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Back in 2013, we reported upon a project with the lofty ambition to conduct a full GPS survey of the Roman town of Verulamium (modern St Albans).
Here we are, three years on, and the survey has now been completed! (well not quite – all the magnetomentry is completed, but there is still some I’d like to do some more GPR and resistivity to go, along with the magnetic susceptibility survey)
How about some numbers? Well, Verulamium is the third biggest Roman town in Britain, after London and Cirencester. It is, however, the largest Roman town in Britain which doesn’t have a modern settlement built over most of it. We have surveyed 64.5ha of the total area of 81ha. It has taken us 83 working days starting in the summer of 2013, but we didn’t do much at Verulamium in 2014. It took 12,900,400 readings to cover those 64.5 ha. That, of course, doesn’t include the grids we did twice because of frozen sensors or other problems. People pushing the cart walked about 322km, not including having to go back to the start for partials, getting to the squares in the first place, or laying in the tapes and strings.
Hearty congratulations go to all the volunteers who gave up their time to learn how to use GPS equipment and then walk those 322km, and to the project lead, Kris Lockyer. It just goes to show what a dedicated group of people achieve, with the right leadership and training.
Although the walking may be completed for now, and the overall picture is very impressive (below) the work of interpreting the results will continue for some considerable time!
A second “Archaeology in Hertfordshire” conference is planned for November 26th to be held in Hitchin Town Hall, where no doubt the project will be presented at length.
Following our efforts to persuade the BM to stop portraying metal detectorists as “citizen archaeologists” we’ve been òffered the title of Citizen Conservationists! (Paul Barford, “Victory for reason”). We accept! Not for ourselves but for the tens of thousands of people who visit, research and study archaeological and historic sites and keep to the mantra “take only memories, leave only footprints”.
A number of such people will be at our Megameet at Avebury Stone Circle this weekend. Not for personal gain and without any supportive infrastructure – no media savvy Whitewashing Department, no Culture Secretary saying they’re heroes and no team of Liaison Officers tagging along, emphasising the positive and spinning the negative! There’ll be nothing to spin at Avebury. Those people don’t visit archaeological sites to take bits of them home in a bag. Nor do millions of others. Maybe the BM should start promoting them?
“I am told there are people who do not care for maps, and I find it hard to believe.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
I have loved maps ever since I was a child. We are extremely fortunate in the UK to have access to some of the best maps in the world, those of the Ordnance Survey (O.S.). I recall learning the symbols used on the O.S. maps when I was a school – the deciduous and coniferous pictograms, the various dotted lines for different rights of way, those gothic script labels; ‘Tumulus’, ‘Stone Circle’ and the crossed swords of battle sites of old.
Through the years, many of these indicators have remained roughly similar, but the interpretation of some historical sites has changed as new information about them has come to light. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can compare some of the earliest maps from the O.S with today’s versions and see how those intrepretations have changed. One excellent resource for this is the National Library of Scotland (NLS) which, depending upon the region, allows full view of historical O.S. maps dating back in some cases to the early-mid 1800’s.
Indeed, preparing for my next Cornwall jaunt, and looking at an area in Cornwall that I’m familiar with on the OS 25 inch (1841-1852) map series, I was surprised to see up to seven stone circles referenced within a relatively small area of Truthwall Common in West Penwith on sheet ‘Cornwall LXVII.14‘ surveyed in 1875 and published in 1878.
The same were still marked as ‘stone circles’ on the 1906 6 inch series maps, sheet LXVII.SW. Even as late as the 1938 survey, the 6 inch series was still marking the same features as ‘stone circles’. On the One inch ‘New Popular Edition’ map of 1947, although the scale was much reduced, several stone circles were still marked in the area.
It is not until the One inch 7th Series map of 1961, which begin to look more like the LandRanger 1:50000 maps of today, that the ‘stone circles’ vanish at this scale – even the remaining Tregeseal Stone Circle is no longer shown.
However, moving in onto the 1:25000 scale map, published in 1959, the additional circles are still shown, but now suffixed ‘Site of‘, suggesting they are no longer extant. Interestingly, the second Tregeseal Circle is still shown at this date.
That takes us to the limits of availability on the NLS site, but moving onto the current map of the area, available via Bing Maps or the Ordnance Survey itself (paid subscription required), the 1:25000 scale map shows only the single Tregeseal circle remaining.
So what of those 6 other stone circles? We know from antiquarian reports that the remaining Tregeseal Circle was one of three originally, but what of the other 4 (or 5)?
