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By Dr Sandy Gerrard

A recent press report in the Express & Echo should concern everyone with an interest in the archaeology of the South West English uplands.  Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and Exmoor are particularly rich and important archaeological landscapes where the impact of the past can be easily appreciated.

On Dartmoor alone around 5,000 Bronze Age houses together with hundreds of hectares of field systems and enclosures survive in close proximity to thousands of cairns, hundreds of cists and the largest concentration of stone rows anywhere in Britain. Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor together provide a unique insight into the character of life and death in prehistoric times. Nowhere else in Britain is it possible to explore and appreciate the true impact of prehistoric people on the landscape. In recent years this incredible resource has been slowly disappearing beneath a sea of gorse, bracken and purple moor grass as farming practices have been adjusted in response to subsidy changes.

According to the Express & Echo article fresh plans are being drawn up to accelerate this process by returning parts of the moor “to the wild”. It is not clear which parts the bureaucrats have in mind, but we can be sure that given the extraordinary wide distribution of archaeology that important archaeology that we have all taken for granted could soon no longer be visible. Hopefully Historic England will fight this proposal and prevail – any other outcome would be disastrous.  Any attempt to deliberately conceal our heritage from us all should be opposed with the utmost vigour. Inevitably once the archaeology was out of sight it would soon be out of mind.

If this plan goes ahead much of Dartmoor’s amazing archaeology will be lost from sight. The fate of the largely invisible stone row at Spurrell’s Cross could await many cherished archaeological sites in South West England.

If this plan goes ahead much of Dartmoor’s amazing archaeology will be lost from sight. The fate of the largely invisible stone row at Spurrell’s Cross could await many cherished archaeological sites in South West England.

 

A guest post from Jim Rayner, a good friend of the Heritage Journal:

Anyone attending recent solstice celebrations at Stonehenge will have noticed that the old A344 northern stock boundary fence remains in situ and now acts as a ‘new’ boundary marker for monument field. Promises to reconnect the Avenue with the stones and create a ‘permissive route’ along the line of the old road have failed to materialize. Tim Daw has been following the story on his sarsen.org website in some detail.

stonehenge-site-of-proposed-new-gate

Apparently, the official position is that the down-land grass needs more time to establish and works to create a new shuttle bus turning circle are on-going. Hopefully, by the end of 2017 these changes will be complete, but it is unlikely that this will have involved the removal of the fence. In practical terms this means the Avenue will still be separated from Stonehenge and people cannot spread-out down from the stones during Managed Open Access (MOA).

An easy solution would be for English Heritage (EH) and the National Trust (NT) to install a gate. This gate would only be opened for short periods during MOA and would be staffed by security and subject to all the usual EH terms of conditions of entry. Better still there would be two gates side-by-side, one for entry and another for exiting. Not being able to walk up to the Heel Stone from the Avenue (in one single movement) detracts from the experience (see video below). It could well be argued that the current fence restricts ceremonial access, is inauthentic and even contributes to overcrowding in the centre of the circle. MOA is an on-going process and everything needs to make things better for all concerned. In this regard, a simple set of gates could really help.

So, what do you think? Would an ‘Avenue Access’ gate, only to be used for ceremonial access at very limited times and fully controlled by EH’s security team be a good idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

As the calendar changes, we’ve looked back and reviewed the past 12 months. Now it’s time for another beginning, looking forward and making plans for the coming year.

new-year-resolutions

Our suggestions for resolutions back in 2013 still stand as admirable targets to strive for and we would commend them all to anyone interested in our past heritage. Here they are again:

  1. Visit new sites
  2. Join a local Archaeological Society
  3. Take a course
  4. Attend a conference
  5. Involve the family
  6. Contribute to the Heritage Journal

But this year, forgive me for speaking from an entirely personal viewpoint when looking forward…

A long held dream of moving to, and living in, West Cornwall looks to be coming to fruition for me in the following 12 months, and with it early (semi-)retirement! My hope is that this will allow me time to get more involved on a day-to-day basis in helping to preserve and understand our ancient heritage.

