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The Logan Rock on Louden Hill, Cornwall, with Rough Tor in the background
Elizabeth Dale

Cornwall is blessed with a long and fascinating history. Although visitors are often drawn to the county by the so called ‘Poldark effect’ many more are also seeking out our enigmatic prehistoric monuments. Elizabeth Dale investigates the hidden threat to this precious heritage.

Cornwall has some of the oldest prehistoric sites in England. The rolling landscape is dotted with hundreds of stone circles, cairns and quoits, some predating the Egyptian pyramids.

“One of the outstanding things for me about Cornwall is the huge number of stone monuments,” says Ann Preston-Jones, Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Officer for Cornwall, “We’ve got so much still standing. You can walk on Bodmin Moor and into a house that was inhabited 3000 years ago, that is just amazing.”

It is startling then to learn that more than 93% of Cornwall’s ancient monuments remain almost completely unprotected.

The Historic Environment Record, the principle source of information on archaeological sites in the UK, lists more than 13,000 prehistoric monuments in Cornwall, only 816 are scheduled. In recent years a lack of government funding has meant a slowdown in scheduling across the country. Between 2007 and 2017 only six prehistoric monuments were scheduled in Cornwall, of those just two were previously unprotected sites, the rest were updates to monuments already recorded.

“Scheduling of archaeological sites started tailing off in 2003” says Dr Sandy Gerrard who worked for the Designation Department of English Heritage for over 20 years. Part of his job involved identifying sites which needed to be protection.

According to Sandy when the Monuments Protection Programme merged with the department for Listed Buildings in 2002 scheduling essentially stopped.

“Requests for scheduling were mostly kicked into the long grass and only in exceptional circumstances were assessments carried through to fruition. . . An obvious question is does it matter that the designation department at English Heritage has turned its back on protecting archaeology, the answer must surely be yes. English Heritage has a clear duty to identify and seek to protect nationally important archaeology.”

Much of the scheduling in Cornwall was done in the early part of the 20th century and worryingly some records haven’t been updated for almost 100 years. Early scheduling relied on an archaeologist marking the spot to be designated on a map. At that time they usually thought only in terms of an isolated feature, such as an individual barrow or quoit, and didn’t considered the importance of protecting the surrounding landscape. This leaves undiscovered archaeology beneath the ground vulnerable.

To be scheduled a monument must be of national importance, clearly not all of the 13,000 ancient sites identified on the HER list would warrant that designation. It is also a discretionary process, not mandatory. However the halt in new designations means some significant sites are being left relatively defenceless and some question the message that this sends to the public about the importance of our heritage sites.

“The clear message that archaeology can be ignored is a dangerous one to send out.” Says Dr Gerrard.

Ann Preston-Jones agrees, “I’ve always thought that everyone should recognise how wonderfully important the archaeology is here and that it shouldn’t matter whether it is scheduled or not but I’ve come to realise sadly that it really does matter. Scheduling gets into people’s consciousness far more.”

This argument is borne out by events in Penwith in 2013 when an ancient standing stone near Crows-an-Wra disappeared over night. The Rissick stone, which wasn’t scheduled, was pulled up by an agricultural firm who wished to clear the field for potato planting.

Cheryl Straffon, editor of the Meyn Mamvro magazine, says that its removal highlights a very worrying situation. “How can it be that a standing stone can be simply removed or destroyed with nobody being informed or consulted? The ‘unknown’ stone at Rissick . . . was unceremoniously removed and sold on without anyone being informed.”

Ann confirmed that if the stone had been scheduled Historic England would certainly have looked into having it returned to its rightful place. “Strategically English Heritage works really hard to demonstrate the value of heritage especially in a place like Cornwall where tourism is such an important part of the economy. A lot of the tourists that come down here, certainly to West Penwith and Bodmin Moor, are here to look at the old sites.”

With only 6% of Cornwall’s prehistoric monuments protected, a population boom and a government keen on building houses the potential risk to smaller unscheduled sites is growing.

There are also some glaring omissions in the scheduling as Roy Goutte explained. Roy, an amateur archaeologist, works on Bodmin Moor with his volunteer team TimeSeekers, providing much-needed clearance work.

Last summer Roy and his team worked clearing turf away from two stones circles and uncovered a 300m long stone row at Leskernick Hill. They were shocked to discover that none of the features, most dating from the early Bronze Age, were scheduled.

