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Long ago, via a proxy, The Journal bought a copy of the ARCHI UK database (the site finding system for detectorists). We hope The Archaeological Establishment did the same as it contains much food for thought.

Anyway, as subscribers we’ve been sent special advance notification of the fact ARCHI is about to launch “the first British archaeological sites Android App“.They say it will “take us all to the next level when it comes to doing what we love” and have offered us access to a prototype “to discover and explore our nation’s rich heritage!”

But therein lies a profound mystery. We are told that when done responsibly metal detecting is harmless and beneficial. So why would detectorists be being offered details of 190,000 sites of archaeological significance on their phones? To make sure they avoid them?

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Alcohol is to be prohibited at Stonehenge solstice celebrations!

No-one can deny it contributes to the all-too-frequent damage and disrespect so this is an excellent, heritage-friendly move.

national celebrations - Copy (2)

We ask only one thing of EH:  please don’t negotiate or compromise by even a thimbleful. A duty to protect is a duty to protect and shouldn’t be subject to negotiation or requests to act otherwise by anyone.

From a correspondent

Whilst the particulars of the short tunnel route being prepared by Highways England remain undisclosed, a radical proposal for a combined bypass for Stonehenge and Salisbury has caused a stir. There is no lack of opinion, despite the lack of detail on exact routes for both proposals.

The scenario could be compared to two much loved relatives that urgently require heart surgery under the NHS. It is proposed, on grounds of cost, that only one relative should be treated and have a stent fitted instead of the heart bypass actually needed, the budget being in place to cover the operation and a team of surgical specialists appointed to investigate how it could be carried out. Then a friend points to a way in which both patients could benefit from a bypass operation, highlighting that the already assigned budget would easily cover the cost and both would be returned to the health and activities they enjoyed thirty years ago. In short, the clock could be turned back, benefitting the lives of not just the patients, but also their wider circle of family and friends plus casual visitors and even future generations.

The scenario could be compared to two much loved relatives that urgently require heart surgery under the NHS. It is proposed, on grounds of cost, that only one relative should be treated and have a stent fitted instead of the heart bypass actually needed, the budget being in place to cover the operation and a team of surgical specialists appointed to investigate how it could be carried out. Then a friend points to a way in which both patients could benefit from a bypass operation, highlighting that the already assigned budget would easily cover the cost and both would be returned to the health and activities they enjoyed thirty years ago. In short, the clock could be turned back, benefitting the lives of not just the patients, but also their wider circle of family and friends plus casual visitors and even future generations.

Imagine that at this point the neighbours of each of the sick relatives, along with the local M.P, take sides as to which operation should be performed on whom. Were this situation being played out in a reality TV show, media and wider public interest would be giving rise to questions. Why have the relevant authorities and now two charities issued a joint promotional film pushing for a particular operation that would not be the best outcome for a patient in their care? Why are all so focused on an operation for just one of the patients when both could benefit from a common operation? Why are stances being adopted that aren’t in the best interests of all of those in need?

The apparent wish list for tackling traffic congestion either side of Stonehenge appears to include the following: road safety and improved traffic flow, faster journey times between London and the West Country, reduction of rat-running, and the financial cost and effect on the local, regional and national economies and, last of all and not first as it ought to be, impact on the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. What isn’t on this list at all is eradicating the current free view of the stones to enhance the milking of the English Heritage Trust’s cash cow, removing a strip of tarmac from National Trust land in invitation to establish their own visitor centre, saving the local M.P. from a fall-out with his party’s whips or giving David Cameron a send-off without a U-turn.

Whether the combined Stonehenge/Salisbury bypass operation is adopted as a sound idea or not, far into the future it will enter the history books as marking the point at which important questions arose. Will the answer to those questions ultimately be that this present generation were largely only interested in themselves?

by Nigel Swift

Much will be written by professional archaeologists about the latest (and worst) episode, aired last night. Meghan Dennis. an archaeologist at York University, probably wins 3 prizes for succinctness: “The 1st remains of the episode are found. Disclaimers go up. The footage shows they lie”….. “Gun wankfest time” …. “Overall, this show continues to be a cesspool of bad practice, unethical excavation, and poor science and outreach.”  (A fourth prize for succinctness should go to a Ryan Grove for an unwittingly relevant tweet: If you want to know who the assholes are in a community, suggest the adoption of a code of conduct. It’s like asshole kryptonite.”)

However, while lack of technique is a matter for comment by experts, lack of decency is something we’re all entitled to protest about so here’s my even more succinct characterisation of the series: “A horrible subject treated horribly.”

