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They’re looking for an archaeologist and are very particular about who it should be. Here are their requirements (we’ve added the last one in red as they may have forgotten to include it but it’s obviously essential)…


During that time 6.5 million free views of the stones will be lost. That’s what Highways England is planning in order to carry out preliminary work for the tunnel.

English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust all claim the tunnel is a net cultural “improvement”. They may do so till they’re blue in the face but it’s extraordinary to reflect that, if they get their way, the A303 will soon be closed not just for 13 weeks but permanently and the loss of free views of the stones will extend to 26 million a year forever!

How they or anyone else can say that’s not profound net cultural vandalism is a mystery which may never be solved.


UPDATE: We have been asked to clarify that “The A303 is not being closed. The A360 is planned to be closed between Longbarrow junction and The Avenue junction (which is a road off the A360 to the south)” which we do of course.

However, soon enough, the A303 WILL be closed, forever, with the loss of 26 million free views a year.

Hope that’s clear to absolutely everyone!

As day two gets underway we thought we’d post this picture of Birmingham Central Library, destroyed by fire with the loss of 50,000 books in 1889. Knowledge-loss matters, as it’s permanent.

There have been lots of massive Detectivals. Of one in 2018 we wrote; “more than 40 organisations will be at Detectival and all but one will be hoping to profit from the destruction. The other one (PAS) is lending stolen valour to the event“. We only got one comment about it from an attendee: “Suck it up, buttercup”.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Most public landowners disallow metal detecting on their land “unless as part of an archaeological project”. It’s to maximise the knowledge dividend from the activity and minimise the loss. How sensible. But only 8% of land is in public ownership. 92%, including a block of 37 fields near Sunbury upon Thames where today’s massive “Detectival” event is happening, have no such safeguards.

How is this possible, in logic? Is archaeology on privately-owned land less precious? Clearly not. There’s no rational conservation reason why archaeologists shouldn’t be giving the same advice to farmers as they give to public landowners. Yet Detectival is happening. The event highlights an intellectual and physical rift which is very damaging to our national interest and serves only to make Britain look entirely foolish, as much of the world knows very well.


A physical and intellectual rift?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

In 1849 a young relative of Wordsworth, Emmeline Fisher, wrote Lines on the Opening of Silbury Hill, a poetic apology to the ancestors for an excavation that was going on at that time into the “Green Pyramid of the plains, from far-ebbed Time” as she called it. It commenced:

Bones of our wild forefathers, O forgive,
If now we pierce the chambers of your rest,
And open your dark pillows to the eye
Of the irreverent Day!

We think there may be a much more significant apology due soon, for the gouging of a mile of new dual carriageway through Europe’s most important prehistoric landscape at Stonehenge and the stealing of the free view of the stones currently enjoyed by millions of travellers a year. We’ll all be long gone when the full scale of the loss is fully understood by a future possessing technology inconceivably more sophisticated than ours.

So, we would like to announce a poetry competition, in the form of an apology to the future. The winning entry or entries will be put in an envelope sealed with red wax and placed in a ceramic urn, just like Emmeline’s was, and buried just outside the World Heritage site, an apology for posterity to find!



Entries please, no longer than 10 lines, with your own choice of title. We’ll publish some of them here in the Journal and elsewhere and the winner will be chosen by a committee drawn from some of the many organisations and groups who have worked so hard for so long to stop this dreadful scheme going ahead. Then, if the worst happens, on the day the first bulldozer is deployed, we will bury the apologies as described. Please send your entries to  Good luck!


If you cite something that none of the world’s 7.9 billion people believes and you call it “a common myth” that you’re pleased to refute, you look a bit silly and exposed when someone points it out. Yet again Highways England’s PR Department has made them look foolish:

“Today’s another FactCheckFriday – we’re revealing the facts behind common myths about #A303Stonehenge. During construction, you won’t see bulldozers at Stonehenge – and the stones won’t be touched”.

It’s not just the false premise that irks, it’s the fact that English Heritage et al, bodies which ought to be protecting, educating and informing are failing to intervene and explain to the public that actually they’ll see loads and loads of bulldozers in several parts of the protected World Heritage landscape and ripping up those parts is just as appalling and unacceptable as ripping up any other part.

