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A 400bce gold torc from the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs collection
©
Staffordshire County Council
 
A fundraising campaign has been launched to save ancient jewellery believed to be the earliest example of Iron Age gold ever discovered in Britain.
 
The four intricate artefacts that make up the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs first captured the public imagination – and global media – when they were unveiled for the first time at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in February. They went on to attract 21,000 visitors in just one month.
 
The valuable torcs, which experts believe may be Britain’s earliest examples of Iron Age gold have now been valued at £325,000 by a panel from the Treasure Valuation Committee, and the museum is embarking on a three-month campaign to raise the money so that they can be kept on public display.
 
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, in partnership with the Friends of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery – which is leading the public fundraising campaign on behalf of the museum – has until December 5 to meet the valuation price, or risk the artefacts potentially being separated out and sold to private bidders.
 
More here.
 

 

 
Stonehenge on right, traffic flow on the nearby A303  left
©
Mike Pitts
 
In his letter to The Times (Saturday, 16 September) Mike Pitts, Editor of the British Archaeological magazine, writes –
 

Sir, Tom Holland (letter September 13) notes that archaeologists have found ancient remains across the Stonehenge world heritage site, and implies that a road tunnel would threaten more. He is correct, but this is a red herring. Any works close to Stonehenge must be preceded by an archaeological survey. In the latest announcement the proposed route has been adjusted to avoid newly discovered sites. It is inevitable, however, that not everything can be saved in this way, and then excavation must occur. Remains will be disturbed, scientific studies will be conducted and finds will go to the local museum. We will learn more about Stonehenge. The process – turning loss into enlightenment – is exactly the same for all excavations, including those that have impressed Holland. All archaeological excavation is both destructive and creative.

If there is a problem, it is that the two excavating sides – one led by pure inquiry, one by development – do not talk to each other enough. In the years ahead, it is vital that all organizations work together for the benefit of Stonehenge and the public.

Mike Pitts
Editor, British Archaeology

Photo and letter published with the kind permission of Mike Pitts. See also Mike’s What would Trump do with Stonehenge?

Modern ‘Fairy Stacks’ at Stowes Pound
© Roy Goutté

In July we published an article by Heritage Trust member Roy Goutté and his TimeSeekers volunteer archaeological clearance group on the damage being done by visitors to the Neolithic site of Stowes Pound in Cornwall, some of whom are removing stones from the structure to build so-called ‘Fairy Stacks’ there. Now, Historic England, BBC News Cornwall and The Telegraph have picked up on Roy and his team’s concerns and are urging visitors not to engage in the practice as it is not only illegal but is also eroding an important feature of our Neolithic heritage.

Roy adds –

Now that the media are covering this it is to be hoped that action will now be taken to protect this wonderful Neolithic monument from further damage. I have observed this happening for years by visitors mainly there to see the Cheesewring as I live but a few minutes away. I have never felt it was deliberate vandalism, just seen as a bit of harmless fun. To the uninformed they are ‘just stones’ as there are no information boards on site to say differently – but there should be IMO. However, mention this to holiday makers and you are met with either thanks for enlightening them – or hostility, because you have no authority to tell them what they can or can’t do. I keep reporting it and I know that my concerns are passed on, but to date nothing practical seems to have been done and it needs sorting!

To make it clear, the stones in question are the stones that form the continuous defensive rampart that create the Pound. It is roughly teardrop shaped and in my opinion a Neolithic work of defensive art as attempting to scale it on foot is sure to cost you your life if defended well from inside. Your progress would be so slow with your eyes constantly fixed on where you placed your feet, you would be dead before reaching the top!

The two photos were taken in 2014 when members of the TimeSeekers clearance group helped to topple the towers and replace the stones as near as possible to their original positions – something very time consuming and not always achievable.

Stowe’s Hill report by Roy Goutté.

The tower building continues but with further concerns…

Image credit and © Roy Goutté

Stowe’s Pound is sited atop a prominent granite ridge to the north of Minions village in the south-eastern sector of Bodmin Moor. The hill itself is perhaps best known as the site of the Cheesewring, famous in folklore, and of Cheesewring Quarry, which has taken a massive bite out of the hill’s southern tip. The hill is sited at the edge of the moorland, overlooking Rillaton Moor and Witheybrook Marsh, to the south and west, and the upper reaches of the River Lynher to the east; the tors of Dartmoor can be seen on the distant skyline.

