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1. English Heritage (or whatever they’ll be calling themselves this year):
“At Stonehenge we’ll be more of a statutory heritage champion and less of a Tory election agent”.
2 and 3. National Trust:
“At Stonehenge, we’ll do what we say is our mission, not what someone in Whitehall says they’d like us to do”.
“We’ll finally admit that letting people brandalise or sloganise monuments is always a bad idea”.
4 and 5. Portable Antiquities Scheme:
“We’ll simply tell the truth to artefact hunters, farmers and the public”.
“We’ll lobby the Government to make this spiffing update the last.”
6 and 7. Landowners:
“Like with sheep and spuds, we’ll let nothing off our farms without us seeing it (and knowing its value).”
“We’ll keep in mind every archaeological find needs reporting (whatever any non-archaeologist says).”
8. Academics and the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage:
“We’ll finally admit that not telling a landowner about a significant find (and therefore being unable to report it) DOES conform to our definition of “heritage crime” and is just as damaging as nighthawking”.
9. Shropshire Council:
“At Oswestry, we’ll listen to informed opinion and ask ourselves every morning “who benefits from ignoring it?”
10 and 11. Cadw:
1. “We will try to be consistent, unbiased and professional.”
2. “We will try much harder to protect archaeology.”
“We’ll fret less about community archaeology and more about the community’s archaeology”
It’s been a while, but Sue Brooke has once again managed to get a response from one of the prinicpals on the Caerau dig. In a departure from our usual email response format, Sue actually managed to sit down with Niall Sharples for a chat at Caerau. Here’s her report…
Over the last 8 days I’ve been popping up to the CAER Heritage Project excavations. I’ve seen lots of exciting things in the ground, held some beautiful items, learned a lot and generally have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve met Professor Niall Sharples quite a few times before and he has always stopped to chat. I emailed him to ask him to do a little ‘Inside the Mind of…’ article but really had got nowhere fast. Fair enough though, he has been quite busy during the digging season. However, having seen him a few times up on the hill I decided to ask if he would sit and answer my list of 10 questions. ‘Yes, of course, tomorrow’, he would say. Tomorrow would come and I would bump into him just as he was leaving and I was arriving or, just as I was leaving and he was arriving. Still, undeterred I kept my list of questions tightly tucked into my bag. On day 8 I arrived on site and yes, he was there. Unfortunately so were the BBC, following him around with their television cameras. In the distance I could see him being filmed on the edge of a trench, arms waving as he did his press relations thing. Ah well, I thought, not today.
Since this is a community dig that involves lots of visitors there were a group of local young people attending. Some were digging, some were sieving and others were helping to clean the finds. Some young people were making pots out of clay, learning how these were made and the skill that it took. I wandered around the site to see how things had progressed in the trenches and eventually sat to watch some pot making, keeping well out of the way of the telly cameras.
After a while Professor Sharples appeared and asked if I wanted to ask my 10 questions. Oh yes, right! We found a couple of chairs quite near and sat in the sun. I’m not sure how I thought this would work. I had questions, I had paper and a pen (well 3 – just in case) so I just asked the questions and made notes about the answers. We chatted about some things that came up, discussed things I hadn’t thought of and generally made our way through the questions. It was all rather laid back but, for me, very interesting.
What sparked your interest in archaeology? was the first question on my little list of ten. Well, apparently it was women – ‘there was a better class of women involved in the archaeology course’. Although this was said, kind of tongue in cheek, I got an inkling that there may be just a little grain of truth in that comment! Niall did however go on to talk about how, when he was younger, he had an interest in what he described as the ‘weird mysteries’ to be found in books such as those written by Erich Von Daniken. Inside my head I could hear a nice little sigh of relief. Having spent quite a few days up at the dig I had chatted to the Cardiff University students who gave me the impression that Professor Sharples was ‘fierce’ and that he ‘knew everything.’ So here I am, sat with the fierce guy, in the corner of a Welsh hillfort, who ‘knows everything’. When he mentioned Von Daniken I was delighted as I had read him too. I knew what he was on about! That felt like a good start.
