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The British Museum’s reported refusal to grant a request by the Oxford-based Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) to allow a 3D reproduction of a fragment of the Parthenon Marbles is a puzzle. See here .

We don’t know the answer, but what we do know is that it’s not a good look, given the controversy surrounding the treasures and particularly given the Museum’s instruction to metal detectorists that keeping and not sharing both objects and scientific knowledge is wrong.

Brown Willy is Cornwall’s highest hill, with a summit reaching 1,378 feet above sea level. Located among the rocky outcrops and desolate reaches of Bodmin Moor, with cairns that date back to the early Bronze Age, Brown Willy has been considered a sacred place for thousands of years.

But the true name for Brown Willy was recorded in 1280 as ‘Bronwenely’ derived from the Cornish language ‘bron wennyly’ meaning ‘swallows hill’, a much better name and far different from the Anglicised name we see now.

The summit cairn, which has never been excavated, is thought by some to be the resting-place of an ancient Cornish king.

Brown Willy’s cairn aligns with the neighbouring Rough Tor and the nearby Stannon stone circle, suggesting that their construction had some kind of astrological purpose.

The Aetherius Society even believe that Brown Willy is a holy mountain and make an annual pilgrimage here on the 23rd November.

Heavy rainfall occasionally gathers over Bodmin Moor after travelling downwind for a long distance, resulting in flash floods such as the one which occurred in Boscastle in 2004. The phenomenon is known in meteorological circles as the ‘Brown Willy Effect’.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren

English Heritage used to have an outreach department but closed it many years ago. The Portable Antiquities Scheme does it, it says, but clearly not adequately. Why else would this appear on a detecting forum last Thursday:

“So I have a couple of sites that have a fair bit of iron contamination. One site has suspected graves, 3-4 ft where there will be goods such as shield bosses, brooches, etc. Another is Roman where we suspect there is a coin hoard. Can anyone suggest a machine that will punch through the iron and find the deop targets?”

Clearly, this person hasn’t the foggiest notion of responsible detecting or doesn’t care about it. But not just him. Hundreds of irresponsible postings appear on detecting forums every year and are deleted by the webmasters, as this one has been, to maintain the impression everyone behaves. Which begs the question: why isn’t PAS monitoring the forums and posting on them, pointing out how wrong such behaviours are?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Carn Galva (817ft), sometimes Galver, is the site of a Neolithic tor enclosure between Zennor and Morvah in West Penwith, Cornwall and is some 5,000 – 6,000 years old. Carn Galva sits in Zennor parish, within 1km of the coast, and provides a tremendous view of the sea to the north. 

In 1861 John Thomas Blight, the Cornish author, illustrator and antiquarian, described Carn Galva in his A Week at the Land’s End as:

“a bold and curious pile of granite rock, about 623 feet above the level of the sea, is a conspicuous object from the locality. With the golden furze, purple heath, whortleberry, and the bright mosses and lichens on the rocks, this cairn has in colour a gorgeous appearance.”

It was called Castle Anowthan from the Cornish ‘castel an oghen’ translating as ‘castle of the oxen’. Castle Anowthan was mentioned twice in the 1580s, and then lost until 1984. John Norden in 1584 described it as:

“A craggy rock on the top of a hill near Zennor, upon the north sea, sometime trenched about and built with stone, as appeareth by the ruins of the walls.” 

But no-one knew exactly where it was. Then a huge gorse fire on Carn Galva, exactly 400 years after Norden had last described it, exposed the remains of its walls, linking outcrop to outcrop, and its internal terraces. 

Investigations at Carn Galva were undertaken by Cornwall Archaeological Society over a two-week period in 2009. Field survey after the 1984 fire had revealed walling around the southern tor on Carn Galva and it was believed that the site would prove to be an Early Neolithic tor enclosure. Two trenches were opened within the enclosure. The trenching at Carn Galva confirmed the presence of a substantial enclosure wall. Although the enclosure could not be dated, it seems probable that it is of prehistoric origin and comparison with excavated tor enclosures suggests a Neolithic date. ⁠⁠

It’s certainly a “craggy rock” so, after 400 years in the wilderness – literally – welcome back, Castle Anowthan!

If Carn Galva means ‘lookout tor’, then that would logically belong to the hill’s northern peak, overlooking the sea, and it was raids from there that were potentially the greater threat, from prehistory right up until Napoleonic times. 

So, maybe the big southern peak should be ‘Castle Anowthan’. 

Toponomy

The difficulty is that the meaning of the name is not so clear. ‘Galva’ historic forms suggest ‘golva’, Cornish meaning ‘lookout’, but two ‘gallowa’ forms suggest ‘golowva’, Cornish meaning ‘beacon’. 

Hunt and Bottrell both refer to Carn Galva as a former alarm beacon site. 

‘Golow’ Cornish meaning ‘light’ and ‘va’ again Cornish meaning ‘place’ would be stressed on the first syllable, and that would tend to suppress the middle syllable, hence ‘gol’va’. 