Strangely, there’s no official guidance for landowners on how to react to requests to metal detect. Shouldn’t there be, for aren’t they the ultimate gatekeepers of our heritage whose decisions, if wrong, can cost them and the rest of us dear?

That being so, is it wise for a landowner to trust someone’s assurance of good behaviour? Durham Council has just refused permission using words which say it all: “Not all objects found may be declared which would legally be the property of the Council”. Who can deny that?.

Yet here’s one of thousands of events at which, no doubt, the landowner was absolutely assured no finds would go unshown or unreported. Was he right to believe it? Or was he wrong, and both he and the rest of us lost out as a result? We have no proof as any proof would be hidden. But would it have been better all round if he’d taken Durham Council’s precautionary view?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Long ago we were regularly berated by a previous PAS Director for not “getting on the train to Liaisonville”. Luckily, that sort of dialogue (together with “just give it another few years, things will get better”) has been dropped as reality hammers daily on the doors of the British Museum.

But we have continued to bang our drum over the fact so few detectorists play ball, a regret that PAS expresses far too rarely. Here’s a selection of the sort of things we say, week in and week out (which have earned us much abuse and the occasional death threat):

  • As much as people like to say it is about the history, if that were the case these objects wouldn’t end up at auction at all.
  • The significant problem here is the perception of the archaeological record as a place for financial gain than historical enquiry and something to be privately possessed.
  • No one is able to show finds to more people in a home than in a museum.
  • This is especially true for objects from rallies that disappear in different directions and lose the context of being together in the same display.
  • Also, in a private collection they are not available for XRF, residue analysis, X-ray, conservation, etc.
  • This is not about elitism or an us vs. them attitude. It is about working together with specialists to get the most out of an objects history for all to enjoy.

However: those aren’t our words! They are direct quotes from a Finds Liaison Officer last week! It’s gratifying that such things wouldn’t have been said publicly by a PAS employee years ago, so things ARE changing. There’ll be no bad consequences, no addition to the 16 threats of a retaliatory “recording strikes” from NCMD and no public criticism from PAS.

Plus, something GOOD will happen: farmers, stakeholders and legislators will be better informed. We’ve been calling for PAS to stop pulling its punches for two decades while fuming that the Emporer often prances around totally naked on closed detecting forums while wearing his Sunday best in public! Let’s hope things are changing for the communal good.



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Jane is an artist, whose earlier works included many watercolours of ancient sites. She is a founder member of Heritage Action, and the partner of Moth, one of our previous respondents. They met at the inaugural meeting of Heritage Action at Uffington White Horse in 2004. Jane has provided the following responses to our standard questions:

* What is/was your day job?

Primarily, I am an artist. My paintings are inspired by the natural world, but history often creeps in. I love to hand-paint maps. You can see my paintings at I also work part time as a marketer for a specialist IT training company.

* How did your interest in Megalithic monuments begin?

As a tiny girl in the 1960s, on our way back from a holiday in Cornwall, we stopped at Stonehenge. At that time, you could walk right up to the stones – and we did. I remember the overwhelming scale of the massive stones, and Dad telling me how long ago they were built. I think Dad’s own sense of wonder infected! 

* Is your interest grounded in something Spiritual, Academic or something else?

My interest lies in the fact that our neolithic ancestors built such big and complex stuff, and so long ago with little more than their bare hands, basic tools, and sheer ingenuity. That so much of it still stands fills me with the same wonder as I felt as a tiny girl at Stonehenge more than 50 years ago.

I love how the monuments – broken remnants of our history – are in remote and wild places. I love their sculptural forms in the landscape. I love to wonder at the skills of the engineers who conceived and built such massive structures.

I don’t feel anything spiritual at ancient monuments, or indeed, anywhere else. I don’t really know what ‘spiritual’ means. Ancient monuments make me feel a profound sense of wonder. They make me realise that although the neolithic people didn’t have writing or the internal combustion engine, our ancestors were exactly the same as us – creative, organised, resourceful, thoughtful.

