You are currently browsing Alan S.’s articles.

A friend of the Journal, Eve Boyle, recently documented her visit to Clachtoll Broch in North West Scotland, and has given permission for her story to be published here. So, it’s over to Eve:

Scottish Archaeology is all abuzz just now about the excavation of a broch at Clachtoll, on the west coast of Sutherland. On Tuesday, I was on the phone to Roland Spencer-Jones, chair of NOSAS, who tells me he’s spent a week digging at Clachtoll. “It’s wonderful!” he says, ”You should go”. On Thursday morning, Strat Halliday, once my boss, now retired (as if that were possible!) waltzes into my office to say he’s just been to Clachtoll “It’s fantastic! You should go.” That evening, Matt Ritchie, Forestry Commission Archaeologist, texts me – “Just been to Clachtoll. It’s amazing! You should go!”

So yesterday I drove the 270 miles north and this morning (Saturday) stood on Clachtoll. And you know what? It is wonderful, and it is fantastic, and it is amazing. And you should go!

Why?

Imagine, children, that you are gathered round the TV on a Saturday evening, watching Strictly. Dad’s in the kitchen, cooking dinner (he pretends not to like Strictly, but he’s watching it too, on the wee kitchen TV). And then (perhaps because he’s distracted by Louise Redknapp) a spark catches – your house is on fire – you all rush out – but, before the fire brigade arrive, the roof and the upstairs floor all catch fire, burn and collapse, followed by the walls, which collapse and dump hundreds of tons of stone onto what used to be your living room. Luckily, you all escaped (including sheepish dad), but the house is trashed. And, you know what? It’ll be two thousand years or more before anyone tries to dig it out and find your stuff.

And that, kind of, is what seems to have happened at Clachtoll. Set into the floor is a stone mortar, filled with grain; all carbonised; that was meant to be someone’s meal, but it didn’t happen: they all left in a hurry and the fire burned the grain, still in the mortar.

Fifteen years ago, I spent a tremendous week surveying this broch with my friend and colleague Ian Parker. We peered and poked as much as we could into what was largely a huge pile of stones. I crawled into spaces to take measurements (I was a bit more sylph-like then, but still had to be pulled out by the ankles once or twice), and we wondered what might lie under all that rubble. Historic Assynt, who lured us up there for that survey, have spent years trying to make this project happen, so it was just fabulous to be there today.

Take a bow, then, Historic Assynt, and their professional partners in this project, AOC Archaeology Group. You can read much more (and see much better photos than mine) on their websites:

https://www.facebook.com/historicassynt/
https://www.facebook.com/aocarchaeology/


Many thanks to Eve for that report. If you’ve visited an excavation or heritage site during the summer, why not drop us a line or two about it so we can spread your story?

 

A Personal post by Alan S.

Regular readers will know of my love for all things Cornish – in particular the prehistoric heritage of the Duchy area, which has been covered here from time to time.

I am pleased to say that, although it took much longer than originally anticipated after my first visit to the area in 2002, I am finally moving from the smoke of London to reside in Cornwall!

My nearest major monument upon arrival at my destination will be a major tor enclosure, occupied between 3700 and 3400 BC. The tor is visible from miles around and is a major landmark in the area, partly due to a 90ft Celtic Cross, erected on the summit of the tor as a memorial to Francis_Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset.

I’m talking of course, of Carn Brea, situated between Redruth and Camborne.

Valentine’s Series, Souvenir Post Card

The site was excavated in the early 1970’s by Roger Mercer, when traces of platforms for Neolithic long houses were found within the ramparts. In fact, the excavations coined the use of a new site type, ‘tor enclosure’, of which several further examples have since been identified within Cornwall.

Over 700 leaf-shaped flint arrowheads found clustered around the main entrance to the enclosure have been interpreted as one of the earliest indications of ‘warfare’, evidence that the site was attacked by warriors armed with bows and there were also suggestions that the houses had been burned down.

©Cornwall Historic Environment Service.

The hilltop has been the site of human activity through many periods since, with finds of Bronze Age tools, Iron Age (and much later) mining activity, and even a small number of Roman period finds.

There is a well on the northern slopes which is related to a folk tale of a Giant, who picked a fight with another nearby Giant, ‘Bolster’ who lived on St Agnes Beacon. This story is duplicated throughout Cornwall – the Giants of Trencrom and St Michael’s Mount for instance having a similar tale of combat.

To say I’m excited to be moving to the area would be an understatement, and I look forward to bringing  more news and stories of the Cornish prehistoric period to the Heritage Journal in future months.

 

The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) is seeking to appoint a new Chair of Trustees from November 2017. There are also vacancies for four Trustees.

Chair

Voluntary and unremunerated: reasonable expenses reimbursed.

Location: Flexible

The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) is seeking to appoint a new Chair of Trustees from November 2017. The CBA, based in York, is a UK-wide educational charity working to involve people in archaeology and promote the appreciation and care of the historic environment.

