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If you read the “official” accounts you could be forgiven for thinking the Stonehenge project is almost harmless and a bit like keyhole surgery. Indeed, in Defence of the Stonehenge Road Tunnel, Tim Darvill writes:

“Before work begins in any landscape, but especially sensitive areas such as those around Stonehenge, a series of steps is taken to gather detailed information that can be used in planning, engineering, and designing a development. Following guidance set out in the National Planning Policy Framework first published by the government in 2012, and revised several times since, this work is specified by archaeological officers in the relevant local planning authority. The briefs are then carried out by commercial archaeological companies at the cost of the developer, monitored by the planning authority. Work usually starts with desk-based assessments of existing knowledge before moving on to what is known as field evaluation when previous records are validated and areas with no existing records are thoroughly checked. Negative as well as positive evidence is collected so that the impact of proposals can be fully understood and, where necessary, schemes can be modified to minimise harm to archaeological deposits.

For the Stonehenge scheme, field evaluation was undertaken over a broad corridor using a wide range of techniques that included geophysical survey, test-pits, and evaluation trenches. Findings from this work, carried out in 2019, have been used to criticise the tunnel scheme in the press, most recently by Garry Shaw in an article for the Art Newspaper. But these criticisms miss the important point that discovering finds as part of the field evaluation informs the design process so that sites of archaeological importance can be avoided. That is exactly what has happened since, with small but important changes to the footprint of the scheme itself and the position and extent of enabling works. If the archaeologists involved have done their job then the overall impact of the scheme will be minimal. Certainly, the archaeological teams have made their best shot.

Sounds great. But a picture says more than a million words, like this one from Ireland:


Does anyone care to bet that this will hold true: “discovering finds as part of the field evaluation informs the design process so that sites of archaeological importance can be avoided


November 2022

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