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As we suggested earlier this week, the government have now (half-heartedly, it must be said!) implemented a much stronger lockdown regime, asking people to remain in their homes as much as possible apart from essential trips for food, medicines etc – key workers excepted and for which we are all grateful.

As this situation is likely to last, in our opinion, for months rather than days, here are a few more suggestions for heritage based activities to enjoy at home:

  • Get crafty – build a model of your favourite site. Take a look at Brick to the Past for some Lego-based inspiration. Or draw or paint an ancient site, maybe taking inspiration from one or other of your favourite artists (for instance, see Jane Tomlinson, Sarah Vivien or Anna Dillon) and let us see the results, either via our Contact Us page, or in our Facebook Group!
  • For those locked down with younger children, Mr Donn’s web site, although American is a useful resource, with presentations, lesson plans for home schooling etc. covering all aspects of archaeology and ancient history, among others. Wessex Archaeology and the Museum of London also have a very good selection of teacher’s resource packs, more suited to a British audience (other providers of educational material are available)
  • Another for the younger members: an archaeology colouring book, “this colouring book illustrates how archaeologists are working today applying new approaches. It was published by the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures at Linnaeus University.”  Or do a Google Image search for linear images to colour – e.g. “Stonehenge Colouring” returns some interesting results. Try your site or subject of choice and see what comes up.
  • As well as looking after the younger members of the household, why not try to find the time to take an online course yourself? The live broadcast talk on the Must Farm excavations on Monday drew a crowd of nearly 500 people live on Facebook, and the recording of the talk has already had almost 10,000 views! The following organisations all provide online archaeology courses and talks, and are worth checking out:

Others are also available. Let us know your favourites.

What have we missed? How are you coping with the lockdown? Please let us know your suggestions in the comments below.

Given the almost hourly Coronavirus updates on the news, the self-isolation, social-distancing, and other measures being taken (Cornwall is closed, dont’cha know?), it is apparent that much stronger action is almost inevitable to reduce the spread of the infection, and the most likely step we can foresee happening is a much stronger social lockdown. This would involve the cessation of all face-to-face social interaction and restrictions on travel to essential journeys only. Such measures are already in place in countries such as Spain and Italy.

When and if these restrictions are imposed, what is the heritage-lover to do? While trips out to sites may be restricted soon, here are five internet-based suggestions to help get your heritage fix over the coming days.

  1. This is a special one, is being held later today, and should not be missed. The team at Must Farm Archaeology have announced an online talk (including a possible Q&A session) to be held via their Facebook page on Monday 23rd March at 4pm GMT. Learn all about the excavation and finds at this most amazing site.
  2. Listen to a podcast, or watch a video. Our current favourites are from the Prehistory Guys, Michael Bott and Rupert Soskin. An educational way to spend a few hours of self-isolation! Or lose yourself in the rabbit-hole of YouTube, searching for your favourite subject, but where the quality is more variable.
  3. For the younger members of the household, the Young Archaeologist’s Club, run by the Council for British Archaeology, has a range of suggestions for indoor activities. There are also resource packs available on the web, for KS1 and KS2 history – see the BBC for some good examples.
  4. Why not visit a virtual museum? We mentioned last week that the British Museum, along with many others, is closed to visitors, but many museums are extending their web sites to allow virtual viewings of many of their exhibits. My own local museum, the Museum of Cornish Life, in Helston even has a 3D walkthrough where every gallery of the museum can be experienced as if you were there! Why not check out what your own local museum has to offer on their web site?
  5. Allow us to be a little self-indulgent here: Why not take time out to research/write an article for the Heritage Journal? Tell us a little-known fact about a site local to you, or which you have visited frequently. Dig out your diary, and regale us with details about one of your trips to a heritage site or if you’ve been on a dig in the past couple of years, tell us about what you found. Write an opinion piece on a controversial subject: the Stonehenge Tunnel, Oswestry Housing Development, the Rollright Bypass, or a planning application or rule change near you that we haven’t heard about yet. The list of topics is almost endless! We look forward to seeing what you come up with, but please try to keep it within the pre-Roman period in Britain if possible.

However you decide to spend your time while locked down, please let us know how you manage to get your own heritage fix.