Once settled, and health allowing, I intend to volunteer for the CASPN clear-up days when I can, and will see if/how I can help the Cornwall Heritage Trust in their work too. I hope to be attending more walks and talks with both CASPN and the Cornwall Archaeological Society. And of course, writing! I have plenty of ideas for articles for the Heritage Journal, and possibly even a book or two, but these require a large commitment of time for research which I just don’t have at the moment.

So what will you be doing to preserve and understand our ancient heritage in 2017? Please let us know in the comments below.

The wheel continues to turn, a major festival has once again passed, and all too soon it’s time for another review (and major link-fest!) of the previous twelve months here on the Heritage Journal.

happy-new-year-2017

September
We reported upon the physical completion (for now) of a survey of Verulamium in Hertfordshire, a considerable volunteer project which will provide opportunities for interpretation of the results for some time to come. The project was the subject of a talk at a conference in November, which sadly we were unable to attend.

It came as a bit of a surprise to find that our Artefact Erosion Counter had been included in an exam question a couple of years ago, but we took it as a compliment and provided our own answer to the question set.

In our campaign for the truth about the Stonehenge Tunnel, we decided to let the cat out of the bag at last and revealed several yowling moggies, a series that is still ongoing as the spin and outright lies continue in the media. And in other campaigns, we revealed plans for a European assault on our archaeological record, pointed out more inconsistencies in Shropshire’s plans for Oswestry and further inconsistencies in interpretation in Wales.

October
The month began by uncovering a potential error in the Artefact Erosion Counter and identified a possible share gap in statistics provided by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).

But the month was dominated by our Stonehenge Tunnel campaign, with a whole host of cats being released once again from our bag. We responded to Mike Pitts’ criticism of our concerns, and pointed out a major omission at the National Trust AGM.

November
We started the month with a plea to the public to look out for, and report damage to ancient monuments. We heard that a PAS debate in Ireland was cancelled due to ‘bullying’ of British speakers, whilst one of our members attended and reported on the PAS Conference in London.

Another conference we did not attend was that for the 30th Anniversary of the World Heritage Site at Stonehenge, but the exposés just kept on coming.

December
Simon Thurley inadvertently strengthened our argument against the tunnel at the start of this month, whilst a couple more moggies made a break for freedom. And just before Christmas, a cynical attempt to manipulate local opinion in favour of the tunnel was uncovered.

Once again, we highlighted the shortcomings of the PAS, and bemoaned the lack of investment in the heritage sector generally.


That concludes our look back at 2016, but as always, we hope to bring much more of the same in the coming year. And of course our archives are always free to explore via the link on the left hand menu.

If you have a story which you feel we should feature, particularly if it describes a threat to our prehistoric archaeological heritage, then we’d love to hear from you in 2017! We can provide full attribution, or if you’d prefer, complete anonymity as a ‘Friend of the Journal’. Equally, if you’ve been out and about and would like to describe your trip to see the wonders within our shores the we’d like to hear about that too. After all, don’t forget it’s your Journal.

We continue our brief review of the previous twelve months here on the Heritage Journal, revisiting the summer months.

happy-new-year-2017

May
As the seasons change, it seems to affect people in bad ways. We reported this month on a couple of instances of heritage destruction, in Ireland and at Stanton Moor. But we managed to get out and about ourselves, reporting on ‘restoration’ at West Kennet, the removal of the London Stone, and a wonderful guided walk in Cornwall.

At Stonehenge, we suggested that maybe it’s time to consider a cap on visitor numbers, and began pointing out some hard truths about the effect of the proposed tunnel, an ongoing campaign that would take up most of the second half of the year.

June
Stonehenge was again a major focus this month, starting with the potential for the tunnel to increase wildlife casualties and the lack of outreach. We asked who stole the Solstice? and a guest post from Jim Rayner gave some suggestions on how, where and when the solstice should be celebrated and we looked at how the various agencies are all condoning damage to Stonehenge.

Out and about, Dr Sandy Gerrard reported on a visit to the Tair Carn Isaf cairn cemetery in Carmarthenshire.