* What is your favourite time period or era? 

Neolithic and Bronze Age is the period I find most fascinating. What just a few generations did then – settling down, farming, building permanent shelters, domesticating animals and plants, organising themselves into successful and functioning societies, meant people had the time and resources to do more than just survive. They could think, create, specialise and experiment with new technologies, materials and ideas. Clay! Metal! Art!

* Which book has had the most influence on your interest? 

There are two. Julian Cope’s ‘The Modern Antiquarian‘ and ‘The Megalithic European‘. These have guided our travels for more than two decades. It’s thanks to Cope’s Modern Antiquarian website, that I met my husband. 

* Do you have a favourite field guide reference or gazetteer that you always take with you on-site visits?

Even though they are singularly unsuitable as field guides, Julian Cope’s ‘The Modern Antiquarian’ and ‘The Megalithic European’ are essentials. More practically, Aubrey Burl’s ‘The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland, and Brittany‘ has enabled us to find some really lesser known gems, especially in hidden corners of France.

* What is the best site you’ve visited so far (however you want to define ‘best’), and why?

The most surprising day, which could so easily have ended in failure, was seeking out and eventually finding the Damiya Dolmen Field in the Jordan Valley. Armed with little more than an idea, a couple of very vague maps, and a general sense of where they might be, we hired a taxi for a day trip out from Amman. We didn’t really expect to find anything. The taxi driver spoke hardly any English and we don’t speak Arabic. He thought we were quite mad. But determination and a sense of where the ancient people might have chosen to build their tombs, and despite the screaming summer heat, unsuitable footwear, and steep rocky hillsides we actually found loads of fabulous dolmens. Built in the very Early Bronze Age, these were already 3,500 years old when Jesus was a nipper. The whole place was mind-blowing, not least its proximity to the heavily barb-wired Jordan/Israel border. I wrote a blog about it here:
Which so-far unvisited site is top of your ‘must-see list, and why?

Göbeklitepe and Catalhöyuk in Anatolia. It would be a rare glimpse into early modern history and social organisation just at the time humanity was becoming settled. What those people did then laid the foundations for everything that came after.

* Which archaeological words or phrases caused you the most confusion when you first started? What is your understanding of those phrases now?

The phrase “ritual use” really gets my goat! On what basis is something ‘ritual’? And how would we ever know? So much supposition goes on and so often “ritual use” is lazy shorthand for ‘errr…. we just don’t know’. It’s OK not to know. But for goodness sake, be clear that ‘we’re not sure what this was for, but it might have been for … ‘

* What is your favourite theory about site origin/usage?

Rupert Soskin’s and Michael Bott’s revelation about Stanton Drew being a kind of amphitheatre for hunting games really struck a chord with me. It makes sense to me.

* What is your pet peeve with regard to Megalithic sites?

Litter – and that includes tea lights and other plastic ‘offerings’ of utter tat. Take your rubbish home with you and dispose of it properly!

Many thanks to Jane for sharing her megalithic origins with us. Look out for further instalments of ‘Meet the Antiquarists’ in the weeks to come! Don’t forget, if you’d like to feature in this series, simply contact us with your answers to the questions above. To see other articles in this series, simply enter ‘Antiquarists’ in the search box on the left (or click the handy supplied link)

Who knows? But in 2018 they hadn’t seen a picture of the scale of the boring machines. They still haven’t, but here’s a smaller one being used for HS2. So here are CBA’s six principles followed by our own comments in red, reflecting the reality of that photograph:

i. minimum damage to known or potential archaeological remains. Seriously?!
ii. minimum visual intrusion on monuments and landscape. See above!
iii. maximum benefit to the visitor in terms of enhanced presentation and understanding of the archaeological significance. What understanding would that massive new scar convey to YOU?!
iv. maximum tranquillity A fallacy. The traffic is merely being relocated to another part of the World Heritage landscape. Surely the WHOLE landscape is equally important?
v. maximum reversibility at the end of use-life. Good luck with reversing THAT!
vi. efficient use of previously-developed areas. We don’t know what that means but it certainly isn’t being depicted in that photograph!


June 2021

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