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by Alan Simkins

“Can Detectorists be Archaeologists?” You’d think the answer would be a simple “Yes, assuming they adopt the habits and ethics of professional archaeologists“. After all, every year thousands of people do exactly that, getting involved in the many community digs organised around the country by archaeologists and local societies.

However, given that in the past some of my colleagues have been intimidated and threatened by some in the metal detecting community (to the point that police have been involved on more than one occasion), it was with some trepidation that I attended this year’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) conference on the above theme earlier this week at the Museum of London (MoL). As it happened, I needn’t have worried as the conference was very much preaching to the converted as far as the audience was concerned. And despite our stance here on the Heritage Journal, I tried to approach the event with an open mind, being neither a detectorist nor qualified archaeologist.

As the start time approached, I estimated that the Weston Theatre was about half full, so around 100 or people present with a good mix of ages but fewer people than I would have expected. Roy Stephenson from the MoL opened the day with the statement “Detectorists are de facto, archaeologists”, which set the tone for most of the day.

Michael Lewis from the PAS then outlined the work being done to kick off similar recording schemes in Flanders, the Netherlands and Denmark in order to combine datasets, and an interesting slide showed examples of similar finds from the four areas.

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The other morning sessions were, as expected, full of praise for the work that recording detectorists do, with specific examples from a couple of detectorists as to the lengths they go to in order to meticulously record findspots and analyse the resulting data:

Felicity Winkley told us about her survey of Detectorists, and how she accompanied a dozen or so into the field for extended interviews, looking at their motivations and relationships to their local landscapes. Local knowledge was a major factor in deciding where to detect, and much was made of a comparison between detectorist’s research methods with Archaeological `desk-based’ research techniques, including gridding a potential site to ensure full coverage. Interestingly but unsurprisingly, of those interviewed only a third admitted to actually recording their finds with the PAS.

Dr Phil Harding (no, not that one!) then related his 25 years of detecting in Leicestershire, resulting in over 2000 finds. Due to the volume of his backlog, which the FLO could not cope with, he decided to become a self-recorder, and attended a photography course to improve his records. He then explained how finds scatter analysis could indicate the growth of a settlement, but despite his research and analysis many questions remain unanswered.

Dave Haldenby highlighted his collaborative work with archaeologists which has led to several published articles, once again based upon accurate findspot recording at Cottam B in Yorkshire, a site which traversed the Middle Saxon and Viking periods.

And finally before lunch, Lindsey Bedford described her path from detectorist to archaeologist which led to a degree from Bristol University and told us about her work with the Berkshire Archaeology Research Group (BARG).

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The afternoon session opened with Faye Minter from Suffolk saying how working with detectorists using a (systematic) survey technique at Rendlesham produced results. An effort of some 174 man days detecting over a few years over 4 years, resulted in each detectorist finding an average of 3 recordable items per day.

From over 100,000 finds in total on the site, only around 4000 were pre-1650 metallic artefacts. In total, 27% of the finds at Rendlesham were Anglo-Saxon, compared with just 5% across Suffolk as a whole (I can’t help wondering if this is due to under-reporting elsewhere). We were then told about a site at Exning, where use of detectors could potentially have helped identify Anglo-Saxon graves which were otherwise only found accidentally during trenching, having not been spotted on the geophysics results.

As a result of these findings, Suffolk have now amended their requirements in archaeological briefs, specifying that only experienced/known/published detectorists should be used when surveying sites for development.

This point was raised again by Carl Chapness, who admitted that commercial units often only have access to the cheapest detectors, and very little training or experience in their use, mainly due to being commercially driven. Which lead to him raising a counter-question for the conference: “should archaeologists be detectorists?” There was some discussion of night-hawking and the lengths which commercial units sometimes have to go to in order to protect a site under investigation, and Carl suggested that cross-fertilisation of skills and knowledge between detectorists and archaeologists can only be a good thing.

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Samantha Rowe then explained her work looking at the archaeology of the plough zone – examining lead bullets from civil war sites and comparing the erosion against the land use, concluding that over cultivation can exacerbate erosion of metallic objects (a real NSS moment there!)

John Maloney from the NCMD then spoke on the ‘Future of Archaeology and Metal Detecting’

I have to say he came over as an unpleasantly smug Trump-like bully – someone who is used to getting his own way and seeing no possible reason for that status quo to change. He started his talk by disparaging the efforts of the likes of David Gill and Paul Barford to debate some of the issues behind artefact collecting, and implied that figures used by critics of the hobby (such as those used by the Artefact Erosion Counter) have no substance in fact (as we know, the counter is based upon figures supplied by the NCMD, CBA et al). I suspect he came away from the conference very pleased with the cap-doffing shown to the metal detecting fraternity during the talks throughout the day. Very much a ‘you couldn’t do it without us’ attitude which was not pleasant to see. When questioned, he declined to tell the conference how many members the NCMD has, but someone in the audience proffered a figure of 11000 members. John said there had been no analysis done regarding ‘active’ members, but that it was thought there was a degree of ‘churn’ in the figures as people tended to buy detectors, join the NCMD, then get disenchanted when they don’t find anything, and fail to renew.

