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Following recent changes to the heritage legislation in Wales, plans now appear to be afoot to “evaluate whether the structures underpinning the sector are fit for purpose” (Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure).
Regular readers of the Heritage Journal will be aware of the various concerns raised over the years regarding the existing medieval feudal structure and hope that the Committee set up to look into the matter will take the opportunity to modernise the archaic structures that currently riddle the Welsh heritage sector. Providing genuine positive changes are made with protection and sensitive management of the heritage at its core, this would seem to be a long overdue step.
If on the other hand it’s just another excuse to wield the axe, or tinker with job titles then almost certainly the result will be another lost opportunity. Apparently the heritage sector in Wales contributes more to the economy than agriculture and it would therefore seem sensible to treat it with the respect it deserves and fully recognise its importance.
Last week saw a new commemorative stamp issue from the Royal Mail in the UK, this time celebrating our ancient past.
The eight special stamps feature iconic sites and exceptional artefacts. The lineup is as follows:
* 1st Class – Skara Brae and the Battersea shield.
* £1.05 – Maiden Castle and the Star Carr headdress.
* £1.33 – Avebury and the Drumbest horns.
* £1.52 – Grimes Graves and the Mold cape.
The stamps are all enhanced with illustrations that reveal how our ancient forebears lived and worked. I plumped for the First Day Cover (postmarked Avebury) and the Presentation Pack. A useful and informative sheet gives details about each of the subjects. More information and ordering details can be found on the Royal Mail website.
Have you got yours yet?
By Dr Sandy Gerrard
A recent press report in the Express & Echo should concern everyone with an interest in the archaeology of the South West English uplands. Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and Exmoor are particularly rich and important archaeological landscapes where the impact of the past can be easily appreciated.
On Dartmoor alone around 5,000 Bronze Age houses together with hundreds of hectares of field systems and enclosures survive in close proximity to thousands of cairns, hundreds of cists and the largest concentration of stone rows anywhere in Britain. Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor together provide a unique insight into the character of life and death in prehistoric times. Nowhere else in Britain is it possible to explore and appreciate the true impact of prehistoric people on the landscape. In recent years this incredible resource has been slowly disappearing beneath a sea of gorse, bracken and purple moor grass as farming practices have been adjusted in response to subsidy changes.
According to the Express & Echo article fresh plans are being drawn up to accelerate this process by returning parts of the moor “to the wild”. It is not clear which parts the bureaucrats have in mind, but we can be sure that given the extraordinary wide distribution of archaeology that important archaeology that we have all taken for granted could soon no longer be visible. Hopefully Historic England will fight this proposal and prevail – any other outcome would be disastrous. Any attempt to deliberately conceal our heritage from us all should be opposed with the utmost vigour. Inevitably once the archaeology was out of sight it would soon be out of mind.
Each December, English Heritage (or Historic England as we must now call it – what about Pre-Historic England?) issue their annual Heritage Counts report. Heritage Counts is an annual audit of England’s heritage, first produced in 2002. It is produced by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum.
There are nine regions across the country, but this year only three have decided to issue a regional report. Well done to London, the North East and the South West! This compares to the total of five regions that produced a report last year. One can’t help but wonder if this is due to the ongoing financial constraints placed upon the organisation, and the need to become self-financing. Will there be any regions reporting next year, I wonder?
We’re sometimes asked which of our articles have been most popular. It’s a good question. Some attract a readership of only a few hundred while some take off and are read by very many thousands. So we thought we’d revisit the ten most popular, starting today with number 10, Crop Circles and Aliens, which we published in October 2009.
Crop Circles and Aliens
I looked away for a second and when I looked back they were gone.
“Quick lads, he’s not looking, lay down in the crop!”
No, we don’t believe in them either but the following news article in the Telegraph brightens up a rainy day…
A police officer contacted British UFO experts after seeing three aliens examining a freshly made crop circle near Avebury, Wiltshire. The sergeant, who has not been named, was off-duty when he saw the figures standing in a field near Silbury Hill, and stopped his car to investigate. However, as he approached the ‘men’ – all over 6ft tall with blond hair – he heard “the sound of static electricity” and the trio ran away ”faster than any man he had ever seen”. The officer returned to his home in Marlborough, Wiltshire, and contacted paranormal experts and told them he had spotted a UFO…
Photograph taken with thanks from Wikipedia Commons
On 13 July, Geraint Davies MP introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the Commons to make provision for the safeguarding of standards of environmental protection derived from European Union legislation after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The UK Environmental Protection (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill 2016-17 expands upon those areas of environmental protection with respect to water, air, soil, flood protection, and climate change. It is expected to have its second reading debate on Friday 28 October 2016.