Two massive stone-walled enclosures encircle the summit of the ridge, a small tear-drop shaped primary enclosure, encircling the tors at the southern end of the hill, and a larger subsidiary enclosure which encloses the large whale-backed summit ridge of the hill. These enclosures are similar in many ways to the excavated tor enclosures at Carn Brea and Helman Tor, which are dated to the early Neolithic period (4000 – 3500 BC).

Though very ruinous, the ramparts of the smaller enclosure still stand in places up to 5 metres in height and are between 5 and 15 metres wide. It must once have been a very imposing structure. The larger enclosure, though clearly secondary, might still be contemporary with the other. Its ramparts are noticeably slighter and vary between 5 and 10 metres in width. It has two clearly identifiable entrances on the west and east sides and several other smaller gaps and later stone quarries along the walling in between. There are traces of at least two roughly concentric outer ramparts, best seen on the north-eastern side, and other outworks flank the hill slopes. Curiously, there are no identifiable entrances through the walls of the small enclosure, and no gate or passage providing a link between the interiors of the two enclosures.

(Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council)

In 2014, I and other members of the TimeSeekers volunteer clearance group, were asked to help with the removal of the illegal ‘towers’ being built on Stowe’s Pound’s rampart defence walls (see above photo). Granite blocks were being removed from where they have lain for 1000’s of years making up the defensive ramparts, a simple but ingenious method of keeping an enemy at bay in this age of very basic weaponry. They were not removed far however, as in the main the towers were being built on top of the ramparts itself, but nevertheless, it was an illegal act as they were damaging a Scheduled Monument.

We spent quite a few hours not just pulling them down, but placing each stone back carefully into the areas that had suffered the most. The ones that had been most exposed to the elements over the years had growth on them, so selecting the top and side stones were made much easier. It may not sound that important but the fact was that the monument was being damaged even though we are supposed to be living in an ‘enlightened age’. What made matters worse was that schoolchildren were encouraged to build them and helped by their parents. Even as we were pulling them down others were being built nearby so those responsible received a friendly warning. What was really worrying was the common reply, ‘Well they’re only stones aren’t they’.

2015 was a ’quiet’ year in comparison with a few towers appearing spasmodically and much the same in 2016 although it did see the commencement of a new approach by the ’builders’ which is slowly growing.

As the following short video will show, the rampart stones are now also being removed and carried over to the large natural granite stones lying around within the Pound and towers erected on them. On completion, they are then left standing or pushed over and the builders walk away leaving the stones lying in the grass or in the gulleys created by those large stones being close together. The result, if left like that, are the ramparts slowly diminishing in height in places and the removed stones scattered around the inside of the Pound! This cannot be allowed to continue!

Video credit and © Roy Goutté

If asked to help out again, members of TimeSeekers will be pleased to assist in the re-gathering of the removed stones – of which there are many more than shown – and return them to their rightful location. In the meantime, in my opinion, suitable signage should be seriously considered by the powers that be to ensure that this outrage should not be continued.

However, to finish on a more pleasant note, enjoy the serenity of a quadcopter fly-over above Stowe’s Hill, the Cheesewring and the Pound. Wonderful.

Drone Video
Devon & Beyond 2016
Cheesewring Minions Bodmin Moor Cornwall from above DJI Phantom 4 drone

 

 

Alan Graham excavating the Frome Hoard

Sam Moorhead, Finds Adviser, Portable Antiquities Scheme, British Museum writes on the British Museum bog here

When working with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), the concept of a ‘forward job plan’ is somewhat laughable – your work patterns are largely dictated by finds made by detectorists. Some discoveries can completely change your career as the Frome Hoard did for me when it was found by Dave Crisp in April 2010.

Dave had dug down a foot into the ground when he started to pull out pottery and coins from the clay soil. When he realised that he had found a coin hoard, he made one of the most important decisions of his life – he filled the hole in, walked away, and contacted his local PAS Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire, Katie Hinds. Katie contacted her opposite number in Somerset, Anna Booth, and a professional excavation of the site took place under the direction of local archaeologist Alan Graham.