July
Ah, the ‘Brexit’ vote result. We gave two opposing views on what it could mean for the British archaeological resource. We highlighted some of the (prehistoric) events in this year’s Festival of Archaeology and reminded our readers of the Day of Archaeology that follows the festival. We pointed out how the British Museum had insulted every archaeologist and heritage professional, and then acknowledged their error.

There was some minor good news about the Solstice at Stonehenge and we deflated some of the pro-tunnel lobby’s claims.

August
Something about the sun brings out the critic in us! We began the month with a critical look at Cadw’s new web site, and ended by enjoying Tehmina Goskar’s critique of a visit to Tintagel.

In between, we held our annual Megameet at Avebury, which gave us cause for more criticism of the National Trust, and not just at Avebury. We uncovered one of their ‘dirty trick‘ marketing ploys, looked back 11 years to when Stonehenge was saved from the bulldozers and pointed out some more inconsistencies in the various agencies’ stance on the tunnel.

On our travels, we visited the next section of the Neolithic M1 in our ongoing series.

Tomorrow we’ll conclude our brief look back at some of the stories from 2016 in the final part of our annual review! But don’t forget that our archives contain our articles going back several years. These can be explored for any given month via the dropdown link on the left hand menu, or a search keyword facility is available.

The wheel continues to turn, a major festival has once again passed, and all too soon it’s time for another review of the previous twelve months here on the Heritage Journal.

happy-new-year-2017

Well, what a year! There has been an absolute dearth of good news as far as heritage protection is concerned, and sadly the future doesn’t look too bright either from where we’re standing at the moment. On a personal note, events transpired to restrict my own visits out to sites around the country and so the customary ‘Bank Holiday Drive’ posts were largely omitted this year. If necessary, they’ll return, albeit possibly in ‘virtual’ form, in the new year.

January

We began the year full of Wishes, Hopes and Dreams,  but looking back it seems that that is all they were. We instigated a monthly picture quiz this year, and pointed out what would be become a major campaign throughout the year – the lies that lie behind the ‘Stonehenge Short Tunnel’. In fact, we made a plea in our #blogarch article for archaeologists to come forward and speak out against the tunnel. We said:

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 (World Heritage) 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.

And we can’t leave January behind without mentioning the awfulness that was the ‘Nazi DiggersTV series.

February

For those that may not be aware of what actually happens as part of an archaeological investigation, we began a short series outlining the various processes involved. We continued our ‘Neolithic M1‘ series this month, describing the northern end of the Icknield Way (and yes, we’re aware there’s still a lot to cover in the series!) The Oswestry Hillfort campaign continued, with another ‘Hillfort Hug’ and associated events in the middle of the month.

A sad event saw the departure from this world of Lord Avebury, Eric Lubbock,  who will be sadly missed. And further southwest in Tintagel, English Heritage were doing their level best to desecrate and monetise a major heritage site that is of great importance to the Cornish.

March

Hansard provided what appeared to be incontrovertible proof of the government’s intentions regarding a tunnel at Stonehenge.

Once again we were delighted to attend the Current Archaeology Live! Conference and provided a comprehensive review of the talks and the awards presented at the conference.

Also in March, we announced the go-live of our sister site, The Stone Rows of Great Britain, which hosts a gazetteer and research papers on these enigmatic monuments and has gone from strength to strength in the last nine months. In time it will, we are sure, become an acknowledged resource for those interested in the subject. Our ‘Inside the Mind of…’ series returned with an entry from Neil Holbrook – if you’ve not checked it out the series has comprised an impressive lineup of subjects over the years we’ve been running it.

In ongoing campaigns, we pointed out how both the National Trust and Shropshire Council know they’re on the wrong side of right, and continued to point out inconsistencies in the Government’s White Paper when talking about World Heritage Sites.

April

In further campaigning, we related a Tale of Two Tunnels and questioned whether there was any scope for ICOMOS to be ‘got at‘ by the UK government.

