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Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney at University College Dublin in 2009
Source Wikimedia Commons. Image credit Sean O’Connor
Qual e’ colui che somniando vede,
che dopo ‘l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l’altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io…

Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

‘Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now’, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges

That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,

Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving

And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,

Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,

Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king’s gold dagger when he plunged it in

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk

And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow

Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle

Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.


Seamus Heaney

13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013


The ancient city of Aleppo in Syria. Photo credit: UNESCO/Ron Van Oers
While the world agonises at the sight of human suffering in Syria, UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, appealed yesterday to, “…all parties involved in the Syrian conflict to safeguard the country’s cultural heritage and take all possible measures to avoid further destruction.” The UN News Centre reports that –
UNESCO is determined to use its expertise and its networks to help the Syrian people preserve their exceptional cultural heritage,” said the agency’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, after a meeting of experts held at the UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris seeking action to prevent further losses and repair damage where and when it will be possible.
“Protecting heritage is inseparable from protecting populations, because heritage enshrines a people’s values and identities,” Ms. Bokova said. “We have heard today of the serious damage that has already been inflicted on Syria’s heritage. The destruction of sites such as the historic souk in Aleppo has made headlines around the world, clearly reflecting the concern and distress of people everywhere.”
Full article here.
Germany’s Friederike Moll-Dau examines bones excavated from a site in Shaanxi Province. Source: Radio86
Stina Björkell, writing in the gbtimes in 2008, reports that –
Jiao Nanfeng is the president of the Shaanxi Archaeology Institute in Xi’an. An archaeologist himself, Jiao headed the team of scientists that in the 1990s discovered the massive Yangling Tomb, an imperial mausoleum of Western Han Emperor Jingdi and Empress Xiaojing (206 BCE to 24 CE). China is undoubtedly an archeologist’s dream. With more than 4,000 years of uninterrupted civilization, the territory presents a bottomless treasure chest for scientists seeking to uncover clues to events of the past.
“The preservation and protection of cultural relics is a major part of our work. We assist related organizations in building museums and display rooms, and to ensure cultural relics are stored under optimal conditions. Preservation is becoming a very important part of our work today,” Jiao says.
Full article here. See also the video here.
Dunhuang mural as revealed under multispectral imaging
China Central Television reports Thursday that –
As a key stopover on the ancient Silk Road, the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in Northwest China’s Gansu Province have major historical significance. Now, a new technique has been adopted to preserve the ancient murals in the caves. What’s more, it can also help visitors see the murals in all their original glory.
The murals have suffered from on-going degradation 
However, with the help of a multi-spectral imaging technique, the original colourful paintings can now easily be seen. “We can’t see any paintings on this wall, but by using the multi-spectral imaging technique, all the layers of paintings can be ’reproduced’,” said Su Bomin, director of Conservation Institute of Dunhuang. Using this technique, archaeologists discovered several paintings featuring exquisite costumes.
Full article and video here. See also our earlier feature on The International Dunhuang Project.
Roy Goutté with Chief, one of his thoroughbred collies, at King Arthur’s Hall, Cornwall
Our good friend, Roy Goutté, fellow contributor, author, researcher and staunch campaigner against the damage and desecration of Cornish prehistoric sites, was taken ill yesterday and is presently in hospital. The good news is that Roy is recovering well and hopes to be home again by the end of the week.
Our very best wishes Roy, and we hope to see you back hail and hearty as soon as possible.
Display cases at the Malawi Museum stand smashed and empty after the Museum was ransacked earlier this month
AP Photo: Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper
Keri Douglas, writing on her 9 muses news website, reports that –
On August 15, the Malawe (Malawi) Museum in Al-Minya, Upper Egypt was looted and artifacts destroyed. The Malawe (Malawi) Museum is known for its collections from archeological sites in Tuna al-Gebel and Hermopolis.
In an effort to inform the public, museum curators, collectors and law enforcement, please find attached the UK Blue Shield list of confirmed artifacts missing from the Malawe (Malawi) Museum.
The Westbury Horse (1939) by Eric Ravilious
Image credit DACS/the artist’s estate
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum has announced a Walking Wiltshire’s White Horses: Eight White Horses – 100 Miles event from 22-26 August 2013. Artists Ali Pretty and Richard White will be leading the hundred mile, five day public walk, around Wiltshire’s White Horses.
Walking Wiltshire’s White Horses is the final piece of a three month long arts project that melds walking with art. Walkers will be taken on a fascinating trail of Wiltshire’s ancient monuments, stone circles, long barrows, tumuli and the eight White Horses.
More here.
Offa’s Dyke descending to the Clun Valley in South Shropshire. This is not the section that has been destroyed
Used with permission
Jim Saunders, the Offa’s Dyke Association
Liz Hull, writing in the Mail Online today, reports that 50 yards of Offa’s Dyke has been bulldozed –
For more than 1,200 years, nothing had disturbed it. But in just a few hours, a stretch of Offa’s Dyke – considered one of the most important ancient monuments in Britain – was flattened. The damage to the aged earthwork, which is in a World Heritage site, was described by horrified experts as akin to ‘driving a road through Stonehenge’.
Full story and photographs of the damage here.

