For thousands of years the ancient timepiece that is Stonehenge has been regularly visited by celestial ones, comets. Here’s one that appeared in 2020, Comet Neowise …

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Later this month one of the last such juxtapositions will be visible to travelers on the A303 (assuming the tunnel goes ahead). It is Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), last seen by Neanderthals 50,000 years ago. It is hoped it will be visible to the naked eye and will be particularly noteworthy as it is a rare green comet, similar to Comet Lovejoy, 2015…

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You’ll hear not a word about celestial losses from the pro-tunnel organisations and whether they weighed them in the balance. Why not?

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More “never agains”

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There’s nothing new in the “we won’t report treasure finds if you don’t speed up the wonga” threats (see yesterday), Look at this, a National Council for Metal Detecting Policy Statement back in 2009: “We believe that the current levels of delay are unacceptable. They are severely testing the goodwill of finders and undermining the provisions of the Treasure Act by introducing a disincentive to reporting”

Churlish, certainly since British detectorists are already uniquely privileged as their activity is legalised and even encouraged and rewarded handsomely whereas elsewhere it would land them in jail. Oh, and saying the delays are a disincentive to reporting is actually saying “encouraging lawbreaking” since reporting Treasure is mandatory, not voluntary.

Thus Britain stands in a practical and philosophical quagmire. So not only are we permitting recreational and entrepreneurial erosion of our archaeological resource; not only are we paying millions to buy our own Treasure; not only are we rewarding people for not breaking the law….. we are being warned in unmistakeable terms by the main representative body of metal detectorists that unless we pay up fully and promptly we can forget about seeing some of those treasures at all. Here’s a handy guide for PAS:

Signs Someone Is Trying To Blackmail You

  1. Guilt-Tripping
  2. Gaslighting
  3. Promises of Incentives
  4. Protection
  5. Punishment
  6. Blaming
  7. Threats
  8. Repeated Shaming for Flaws

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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You may have heard loud complaints lately from detectorists about items going missing from official storage and severe delays in processing finds. As a result there have been a lot of arrogant “I’m not reporting anything any more” stuff and lots of undignified reassurances from PAS that they’ll try to do better.

It’s a pretty unsavoury image considering so much doesn’t get reported already. But on the subject of unsavoury:

The Portable Antiquities Scheme fundraising scheme has been running for 8 years. 31 supporters have now donated £1278. As for the tens of thousands of others: zilch ever. Heroic or what?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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We certainly would Sir Tim!

As we would if you deliberately hid it from us and our children’s children’s children!

Get it? (We’re thinking of Stonehenge.)

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…….. ………………………………..“Use your imagination kids!”

The historic Air Balloon pub, built in 1776 on Crickley Hill and named to commemorate balloon flights from there, is prominently positioned high on the Cotswold scarp and is much loved as a landmark for travellers from far and wide. Sadly the pub closed its doors for a final time on New Years Eve and will soon be demolished, a victim of plans to build a new road.

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There is perhaps a lesson for our “cultural guardians” at Stonehenge: isn’t the huge number of expressions of regret at the loss of the Air Balloon a testament to the truth that landmarks are as much an essential element of culture as destinations? Anything that raises the spirits of millions of travelers should surely be jealously protected?

As Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Commons: One of the joys of going on the current A303 is that one gets a glimpse of Stonehenge and I think that is a great benefit and it’s uplifting for people to see”. So why hide it from our children’s children’s children?

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Did you see The Parade of the Planets this week? Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, all visible above the ancient observatory of Stonehenge? Almost certainly, if you did, it was from a car driving on the A303. Thousands may have experienced it that way.

They were very lucky because consider this: the alignment won’t happen again until 2040, and that matters because long before then English Heritage, Historic England, and the National Trust expect to achieve their ambition to hide such spectacles from 99.9% of the Public forever and ever.

It was one of the first “never again” happenings at Stonehenge and there will soon be others because the timescale is now shortening alarmingly. Are you proud of Britain’s behaviour?

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As usual, it was gentle, clever, and beguiling. Maybe a little short of its own previous heights but a triumph nevertheless. However:

As James Delingpole wrote in The Spectator “The Christmas special focused on the great moral dilemma faced by all detectorists: what to do if you find something totally amazing. Legally (and ethically) there’s only one option, you have to declare it” (to which we’d add, morally, also the hundreds of thousands of non-Treasure items that may be found).

Yet when the two main characters find an important Anglo-Saxon battlefield site one of them, Lance, is determined to keep it quiet and mine it for artefacts before telling the authorities. That is a crime under the terms of the Treasure Act and it’s also a moral crime against all of us – metal detecting only exists in Britain thanks to a 23-year-old social contract whereby it is tolerated providing detectorists report their finds.

He did start reporting eventually but the damage is done: the message is that cultural knowledge theft is merely amusing and harmless if the programme is gentle, clever, and beguiling. There are now said to be 40,000 detectorists and it may be that 90% of what they find isn’t revealed. Does highlighting the damage make one a spoilsport? No, ask the Portable Antiquities Scheme directly if you doubt it.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Here’s the oldest, recently displayed in the British Museum …

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And here’s the newest, visible in the sky above Stonehenge yesterday and tonight …

Mercury rise and set in Stonehenge

Fairly close to the Sun. Visible only after sunset.

Thu, 29 Dec ↓20:23

Venus rise and set in Stonehenge

View just after sunset.

Thu, 29 Dec ↓20:26

Mars rise and set in Stonehenge

After sunset and most of the night. Fri, 30 Dec ↓03:38

Jupiter rise and set in Stonehenge

View after sunset. Fri, 30 Dec ↓00:04

Saturn rise and set in Stonehenge

View after sunset. Thu, 29 Dec ↓22:06

Uranus rise and set in Stonehenge

View after sunset. Bring binoculars. Fri, 30 Dec ↓02:18

Neptune rise and set in Stonehenge

View after sunset. Use binoculars. Thu, 29 Dec ↓23:40

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Here’s an irony: the oldest will be carefully preserved forever, and the newest, the one which will appear above an ancient observatory, (and all the ones that follow) will soon be deliberately hidden forever from travelers passing Stonehenge.

Let’s hope we can repeat it in 2023.

“We are delighted to join with many other concerned bodies such as the National Trust and the Stonehenge Alliance in welcoming the government’s announcement that not only have they cancelled the Stonehenge Project and any intention to construct new roads over the World Heritage Site but also that they now favour all the non-damaging improvements which we and many others have been calling for.”

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We like “Stonehenge Dronescapes” but not this image …

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Its not quite the 42nd “yowling moggy” (our list of the visual and textual tricks that the pro-tunnel bodies have used) because they say it’s just a “vision” of post-tunnel Stonehenge but nevertheless it persuades people that the tunnel will be a good thing on the basis of false information: the footpath has been photoshopped out even though there are no plans to remove it, tunnel project or not. The result is that the public may well think the tunnel is something to be supported on those grounds.

It’s not.

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