Following our efforts to persuade the BM to stop portraying metal detectorists as “citizen archaeologists” we’ve been òffered the title of Citizen Conservationists! (Paul Barford, “Victory for reason”). We accept! Not for ourselves but for the tens of thousands of people who visit, research and study archaeological and historic sites and keep to the mantra “take only memories, leave only footprints”.

A number of such people will be at our Megameet at Avebury Stone Circle this weekend. Not for personal gain and without any supportive infrastructure – no media savvy Whitewashing Department, no Culture Secretary saying they’re heroes and no team of Liaison Officers tagging along, emphasising the positive and spinning the negative! There’ll be nothing to spin at Avebury. Those people don’t visit archaeological sites to take bits of them home in a bag. Nor do millions of others. Maybe the BM should start promoting them?

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No spin necessary.

No spin zone.

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Megameet 2016 2

The arrival of the Welsh online resource for scheduled ancient monuments means that we can now see what is scheduled and what is not in England, Scotland and Wales. The new Cadw website shows us which parts of Wales are scheduled and provides some information together with reasons for the decision. Access to the various monuments is via an easy to use zoomable map and within a couple of clicks the information is available.

CADWMap

Compared to the Scottish and English sites the amount of information is very limited and a love of the copy and paste facility has unfortunate consequences.

Most worrying, however, is the phrase used to introduce each monument. In almost every instance the text starts “The monument consists of…”. This is a potentially dangerous choice of words as it implies that any archaeological features not mentioned in the text are not included within the scheduling.  Elsewhere in Britain the term “includes” is used and therefore ensures protection of any overlooked elements. This may seem pedantic but the effect maybe to seriously undermine the purpose of the legislation designed to protect our archaeology.

A second point of concern is the uncertain tone expressed in the documentation. Caveats abound in the descriptive text with for example the words probable and probably liberally scattered around. Whilst we all accept that uncertainty comes with the archaeological territory, these are primarily legal documents written to ensure the protection and management of important archaeological sites. In this context it is surely unhelpful to emphasise the uncertainties. After all a landowner reading that a pile of stones of stone on their land is only probably a Bronze Age cairn might think that it would probably be OK to remove it or at the very least take less care of it. Indeed the Schedule of Ancient Monuments should only include those sites considered to be of national importance, so why the constant insistence on emphasising the uncertainty?

Compared to the Scottish and English contributions this web resource does not compare favourably. It feels like a rushed job designed to meet a target and the large numbers of typos betray a lack of attention to detail. But please do not take our word for it. Have a look for yourselves:

Côf Cymru – National Historic Assets of Wales

Historic Environment Scotland

Historic England

2 monuments

We’ve been corresponding with the BM (Susan Raikes, Head of the Dept of Volunteers & Audiences). It looks like they’re going to desist from implying metal detecting is citizen archaeology.

We had put to her that using that phrase misinforms landowners by omission for it fails to reveal what her predecessor accepted – that 70% of detectorists  don’t report their finds. Her reply was heartening: “Thank you very much for this – I have noted your point. I don’t believe that we have ever used the term in the way that you describe it here, and I will endeavour to ensure that this sort of misinterpretation cannot be inferred from our use of language in the future. With thanks.”

That’s massive. Even if she’s implying it’s only us misinterpreting, she’s accepting misinterpretation is possible and she’ll act to prevent it. So hopefully “citizen archaeology” will now be dropped from their statements on metal detecting. About time too. Archaeologists never gave them permission to hijack their cherished reputations (just look at Rule 1.4 of the Institute for Archaeology: A member shall not undertake archaeological work for which he or she is not adequately qualified!) Now, if the phrase is dropped (and can no longer be quoted at farm gates) it will be an undeniable benefit for landowners, archaeologists and heritage. Britain (and its landowners) can return to the rest of the world’s notion of Archaeology: an activity that doesn’t involve digging randomly, selectively or for personal benefit!

REALISATION1.

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Egypt and the United Nations agreed yesterday to reroute a nearly completed motorway from the Giza Pyramids, saying the cost did not matter when it came to rescuing the only surviving wonders of the ancient world.

The eight-lane motorway, which passes within two miles of the three 4,500- year-old pyramids and the Sphinx, could be dismantled as early as next week, said Abdel-Halim Noureddin, Egypt’s chief antiquities official.

Mr Noureddin acknowledged the Egyptian government made a mistake in 1985 when it approved plans for the road near the plateau, listed as one of 440 UN World Heritage Sites. However, the important thing was rectifying the error.”

[ Cairo agrees diversion for pyramid motorway, The Independent 5 April 2005 ]

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(Note: Stonehenge is not in Egypt it is in Britain. It is not in the care of the Egyptian Government but the British one together with The National Trust and English Heritage who claim to be world exemplars in good conservation practice.)

We noticed last week the 2005 paint damage has almost disappeared ….

