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PAS is holding a Conference tomorrow titled “Can detectorists be archaeologists?” Why ask a question the answer to which is obvious: Of course they can, 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 should have saved their money and breath, cancelled the conference and announced  a replacement one titled: “Hurrah for amateur archaeologists!”



Oooh look, no Treasure rewards, no EBaying, no secrecy, no selfish motivation, no flattery. no dodgy stats, no cammo, no pockets, yet all the funding and praise and promotion is being dished out elsewhere!


The Irish President has just said that teaching philosophy in schools, and promoting it in society, is urgently needed to enable citizens “to discriminate between truthful language and illusory rhetoric”. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of British portable antiquities.




This weekend a Stonehenge & Avebury conference is being held. No-one will be allowed to oppose the short tunnel.

It’s up to you. Please sign the petition.

See here. A Spanish mining magnate has just been fined more than €25 million and sentenced to 30 months in prison for destroying a cave that held evidence of how humans lived in neolithic times..


 Meanwhile in Britain a millionaire racehorse owner got away with no prison and a derisory fine for destroying part of a Priddy Circle that held evidence of how humans lived in neolithic times.

According to “Irish Metal Detecting” on Twitter…..
A public debate on the uk Portable Antiquities Scheme at a venue in blanchardstown crowne plaza was rearranged due to intimidation of guest speakers from the uk. The debate arranged by the Irish Metal Detecting Society was open to the public and archaeologists and of course those who enjoy the hobby of metal detecting. While the debate was cancelled a number archaeologists decided to meet with Liam Nolan (event organizer) privately to express their concern at the cancellation of the debate and the reasons why it was cancelled. A number of politicians have also expressed concern at the cancellation and have agreed to look further into the matter.

Well! If the “bullying” comprised the British Museum criticising its own employees and refusing to pay their air fares to Dublin, good!

If the “bullying” comprised the National Museum of Ireland taking offence at employees of the British Museum trying to influence Irish conservation policy, good!

And if anyone being accused of bullying had read our article last week asking “Why is PAS lobbying against Europe’s conservation laws” and thought that this question in particular had merit ……

“Why? Why is PAS promoting the British system abroad, despite having no mandate or funding or visible incentive to do so?  Why are the French, Germans, Dutch, Spanish, Poles, Italians, Swedish and Irish being lobbied by a small British quango with an entirely parochial vested interest in praising artefact hunting at home? Why is it commending to others a system which is supported by detectorists in Britain only 30% of the time at best? Why on earth has PAS become part of a campaign run by detectorists to persuade two dozen sovereign European countries to rip up their laws on metal detecting?”

…. then good!






Not all piles of stones are cairns  and tombs. The image is of a 5,000 year old leopard trap, one of many built in Israel’s Negev Desert. In each case they were built near areas where sheep and goats were kept.

Today there are no more leopards left to hunt in the Negev desert. The last was seen one decade ago, and they are almost extinct in neighboring Jordan as well. On the other hand, there are leopards elsewhere. Luckily though the two Trump boys are heroically keeping them under control ….



Continuing our review of the ten most popular Journal articles. Number 9 is a guest article supplied in January 2011 ….


A guest article supplied by Graham Salisbury

They are mystical stones, and of medicinal virtue. The giants of old brought them from the farthest coasts of Africa, and placed them in Ireland, while they inhabited that country.”  (Geoffrey of Monmouth, The British History of, translated from the Latin by A. Thompson and J. A. Giles, James Bohn, London, 1842, p.158 [Bk 8, Ch. 11].)

I am indebted to Robert Temple for the bulk of the information contained in this article and the majority of the illustrations used appear on his website at 

In a seldom visited and uninviting part of Morocco, not far from the Atlantic coast, away from major tourist attractions and decent roads lies a remarkable and enigmatic megalithic site.

Figure 1: Old Print of Mzora from 1830 by Arthur de Capell Brooke from

The Mzora stone ring (also spelled variously Msoura/Mezorah) is situated roughly 11km from the nearest town of Asilah and about 27km from the fascinating, overgrown ruins of ancient Lixus. It is not easy to reach and guide books to the area are of only very limited use (for a detailed discussion of its precise location including GPS co-ordinates see  A small display in the archaeological museum at Tetouan is the most the majority of visitors see or hear of this extraordinary place.

