The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

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Cornwall — News

English Heritage not good for Cornwall's heritage

A Penzance archaeologist and historian has joined with Cornish MP George Eustice in calling for 'English' Heritage to be replaced, in Cornwall, with a locally based body.

Craig Weatherhill, author of several books, papers and articles, is exasperated by what he terms: "This arrogant quango's disgraceful neglect of, and contempt for, Cornwall's valuable heritage".

The latest in a series of incidents stems from a site meeting on Aug 6th, by groups concerned with serial damage to the Tregeseal stone circle, St Just, and associated ancient monuments, allegedly by activities imposed upon the moorland by sister quango Natural 'England'.

"Initially, 'English' Heritage did not want to know, "says Mr Weatherhill, "until the Celtic League, an organisation recognised by the United Nations, became involved. The Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments, who attended, promised to produce his recommendations within a fortnight. He failed to do so. Frequent enquiries since then have merely produced adjusted promises, the last being for Oct.19. That has come and gone, and still there is nothing. It is nowhere near good enough.

'English' Heritage has a long record of turning blind eyes to the damage and destruction of ancient sites in Cornwall, from the Cadbury's Creme Egg Hunt in 1984, to the utter destruction of numerous sites they are appointed to protect. They ruined the fogous at Carn Euny and Chysauster, and publicly insulted those who spoke out. According to their then Chairman, the latter 'wasn't exactly Stonehenge', which pretty well sums up their whole attitude. Unless it is a site from which they can turn a profit, they simply do not want to know. In fact, they've hived off all the guardianship sites they were appointed to manage to people like the National Trust and the Cornwall Heritage Trust – except for those which generate revenue."

Referring to the original bid that secured World Heritage Site status for Cornish mining, Mr Weatherhill outlined the actions of 'English' Heritage to delist and support the demolition of a Grade II star engine house near St Austell. "EH's case," he said, "was that the engine house was worthless as it did not contain an engine. This was astonishingly ignorant, and not only effectively placed all but two Cornish engine houses at serious risk, but almost jeopardised the entire WHS bid. Of course, it need hardly be said that the applicant was a major corporation".

"At Tintagel in 1998," he added, "news of the discovery of a piece of slate incised with names of 6th century men, including one called Artognou, was suppressed by EH until the start of the peak holiday season. Then they arranged headlines in every major newspaper, claiming proof of King Arthur. Of course, this was total bilge, but EH was far more interested in the gate money than they were giving historical facts. Our heritage deserves much, much better than this.

"In 1988, Penwith Council wrote to EH, concerned that significant monuments in the area had no legal protection. EH assured them that a radical new Scheduling list was in progress, to be complete within 5 years. It never appeared, not to this very day, but EH kept on giving the Council that assurance." Mr Weatherhill says. "Then, just last year, I came across a document written by Cornwall's Historic Environment Service in 2008, clearly stating that all Scheduling in West Penwith had been halted in 1987, EH deciding that the new Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme for Penwith would be adequate protection. Of course, it was no such thing. The ESA had no statutory teeth, and only a voluntary take-up. If that wasn't bad enough, EH had deliberately lied, several times, to the local authority! I know this to be fact, because I was the officer at the Council who wrote the letters.

"EH's latest piece of blinding arrogance is to see a play about World War II at Pendennis Castle cancelled because of the quango's crazy insistence that all reference to Nazis and Jews be written out of the script. It's unbelievable!"

Mr Weatherhill, who became a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd in 1981 for services to archaeology, claimed he could cite many more cases of 'English' Heritage's neglect and misrepresentation, least of all that which marketed Cornish Celtic heritage as that of a totally unconnected people. "There is a frankly sinister political aspect to EH's policies", he claimed.

His call for the disbanding of 'English' Heritage and Natural 'England' is also economically sensible, he suggests. "If the government is serious about curtailing expenditure," he says, "then what is the sense in maintaining two tiers of administration in both fields? Get rid of the national bodies, and devolve their powers to local level and local knowledge. We still await signs of Mr Cameron's much-vaunted 'localism', especially on this side of the Amazon*, so here's a perfect way to kickstart it."

He added that most Cornish people he had spoken to would be greatly relieved to see the backs of both quangoes.

*This refers to David Cameron's on-air blunder regarding protests over his proposed transgression of Cornwall's historic River Tamar border with the statement: "It's hardly the Amazon, is it?"


Pembrokeshire (County) — News

Ancient sites and monuments damaged in Pembrokeshire

From the BBC News:

"Ancient sites and monuments in north Pembrokeshire have been blighted with graffiti, broken glass and an abandoned car, it has been claimed.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority says a car contaminated a Site of Special Scientific Interest below the Carn Ffoi Iron Age Fort.

It also says a megalithic stone at Bedd Arthur, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, has had names scratched into it.

Historic monuments agency Cadw said damage was often "irreversible".

The park authority's criticisms followed news that another ancient stone, Bedd Morris near Newport, was recently toppled after being hit by a vehicle."

The full article on the BBC News site


Snails help date Britain's last three million years

From PlanetEarthonline

Scientists have built the most comprehensive timeline yet for working out the exact order in which geological and archaeological events happened in Britain over the last three million years. And they've done it using fossilised snails.

The mammoth 11-year project, published online in Nature, is the most comprehensive of its kind and clears up a number of archaeological and geological debates.

It shows that our ancestors lived in Britain during most of the warm periods of the last few million years. But it supports the idea that they were absent in the most recent warm period – or interglacial – 125,000 years ago. During this time, the climate was warm enough for hippopotamuses to have roamed the British Isles.

'It's possible that the warm climate contributed to higher sea levels and people just couldn't get across the Strait of Dover,' says Dr Kirsty Penkman from the University of York, lead author of the study.