Niall described how he had initially started at Glasgow University studying archaeology, maths and Scottish history. He didn’t actually learn geography but had an interest in it. Niall described how archaeology was a really interesting subject and one that allowed him to combine history and the geography that he enjoyed. He dropped maths after a couple of months. Niall felt that history was something that ‘could actually be open to interpretation and although an academic subject is not actually based on anything scientific’. Archaeology, in his view however, “…has to have an evidential base. Links between research and the actual archaeological evidence is clearer and therefore provides a far better connection to the past”.
So, how did he get properly started as a ‘real’ archaeologist rather than just a class based student? It was after he had gained student experience on the Glasgow University digs led by Leslie Alcock. Niall worked and learned on digs such as that led by Alcock during the later part of the 1970’s at Dundurn in Perthshire. Niall described one of his own early but exciting finds. It became clear as we chatted that Leslie Alcock really stimulated Niall’s original interest in archaeology. We spoke briefly of the digs Alcock had directed locally to Caerau at Dinas Powys and of course, at Cadbury Castle. He also talked about working on digs alongside David Clarke, now of the National Museum of Scotland. Niall found David to be what he described as an ‘interesting guy’ and together they worked on such sites as that at the very well known Neolithic site at Skara Brae. Niall credited Leslie Alcock as ‘probably the person who has most influenced my career’.
Niall has been recently found working on Ham Hill in Somerset so, excluding that site I asked which other site had he thought of as his most interesting project. Niall talked about Bornish, in the Outer Hebrides, a Iron Age and Norse settlement. I was a little surprised at his very obvious enthusiasm for the Vikings but Niall explained that the site there ‘…integrated different categories of evidence. There were structures, ditches, stratification, all giving up lots of chronological evidence and providing a very complicated story’. It is this kind of complication that clearly holds Nialls attention. I got the impression that he would find absolutely no fun at all in going onto a site, digging it and finding archaeology that all fitted nicely into a neat story. A little bit like his ‘weird’ Von Daniken mysteries – there clearly has to be that little bit of an extra challenge, to stretch him just that little bit more.
We talked about what Niall felt was his favourite British site, at which point he threw up quite a few names. Maiden Castle, on which of course Niall famously worked, and Mousa an Iron Age coastal Broch in the Shetlands, which was a site not familiar to me at all. Finally, Avebury a placename recognizable to most. When I asked him to explain why he simply stated that they were ‘spectacular’.
My next question was about what Niall felt was his biggest archaeological or heritage regret. He described his feeling that archaeology had gone downhill. He spoke with passion about the lack of available resources, the way museums were no longer being valued and what he described as the ‘quality of the experts’ available. He accepted that everyone, with experience properly gained, can become an expert but stated that today’s archaeologists are valued more and more for their ‘ability as good administrators’. Archaeology had become privatized and ‘heritage is not now being looked after as it should be’. The opinion now tends to be more that private companies will pay. There is a real sense of over commercialism. Such emphasis was placed by Niall on this subject that I struggled to keep up with writing my notes.
Moving on I asked if you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation then what would it be. He answered quite simply that “Archaeology should be returned to the care of the government and they should be investing more in their heritage”. My next question was if you could address Parliament for 30 seconds what would you say – referring to his answer from the previous question he stated, and I can quote, “It would be that!”
Grateful that my next question changed the subject I then asked Niall if he hadn’t made it in his archaeology career then what did he think he would be doing now. He gave it a little bit of thought and said he quite fancied being a film producer or director. I commented along the line of this being rather different to what he did now but he disagreed. He made the comparison with the dig up at Caerau saying there were lots of people there to organize and that, at the end of the dig, they were hoping to be able to tell a story. Just like making a film. He quickly pointed out that he had no ambition to be a film star, which I could understand since we were chatting immediately after he had been filmed over and over for a news item.
The questions were almost done. My last question was, away from his day job what did he do to relax. He talked about how he likes to simply watch TV and films. He still likes his mystery books only now preferring crime novels and murder mysteries by authors such as Ian Rankin and Denise Mina. He pointed out though that he does read ‘literature’ too, particularly admiring the work of Gabriel Marquez on South America.