Thankfully, Mike Heyworth from the CBA, speaking on the same subject brought some common sense to the debate, saying that in the end a metal detector is just a tool that used in the right hands can be a boon to archaeology (as some of the talks highlighted). However, if the person using it has the wrong motives, or lacks the necessary archaeological skills and knowledge then no good can come of its use. “People using a detector as a tool to study the past in a responsible manner are archaeologists”

He is very interested in pushing for a redefinition of ‘treasure’, and a potential system of abatement of rewards to pay for conservation and preservation of finds, with additional penalties if the finds have not been uncovered in a responsible manner (I’m guessing Lenborough would have qualified for such an abatement). Sadly such a change would be dependent upon an overdue review of the Treasure Act, which the DCMS are dragging their heels over. However, the much vaunted ‘Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting’ is undergoing review for a second edition. This will very much be a case of ‘evolution rather than revolution’.

So what did I make of the day overall? As I said at the start, it was very much preaching to the converted – everyone there had a vested interest in building bridges between the two camps. Sadly, those who could learn most from the day were the very people who would not attend – the ‘Barry Thugwits’ and first-time detectorists of this world.

I would have liked to have seen some of the talks recorded, and made available to metal detectorist clubs so that the message of how the two sides can and should work together can be more widely spread.

Next year’s conference will be held in York, and will cover the subject of ‘Treasure’ (in all its forms, apparently).


Overall impressions:
I left the conference with the same thought that I had before I arrived (and indeed the conference strengthened my feelings): Of course detectorists can be archaeologists, providing they do it for public benefit and in accordance with archaeological methods and morals and they don’t pocket the stuff for themselves. Set against the selfless benefits which thousands of amateur archaeologists quietly deliver in exactly that way, cheerleading for artefact hunting looks bizarre, to put it mildly. PAS could have saved their money and breath, cancelled the conference and announced a replacement one titled: “Hurrah for amateur archaeologists!”

Middle Ridgeway by Eric Jones and Patrick Dillon accompanied by twenty superb paintings by Anna Dillon, published by Wessex Books, September 8, 2016: £16.95

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A sense of heightened anticipation can accompany the opening of any book for the first time, but all the more so when Anna Dillon’s magnificent cover illustration projects the reader into the very past and present rhythms of the Middle Ridgeway.  This book has then a great deal of promise to live up to. Suitably primed the reader will discover the content within is not unlike a magnificent pie: the subject is fondly handled, revered and obscure characters encountered, and a much loved natural world imported to one’s fireside. As they journey over an ‘ecological island’ from Avebury to White Horse Hill and onward to the Goring Gap, the authors carefully guide their readers back and forth across the vast expanse of time and cultural experiences, the unsurpassed illustrations of this chalk landscape by Anna Dillon regularly injecting a joyous spirit and a want to be there. Buy this book and you will never part with it no matter how many times you move or have a clear out, you will cherish it far too much to let it go.

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 An exhibition of Anna Dillon’s paintings accompany the launch of this book, they are on view at the White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough, until 30 September.

You can order the book direct here.

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?

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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.

Dr Sandy Gerrard’s ongoing series of posts concerning stone row alignments, and their associated landscape tricks and treats have been generally well received here on the Heritage Journal.

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Such has been the reaction that a decision was made to give his articles and associated research a more permanent, focused home. To this end we are delighted to announce the creation of a sister site for the Journal, and new web resource: ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ which goes live today.

The site includes a gazetteer of known and accepted prehistoric stone rows, along with a list of those rows whose antiquity or veracity is in doubt. Many of the gazetteer entries show not just basic information such as location, characteristics and so on, but many are accompanied by links to other web resources, photographs, and each region can be investigated via an interactive map.

The ‘Research’ area of the site will be of interest to many people, and many of Dr Gerrard’s articles which have appeared on the Heritage Journal to date, and more, are included here.

There will still be a great deal of information to be added as further research sheds light on possible uses of the enigmatic monuments, so please pay ‘The Stone Rows of Great Britain‘ a visit, and leave us your comments.

We conclude our look at Current Archaeology magazine’s recent annual ‘CALive!’ conference at Senate House in London, with a review of the final sessions on Saturday.

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After lunch, there were just two sessions left of this year’s conference, and it had gone all too quickly. The next session was entitled ‘Experiments in Archaeology’ and was presented by Karly Hilts, Deputy Editor of Current Archaeology magazine.

