A friend of the Journal, Eve Boyle, recently documented her visit to Clachtoll Broch in North West Scotland, and has given permission for her story to be published here. So, it’s over to Eve:

Scottish Archaeology is all abuzz just now about the excavation of a broch at Clachtoll, on the west coast of Sutherland. On Tuesday, I was on the phone to Roland Spencer-Jones, chair of NOSAS, who tells me he’s spent a week digging at Clachtoll. “It’s wonderful!” he says, ”You should go”. On Thursday morning, Strat Halliday, once my boss, now retired (as if that were possible!) waltzes into my office to say he’s just been to Clachtoll “It’s fantastic! You should go.” That evening, Matt Ritchie, Forestry Commission Archaeologist, texts me – “Just been to Clachtoll. It’s amazing! You should go!”

So yesterday I drove the 270 miles north and this morning (Saturday) stood on Clachtoll. And you know what? It is wonderful, and it is fantastic, and it is amazing. And you should go!

Why?

Imagine, children, that you are gathered round the TV on a Saturday evening, watching Strictly. Dad’s in the kitchen, cooking dinner (he pretends not to like Strictly, but he’s watching it too, on the wee kitchen TV). And then (perhaps because he’s distracted by Louise Redknapp) a spark catches – your house is on fire – you all rush out – but, before the fire brigade arrive, the roof and the upstairs floor all catch fire, burn and collapse, followed by the walls, which collapse and dump hundreds of tons of stone onto what used to be your living room. Luckily, you all escaped (including sheepish dad), but the house is trashed. And, you know what? It’ll be two thousand years or more before anyone tries to dig it out and find your stuff.

And that, kind of, is what seems to have happened at Clachtoll. Set into the floor is a stone mortar, filled with grain; all carbonised; that was meant to be someone’s meal, but it didn’t happen: they all left in a hurry and the fire burned the grain, still in the mortar.

Fifteen years ago, I spent a tremendous week surveying this broch with my friend and colleague Ian Parker. We peered and poked as much as we could into what was largely a huge pile of stones. I crawled into spaces to take measurements (I was a bit more sylph-like then, but still had to be pulled out by the ankles once or twice), and we wondered what might lie under all that rubble. Historic Assynt, who lured us up there for that survey, have spent years trying to make this project happen, so it was just fabulous to be there today.

Take a bow, then, Historic Assynt, and their professional partners in this project, AOC Archaeology Group. You can read much more (and see much better photos than mine) on their websites:

https://www.facebook.com/historicassynt/
https://www.facebook.com/aocarchaeology/


Many thanks to Eve for that report. If you’ve visited an excavation or heritage site during the summer, why not drop us a line or two about it so we can spread your story?

Back in 2015 we suggested detectorists should stump up some cash to help PAS as it’s PAS that has kept them in existence, and a mere £3 a week each would provide thirty new FLOs. As we said at the time, PAS is entitled to expect that detectorists, whose bacon they and the taxpayer have saved for so many years, would promptly respond.

PAS did indeed ask for donations. Trouble is, after 2 years, the total raised is only £981.53 from a derisory 25 donors (one of whom was the CBA and another of whom was us!). Dr Sam Hardy reckons there are nearly 24,000 active detectorists which means detectorists are supporting PAS not at the rate of £3 per week each but at the rate of £0.0004 per week each – whereas most commercial detecting rallies cost £40 per week each (100,000 times more!)

Maybe it’s time PAS stopped pretending the majority of detectorists are their “partners” and stopped organising conferences to give that impression? Instead, shouldn’t they be telling the Government that what the vast majority of them are doing is seeking for their own benefit alone and the whole activity urgently needs regulating by Parliament. As a FLO tweeted a while back: “Today detectorist told me generally detectorists in the area don’t trust PAS/BM because they get nothing back….. Totally sick of hearing this“. So are we.