The heritage community will be especially keen to know whether it will include aspects of cultural heritage, as currently provided for in EU Directives on Environmental Impact Assessment.
“Unlike the ‘International Style’ of modernism, today’s International Architecture considers much broader issues: pedagogic requirements, topographical conditions, climatic-sensitive design, the size and needs of real communities, multiculturalism, genuine respect for the cultural concerns of city and world inhabitants, the respect for the world’s limited resources, and an advanced thinking toward a real Green Design and ecological sustainability.”
We wrote a piece a few months ago about the heavy-handed management and ‘brandalism’ occurring in the name of ‘visitor engagement’ at Tintagel in Cornwall. Now, following recent archaeological excavations at the site, the BBC web site is proclaiming ‘The royal residence of 6th Century rulers is believed to have been discovered at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur.’
So, a known cliff castle site has uncovered evidence that it was used as a castle. Oh, and a medieval storyteller used the location as the setting for a story about the birth of a mythical figure. Knock me sideways! Is there nothing English Heritage/Historic England (which name do we use these days?) won’t do to increase the cash flow at what is undoubtedly already one of Cornwall’s major cultural attractions? At what cost to the integrity of the site?
Thankfully, we’re not the only people thinking along those lines. Dr Tehmina Goskar, a consultant curator and heritage interpreter with over 16 years experience (we featured her partner Thomas in an Inside the Mind article a few years ago) visited the Tintagel area earlier this year. Her critique of the experience makes for some interesting reading and raises some very pertinent points.
The key issues … are apposite not just to the situation at Tintagel but more widely concern methods of interpretation of Cornish history, medieval history, and the ways in which sites with multiple protective designations are treated by heritage agencies.
It’s a long piece, but for those of the TL;DR generation, there is a useful 10-point summary of the main points included at the start. We heartily recommend that anyone with any interest in site interpretation, Cornwall or tourism in general read the piece, and take home some of the lessons learned.
Once again, the first day of the Current Archaeology Live conference this year was concluded with a short Awards ceremony. These awards are especially important as they are voted for by the readership of the magazine, and thus reflect their interests. The awards were sponsored by Historic England, Oxbow Books, Oxford University Press and Export and General Insurance Services Ltd.
The first award, ‘Photo of the Year’ , was sponsored by Andante Travel, and judged by Adam Stanford, of Aerial-Cam. It was won by Shuo Huang, for a stunning photograph of the Easter Island statues.
As in previous years, there were 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 were as follows, the winner of each is indicated in Bold Type:
Research Project of the Year
- Digging Sedgeford: A people’s Archaeology
- Burrough Hill: Signs of Life in a Midlands hillfort
- Vindolanda: Revelations from the Roman frontier
- Bannockburn: Scotland’s seminal battlefield rediscovered
- Recapturing Berkeley Castle: One trench, 1,500 years of English history
- Rewriting the origin of the broch builders: Exploring fortifications and farming at Old Scatness
Rescue Dig of the Year
- The Drumclay crannog-dwellers: revealing 1,000 years of lakeside living
- Death on Ridgeway Hill: how science unlocked the secrets of a mass grave
- Excavating Barrow Clump: soldier archaeologists and warrior graves
- Coast to coast: recording England’s vanishing heritage
- The London’s burning: a 17th century warship sunk in the Thames
- The Fenwick Treasure: Colchester during the Boudiccan War of Independence
Book of the Year
- Celtic Art in Europe: Making Connections
- Thinking Big
- The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland
- Caithness Archaeology: aspects of prehistory
- Hadrian’s Wall, a history of archaeological thought
- Objects and Identities: Roman Britain and the North-Western Provinces
Archaeologist of the Year
- Philip Crummy
- Vincent Gaffney
- Roberta Gilchrist
Information and articles on all the above nominees can be found on the Current Archaeology web site. Our hearty congratulations go out to all the winners!