[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box].

Two weeks ago we highlighted a bombshell from Sam Hardy of UCL, the fact that laissez faire regimes don’t reduce metal detecting damage, only regulation does. But there’s more….. Both PAS and we have long assumed there are about 8,000 licit detectorists but he has concluded there are 24,300, three times more. If so, our Erosion Counter is massively understated and the 72,000 finds recorded by PAS each year is a very low proportion of what is found with 9 out of 10 detecting finds in Britain being lost to science.

It is to be hoped that a copy of his paper has found its way to the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group. We hope that something else will find its way to them as well: we intend to add the following to our Erosion Counter, some revised figures based on Dr Hardy’s estimate of detectorist numbers. Is it all too shocking to be true? Don’t blame us, we have been saying things are only one third as bad…..

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Based on Dr Sam Hardy’s estimate, a running total of the number of recordable archaeological artefacts removed from the fields of England and Wales by metal detectorists (92% without being reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme).
Total per day: 2,385
So far this year: 216,500

Since the start of the Portable Antiquities Scheme: 17,664,000
Total since 1975: 38,250,000

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In a move which will bring yet more criticism on its head, the National Trust has attempted to get rid of the main objection to its tunnel ambition by hiring a giant lorry and moving the stones out of the way. A spokesperson said they are to be put in a more convenient spot on Trust land a few hundred yards away. It will be the star attraction in a new National Trust theme park, Foreverland.

At a time when their support for a short tunnel at Stonehenge is doing worse than nothing for their public image, Historic England are recruiting a media manager.  Parts of the job description might be important ….

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Good luck to the successful candidate! He/she will need to be pretty good.

Did you know that the Boskednan Nine Maidens circle in Cornwall is the subject of an opera, written early in the 20th century? The opera is “Iernin”, the tragic story of a woman of the Small People. The opera in three acts is set against the backdrop of a soon-to-be occupied Cornwall and the struggle of its leader and people to retain their independence from the Saxon overlords. Read the rest of this entry »

Despite massive criticism of the cultural damage the short tunnel will cause the Government has just let slip that they’re not interested. John Hayes, the Minister at the Department for Transport has just told Parliament:

“Whilst option F010 [a surface road beyond the southern edge of the Stonehenge World Heritage site] performed better than the tunnel options against the Cultural Heritage objective, it performed worse against the other objectives.” Translated as: “we admit the short tunnel is the most culturally damaging but we are going to be guided by yardsticks other than that!

John Hayes

Full marks for honesty, at least. At last. Shame there was a Consultation as it seems it was a farce. Nothing ICOMOS-UK, independent experts or the public have said about cultural damage is to be heeded. Finance will be the final determinant. It was ever thus.

[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box]

Dr Sam Hardy’s recent Europe-wide study of metal detecting was unequivocal: permissive regulation does not minimise cultural damage whereas restrictive or prohibitive regulation does. So much for decades of contrary British claims. So it’s unfortunate there’s a lobby group dedicated to spreading Britain’s laissez faire system throughout Europe and it now plans a large conference in Norwich to further that aim.

Bizarrely it will be held at a publicly financed museum and may be addressed (again!) by the publicly financed Michael Lewis of the PAS. Worse, it includes “a 3 day international detecting rally” (for £45 a head) at which hundreds of people from Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, Denmark, Croatia, Spain and Ireland will help themselves to British history and take it  home or sell it.

NB though, Michael Lewis and the museum staff will not be detecting. Their professional codes prohibit it and for 20 years archaeologists have avoided being photographed doing it (it’s a big internet Dear Reader, we challenge you to find any such image!) That says it all about Britain’s laissez faire system: professionals publicly supporting what they privately don’t. Why try to impose it on Europe?

Honest Archie, doing Europe a favour.

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So says The Telegraph – see here. It certainly seems likely and we proposed something similar in November when we said:

By all that’s right and rational the Stonehenge tunnel should have been conceived, proposed and designed by a ẁide panel of respected archaeologists. But no, it was all down to this bloke, looking for votes…..

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He and his team wanted it cheap. Which means short. But that gave them a PR problem because “short” also means “horribly damaging to the WHS”. However, that wasn’t insurmountable. All they needed was a sufficient number of archaeologists in receipt of Government funding or patronage to say such damage is acceptable. Which, as is clear to all, they’ve obtained.

It’s a political tunnel and was neither conceived, designed nor blessed by the likes of Martin Carver, Francis Pryor, Colin Renfrew, Tim Darvill, Josh Pollard, or Vince Gaffney. In Tom Holland’s words, Stonehenge has been “offered up as a sacrifice on the altar of electioneering“. It’s as simple and shameful as that. It should go the way of its originator.

Whitehall’s spending watchdog has suggested that sixteen upgrades to England’s busiest roads could be scrapped because they do not represent value for money. See details here. Great news for Stonehenge World Heritage Site, so long as value for money is given its proper meaning…….

Is it value for money to spend £1.3 billion of taxpayer’s money on a tunnel that would cause almost incalculable  damage to a World Heritage site?

Is it value for money to spend £1.3 billion of taxpayer’s money to remove the public’s favourite free view of Stonehenge?

Is it value for money to spend £1.3 billion of taxpayer’s money on a road scheme that doesn’t include spending a single penny on direct traffic calming in the local villages?

Is it value for money to spend £1.3 billion of taxpayer’s money to grant the National Trust’s wish for a theme park walk? 

If those questions are properly asked then there’s no way spending £1.3 billion can be justified. What’s more, if the tunnel scheme is cancelled there will be no negative impact whatsoever on the cultural value of the World Heritage Site. Only a false, illusory, let’s-pretend vision will shatter. As indeed it should.

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You’d think, when massive new damage to our national icon is being proposed,  details would be open to public scrutiny, especially the considered thoughts of the Historic England Commission, the body pushing the scheme. After all, brief platitudinous press releases and dubious public consultations don’t really serve the need. So you might be concerned by two items in their December 2015 Minutes

12.1: Transparency and publishing Commission minutes
“Staff had considered the approach of other organisations in publishing Board papers. Commission approved the proposal to have one set of Commission minutes that would be published on the HE website once approved at the following meeting. Public and protective markings would be removed from agenda, reports and minutes.

To clarify, they are removing some items from public scrutiny but not marking them as removed. In other words, you won’t be allowed to know which things you haven’t been allowed to know. That’s double locked censorship! And, lest you think we might be mistaken,  here’s exactly the same thing being achieved in a different way:

13.1: Closed session for Commissioners and Chief Executive only
“This item was a closed session for Commissioners and the Chief Executive only.
There is no record of the discussion.”

May we suggest that when it comes to a tunnel at Stonehenge there’s no reason for anything the Historic England Commissioners discuss to be kept secret from the public?

[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box].

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Dr Sam Hardy of the UCL Institute of Archaeology (above) has produced a detailed study of metal detecting. There is much in it to be discussed but today we highlight his central conclusion. Having examined detecting in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, Wales, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the US  he finds that:

“permissive regulation is ineffective in minimising harm to heritage assets, whether in the form of licit misbehaviour or criminal damage. Restrictive and prohibitive regulation appear to be more effective, insofar as there is less overall loss of archaeological evidence.”

This flies in the face of the two justifications cited for 20 years in support of Britain’s laissez faire system – that nighthawking is lessened by it and that licit misbehaviour is lessened by it. Dr Hardy’s conclusions are unequivocal: both claims are false. It is to be hoped that his report will find its way to both Whitehall and the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group without delay. This is surely the strongest evidence so far that Britain has taken a wrong path.

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