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Cover with Spine

The front cover of the new British Archaeology is inevitably a bit sombre, but it’s a reminder of how fortunate we were to have had Mick Aston among us. I run an obituary-listing feature at the end of every year (about 60 individuals in the last one); and very occasionally deaths will be noticed of particularly well known and influential archaeologists during the course of the year. But the only archaeologist who has appeared in their own right on the cover before was Mick himself. I doubt there will be another while I’m still editing.

Greg Bailey has written about Mick and broadcasting, I created a My archaeology column by bringing together fragments from various texts Mick had written for the magazine over the years, and there is Mick’s own final Travels column – on the Isle of Purbeck. And I wrote a short appreciation. “If we care”, he said…

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15th century painted panels in Holy Trinity Church, Torbryan, Devon England before the theft. The two figures on the right, in the left panel, are now missing.
Photo credit: The Churches Conservation Trust
Hayley Dixon, writing in The Telegraph this morning, reports that –
Priceless 15th century panels said to be of national importance have been “viciously hacked” out of a screen in a Devon church and stolen. The oak panels, which represent a variety of saints and church dignitaries, make up one of the few Rood screens to survive the “puritanical zeal” of the Reformation and are one of the best examples of their kind left in Britain, experts say. But it is feared that they have now been stolen by an opportunistic thief who hopes they will “get a tenner”  [£10] for them.
The Churches Conservation Trust has appealed for public help in tracing the rare artworks, which have been stolen from the Holy Trinity Church, in Torbryan, over the last three weeks. The church, a grade one listed building in the Devon countryside, is consecrated ground but is no longer in use. It is maintained by volunteers. Chief Executive of the conservation charity Crispin Truman said: “Two of the panels have been viciously hacked out, leaving a great big gaping hole. These are fantastic examples of craftsmanship of the time, they were probably done by a very high status craftsman, they were unique.
Full article here. See also the BBC News Devon video on the link here.
K R Ranjith, writing in The New Indian Express today, reports that –
The State Archaeology Department will soon launch a mega project to identify and explore megalithic monuments lying scattered across the state [of Kerala]. The initiative is a run-up to a mission to identify and protect megalithic sites and artifacts of historical importance that go unnoticed and unprotected on private lands.
“We are planning a statewide exploration to identify megalithic sites. To begin with, we will organise a national seminar in coordination with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI),” said Dr Premkumar, director of the Archaeological Department.
Experts and researchers will conduct the statewide exploration to identify the sites. The initiative comes in the backdrop of the limitations the department faces to protect monuments in areas under private ownership. “Numerous megalithic monuments like rock-cut caves, muniyaras, Jain pillars and umbrella rocks are laying unidentified and unprotected in different parts of the state,” said Dr Premkumar.
“A survey on archaeological remains in two panchayats in Idukki district has already been completed. Many interesting findings have emerged out of the study and we will publish a record of the sites and findings soon. Similar surveys would be conducted in all districts and each district will have a book on the sites of archaeological importance, especially megalithic sites,” he added. “I have also submitted a proposal with detailed plan to buy and protect megalithic sites that fall under private ownership.”
Full article here.
The Hurlers, Cornwall
The Heritage Trust
Visit South East Cornwall has announced details for its, The Hurlers: Mapping the Sun event from the 16-23 September 2013 –
For the first time in nearly 80 years we have the chance to carry out archaeological work on the Hurlers Stone Circle at Minions on Bodmin Moor. As well as the actual dig there will be plenty of events taking place that the public can get involved in.
16th September
Astronomy workshop 2 hour
With Roseland Observatory
Mapping the Sun, Archaeological Field Trip – Minions area – 2 x 2 hour
field trips- am and pm Jacky Nowakowski open to all. Minions
landscape – Hurlers, Rillaton, Barrow, Stowes Pound etc.
Details and full itinerary here.
Old Oswestry is a large and impressive early Iron Age hill fort in the Welsh Marches near Oswestry in north west Shropshire. It was designated as a scheduled monument (number 27556) in 1997 and is now in the guardianship of English Heritage. After the hillfort was abandoned it was incorporated into Wat’s Dyke, and two sections of this are adjacent to it. Source Wikipedia entry on Old Oswestry Hillfort.
The Shropshire Star reports yesterday that –
More than 2,000 people have now signed a petition urging planning chiefs to ditch proposals to allow houses to be built in the shadow of Oswestry’s Iron Age hillfort.
Various areas of Oswestry have been put forward for potential development under Shropshire Council’s SAMDev plans which will govern where homes will be built in the future. Among the areas are parcels of land around the town’s hillfort, widely regarded as one of the most significant landmarks of its kind in Europe.
