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Rock art: Buttony
 
Newcastle University reports on a new app that locates the site of rock art –
 
Some of the world’s most ancient art could be protected with a new app designed by Newcastle University heritage and software experts.
 
Rock art – also known as cups and rings – is under threat. Made by our Neolithic and Early Bronze Age ancestors between 6000 and 3800 years ago, it is mostly found in the countryside. There are more than 6,000 panels in the UK and Ireland – but increasing population densities and agriculture, along with climate change, pose a danger to it.
 
That’s where the new app comes in. GPS locates the site of the rock art, and users then log its condition. It registers the state of the motifs and  any potential threats – such as damage from being driven over or livestock.
 
More here.
  
 
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.

Here is a video of the damage to the site created by farm machinery and horses with no concern shown to the quoit in the slightest
©
Roy Goutté

Not Before Time…

After what seems an age, East Cornwall’s Jewel in the Crown site Trethevy Quoit, a portal dolmen, has finally been placed on the Heritage At Risk Register by English Heritage.

In my book Trethevy Quoit: Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece, I warned of the possibilities of the quoit collapsing sooner rather than later if it wasn’t protected more from stock eroding its supporting base coupled with the movement of the front closure stone that is being pushed out alarmingly by the massive capstone. The later placing of a leaning stone to the front of the quoit has been misunderstood for years as ‘forming a porch’ when in fact it has been vital to the structure to prevent the closure stone from moving out further. This can only go on for so long as the support is now all but done!

Trethevy Quoit from the rear showing it listing as the main supporting front closure leans perilously outward
©
Roy Goutté

It makes my blood run cold when I see local children and holidaymakers climbing inside the rear of the tomb and sitting on a leaning divider that is resting against that heavily leaning closure stone putting added pressure on it. Whole families sit on the stone while a family photograph is taken and children enter the front chamber and crawl under said stone – and there is nothing to stop them. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

Fortunately, since the publication of my book, the field housing the dolman has been bought by The Cornwall Heritage Trust. When the site came up for sale Historic England helped to safeguard it by giving a £19,000 grant to the trust to purchase the field. It is now working with the trust and English Heritage to improve the site, protect the monument and ensure that it can still be enjoyed by local people and visitors. I sincerely hope that its stability is prioritised first above everything else and the monument shut down to visitors until that is complete. A simple temporary wire fence with signage surrounding the monument would suffice I’m sure and still allow the public to view it. Whatever, I’m sure the trust will do the right thing and safeguard this remarkable construct that our great ancestors bequeathed to us to marvel at and hopefully will still do for many generations to come.

 

Trethevy Quoit
©
Roy Goutté

The main supporting orthostat, the front closure stone to the right, is leaning out 56cm (22″) out of the perpendicular. Being only 3m.10cm tall (10ft 3inches) that is some lean and very close to the point of no return IMO. To the left is the added buttress with a granite block between it and the closure stone. It can only support so much. Urgent intervention is required. In my opinion the buttress stone came from a former position in the construct and is documented.

Roy Goutté

Please also see Chris Matthews’ report in CornwallLive here.

 

  

 
 
Image courtesy of Musée National de Préhistoire collections. Photo MNP/Ph. Jugie
 
This 38,000 year-old engraving of an aurochs, recently discovered by anthropologists in south-western France, is among the earliest known engravings found in Western Eurasia. Read more about the discovery here.
 
 
An artist’s impression of Londinium, centre of the Roman Empire in Britain, circa 200ce
 
Across the river to the south of Londinium was a small suburb that would later become Southwark. It was here, in a Roman cemetery, that two skeletons dating from between the 2-4 centuries ce, and of East Asian origin (possibly Chinese), have been found.
 
It is not yet know if the two individuals were slaves, traders or something else. Trade between China and Rome was already well established through intermediaries by this time; in fact there is an example of Roman jewellery being found in a 5th century Japanese tomb.
 
More here. See also our earlier feature Caesaromagus: A place of unassuming mystery…
  
 
 
Dated 65/70-80ce the writing on this Roman wooden tablet reads Londinio Mogontio. Translated it means In London, to Mogontius
Researchers believe the tablet is the earliest ever hand-written reference to London. It predates Tacitus’ mention of the City in his Annals, which were produced about 50 years later
Image credit The Museum of London Archaeology
 
BBC News reports that –
 
Roman tablets discovered during an excavation in London include the oldest hand-written document ever found in Britain, archaeologists have revealed. The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) said it had deciphered a document, from 8 January AD 57, found at the dig at Bloomberg’s new headquarters. The first ever reference to London, financial documents and evidence of schooling have also been translated.
 
Over 700 artefacts from the dig will go on display when the building opens.
 
More here.
 

On the summit of Leskernick Hill looking westward toward Brown Willy and Roughtor

Leskernick Stone Circles and Stone Row Clearance: Press release by Roy Goutté. Images © Roy Goutté.