“It was a great surprise to me to discover that the whole Leskernick complex was not scheduled.” Roy told me and his concerns were justified as the work got underway. “During the clearance there were signs of damage by recent metal detectorists and earlier ‘treasure seekers’ who had dug into the cairn nearest the stone row and those on Leskernick Hill itself. Throughout the settlement there are indications of damage where stones from the round houses have been lifted, there were also clear signs of [farm] vehicles damaging the stone circles and also the removing or breaking up of the now recumbent stones.”

Ann Preston-Jones agrees that the Leskernick site is unique in Cornwall and of national importance but as one of what is now a much smaller department her time is understandably taken up with the 250 scheduled sites unfortunately on the At Risk Register. She also works one day a week for the Cornwall Archaeological Unit which is part of Cornwall Council.

“Before the crash happened, when the council suddenly had to contract, until then we had quite a thriving historical environment team . . . now we’ve all now been fragmented into different departments and have less funding than we ever did have.” The Cornwall Archaeological Unit has no core funding, this means they rely solely on money designated for individual projects and therefore are unable to be proactive in their work.

Ann is clearly passionate about Cornwall’s heritage but in recent years has been working very hard with very little. “I am always, always being reactive, I don’t have time to go out and look at sites but what I do have is this list of high risk monuments and those are my priority.”

Meanwhile there are other sites arguably of national importance left unscheduled and unprotected such as the iconic Brown Willy tor or Largin Castle near to Fowey. This massive
hill fort lies in woodland not far from the A38. Built in the Iron Age Largin has triple ramparts surrounding a central enclosure 105m across. All unscheduled.

It is not only the prehistoric remains that are at risk. Many of Cornwall’s medieval crosses are not scheduled or listed either. Many of these unique artefacts are on private land and are small and potentially portable. Without the necessary protection theoretically the landowner could move and decide to take the cross with them without breaking any law.

Stuart Dow, a member of Roy’s clearance team, feels passionately about the situation and its possible consequences “I feel that it is imperative that all ancient sites are scheduled and protected by law from any disturbance or alteration. Too many have disappeared under the farmer’s plough or the tardy planners failure to care. For the sake of the generations yet to come it is this generation’s duty to safeguard all of our ancient sites.”

For more articles by Elizabeth see her website, cornishbirdblog.


Sarah Knapton, Science Editor on The Telegraph, reports on a newly discovered ‘Jumbo Jet-sized’ void discovered in the Great Pyramid of Giza. The void is around 100ft long and the same height as the Statue of the Liberty.
A mysterious void has been discovered in the Great Pyramid of Giza and Egyptologists believe it could finally shed light on how the ancient tombs were constructed. The enigmatic gap, which is around 100ft long is situated directly above the Grand Gallery, an elaborate access route which cuts through the pyramid. It was found using a state-of-the-art scanning process called ‘muography’ which picks up tiny cosmic particles known as muons. Muons lose energy and eventually decay when they move through matter, so if large numbers are picked by a detector it means a hole must exist, which has allowed them to pass through unimpeded.
Today a team of scientists from France and Japan announced that months of scanning had shown a clear void in the pyramid, and they are hoping to drill a small hole and release a tiny flying drone to video the chasm.
Full Telegraph article here.
A ‘licking dog’ statue. Part of an extraordinary Roman hoard found this year in Gloucestershire, England. It is thought that the statue might have been used in healing
Image credit Bristol City Council
Current Archaeology reports that –
A Roman hoard dating to c.AD 318-450 and holding several hundred bronze objects has been found in Gloucestershire. Discovered by metal-detectorists in September, its contents included pieces of a large bronze statue, jewellery fragments, and a coin of ‘Crispus globe on altar’ type, dated to AD 321-324 and minted in Trier, Germany. It is thought that many of the objects in the hoard were deliberately broken before they were placed in the ground – perhaps by a local metalworker who was intending to melt and recast them later.
Full article 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?

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.

A selection of Roman coins discovered by metal detectorists in Worcestershire in 2011
Sebastian Richards, writing for the Cotswold Journal, reports that the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery is exhibiting the Bredon Hoard of Roman coins until the end of May –
Two metal detectorists discovered the hoard, the largest ever found in Worcestershire [West Midlands of England], in June 2011. The hoard dates back to the 3rd Century and features 16 different Roman Emperors. Following the discovery, the county archaeology service took over the excavation and it became evident that not only had a hoard been found but also a settlement site with a long and intriguing history.
More here.
The 4,000 year-old decorated dolmen discovered in Israel
Image credit Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College
Ginger Perales, writing in the New Historian, reports on the discovery of a decorated dolmen in the Galilee area of Israel –
Archaeologists working in upper Galilee, near Kibbutz Shamir, have unearthed an unusual dolmen believed to be over 4,000-years-old. A type of megalithic tomb with a single chamber, a dolmen is typically comprised of at least two large vertical stones that support a flat capstone which lies horizontally on top of them (like a table).
Discovered in a large field of over 400 dolmens dating back to the Intermediate Bronze Age, several factors cause this structure to stand out, including its large size, the structure that surrounds it, and most intriguingly, the artistic decorations that are etched into its ceiling.
More here.
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.
As it’s Women’s International Day today here are some outstanding examples of women archaeologists.


