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The Current Archaeology Live conference took place over the weekend. Sadly I was unable to attend once again this year but true to form, the award winners were announced during the Friday evening reception.

The winners in the various categories were as follows:

Archaeologist of the Year (sponsored by Andante Travels): Alison Sheridan

Research Project of the Year (sponsored by Export & General Insurance Services Ltd): ‘Life beside the lake: opening a window on the Mesolithic at Star Carr‘, University of York/University of Newcastle/University of Chester.

Rescue Project of the Year (sponsored by Oxbow Books): ‘Roman Writing on the Wall: recording inscriptions at a Hadrian’s Wall quarry’, University of Newcastle/Historic England.

Book of the Year (sponsored by Butser Ancient Farm): ‘Life and death in the countryside of Roman Britain’, by A Smith, M Allen, T Brindle, M Fulford, L Lodwick, and A Rohnbogner.

The winner of the World Archaeology Photo Competition, sponsored by HiddenHistory and judged and presented by Adam Stanford of AerialCam, was Gavin McGuire.

Our hearty congratulations go out to all the winners with commiserations to all the nominees who came so close.

Putting all thoughts of the General election to one side for a moment (regardless of your politics), it’s time to decide who gets your vote in this year’s Current Archaeology Awards which celebrate both the projects and publications that have made the pages of Current Archaeology magazine over the 12 months, and the people judged to have made outstanding contributions to archaeology.

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These awards are voted for entirely by the public – there are no panels of judges – so we encourage you to get involved and choose the project, publications, and people you would like to win.

As always, there are four categories to vote in, and winners are decided purely on the number of public votes received. Click the following links to see the nominees in each category:

We have checked all the nominees and have cast our votes. Now it’s your turn! Once you have made your choices, click here to cast your votes!

Voting closes on 10 February 2020, and the winners will be announced at the special awards ceremony on 28 February at Current Archaeology Live! 2020. Entry to the awards reception is included as part of the ticket for CA Live! – for more details, click here.

As autumn draws to a close, and winter moves in, so the archaeological world moves indoors and the lecture and conference season begins.

One weekend at the start of next month looks to be quite busy and a popular date for one-day conferences.

Saturday November 10th sees several lecture events around the country.

Firstly, at St Fagan’s National Museum of History near Cardiff, there is an event; Archaeology in the Severn Estuary. Tickets and Agenda are available on the Eventbrite website.

Meanwhile, in Truro, The Cornwall Archaeology Society is holding a symposium on the same day; Archaeology in Cornwall. Tickets and programme available from the society web site

Across country in Surrey, the CBA South East are holding their AGM and Conference in Chertsey, with a range of talks themed around Structured Deposits.

Much further north in Stirling is Scotland’s Community Heritage Conference, again bookable via EventBrite.

Meanwhile, in Norwich the Prehistoric Society is co-hosting a lecture with the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society; Living with Monuments: settlement, monumentality, and landscape in the Neolithic.

And finally, in Devizes the Wiltshire Museum are presenting a lecture; the Scandinavian Flint Axe Type in Britain by Dr. Katharine Walker, discussing the connections between Scandinavia and the British Isles in the Neolithic period.

I’ll be at the Truro event, which one are you going to?

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.

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

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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.

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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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brass-neck

Today Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage will be taking to the platform of the conference celebrating 30 years of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site – why?

Historic England are endorsing their employer’s wish for a short tunnel that would devastate the Stonehenge half of the WHS.

The National Trust has opened a fast food outlet in the centre of Avebury’s henge, amidst the largest stone circle in the world, and also support a short tunnel that would devastate the Stonehenge half of the WHS.

English Heritage have summarily failed to protect Stonehenge from damage during annual solstices, and also support a short tunnel that would devastate the Stonehenge half of the WHS.

The question this collective act of bare faced cheek should leave on everyone’s lips is whether they can be trusted to truly care for our greatest prehistoric monuments?

 

Following the news of the completion of the recent Verulamium Survey, a second “Archaeology in Hertfordshire” conference has been announced for November 26th, to be held in Hitchin Town Hall.

Their previous regional conference which we reported on in 2012 was a very interesting event.