I am delighted to announce to The Heritage Trust that, after an application was made to Natural England by myself, consent has been granted to excavate and clear the recumbent and buried standing stones of the north and south stone circles to the base of the Bronze-Age settlement at Leskernick Hill, near Altarnun, Cornwall. Consent has also been granted to carry out the same procedure on the stone row running south-west to north-east between the two circles. The work is to be carried out by a small team of experienced Bodmin Moor clearance volunteers (TimeSeekers) under the periodic watchful eye of the area’s Historic England Heritage at Risk Officer.

The Methodology involved:

As the two stone circles and stone row beneath the southern slopes of Leskernick Hill are at serious risk of losing their identity now that 95% of the standing stones have fallen and returning to nature, the aim of the clearance would be to bring the hidden parts of the circles and stone row ‘back to life’ by sympathetically removing the vegetation and turf ‘carpet’ off the stones without damage taking place and without any soil being removed below the exposed top surfaces. The removed material is to be suitably relocated locally.

Procedure:

. Record and photograph the existing visible stones and stone mounds to be cleared prior to work commencing on both the circles and stone row. Video recording to also take place.
. Carefully cut through the turf/vegetation just beyond the exterior edge of the covered/partly covered stones.
. Carefully and without damage to the stone surfaces, peel back the turf/vegetation and reposition in previously sought out local areas requiring repair/improvement. Clean and wash stones off with clean water only.
. Buried ring stones and those in the stone row detected by probing but not identified by exterior mounding of the turf, to be exposed, recorded and photographed, but, if considered to be too deep to be left exposed and a danger to both stock and the public alike, to be re-covered.
. On completion of all work, leave the three cleared areas in a tidy condition and provide a field report and survey of the works carried out together with photographs and video links.

We feel privileged as amateur archaeologists to have been granted this permission on such a prestigious and important site as Leskernick. To stand amongst and look down from the proliferation of round houses on the southern side of Leskernick Hill to the landscape beneath where surely ceremonial and ritualistic activities took place in sight of so many ancient local landmarks, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Our great ancestors may no longer be there in person but I wonder if they ever really left, as judging by the sheer number of small earth-fast tri-stones dotted about it may also be their last resting place. To be given the opportunity to once again bring the circles and stone row ‘back to life’ and in the public gaze is why we do this. Our heritage means everything and we should do everything to keep it that way!

Two of the three only remaining standing stones and the recumbent central pillar of the North Circle. The remaining stones lie buried beneath the surface

One of the many round-house remains on Leskernick Hill

A last resting place?

Roy Goutté
North Hill
Cornwall

 

 
 
The 3,000 year-old Bronze Age wheel recently found at the Must Farm archaeological site in Cambridgeshire, England
Image credit Cambridge Archaeological Unit
 
A 3,000 year-old Bronze Age wheel recently found at the Must Farm archaeological site in Cambridgeshire, England (see our earlier feature here) is said to be the largest, earliest complete example of its kind ever found in Britain.
 
BBC News Cambridgeshire reports –
 
A complete Bronze Age wheel believed to be the largest and earliest of its kind found in the UK has been unearthed. The 3,000-year-old artefact was found at a site dubbed “Britain’s Pompeii”, at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire. Archaeologists have described the find – made close to the country’s “best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings” – as “unprecedented”.
 
Still containing its hub, the 3ft-diameter (one metre) wooden wheel dates from about 1,100 to 800 BC. The wheel was found close to the largest of one of the roundhouses found at the settlement last month.
 
More, with video, here.
 Lord-Avebury-2006
 
 
Eric Reginald Lubbock, 4th Baron Avebury (29 September 1928 – 14 February 2016)
 
The Heritage Trust is sad to report the death of Lord Avebury, who passed away today aged 87. Among his many campaigns those that surrounded the iconic Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, England are of especial poignancy to those who care about the protection of our heritage. We can think of no better tribute to him than to republish here a letter to the Guardian newspaper which he wrote in 2007 entitled No climbing up on Silbury Hill
 
 027.jpg
 
Silbury
Image credit and © Frankie
 
While it was good that Peter May and his family had such an enjoyable visit to the Avebury World Heritage Site (Things to do with your family this week, Family, July 14), they ought to have been aware that Silbury Hill has been closed to visitors since 1974. Climbing the monument damages archaeology located just beneath the surface. It also threatens the flora and fauna, which are critical to Silbury Hill’s status as a site of special scientific interest. Incursion on to the monument underlines the need to support the notices and fences prohibiting entry, with clear public messages and examples of good conduct sensitive to the best interests of the site.
 

My grandfather purchased Silbury Hill, introduced the first legislation to protect ancient monuments, and placed the hill under permanent guardianship. As owner of the site, I am concerned by the conflicting messages now being sent out by English Heritage, such as their plan to allow a “time capsule” to be buried in the monument. The current Silbury Hill conservation project, for which EH deserves credit, is designed to restore the original fabric by backfilling with pure chalk. Placing a foreign object in the monument offends conservation principles, as well as the spiritual beliefs of some people. Describing the object as a time capsule means that EH expects it to be retrieved at some future date, requiring further tunnelling, yet the current works have been undertaken to correct the mistakes of past excavations.