Short ‘A’ and ‘O’ tend to be interchangeable in Cornish speech, for example, Falmouth people call their town ‘Folmuth’, so that would explain the ‘A’ in the historic and current spellings.

In Cornish, ‘carn’ means a crag or tor, but it can also mean an artificial cairn. Everyone pronounces it wrongly though. It’s not like ‘barn’ or as they say that in English, ‘bahn’. The ‘A’ is like ‘cat’ but very slightly drawn-out, and the ‘R’ is pronounced.

Considering the views north and south from the top of Carn Galva/Castle Anowthan,  the Iron Age cliff castle of Bosigran Castle can be seen off to the northwest, up on its 333ft cliff – the tallest vertical cliff there is in West Penwith. 

In the event of a seaborne raid approach, an alarm beacon from there would be easily seen on Carn Galva, where another could be lit. 

That, in turn, would warn most of Penwith, as several hill forts are visible from Carn Galva – Chun (which could signal to Caer Bran), Faugan Round, Lesingey and Castle-an-Dinas – which then signal to Trencrom and Carnsew Fort, even as far away as Tregonning Hill – Castle Pencaire. 

The whole peninsula would be on alert within minutes!

The late Craig Weatherhill, whose research notes these are remarked,

“If you place your hand on the ground on top of Carn Galva, you can feel the beating heart of West Penwith!”

Toponymy by the late Craig Weatherhill.

Folklore:

William Bottrell relates the tale of a friendly Giant of Carn Galva, who accidentally kills his human best friend, and subsequently dies of grief.

Links:

Davies, Simon R. (2010). The early Neolithic tor enclosures of Southwest Britain. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.   

Jones, Andy M (2019) Excavations at Carn Galva and Bosporthennis Quoit, West Penwith in 2009, Cornish Archaeology 58, 2019, 27–49

William Bottrell (1870) Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1

“Many major tourism attractions such as Westminster Abbey, Stonehenge, and Edinburgh Castle remain in “survival mode” as visitor numbers have failed to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research. Trade body the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) said venues that rely on visitors from overseas continue to struggle despite Covid-19 restrictions being lifted in the UK.

“That’s because in a normal year, they’re largely dependent on overseas visitors, who haven’t been coming here for the last few years. Until they come back in 2019 levels, those organisations like St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Stonehenge, National Gallery, Tower of London and Edinburgh Castle won’t be repairing their balance sheets for another two or three years.”

However, in the case of Stonehenge, (which has had an annual visitor reduction from 1.6 million to 0.3 million) there’s less of a problem than at the other venues. In a few years it is going to be hidden from almost everyone unless they pay £19.50 to English Heritage. And if you think that figure won’t double pretty soon after that we know a bridge we’d like to sell you.

Maybe the Stonehenge “hide and charge” recovery plan could be adopted by other venues?

The Pipers are two stones in adjoining fields, just south of Boleigh Farm in West Penwith, Cornwall.

The Pipers, © Tim Clark

They are considered as ‘outliers’ for the Merry Maidens circle, associated by the ‘standard’ legend of dancers and musicians petrified for dancing on the Sabbath.

Extract from Cornwall Sheet LXXVIII.NE & SE, Surveyed: 1876, Published: 1887


First recorded by William Hals (1655-1737) as “two admirable great stones in perpendicular manner”, the northeastern stone developed a dramatic lean at some unknown period prior to 1865. The stone measures just over five metres high from base to tip.

The southwestern stone, 80 metres away in the next field is more upright, and at 4.7 metres tall is noted as ‘the tallest surviving menhir in Cornwall’ in the HER. This discrepancy is due to the slant of the northeastern stone, which while at over 5 metres is the longer, it is shorter from ground to tip.

Use of stones to commemorate Iron Age tribal leaders and kings (such as the Men Scryfa), and their connection with personified divinities in earlier times, strengthened beliefs that the stones themselves were the petrified remains of human beings – beliefs later used by Christian preachers to frighten their rural flock from attending, or organising, ceremonies at megalithic monuments.

As well as the ‘petrified musicians’ tale, another local story recounts how there was a great and bloody battle at Boleigh. The dead from the battle were subsequently buried in a long trench close by, the two massive long stones representing the two chieftains in front of their armies – the Cornish King Howel and the victorious Anglo-Saxon King Aethelstan.

No associated burials have yet been found.

by Nigel Swift, Heritage Action

They say gambling is an attempt to reduce a chaotic and unpredictable world to a finite and manageable size. There’s a lot of it going on at Cheltenham races this week but how many of those refugees from remedial maths classes will bother to glance up at Cleeve Hill? They say (don’t they say a lot?) that religion is the ultimate gamble and there, close to the summit, broods the visible evidence of a six  thousand year old gamble – a bet that there’s a beyond. Try getting a price on that from the bookies!

Be warned though, it’s a hard slog to get up there unless you’re fit, which I’m not, and the signposts and locals seem to be anxious to make the Irish invaders feel at home – a mile or two means rather more than it sounds. Wikipedia says it takes ten minutes. Wikipedia should ruddy try it.