As the Coronavirus COVID-19 ‘crisis’ apparently deepens, and mass paranoia sets in, the heritage sector is as badly hit as any other. The situation is changing day by day and almost hour by hour but at the time of writing the following measures have been announced so far:

  • English Heritage has closed all their staffed historic sites from the end of Wednesday 18th March until 1st May, although this will doubtless be reviewed and probably extended at some future point. Unstaffed and free to enter sites are not affected, as they are deemed to be sufficiently spacious to allow ‘social distancing’, and many such sites are often off the beaten track and uncrowded.
  • The National Trust will, where possible, open many of its gardens and parks for free, but close its houses, cafes and shops.
  • The British Museum has taken the decision to close temporarily but will make many of its collections and exhibitions available online where possible.
  • CADW are following the lead of the National Museum of Wales and the National Library of Wales in closing all sites with staffed visitor centres to the public until further notice.
  • Historic Scotland has also taken the decision to close public access to their staffed properties and offices until further notice.

In addition, many regional and local museums and other attractions are closing or seriously restricting their access, on government advice, as are many record and archive centres. In short, if you are planning a visit to such facilities, check first!

Many local archaeology societies following government advice have had to cancel lectures, walks and talks, and local fieldwork and clearups – essentially shutting down operations to an absolute minimum.

Although the current government advice is for self-isolation and social distancing, there is a possibility that this may change in the near future – Spain has introduced a severe lock-down and people there have been arrested/fined for unnecessary travel. Until such measures come into effect in the UK however, it is still feasible to visit many of our ancient monuments, for the purposes of exercise and fresh air, as long as the guidelines for risk reduction are followed.

 

 

…and for once it’s good news!

For the first time in recorded history the Rollright Stones straddling the Oxfordshire Warwickshire border on the edge of the Cotswolds have come under one ownership.

This time last month we were reporting on a possibly damaging upgrade of the road which runs between the Rollright Stones stone circle and the adjacent King Stone on the other side of the road, and in the neighbouring county of Warwickshire[*].

The Rollright Trust already owns the stone circle and the nearby Whispering Knights burial chamber, and last week, an announcement was made  that the Trust has now acquired possession of the King Stone, a Bronze Age standing stone which marks the location of a Bronze Age cemetery. The three monuments span a period of around 2500 years, from 5800BC (The Whispering Knights), 3500BC (The circle) and 2500BC (the King Stone), and around 2000 years later, the Saxons built a cemetery of their own close by.

The Rollright Stones were recorded as one of the ‘Wonders of Britain’ in the 12th century AD, and were among the very first monuments to be put into state protection (in 1883 and 1894), though they have remained in private ownership.  The King Stone has hitherto been looked after by the Haine family who have farmed the land for decades.  It will now be under the day-to-day management of the Rollright Trust who seek to ensure that the monuments are not commercialised but make a positive contribution to peopleís well-being through education, cultural events and other initiatives, widening awareness of their archaeological and historical interest and spiritual associations.

The Trust also seeks to conserve and enhance the wildlife value of the Stones and their surroundings, including over 70 species of lichens, some of them regionally or nationally rare.  The acquisition of the King Stone includes over 3 acres of pasture land, which, with the support of the Cotswolds Glorious Grasslands initiative, the Trust is planning to turn into species-rich flowery meadow.

[*] A recent petition calling for traffic calming measures rather than an increase in traffic levels at the monuments attracted over 32,000 signatures.

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.

Once again, 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.

CA_awards-logo1

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 were pleased to see the Megalithic Portal‘s book, The Old Stones has been nominated for this year’s Book of the Year, and have cast our vote in that category accordingly.

Voting closes on 11 February 2019, and the winners will be announced at the special awards ceremony on 8 March at Current Archaeology Live! 2019. Entry to the awards reception is included as part of the ticket for CA Live! – for more details, see the conference web page.

News comes from the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) that they are working closely with other (unspecified) organisations to find out if archaeological sites and monuments in our towns, cities and countryside are being carefully managed within the planning process. They are looking for good and bad examples of cases where archaeology has been (or should have been) considered as part of a development. They are particularly keen to hear about developers that have ‘gone the extra mile’ in helping local communities understand their heritage through excavation or conservation and those developers who seem disinterested.

Dealing sensitively with archaeology through the planning process is a standard requirement of developers and the local planning authority. The National Planning Policy Framework (recently revised) sets out clear requirements for Local Planning Authorities to follow. As a rule, damage or destruction of archaeological sites should be avoided. Where this is not possible, there is usually a requirement to ensure that archaeology is recorded, and the results made publicly available.

The CBA is working with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) on a project that will collect information on how the current planning system is – or isn’t working – for archaeology, and they’d like to hear from you.