Oswestry businessman John Waine launched an online petition just over a week ago calling for Shropshire planners to think again. And as of yesterday, 2,060 people had signed up to the petition, which has been posted on the website. Public opinion is being gathered on the plans as part of the second round of consultation on the SAMDev document. The consultation ends on August 23.
Mr Waine describes the hill fort as the “jewel in Oswestry’s crown, an under-valued heritage asset and the old ancient heart of the town” and will pass on the petition to the north planning committee at Shropshire Council.
People from all over the country, many with Shropshire connections, have backed the petition. Taran McCarnun, of Salisbury, said: “I am a native of Shropshire, born and bred in Shrewsbury. Even forgetting the fact that the Cornovii tribe held it as their seat of power for centuries, this hillfort is the only one of its kind anywhere in Europe. This must be protected at all costs.”
Full article here. Those wishing to oppose development around Old Oswestry Hillfort are asked to sign the petition here. The deadline for registering objections is the 23 August 2013.
A guest feature by Roy Goutté. Text and images © Roy Goutté
The Stripple Stones: Hawks Tor Downs, Blisland, Cornwall (SX14357521) as they appeared on the 5 July 2013
With just two more stone circles to visit on Bodmin’s moors (Leaze would be the last one) I set out on a beautiful Friday morning to search out the Stripple Stones on Hawks Tor Downs. This one was of special interest to me because it is a stone circle 47 yards in diameter set within a henge some 58 yards in diameter and the only such one in Cornwall, so I was really looking forward to that moment when you cast your eyes on a new circle for the first time, especially one so special.
I began my walk from the Trippet Stones on Manor Common which reaches down to the main A30 road through Cornwall. The turn-off to the Trippet Stones on the A30 is from the Temple crossroads about four miles from the Jamaica Inn away to the east. Take the right turn signposted St Breward and a mile or so up this moorland road take the road/track to the right at a small crossroad signposted Treswigga to the left. About 200 yards up this gravelled track and the Trippets can be seen on the left. Park just off the track but please don’t drive up to the circle as the ground is very peaty here and cuts up easily.
As the land leading to the Stripple Stones is mainly private you either have to seek permission from the landowner at Hawks Tor Farm at the end of the track, or, take a chance and do what I did and take a round-about route to get there via a well worn working track leading up to the lower reaches of Hawks Tor.
So, from the Trippet Stones and with Hawkstor to the east in front of you away in the distance, I headed off diagonally to the left of Hawkstor Farm until I met the boundary wall/hedge and followed it down to a gate. Lovely old stone walling on the left leading up to the gate. This is the route the local landowner and probably other Commoners take to bring cattle on and off this part of the moor so it is well worn. Through the gate and begin the walk up a longish track past a ‘working area’ on the left and a series of cattle pens and runs. Note the huge flat upright stones set into the walling on the right alongside a gateway to the right. Two more gates to negotiate (I had to climb both as they were secure to keep the cattle in) then the gate leading onto the open moor.
Ahead of you to the right are the lower reaches of Hawks Tor and it was then that I remembered why I had decided not to bring my Border Collie Chief with me for the first time ever. Gorse, rocks, dense shrub grass… and the possibility of adders! I’d heard on the news just two days earlier that 13 dogs had been bitten over the moors in a month so there was no way I was going to let my normally constant travelling companion risk running the gauntlet here.
A bit of a climb gets you to the top with the usual outstanding views around Cornwall on display. Off to the north are our two national landmarks of Roughtor and Brown Willy and forward of them, Garrow Tor. What tales they could collectively tell of the goings on over the centuries that’s for sure! To the south is the A30 and beyond it Colliford Lake.
The view from the summit of Hawks Tor. In the far background can be seen Roughtor to the left and Brown Willy to the right of it. Partly blocking out the view of Roughtor is Garrow Tor
From here I walked due south to the base of the Tor until meeting a timber gate leading into a large paddock with sheep enclosed. In the distance but slightly to the left I could just make out the circular shape of the henge and a few standing stones which were well apart. I had only just begun to walk toward them when I realised there was a lower fence-line so had to turn immediately left from the gateway I had only just passed through and follow the fence-line until reaching another gate about 100 yards away. Through that then immediately turn right and the Stripple Stones are about 300 yards ahead of you.
Well, the moment had come, but I have to admit to feeling rather disappointed on first close up view as the henge is only these days a mere shadow of its former self. Cattle and man’s determination to totally disregard our heritage have played their hand yet again! Just four stones left standing and ten more lying prostrate, including a central pillar, were all I could find from what is believed to have been around 28-30.