Ryan Watts from Butser Ancient Farm was first up, talking about ‘Past, Present, Future: 40 Years of Experimental Archaeology’, and gave us a quick run down of Butser’s 42 year history. Initially set up by Peter Reynolds to aid research in archaeological interpretation of earthworks and other constructions, the first Open Day was held in 1974, and was so successful that the entire site had to move to a new, larger location. As funding for experimental projects can be scarce, Butser worked to become self sustaining, largely through an education program which now sees around 30,000 schoolchildren pass through its gates each year. Visiting groups from schools, universities, U3A, WI etc all help to fund the research, which is as much about destruction as it is construction. The way in which buildings deteriorate and collapse over time can be extremely informative. The original prehistoric scope of the project has now extended to include construction of a Roman villa, and a new Saxon Hall was completed just the day before the conference. This joins the existing Neolithic houses, based upon excavated building footprints from Durrington and elsewhere. Education and Research remain the main principles behind the site, and public visitors are welcome during the summer months.

Pieta Greaves and Eleanor Blakelock then gave an update on their latest findings in ‘Secrets of the Anglo-Saxon Goldsmith: Conservation and Scientific Research of the Staffordshire Hoard’. Pieta showed us some stunning pictures of some of the more than 4000 pieces representing a few hundred objects. The use of many of the fragments remains a mystery. “Reconstructing a helmet from its foils is like reconstructing a house when you only have its wallpaper”. Eleanor then gave an in-depth insight into the scientific analysis of the gold in the objects. Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths added copper and silver to their gold to create alloys – to change its working properties and colour, and these alloys corrode at different rates. Copper in particular will be lost in the ground, but surface analysis showed that much silver was lost too – up to 40% in some cases, where 1% is more usual in a burial environment. Looking below this surface loss, the core composition of some pieces showed a similar depletion, so obviously not something that happened in the ground. Investigation into the ways that silver can be removed from gold alloys in this way led to just 4 possible techiniques for enrichment and depletion. It seems that the A-S goldsmiths were more highly skilled that previously thought, using the different alloy combinations not for the cost factor, but to produce contrast in an artistic manner.

Zena Kamash was next on the agenda, with a talk entitled ‘Digesting the Romans’. no, this wasn’t about Roman menus, but about 3D printing and a project to help people experience museum exhibitions in different ways – through poetry and through 3D models!  The 3D process involves first laser-scanning an object to build up a digital model which can then be ‘printed’ using a variety of materials. This prompted a question of whether 3D models belong in museum display cases at all – there are several famous replica objects in museums already, but the team recently 3D printed the Roman cockerel found in a child grave at Cirencester – the ‘Corinium Cockerel‘  with mixed results – the final model is quite ‘sticky’ and malleable in places, and brittle in others. 3D printing is not yet a perfect process – dirt on a laser scan resulted in several imperfect models being produced., and several of these aborted attempts were available during the following teabreak for people to handle for themselves. To go along with the images of the cockerel and the models, a poem composed by poet Dan Simpson was played to the audience, and the talk finished with another of Dan’s poems, ‘The Museum of Replicas‘, which caused some amusement, and took us into the final tea break and a last chance to spend money on books in the Archaeology Fair.

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Following the teabreak, Julian Richards, Neil Faulkner and Ray Baldry briefly took to the stage to announce that the impromptu collection for the Sedgeford project, to allow for isotope analysis of some of the remains to determine if they were local, settlers or invaders had raised (including Gift Aid) a sum approaching £1000, which was duly presented to Ray Baldy who expressed his extreme gratitude to everyone who had contributed. A very successful crowdfunding effort, and we look forward to reading about the results of the analysis in a future issue of Current Archaeology magazine!

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The last session of the day finally arrived, and David Breeze told us about ‘Hadrian’s Wall – 40 years of research on the Roman frontier’. David began with a quick rundown of early research of Hadrian’s Wall, through the 1800s and early 1900’s. The first chronology for the wall was proposed in 1909, and refined twenty years later.  These early chronologies suggested that the wall was rebuilt in it’s entirety several times during its active life. Showing several illustrations of the wall, David questioned why it was so ‘tidy’, and why was there a walkway on top when other frontiers walls didn’t have this feature? Looking at modern frontiers and barriers, the Berlin Wall, the West Bank etc., these are all much simpler in construction and designed to control people, not soldiers. Documented evidence suggests people could only move within the  Roman frontier zones with permits. Identification of obstacle pits between the wall and ditch (also seen at the Antonine Wall) brings into question whether a wall walk was needed at all, and looking at the wall’s place in the landscape, it’s not always best placed for visibility or defence. Looking at the forts along the wall, many are earlier than the wall itself which was then built in front of the older forts, with new forts incorporated into it. Discovery of large civil settlements on either side of the wall also suggest that the wall was not a definitive barrier, leaving – as always – many questions still to investigate and answer.

