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Something a bit different for the Heritage Journal today: a music review!

Our attention has been drawn to a recent album by Greg Hancock, an archaeologist turned musician.


His guitar playing has developed from roots in the new folk styles of the 70s and 80s, with influences from players like Nic Jones, Martin Simpson and Joni Mitchell, to become a unique, intricate style through which many different moods can be expressed, and different genres explored.

His songs deal with a wide range of topics – from love-gone-wrong and personal emotions to topical issues and current affairs but all share an unusual, slightly skewed view of the world and everything in it.

His album, entitled “A303” has received good reviews from people much better qualified to comment on the musical content than we are:

  • Fatea“Greg has a wonderful lightness of touch and tone, which is complimented perfectly by the talented group of musicians that support him throughout the album. Lyrics, vocals and melodies are all near perfect, and the intricate guitar work is at times truly breath-taking.”
  • Folkwords“‘A303’ is a collection of narrative-driven songs to make you think. Hancock moves through sadness and sorrow, sarcasm and sensitivity, reminiscences and recollections with his stories, each one a tiny cameo that takes the listener into his world.”
  • Blues and Roots Radio“A303 is the finest folk album I have had the pleasure of listening to in years, and it was impossible to write a review impartially because the impact of it, causing smiles, tears and happy memories to come flooding back”

The lyrics of the title track will be particularly evocative to readers of the Heritage Journal, recalling Greg’s days as an archaeologist working in the trenches:

Deep up to my elbows in Victorian shit
Trying to remember why I got involved with this
Then finding my first Roman coin at the bottom of a pit
And getting into trouble for going home with it
Weeks and months spent learning
How to tell the tell-tale signs
Of hand-flaked flint from Neolithic mines
And hours spent marking out medieval boundary lines

When you’re driving on the A303
I wonder if you’ve ever had the same thoughts as me
Fascination mixed with irony
Taking pictures with my mobile phone
Of piles of ancient stone

Greg can be seen performing live on his current Spring Tour throughout March in the south of England, with outlying gigs in Milton Keynes, London and Epping, and the full album is available for streaming or purchase from his web site.

By Alan S.

For our next look at the ancient sites of West Penwith we visit the (reconstructed) Merry Maidens circle, near Lamorna.

Other sites nearby include the Pipers, Gun Rith and Boscawen Ros standing stones.

Look for more videos in this series in the coming weeks.

Figure 1. The stone row excavation. The large hollow beside the nearest stone was formed by flowing water, probably in the period immediately after the last glaciation (Scales 1m and 25cm).

In January 2012 a long line of small stones was identified amongst the prehistoric cairns on the southern slope of Bancbryn in South Wales. Survey work revealed that it led for 717m from a small cairn and terminated in a now recumbent boulder (Figure 2). In all 173 stones were identified and whilst many were recumbent most were edge set. The stone row was discovered just as the work on a new wind farm started and it was cut in two places by access roads. The timing of the discovery was unfortunate and rescue excavations carried out at the time predictably failed to reveal any dating evidence. The report produced by the excavators suggested that the feature was more likely to be of post-medieval date, but the evidence cited to support this contention was inaccurate, selective and just plain wrong.

Figure 2. Plan of the stone row showing the position of the excavation trenches.

Over a period of years, the arguments deployed by the excavators have been successfully dismantled, whilst at the same time detailed characterisation of the site and extensive research into stone rows nationally has resulted in a strong case to support its prehistoric origins. It was possible to demonstrate that this form of row is found only in SW Britain with examples recorded on both sides of the Bristol Channel (Figure 3).

Perhaps the most exciting discovery at Bancbryn was the very precise visual relationship with Hartland Point in Devon.  Work elsewhere has now demonstrated that precise visual relationships with prominent natural and broadly contemporary artificial sites is commonplace and indeed a characteristic of the longer rows.

Figure 3. Distribution of long stone rows greater than 100m long consisting mainly of small stones.

So, from the fiasco at Banbryn some good has come as it has spawned both renewed interest in this enigmatic type of site and provided a new focus permitting a better understanding of the rows.

In 2017 there was an opportunity to have another look at the Bancbryn stone row. Funding from the Section 106 wind farm agreement provided resources for an examination of a small number of sites on Bancbryn and as well as the stone row, two cairns and a solitary stone were partly excavated. A report on the work is now available and can be downloaded here. A shorter guide to the archaeology on Bancbryn and vicinity is available here. Both reports are published by Dyfed Archaeological Trust who organised and carried out the excavation work.