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Are you one of the 30,000 members of the Royal Oak Foundation, the organisation for Americans supporting Britain’s National Trust? If so, you’ll be paying somewhere between $65 and $10,000, depending on your status, and your Foundation has so far given the National Trust $7.5 million. You are then entitled to voice your opinion on how the National Trust goes about its business.
A resolution has been tabled at the National Trust’s AGM next month, asking the Board of Trustees to stop supporting the British Government’s intention to drive a new surface highway over part of the Stonehenge world-protected landscape. It asks the Board of Trustees to simply stick to their founding principles and to respect the fact that the World Heritage Site is of Outstanding Universal Value.
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If you object to President Trump’s attempts to weaken the protection enjoyed by US National Parks such as Bears Ears you’ll hopefully agree that if the British want a new road they must find a way to build one without causing major new damage to America’s and the World’s heritage – and the Trust shouldn’t be saying otherwise in your name. Please make your views known to the Trust. If possible please do in addition inform someone you know who will be attending the AGM – to ensure a proper hearing!

 

 

“Be sure your sins will find you out, especially if you’re married and her name’s Bertha.” [D H Lawrence]

Maybe some at The National Trust have been reflecting on those words lately. Their  “Bertha” is their commitment to the mantra “forever, for everyone” and their “sins” are that nevertheless they have supported trail hunting and the Stonehenge short tunnel. It’s long been obvious those two positions are untenable and now, after years of blatant dodging and diving, the Board has  finally agreed to allow Members to vote on both at the pending AGM.

Predictably the Board is asking Members to vote against both Resolutions! However, they don’t really explain why. No wonder, for in the case of the Resolution on Stonehenge the Trust is merely being called upon to:
1. Reaffirm its founding purpose to protect special places
2. Respect World Heritage Convention obligations
3. Recognise that major damage in a WHS can’t be justified by citing benefits
4. Accept (without further pretence) that the WHS has been designated as of outstanding universal value to mankind so it is not for Britain to unilaterally shrink the protected area.

As for that last point, the fact it is not for Britain alone to shrink the protected area, it’s significant that The Trust uses 550 words to tell Members to vote against the Resolution and yet manages to make zero reference to the important news that UNESCO has recently come out firmly against the short tunnel. That should tell you all you need to know about what’s happening.

As previously reported, a massive head of steam is building up against the Trust’s willingness to allow hunting on its land and as a result a Members’ Resolution has been tabled at next month’s AGM proposing a complete ban!

Oh so predictably, the Trust is urging members to vote against and to go instead for a watered-down reform. It says it believes it should be “generous in providing access to the fullest range of supporters”. A case of “forever, for everyone” providing the everyone is a powerful pro-hunting minority of members perhaps! We prefer Dr Brian May’s forthright summation: surely they should be protecting our wild animals “rather than protecting the scummy people who take pleasure in persecuting them ?

Anyway, to describe the AGM as “historic” would be no exaggeration because there’s a good chance the Trust will lose the hunting vote and thus be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twenty first century and become aligned with the views of the vast majority of the public.  Its reputation and finances could only benefit.

Commenting on damage to a Jacobean ceiling at BS1 1DE Historic England say they are “saddened that this important 400-year-old feature has been lost for future generations.”

But drive 50 miles East to SP4 7DE and what saddens them is totally different: “We’re disappointed that the ICOMOS report largely ignores both the benefits of removing a large stretch of the A303 and the danger of doing nothing at all.”

As everyone knows, UNESCO didn’t ignore the benefits, it simply said it was not reasonable to say the benefits can offset the damage. There’s something very wrong when an organisation which exists to “champion and protect historic places” can be saddened about damage in one place but disappointed by opposition to damage in another. Maybe Historic England will explain? Or maybe they won’t!

 

In Mexico they’ve just created a new division of the Federal Police which will recruit officers with knowledge of archaeology and art to tackle theft of cultural artifacts. The training of officers is being carried out with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA). It’s a bit like the efforts the British police have made, albeit rather more robust.