Once the questions were out of the way we chatted a little bit more about the finds up at Caerau and I thanked him for answering the questions for me. As we got up to leave a young person who had been washing some finds came up with a wet pebble. Niall took it from her and said, “Ah yes, that could be a games piece. Although it’s a pebble it’s water worn and shouldn’t be up here. Where did it come from? Was it the river? Was it used to play games with?” The young lady took back her discovery and just stood looking at it. I just loved it!
Many thanks to Niall (and to Sue). 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 willing subject, please contact us.
As July rolls on, it’s time look again at the ‘Festival of Archaeology‘, co-ordinated once again by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) running this year from 12th to 27th of July, and preceded by this year’s Day of Archaeology on Friday 11th, where archaeologists from all over the world blog about what they’ve been up to, showing the sheer diversity of activitities in the archaeological world – it’s not just about digging!
The CBA has been organising an annual UK-wide celebration of archaeology and heritage since 1990. The ‘Festival for British Archaeology’ grew out of ‘National Archaeology Week’ (NAW). Before that, the event took place over one weekend and was called ‘National Archaeology Days’ (NADS).
The Festival includes hundreds of special events individually organised and held by museums, local societies, national and countryside parks, universities, and heritage organisations across the UK. The Festival presents everyone the opportunity to learn about their local heritage, to see archaeology in action, and to get involved, from formal lecture sessions to hands-on archaeology to family fun events.
To this end, the CBA have once again updated their website for the festival, allowing searching for events across the country. The headline suggests over 1000 events are available to chose from, but the actual number from the search results seems to be down on my recollections of previous years. Running an open search on a region by region basis shows a total a little shy of 600 events, so unless the total (‘over 1000′) includes multi-day events such as museum exhibits, there is something wrong once again with the search algorithm.
The region with the biggest number of events is the SouthWest with 109 – no surprise there as I suspect it’s the biggest region – followed by the East Midlands with 73. I could find no results for Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man.
Looking at our main focus here on the Heritage Journal – Prehistory, there are 152 events listed across the country, which is a good percentage compared to previous years!
Once again, the range of events is wide, from talks, walks and excavation visits, through re-enactments, demonstrations and exhibitions to hands-on activities and family fun. So there really is something for everyone to enjoy. Why not take a look at the website and see what’s on in your area?
As we’ve banged on about before, we’re convinced that the more prehistory is taught in schools the less damage ancient sites are likely to suffer. So we were pleased to read about two initiatives this week:
First there’s this excellent initiative based in Cheshire: Schools History – providing school visits covering KS2 and 3 modules for the Neolithic, Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Medieval periods.
Then in Worcester, (following the The Practitioners forum on the teaching of prehistory which we covered recently, there’s an after school session for teachers being run by Worcs Archive & Archaeology Museums service “To help support teachers who will be teaching Prehistory as part of the new national Curriculum.” They say :“We know from conversations that many teachers are not sure where to start as they are unfamiliar with the subject. On the 4th June we will be running a session to help, hosted by Worcester City Museum & Art Gallery who currently have an Iron Age exhibition running.”
(As you can see, it contains one particular segment that’s absolutely invaluable – well it would be for us anyway …. a “Bluffer’s Guide to British prehistory”! )
A recent article in the Oxford Mail about a new Heritage Trail based upon archaeological finds during development of a new housing estate caught our eye. With so much ‘developer-led rescue archaeology’ being undertaken, often with the ‘preservation by record’ caveat attached, it seems to us that such Heritage Trails could be a good idea going forward for many new housing estates across the country. Not only would such trails be educational, sparking the imagination of the people living in those communities, and connecting tehm to the area’s history, but they would be a constant nagging reminder of what has been lost forever (Oswestry, anyone?)
And of course, involvement with sites doesn’t just have to be about information boards. Although written from an Ireland perspective, the ‘Bored of Boards‘ document available for free download from the Heritage Council of Ireland gives many alternative ways of providing interpretation for heritage sites, particularly in an urban environment. One of the alternatives listed in that document we’ve discussed here on the Heritage Journal in the past: the use of QR codes, such as that provided by the iBeaken system.
