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Here’s a funny thing. A map by Historic England of scheduled and other sites targeted by nighthawks. But one of the most important is missing. So we’ve added it (in yellow).

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Does the omission matter, one blob in so many? Actually, it does, for that’s the Staffordshire Hoard field and we’ve posted 22 articles about a number of raids by nighthawks and begging for the inadequate original official searches to be repeated to see if anything is still there.

Yet nothing has happened. Will that be the final fate of the Hoard? World famous, and mostly on display in a number of museums, but partly still in a field in Hammerwich and being progressively removed by nocturnal scruffs, and not even accorded a blob?

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From British Archaeology…..

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However, as we’ve long said, military-grade detectors were not up to this task. They were Ebex 420H models, in use by UK and US forces to find mines in Afghanistan, with little depth capability (mines being at shallow depth) and not recommended by manufacturers to find very small targets.

Modern hobby machines are vastly superior at finding small pieces of gold deep down; they were designed for it.  Minelab say their GPX 5000 can “easily find small objects at 24 inches” (i.e. more than 2X the depth achieved by the Home Office team), Blisstool’s LTC64 V3 can too and the GPZ “can find gold 40% deeper than that” (so nearly 3X deeper than the Home Office). The use of such machines by detectorists is widespread, including by nighthawks.

And yet: The purpose of the search was to recover or prove the absence of finds “at shallow depth”! The Hoard deserves better than this. All that “intensive conservation and expert research” cannot deliver the full story until a further search is held. When will that be?


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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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If ever the folly of building a mile of destructive new roads across the Stonehenge World Heritage landscape needed stressing to the world (see yesterday’s article) then this is it. There is still so much to learn at Stonehenge, and destroying huge amounts of precious evidence by driving a mile of new dual carriageways across the Stonehenge World Heritage Site is unconscionable.


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It has long been known the bluestones were transported from ancient quarries near Preseli and erected on Salisbury Plain. But why? Most stone circles come from nearby quarries, so why were the bluestones transported 175 miles? Now a reason may have been discovered. It wasn’t just the stones that were brought, but a whole pre-existing stone circle!

It seems there was a 500-year gap between the blue stones being quarried and being erected at Stonehenge and in 2015 Professor Mike Parker Pearson suggested that it was “likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.” Now it has been revealed that a stone circle named Waun Mawn, discovered during filming for a BBC programme, has remarkable similarities to the original bluestone circle at Stonehenge and it is suggested that ancient people of the Preseli region migrated 175 miles taking their monuments with them, as a sign of their ancestral identity!

Only four monoliths remain at the Welsh site but an archaeological dig in 2018 revealed holes where stones would have stood, indicating a wider circle of 30-50 stones. There are 42 Welsh blue stones at Stonehenge, some from the same quarry as Waun Mawn, and one of them with an unusual cross-section which matches one of the holes left at Waun Mawn. Even more significantly, the Welsh circle seems to have been aligned on the solstice and had a diameter of 360m, the same as the ditch that encloses Stonehenge!

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Confused or overwhelmed by the torrent of pro-tunnel words from pro-tunnel quangos? Sometimes simple expressions of fact say more than massive dossiers presented by self-interested bodies. After all, like UNESCO says (effectively):

It’s the Outstanding Universal Value, stupid!

And you can’t get more clear or more true than that. All else is secondary and excuses that limp. Here are some recent succinct iterations of the non-quangoid truth of what’s going on:

This is the approach to a tunnel on HS2 but let no-one tell you the approach to the Stonehenge tunnel will be much different.

Is damaging an ancient site still vandalism if you say you’re doing it “to benefit the public”? It’s a question that was clarified last June at Doll Tor, Derbyshire, arguably Britain’s most picturesque stone circle.

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The fact that “some of the smaller stones had been moved to sit on” caused huge indignation. How dare anyone change a public asset for their own benefit? But what if the culprits, when caught, mounted the defence that “We did it so the wider public would have more convenient places to sit”?

Would that defence work? Or would a judge say “no, that’s no excuse for blatant vandalism and citing “public interest” to justify it merely displays arrogance, especially when the changes can never, ever be undone”?

English Heritage, Historic England, the National Trust, and Wiltshire Council ought to be forced to explain how their behaviour at Stonehenge differs from the behaviour of a couple of little scrotes at Doll Tor. (You may have noticed: they haven’t done so, as they can’t.)

 

Someone has sent us a comment saying: “Some countries pay their blood donors….but the UK and the World Health Organisation say this is not a good method.” We agree, and by the same token offering treasure hunters, the option of a reward instead of voluntarily donating finds is also not wise for, unfortunately, more than 90% of detectorists insist on being paid in full.

Worse, the Treasure they are paid for already belongs to those who are paying for it and is sometimes taken to rallies and “laundered by findspot description” having been stolen by nighthawks or (more often) withheld from the landowners who would otherwise have shared the reward.

So, to be clear: it’s like Tesco’s rewarding people who bring them pork chops or Britain paying oodles for blood, knowing that some of it has been stolen! We’re “making progress,” says the mantra constantly served up to stakeholders, taxpayers, and parliament. Are we? And the evidence?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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By Nigel Swift

We have got somewhere. They have not. Bitter, twisted, and deluded.

Blimey! I was surprised by such an attack on those of us who are metal detecting sceptics by an archaeologist on Twitter this week. The claim “got somewhere” is hardly supported by the poor reporting rate to PAS or the fact tens of thousands of UK detecting finds get sold on eBay. Nor by the fact that in 2013 our accuser said he wanted detecting licensed yet 8 years on it still hasn’t been.

But there’s yet more proof that progress isn’t happening. All 27,000 detectorists avidly scan the ground surface while detecting, so they are also Field Walkers and could be expected, if anyone is getting somewhere, to adhere to the BAJR Guide to Field Walking. But here’s what that Guide specifies, followed by a tick or a cross to indicate if metal detectorists comply with them. Hoist. Petard.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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It’s easily forgotten that Stonehenge is owned by the public alone and English Heritage is only licensed to administer it (or indeed, to have anything to do with it) until April 2023. That means English Heritage has the mandate to do no more than write a brief and inconsequential page in the long history of Stonehenge, not an enduring one.

And yet, it is trying to achieve a truly profound change in which Stonehenge will be hidden from tens of millions of travellers, not just until 2023 but forever!

What does this say about a heritage organisation’s understanding of the broad sweep of history beyond its own petty span and its understanding of the fleeting significance of mere quangos? Here’s a teeshirt we’re thinking of marketing that makes the point nicely. Anyone want one? £11 each. Proceeds to charity.

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Sir Antony Gormley has said he fears that planned improvements to the A1 south of Gateshead will have a “heartbreaking” impact on views of his sculpture the Angel of the North and that it would need to remain “100% visible” to retain its significance. In response, Highways England says it will try to “mitigate” the loss.

By contrast, the Stonehenge tunnel won’t merely have a heartbreaking impact on the view of the stones experienced by tens of millions of travellers, it will entirely eliminate it!

Plus, they insult the public by offering the silliest mitigation possible: “But it’s not the whole story. By removing the old A303, walkers, cyclists, and horse riders will be able to see Stonehenge whenever they like using a new dedicated public right of way being created along the route of the current road.” Yet walkers, cyclists, and horse riders already can see Stonehenge whenever they like so it’s ridiculous to offer that as compensation for the loss of the free view for tens of millions of travellers!

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