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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.

The Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society are delighted to announce the completion of the first phase of their digitisation project.

After 174 years, the complete journals of one of the oldest archaeological societies in the UK are going online, for anyone to access free of charge.

Supported by a grant from the Marc Fitch Fund, the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, a registered charity founded in 1846, has worked with a professional document scanning company to digitise the entire contents of 44 volumes of its journal, Norfolk Archaeology – and make 1361 articles and images open access for scholars, researchers and the interested public. Numbers from 1848-2005 are live now, as well as three Society monographs, and numbers from 2006 onwards, as well as the historic minute books of the Society, will follow shortly.

Hosted by the Archaeology Data Service at the University of York, and searchable through the Society’s website, the articles, letters, reviews and notes cover all periods of the history and archaeology of Norfolk and include articles by world-leading experts, and important discoveries like Seahenge (Norfolk Archaeology 1999 43.2). Many are wonderfully illustrated, including magnificent hand-engraved Victorian plates and detailed drawings and photographs, including records of monuments which have since been lost or destroyed.

Dr Andrew Hutcheson, President of the Society, said, ‘I am really excited that Norfolk Archaeology is now online. The first issue dates from 1848 and ever since the journal has covered the rich archaeological heritage of the county. What an incredible boon to research to have it all at our fingertips!’

Explore Norfolk Archaeology online at www.nnas.info/NABackIssues.html

Press release from the National Trust

Avebury closed for Summer Solstice

The National Trust have today (Monday 18 May) confirmed that neither Avebury nor its land across the Stonehenge Landscape, will be open for this year’s summer solstice and are asking visitors not to travel to the area.

Avebury: South-west quadrant

The celebrations which take place every midsummer, on or around the 21st June, regularly attract in the region of 10,000 people to Stonehenge and surrounding areas including Avebury.

A spokesperson said: ‘Our priority is always to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff, volunteers, attendees and residents. This decision was made due to the on-going ban on mass gatherings, and the need to maintain social distancing – still the mainstay of measures to combat Coronavirus.’

English Heritage who manage Stonehenge have also announced that they will not be able to host the solstice at the World Heritage site, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all attendees, volunteers and staff.

The National Trust has consulted widely with its partners (English Heritage, Wiltshire Council, the Police, Ambulance services and Avebury village community).

The spokesperson said: ‘The National Trust recognise the spiritual importance and relevance of the summer Solstice and understands that this will come as a great disappointment to many but also not a huge surprise given the on-going pandemic crisis and a ban on mass gatherings. We hope that this announcement will be received with the understanding of everyone who likes to celebrate this important time of year and traditional acts of worship.’

Many other live events have either been cancelled or postponed this year due to the ongoing battle against the disease and to limit its spread.

The camping sites, the village pub, car parks and toilets will all be closed.

Each year the Trust works closely with partners through the Avebury Solstice Planning Group to manage visitors who come to Avebury for the Solstice aiming to ensure
the event allows peaceful access for celebrants and to minimise disruption to the village and neighbouring farms. We thank everyone for their understanding and hope to welcome summer solstice visitors back next year.

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.

 

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