But there’s a crucial difference between Mexico and here. In Britain mining for archaeological and heritage items is a big industry, and almost entirely legal and sustained, encouraged and promoted from the public coffers. Here, we even pay scores of Portable Antiquities Scheme employees to attend hundreds of crass grabfests up and down the country (over 500 so far – see here ) smiling yet knowing full well (but never admitting to the public) that a high proportion of finds aren’t reported to them (which is blatant cultural theft of cultural artefacts) or to the owner (which is blatant criminal theft of cultural artefacts).

Mexicans, eh? They know nothing! (Incidentally, the redeployment of three Detective Constables from antiques to investigation of the Grenfell tragedy leaves London, the world’s second-largest market for art and antiques, unsupervised by any specialist police officers).

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It’s hard to express the answer in words. But this image of something on sale at a National Trust property tells you all you need to know.

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Bloody dinosaurs. It has now been taken off the shelves and they say that although they own the property the marketing there wasn’t their responsibility. Hmmm. Not an excuse they can use for the fact they charge money for allowing trail hunting on their land! So dinosaurs IS right.

So is the Trust capable of making sensible decisions entirely in the national interest, not its own about our national icon? (Bear in mind the Government said their support for the short tunnel had been “pivotal” which means without them it simply wouldn’t be happening).

Please make sure you make YOUR voice heard both before and during the Trust’s AGM at Swindon on Saturday 21 October!

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[ See also …. https://www.facebook.com/KeepTheFoxHuntBan/?fref=mentions ]

“The Week” magazine has just asked whether heritage destruction is ever justifiable. Clearly it sometimes is – else we’d have a world preserved in aspic and progress would be impossible. But the bigger question is when is it not justified. They quote some cases where it isn’t but where it happens nevertheless: Palmyra, The Buddhas of Bamiyan, Temple 33 in Guatemala and Hasankeyf in Turkey.

So why does destruction still happen even where, by any rational measure, it shouldn’t? The clue is in the fact that two factors are always present: an agenda to cause the damage and a group with the power to carry it out.

That’s what existed at Palmyra, Bamiyan, Guatemala and Hasankeyf – and it’s what exists at the Stonehenge World Heritage Landscape where there’s a political agenda to damage and a group with the power to carry out it out (the Government, EH, HE, NT and Highways England.)

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Hasankeyf is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on Earth, yet dynamiting of its Neolithic caves to create a dam is imminent. As one resident said: “We would like to apologise to the future generations for allowing this.” Perhaps soon the same apology may be owed by the British public. It certainly won’t be coming from HE, The National Trust and the rest.

 

 

The National Council for Metal Detecting [NCMD] has issued a statement:
“It has been brought to our attention that on one of the metal detecting groups in Britain, a short video was posted with incorrect messages about the oncoming European Council for Metal Detecting [ECMD] Conference in Norfolk. In this film, Mr. Marek Zacharko claimed that the British delegates from the NCMD will attend the Conference in a special role in order to “train” ECMD members. We have asked for official clarification from the NCMD and we have been assured by them that the comments made by Mr. Zacharko were his own personal interpretation and were made due to the fact that his command of English is quite poor (he is a foreign national living in Britain) so he misunderstood what was said about our Conference during an NCMD meeting that he attended. We welcome this explanation and are looking forward to meeting and working with NCMD delegation, which will be present in Norfolk in exactly the same role as other delegations from 11 different countries.”

Which is strange, for the NCMD “hosted” the ECMD’s inaugural meeting and ECMD was entirely their idea: “The concept of an ECMD was the brainchild of Trevor Austin {NCMD Chairman] who had worked tirelessly since 2012 to try and establish a common European organisation to represent the interests of detectorists across many parts of Europe …… The conference was organised entirely by a sub-committee of the NCMD.”

Just why the NCMD is now denying paternity of a Europe-wide lobbying body is a matter for speculation. However, we suspect it has realised that post-Brexit, when British archaeological voices in support of unregulated artefact hunting are heard far less in Brussels and Strasbourg, Britain will be seen far more as the uncultured man of Europe. In turn, that just might persuade Britain’s legislators to act.

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