Many town centres and villages of course already have Heritage Trails set up. One town relatively local to me that has a trail (actually 7 of them!) is Wheathampstead, in Hertfordshire. There is a town centre trail, marked by mini-plaques on historical buildings, with a map and interpretation board outside the church, and a further six trails through the surrounding countryside detailed on their web site, ranging in length from 4-8 miles and covering the Iron Age, through Roman and Saxon times, to relatively recent historical sites. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area!
Further north, the University of York, in partnership with the grand sounding ‘Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP)’ has created a fine Roman Trail as well as other trails in the area (a Viking one is under development) but it would be wonderful from our point of view to see a similar trail somewhere that didn’t rely purely upon historical/preserved buildings but concentrated solely on sites from prehistory, i.e. discovered purely via excavated archaeology rather than above ground remains, which would otherwise be lost forever, and preserved only in a Heritage Environment Record somewhere.
If you know of any such trails, please let us know so that we can highlight them here and spread the word.
So, you’ve done the planning, taken your Go-Bag and had a wonderful time out and about exploring some ancient sites. If you’re anything like me, you take plenty of digital photos when visiting our ancient heritage sites. But what do you do with those images once you get home?
After a trip, a large majority of people will just hand around their camera, tablet or phone and let people view the pictures that way. Some selected pictures may get uploaded to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Most people will download the photos to their PC (often into the ‘My Pictures’ folder on Windows) and look through them that way. Many will take the camera card into a shop and print off selected pictures – the larger supermarkets offer this service these days.
But what if you want to review the pictures a month, six months or a year or more down the line? Could you easily find the relevant batch of photos? Could you identify a shot of e.g. a particular cairn, barrow, megalith or dolmen from all the others? With a little post-trip preparation you can organise the images from your visits, making them simple to identify and review.
First of all, a warning for the unwary: There are a plethora of applications available to organise a digital image library, for Windows, Mac and Linux systems at various pricing levels, which provide facilities for import, renaming, tagging, geotagging and other facilities, including full EXIF data editing. Some of these systems are aimed at the professional end of the market, with pricing and complexity to match. Others are free, but with a hidden ‘price’. I personally like Picasa from Google, but be aware that the licensing means that any images uploaded to their online web libraries will become available for Google’s use as they see fit. See section 11 of the Picasa EULA as an example. Other services such as Flickr have similar terms, so if control of your image content is commercially important to you, be aware of what you’re signing up for!
But assuming you have no immediate need of an online image library or cloud backup services, let’s go through what you can do to get minimally organised.
Location – First of all, decide where to keep the photos on your system. If your default ‘My Pictures’ folder is not too untidy already, this is as good a place as any to get started, but be aware that an image library can grow large, particularly if you take lots of pictures over a long period (I personally have digital images going back to 1995, nearly 20 years worth!)
Folders – there are lots of ways to organise the folders for your photos. I tend to a ‘tree’ approach. A folder for each year, then sub folders for each trip I take. The sub folders are named by yymm and dd if necessary, followed by an indicator for the trip – in my case the main county. Multi-day trips may be split by further sub folders for each day, or each site if it’s an image-heavy trip!
Downloading – transfer the photos from your camera/tablet/phone to the PC as soon as you can. There are various ways of achieving this depending upon your device, but one rule of thumb: Once the photos have been transferred, clear them off the device! There’s nothing worse than after the next trip having to sort out which photos belong to which trip, or downloading duplicates. So drop them from the camera once you’re sure they’ve been copied safely.
Image Re-Naming – Most photos are downloaded from the camera with meaningless numeric names – DSCNnnnn, or IMGnnnn or similar nonsense. A handy trick is to multi-select the files you wish to rename (Tile view is useful for identifying simlar photos) and rename them en-masse. Doing this, the files will all have the same name, but with a sequential number appended. A word on naming conventions – I like at all times to have the date that the image was taken in the file name. So for instance, three pictures of Stonehenge taken at midsummer may be named ‘130621 Stonehenge (1)’, ‘130621 Stonehenge (2)’ and ‘130621 Stonehenge (3)’. If you’re working on older images, and aren’t sure where/when they were taken, the EXIF data held within each image will hold clues, and may even have the geotagging information to give you a precise location.