Returning to the Cornwall Interactive Mapping Service, which we highlighted back in October, it’s possible to zoom in on the area to see what the Heritage Environment Record has to say about each site. And in this case we can see that the ‘stone circles’ of old have now been recorded as ‘hut circles’, enclosures, the kerb of a barrow, and remains of an Iron Age Round. So a real mixed bag, and not a stone circle to be seen!
It was an interesting exercise to compare the maps through the ages though, and is one I’ll have to repeat in other areas of the country to see if similar discrepancies occur. Why not take a look at your favourite area, and see what you can discover on the old maps?
An anonymous contributor writes:
“Sorry dear” I muttered quickly to my wife just after I entered the field at Castlerigg a few months back. My eye had caught the arc of a foreign teenager leaping from stone to stone. As I strode across the 50 or so yards to the circle, I took in the full visage; 15 or so teens with a couple of teachers, 7 or 8 of the teens climbing on several of the stone, having their photos taken, leaping up on the stones and then off them. The teachers chatting between themselves, obviously content to find something, anything to divert their charges attention enough so they could find 10 minutes respite. I shattered their peace fast and hard.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? GET DOWN OFF THE F’ING STONE. THESE ARE NOT A PLAYGROUND, THEY ARE AN ANCIENT SITE, SHOW SOME F’ING RESPECT.”
The 3 closest too me looked shell-shocked and one almost fell off the stone he was perched on. I stood and glared as they cleared off and then pivoted looking for more offenders. 2 on the far side hadn’t heard me or the alarm calls of their compatriots and were lazily enjoying their day. I set off at a rate of knots, my gander well and truly up, however the teachers protective nature had kicked in and I was headed off at the pass by one whilst the other gathered the horde and led them away from the circle and the dishevelled manic hippy articulating wildly.
And that should have been that with the mumbled apologies of a shocked teacher disappearing into the distance, except, the day had a slightly bitter twist for me. A well dressed chap who’d been stood watching the debasement when I turned up, sidled over to me and said “I’m glad someone said something, disgraceful behaviour”. Well yes indeed, I’m very glad I said something. But I’d have been happier still if he’d said something first. if he’d stepped up out of his British reserve and said “Stop it. Your behaviour is unacceptable”.
That’s our takeaway. Don’t stand by and tut whilst people climb on stones, drop rubbish, draw on stones with chalk, leave offerings or even carve their name in a stone. Step forward, defend your heritage, be the person that stopped it today. There won’t always be an enraged hippy to do it for you.
A guest article by Heritage Action member Jamie Stone.
Several years ago with fatherhood looming on the horizon, I had the great fortune to have to move to the Peak District to be near family. It’s not that I was lacking in prehistory in Somerset where I lived, living fifteen minutes walk from a hillfort and ten mins from the second largest stone circle in the country as I did, but the Peaks is something else. The eastern moors have mostly escaped modern farming leaving a landscape of bronze age fields, with associated barrows, cairns and stone circles, whilst the white peak’s more intensively farmed and mined landscape, still has several long barrows and many round barrows, not to mention a henge or two.
After a couple of years getting properly acquainted with the Peaks by myself, I started to look about online for similar minded local types to go for walks with and to bounce ideas and potential sites off and found very little unfortunately so I decided to start a group on Facebook; Peak District Prehistory. With a stated aim of a “Group to discuss prehistory in the Peaks; Sites we’ve been to, can’t find and/or organise meet ups.”, a bit of shameless promotion on a few prehistory website forums and 2 years on, we are a motley crew of just over 100 members. We natter a bit, share weird carved rocks and unusual sites we’ve encountered, delight each other with great pictures of prehistory in the Peaks and generally promote and protect the scarce and precious resource we share with the wider community.
Two weeks ago saw the latest in a series of organised bimbles or leisurely walks, sorted out via the medium of Facebook using the group. This time around was Gardom’s Edge, or more precisely the shelf between Gardom’s Edge and Birchen Edge, an area used from the Neolithic to the Iron Age and beyond, with evidence of Bronze age fields, standing stones, rock art, hut circles, an enigmatic row of pits and an equally enigmatic bronze age/neolithic horse shoe shaped enclosure. The walk took in most of that and more, with us chewing the fat over a 3 mile walk which took about 5 hours to complete including a lunchtime picnic next to a replica of the most impressive piece of rock art in the peaks.
If you have an interest in Peak District prehistory and would like to talk about it with like-minded types, please feel free to join our Facebook group. We have plans for many more bimbles over the next few years which we would love to see you on.
If you’re here you probably like ancient sites and want to see them fully appreciated and preserved. The Journal is a community resource for everyone that feels that way so why not join in and add your voice or images??