May 2005 and July 2016

May 2005 and July 2016

Eleven years it has taken. Which prompted us to wonder: if there was a severity scale for vandalism, how would you measure it? Maybe “how long will the change last” is a good measure. On that basis, breaking a lump of stone off is worst as that change is forever and painting the stones, thereby changing them for 11 years, comes second.

Then there are other, smaller changes which we noticed there….

SAM_1121

SAM_1124

SAM_1118

Easily tidied up (except for the candle way which is a real pain for those who look after the site). But this one also looks minor, but isn’t…..

SAM_1109

A polished pebble that has been forced in and now can’t be removed except by damaging the stone. So on the “how long will the change last” scale it could be there indefinitely and is one of the worst bits of damage. Best not do it then? In fact, best not change the stones at all? Instead, just capture some reflected photons, like this respectful American visitor did ….

SAM_1115

or leave no trace of your visit, like this Polish immigrant did …..

admiral

Part of the Stonehenge tunnel lobby has been tweeting this scary image, apparently showing how desperately a tunnel is needed….

cropped view

The millions who don’t know the area might think the traffic flows up the hill and goes right by the stones. Trouble is, the image on Twitter isn’t as wide as the original so doesn’t make it clear that the road up the hill was a minor side road. Here’s the original ….

uncropped

Rather different, eh? But that’s not all. The image is an old one and the place is nothing like that now because the road up the hill has been closed and turfed over for years! The reality is more like this ….

noroad

Hmmm. So FAR less indicative of a pressing need for a tunnel (especially an horrendously damaging short one). We are reminded of our own warning last February “Look out for fibs, foutards, re-interpretations and smokescreens.

You might think killing for fun is largely under control. But no, apart from fox hunting you can enjoy hunting with bassets, beagles, bloodhounds, mink hounds and rabbit hounds. If you ask what’s the appeal you’ll be told lots of lyrical stuff. But Engels, writing to Marx, was rather honest: “Such a thing always excites me hellishly for a few days, it is the most magnificent physical pleasure I know …. I was in at the kill”

So why bring it up? Well, the Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles are holding another metal detecting rally and PAS are going again. As we said last year, you can search the world and never find such a crass event where cultural exploiters fill the coffers of wildlife exploiters and officials from a national museum sit at a folding table legitimising it all.

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It's no longer legal to do it to hares so they've switched to rabbits.

Killing for fun. (Well it’s legal, innit!)

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PS – A message to the Finds Liaison Officer scheduled to attend: Can’t you just say no? We’re quite certain you’d like to. Here’s a message from George Bernard Shaw you could refer your bosses to …

“What is not disputable by any person who has ever seen sport of this character is that the man who enjoys it is degraded by it. We do not bait bears now (I do not quite know why); but we course rabbits in the manner described in one of the essays in this book. I lived for a time on the south slope of the Hog’s Back; and every Sunday morning rabbits were coursed within earshot of me. And I noticed that it was quite impossible to distinguish the cries of the excited terriers from the cries of the sportsmen, although ordinarily the voice of a man is no more like the voice of a dog than like the voice of a nightingale. Sport reduced them all, men and terriers alike, to a common denominator of bestiality.

The triviality of sport as compared with the risk and trouble of its pursuit and the gravity of its results makes it much sillier than crime. The idler who can find nothing better to do than to kill is past our patience….. There are plenty of innocent idle pastimes for him. He can read detective stories. He can play tennis. He can drive a motor-car if he can afford one….. Satan may suggest that it would be a little more interesting to kill something; but surely only an outrageous indifference to the sacredness of life and the horrors of suffering and terror, combined with a monstrously selfish greed for sensation, could drive a man to accept the Satanic suggestion…..

There are now so many other pastimes available that the choice of killing is becoming more and more a disgrace to the chooser. The wantonness of the choice is beyond excuse. To kill as the poacher does, to sell or eat the victim, is at least to act reasonably. To kill from hatred or revenge is at least to behave passionately. To kill in gratification of a lust for death is at least to behave villainously. Reason, passion, and villainy are all human. But to kill, being all the time quite a good sort of fellow, merely to pass away the time when there are a dozen harmless ways of doing it equally available, is to behave like an idiot or a silly imitative sheep.”

G. B. S.  March, 1914.

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This year’s Day of Archaeology will take place next week, on 29th July, and judging by the comments on their sign-up page will include many new participants this year!

For those that aren’t aware, the Day of Archaeology project aims to provide a window into the daily lives of archaeologists from all over the world. The project asks people working, studying or volunteering in the archaeological world to participate in a “Day of Archaeology” each year in the summer by recording their day and sharing it through text, images or video on the website.

doa-noyear

The project is run by a team of volunteers who are all professional archaeologists, and taking part in the project is completely free. The whole Day of Archaeology relies on goodwill and a passion for public engagement!

The project has been running since 2011, and last year we documented some of our thoughts on the year’s events.  It will be interesting to see if anything has changed for this year’s coverage.

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