Ending the conference, Andrew Selkirk, Editor in Chief regaled us with a brief summary of the previous two days in his own inimitable style. Then it was all over, for another year. However, for the Romanists there will be another 3-day conference in September at Durham University, following up on David’s talk and focusing upon ‘Hadrian’s Wall: 40 Years of Frontier Research’.

But I’ll hope to be back again at Senate House next year, for another enthralling conference, CALive! 2017

Previous installments:

We continue our look at Current Archaeology magazine’s recent annual ‘CALive!’ conference at Senate House in London, with a review of the Saturday sessions.

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We reconvened at Senate House once again on Saturday morning for the first session of the day, ‘The Osteology of Trauma’, introduced by Neil Faulkner, editor of Military History Monthly magazine.

First up was Ray Baldry with ‘Sedgeford’s Anglo-Saxon skeletons – That Fateful Day’.  Only around 30% of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Sedgeford has been excavated so far, with over 400 skeletons found. Eight of these – all tall, strong men – show signs of ‘severe hit trauma’ and wounds associated with armed combat – sharp weapon trauma to arms bones and skull. One poor victim had lost the left half of his face, which had been cleaved off – horrific, brutal injuries. Looking at a second group of three men, it was interesting to hear how trauma fractures can be traced to specific defensive actions (identified by some experimental archaeology: “when I tried this on my son…”) For instance, forearm trauma associated with a partial skull cut shows a successful defence of an axe attack, but only partially – a second axe cut pierced the skull. But some of the skeletons showed no sign of defence – executions? If so, which came first, the conflict or the executions? Trying to analyse trading routes and possible Viking raiding parties as an explanation requires more precise dating evidence, but as a charity the SHARP project is financially constrained (however, see below).

Louise Loe then told us about the Ridgeway Hill Vikings in ‘Death on the Ridgeway: Analysis of a Viking Age Mass Grave discovered near Weymouth’.  The grave was uncovered in 2009 during construction work for a relief road built for the 2012 Olympics. The burials were all male, mostly young, dating to the 10th-11th centuries. All had been decapitated and thrown into a disused Roman quarry, the heads being tossed to one side. Splinters of bone found in the soil suggest graveside executions. Isotope analysis shows they were from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland and the Baltic states, and hadn’t been in England long when they died. Study of the bones showed an average of four wounds per execution victim, most beheadings having been ‘hacked off’, rather than taken cleanly. There was some thought given to the idea that the cleaner executions in  the group were either done earlier when the blade was sharp, or later when the executioner had had more practice and had ‘got into his swing’. Many of the men had put up a defence, with sword trauma on hands and arms, and many of the victims had disabilities or some form of  physical impairment. Despite their Scandinavian origins, it is unlikely the victims were Viking warriors. So more questions to be answered with further analysis.

Dr Martin Smith then described ‘The Children of Cain, Making sense of Neolithic violence’. He explained that the Neolithic is generally considered a peaceful time, with few obvious weapons. However, a pattern is appearing in prehistoric skulls of ‘healed trauma’, skull depression injuries often explained as prehistoric people ‘banging their heads on caves’! But we also were shown some unhealed trauma injuries, and Martin compared living bone fractures to chocolate, and dead bone fracture to biscuits – an interesting image. Moving on to projectile injuries there was an interesting comparison between shotgun wound trauma and arrow or slingshot injuries. Flint arrowheads shot into cattle and pig scapulas showed nice clean holes.  Turning to look at various sites across Europe, several show signs of mass attack where occupants were violently killed, often from behind (running away?) Many Neolithic mass graves across Europe include men, women, and children, but no young adult females; perhaps kidnapped as they were of childbearing age? Statistics suggest 1 in 8 Neolithic people suffered violent trauma to the head. Some possible reasons for such violence were discussed: Neolithic people were herders and farmers, so could support bigger families. This could have led to greater rivalry for resources/wives. Inequality often leads to violence – the haves and have-nots.

Just before we broke for a refreshment break, during which the Archaeology Fair was once again packed out, Julian Richards grabbed the microphone and suggested that as there was so much interest in Ray Baldry’s talk, and there was no money for dating analysis, that a voluntary collection should be made from the conference delegates. To this end, a makeshift collection box was set up, and donations poured in…

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Back to the talks, and the late morning session leading up to lunch described ‘Warfare in Roman Britain’, and was introduced by Matt Symonds, editor of Current Archaeology.

Mike Bishop, editor of the Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies  ushered into the hall a couple of members of the Ermine Street Guard for his talk, ‘The Detritus of War or Peace?’ – a wonderful piece of one-upmanship in the visual aids area!