Worse was to come. Built right across the north-eastern sector of the stone circle, ditch and bank is a stone and earthen boundary wall/bank which no doubt included the broken remains of those removed stones. It beggars belief that in this landscape of nothingness other than an area of outstanding beauty, the perpetrators of this – what to my mind is a criminal act – could not have avoided the henge altogether.
The destruction of our heritage. A banked stone and earthen wall build straight through the north-eastern sector of the stone circle, bank and ditch
To me it is quite simple and I no longer accept excuses. Generation after generation of landowners simply don’t care and are prepared to see our past destroyed because it is of no interest or value to them. Even though there are thousands of acres of Bodmin Moor for stock to roam over, nobody it seems is prepared to give up the comparatively small areas of land these circles are built on and erect protective fencing or traditionally built walls in keeping with the environment to keep them safe! This is a henge site for heaven’s sake and the only one in Cornwall with a stone circle within it. How much more important must a site be before someone takes this matter seriously? Out of sight, out of mind, would appear to be the case here due to its location.
Little remains to be seen now of the ditch or bank as again they are being wiped out by wandering stock. It has almost certainly been accelerated over the past decade as Highland Cattle have become very popular over the moor. These massive beasts are like tanks wandering the landscape with not much standing in their way and particularly noticed near the Trippet Stones circle just a stone’s throw away on Manor Common. It has been said that the cattle do very little damage to the archaeology taking into account just how long in the main most of the sites have been here, but surely they are living in cloud-cuckoo land if they really believe that! A herd will walk through a stone circle using every stone as rubbing posts if the mood takes them and for every altercation between beasts every stone in their path is in imminent danger due to the soft peaty soil many are erected on!
I took the reverse route back but on descending the Tor noticed farmer workers along the lower track removing cattle from a trailer so hung back for a few minutes. On completion they then drove a quad bike up the trailer ramp before moving off. I thought I was safe but on emerging out of the track-way noticed they had parked up and were letting three or four collies loose for a drink in the stream that passes through at this point. I manned-up for a confrontation and continued walking but other than a cursory glance back by the driver, they paid no further attention to me and drove off.
On reaching my car, some 15 minutes later, I was to get the shock of my life, for in the distance I could see and hear the same guys returning both in the truck and quad bike, but this time driving cattle across the common – directly toward the Trippet Stones! I quickly got out my camcorder and filmed them purposely drive the cattle straight through the stone circle without an apparent care in the world. See here.
It’s as I have already said, nobody cares! Just one week earlier the Commoners had been warned about driving vehicles and stock through the circle by Natural England so this just proved the total disregard shown by them. On this occasion neither vehicle passed through the circle although the truck was pretty close but the cattle sure did! I am at a complete loss as to why sites such as this can’t be protected efficiently but sympathetically. I reported the incident to English Heritage and sent them the clip of the video but have now all but given up my fight to have these sites protected as nobody listens. The on-going excuse is always the same… lack of funds, but they seem to be found for other projects felt more interesting and potentially money making!
Highland cattle gather round a stone within the circle. Idyllic scene or heritage threat?
Temple of Ramses III in a remote area north of Luxor. Such sites are increasingly under threat from looters
The Heritage Trust
Raniah Salloum, writing in SPIEGEL on 4 August 2013 reports that –
Egypt’s cultural heritage is in danger. Grave robbers, sometimes heavily armed, are taking advantage of political chaos to plunder its poorly guarded archaeological sites. Authorities feel powerless to stop them and fear that ancient treasures might be lost forever.
From the pharaohs and Romans to the Greeks, Copts and Fatimids, Egypt bears the traces of many ancient civilizations. Not all of the treasures have been discovered and secured. Egypt has admittedly always had to grapple with the problem of grave-robbing. But since the revolution in 2011, “this phenomenon has increased even more,” laments Abdel-Halim Nur el-Din, a professor of archaeology and the former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the authority responsible for ancient relics and archaeological excavations in Egypt. “We are losing our cultural heritage piece by piece,” he adds.
The gangs are also getting bolder. At the pyramids of Saqqara, they advanced with weapons and cleared out a state-owned storehouse. According to the SCA department head in charge of the facility, it contained small statues. There have even been illegal excavations in the tourist centers of Aswan and Luxor, which experts attribute to organized gangs. Instead of shovels, some even bring along small excavators.
Full article here.


August 2013
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