The current outline of speakers and topics this year, subject to last minute changes, is as follows:

  • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews: Odd pots and foreigners: forgetting Romanitas, becoming Angelcynn
  • Isobel Thompson: New clues to the conquest: how Hertfordshire entered the Roman Empire
  • Andrew Fitzpatrick and Colin Haselgrove: Searching for Julius Caesar
  • Kris Lockyear and Ellen Shlasko: Surveying Verulamium
  • Emily Esche, Clare Lewis, Kris Lockyear and Tony Rook: Lower Rivers Field
  • Murray Andrews: Coins, commerce, and Christianity: money in late medieval Hertfordshire
  • Gil Burleigh: 118+ Tons of History: results from community test pitting and other fieldwork in Pirton
  • Karin and David Kaye: Roman Ware: A River-Crossing Settlement
  • Chris Green: Puddingstone querns from Hertfordshire and elsewhere
  • Mike Smith: The medieval manor of Wheathampstead

We’ve been asked to mention that tables will be available for local groups to have small displays (if arranged in advance via Kris Lockyear). There is no charge for a table, but the people manning it will need to have a ticket!

Full details including how to purchase tickets for the conference (£15, or £12 for WAS members) will be included on our Events Diary page when available.

Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (5 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda….

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Last month we questioned why Historic England had invited lots of prominent archaeologists to discuss “developments in conservation” (see here). To associate them with the idea conservation has changed and driving new roads over the World Heritage Site is now valid? Perhaps, for the word was then dropped and they’ll now be talking instead about “research and the potential for further discoveries” (see here).


But it’s not just archaeologists being manoeuvered. ICOMOS has been wrongly characterised as pro-short tunnel (see here) and the public are being as well (see here). Historic England’s guidelines have been unilaterally changed to say destruction is OK if there are “important planning justifications” (see here). More recently English Heritage seems intent on misleading the public by offering free balloon flights (see here) “to get a sense of how the removal of the A303 from the landscape would transform the World Heritage Site” but not mentioning it would involve cutting massive new roads over another part of the site (the elephant in the landscape as Stonehenge Alliance calls it). We suspect doing that offends every conservation instinct of EH personnel but it’s up to them to deny it.


You may well feel 5 yowling moggies are now out of the bag, each one designed to further the Government’s wishes. Will there be more? Probably, since the plain truth is that massive new roads inside the WHS cannot be justified without further disreputable tactics by Britain’s main conservation bodies. Future historians may view this as a shameful era.

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[To see the others put Yowling in the search box.]

PAS is staging yet another conference praising metal detecting. (Why, when they were set up to cope with it not promote it? A biscuit to anyone who knows!) It’s titled “Can Detectorists be Archaeologists?” The answer is simple: NO, for the nature of the activity precludes its participants from adhering to the archaeological  practices, aims and ethics developed to maximise knowledge and minimise cultural loss which real archaeologists have to! Why would you need to stage a whole expensive conference to explain that, unless you were trying to pretend short changing the community is acceptable?

The title of the conference is all the more perplexing because the BM specifically told us recently that they’d endeavour to ensure “misinterpretation cannot be inferred from our use of language in the future” and for our part we highlighted Rule 1.4 of the Institute for Archaeology: “A member shall not undertake archaeological work for which he or she is not adequately qualified”. No, metal detecting can never be Archaeology for a multitude of reasons. It’s endlessly claimed by both metal detectorists and PAS that archaeologists shouldn’t be elitist. They’re right. But Archaeology should be.

If it’s not, and if it isn’t done right, it’s one of many inferior ways of interacting with the past of which metal detecting is merely one. By what right does our national museum, uniquely in the world, imply otherwise? The whole bloody farce reminds us of 2011 when Diana Friendship-Taylor, chair of Rescue, wrote witheringly of a previous similar attempt:“We are, frankly, astonished, that the British Museum is prepared to lend its considerable weight to the furtherance of a method of historical inquiry which belongs in the distant past, and which has as much relevance to the practice of modern archaeology as the use of the cranial trepanation has to modern medicine.”

Five years later another million recordable artefacts have been dug up and not recorded yet PAS is STILL promoting something which "has as much relevance to the practice of modern archaeology as the use of the cranial trepanation has to modern medicine.”

Five years later, a further MILLION recordable artefacts, that’s 1,000,000, have been dug up and not recorded and are now lost to science yet PAS is still promoting something whichhas as much relevance to the practice of modern archaeology as the use of the cranial trepanation has to modern medicine.”

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