We’re always looking for contributions – news, views, pictures, you name it – anything that helps raise the public profile of these places. If you’re out and about over Easter and visiting an ancient site or perhaps attending a related event (you can get some ideas from our Diary of Prehistory and Heritage Events ) and you feel you have something worth sharing why not get in touch?
Thanks! Enjoy the break. Most of us will be away but we’ll leave someone in charge of the shop for if you’d like to get in touch, particularly if you have any news.
Diana Baur, (one of the Oswestry campaigners) sent us a comment yesterday that reminded us of The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb….
Please, please, please click on our Events Diary to the left (or here). It lists upcoming Prehistory and Heritage Events and it’s just fantastic! (I can say that as it isn’t me who faithfully maintains it, it’s Alan and Sue!). Not on there yet, but soon, is a Seminar & Exhibition In Defence of Old Oswestry Hillfort, a week Saturday. WELL worth a visit if you can make it.
Ironically the Events Diary is showing this event in Cardiff on the same day …
Workshop: I Love Archaeology
When:Sat, 22 February, 11:00 – 16:00
Where:National Museum Cardiff, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Workshop: The Origins Gallery at National Museum Cardiff displays the archaeological treasures of Wales.In this workshop you’ll find out more about some of the collections and contribute to a piece of collaborative art. http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/whatson/?event_id=6847
If you’re here you probably like prehistoric sites and want to see them preserved. The Journal is for everyone that feels that way so why not join in? We’re always looking for contributions – news, views, pictures, you name it – anything that helps raise the public profile of these places. In addition we’re currently looking for 2 people who would like to join us on a more regular basis – ideally by producing short weekly articles on some aspect of prehistory. No pressure, just for fun – whatever subject you like whenever you like.
So you’re extremely welcome to contact us to offer one-off contributions or more regular involvement with The Journal at email@example.com. Next month it will be nine years old and while we haven’t run out of things to write about we’re sure there are lots of things we’ve missed that YOU could bring to everyone’s attention.
Currently we’re getting a spate of metal detectorist sockpuppetry aimed at this thread in particular, no doubt intended to discourage recruits. We will delete them as we see them but if you do see any please disregard them. They are not representative of the vast majority of visitors here. Thanks.
It seems the above policy is being presented as “we won’t publish your comments unless you agree with us”. In one way that’s true. If you don’t agree the cultural damage caused by bad practice should be remedied by statutory regulation of the activity then no, we aren’t willing to give you a platform. Artefact hunters seem to have got it into their heads they have a right to speak in favour of not being required to behave and that they are to be negotiated with. That’s an error that can perhaps be laid at the door of PAS and their talk of “liaison” and “partnership”. Truth is PAS has no right to compromise the resource so there is no scope for negotiation, only for persuasion or compulsion. Simple really. Support control of the unacceptable actions of your colleagues and you’ll have a platform here. Support the idea of another 16 years of “persuasion” of them and you won’t”.
(If you don’t believe the above about PAS is true, ask them. Write to Dr Roger Bland and ask him: which part of the archaeological resource are you willing to see damaged in order for Archaeology to reach a negotiated settlement with Metal Detectorists?)
by Nigel Swift
Someone suggested to Rescue that their Facebook page (26 January) shouldn’t have linked to my Heritage Journal article “How to set up a portable antiquities scheme” as doing so was “professionally disrespectful” to the PAS archaeologists. That would imply archaeologists shouldn’t be criticised on archaeology forums so I was glad the moderator resisted the notion. In any case the article had been misread – it didn’t criticise PAS in isolation, it suggested most archaeologists and heritage professionals publicly supported an overall damaging metal detecting status quo and maintained an embarrassed silence about many aspects of it.
But the incident has wider relevance to the Journal. Although we’re certainly not always “right” there’s a strong case for our voice to be embraced not marginalised. After all, we truly are a random set of “ordinary people” (albeit a tad enthusiastic about Heritage) and we have no vested interests, whether academic, financial or professional. We simply say things as we see them, right or wrong, sometimes wrong – and even when wrong we alert those who need to know that something needs clarifying to the wider public.
In addition (and back to detecting) we can sometimes bring useful insights to the table. I’ve personally spent over a decade studying the interface between detectorists and archaeologists so know a thing or two about it. On the other hand many professionals feel uncomfortable about expressing themselves about it or are simply too busy to get involved. But (thanks partly to Professor David Gill having discussed our article on Looting Matters) Google currently displays 2,100 results (and growing) for the term “Legal Fibbery”. It’s a vital issue that tends not to be explained to the public by an Establishment constrained by realpolitik and now it has been highlighted and named by “ordinary people”. It’s something that clearly should be in the public arena as it’s of major significance to both stakeholders and taxpayers, and now it is.