And we haven’t forgotten our detectorist ‘friends’. As part of our weekly reminder of the continual robbing out of the archaeological resource, we re-iterated our own ‘Finding a Hoard‘ guidelines.

Another sad loss occurred this month for the world of archaeology, with the passing of Professor Charles Thomas, probably best known for his tireless work in Cornwall’s archaeological landscape, and as a co-founder of Rescue, the British Archaeological Trust.

Come back tomorrow as we continue our look back at 2016 in the second part of our annual review! And as always, feel free to explore our archives via the link on the left hand menu.

Each December, English Heritage (or Historic England as we must now call it – what about Pre-Historic England?) issue their annual Heritage Counts report.  Heritage Counts is an annual audit of England’s heritage, first produced in 2002. It is produced by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum.

There are nine regions across the country, but this year only three have decided to issue a regional report. Well done to London, the North East and the South West! This compares to the total of five regions that produced a report last year. One can’t help but wonder if this is due to the ongoing financial constraints placed upon the organisation, and the need to become self-financing. Will there be any regions reporting next year, I wonder?

It’s time once again to cast your votes for the annual Current Archaeology Awards.

CA_awards-logo-general

This is especially important if you’re a regular reader of the magazine as the awards are designed to reflect the interests of the readership, but if you’ve not read the magazine, happily that doesn’t preclude you from casting a vote!

As in previous years, there are several categories to vote for:

  • Research Project of the Year
  • Rescue Dig of the Year
  • Book of the Year
  • Archaeologist of the Year

The nominations for each award are as follows:

Research Project of the Year

  • Britons abroad: the untold story of emigration and object mobility from Roman Britain – Tatiana Iveleva, Newcastle University (see issue 311)
  • Writing Mucking: lives in land – Chris Evans and Sam Lucy, Cambridge Archaeological Unit (see issue 311)
  • The mystery in the marsh: exploring an Anglo-Saxon island at Little Carlton – University of Sheffield/PAS (see issue 313)
  • Medieval voices: recording England’s early church graffiti – Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey (see issue 315)
  • Bullets, ballistas, and Burnswark: a Roman assault on a hillfort in Scotland – The Trimontium Trust (see issue 316)
  • Rethinking Durrington Walls: a long-lost monument revealed – Stonehenge Riverside Project/Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project/National Trust (see issue 320)

Information and articles on the above nominees can be found here.

Rescue Dig of the Year

  • The Must Farm inferno: exploring an intact Late bronze Age settlement – Cambridge Archaeological Unit (see issue 312 and issue 319)
  • Fast track to the past: celebrating Crossrail’s archaeology – Crossrail (see issue 313)
  • Wales in the vanguard: pioneering protection of the past – Welsh Archaeological Trusts (see issue 314)
  • Letters from Londinium: reading the earliest writing from Roman Britain – MOLA (see issue 317)
  • Buried between road and river: investigating a Roman cemetery in Leicester – ULAS (see issue 319)
  • Because I’m worth it: Apethorpe preserved – Historic England (see issue 320)

Information and articles on the above nominees can be found here.

Book of the Year

  • Celts: art and identity – Julia Fraley and Fraser Hunter
  • St Kilda: the last and outmost isle – Angela Gannon and George Geddes
  • Bog Bodies Uncovered – Miranda Aldhouse-Green
  • The Home Front in Britain 1914-1918 – C. Appleby, W Cocroft, J Schofield (eds)
  • Images of the Ice Age – Paul Bahn
  • Ritual in Early Bronze Age Grave Goods: an examination of ritual and dress equipment from Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age graves in England – Ann Woodward and John Hunter
  • Hidden Histories: a spotter’s guide to the British Landscape – Mary-Ann ochota
  • The Tale of the Axe: how the Neolithic revolution transformed Britain – David Miles

Information and articles on the above nominees can be found here.