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Mike explained that Roman military equipment is rare, and only found in specific circumstances. This affects what we can say about the Roman army in battle. Classicists and military historians have to largely rely on written sources for evidence on battle. Sculptures can also be useful for interpretation. Looking at physical evidence for Roman equipment, it seems that hobnails were commonly lost, and can sometimes provide evidence for ‘lost’ Roman roads. The various parts of the Roman armour/dress were explained – the army adopted and adapted equipment and techniques. Lorica segmentata armour sheds parts “like a Mk 3 Land Rover, and has the same corrosive issues”, leather straps linking the metal strips of the armour seem not to have been tanned and are not found except via traces of mineralisation. Roman law stated that soldiers mustn’t lose their sword, shield, or helmet (upon pain of death), and intact helmets are rarely found, except as votive offerings in rivers though helmet components are sometimes found due to re-use and repair. There is little evidence for Roman battle in Britain – the famous Maiden Hill skeleton with a ‘ballista bolt’ was in fact shot with a javelin head (it has the wrong profile for a ballista bolt).

Phillip Crummy then told us about ‘Boudicca, Colchester and Buried Treasure’, talking about Boudicca’s legacy in the Roman town, which is clearly delineated by the burnt area. Archaeology confirms that Colchester’s defensive ditches had been filled in and its town wall post-dates the Boudiccan attack so the town would have been essentially defenceless against the Iceni. After comparison of different descriptions of Boudicca and the Gauls, focus changed to the Fenwick Hoard which included Gold earrings, bracelets and silver cuffs. Three large silver arm bands were armilla – military awards – but there was also gold female jewellery present, as well as a bulla – an amulet given to a baby boy and worn throughout childhood. Many of the male items included panther imagery, a possible link to the owner’s nickname perhaps? It is thought that the hoard was hurriedly buried as the Iceni were about to attack the town, in the hopes of later retrieval, but the finds are now just a sign of human catastrophe, as Phillip drew comparisons with modern Syria “will we ever learn?”

Finishing off the morning session, John Reid told us of ‘The Roman Siege of Burnswark Hill‘ in Dumfriesshire, about a day’s march north of Hadrian’s Wall. Two Roman camps have been discovered north and south of the hill. The hillfort is covered in projectiles, many lead slingshots, stone ballista bolts and arrowheads, and the topology of the camp entrances would allow fast movement of troops from the camps. The standard interpretation is of a siege, but could it have been an artillery range? Analysis of the projectile scatter provided some clues and experimental archaeology showed that whilst a ‘lobbing’ method allows projectiles to travel up to 300m, a lower, horizontal action allows much greater accuracy at the expense of range (circa 100m), and can be as powerful as a .45 Magnum! Three types of shot were recovered, a lemon shape, an acorn shape (much rarer) and a third type which was pierced. Experimenting again, there was little difference in accuracy for the first two, but the third was less accurate, and whistled. Could this have been to terrify the enemy? Metal detectors have been used to locate used slingshot a Burnswark – but not excavated as the stratigraphy there is very delicate, with deposits just 3″ deep in most places. Of over 2600 targets, based on trial trenching nearly 700 are almost certainly lead sling bullets. Their distribution suggests a line of attack from the south, and the use of ‘live’ ammo i.e. lead, suggests a true attack rather than a practice run. A fascinating piece of research, which continues.

With a reminder that Current Archaeology will be holding a conference focussing on Hadrian’s Wall, in Durham in September, Matt brought the session to a close for lunch.

Once again, lunchtime seems a reasonable time to take a break here, and we’ll finish off this conference review in Part 4, later today.

Previous installments:

We continue our review of Current Archaeology magazine’s annual ‘CALive!’ conference held recently in Senate House in London, picking up the action after lunch on the first day.

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The afternoon session on Friday was dedicated to Current Archaeology’s sister magazine, World Archaeology, and was introduced by Caitlin McCall, editor of the magazine. The session was titled ‘Around the Ancient World’, and looked at how the movement of people in three areas at different times affected three very different civilisations.

Prof. Sir Barry Cunliffe first told us of ‘The Birth of Eurasia’, pointing out that humans are acquisitive, items can instil power, and explaining how acquisition of items is motivation to travel. His talk took us from the spread of Neolithic settled culture from the Fertile Crescent, through to seeing horses being milked in Mongolia! The tectonics and ecology of Eurasia encourage E-W mobility, but early eastern civilisations were constrained by ecology, leading to the quote “Domestication of horses on the Steppe was more important than man walking on the moon!” This eventually led to a predatory nomad culture (viz. Ghenghis Khan) and the development of the Silk Road for trade.