 
 
Side view of the south-eastern chamber looking south-west
 
The University of Bristol News reports on the complex prehistoric patterns discovered around the site of ancient Welsh burial chamber –
 
A team of archaeologists, led by a researcher from the University of Bristol, has uncovered the remains of a possible Stonehenge-type prehistoric earthwork monument in a field in Pembrokeshire.
 
Members of the Welsh Rock art Organisation have been investigating the area around the Neolithic burial chamber known as Trellyffaint – one of a handful of sites in western Britain that has examples of prehistoric rock art.
 
The site of Trellyffaint dates back at least 6,000 years and has been designated a Scheduled Monument. It is in the care of Welsh heritage agency Cadw. The site comprises two stone chambers – one of which is relatively intact. Each chamber is set within the remains of an earthen cairn or mound which, due to ploughing regimes over the centuries, have been slowly uncovered.
 
More here.
 

Twilight at Stonehenge (circa 1840). Watercolour by William Turner of Oxford
Image credit Wikimedia Commons

 

A guest feature by Littlestone.

The Rudston Monolith
©
Littlestone

To quote Wikipedia, “The Rudston Monolith at over 7.6 metres (25 ft) is the tallest megalith (standing stone) in the United Kingdom. It is situated in the churchyard in the village of Rudston (grid reference TA098678) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”

So, to mark this year’s St Valentine’s Day, Moss and I decided to make the 30 mile drive over from where we live in North Yorkshire to Rudston village to see for ourselves the ‘real thing’. Nothing quite prepares you for this ‘real thing’. Photos of the monolith we’d seen before but first sight, and first touch, of this towering Neolithic edifice left us both speechless. If there’s ever a stone that puts its neighbouring church into a shadow this is it. And the fact that it’s stood there for some 4,000 years makes it even more awe-inspiring. As ever, the similarity with other subsumed (Christianised) sites in Britain, seems the same. The Rudson Monolith stands close to a water source. A Roman villa once stood close by and there are Roman tiles in the church walls. There are also the remains of a Roman sarcophagus in the graveyard.

Outlier stone and the remains of a Roman sarcophagus behind it
©
Littlestone

Googling ‘Rudston Monolith’ will throw up all sorts of info but what intrigued me most, being actually there on site, was the smaller outlier stone in one corner of the graveyard. The stone is of the same composition as the monolith itself and evidently was once situated close to it. Could it be the missing top of the Rudsone Monolith? Did it fall away naturally or was it cut off because it offended past norms of acceptability? Who knows, but here’s an interesting comparison from Brittany in France.

The Plonéour-Lanvern megalith in Brittany, France circa 1900
Collection Abbaey de la Source, Paris
 
rillatoncup1
 
Sketch of the Rillaton Barrow and the Rillaton Gold Cup and Dagger
Artist unknown
 
Workmen engaged in construction work in 1837 plundered a burial cairn for stone on part of Bodmin Moor, at Rillaton. In one side of the mound they came upon a stone-lined vault, or cist, 2.4 m long and 1.1 m wide. It contained the decayed remains of a human skeleton accompanied by this gold cup, a bronze dagger and other objects that have not survived – a decorated pottery vessel, a ‘metallic rivet’, ‘some pieces of ivory’ and ‘a few glass beads’. The pot and gold cup were set beneath a slab leaning against the west wall of the cist.
 
Source British Museum.
 
 
The Rillaton Barrow today
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Please see our earlier feature on the Rillaton Gold Cup here.
 
 
 
The Bridge of Brodgar, Orkney in 1875 by Walter Hugh Patton (1828-1895)
Source Wikimedia Commons
 
For those interested in archaeology, and ancient Britain, tonight’s program on BBC TWO from 9.00pm to 10.00pm should make fascinating viewing –
 
Orkney – seven miles off the coast of Scotland and cut off by the tumultuous Pentland Firth, the fastest flowing tidal race in Europe – is often viewed as being remote. Yet it is one of the treasure troves of archaeology in Britain. Recent discoveries there are turning the stone age map of Britain upside down. Rather than an outpost at the edge of the world, recent finds suggest an extraordinary theory… that Orkney was the cultural capital of our ancient world and the origin of the stone circle cult which culminated in Stonehenge.
 
More here.
 
