Irish National Museum

A message from Maeve Sikora, Keeper of Irish Antiquities, National Museum of Ireland to the ARCHAEOLOGY (Seandálaíocht) IRELAND NETWORK:

“I would be most grateful if you could post the following information on your Facebook page. This is to ensure that everyone – members and visitors to the page – are aware of the legal obligations to report discoveries of archaeological objects found in the Republic of Ireland:

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“Every archaeological object, no matter how insignificant it may appear, is of importance in adding to the story of the past. The National Museum of Ireland, which is the repository of the Nation’s portable archaeological heritage, requests your co-operation in reporting discoveries of archaeological objects.

If you find an archaeological object, the National Monuments Act 1930-2014 requires that you report the discovery to the Duty Officer, Irish Antiquities Division, as soon as possible, and within four days. This can be done by email antiquitiesdo@museum.ie, by phone 01 6777444 or by writing to the Duty Officer, National Museum of Ireland.”

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It would nice to think the above (together with the text of Section 2 of Ireland’s National Monuments Act 1930 which defines archaeological objects) was pinned to the wall where any discussion of reform over here is discussed.

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Revealed in their latest Annual Financial Report:

1.) “At the end of this year, 31st March 2021, we had £338,340 in tangible cash assets”.

Yes, you read it right, a third of a million pounds. Compare and contrast the PAS fundraising appeal which has raised only £1248 from detectorists since 2015. Detectorists tell farmers they love and support PAS. They clearly don’t.

2.) “Our membership at end of year stood at 22929”.

Yes, you read that right too, nearly 23,000, to which can be added those who are members of the other organisation, FID, and of none. Compare and contrast our Erosion Counter, which assumes there are only 8,000 detectorists.
Detectorists claim our estimate of the amount of non-reporting is far too high. It looks like it is massively understated.

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. I support all these amendments. As an ex-archaeologist I feel strongly that this is something we must take notice of. We cannot keep trashing our heritage. I will try to be brief, if not as brief as last time, but will give two examples of where we have absolutely blundered.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, mentioned “historic”, but my area of study was prehistoric. For example, the way Stonehenge has been treated, with plans for a tunnel and a road, is absolutely outrageous. Why is there no understanding that these monuments contribute not only to wildlife, the landscape and the soil in lots of ways but to human happiness? Luckily, the plans for the monstrous Stonehenge road have been turned down by a British court.

Press release

National Highways has enlisted the help of Minecraft, the world’s best-selling video game, to inspire the next generation of talented tech experts, engineers, scientists and mathematicians.

The educational package is aligned to the national curriculum and is available to all teachers and schools, the only requirement is that they have access to Microsoft Education Centre. The five activities include:

  • National Highways to inspire next generation of talent through world’s best-selling video game A303 Stonehenge – Across the Ages: Students will be taken on an historic journey through different time periods with Stonehenge as the backdrop, including; Mesolithic Era, Neolithic Era, Bronze Age, Roman Britain, WW1, present day, and the planned A303 Stonehenge road scheme.
  • A303 Stonehenge – Biodiversity game: Using a Minecraft model of a green bridge section of the proposed scheme, students will explore the biodiversity of the area by photographing the flora and fauna in the landscape.”

Any bets there’ll be not a word about LOSS?

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From Twitter this week …

Prof Alice Roberts@theAliceRoberts on Twitter: “I’m in a field of wheat, filming one of the archaeological discoveries of the CENTURY. And I’m not allowed to say what it is or where I am and it’s KILLING ME! All will be revealed as Digging For Britain returns to @BBCTwo later this year. #DiggingRoadtrip#D4B9

WHY?

One of the answers is so clear hardly anyone bothers to state it or express concern about it any more. Indeed, PAS has been saying things are improving for 23 years while they have become progressively worse.

I’m old enough to remember when archaeologists could dig in a field with little fear the site would be ransacked by ruffians the next day.

If the forthcoming reforms to metal detecting aren’t aimed at getting back to those days they will be reforms in name only.

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A recent Twitter exchange serves as a warning to any landowner considering allowing metal detecting on his or her land:

CONSERVATIONIST : “these are HIS artefacts, and he may well not be an expert so it’s simply not right that someone with a vested interest should be informing him of their value and significance. He is owed an entirely independent appraisal of both the value and significance.”

DETECTORIST: “But there’s nothing stopping him/her getting an independent appraisal is there? I for one would not object.”….