Professor Ray Laurence then spoke about ‘Roman Roads: Movement, Migration and Mobility’, and how one of his students attempted to walk from Canterbury to Rome, finding that the Alps are a major obstacle! Any mobility in Roman times required the appropriate infrastructure; roads, bridges, milestones etc. We heard about the huge increase in the population of Rome between 200BC and 50BC, with Livy reporting huge numbers of migrants in 186BC. Roman roads were famed from the earliest times, and material culture and ideas can be traced expanding along their routes, with many roads showing signs (e.g. Milestone inscriptions) of having been ‘restored’ rather than ‘built’ – a strong indicator of their great age. The roads were as important to the Roman State as money, temples etc, in controlling who could go where, with many stopping places reserved for use by high ranking officials only.

Andrew Robinson then highlighted one of the great ‘lost’ civilisations, that of the Indus Valley. We learned that the civilisation flourished from 3000BC and started to decline around 1900BC. Alexander the Great was not aware of the civilisation, and it was not really known to archaeology until the 1920s, despite covering an area equivalent to 25% of Western Europe. The site at Mohenjo-Daro was shown, including pictures of the ‘Great Bath’ – a huge public water tank over 2 metres deep. The culture was very different from Egypt and Mesopotamia, there were no pyramids or statues, but many spectacular buildings survive. They were mainly a water-borne trading people, with connections to Mesopotamia. Climate change is one possibility for their decline, and flooding in the area is still a problem today. Salination is slowly destroying the brickwork on many sites.

During the coffee break we had time to take another look around the Archaeology Fair which included bookstalls and other archaeology related companies. Oxbow Books had arranged a display which included the nominations for the Current Archaeology Book of the Year award (of which more tomorrow).

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It was then time for the Keynote speech from Prof. Mike Fulford of Reading University, ‘Silchester after the Town Life project: chasing the Iron Age, chasing Nero’, which began by taking a look at the Iron Age town discovered below Insula IX at Silchester. The town is situated in a rural setting, but as we were told, it had far reaching trade connections as a home of the Atrebates, who originated in NW Gaul. We then saw some of the finds from the area, including some stunning imported glassware, and were told about the ongoing research in the area. Gravel pits associated with the town’s construction have been found to the west, and we heard about excavations last year at nearby Pond Farm. Nero was next, and his connection with the town is due to discovery of his name on some bricks. The only other known ‘Nero bricks’ are in Northern Italy – the bricks at Silchester are unique in Britain. Returning to Silchester, plans are afoot to excavate part of Insula III – previous excavations there did not match the plans drawn up by Victorian diggers at all, so many questions remain.

There was a brief Q&A session for Mike, but time caught us all up, and it was soon time to move across the hallway for the Reception and Awards ceremony. Check back tomorrow to read about the winners.

Current Archaeology magazine’s annual ‘CALive!’ conference recently returned to Senate House in London and the Heritage Journal was there throughout, assisting in live Tweeting the event once again.

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As in previous years, the two days of the conference were split into 3 sessions each, with a Keynote speech and the Awards ceremony on the Friday. Traditionally, the conference opens with a specifically prehistoric flavour and this year’s ‘In Search of the Prehistoric’, introduced as usual by Julian Richards did not disappoint, although there was a slight hiccough when the first scheduled speaker of the session, Dr Francis Pryor, was held up due to transportation issues.

Last minute preparations!

Last minute preparations!

A minor reshuffle of the schedule saw Dr Lindsey Büster from the University of Bradford open by telling us about her work with ‘Ancestral Homes: the Late Iron Age Roundhouses at Broxmouth, SE Scotland’. An intriguing site, covering almost 800 years of occupation, with stone-built roundhouses which pre-date the Roman era by some time. Indeed, we were told that at Broxmouth, “roundhouses come in all shapes and sizes”. Looking at one house in particular, it seems to have been built in 5 separate stages, each stage being built on (and inside?) the last, reducing living space at each stage. Interestingly, it seems that similar artefacts were deposited in the same relative locations throughout the life of the house, providing continuity of curated items and imbuing the houses with their own biographies.

Mark Knight, from the Cambridge Archaeology Unit then regaled us with a series of images from the treasure that is unfolding at Must Farm. He began by giving an idea of the depth of stratigraphy there – the river course is a *long* way beneath current ground level, with over 2 metres of sediment being removed before finds began to become apparent. The finds were accidental, as the site is being quarried for clay for a brickworks, and is downstream of the log boats found a few years ago. An entire settlement burned, and was buried in the river, almost intact. ‘The Pompeii of the Fens’ as it’s been tagged. The current jewel in the crown is a recently uncovered wheel, almost complete, with axle. As Mark stated, “The more we dig, the more we look, the more we find” – there’s obviously much more to come from this enticing site.