Mzora is largely absent from the historical record but Plutarch, in the first century A.D., may have referred to Mzora in his Life of Sertorius. He describes the Roman General Quintus Sertorius being told by local inhabitants about a site they knew as the tomb of the giant Antaeus who had been killed by Hercules. There are many other ancient accounts that place the tomb of Antaeus in close proximity to both Lixus and Tangier and it is quite plausible that Mzora is the inspiration behind these stories. (Temple, Robert (2010). Egyptian Dawn. London: Century. P386-7).

The site itself is a Neolithic ellipse of 168 surviving stones of the 175 originally believed to have existed. The tallest of these stones is over 5m in height. The ellipse has a major axis of 59.29 metres and a minor axis of 56.18 metres. At the centre of the ring, and quite probably a much later addition, is a large tumulus (the tomb of Antaeus?). Not much remains of this tumulus today, the bulk of the damage to it seems to have been done by excavations undertaken in 1935-6 by César Luis de Montalban. It was he who cut across the mound in two intersecting trenches leaving the distinctive ‘X’ shaped scar visible today (Temple, Robert (2010). Egyptian Dawn. London: Century. p378).

Figure 2: Aerial view of Mzora Stone Circle from Google Earth

The only professional survey of the site was conducted in the 1970s by James Watt Mavor, Junior of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, USA. It is this survey that revealed Mzora to be not only remarkable in its own right but to have implications for the history of megalithic sites in Britain.

Figure 3: Mavor Survey and Aerial photo comparison

As hinted at by Geoffrey of Monmouth above, Mzora, incredibly, appears to have been constructed either by the same culture that erected the megalithic sites in France, Britain and Ireland or by one that was intimately connected with them. The ellipse is constructed using a Pythagorean right angled triangle of the ratio 12, 35, 37. This same technique was used in the construction of British stone ellipses of which 30 good examples survive including the Sands of Forvie and Daviot rings.

Of the use of Pythagorean triangles in British sites Professor Alexander Thom remarked:
“The remarkable thing is that the largest, the 12, 35, 37, was known and exploited more than any other with the exception of the 3, 4, 5.” Thom, Alexander (1967). Megalithic Sites in Britain. Oxford: OUP. p.27.

Figure 4: Mavor Survey Ellipse from

Furthermore it appears that the same unit of measure, the megalithic yard (or something remarkably close) used in the construction of the British sites surveyed by Thom, was also used in the construction of Mzora:
“If a ‘megalithic yard’ of 0.836 metres … [is used] … then the major axis and the perimeter of the ring take on values nearly integral.”Temple, Robert (2010). Egyptian Dawn. London: Century. p379.

Thom proposed that achieving a circumference measured in whole numbers was of paramount importance to the builders of megalithic rings:
“When Megalithic man set out a circle with a diameter of 8 units he found the circumference very nearly 25 units but in general he could not get nice whole numbers like these for both the diameter and the circumference simultaneously. Probably the attraction of the ellipse, and we know of over 30 set out by these people, was that it […] was easier to get the circumference near to some desired value.” Thom, Alexander (1967). Megalithic Sites in Britain. Oxford: OUP. p.31.

Mzora isn’t the only stone circle in Africa to share its construction methodology with British sites. The Nabta Playa stone ring in Southern Egypt conforms to Alexander Thom’s “Type I egg” geometry.

But there are further wonders. According to the diagram below by James Watt Mavor the following astronomical phenomena are marked by the circle:

Stone 30 marks the summer solstice sunrise.

Stone 146 marks the summer solstice sunset.

Stones 61 and 62 mark the winter solstice sunrise.

Stone 118 marks the winter solstice sunset.

Stone 47 marks the equinoctial sunrise

Stone 132 marks the equinoctial sunset

Temple, Robert (2010). Egyptian Dawn. London: Century. p391.

Figure 5: Mavor Survey Stone Numbers from

In Mzora we have a fascinating and important site that challenges many assumptions about stone circles in Britain as well as raising a great many more questions. At present the site is unmanaged, exposed and vulnerable. It is a great injustice that this monument isn’t given world heritage status and the protection it richly deserves.

For further discussion of the importance of this site see Chapter 8 of Robert Temple’s book, Egyptian Dawn (2010).

©Graham Salisbury 2011

there is now a warden at the site and a signpost from the main road from larache to tetouan,its about 3 kms after the village of souk tnine de sidi el yamani( a mere petrol stop),heading for tetouan on the left hand side.i visited the site in late january this year2012.

