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There have been countless theories about the design of Stonehenge but this one, which appeared in the Guardian in 2012, is memorable:

“A team of academics have revealed the “sonic experience” that early visitors to Stonehenge would have heard. Scholars from the Universities of Salford, Huddersfield and Bristol used an American replica of the monument to investigate its audio history. Salford’s Dr Bruno Fazenda said they had found the site reacted to sound “in a way that would have been noticeable to the Neolithic man”. He said the research would allow a “more holistic” view of its past.

In February, scientist Steven Waller published a paper suggesting the design of Stonehenge could have been inspired by music. Dr Fazenda, who has been involved with the acoustic testing of the monument for four years, said his own research had not revealed if this was the case or not. “Stonehenge is very well known, but people are still trying to find out what it was built for,” he said. “We thought that doing this would bring an element of archaeology that so far hasn’t been looked at.”

The auditory effect of Stonehenge in Neolithic ears is indeed a fascinating subject. But what about the auditory effect of Stonehenge on modern ears?  Auditory illusions are still happening at Stonehenge – for how else can one describe the sound of people in official or prominent roles claiming that the damage caused by a mile of new dual carriageway across the World Heritage Landscape is an improvement to that landscape?

One day academics will try to make sense of how and why Trumpism – the blatant repetition of a plain untruth – was applied to our national icon.

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Not this Prime Minister. (As if!) It was Baldwin in 1927. He wrote to the press, with others, saying “So long as it remains in private hands, there is an obvious danger that the setting of Stonehenge may be ruined” and promising that “the land purchased will be placed under the guardianship of the National Trust”. The appeal was successful, and true to that promise 1,444 acres of land surrounding the stones were transferred to the National Trust.

That should have been that. If you protect the setting and archaeology by placing it into the guardianship of a body that boasts “forever, for everyone” you’re entitled to expect that’s what will happen. And so it did, until recently, but now the Trust is supporting the short tunnel and the massive new damage it will bring and that volte-face has been described by the current Government as “pivotal” to the scheme going ahead.

The Trust has yet to explain exactly why it has moved beyond “protecting” to “destroying to improve”. It was given no mandate for that in 1927 nor by its Founders nor by UNESCO. Its only mandate came from its own 2017 AGM, doubly besmirched by the Chairman using the proxy votes to achieve it and by hundreds of Members claiming they were disenfranchised by mysteriously not getting their ballot papers or getting an adequate warning of the vote

So the Trust can cite no convincing mandate, only it’s own judgement of what’s best for Stonehenge. Yes, everyone gets that, but the question remains, by what authority or philosophical rationale does it claim the right to make that judgement? All anyone has heard about that is an echoing, guilty silence!

 

Never coy about making an ironic mistake, Highways England has sent its entire A303 Stonehenge Project team to Devenish Nature Reserve to spend a day helping to protect Wiltshire’s wildlife. What a jolly change from planning to damage Wiltshire’s most important archaeology!

A spokesperson said: “The team of 12 had a fantastic time burning off excess energy with saws, loppers, and hand knives….. we really made a huge difference to the woodland.” Perhaps the most memorable thing was that “as part of their work they managed to “fence off” 7 tree stumps, to help protect new growths from being eaten by deer.”

A passing cynic was heard to say “Great. Will they also be fencing off all the archaeological sites in the path of their bloody road to stop them being destroyed?

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In March 2018 the Council for British Archaeology announced it had commissioned a special feature issue of its magazine, British Archaeology, “to inform debate about the proposed A303 road tunnel at Stonehenge“.

The trouble is, it was written by the Editor, Mike Pitts, who no-one can be in any doubt is a strong supporter of the tunnel and whose conduct towards those who oppose it falls well short of the dignity the CBA might expect [Tom Holland’s video … is manipulative and misleading“, the Stonehenge Alliance leaflet he held up “features misleading imagery worthy of Putin-supporting trolls” and Stonehenge Alliance itself looks like “the archaeological wing of Donald Trump’s social media campaign”.]

Against all that, there’s this: there is a complete absence of reporting in British Archaeology or any CBA Newsletter of the excellent case put at the Examination by George Lambrick for the CBA. This is really extraordinary, given the importance of the issue and the enormous amount of fine work done by George. Is British Archaeology the Magazine of the CBA or not? If it is, it should cover the CBA’s activities, especially the significant ones. It does so in a number of cases – but not Stonehenge – why?”

 

Professor Atkinson, who excavated Silbury Hill in 1968, is excoriated these days by English Heritage for his bad techniques. However, Magnus Magnusson asked him what would be his greatest nightmare during the tunneling (see here, 10 mins in). He replied that it would be if they found something really important because that would mean a delay. Hence he recognised the process must be dictated by the nature of what was discovered, nothing else.

