucracy and the state for decades and ‘Our starting point has been that every quango must not only justify its existence but its reliance on public money.’

For heritage and archaeology, “rolling back of the state” could only mean one thing: giving less – or no – money on protecting sites and the bodies responsible for them. Hence the short tunnel, which hides Stonehenge from the traveling public and gave a newly impoverished English Heritage a priceless monopoly over the public seeing the monument at all, came to be considered the way forward by English Heritage.

It’s a precious heritage asset but more significantly it is a gold mine that a quango is prepared to accept as its financial solution. In the end though, that price for English Heritage’s financial survival is too great. Another way must be found.

We saw a picture of a “Stonehenge” replica in Missouri on the page of our friends at Clonehenge.

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It’s a good one, but what we were struck by were the bicycles. How come you rarely see them at the original Stonehenge? Cycling is such healthy exercise and surely, with COVID and climate change they should be massively encouraged? People could arrive by bike or bring them in their cars or hire them from English Heritage at the visitor centre and cycle down to near the monument, reducing the pressure on the car parks and the need for many of the shuttle buses and giving a generally nicer vibe.

Best of all, the cost of running the venue would be greatly reduced so the current £21.50 admission fee could be lowered – perhaps to £10 for those who arrived by bike or brought them in a car and £15 for those who arrived by car and hired an English Heritage bike.

You have to wonder, since it’s such a simple, harmless, beneficial idea, why it hasn’t been actioned long ago? Could it be that English Heritage has calculated that, notwithstanding what’s best for the public, it can make more money if bikes aren’t allowed? That would be entirely consistent with the fact they’re mad keen on hiding the monument from travelers and thus creating their own lucrative monopoly on people even seeing it?

Stonehenge in 1896, before the public interest became secondary

 

Rotary Clubs are by far the biggest hosts of Charity detecting rallies. (“Rotary club” + “metal detecting” gets you 15,500 Google hits). It’s due to the kindness of their land-owning members, unaware of the heritage damage, and that the main beneficiaries are the detectorists, who keep the finds, not donate them.

Last year Dunmow Rotary Club held their third successive rally at Thaxted. This is why: “Barry joined Dunmow Rotary Club in 2015, from the Wootton Bassett Rotary Club, bringing the idea of a metal detecting rally with him”.

Yes, Wootton Bassett Rotary Club. Last year it held its 22nd charity rally! 22 rallies, imagine! Why hasn’t PAS written to Rotary International and told them what they think of large detecting rallies? (i.e. they won’t attend them as they can result in the loss of much archaeological information). Beats us.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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12 years ago, almost to the day, we wrote:

“German eBay has just introduced new rules on the sale of archaeological artefacts. Anything sold must be accompanied by proper documentation showing the seller’s title and proof that it has been properly reported“.

As a result, there are now zero Metalldetektionsfunde (metal detecting finds) directly offered on German eBay. Providing “proper documentation” has turned out to be too difficult, it seems.

However, you CAN buy thousands of finds via German eBay. They are the ones designated as from international sellers, people who aren’t obliged to provide proper documentation. They’re nearly all from Großbritannien!

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                 [2291 Articles found by international eBay sellers]

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Makes you proud to be British, does it? Maybe those considering post-PAS options should take note.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Love history? We want to hear your stories. Historic places are hugely important to our wellbeing, identity and sense of community. We want to hear what you’ve done to support a historic place, whether it’s big or small



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Yes, well, what we’ve done is to campaign weekly for years and years to oppose the Stonehenge short tunnel scheme which YOU have tried so ruthlessly to bring about in the teeth of UNESCO’s opposition!
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Is that the sort of story you were looking for?

According to English Heritage, Historic England, The National Trust, and Highways England, spending £2 billion pounds and wrecking our most iconic prehistoric landscape will regenerate the West Country. We beg to differ.

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Average time to drive from Highways England’s Head Office in Guildford to St Ives now: 4 hours 36 minutes

Average time to drive from Highways England’s Head Office in Guildford to St Ives post-tunnel: 4 hours 28 minutes

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What YOU can do!



 

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