Maria Reiche (1903-1998)

Maria Reiche was a German mathematician, which came in handy when she began researching Peru’s Nazca Lines in 1940. After demonstrating their sophisticated mathematical accuracy, she published the theory that they related to astronomy. And she didn’t just bring them to Western scholarly attention – Maria helped protect them by getting them preserved and communicating their significance to people all around the world.


The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, is now on display alongside the story of this great feat of engineering in a free major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. The exhibition will run until 3 September 2017.

More here.


A 12th century toy boat with a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped
Image credit Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum

A thousand years ago, for reasons we will never know, the residents of a tiny farmstead on the coast of central Norway filled an old well with dirt. Maybe the water dried up, or maybe it became foul. But when archaeologists found the old well and dug it up in the summer of 2016, they discovered an unexpected surprise: a carefully carved toy, a wooden boat with a raised prow like a proud Viking ship, and a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped.

More here. 


Figurines found by Polish archaeologists in Turkey. Image credit Jason Quinlan
Science & Scholarship in Poland have reported on the discovery by Polish archaeologists of two unique eight thousand year-old figurines in Turkey –
The discovery was made in one of the largest urban centres of the first farmers and one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world – Çatalhöyük, located in the southern part of the Anatolian Plateau in central Turkey. The project leader is Prof. Ian Hodder of Stanford University in the US, but a team of Polish scientists has been involved in the project for several years.
Çatalhöyük was inhabited continuously for over one thousand years between the years 7100 and 6000 BC. According to the researchers during its heyday the densely built-up settlement had by approx. 5000 residents. The site became famous thanks to the murals, which decorated the walls of houses. They depicted as human and animal figures and geometric motifs. In 2012 Çatalhöyük was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Full article 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.
The town was discovered across the Nile from Luxor
A 7,000 year-old lost town has been discovered near Luxor in Egypt –
Egypt has unearthed a city more than 7,000 years old and a cemetery dating back to its first dynasty in the southern province of Sohag, the antiquities ministry has said. The city is likely to have housed high-ranking officials and grave builders. Its discovery may yield new insights into Abydos, one of the oldest cities in ancient Egypt, the ministry said in a statement.
Experts say Abydos was Egypt’s capital towards the end of the predynastic period and during the rule of the first four dynasties. The discovery was made 400 metres away from the temple of Seti I, a New Kingdom period memorial across the Nile from present day Luxor.
More in today’s Guardian here. More images here.

We received the following (edited for clarity) last week from Dr. Mustafa Elhawat, Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology, University of Elmergheb, Al-khums in Libya. If any of our readers can assist Dr. Mustafa Elhawat please contact him at the email address below.

Dear The Heritage Trust

The political situation and the war in Libya has several complications. The problem lies in the risk to archaeological sites and buildings by militant Islamists, and exploration of these sites by thieves and vandals. There is also the illegal trade in stolen artefacts from some sites and cemeteries which are then sold on the internet and smuggled out of the country. Also, there are numerous monuments in Libya that need to be archived as they are not registered at present. There are two sections in Libya – East and West – but staff there are inexperienced and are in need of training.

We are doing as much as possible and are campaigning to raise awareness among the Libyan population. We are also setting up workshops and seminars but we need to acquire more skills, set up courses etc because archaeological sites in Libya are currently in crisis and at severe risk.

Cultural heritage in Libya belongs to all of humanity and the duty of everyone is to protect and preserve it. So we extend our hands to you, in the international community, to work with us together in order to preserve these treasures and this heritage. I hope there will be close cooperation between us all which will provide an appropriate solution to this crisis.

Cordial greetings

Dr. Mustafa Elhawat

Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology. Faculty of Archaeology and Tourism. (Near Leptis Magna). University of Elmergheb, Al-khums. Libya. Member of the Commission for the Conservation of Libyan Cultural Heritage. email


March 2018
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