Tidying up – Finally, remove (read DELETE!) any photos that aren’t up to snuff. Out of focus, poor composition, or even just ‘uninteresting’ photos should be removed from your library unless there are *very* good reasons for retaining them. When showing your photos, or organising them into a photo-book as a permanent record to show people, you want them to think kindly of your photographic skills, so dump the rubbish shots!
Backup! – Now you’re organised, the final step is to make sure you have backups of your photos. Whilst cloud-based storage is currently flavour of the month, don’t forget to check the terms and conditions and make sure you’re not giving away any rights to your images that you’re not happy about. Also, be aware that online companies may withdraw services at any time, or change their conditions with very little warning, so make sure you have an offline back too if you go the online route. I like the Western Digital Passport USB drives. They’re small, draw power from the USB lead (so no mains lead needed), come in various capacities and are relatively inexpensive.
I hope this brief guide has been useful. If you have a different strategy for organising your own digital images, let us know in the comments.
During a recent holiday in Cornwall, I took the opportunity to revisit Carwynnen Quoit, to see what progress had been made since my previous visit during the recent excavations. Seeing one of the uprights back in place has prompted me to put together this brief overview of the history of the quoit.
Built some time between 3500-2600 BC, this Cornish dolmen had (presumably) stood for millenia before its collapse and reinstatement in the early 1840’s. The recorded history of the quoit begins in the early 18th century, mentioned by Edward Lhuyd during his Cornish travels. It was later drawn by Dr Borlase, and this illustration was included in W.C. Borlase’s ‘Naenia Cornubia’in 1872. J.T. Blight’s ‘Ancient Crosses of West Cornwall’, published in 1858 also includes an illustration of the quoit, somewhat different from that drawn by Borlase.
A section of the capstone broke off when the monument fell in 1842, and during its reconstruction “by workers on the Pendarves Estate and local people, galvanised by Mrs Pendarves”, one of the supporting stones was reduced in height and the arrangement of the uprights was thus changed. Comparing this reconstruction to the original, W.C. Borlase noted:
The two supporters at the south-eastern end seem to have retained their original positions. They were, formerly, respectively 5 feet 1 inch, and 5 feet 2 inches above ground, and are still nearly the same height. The single pillar at the other side has been moved nearer the edge of the covering stone than in the above sketch; it measured 4 feet 11 inches high, but is now shorter. The covering slab, which, like the other stones, is granite, measures twelve feet by nine; one side, however, seems to have been broken in its fall.
The monument seems to have remained in this state for around 124 years, until in 1966 it collapsed again, reputedly due to an earth tremor. With thanks to Paul Phillips and the folks at the Sustainable Trust, we have photographs of the quoit taken a short time prior to it’s later collapse.
After the collapse, the Pendarves estate declined, and what were once the landscaped gardens of the estate were returned to agriculture. The collapsed stones were piled in a heap, and with repeated ploughing more stones came to the surface, to be added to the pile of ‘field clearance’.
My own first view of Carwynnen came in May 2007, whilst trying to ‘tick off’ all the Cornish quoits. There was actually very little to see – a field of scrub, with a few stones almost hidden amongst the weeds. But the site was purchased in 2009 by the Sustainable Trust and their partners, and plans were immediately put in place to once again restore the quoit to it’s former glory.
I returned in 2012, to find on the surface very little had apparently changed, the pile of stones was still there, looking much as before.
But now there was a noticeboard at the entrance to the field, indicating that the plans were very much under way. Later that year, two excavations were held in the field. The first was a preliminary investigation via a series of test pits. The stones were then moved using a crane, from the place where they had been left after the 1966 collapse, in preparation for the ‘Big Dig’ in the autumn.