...The timeline is so complete that any debate over the timing of human occupation in Britain or past geological events should now be dead in the water.

Belas Knap (Long Barrow) — Links

BBC Gloucestershire

The archaeologist Professor Mark Horton at Belas Knap with Heather Sebire, the Historic Property Curator with English Heritage in the west of England.

Ormaig (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Silver Well Stones (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images

<b>Silver Well Stones</b>Posted by baza

Baildon Stone 2 (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images

<b>Baildon Stone 2</b>Posted by baza

PRAWR 150 (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images

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Mains of Moyness (Ring Cairn) — Images

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Embo (Chambered Cairn) — Images

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Gebla ta' Sansuna (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — News

Gebla ta' Sansuna scheduled

From Stonepages

Maltese prehistoric site scheduled to stand

The MEPA (Malta Environment & Planning Authority) board confirmed the scheduling of a prehistoric site and turned down appeals to have the scheduling reconsidered.
In the area around Ħagra ta' Sansuna in Xagħra lie the remains of a prehistoric temple. A man who owns nearby land said that the buffer zone negatively affected the value of his land, while another compared the scheduling to expropriation, and cited antiquity scholars John Evans and David Trump who expressed doubts about the site.
But the Heritage Planning Unit representative pointed out that land value was not a consideration when sites were scheduled, and pointed out that Evans and Trump doubted what the site was, (i.e. whether it is the remains of a Neolithic temple or a Bronze Age menhir/dolmen), but not its archaeological value. It should also be pointed out that in the 1968 National Ordinance Survey Maps, the site is indicated as a Neolithic Monument.
HPU also said the objector is incorrect in stating that there are no associated finds. During the widening of Triq Ġnien Imrik in 1946, a stone mortar used for corn grinding together with a number of prehistoric sherds were discovered and hastily re-buried. The MEPA board subsequently unanimously voted to keep the scheduling as is.

Central London — News

7,000-year-old timbers found beneath MI6 Thames headquarters

Archaeologists hail oldest wooden structure ever found on river, despite security services' armed response to researchers.

When MI6 set up home on the banks of the Thames one secret escaped its watchful eyes. The oldest wooden structure ever found on the river, timbers almost 7,000 years old, have been discovered buried in the silt below the windows of the security services' ziggurat headquarters at Vauxhall, south London.

The archaeologists who uncovered the six hefty timber piles had to explain to the security services what they were up to when armed police turned up after they were spotted pottering about on a foggy day in the mud, armed only with tripods, cameras and measuring equipment – not, as one spectator had apparently reported, shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.

"They accepted there wasn't much damage we could do with a tripod," said Gustave Milne, the archaeologist who leads the Thames Discovery programme that has been surveying the entire prehistoric foreshore, uncovering centuries of ancient wharves, fish traps, jetties and ship timbers.

The timbers, partly scoured bare by erosion of the river bed, the largest up to a third of a metre in diameter, were discovered in work during exceptionally low tides last February, but carbon dating work – revealed in the new edition of London Archaeologist journal – has only recently been completed, proving that the trees were felled between 4790 BC and 4490 BC.

Full story in The Guardian

Anta da Comenda Grande (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Images

<b>Anta da Comenda Grande</b>Posted by baza<b>Anta da Comenda Grande</b>Posted by baza

Formby (Ancient Trackway) — News

5000 year old footprints found on Formby beach

More prehistoric human footprints have been found along a 4 km strip of coast between Formby and Ainsdale that date back some 5,000 years.

Archaeologists today dubbed the discovery 'sensational', claiming it is one of the most significant historic footprint finds the country has seen.

Full article in Champion

Trefael (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — News

Standing stone may have guided the ancients through 'sacred landscape'

A solitary stone in a windswept Welsh field has helped shed light on how our neolithic ancestors came together in worship thousands of years ago.

A recent excavation programme at a standing stone known as Trefael, near Newport in Pembrokeshire, has revealed at least two unique episodes in its early history.

Archaeologists say as well as being a portal dolmen (a tomb made of giant stones) the standing stone was probably used as a ritual marker to guide communities through a sacred landscape.

Bristol University lecturer Dr George Nash, archaeologist and specialist in prehistoric and contemporary art, said the stones acted to create a precinct of sacred ground in the county.

The idea was that our neolithic ancestors could follow an organised pattern of worship, similar to that of church-goers in modern times.

What we have got is human communities who were very similar to ourselves. The neolithic communities had designated landscapes that were special and sacred, said Mr Nash.

Read More at WalesOnline

Cromeleque do Xarez (Stone Circle) — Images

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Menir da Meada (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

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Ness of Brodgar (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Images

<b>Ness of Brodgar</b>Posted by baza

Cantraybruich (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

Not much left to see here, just an arc of stones which probably formed part of the western side of the kerb of a cairn, with a pile of stones nearby.

Cantraybruich (Chambered Cairn) — Images

<b>Cantraybruich</b>Posted by baza

Culnakirk (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Fieldnotes

Back in 1887, five cup marks were seen on this stone; by 1997 only two were visible. When I visited in 2010 none could be seen as most of the stone was covered in grass.

Culnakirk (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Images

<b>Culnakirk</b>Posted by baza

Clachmhor (Cup Marked Stone) — Fieldnotes

I drove down the lane to Culnakirk steading in search of this panel and encountered a fairly new house named 'Clachmhor' on my left. The owner was pottering about in his yard so I asked him about the whereabouts of the stone. He amiably pointed over a fieldgate leading from his driveway to a large block just a few yards away.

Anta do Estanque (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Images

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Chapel Anta do San Brissos (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Images

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Cromeleque dos Almendres (Standing Stones) — Images

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baza lives on the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire.

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