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So says the Bodleian Library recently

But of course, they’re talking about knowledge that has already been recorded but which may now be in peril.

Today in our fields about 500 bundles of historical knowledge will be dug up, not reported and hence destroyed by an unashamedly acquisitive hobby that is entirely unregulated. It is knowledge that never had the chance to be in peril.

It would be nice if Oxford academics could express dismay about THAT!

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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.

AwardsBanner

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.

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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

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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

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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

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Archaeologist of the Year

  • Philip Crummy
  • Vincent Gaffney
  • Roberta Gilchrist

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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!

Winners

Our friends at DigVentures are at it again, and this time it’s a doozy! You can join their search for Lindisfarne’s original Anglo-Saxon monastery…

“Our latest crowdfunded dig has arrived with a BANG! We’re on the hunt for one of the most iconic sites in British history – Lindisfarne’s original Anglo-Saxon monastery.”

In AD635, King Oswald founded a monastery on Lindisfarne and it quickly became beating the heart of Northumbria – one of the great Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. This is where the Lindisfarne gospels were illuminated, where the treasures that decorated the altars of Europe were made, and where thousands of miracle-seeking pilgrims came to seek salvation at the shrine of Saint Cuthbert.

But it didn’t end well. Raided by the Vikings in AD793, and with their brothers left for dead, Lindisfarne’s monks picked up their holy relics and fled.

Although they eventually returned and built a new priory, archaeologists have so far failed to locate the original Anglo-Saxon monastery. But DigVentures claims to have new evidence. All they need now to complete the team is YOU!

You can support the dig from a distance from just £10, and choose any of several archaeological benefits as your reward, or go one step further (from £165) and jump into the trenches and dig with them on Lindisfarne island this July!

Don’t miss your chance to make history. Click here to be part of the team that maybe, just maybe, finally manages to locate the monastery at the heart of the great Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

From Hansard, 1st March:

“John Glen: I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. There seems to be some ambiguity concerning the process at this time, given that Highways England is examining alternative routes. Will the Minister clarify the purpose of that evaluation?

Andrew Jones: It is always appropriate to consider options broadly to ensure that the scheme is absolutely the right one, but there is no doubt whatsoever here; we are committed to delivering a 1.8-mile tunnel at Stonehenge.

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Translated as: no more pretence about alternative routes. The public are welcome to say what they like in a consultation process but we are going to build a 1.8 mile tunnel. There is no doubt whatsoever.

PS: Not if English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust said no. It’s pretty simple really.

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Great Tweet:

We are thinking about a short film to celebrate the last 30 years as a WHS. What would you include as highlights to celebrate?

Good idea! Let’s celebrate the fact that the 7 attributes constituting its Outstanding Universal Value have been recognised by all parties “to apply to the whole property” and this has kept the whole property safe from new damage!

Lord Avebury at Silbury

As we all know the late Eric Avebury was a true friend to Avebury and Silbury Hill. He regularly visited and some lovely photographs will be found online of Eric and his family enjoying visiting the monuments his grandfather helped save. This conservational trend was certainly extended by Eric, who in 2004 successfully appealed against the government designating Silbury Hill as ‘Open Access’ under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000. It was that same year of course, 29 May 2000, that Silbury Hill suffered a catastrophic collapse, and Eric took a detailed interest in plans and repairs that were finally completed in 2008.

Eric is pictured here in October 2003, visiting Avebury with (on his left), the Ven. Khemadhammo Mahathera OBE, Abbot of The Forest Hermitage and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Angulimala, and two other monks.

Eric is pictured here in October 2003, visiting Avebury with (on his left), the Ven. Khemadhammo Mahathera OBE, Abbot of The Forest Hermitage and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Angulimala, and two other monks.

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RIP Eric. Our sincere sympathy to the family.

The death was announced this morning (14.2.2016) of Eric Reginald Lubbock, Lord Avebury, peacefully, at his home in Camberwell, south London, at the age of 87.  He was attended by his wife, Lindsay, and other family members.

See the text published as an aide-memoire for tribute writers who would like to remember Eric as a man of many parts.

Link

Now here’s a great idea! You’ve all heard of book clubs, where members all agree to read a particular book by a given date, and then meet to discuss the merits of said book? Well extend that idea to archaeological papers, throw in some technology to negate the need to physically meet but still allow real-time discussion and what you end up with is the Archaeology Reading Group, a new group set up to accomplish exactly that.

reading group

It’s early days at the moment – the first meeting is set for June 16th – and due to the technological constraints of Skype, each meeting is limited a maximum of 25 attendees, but there’s no reason that the group shouldn’t be a success despite that.

There are many different interests within the group, from Neolithic to Bronze Age, Viking to Medieval. Each month they intend to look at a different topic and/or period, so you can be sure there will be something of interest for just about everyone.

It’s a small group at the moment and consists mainly of archaeology students and enthusiasts. But regardless of background, everyone is more than welcome to join and share some thoughts. The only commitment is to read the selected paper before the meeting so that you can participate fully.

The first two monthly meetings are already scheduled. Even if you can’t make the meeting, the papers look to be of sufficient interest for anyone with an interest in the past, but it’s a shame that the paper selected for the first discussion is not freely available, requiring a £25 fee for those not blessed with academic (Shibboleth/OpenAthens) library accounts. But that aside, we wish the group every success for the future.