Working with the Trustee Board and Executive, the new Chair will make sure that the Council for British Archaeology develops and delivers a new ambitious strategy for change in accordance with its charitable aims and to secure its long-term sustainability. The new Chair will champion the educational objectives of the Council, recognising how access to archaeology can inspire young people across the UK.

The Chair will lead the organisation in the next phase of its development to build the role that a progressive archaeological organisation can play in the twenty-first century, growing its impact, profile and financial sustainability.

The Board is seeking someone with good change and business experience as well as strong ambassadorial skills to work with a wide range of stakeholders. In the new Chair the Board is seeking someone with experience and enthusiasm for heritage or archaeology to provide leadership for the Board along with support and challenge to the Executive.

Commitment up to two days per month, term 3 years, renewable.

Closing date for nominations: Friday 21 July 2017

Trustee vacancies

Following the retirement of a number of existing trustees having completed their full term, there are vacancies for four new trustees for election at the AGM in November 2017. The CBA is particularly seeking trustees with strategic experience in fundraising, marketing and communications, and business management.

All trustee nominations for election at the 2017 AGM must be received by 6 August 2017.

For further details and for an informal conversation about any of the above vacancies please contact Dr Mike Heyworth MBE, CBA Director, director@archaeologyuk.org.

We’ve spoken many times on the Journal about the lack of sensitivity when it comes to local opinion at heritage sites – Stonehenge being the prime example. And last year we highlighted several issues at Tintagel in Cornwall where the heritage of the site seemed to be taking a back seat to the need for cash generation for English Heritage’s (EH) coffers, and to hell with the history.

Sadly, once again it seems that EH’s need for finance is over-riding any consideration for the actual history and heritage of the site at Tintagel, which was the seat for several kings of Dumnonia in the early medieval period – a fact apparently of no interest to the site’s guardians. Read the rest of this entry »

Did you know that the Boskednan Nine Maidens circle in Cornwall is the subject of an opera, written early in the 20th century? The opera is “Iernin”, the tragic story of a woman of the Small People. The opera in three acts is set against the backdrop of a soon-to-be occupied Cornwall and the struggle of its leader and people to retain their independence from the Saxon overlords. Read the rest of this entry »

We continue our occasional series, ‘Inside the Mind‘ with responses from Mike Parker Pearson, Professor of British Later Prehistory at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

BRIEF BIO

Beginning his archaeological career in 1972 working on archaeological excvations in southern England, he has since worked on archaeological sites around the world in Denmark, Germany, Greece, Syria, the United States, Madagascar, Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and the Outer Hebrides.

After gaining a BA in European Archaeology at the University of Southampton in 1979, he was awarded a PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1985. He worked as an Inspector of Ancient Monuments for English Heritage until 1990 and then as lecturer in the Department of Archaeology & Prehistory at Sheffield University. In 2010 he was voted the UK’s The Archaeologist of the Year by the readers of Current Archaeology magazine.

Best known for his work at Stonehenge in the ongoing and evolving projects; Stonehenge Riverside Project, Feeding Stonehenge and the Stones of Stonehenge, his most recent research has been focussed on West Wales, where Stonehenge’s bluestones were quarried.

mpp_mugshot

THE TEN QUESTIONS

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

At 4 years old I discovered fossils in a heap of gravel and learned that the past was mysterious and fascinating. I had a good teacher at junior school and, years later, my geography teacher even drove me on the day I left school to an excavation and to begin my full-time life as an archaeologist.

How did you get started?

As a 15 year old I saw a poster in a public library advertising a rescue excavation of a Roman site on the line of the M5. It was the first of a series of summer excavations on Roman settlements (yes, I was going to become a Romanist!)

Who has most influenced your career?

There’s no one person – I was lucky to be taught and inspired by a generation of archaeologists at the top of their game – both practical and theoretical, field and lab, and humanities and science-based.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

I always think the thing that I’m doing now is the most exciting – right now, I’m focused on the sources of the bluestones in Wales, which might just give us an insight into the origins of Stonehenge. I did enjoy the years digging in the Outer Hebrides – great archaeology (not properly appreciated), great colleagues and a wonderful place to work without all the bureaucratic difficulties we had to cope with in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

It’s a toss up between Cladh Hallan in South Uist (an unusually well-preserved Bronze Age to Iron Age settlement in the Outer Hebrides with skeletons under the floors that turned out to have once been mummified) and Durrington Walls, with its houses, middens, unsuspected avenue and giant post circle.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

When I was Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage in the 1980s we had to allow the Bedford Bypass road scheme to preserve in situ some Neolithic cursus monuments underneath a road embankment. They are probably buried under that road forever – inaccessible to any archaeological investigation – and I now wish that they had been excavated. I’ve become rather more sceptical about ‘preserving in situ’ underneath modern development where the remains are inaccessible for the long term.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

Contracts for archaeology in advance of development shouldn’t go to the lowest bidder but to the best bid – it shouldn’t be the developer choosing the contractor on the basis of who is cheapest but the planners choosing on the basis of the best research design (as has been the rule in Sweden for years).