Archaeologist of the Year

  • Richard Bradley, University of Reading
  • Mark Knight, Cambridge Archaeological Unit
  • Taryn Nixon, former Chief Executive of MOLA

Information and articles on the above nominees can be found here.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the magazine, a special one-off award has been added to the roster for this year only:

Archaeological innovation of the last 50 years

  • 3D modelling as exemplified by Scottish Ten (see issue 271 and issue 289)
  • Bayesian modelling as exemplified by Gathering Time (see issue 259)
  • Dendrochronology as exemplified by Queen’s University Belfast dendrochronology laboratory (see issue 73)
  • Digital data as exemplified by the Archaeological Data Service (see issue 155)
  • DNA as exemplified by the Grey Friars Project (see issue 277)
  • Geophysics as exemplified by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project (see issue 296)
  • Isotope analysis as exemplified by the beaker people project (see issue 265)
  • LiDAR as exemplified by the New Forest National Park Authority (see issue 285)

So, once you’ve read about all the nominees, pop along to the voting page and cast your votes for your favourites! Winners will be announced at the Current Archaeology Live 2017 Conference at the end of February next year.

by Alan Simkins

“Can Detectorists be Archaeologists?” You’d think the answer would be a simple “Yes, assuming they adopt the habits and ethics of professional archaeologists“. After all, every year thousands of people do exactly that, getting involved in the many community digs organised around the country by archaeologists and local societies.

However, given that in the past some of my colleagues have been intimidated and threatened by some in the metal detecting community (to the point that police have been involved on more than one occasion), it was with some trepidation that I attended this year’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) conference on the above theme earlier this week at the Museum of London (MoL). As it happened, I needn’t have worried as the conference was very much preaching to the converted as far as the audience was concerned. And despite our stance here on the Heritage Journal, I tried to approach the event with an open mind, being neither a detectorist nor qualified archaeologist.

As the start time approached, I estimated that the Weston Theatre was about half full, so around 100 or people present with a good mix of ages but fewer people than I would have expected. Roy Stephenson from the MoL opened the day with the statement “Detectorists are de facto, archaeologists”, which set the tone for most of the day.

Michael Lewis from the PAS then outlined the work being done to kick off similar recording schemes in Flanders, the Netherlands and Denmark in order to combine datasets, and an interesting slide showed examples of similar finds from the four areas.

northseafindsproject

The other morning sessions were, as expected, full of praise for the work that recording detectorists do, with specific examples from a couple of detectorists as to the lengths they go to in order to meticulously record findspots and analyse the resulting data:

Felicity Winkley told us about her survey of Detectorists, and how she accompanied a dozen or so into the field for extended interviews, looking at their motivations and relationships to their local landscapes. Local knowledge was a major factor in deciding where to detect, and much was made of a comparison between detectorist’s research methods with Archaeological `desk-based’ research techniques, including gridding a potential site to ensure full coverage. Interestingly but unsurprisingly, of those interviewed only a third admitted to actually recording their finds with the PAS.

Dr Phil Harding (no, not that one!) then related his 25 years of detecting in Leicestershire, resulting in over 2000 finds. Due to the volume of his backlog, which the FLO could not cope with, he decided to become a self-recorder, and attended a photography course to improve his records. He then explained how finds scatter analysis could indicate the growth of a settlement, but despite his research and analysis many questions remain unanswered.

Dave Haldenby highlighted his collaborative work with archaeologists which has led to several published articles, once again based upon accurate findspot recording at Cottam B in Yorkshire, a site which traversed the Middle Saxon and Viking periods.

And finally before lunch, Lindsey Bedford described her path from detectorist to archaeologist which led to a degree from Bristol University and told us about her work with the Berkshire Archaeology Research Group (BARG).

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The afternoon session opened with Faye Minter from Suffolk saying how working with detectorists using a (systematic) survey technique at Rendlesham produced results. An effort of some 174 man days detecting over a few years over 4 years, resulted in each detectorist finding an average of 3 recordable items per day.

From over 100,000 finds in total on the site, only around 4000 were pre-1650 metallic artefacts. In total, 27% of the finds at Rendlesham were Anglo-Saxon, compared with just 5% across Suffolk as a whole (I can’t help wondering if this is due to under-reporting elsewhere). We were then told about a site at Exning, where use of detectors could potentially have helped identify Anglo-Saxon graves which were otherwise only found accidentally during trenching, having not been spotted on the geophysics results.

