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We’re pleased to report that there is a new player in the site guardian arena. A new group has been formed to look after several sites on the Derbyshire Moors. We welcome GSSN, the Guarding Sacred Sites Network, who introduce themselves in the guest post below. We look forward to hearing good things about their work going forward.

There are many beautiful, ancient sacred sites on Stanton and Harthill Moors, in Derbyshire. Nine Ladies, Doll Tor, Rowter Rocks, Nine Stones Close, Robin Hoods Stride, to name a few. These sites are always under pressure of various kinds.

The damage at Doll Tor during lock-down didn’t go unnoticed as the images spread across social media sites. Although shared on Facebook, no one had reported it to the PDNPA, English Heritage, or the Rural Heritage Police. This is where our group began. We reported the damage and realised there was a lack of information about what to do if one witnessed or discovers damage at sites. We made a poster, set up a Facebook group, and became inundated with messages of hope and offers of help, from people across the country.

Since then we have created an adopt a site monitoring scheme which covers Stanton Moor and Harthill Moor. We have a monitoring form and some guidelines for volunteers to follow. We’ve listed the potential hotspots for rubbish and damage in the area and created a ‘How to report damage’ leaflet. Sites on the list have been monitored every weekend since we started the group.

Many of you will have seen the posts on Facebook about the recent and very busy solstice celebrations at Nine Ladies over the past weekend. Thankfully there has been a group of volunteers on the moor acting as unofficial stewards and collecting rubbish from the site, as well as educating people. At the time of writing this, I can happily say all the rubbish has been collected and taken off-site. Indeed, it may now be cleaner than many other spots in the area.

Organisations who are officially responsible for large numbers of archaeological sites, such as the National Trust and English Heritage, have recognised that one of the most productive ways to ensure their long-term survival and conservation is via a regular and systematic monitoring scheme undertaken by local volunteers. In this way, sites which might not be encountered that often by archaeological staff (e.g. due to their out of the way locations on moorland, farm fields, and cliffs) can still be visited regularly, and any actual or potential damage can be reported and acted on before it gets out of hand. This information is then fed into a database designed to record each site’s current state, including any problems and the subsequent response to them. By recording such information, the database becomes a tool with which to make informed decisions about the management of a broad range of sites, based on their type, construction, location, and so on.

Our second shared responsibility is to create interpretation material that informs visitors about the importance of the sites through an educational website, books, artworks, and so forth, that encourages a sustainable love and appreciation for our sacred sites. ‘Sacredness’ is not simply a matter of joy in experiencing a beautiful or historic place, but a component which motivates people in how they interact with places. Our network is a platform to explore ways that we can help to educate people through positive, informal, and relaxed experiences. Our goal is to help protect sacred sites in this area from any damage. Damage includes digging, rubbish, graffiti, fires within the circles or close to the stones, machinery damage, vehicle access, and other types of damage to the natural environment.

Stanton Moor, in particular Nine Ladies, is a contested space. Many people have very strong opinions about how it should be treated. How can the complexity of meanings surrounding a place, be represented, through formal management and interpretation? This question is difficult to answer. There is no easy solution, there are many. Each site has its specificity, each visitor, their preferences. Such issues are faced by environmental educators, archaeologists, heritage managers, landowners, those who provide information for others regularly.

If you would like to join us on our quest for preservation and education, please like our Facebook book, Guarding Sacred Sites Network, or email guardingsacredsites @ gmail.com.

Ok, in these days of lockdown where ‘normal’ life has changed for us all, it’s time for a bit of speculation. Imagine you’ve hit the big one, a seven figure sum from the lottery, and decide to donate a percentage of your win to benefit archaeology. How much would you donate, and what would you spend it on?

There are several archaeological areas of investigation that could benefit from your new-found altruism. But which would you choose? Here are some of the available options:

Pre-excavation investigations

Is there a site crying out for archaeological investigation local to you? Has your area’s archaeological society already begun desk-based assessment on the site? Would the site benefit from a non-invasive on-the-ground assessment – e.g. geofizz or other survey work?

Excavation

Would you consider funding, or part-funding an excavation in your area? Many digs are funded by volunteers paying to learn excavation techniques from the professionals, or by using unpaid/student labour. But project plans must be paid for, as must hire of essential equipment and qualified personnel.

Post Excavation Activities

Conservation

Two aspects of conservation to consider are that of the site itself, and that of any finds associated with the site. Both of these options are potentially very expensive. Consider that if the site is a heritage building, costs may well run into the millions. And finds? Even a small dig can unearth large quantities of pottery, flint etc. If you’re lucky enough to unearth Roman mosaic, or even early medieval ‘treasure’ then the costs can rise dramatically.