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

Right now, it’s the A303 at Stonehenge. The proposed tunnel is way too short and would damage the WHS irretrievably. There’s a second option that avoids the WHS and is cheaper, too.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

At school, my careers teacher tried to get me to drop my interest in archaeology, which he was certain would not result in employment, and tried to get me into law and business management. Glad that didn’t happen. I think I would be good at doing bacon sandwiches at a greasy spoon or running a cattery.

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

Watching TV with the cat while eating bacon sandwiches.

As always, we’d like to express our sincere thanks to Mike for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable and willing subject, please contact us.

Hundreds of voices set to ring out from iconic Shropshire hillfort at annual heritage hug

-Community prepares to send out big message about heritage and greenspace for Valentine’s week-

Oswestry will be displaying its affection for local heritage and greenspace in a landmark initiative as part of annual celebrations devoted to Old Oswestry hillfort.

hillfort-hug-2017_poster

The town is aiming to encircle the 3,000-year-old Iron Age monument with a 1 km long chain of people and string of hearts with messages of appreciation for the hillfort from all parts of the community.

The ‘Hearts Around the Hillfort’ project is set to provide an eye-catching focus to this year’s hillfort hug on February 12, organised by the HOOOH Community Group.

hearts-around-the-hillfort_logo_text

“Red hearts are going out to schools, groups and organisations, as well as shops and public outlets,” said HOOOH member, Kate Clarke. “We are hoping that as many individuals as possible, from young to old, will donate a heart-felt message about the hillfort for this super-long bunting.”

She added: “It means that anyone unable to attend the hug in person can still play a part, especially older residents who may be less able to get out. Many of us have fond memories of the hillfort which this project aims to capture.”

The group is also keen for hearts in support of local greenspace and heritage in general.

John Waine of HOOOH said: “As the ancient heart of the town, the hillfort is an outstanding attraction presiding over Oswestry’s northern gateway. But it also forms part of a precious network of green environment, recreation fields and historical fabric vital to preserving Oswestry’s character and quality of life for residents. The bunting is an opportunity to reflect the importance of all of these assets and the community’s concerns that they are respected in local decision-making.”

12697289_932314150138638_3092319735215568800_o

HOOOH estimates that around 650 people will be needed to form a complete human chain around the hillfort top. The group stresses that the event is being organised and stewarded with due care for the monument and people’s safety.

Now in its third year, the hug is part of a weekend of events taking place February 11 and 12 celebrating one of the country’s largest and best preserved hillforts. Old Oswestry has been acknowledged by eminent academics as the ‘Stonehenge of the Iron Age’ due to its importance to the archaeological understanding of Celtic Britain.

e-pope_1

A full day’s seminar will be held in Oswestry Memorial Hall on February 11 examining wider aspects of the hillfort’s role, including its natural heritage and ecology. Family workshops with a wildlife theme and an evening of live performance are also planned at Hermon Chapel. Further events exploring the hillfort’s flora and fauna are set to follow through 2017 under an educational initiative called the ‘Hillfort Watch’.

Allied group, Artists Hugging the Hillfort (AHH!), is currently showing a retrospective of hillfort initiatives and artwork called ‘Heritage Matters’ at the Oswestry Heritage and Exhibition Centre. Running until the end of February, it traces HOOOH’s evolution from campaign to community group working in the broadest interests of the hillfort.

Shops, outlet, groups and organisations who would like to participate in the ‘Hearts around the Hillfort’ initiative by making or collecting hearts should contact HOOOH on 01691 652918 or via its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/OldOswestryHillfort)

Following recent changes to the heritage legislation in Wales, plans now appear to be afoot to “evaluate whether the structures underpinning the sector are fit for purpose” (Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure).

Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire

Regular readers of the Heritage Journal will be aware of the various concerns raised over the years regarding the existing medieval feudal structure and hope that the Committee set up to look into the matter will take the opportunity to modernise the archaic structures that currently riddle the Welsh heritage sector. Providing genuine positive changes are made with protection and sensitive management of the heritage at its core, this would seem to be a long overdue step.

If on the other hand it’s just another excuse to wield the axe, or tinker with job titles then almost certainly the result will be another lost opportunity. Apparently the heritage sector in Wales contributes more to the economy than agriculture and it would therefore seem sensible to treat it with the respect it deserves and fully recognise its importance.

Last week saw a new commemorative stamp issue from the Royal Mail in the UK, this time celebrating our ancient past.

The eight special stamps feature iconic sites and exceptional artefacts. The lineup is as follows:

* 1st Class – Skara Brae and the Battersea shield.
* £1.05 – Maiden Castle and the Star Carr headdress.
* £1.33 – Avebury and the Drumbest horns.
* £1.52 – Grimes Graves and the Mold cape.

prehistoric-stamps
The stamps are all enhanced with illustrations that reveal how our ancient forebears lived and worked. I plumped for the First Day Cover (postmarked Avebury) and the Presentation Pack. A useful and informative sheet gives details about each of the subjects. More information and ordering details can be found on the Royal Mail website.

Have you got yours yet?

Archives

October 2017
S M T W T F S
« Sep    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,635 other followers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: