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We’re pleased to find that in 2015 sarsen expert, Archaeologist Katy Whitaker used experimental Archaeology to see if there may once have been a gleam! She “dressed” some sarsen and said it was still “gleaming” two years later (and also described them as “gleaming white”).

Fantastic, although our own 2012 experiment, (see our recent post,) differed in that we polished our sarsen, something she doesn’t mention doing. That may explain why hers “gleamed white” whereas ours gleamed due to a mirror-like effect.

Here are 2 more images of our result. We could speculate our gleam would weather away very quickly whereas Ms Whitaker’s may have lasted for many years or even millennia but we can’t confirm if that’s so as we’ve lost our bit!  :>(

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Polished sarsen gleaming in the sun

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… and even more following rain!

 

It’s now illegal to metal detect in a group of more than six. Unless you’re running rallies, as a business or for “charity”, when up to 30 paying participants are allowed!

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It’s irrational, yes. But it’s worse than that. Rallies are terribly damaging as  the number of finds reported is derisory. Ask PAS. Yet it seems that no-one has quietly explained to the Government that it would be best for both Britain’s health and history if commercial rallies were banned for the period of the pandemic, and permanently thereafter.

What say you, “responsible detectorists” and PAS? Isn’t silence compliance? Will you continue to “Watch the wall, my darlings, While the Gentlemen go by”?

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Update: Luckily, a second “Rotary club rally” has just been cancelled (the one near Weyhill). The farmer has “pulled out”. No thanks to the Goverment though. It might be a second case of something WE said… https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2020/08/22/rotary-club-detecting-rally-cancelled-was-it-something-we-said/

How come it’s down to the good sense of farmers, or us, and not an official policy?


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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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“Breaking treaties” is in the news. We’re against it, especially at Stonehenge. Here’s one reason.

Back in 2012 we reported laser scans suggested some areas had once been made to show off the solstices by scrubbing their surfaces so they would “gleam in the midwinter sun“. It made us wonder how easily polishing could be done so we tried it on a piece of sarsen using a bit of flint and some salt. Sure enough it produced a glass-like surface that truly “gleams” in the sun, especially after rain.

So yes, the winter solstice spectacle could easily have been enhanced:

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Plus, could polishing of other parts have happened in a way that could be seen from a distance? Was a “Stonehenge Gleam” once visible? If it was, then hiding the stones from travelers by burying the road (and breaking our World Heritage Convention pledge to protect and present the sites for this and future generations) would involve an even greater loss than has been thought.

The possibility of such a gleam could be shown by experimental archaeology but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to be allowed. At least, not until English Heritage’s lucrative monopoly on seeing the stones at all is safely established!

Beware …

Baroness Vere, this week: “As my noble friend will be aware, this scheme is also with the Planning Inspectorate and I therefore cannot comment on it in great detail. However, she will know that the decision was delayed owing to an archaeological find and therefore further consultation will take place with all the relevant stakeholders within the particular field. This will enable all relevant matters to be considered and, as she rightly said, a balanced position to be reached. We expect a position to be reached by 13 November.”

1.) No, there can be NO balanced position! Either they’ll bulldoze the landscape or they won’t! So why use the term? It hints there’s an intention to use that phrase if and when there’s a press release announcing the go-ahead. “A balanced position has been arrived at”. Far better than “We’re going to do it, despite the damage and UNESCO’s opposition”.

2.) No, the decision was NOT delayed only because of an archaeological find! As Scheme supporters will have told them, the Durrington Pits are too far from the new road to be directly affected. However, they do raise serious questions about the impacts of the road scheme on the WHS. At the same time, the pits are being conveniently used to cover the fact there are massive financial and technical difficulties yet to be resolved. So, telling the public you’re consulting is a useful delaying tactic, and if the scheme finally does go ahead the Government can say the final issue has been resolved by full agreement.

The Press Release will then be complete: “A balanced position has been arrived at” and “following consultation, all parties are now in agreement that the Durrington Pits will not be harmed”… and the public will be given the impression all is well! Once again, Machiavelli seems to be writing the ministerial scripts!

There won’t be anything in the path of the road as they’ll check. And if there is they’ll simply divert the road round it. Or else they’ll preserve it “by record”. Well, if you think it would be OK to preserve it by record you might as well campaign for the road to go straight through the stones, as those could be preserved by record too. And if you think they’ll divert the road round something important we have a large bridge you can buy.

Of course, it doesn’t matter, they say. They’ll find nothing of note because they’ve used Lidar and test drilling and KNOW they won’t. Lucky that: a nearly-straight road through the richest prehistoric landscape in Europe won’t cut through anything of note! See? It all sounds like the output of the Highways England PR Department, not a Professor of  Spatial Probability and Logic.