  • Have you ever felt frustrated or angry that your local heritage has been treated poorly?
  • Have you ever benefited from increased knowledge of your heritage because of development?
  • Have you ever felt that no one is listening, and your community’s views have been ignored?
  • Have you ever felt the opposite?

If you have any examples with a story to tell, then please get in touch with them with outline details and they’ll get back to you.

You can find more information on the CIfA website together with a link to a survey that you can use to submit detailed information if you have been or are closely involved with the planning system.

Alternatively, contact the CBA directly with your story by 21 September 2018.

 

A founder member of Heritage Action, Graham writes:

As you’re reading this, I think it’s safe to assume that you have a healthy interest in prehistoric monuments, so it’s unlikely that you’ve NOT heard of the magnificent cinematic masterpiece that is “Standing With Stones”.

This wonderful film was created in its entirety by Rupert Soskin and Michael Bott, who funded, wrote, presented and produced the whole thing by themselves. It truly is a labour of love, and well worth a watch if you haven’t already, and a re-watch if you have.

The film was followed up a few months later with a book entitled “Standing with Stones: A Photographic Journey Through Megalithic Britain and Ireland”, which – again – is a must-have item for any fellow stonehuggers out there.

Since the release of the film, many of us have hoped for a follow-up, and various discussions have taken place over the years. Michael and Rupert have sporadically hosted Facebook chats on the subject, and now 10 years after the release of the original film the two of them have got together to create a regular Standing With Stones podcast! Followers are encouraged to show their gratitude with regular donations via the Patreon platform, which will help to fund the shows but also eventually hopefully fund a second film!

A Standing With Stones Community on Facebook has been created and contains regular updates and “open house” live chats along with the podcasts and snippets of previously unseen and brand new film footage. Contributors receive priority access to certain content as an incentive to donate.

I can highly recommend getting involved with this group. Michael and Rupert are absolutely delightful and extremely knowledgeable on the subject. The discussions are very easy going, free-flowing and welcome interaction from viewers whose interjections are usually responded to during the chat.

I cannot speak highly enough of these two wonderful gentlemen and their dedication to the subject. The megalithic world benefits greatly from their efforts.

Several years ago (May 2012 to be precise), we posited a mobile app that would allow visitors to heritage sites to report any damage or details of other heritage crimes direct to the appropriate authorities. Heritage crime is any offence which targets the historic environment.

We spent some time thinking about the design of such an app, and how it could work in practice; what functionality would be necessary or desirable, how the lines of reporting would work, and so on. We received a couple of feedback comments to say that a couple of groups were also researching such a thing, but sadly we did not have the resources (or the skills and experience) to take the idea any further ourselves. And we never heard back from those commenters about any progress on their work.

However, an app has recently come to our attention that would appear to meet many of our suggested requirements. Historic England in partnership with Country Eye has made reporting heritage crime quick and easy with a free app. The app looks to be potentially useful according to the introductory video:

After downloading, the app requires the user to register, with the usual details; name, email address, postcode and mobile phone number. Sadly, we were unable to progress beyond this point as every attempt to register was met with a 404 error. This may be due to the app’s one serious shortcoming: it is (currently?) only valid for users in the county of Kent. As we tried to register with a non-Kent postcode, this may have led to the error.

Despite our failure to be able to give the app a tryout for review, it’s encouraging to finally see an attempt by the market to provide something which we first envisaged six years ago. We can only hope that the wider Kentish population becomes aware of the app and that its use is successful in reducing heritage crime in the area.

But dare we hope that this app, or something very similar, will become available on a nationwide basis in the not too distant future?

After years of biased advocacy, the short tunnel supporters (the Government, its 3 “yes-bodies” and a thin veneer of allegiant archaeologists) just had a clear reply from UNESCO: the short tunnel should be scrapped! So the question now arises, what will they do? Accept it? Or ignore it and carry on regardless?

Highway’s England’s hurried initial reaction suggests the latter: “We remain confident our scheme will enhance and protect the Stonehenge landscape.” That meaningless statement often works for developers seeking to build a few houses in small villages. But this is no village, it’s the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and this is no parish council UNESCO are talking to – it’s the world.

So far as we can see the Government can react in one of two ways. It can say, fair enough, we’ve miraculously found the finance to avoid harming the landscape. OR, and this is our guess, it can get some friendly archaeologists to start discrediting UNESCO in the public mind. Keep watching. We’ll know soon!

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