A recent gorse fire on Carn Brea, near Redruth in Cornwall, could provide an opportunity for further investigation of this interesting site. The fire – cause currently unknown, but arson is suspected – covered an area of around 3 hectares on the night of 26th May. The gorse (which burns easily and gives off a lot of heat – it was a source of fuel in past times) had grown quite high and dense in the affected area, and strong winds hindered firefighters attempts at controlling the blaze. I was actually in the area only last week, and Carn Brea is a well know landmark, providing good views on a clear day to an extensive section of the north coast of Cornwall, from Godrevy to St Agnes.

Carn Brea in flame - credit to Darrin Roberts

Carn Brea in flame – credit to Darrin Roberts

Carn Brea was first investigated in the early 1970’s by a team led by Roger Mercer, and their findings led to a new site classification: the Early Neolithic Tor Enclosure. Dating from nearly 6000 years ago, stone walls were built up between outcrops of the granite bedrock to form defensive enclosures around the top of the hill. Signs of early habitation were found, in the form of ‘lean-to’ buildings against the insides of the enclosing walls. In addition, up to 700 leaf-shaped arrowheads were among some outstanding finds – evidence of a past attack on the settlement. Nearby outcrops of rock suitable for manufacture as axes and edge grinding stones, blanks and incomplete and finished axes found on the site suggest the settlement was used for the manufacture and trading of tools. These investigations showed that the east end of the hill was the focus of most activity, whilst the fire was on the northwest flank, which was most heavily covered in vegetation. The hill displays evidence of human use almost continually since the Neolithic, with mining, quarrying and the building of a monument and a castle in more recent times.

Whilst gorse fires are dangerous, and damaging, the eco-structure tends to recover quite well from such events and the clearance factor can open up the landscape to inspection where before only vegetation was visible. It is to be hoped that the opportunity will be taken (once fire investigations have completed) to further survey the area in the weeks to come.

For more information about Early Neolithic Tor Enclosures, see Simon Davies’ excellent paper (PDF link)

Update (1st June): The blaze, which covered an area equivalent to 10 football pitches, destroyed gorse, heather and bilberry and it is estimated that the area will take ‘years’ to recover, according to the environment manager at Cornwall Council. Nesting birds, small mammals and reptiles  were among the casualties of the fire, which was apparently started by a disposable barbecue.

It’s amazing what you can find when you look. Back in 2007, Dartmoor expert Alan Endecott discovered an arc of recumbent stones high up on the moor, some 1700 or so feet (525m) above sea level.

Initial investigations of the area are now completed, and what Alan discovered has been identified as a previously unknown stone circle, some 112 feet (34m) in diameter, and consisting of 30 or 31 stones with extensive views in all directions. This is the highest stone circle recorded on Dartmoor thus far.

sittaford circle

The stones were previously all thought to be upright, due to the surviving presence of packing stones and the large stones themselves, all of a similar size, may have been quarried from nearby Sittaford Tor. The location of this new circle places it within an arc of known circles in the NE moor, which includes Buttern Hill, Scorhill, Shovel Down, Fernworthy and the Grey Wethers double circles, described by some as a ‘sacred arc’ which suggests some measure of wider landscape planning by the circle builders. Preliminary radio-carbon dating of samples taken from underneath the stones suggests that they had fallen close to the end of the 3rd millenium BC, some 4000 years ago.

Geophysical work at the site has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Funded scheme, Moor Than Meets The Eye. Although full results are not yet available, initial results have identified a possible linear ditch just outside the eastern side of the circle.

The find was announced in the announced in the January 2014 edition of the Devon Archaelogical Society Newsletter, No.117. Further investigation is planned later this summer, we’ll be watching this one with interest!

Useful Links:

We picked this up from The Pipeline blog. Here’s what Mr Whittingdale said in the Treasure’s Act debate in 1996. Can we dare hope Britain is moving towards a position closer to the rest of the world by regulating artefact hunting and unbonkering itself?


“…there is a need for a much more wide-ranging measure to cover all portable antiquities.”

“Although I welcome the Bill and the provisions that will clarify and extend existing protection considerably, I believe that there is a need to go still further. The Bill refers only to treasure, and treasure is very strictly defined. It must have at least some gold or silver content, and the Bill will clearly be a major improvement in respect of the protection of such items, but there is a need for a much more wide-ranging measure to cover all portable antiquities.

Some protection already exists in legislation covering ancient sites and monuments, but not all ancient sites and monuments have yet been discovered. By the time we have agreed that something is an ancient site that should be afforded protection, we may be too late and many of the artefacts there may have been lost. I hope that, in due course, we shall re-examine the law in this respect.”

In due course, I hope that we can go further still and re-examine ways in which we can best protect that heritage and learn more about it for our children and grandchildren.”


So has “in due course” been arrived at, nineteen years later? Who knows? One thing CAN be predicted though. Ed Vaizey (who is to stay on as Culture Minister, reporting to Mr Whittingdale as Culture Secretary) is unlikely to be having any more days out like this:

At the launch of the annual Portable Antiquities and Treasure report in May 2011 Ed refused to answer questions (on the future   of the library service, which was looking bleak) and turned to a government press officer and said: “I’m not sure what to do. Can I speak? You are here to protect me from things like this.”  On the other hand he was far less reticent about speaking to artefact hunters: “After the launch, he again refused to discuss his party’s policy on libraries and instead chatted with a treasure hunting “mud larker”, securing a promise of a guided trip to the tidal banks of the Thames with his five-year-old child.” No surprise there though as at the equivalent launch the previous year he boasted that he was proud of “being cover boy for a metal detecting magazine”....
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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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