I visited this site (M’Zopra) in 1982 and was astonished to see a similarity to the megalithic Newgrange site in Co. Meath, Ireland. No archaeologist in Ireland was aware of this similarity. I was pointed towards it by an Italian archaeologist. Subsequently I met James W. Mavor and his brilliant paper confirmed my belief that early Irish constructions were ultimately inspired by North African designs.
I produced 4 films on the subject (Atlantean) in 1984 and wrote books referring to it (Atlantean Irish, Quartet Books 1986 and The Atlantean Irish, Lilliput Press, 2005/11)
I am now revisiting the subject of Carthage as an early coloniser of Ireland.
Bob Quinn

I know that place, the locals are calling it as AL METWAD. my wife was born in the same place just a few meters behind. that place is not well respected as is one of the archeological sites in Morocco that I took in consideration and even many pictures. I’m a tourguide in Dubai know, and this my job and my responsability to talk and to defend such monument ignored by the UNESCO. Morocco is one of the tourist destinations that everyone hope to step on once, because of his commitment to preserve the history the culture the traditions the religion and the languages. A country of contrasts.


The Portable Antiquities Scheme is about to stage a conference asking “Can Detectorists be Archaeologists“.  If the PAS was honest it would be a very short conference for it would start and end with a simple statement:

Yes of course they can. However, searching at random, targeting only metal artefacts, doing it for personal pleasure or profit and, in the great majority of cases, not putting what you find on public record for the benefit of others, is damaging and in each instance the antithesis of archaeology. Proof lies in the fact that any archaeologist who acted like that would be sanctioned and expelled from the profession.

Clearly, PAS knows all that but shamefully it is attempting to morph the difference by saying: This conference explores the various ways in which detectorists (working alone or with archaeologists) have undertaken archaeological fieldwork“. Fine, but it’s expressing in a coded fashion a basic truth which they are frit to say in the public arena: “Yes OF COURSE detectorists can be archaeologists – but only if they act like archaeologists.”




Long Meg and her Daughters, the ancient stone circle near Penrith is being damaged by vehicles and has been placed onto Historic England’s ‘at risk register’.


As someone on Trip Advisor wrote recently: “My American visitor was stunned to find we could just drive up, park and wander at will with no red tape and for free.” Freedom of access in that way is to be welcomed but it’s clear there are limits.

This week we said Mike Pitts had scolded people who worry about a tunnel portal. But scolded is too mild. He said the Stonehenge Alliance acted like “the archaeological wing of Donald Trump’s social media campaign” and their leaflet imagery was “worthy of Putin-supporting trolls”. Hmmm. We know some of the members of the Stonehenge Alliance and they are dedicated, well-informed and genteel and not how he seeks to portray them. Hope that’s now crystal clear.

On the other hand, we find Mr Pitts’ account of why that trench was dug exactly on the solstice line far from crystal clear. Specifically this: “In this particular case thirty trenches were dug over a wide area south of the A303. If each trench was a sign of where a tunnel would end, we’d have a portal that reached half way across the world heritage site.” But the question remains: if there’s no chance whatsoever a portal will be located on the solstice sunset line why has one of the trenches been dug exactly on that line? 

An explanation from the authorities would be appropriate, one that doesn’t involve belittling legitimate stakeholders.

Mike Pitts has just scolded those who worry about the Stonehenge Tunnel :

“all this stuff about portals and midwinter sunsets is premature. Currently routes are being identified – not decided on ….. There will be a public consultation next year. If I was an objector, I’d wait until next year. At least I’d know what it was I was objecting to, always a help in these things…..

I don’t think Highways would be able to secretly put a tunnel portal just where the sun sets at midwinter. The eagle-eyed people at Icomos would notice. [The Heritage Journal] “could have said that as HE, EH and the NT want to protect and enhance the world heritage site, it’s unlikely they would’ve wanted the tunnel portal there. But where’s the fun in that?”


Well Mr Pitts,

First, please be assured there’s no fun in worrying a tunnel portal may be built on the solstice line. It’s a sincere concern which we share with many people, OK?
Second, thanks for the advice to wait, not worry but we’d prefer to exercise our democratic and natural right to worry, not wait.
Third, a fundamental reason why we are worrying is because HE, EH and the NT are welcoming the idea of a 1.8 mile long tunnel inside a 3.5 mile wide WHS –  which is not an indication of wanting “to protect and enhance” this special landscape but quite the opposite.

However, since you seem to be in close touch with them you are perhaps in a position to help. Rather than scold legitimate stakeholders for being worried without cause, please ask those three bodies to publicly announce that they would all resolutely oppose the placing of a tunnel portal anywhere near the line of the solstice sunset. If they won’t, please respect the public’s right to worry. Simple really. We’ll watch with interest.


March 2017
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