But now it’s 2019 and puzzlingly The Examining Authority at Stonehenge has already retired to consider the evidence, even though trial trenching is still going on in search of evidence! What if some is found? What if Unluckyhenge or other significant features are found (as we mused here)? Are today’s archaeologists (and Highways England) going to say STOP like Professor Atkinson would?

It’s a fair question. Is there a clue in the fact that details of all that they’ve found so far haven’t been published! Shouldn’t it be? And shouldn’t the public be told about everything that is found as soon as it is found? And shouldn’t they be assured that the archaeologists involved in the short tunnel project are both empowered and willing to say “stop” like Professor Atkinson was?

With the UK set to leave the European Union on the 31st October there was some doubt over organisations from abroad being able to do the work.

But after a visit to Salisbury Plain yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister had a message for the locals: it wouldn’t make a difference to the companies interested, worldwide. After Brexit, when we’re “free of cumberson procurement processes”, the Stonehenge tunnel may well prove to be cheaper to build!

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Some of the inhabitants of the nearby villages, plagued by rat running, are clearly Highways England’s favourite people. Sir Humphrey can paint the short tunnel not as unjustified heritage vandalism but as a kindness to them.

To be fair, many locals see that. They understand that the rational thing to be lobbying for is a solution that helps them but DOESN’T cause massive damage to the World Heritage Site. But unfortunately the loudest local voices are not from them but from STAG, the Stonehenge Traffic Action Group, which is perfectly willing either to countenance the heritage damage or to say, Drake-like, “I see no damage!”. Their latest pronouncement says it all:

Of course! …. nothing needs to be done about the A303 past Stonehenge. At least that’s what Stonehenge Alliance and their associated groups, sycophants, and whom so ever would have us believe, in the same way that Hitler; by repeating the same lie ad infanitum, believed that people would inevitably accept it as truth.  And by the way…..the majority of their followers don’t live where we live.

To claim opponents of the short tunnel say nothing needs to be done is clearly ridiculous. But one thing they do have right is the fact that most critics of the scheme don’t live near Stonehenge. The clue’s in the name: it’s not “The Wiltshire Heritage Site” it’s “The World Heritage Site”! People everywhere have the right to call for the British Government to spend more money in order to provide a solution that doesn’t damage the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage landscape. Implying they don’t, and that it’s a matter for locals, merely aids those who would deliver unforgivable damage.

A foolish stance!

Having been approached by local veterans Robert Hardie and Ian Lawes that had formed a band, ‘Duck n Cuvver’, one might think English Heritage would have a sympathetic ear to a request to shoot a music video within the stone circle at Stonehenge.

Having performed at the National Armed Forces Day the band released the track ‘Henge of Stone’ and hoped to complete a video within the monument. The request has been approved, but only if the band cough up £4,500!

We understand you can’t let anyone and everyone have Stonehenge to play with English Heritage, but this is a huge sum for these guys to find. Let them film English Heritage – and don’t be so mean to veterans.

https://www.facebook.com/duckncuvver/

The likes of English Heritage and Historic England are very much into their heritage heroes and none more so than Sir John Lubbock, our greatest prehistorian, who introduced the Ancient Monuments Act which set up a system of scheduling and state guardianship which has prevailed to the present day and has been replicated worldwide.

But our present-day “heritage champions” only revere him when convenient. When the road lobby comes calling they disregard him entirely and massive new damage is repackaged as “worthwhile improvement”. Yet who can deny that Sir John would be appalled at the “worthwhile improvement” English Heritage and Historic England are promoting at Stonehenge at the behest of the Government and in defiance of UNESCO?

If you’re in doubt, consider whether he would ever deny – or they would ever acknowledge – the immutable truth of his words to the Anthropological Institute on 15th of January 1872:

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“The continued destruction of prehistoric monuments is a fact which I am sure we all deeply regret, and which reflects little credit on us as a nation.”


 

Remember this which we reported exactly 10 years ago in August 2009?

A local mayor in Alabama reckoned destroying this 1,500-year-old Native American ceremonial mound and using the dirt as fill for a new Walmart retail warehouse store called Sam’s Club would be fine, and memorably announced: “What it’s going to be is more prettier than it is today”

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Of course, Historic England, English Heritage and The National Trust aren’t rednecks. But if you strip away their high falutin’ talk, that’s exactly what they’re saying about the Stonehenge short tunnel project! So pure redneckery on both sides of the pond!

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