In April 2013 I returned again, to attend ‘Quest for the Quoit’ a neolithic exhibition of crafts and an archaeological test pit dig. This was just one of a series of events and exhibitions both at the Quoit and around various parts of Cornwall to advertise what was going on, and to get the community involved. The day was a great success with a lot of local interest and involvement. And of course, the ‘Big Dig’ had provided the perfect surprise with the discovery of the original footprint of the monument, and the stone ‘pavement’, the original chamber floor. A year after the excavation of the original socketholes, in October 2013, the first of the uprights was put back up into place.
Although it looks quite forlorn, locked away inside it’s protective fencing, the other two uprights are scheduled to be raised to join it in May this year, followed by the placing of the capstone at Midsummer. I hope to be there to witness that.
Further details about the history, excavation and events at Carwynnen can be found on the project website at http://www.giantsquoit.org
Unless otherwise stated, all photos © Alan S.
Carwynnen Quoit is situated a short distance south of Camborne, in Cornwall. OS Grid Ref: SW650372, Sheet 203.
Following on from our recent forays into the world of music, looking at pieces entitled ‘Stonehenge’, comes a timely piece from the BBC, concerning acoustic research by London’s Royal College of Art upon the stones in the Preseli Hills, the source of the Stonehenge bluestones.
With this study, thousands of stones along the Carn Menyn ridge were tested and a high proportion of them were found to “ring” when they were struck.
“The percentage of the rocks on the Carn Menyn ridge are ringing rocks, they ring just like a bell,” said Mr Devereux, the principal investigator on the Landscape and Perception Project.
“And there’s lots of different tones, you could play a tune. In fact, we have had percussionists who have played proper percussion pieces off the rocks.”
A musical instrument where stones are used as an acoustic device is known as a ‘lithophone‘, or sometimes as a ‘stone marimba’. Though we’re not entirely sure that something of the size of Stonehenge could quite qualify for that name!
And a brief message for all our Cornish readers: Gool Peran Lowen! Happy St Piran’s Day!
In our previous article on music titled ‘Stonehenge’, we included some artists and songs that many antiquarians may well be familiar with. In this second article, we list 5 further songs called ‘Stonehenge’ which may not be quite so familiar!
The band came together in 1996 as members attended the New England Conservatory of Music and the Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA. After constant gigging in the area, they recorded their debut album, Coalesce (1998), as a septet. The Miracle Orchestra, along with fellow Boston musicians and friends, the Slip, are part of a developing trend of jazz-rock revival. The music is both upbeat and improvisational. It is these attributes that the Miracle Orchestra successfully embodies. ‘Stonehenge’ was included on the album “Three Sets: Vol 3“, a live album of three differing jazz bands released in 2001. Uplifting.
Kellianna – Stonehenge (5:41)
Kellianna is a pagan artist who performs songs and chants inspired by myth, magic, sacred places and ancient times. ‘Stonehenge is included on the album “Lady Moon“, released in 2004. A relaxing, affirmative chant.
Ted Heath – Stonehenge (3:11)
No, not the Tory politician! Ted Heath was one of the most famous big-band leaders in Great Britain of the 1950s. His bands played modernized swing music that was always danceable but occasionally had worthwhile solos played in the tradition. A live version was included on the “Ted Heath at Carnegie Hall” album, first released in 1957, and re-released in 2005 as a double album with “Ted Heath’s First American Tour”. Laid back swing – time for cocktails!
King Missile – Stonehenge (1:29)
Essentially a vehicle for the musings of John S. Hall, King Missile merged off-kilter spoken word monologues with eclectic, mildly psychedelic rock & roll. Hall’s dry, absurdist sense of humor colored much of the group’s output, blurring the lines between comedy, Beat poetry, narrative prose, and simple rock lyrics. ‘Stonehenge’ appears on “They“, an album described as having ‘a warped sense of humor’, released in 1988.
Ruins – Stonehenge (3:51)
Japanese post-punk prog rock by Tatsuya Yoshida. Released in 1990 on an album also entitled ‘Stonehenge’, there’s not really musch can say about this one! Enjoy?
And that concludes our round-up of Stonehnege songs for now. From 1950’s Swing, through the free festival and post punk eras, to New Age noodling and dreaminess. there should be something there for everyone.
If you have a favourite ‘Stonehenge’ track that we missed, please let us know via the comments section.