Documentation

Often the poor relation in terms of PR, but an essential part of any excavation, that is all too commonly overlooked. Yet the compilation of results and subsequent publication of the report is often the true treasure of any dig and often the only lasting legacy – remembering that all excavation is ultimately destructive.

Other areas of opportunity

Restoration

This can be a contentious area, depending upon the subject of the restoration. Arguments can arise as to the authenticity of materials used, and even the original form (Crosby Garrett helmet, anyone?) Done poorly, restoration can ruin the ambience and appearance of a site. Done well, huge benefits can accrue in terms of longevity, tourism etc.

Security

Heritage crime in all its forms is on the rise. The Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) now has a special unit to deal with such issues. Areas of particular concern include:

  • Architectural theft – in particular, metal and stone
  • Criminal damage – in particular, damage caused by fire (‘arson’)
  • Unlawful metal detecting (‘nighthawking’)
  • Unlawful disturbance and salvage of maritime sites
  • Anti-social behaviour – in particular, fly-tipping and off-road driving
  • Unauthorised works to heritage assets
  • Illicit trade in cultural objects

Could your contribution be used to pay for some form of security measure for your favourite or local heritage site? Maybe a CCTV installation, alarm system or on-site guardian?

Are there any areas we’ve missed? We’d be very interested to know your thoughts as to the amount you’d potentially be willing to contribute, and how (and where) you’d consider spending the money. Also, what benefits would accrue from your financial assistance? Please let us know in the comments below, or maybe you’d like to contribute a short article about your pet project that could be funded in this way. You never know, a lucky winner could be reading!

Note: No-one connected with the Heritage Journal has had a win of this nature yet (as far as I know!)

A somewhat simple puzzle for these dark times. Most of you internet-savvy types should solve this in just a few minutes.

Below are eight sets of three random words. What is the common denominator between the sets?

 
language nursery likening
restrict nanny underline
frail across kings
ruffling ladders riverbed
cult cobras fluffed
early distilled inner
mystified potions farmed
searching shredding printer

But never mind the bug hotels, there’s a possibility that Stonehenge could see a different kind of hotel being erected in the future! But relax for now… the Salisbury Journal reports that the city may get its own version of the iconic board game, Monopoly.

Alongside the obvious candidate landmarks around the city such as the Guildhall, Cathedral and Market Square we can only hope that surrounding ancient heritage sites such as Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Blick Mead, Figsbury Ring, or even Danebury Hillfort will get a look-in!

A Facebook page has been set up to discuss the game, and suggestions for sites for inclusion in the game are being taken.

 

Appropriately, with the coming of All Hallows Eve tomorrow, we have now concluded our ‘Tarot Tuesday’ series, which attempted to link archaeological monuments to the cards of the Major Arcana.

For ease of reference, the cards (and the sites we selected for them) are listed below, linking back to the original articles.

The card meanings which we based our site selections on were taken from the Trusted Tarot website. The card images were taken from the Original Rider Waite Tarot Deck, conceived by A E Waite and designed by Pamela Colman Smith.

We hope you enjoyed the series as much as we did preparing it, but if you think our subjective choice of sites is incorrect for any card, please feel free to comment either here or against the original posts linked above.

And so we reach the end. The final card in our Tarot draw is card I, the first of the Major Arcana, The Magician.

The Magician: “Confident, Creative, Important communications, Skillful, Talented & proficient

The last site we shall be visiting in this series certainly has a magical look about it. The capstone at Pentre Ifan seems to hover inexplicably in the air, delicately balanced on the very tips of three of the six remaining upright stones.

This famous Pembrokeshire dolmen is around 5500 years old and is thought to have been originally covered by an earthen mound. The 16-tonne capstone was skillfully created to have a completely flat bottom and was confidently raised 8 feet above the ground to rest on three uprights. Such a feat shows just how talented and proficient the megalithic builders were.

The site was excavated by Grimes in 1936-7, who suggested that it’s design was influenced by prehistoric contacts with Ireland. More recent research suggests the tomb was built by local communities but may have been influenced by Irish culture and contact (important communications?) during a later stage of its use.

I find it difficult to imagine such a creatively designed monument being hidden under a mound, and have to wonder where (and how) all the earth disappeared, leaving just the remaining seven stones.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

And so our journey through the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot deck is finally concluded. If you’ve enjoyed this series and agree (or disagree!) with any of our selections please let us know.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

The penultimate card in our Tarot draw is card X of the Major Arcana, Wheel of Fortune.

Wheel of Fortune: “Change, Destiny, Good luck, Lifecycles, New direction

Previous sites in this series have largely had an obvious connection to the drawn card. Our site this week is a very personal choice, and possibly the most subjective one in the series. Some years ago I managed to get my mobility-impaired wife to this site (with some difficulty).