Nevertheless, I hope anger over the actions of three British detectorists abroad doesn’t divert attention from the less overtly obnoxious but cumulatively far more damaging bad practice by thousands of others at home. A small minority of nighthawks has performed that service for years. An even smaller number of Nazi War Diggers shouldn’t be allowed to do the same. A massive non-reporting rate, farmers ripped off and EBay chock-a-block all warrant the attention of archaeologists too. Self evidently, outreach has only reached the reachable. Here’s one solution:
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Ethical detector.

But assuming that can’t be done then the only solution to bad practice in both Latvia and Loughborough is to call for laws which make good practice mandatory instead of voluntary. Occam’s Razor, anyone?

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A damaged Monet. What has that got to do with it?

A damaged Monet. What has that got to do with it?

In 2014 we complained here and here about a detecting rally on the site of Weyhill fair, saying ….

“Sites really don’t come better than this!” said the organiser, and he was right ….. Everything dropped on those 60 acres forms an almost unique whole, a continuous record of social and commercial interaction in one small place over seven and a half centuries …… So it’s just crying out for a comprehensive archaeological field survey one day ……

Yet instead tomorrow (Sunday) it will be dug over by who knows whom from who knows where with a propensity to report amounting to who knows what, using no survey methodology but instead a totally random approach followed by irrational selectivity. So by Monday the site’s uniqueness will be gone forever as multiple holes will have been punched in the record and an unknown number of material and abstract components of  history will have been respectively quietly pocketed or destroyed and hence put beyond the reach of science…… It’s a bloody shame really. I’m no archaeologist, just a no-account amateur, but I know when something irreplaceable is being needlessly destroyed….. It’s scandalous.”

But they’ve announced they’ll be back again in March (a third visit I think) and this time, for just £35 you can help yourself for the whole weekend! Well worth it, as it includes one field that was “very productive and everyone agreed had a lot more to offer.” Strange, innit. No-one’s allowed to come back and have a second bash at a Monet but you can go back and have multiple bashes at Weyhill Fair ’till it’s all gone!

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“Sites really don’t come better than this!” 700 years of History, and not statutorily protected? Then we all have a legal right to take bits of it home for ourselves, yes? It's legal, innit?

Sites really don’t come better than this!” Absolutely! 750 years of History, entirely unprotected by law. What’s not to like?

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We have been invited by Doug Rocks-McQueen to once again participate in the Archaeology Blogging Carnival. This year’s theme is ‘Archaelogy’s Greatest Challenges’, and so we herewith humbly submit our own contribution:

It’s no secret that in 2016 and beyond the short tunnel debate will become progressively more passionate and complex. However, there’s a fundamental truth looming over it that hasn’t been fully debated but which will have to be properly addressed. It’s that under Article 4 of the World Heritage Convention Britain has committed itself to the protection and conservation of the whole Stonehenge World Heritage Site.  “Protection” is the action of protecting, or the state of being protected and its antonyms are harm and destruction. “Conservation” is the act of preserving, guarding or protecting and it has exactly the same antonyms, harm and destruction.

You will have heard (from EH, NT et al) lots of talk about a “once in a generation chance” and enhancing, improving and restoring, and about minimising new damage and delivering a better situation for traffic, pedestrians and skylarks. But there’s a fundamental unvoiced problem. None of those aspirations, whether they’re beneficial or not, is protection or conservation and it’s an undeniable fact that no matter how or where a short tunnel is designed or positioned it WOULD involve substantial harm and destruction, which are the antonyms of protection and conservation.

Hence, it’s surely the case that if we wish to abide by the Convention we simply can’t build a short tunnel (or indeed construct surface dual carriageways). On the other hand, if we are determined to go ahead we’ll have to ditch the Convention. Or flout it. Or use fancy words to lie about what we thought it meant when we signed it. Anyone who has followed what EH and The Trust have been saying will know that process has started, with frankly partial and selective accounts being employed to win the public over.

It would be great if 2016 saw a rising tide of archaeologists, lawyers and others saying hang on a moment, have you actually read what the Convention says? The Stonehenge Alliance has already done so and the CBA and others – notably ICOMOS UK, have indicated that they are very troubled about how building a short tunnel can be reconciled with our Convention commitments. It’s likely they will need a lot more than lyrical words and videos to convince them a short tunnel is supportable.

It would be easy to justify building a short tunnel if the Convention was ambiguous. But it’s all too clear, so we anticipate that some desperate tactics and interpretations will be put forward. A compliant Attorney General and a dodgy dossier are not unknown in our recent history, so who knows? Something reminiscent of a dodgy dossier at least, seems already to exist – the scary and false claim that if a short tunnel can’t be had a surface dual carriageway may be imposed. Fortunately the Stonehenge Alliance has utterly discredited that, rather forensically!