Francis Pryor having arrived, he began his talk, ‘Flag Fen: Pegging down the enigma of ritual’ by stating that “Must Farm is the most important excavation in this century and the last”. A bold claim! He then made an impassioned plea for scheduled protection to be given not only to monuments, but to the landscape they sit in. Monuments are only part of the story! He told us how his practical experience of farming helped to understand the landscape of the Fens, and how the conventional view that as the fens were inundated the people retreated to dry land is now coming into question with the ‘post alignments’ at Flag Fen and Must Farm showing that navigation was possible across the flooded landscape, and probably organised by a central ‘committee’ who controlled timber supply etc.

After coffee and a quick first look around the Archaeology Fair, the second session kicked off with Neil Holbrook  of Cotswold Archaeology entertaining us with the story of how he invited a live BBC crew to the lifting of a ‘lump of stone’ found in a Roman cemetery under excavation in Cirencester. The stone turned out to be an inscribed memorial to ‘Bodicacia’, a possibly ‘celtic’/ British name. Other similar examples exist across Europe, but this was a somewhat unique find in Britain. The carving was poorly laid out and possibly incomplete. A depiction of Oceanus on the tombstone had the face deliberately damaged. The tombstone covered the body of a 45 year old man. This prompted Neil to speculate that it may have been a later burial which didn’t want to be associated with a pagan god’s face? It was a fascinating story.

Ben Ford was next, to tell us about ‘Excavating an Urban Friary at Westgate, Oxford‘. After setting the scene with the topology of Oxford, we were shown the footings of some massive walls, almost 2 metres thick. Surprisingly, below this were found oak timbers – an earlier timber framed structure – so much timber if fact that it could not all be stored. It was all recorded on site though, and a sample amount retained for further study. A quantity of lovely Romanesque Norman carvings were also found, but most of this stonework had been robbed away. There were some nicely preserved ovens in the kitchen area though, and some finds included a crucifix and a pilgrim’s badge. This was a popular dig, with a 6-hour Open Day attracting more than 200 visitors! A free exhibition about the dig is currently on in the Oxford Town Hall until 23rd April.

More timbers next, but of a different kind as Dan Atkinson  explained ‘The Investigation of Re-used Ship Timbers in the Wheelwright’s Shop in Chatham Historic Dockyard‘. This project has been running on and off for over 20 years now. In 1995 the building at the dockyard was due to be reused for another purpose and the floor layers were recorded – 169 timbers reused from a large ship were found. Many marks were found on the timbers, including numbers that might represent hammock stations, raising many questions which only now are being answered. A large proportion of the marks identified the timbers’ management, stock checking, and use, providing an insight into life in the dockyard. Painstaking checking of naval records and comparison with recorded evidence of repairs to the wheelwright’s shop strongly points to the timbers coming from HMS Namur, built and eventually broken up at Chatham, and Dan took us through some of the historical associations of the ship. For instance, HMS Namur fought in the 7 Years and Napoleonic Wars, and was captained by Jane Austen’s brother. Full details of the discovery of the timbers can be found in Current Archaeology issue 273 .

Finally, taking us up to lunch, Ronan Toolis told us about ‘A Dark Age Legacy Rescued from Obscurity: Excavating Trusty’s Hill, Galloway’. Trusty’s Hill is a fort, and a high status secular site – with an enigmatic rock cut basin containing some intriguing Pictish carvings found way outside their usual catchment area, and also an outcrop with a footprint cut into it. Along with a series of finds including clay moulds, Continental pottery and high status metalwork, all the evidence suggests this was a high status early medieval royal site. An excavation report will be published later in 2016 by Oxbow Books.

Browsing one of the bookstalls during lunch at CALive!16

Browsing one of the bookstalls during lunch at CALive!16

We’ll take a break ourselves now, and continue in the next part of this report, later today.

by Alan S.

We conclude our review of 2015 on the Heritage Journal, through Autumn and bringing us right up to date.

2015-2016_change

September
Sadly, there seems to be a need amongst certain visitors to ancient sites to proclaim their presence to others in the worst way possible. We highlighted two sites where this was the case this month, with both the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor in the Peak Disctrict, and the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney being targeted by vandals.

Yet there are more pleasurable and responsible ways to visit sites, as a group in the Peak District demonstrate. We also attended a one-day conference celebrating Prehistoric Kent.

We held a short survey of our readership this month, and the results showed a pleasing balance of both professional and amateur archaeologists and others interested in heritage.

In our stone rows series we examined the Sharpitor NW single row, and introduced a new occasional series looking at the ‘Neolithic M1’, whilst in Parliament some incisive questions were being asked about Stonehenge.