As a result of these findings, Suffolk have now amended their requirements in archaeological briefs, specifying that only experienced/known/published detectorists should be used when surveying sites for development.

This point was raised again by Carl Chapness, who admitted that commercial units often only have access to the cheapest detectors, and very little training or experience in their use, mainly due to being commercially driven. Which lead to him raising a counter-question for the conference: “should archaeologists be detectorists?” There was some discussion of night-hawking and the lengths which commercial units sometimes have to go to in order to protect a site under investigation, and Carl suggested that cross-fertilisation of skills and knowledge between detectorists and archaeologists can only be a good thing.

whatcanbedone

detectorists-archaeologists

Samantha Rowe then explained her work looking at the archaeology of the plough zone – examining lead bullets from civil war sites and comparing the erosion against the land use, concluding that over cultivation can exacerbate erosion of metallic objects (a real NSS moment there!)

John Maloney from the NCMD then spoke on the ‘Future of Archaeology and Metal Detecting’

I have to say he came over as an unpleasantly smug Trump-like bully – someone who is used to getting his own way and seeing no possible reason for that status quo to change. He started his talk by disparaging the efforts of the likes of David Gill and Paul Barford to debate some of the issues behind artefact collecting, and implied that figures used by critics of the hobby (such as those used by the Artefact Erosion Counter) have no substance in fact (as we know, the counter is based upon figures supplied by the NCMD, CBA et al). I suspect he came away from the conference very pleased with the cap-doffing shown to the metal detecting fraternity during the talks throughout the day. Very much a ‘you couldn’t do it without us’ attitude which was not pleasant to see. When questioned, he declined to tell the conference how many members the NCMD has, but someone in the audience proffered a figure of 11000 members. John said there had been no analysis done regarding ‘active’ members, but that it was thought there was a degree of ‘churn’ in the figures as people tended to buy detectors, join the NCMD, then get disenchanted when they don’t find anything, and fail to renew.

Thankfully, Mike Heyworth from the CBA, speaking on the same subject brought some common sense to the debate, saying that in the end a metal detector is just a tool that used in the right hands can be a boon to archaeology (as some of the talks highlighted). However, if the person using it has the wrong motives, or lacks the necessary archaeological skills and knowledge then no good can come of its use. “People using a detector as a tool to study the past in a responsible manner are archaeologists”

He is very interested in pushing for a redefinition of ‘treasure’, and a potential system of abatement of rewards to pay for conservation and preservation of finds, with additional penalties if the finds have not been uncovered in a responsible manner (I’m guessing Lenborough would have qualified for such an abatement). Sadly such a change would be dependent upon an overdue review of the Treasure Act, which the DCMS are dragging their heels over. However, the much vaunted ‘Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting’ is undergoing review for a second edition. This will very much be a case of ‘evolution rather than revolution’.

So what did I make of the day overall? As I said at the start, it was very much preaching to the converted – everyone there had a vested interest in building bridges between the two camps. Sadly, those who could learn most from the day were the very people who would not attend – the ‘Barry Thugwits’ and first-time detectorists of this world.

I would have liked to have seen some of the talks recorded, and made available to metal detectorist clubs so that the message of how the two sides can and should work together can be more widely spread.

Next year’s conference will be held in York, and will cover the subject of ‘Treasure’ (in all its forms, apparently).


Overall impressions:
I left the conference with the same thought that I had before I arrived (and indeed the conference strengthened my feelings): Of course detectorists can be archaeologists, providing they do it for public benefit and in accordance with archaeological methods and morals and they don’t pocket the stuff for themselves. Set against the selfless benefits which thousands of amateur archaeologists quietly deliver in exactly that way, cheerleading for artefact hunting looks bizarre, to put it mildly. PAS could have saved their money and breath, cancelled the conference and announced a replacement one titled: “Hurrah for amateur archaeologists!”

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herding-cats.

Yet another tomorrow, and more next week.

What will posterity say?

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