Nevertheless the short tunnel agenda has many powerful supporters and we can anticipate all sorts of claims. In particular, look out for a re-working of the Vietnam war quotation, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it”. We are confident a version of that will be voiced: “It was necessary to cause damage to the World Heritage Site in order to unify and enhance it.” Unfortunately for the short tunnel supporters the Convention doesn’t offer the option to interpret its provisions creatively merely because to do so would be financially convenient. No matter how it is dressed up a short tunnel would break the solemn promise we’ve made to the world.

Please don't let them tell the World it's not.

Please don’t let them tell the World it’s not.

This Sunday there’s a metal detecting rally just south of Oswestry. Not near the setting of the hillfort you understand, detecting is forbidden  there……

no detecting

…. which is strange, as an archaeological report on the land reckoned: “The owners of Oldport Farm confirm that their land is often combed by metal detectors who informally report finds of musket balls, presumed to date to the Civil War period”. Often combed by metal detectors, eh? Yet now they’re banned. Pourquoi? Supply your own theory, but here’s mine: “someone” doesn’t want anything found that might put a spanner in the money-making works, things like important archaeological artefacts and evidence that might prompt talk of protecting the land from development!

You won’t have heard that from officialdom though. Not in their remit, see. Although, you might hear some of them quietly singing …
If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.
Not that “someone” needs to worry that detectorists might mess things up. The Portable Antiquity Scheme recently admitted they think 70% of detecting finds don’t get reported to them and there’s no reason to think things would be different in Oswestry. Indeed, I refuse to believe that a bunch of detectorists who kept coming back often were only finding a few musket balls and nothing else. Unless they were all insane. Which I doubt.

However, getting permission to build houses in a scheduled monument’s setting involves attending to every detail, including trying to ensure no-one picks up (literally) anything that might ruin everything. Thus, it’s not just detectorists but human beings that are banned from the land and it’s worth noting there’s STILL a notice  about not stepping off the path because of chemicals. (Still? Really? Is this Chernobyl?)  As a result, we have this bizarre spectacle …..

A man from the BBC and the leader of HOOOH and the Director of the CBA wanting to inspect an important piece of land but being told to "keep out" (or perhaps to "Keep off our pension fund"?!

A man from the BBC and the leader of HOOOH and the Director of the CBA wanting to inspect an important piece of land on behalf of the local, national and international public but being told to keep off all parts except those parts they have a legal right to go on (or perhaps it is saying “Keep off our pension fund”?!

 

[Image Credits: huwdavies.photo@btinternet.com and HOOOH]

As the sunlight faded in last nights episode of Nazi War Diggers and the four participants visibly chafed at the bit to dig up a dead soldier, 7 dishonest words were spoken that were also probably used at Lenborough a year ago…..

An hour to be thorough
An uncivilised person is someone who chooses to do what they want rather than what they should. That surely applies to the brigands in both Latvia and Lenborough, and indeed in Channel 5 HQ.  All of them falsely claim they acted in the public interest not their own and that anyway what they did was “legal”.

Unfortunately the latter claim is broadly true so it is to be hoped that the hundreds of archaeologists and other civilised people who will today be condemning what was shown on the telly last night will reflect that the primary blame, in both Latvia and Britain, lies in the laws that allow such things to be done. If so then something beneficial may have come out of it.

Update: Perhaps however no-one should hold their breath. See this, part of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists’ complaint to Channel 5:
“CIfA is concerned that the show did depict a style of ‘excavation’ that must have destroyed a great deal of potentially important archaeological information …….  and the apparent focus was on artefact recovery only”
…. Fine. Yet that’s a perfect description of the behaviour of thousands of British metal detectorists every single week and CIfA and most British archaeologists express zero “concern” about that.

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How did you get on with last week’s puzzle? A wider view may help …..

january puzzle answer.

January puzzle answer 2.

It’s British Camp, Malvern, as seen from The Kremlin Inn, Clee Hill, 30 miles away.

Suggestions for future puzzles very welcome.

A design consultant has just been appointed to develop “a preferred option” at Stonehenge. That sounds innocuous but it’s the opposite. Their remit is limited to examining which short tunnel would be best not which option would cause no damage (and who in their right mind wouldn’t say that was preferable?)

So it’s beyond dispute that to establish the term “preferred option” in respect of a limited number of options all of which will be massively damaging, is to mislead the public, to put it politely. It cannot be “preferable” to flout the World Heritage Convention, especially with the aid of cheap linguistic tricks worthy of a banana republic.

It is to be hoped that this attempt to manipulate the debate so as to confine discussions to unacceptable options not options that are best for the World Heritage Site will be seen for what it is. In particular, let ICOMOS UK and UNESCO stand fast in support of the Convention and the whole WHS and let the public understand that although they will hear the phrase “the preferred option” many thousands of times in the coming years it’s literal meaning is “the preferred unacceptable option”.

stonehenge mince

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