October
Two very opposing threads appeared this month. The first, that of damage and desecration was highlighted by a story from Ireland, and our mood was not improved by two stories of ‘Brandalism’ in Cardiff and Wilmington.

The second thread was one of protection. Firstly, one of our readers intervened in a situation at Castlerigg,  and we reported on some sterling site clearance work being done in Cornwall.

Staying in the SouthWest, we looked at the Cornwall Council Mapping Service and it’s use when planning site visits, and added the Yar Tor alignment to our regular series on stone rows.

Oh, and we answered some useful constructive criticism of our views of archaeology and archaeologists.

November
As the Stonehenge tunnel saga rumbled on, we tried to unravel some of the doublespeak being used, and pointed out several holes in the case for the short tunnel and the National Trust’s double standards. As for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, we made a suggestion to improve their funding and pointed out the problems with the Emperor’s new clothes.

We shed new light on Cadw’s methods of ‘Preservation by Record’, whilst a glimmer of different kind, one of hope, shone for Oswestry.

We also wrote about the Peddars Way, part of the ‘Neolithic M1’, and highlighted some of the history of the Boslow Stone, in Cornwall.

December
This month the focus has largely been on Oswestry, with a demonstration at the Shropshire County headquarters followed by the devastating decision to retain OS004 within the SAMDEV plan. But this is not the end, the fight goes on.

We continued to campaign for Mynydd y Betws recognition as a prehistoric site (and the fight goes on), and showed how old maps can demonstrate the changing interpretation of a site through time.

Our Christmas competition this year was a bit harder than most people expected. If you were stumped, the answers are now available.

Conclusion
Firstly we’d like to give hearty thanks to all our contributors, commenters and other participants, as well as all our readers. Without any of you, there would be no Heritage Journal. As the news in general for heritage has been particularly grim this year, we’ve posted nearly 250 articles, well over our target of around 180 for the year.

Of necessity, this review has been just a brief overview of some of the stories we’ve presented, but we’d urge everyone to browse through our archives (see link on the left) to catch up on any stories you may have missed. We’d like to close by wishing all our readers a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Father Time, Wikimedia Commons.

Father Time, Wikimedia Commons.

Personal Note: Once again, for the second year running, family health issues have truncated my opportunities to get out amongst our ancient sites. But as ever, I’m hoping a more normal service of providing visit reports and Bank Holiday drives will present itself in 2016.

Be assured we’ll continue in the New Year, making the establishment as uncomfortable as we can by discussing the embarrassing issues in Bonkers Britain as usual. So don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter or here on WordPress/RSS to make sure you don’t miss anything. And if you’d like to contribute, either a one-off or on a more regular basis, please get in touch!

by Alan S.

We continue our review of 2015, looking back through the Spring and Summer months.

2015-2016_change

May
A month of change with the split of English Heritage, and a new Chief Executive about to take the reins, a new Culture Secretary who seemed to have a grasp on things. And a recent Historic Environment (Wales) Bill.

Meanwhile, in London, the Council for British Archaeology’s Local Heritage Engagement Network  held a workshop for heritage advocates. Unfortunately we were unable to attend, but by all accounts the event was well received, and has since been successfully repeated in other parts of the country.

Craig Weatherhill from Cornwall was our “Inside the Mind…” subject, and a gorse fire on Carn Brea at Camborne provided a possible opportunity for survey work.

June
With a change of management structure at the Portable Antiquities Scheme, we suggested 10 truths the PAS must make public. RESCUE meanwhile, unveiled a new look and the annual Day of Archaeology gave us an insight into how varied the life of an archaeologist can be.

As the Oswestry battle continued, a similar fight was sadly being lost in the South West, in Bodmin.

We looked at the true definition of Heritage Crime and also peeked “Inside the Mind of…” Steve Hartgroves.

July
More inconsistencies of interpretation of sites in Wales were highlighted, and Sue Brooke returned to Caerau to update us on excavations there since Time Team visited in 2013.

We suggested 11 smartphone apps to help organise a field trip, and gave some thoughts on the decline of the PAS.

On a happier note, we wished a happy birthday to West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village (50 years young) and held our annual Megameet, at Avebury in the rain.

The stone rows at Colvannick and at Sharpitor West were also examined this month.

August
We looked at several ancient sites this month, including the Newport Leper StoneTinkinswood burial chamber and British Camp.  We reminisced about the first HA Megameet  and took a look at the Sharpitor NW  stone row in our ongoing series.

Two views of ‘consultation’ were taken, one from Wales,  the other from Shropshire.  And we highlighted three early tests for the new PAS structure. Unsurprisingly, they failed, as evidenced by our ‘myth-peddlers’ piece.

But the big event this month was a full week of questions  about  English  Heritage’s  (mis-)management of Stonehenge.

The year concludes in tomorrow’s installment.

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