Still, it’s so worth it. Belas Knap (which could mean beautiful hill or lots of other things) is one of the Cotswold Severn cairns, a type that is plentiful in this area, particularly in Gloucestershire. They vary greatly but all tend to have a defining feature – a regular trapezium shape – in fact the shape of a coffin, which is spooky for a burial mound!

In truth, a lot of it is a bit of a cheat. It was left devastated by nineteenth century excavators and radically reconstructed by the Ministry of Works in the 1920s. And yet, not all of its essence has been lost -because, perhaps, its location hasn’t been restored. There is a sense of wildness and open sky and huge views that can hardly have changed – and one can fancy that the experience of being there is close to what the builders would have seen and felt. Who needs a Tardis when you can travel back in time just by climbing a hill?

Despite the fact much of it has been rebuilt (and sometimes badly – did the ceilings of the side chambers really have to be constructed of moulded concrete reminiscent of the ceiling of Wolverhampton’s multi story car park?) parts are admirable and the dry Cotswold stone walling framing the false entrance is particularly fine (and part is original). This area, spacious and well sheltered from the wind and incorporating a large blocking stone is surely more than a mere false entrance (why construct a lie that could be easily discovered?). It is hard to avoid thinking important ceremonies were held within those sheltering arms.

Who knows? Although, we can probably assume one thing about the original use of Belas Knap – people didn’t squat in the side chambers playing guitars and watching their tealights staining the stones. (“How do you know, maan?” Just a guess, oh youthful substance-befuddled poseur!). Damaging this place can’t possibly be revering the past – or indeed the present or future. I’m comfortably pro-Pagan me, but I’m pretty anti-prat. It wouldn’t do any harm if the heritage organisations and the rest of us were more actively the latter without worrying it might make us anti the former. It won’t.

                Tell-tale marks indicating a visitation by Faux Neo-Pagans

Unregulated detecting “causes serious damage”. It is illegal to do it “without the prior written consent of the Minister” and that will only be forthcoming if “the greatest possible level of archaeological knowledge is obtained”.

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There are currently 6,300 archaeologists in Britain (Contractors, Consultants, Academics, Public Archaeologists, and those employed by Local Planning Authorities, Museums, and National Government Heritage Agencies). Not one of them is prepared to say that the Irish are wrong.

How very peculiar is that?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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St Breock Downs Monolith is under the thoughtful guardianship of the Cornwall Heritage Trust. This menhir or prehistoric longstone, which was originally about 16 feet high, is known as Men Gurta.

Weighing about 16.5 tons it is the heaviest standing stone in Cornwall.

The word menhir is a combination of two words found in the Cornish language, ‘men’ or ‘maen’ meaning ‘stone’ and ‘hir’ meaning  ‘long’.

A menhir is a large upright standing stone and they are found singly as monoliths, or as part of a group of similar stones. Their size can vary considerably; but their shape is generally uneven and squared, often tapering towards the top.

Menhirs are widely distributed across Europe, Africa, and Asia, but are most numerous in Western Europe, in particular in Ireland, Great Britain and Brittany. They date from the late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods, roughly from 3000 to 1200 BC.

The purpose of menhirs remains unclear.

Over the centuries there have been many conflicting theories about why they were erected and how they were used.

Most archaeologists today accept that they had a wide range of functions: marking the boundaries of territory; meeting points; grave markers or fulfilling a religious and ceremonial role.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren.

In 2017 the National Trust bought the Avebury Chapel stating that “Our vision is to develop this unique and beautiful building into a welcome and information space for both local communities and visitors to share our passion for the landscape, its abundant nature, and world-renowned archaeology.” It was a worthy aim and it cost them a pretty penny as it was on sale for £150,000 and they subsequently undertook considerable renovation work.

It was well worth it as the Chapel is one of the most unique former chapels in the world as it lies right in the centre of the largest stone circle in the world, with a breath-taking view over the standing stones. The Trust recognised this and appointed an Avebury Chapel Manager.

To be honest though, the uses to which the Trust has put it have been fairly limited and low profile, with occasional events and an announcement that “This summer the chapel will be open between Mondays and Thursdays. Visitors can pop in to see this beautiful and significant building as well as chat to a member of the team. On Mondays and Wednesdays there will also be family activities from making a butterfly feeding station to creating your own piece of nature art. Why not join in with one of these activities and tick off one of your ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾’?

Things have changed though. In January it emerged the Trust intends to lease the building to Avebury Parish Council at a peppercorn rent in order for them to run it as a Community Exhibition Space. Six organisations have committed to contribute: Avebury Community Orchard, Avebury Society, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Friends of the Ridgeway, Marlborough Farmers Space for Nature, and Wiltshire Museum.

Hopefully, this will result in a better use than hitherto for a spectacular venue. We have a particular additional hope. Here is the last picture from Kennet Council’s Chapel Webcam before it was vandalised in 2004. It was said it would be reinstated in the summer of 2005 but it has never happened, even after the Trust acquired the building (and we nagged them). It is to be hoped that Avebury Parish Council will now reinstate this hugely popular facility, enjoyed by thousands of people all over the world, by mounting a camera safely inside the building.

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