English Heritage should give the public clear uncomplicated messages about how to enjoy ancient monuments respectfully, and should set the very best of examples themselves.

Eric Avebury
House of Lords

 

 
 
Archaeologists working on a wooden platform uncover Bronze Age houses at Must Farm, Cambridgeshire
Image credit Cambridge Archaeological Unit
 
BBC News Cambridgeshire reports that –
 
Archaeologists have uncovered Britain’s “Pompeii” after discovering the “best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found” in the country. The circular wooden houses, built on stilts, form part of a settlement at Must Farm quarry, in Cambridgeshire, and date to about 1000-800 BC. A fire destroyed the posts, causing the houses to fall into a river where silt helped preserve the contents. Pots with meals still inside have been found at the site.
 

Historian Dan Snow introduces the Must Farm site where archaeologists have revealed incredibly well-preserved Bronze Age dwellings. The excavation in the East Anglian fens is providing an extraordinary insight into domestic life 3,000 years ago. The settlement, dating to the end of the Bronze Age (1200-800 BC), would have been home to several families who lived in a number of wooden houses on stilts above water.

 
More here.
   
 
 
Models submerged in flood water at the Jorvik Viking Centre, York England
 
Most people living in Britain will be only too aware of the floods that have hit the north west of the country over the last few days. The devastation has left thousands of people with wrecked homes and/or businesses and more damage is forecast with the arrival of Storm Frank which is due to sweep into the area tonight. Amongst the devastation there is at least one piece of good news. Although the Jorvik Viking Centre in York has been flooded all of its priceless artefacts have ben moved to safety at a higher level or elsewhere. The Independent reports –
 
York’s Jorvik Viking Centre has been closed for the first time in 32 years after the exhibition was submerged in 50cm of dirty floodwater. The city has been severely hit by flooding over the Christmas period. The water levels of the River Ouse and River Foss are now falling but nine severe flood warnings are still in place mostly around York.
 
Earlier, staff had removed important artefacts [from the Centre] and helped build a barricade to try to protect the centre from the flooding. In a statement, Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, which owns the centre, said: “When we first became aware of water leaking into the basement, we immediately transported all of the historic artefacts within Jorvik up to the first floor, and they have now been moved off-site to a safe location.”
 
More here.
   
 
Traffic flowing along the A303 in the right of the photo. Clearly visible and audible from the monument
©
The Heritage Trust
 
BBC News Wiltshire reports today that a team of experts from UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites are to assess the Stonehenge A303 tunnel proposal –
 
The officials were invited for a four-day visit by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and will be given a tour by the National Trust and English Heritage. Ian Wilson, assistant director for the National Trust, said: “This is about getting to know all the changes that have happened in and around the area since the last scheme because we know an awful lot more about the landscape.”
 
More here.
 
 
Adam’s Grave, Wiltshire England
Image credit and © Gordon Kingston
 
On a day when Historic England has announced that top of its list for sites to be protected are the barrows (burial mounds) that dot the English landscape we thought it apt to reproduce a poem and a photo by one of our old friends – Gordon Kingston.
 
Their presence
 
‘Neath Adam’s Grave I push “large chips”
down through my teeth and grasping lips…
 
Didn’t Strabo state that ancients ate
Their fathers’ bodies on a plate;
And drank the fluid that now gets hid
In a silver cup, under a silver lid?
Somehow their presence is up here still;
Watching me watching, on the hill.
 
Gordon Kingston
 
For more poems on the megalithic theme please see the Megalithic Poems blog here.
 
 
An artist’s impression of a section of the newly-discovered stone circle discovered in southern Britain
Image credit Ludwig Boltzmann Institute
 
An unknown stone circle, close to Stonehenge, may be the largest intact prehistoric monument ever built in Britain. BBC News reports –
 
Standing stones found buried near Stonehenge could be the “largest” intact prehistoric monument ever built in Britain, archaeologists believe. Using ground-penetrating radar, some 100 stones were found at the Durrington Walls “superhenge”, a later bank built close to Stonehenge.
 
The Stonehenge Living Landscapes team has been researching the ancient monument site in a five-year project. Finding the stones was “fantastically lucky”, researchers said. The stones may have originally measured up to 4.5m (14ft) in height and had been pushed over the edge of Durrington Walls.
 
The site, which is thought to have been built about 4,500 years ago, is about 1.8 miles (3km) from Stonehenge, Wiltshire. The stones were found on the edge of the Durrington Walls “henge”, or bank, an area which had not yet been studied by researchers.
 
More here and here.
  
 
 
The 1st century Temple of Bel at Palmyra before its destruction by Daesh
Image credit Bernard Gagnon. Source Wikimedia Commons
 
The United Nations says a satellite image has confirmed that the Temple of Bel, the main temple in the ancient city of Palmyra in northern Syria, has been destroyed by Daesh.
 
More here.
   

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