Anyway, here’s an image from the recent construction of a Brexit lorry park in Ashford, Kent. Those stones (perhaps a Saxon wall) were invisible until recently. But then the bulldozers exposed them. Now they’re very visible.

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We can just about believe a Saxon wall like that won’t turn up at Stonehenge but equally we’re confident that when Highways England’s “kindly bulldozers” get to work a catastrophic quantity of significant archaeology, comprising a crucial part of human history, WILL be destroyed. But it’s up to you, Dear Reader. You can believe what logic suggests or you can believe Highways England’s PR Department

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It’s a great conservation story: Large Blue butterflies have been reintroduced in the Cotswolds after being extinct in Britain for 150 years! We now have the largest number of this endangered species on earth. So, we’re now a conservation exemplar! In Lepidoptery, that is. In Archaeology it’s different: we plan to dig up a World Heritage landscape and …

We let 27,000 people collect archaeological artefacts for themselves! Yet no-one has collected butterflies and moths since the mid-20th century – it’s seen as damaging and naff. Yet detecting thrives – aided by a constant Establishment mantra which says if it’s done responsibly, it’s fine. It’s not, but they’re having to make the best of a bad legislative job.

Butterflies reproduce, artefacts don’t. Lepidopterists nurture, detectorists remove. Lepidopterists protect special environments, detectorists deplete “hot spots”. Lepidopterists need only a net, a mercury vapour lamp and a laptop, detecting is supercharged by money, including Government rewards. Lepidopterists celebrate the return of Large Blues while the inner voice of detecting is a scary female one saying No such thing as Society.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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It was a shock when the Stonehenge World Heritage landscape – which everyone thought was well-protected – turned out not to be, AT ALL! It just needed two things to come along together – a perceived electoral advantage corresponding with a key guardian having a temporary brainstorm. Thus, six years ago, the National Trust did a screeching Top Gear u-turn to fall in behind David Cameron’s tunnel plan.

“Why” is something the historians will analyse, but the worry today is that if “forever, for everyone” can be cast aside once, it can be cast aside again, both at Stonehenge and elsewhere. Protection can be withdrawn at a stroke it seems, as it was the moment the Trust decided to support the short tunnel scheme, a moment which the Government described as”pivotal”.

In America they have something which might be better: under Article 14 of the New York state constitution land can be designated “forever wild” and that status can only be changed by amending the constitution. Imagine if Stonehenge had been in New York State covered by a “Forever Sacrosanct” statute? It would take lots of complex procedures and votes to do what in Britain was actually pre-determined by a tiny number of people in private.

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forever wild

“This website has been created by English Heritage to enable people around the world to experience the skies above the iconic stone circle … Wherever you are in the world, whatever the time of day or night,
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On the other hand soon, if they get their way, they want to make sure you’ll no longer be able to see either Stonehenge or the skies over it from the road! To do that you’ll each have to pay them £21.50*.

*But don’t count on them not charging you double that amount or more once their monopoly reaches perfection. [CLUE: they definitely will!]

Not exactly dangerous revolutionaries, are they?

Yet Highways England took it upon themselves to send this pally message to a local pro-scheme group…

From: Von Hippel, Yogi
Sent: 27 August 2020 14:55
To: Janice Hassett
Subject: Extinction Rebellion Protest tomorrow 28 August 2020
Hi Janice,
Just to let you know we’ve been informed of an Extinction Rebellion Protest tomorrow on the A303 at Stonehenge road junction. It starts at 9:30am and could be disruptive to drivers.
Why did they send that “warning” to their local allies? To create resentment? To prompt a counter-demonstration? Who knows? Anyway, the climate campaigners seem to have conducted themselves properly, rendering this comment from the pro-scheme lobby rather ironic: “Always knew this was going to get dirty!
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Actually, it is Highways England that is famous for Stonehenge-related dirty tricks. See here.

As we’ve often said, the British system makes it simple for crooks to make loads of money simply by lying to PAS about findspots. If they want to nighthawk or to cheat on finds agreements with farmers they can simply launder finds by falsifying the findspot. But some FLOs deny it happens:

If there’s something dodgy it’s usually immediately clear. We’re not amateurs at this. I repeat: we do not launder finds/artefacts” … “Plus there’s even a little info box we can fill in on the database if we’ve any spatial doubts”. But in truth, if a Claverley artefact is “relocated” to Clevedon thereby gaining a dishonest metal detectorist a financial advantage then no-one, including the FLO and the farmer, can possibly know.

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So let’s have no more silly denials, PAS does launder finds. Unwittingly, obviously. Facing up to it and acknowledging it is the fault of the system would be more constructive than demanding proof or denying it.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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