A 3,000 year-old gold torc recently found by a metal detectorist in a Cambridgeshire field
Image credit Dominic Lipinski/PA
 
The torc is so big that one expert thinks it may have been worn to protect a pregnant woman. It is made from 730 grams of almost pure gold and is regarded as the best found in England in more than a century. The workmanship is astonishing. “The torc was shaped from a square section bar of gold, and then twisted and burnished. “If you take callipers, and measure the gaps between the twists, they are absolutely spot on accurate.”
 
More by Maev Kennedy in The Guardian here.
 
 
 
 
 A dog tooth unearthed near Stonehenge and dating to around 5,000bce
 
The tooth, above, was found at Blick Mead in Wiltshire, southern England, and is believed to be evidence of the earliest journey in British history; so claims archaeologist David Jacques. The tooth is thought to be from a pet Alsatian-type dog that travelled 250 miles from present-day York, in northern England, to Wiltshire in the south. Blick Mead is close to Stonehenge, although Stonehenge as we know it today would not have existed.
 
According to BBC News, David Jacques is reported as saying –
 
“The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built,” Mr Jacques said.
 
“Discoveries like this give us a completely new understanding of the establishment of the ritual landscape and make Stonehenge even more special than we thought we knew it was.”
 
It has also been suggested that the dog was a trade item, though no evidence for that theory has been advanced.
 

Wade’s Causeway, North Yorkshire, circa 1995.
Notice at bottom left that there are four upright stones. These are unique in British Roman roads, and are thought to be there to stop the road slipping in the wet peat of winter.
©
Colin Coulson
 
For more on Wade’s Causeway see The Heritage Trust’s feature by Moss here, and the Wikipedia entry on the Causeway here.
  
 
 
Standing stones in the south-west quadrant of the Avebury stone circle
©
Littlestone
 
What has long been suspected, that the earliest stone monuments in Britain were built with astronomy in mind, has now been proven. Writing in the NewHistorian, Daryl Worthington reports that –
 
Through innovative use of 2D and 3D technology, researchers from the University of Adelaide have statistically proven that spectacular stone circles constructed up to 500 years before Stonehenge, were deliberately built in line with the movement of the Sun and Moon.
 
The findings, published last week in the Journal of Archaeological Science, give fresh insight into the relationships ancient Britons held with the sky; connecting the earth to astronomical phenomena through spectacular monuments.
 
“Nobody before this has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind – it was all supposition,” said project leader and University of Adelaide Visiting Research Fellow Dr Gail Higginbottom, who is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University.
 
Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney; are the oldest stone circles in Scotland, built during the late Neolithic over 5000 years ago. It has long been thought that the megaliths were laid out to reflect the cosmos, but the quantitative tests carried out by the team on the patterns of alignment of the standing stones have finally provided convincing evidence that this was indeed the case.
 
More here.
 
 
The Ring of Brodgar: Unesco World Heritage Site
Image credit Alamy Stock Photo
 
Kevin McKenna, writing in The Observer, reports that, “British archaeologists have never had it so good. The Orkney Ness of Brodgar site is changing perceptions of neolithic man. More than 600 miles south, a bronze-age find is being hailed as ‘Britain’s Pompeii’. But funds are tight.”
 
The story started, one anointed day in March 2003, with a curious stone slab on a finger of Orkney hemmed in by seas. Nick Card, of the University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, remembers that it was a typically cold and wet day. He was accompanied by his departmental colleague, Professor Jane Downes, and Julie Gibson, the county archaeologist. What they encountered that day has changed their lives and changed Orkney. Ness of Brodgar was a sacred place that defined the passage of time.
 
What lay beneath their feet, as they discovered bit by bit over the next 12 years, was the world’s greatest neolithic find in the modern era: a complex settlement of buildings and structures made 4,500 years ago which is turning on its head our understanding and perception of this era and its people.
 
The Council for British Archaeology has designated the last two weeks in July as Britain’s Festival of Archaeology, with hundreds of digs and visits being arranged all over Britain. The organisers couldn’t have picked a better time for their festival. Some 650 miles south of Orkney, at Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire, archaeologists are still in the first stages of wonder at an extraordinary bronze age site that they have begun to describe as “Britain’s Pompeii”.
 
More here.
 

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