Would not object !!! Yet he hasn’t suggested it. Nor, so far as we’ve ever heard, have the other 27,000. Nor, so far as we know, has PAS advised detectorists to do such a thing or advised landowners to insist on it. Why?

Anyway, we think landowners would be well advised to insist on it. And to ask PAS why they haven’t done the same. And to enquire whose interest PAS is protecting. Landowners’ it isn’t.

Relax. I’ll find it, I’ll value it. I’ll tell you if it’s valuable.

[As a tiny example of part of the millions farmers and the public’s knowledge base must have lost this way over the years, consider a Rule of KC Detecting Rallies which operates close to the soon-to-be-closed Worcester Uni archaeology department: “Any finds over £1000 must be disclosed to admin and proceeds shared with the landowner”. Yeah, right. Cui bono from the lack of an independent valuation?]

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By Nigel Swift

I was interested to read about the latest excavations and theories at Arthur’s stone, as it’s a place I’ve visited very frequently. One thing particularly caught my eye. It’s later stage was said to have “pointed to a location to the southeast between Skirrid Hill and Garway Hill

That equates with this image I took looking along the capstone in 2005. You can see Skirrid fawr very, very faint just below the arrow and the capstone is indeed not pointing directly at it but I wrote at the time: “It seems likely that before the capstone slumped to one side the alignment may have been even more precise and pointed EXACTLY at Skirrid.”

That thought also prompts the further thought: how many more alignments have been lost due to the stones slumping over the ages? Anyone have a time machine? If true then maybe Alfred Watkins should be re-examined:

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Alfred Watkins was born in Herefordshire and the concept of leylines may well have been born there too, and not only because of that. In 1870, fifty years before Watkins proposed them, William Henry Black gave a talk in Hereford to the British Archaeological Association entitled Boundaries and Landmarks in which he suggested “Monuments exist marking grand geometrical lines which cover the whole of Western Europe”. It has been suggested that Watkins may have had Black’s ideas in the back of his mind when he had his sudden revelation – when riding in the hills above Bredwardine – again in Herefordshire – “The whole thing came to me in a flash”

Arthur’s Stone is right there and was presumably uppermost in his thoughts – in fact, he proposed his ideas in a lecture “Early British Trackways, Moats, Mounds, Camps,
and Sites” delivered in 1921 to the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club in Hereford in 1921 before he published his book and mentioned “Arthur’s Stone, a dolmen, which was probably the core of a burial tump, is on two sighting lines” and also refers back to a paper by G.H.Piper, again fifty years earlier, delivered to the same society which noted that “A line drawn from the Skirrid-fawr mountain northwards to Arthur’s Stone would pass over the camp and southern most point of Hatterill Hill, Oldcastle, Longtown Castle, and Urishay and Snodhill castles”. (He quotes quite a few previous authors indicating he was far from being the originator of the whole idea).

What strikes me about his writing (in contrast to those who have seized on his ideas and invented “alternative” concepts) is the fact that he bases them on down-to-earth common sense. In particular, the idea that a genuine ley is likely to have at its two extremities a prominent natural feature at one end and an artificial “sighting tump” at the other and any features in between, like fragments of ancient trackway, are consequent upon the use of a straight route between those two extremes. No woo woo master plan then, just logical human behaviour. And as for Herefordshire, he says “In some districts—as Salisbury Plain and the Yorkshire Wolds—there are groups of adjacent barrows so numerous that it is probable that most of them were built as burial mounds only, not sighting mounds. This is not the case in the district investigated.”

So it seemed to me the best place to see a genuine, no messing, possible Ley would be right there, in the gorgeous hill country above Bredwardine and the Golden valley…

We always knew this, having held at least 15 annual megameets there, but now it has been confirmed!

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Gratifyingly, there wasn’t a single mention of the National Trust!

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Here’s the proof alluded to yesterday that most detectorists don’t give a damn about PAS, other than to use it as a cloak of false responsibility to wrap themselves in when asking landowners for permission to detect:

The PAS fundraising appeal

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Since it started in 2015 just 30 people (including ourselves) have donated only £1,248 to supporting PAS. Bear in mind most detectorists spend thousands a year on equipment, search fees, rally fees and petrol, and almost all of them tell farmers they’re PAS supporters. It’s pretty shocking that of 27,000 detectorists only one in 900 of them has contributed to the maintenance or continuance of PAS.

We have put a permanent link to the appeal in our left hand column to remind landowners, taxpayers, legislators and those currently contemplating reforms of the reality.

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