After visiting each of the stones in turn, she told me “this used to be a court!” On further questioning, she insisted that each stone had a particular feeling and that judgements or decisions over disputes would be made at each stone for a particular issue.

The stone circle at Boscawen-Un was erected in the Bronze Age. A Bardic group (Cornish: Gorsedd) may have existed in this area, because in the Welsh Triads from the 6th century AD, a Gorsedd of Beisgawen of Dumnonia is named as one of the big three Gorsedds of Poetry of the Island of Britain. (Wikipedia)

The feelings that she received from each stone (clockwise from the quartz stone in the west) were as follows:

  • Court/Legal
  • Fishing
  • Love/Honour
  • Home
  • unreadable/odd
  • Children
  • Wealth
  • Crops
  • Sun
  • Sight/Visions
  • Pentagram/Star
  • Tin Mines
  • Comfort/Safety/Ownership
  • White/Brightness
  • Revenge
  • Cattle/Livestock
  • Birth/Infants
  • Travel/Protection

If the circle was used for such purposes, it would certainly have lead to change or new directions for those involved in such decisions. A true ‘Wheel of Fortune’!

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

Only three cards left in our weekly draw and this week’s is card 00 of the Major Arcana, The Fool.

The Fool: “Carefree, Foolish, Important decisions, New beginnings, Optimistic

The Fool is considered a powerful card associated with new beginnings and the closure of old ways. With this in mind, today we look briefly at one of the major changes between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, that of funerary practices.

In simple terms, during the Neolithic the remains of the dead would often be dismembered and the bones collectively held in chambered tombs such as West Kennet Long Barrow, Wayland’s Smithy etc. As the Bronze Age began this trend for communal burial began to fade out, to be replaced by single (crouched) burials and cremation practices. So rather than chambered tombs holding the remains of many people jumbled together, the dead would be placed individually in barrows such as those found at today’s site: the Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows.

© Google Maps

This Bronze Age barrow cemetery, dissected by the modern A35 road in Dorset, consists of some 44 separate barrows of different types including bell, disc, and bowl barrows, and can be easily viewed in passing from the main road. Many of the barrows have never been excavated.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

This week’s draw in our ongoing series is card VIII of the Major Arcana, Strength.

Strength: “Energy, Facing problems, Strength, Vitality, Willpower

One of the great mysteries of the Neolithic period concerns exactly how the monuments were constructed. The question of how much energy and manpower would be needed when facing the problems of monument construction has been investigated and various theories have been put forward by experimental archaeologists. But it’s only when looking at one of the largest capstones in Britain that the real strength and willpower needed becomes apparent.

Image © Jane Tomlinson

The capstone of Tinkinswood Burial Chamber weighs around 40 tons and it has been estimated that upwards of 200 people would have been needed to shift it into position.

Tinkinswood is a fine example of the Cotswold/Severn regional type: a long wedge-shaped cairn, containing a rectangular stone chamber and would have originally been covered with an earthen mound. When excavated in 1914 over 900 human bones from at least 40 individuals were discovered in the single chamber, the vast majority of which had been broken. At this time one of the supports was ‘renovated’ with a brick built replacement.

Nearly 100 years later, a community archaeology project identified that the capstone, thought to have been quarried locally, was not from the assumed location at all. The origin of the stone has yet to be identified.

Tinkinswood from “On the St Lythans and St Nicholas’ Cromlechs and other remains near Cardiff.” JW Lukis, in Archaeologia Cambrensis 6.22 (April 1875).

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

The drawn card this week is card III of the Major Arcana, The Moon.

The Moon: “Be careful, Caution, Confusion, Delusion, Risk

For this week’s card, we’re not highlighting a specific site, but instead are concentrating on a monument class, that of the FOGOU.

The name comes from the Cornish word ‘fogo’ meaning ‘a cave’ and belongs to a group of monuments also found in Brittany, Ireland, and Scotland, collectively known as Souterrains. The Cornish fogous belong to the later Iron Age and Roman period.

© Craig Weatherhill

Fogous are associated with settlements and usually consist of a long curving main passage, with one or two blind subsidiary passages known as ‘creeps’.

Caution is needed when entering these structures as low blocking stones provide trip hazards in many of them, and head injuries from the low ceilings are a constant risk. In many fogous, such as that at Halligye, Pendeen or Boleigh a sense of confusion can be experienced within the darkness of the creeps.

The main passage at Carn Euny. The creep can just be seen on the right at the far end.

There are several theories as to the function of fogous: food storage or animal housing, a place of concealment, and spiritual/ritual usages have all been put forward but none of these have been explained in a convincing manner as yet.

Recommended reading:

Fogou, Gateway to the Underworld by Jo May

Mother and Sun: Cornish Fogou by Ian Cooke

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

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