One of the cairns was found to have a kerb and is probably of Bronze Age date, another was probably early medieval in date, had ard marks below and surprisingly contained some Roman glass. No dating material was found associated with the stone row, but it was possible to refute the previously suggested historic interpretations and demonstrate that the surviving evidence was entirely consistent with a prehistoric date.

The lack of dating evidence, whilst disappointing, was not a surprise as stone rows are notoriously difficult to date and it is worth remembering that none of the Welsh rows have been dated either. Indeed, only the row at Cut Hill on Dartmoor has been dated with any degree of precision. Most importantly nothing was found to disprove the prehistoric interpretation, whilst at the same time the form, character and context of the row is entirely consistent with a prehistoric date. Hopefully this work will now mean that this incredibly fragile and enigmatic monument will receive the care and consideration that it deserves.

By Alan S.

The next video in our series of visits in West Penwith shows the top of Mulfra Hill and the ancient quoit there.

Look for more videos in this series in the coming weeks.

Today we welcome new team member Alice Farnsworth, who will be available and pop in from time to time to provide answers to your archaeological problems. So without further ado, let’s get on with today’s query.

Q. How can I tell if ‘lumps and bumps’ seen in a local field are archaeologically significant? The landowner won’t let me onto his land to investigate closely.

A. Obviously, without the landowner’s permission, any access would technically be trespass unless you’re lucky enough to have a public right of way across the land which passes close to the ‘lumps and bumps’. However, there are online resources that can be used to determine whether anything is already known about the area. The three main map-based resources are: for England, the DEFRA ‘MAGIC‘ map, for Wales, COFLEIN, and for Scotland, CANMORE. All three of these allow browsing on OS-based maps, and provide access to the Heritage Environment Record entries for known features.

If no entry is found, then  satellite imagery from Google Maps or Bing Maps may provide some additional clues, and are always worth checking out. Another excellent map resource is held by the National Library of Scotland, where OS maps back to the 1840s can be examined, along with many other map series. One word of caution when using these old maps: interpretation of sites can change over the years. e.g. what may be described as a ‘stone circle’ on an older map may consequently be interpreted as a ‘hut circle’ or ‘enclosure’. Despite this, old maps may also show features which have subsequently been considered insignificant or lost, and can therefore be useful in providing clues for reinterpretation.

So why not take these tips, do some research, and let us know what you find?

If you’ve got an archaeology related question or problem for Alice to answer, let us know in the comments below, and watch for further Answers from Alice…

By Alan S.

Our next video visit is to a couple of sites close to both the Men an Tol and Bosiliack Barrow previously shown. Boskednan Downs is the site of a restored stone circle with outlier, and several cairns as well as being an area of intense tin mining since prehistoric times.

If there’s a specific site you’d like to see covered in this series, please leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

by Alan S.

In another of our series of video tours of a selection of the ancient sites of West Cornwall, this time we take a look at the Bosiliack Barrow, a small Neolithic (3000-2500 B.C.) Scillonian entrance grave consisting of a 16 foot (5m) diameter circular mound of stones. The kerb of larger slabs is pierced by a passageway that faces the rising of the midwinter sun.

The barrow can be found situated to the north-east of Lanyon Farm, a short walk north from Lanyon Quoit.

If there’s a specific site you’d like to see covered in this series, please leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

by Alan S.

For our second video tour of some of the sites of West Cornwall we revisit the Boscawen Un stone circle, near St Buryan.

If there’s a specific site you’d like to see covered in this series, please leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

by Alan S.

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to commit some of my site visits to video. Since moving to Cornwall earlier this year I’ve had limited time to get out and about, but am slowly putting together short films of some of the sites I’ve had the opportunity to visit.

So without further ado, here’s the first in the series, featuring the Men an Tol. Enjoy!

Look for more videos, coming soon!

As regular readers will know, for the last few years we have assisted in live tweeting the annual ‘CA Live!’ conference. Organised by Current Archaeology magazine, the dates for the 2018 event have now been announced.

As in previous years, the conference will be held at Senate House in London over two days. So take out your calendars and mark the dates: Friday February 23rd and Saturday 24th. In previous years, arrangements have been made for attendees to visit an  archaeological site in London, although details of this year’s trip have yet to be confirmed.

The conference has been extremely entertaining, educational and successful in the past, and once again some of the foremost archaeological experts will be presenting their latest finds and ground-breaking research of the past year or so.

And don’t forget the awards! Although nominees are yet to be announced, winners are determined by public vote, so these truly are the People’s Awards, which you can help to determine.

So to be sure of your seat and take advantage of the subscriber’s early bird discount, book your tickets as soon as you can.


March 2018
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