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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.
  

The ‘entrance’ stones to the west circle
©
Roy Goutté
 
Earlier this year the TimeSeekers volunteer clearance group highlighted three or four stone circles on Bodmin Moor that could benefit from a vegetation clearance and general tidy up. The twin circles on Emblance Downs were two such circles, so, after gaining the necessary approval from the Landowner, Natural England and Historic England, we were set to commence our work on the 21st August.
 
Having twin circles to work on is not an everyday event and as little appeared to be known about them we felt privileged to be given the chance to at least tidy them up and bring them back into the public gaze. As all members of TimeSeekers are furiously enthusiastic amateur archaeologists, it also gave us the opportunity to study the circles and general area to a much greater extent than just paying them a casual visit.
 
The enigmatic King Arthur’s Hall is but a stone’s throw away from the circles and walkers visiting the Hall often then carry on to Garrow Tor. In doing so they have to pass within sight of the circles, but unless they know that they are there, don’t spot them due to the reed and other vegetation coverage. Couple that with the fact that the eastern circle was very devoid of ring stones anyway and they have become almost forgotten. 
 
Within the TimeSeekers group we have some very enthusiastic dowsers and they found the twin circles to be of great interest. Regular followers will recall that when I submitted the article King Arthur’s Hall: The Dowsers’ Perspective to The Heritage Trust two years ago, a group of dowsers from the far west of Cornwall had paid the site a visit themselves and then submitted their own findings to me. It was of great interest to many readers so I will be featuring the findings of our own group of dowsers who took part in the Emblance Downs clearance as a follow-on to this article at a later date.
 
Roy Goutté
 
Full report 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.

Odin? and Fylfot motif in the porch of the church at Great Canfield in Essex, England
©
The Heritage Trust

Olivia Rudgard, Religious Affairs Correspondent for The Telegraph, reports that –

A group of pagans has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury demanding two churches to make amends for those it says were stolen 1,300 years ago.

The Odinist Fellowship, which represents 1,000 members of the pagan religion, wrote to the Church of England last month asking for two churches to be returned to make up for actions which took place during the Christianisation of England.

The letter, addressed directly to Archbishop Welby, said: “With a view to re-establishing better relations between the Odinist Fellowship and the Christian churches in England, and persuaded that a restitution of past wrongs is the best way to lay the foundations of improved relations, we wish you to be aware that the great majority of Odinists believe that honour requires the English church to issue a public apology for its former crimes against the Odinists.”

Full article here. Please see also our other features on Subsumed sites and artistic works.

 

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

 

 

 
 
International Museum Day 2017
 
The worldwide community of museums celebrate International Museum Day on and around 18 May 2017 around the theme Museums and contested histories: Saying the  unspeakable in museums.
 
This theme focuses on the role of museums that, by working to benefit society, become hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people. The acceptance of a contested history is the first step in envisioning a shared future under the banner of reconciliation.
 
Saying the unspeakable in museums looks at how to understand the incomprehensible aspects of the contested histories inherent to the human race. It also encourages museums to play an active role in peacefully addressing traumatic histories through mediation and multiple points of view.
 
More here.
 

Marking World Heritage Day today we are focusing on the ancient Japanese art of picture conservation and mounting known as Hyōgu.

1923 woodblock print after the earliest known image of a hyōgushi priest and his assistant Original by the 14th century Japanese painter Fujiwara Takakane
Private collection Great Britain

Hyōgu and the hyōgushi

The art of restoring and mounting works of art on paper and silk has been practiced in the Far East for nearly two millennia. Originating first in China at the beginning of the Christian era, conservation techniques and materials then spread to Japan where they developed into the refined art that we now know as Hyōgu.

The word Hyōgu means a picture or piece of calligraphy lined with paper and mounted as a hanging scroll. The words hyōgushi, hyōguya and kyōji refer to the mounter/conservators of Japan who not only repair and mount hanging scrolls but also conserve other forms of pictorial art such as the handscroll, screens, sliding doors, murals etc.

The hyōgushi of today is required to undergo a long and strict period of training. During this time he or she learns not only the skills which will enable him to conserve scrolls, screens etc, but also the knowledge and sensitivity required to present them in their correct context. He must know the appropriate style of mount used for any subject and be aware, for example, of the meanings associated with the patterned silks used with such mounts. He or she must also know how and where an object will be used as this will often dictate the materials and techniques employed in its conservation.

Like the Western bookbinder, the hyōgushi is responsible for objects which must be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The objects he is conserving are made to be opened and closed, rolled and unrolled and, apart from the demands of conservation and aesthetics, the hyōgushi must always bear in mind that they are to be constantly handled and not merely viewed.

 
St Andrew’s Church, Normanby, North Yorkshire, England
 
The Heritage Trust is fortunate to have our HQ in a little village in North Yorkshire, England that boasts a thriving pub and a pretty little Norman church. This morning we saw an elderly gentleman take some faltering steps towards the church. He’s a frequent visitor to the village and makes a daily pilgrimage to the church when no-one else is there. He went there this morning before the Easter Service. Why does he go alone you may ask. It’s because the church here is Church of England and he is a Roman Catholic. But he does go, daily when visiting, unlike the majority of those in the village and surrounding area. As the church bells rang out this morning, calling its ever dwindling congregation to attend, the words of Simon Jenkins came to mind; “ I don’t go to church, but I do go to churches.”
 
There are some 16,000 churches in England, many of them architectural gems and places of sanctity and peace. The majority however are poorly attended. The church here has two services a month, with a regular congregation of a dozen or so (most in their seventies and eighties). The rest of the time, other than the occasional wedding, funereal or coffee morning) the church stands open but unused. So what is to be done? Simon Jenkins, in his Guardian article here writes –
 
England’s biggest, most plentiful, most beautiful buildings are its churches. They are also its emptiest. There are some 16,000 churches in total, and every now and then their owner and janitor, the Church of England, utters a howl of pain. This month a church report points out that more than a quarter of churches have fewer than 20 worshippers on a Sunday – fewer than 10 in rural areas. Help, it cries, opening its mind (at last) to a future for local churches as everything from farmers’ markets to digital hubs, and even to naves as “champing” sites.
 
Every few years the church gets itself into a mess over how to use its churches. Like millions of people, I don’t go to church, but I do go to churches – 85% of the public visits a church every year. We regard them as the community’s ritual forum, its museum, its art gallery, its concert hall, its occasional retreat for peace, consolation and meditation. Many in the church view us as freeloaders (though I always leave money) and cannot see why they should give us such delight when their proper business is prayer, not heritage custody.
 
As long as parish churches are seen as shrines belonging to a tiny minority of the community, any hope of wider commitment is pie in the sky. Struggling local churches must be secularised, desanctified. They must be vested in an endowed local trust or parish council that literally owns them, so they become community assets, for whose upkeep local rates can be levied, as with public parks and gardens. There will be many spills along the way. But these buildings cannot be demolished or nationalised. There is simply no alternative.
 
In a nutshell then, our lovely little parish churches must embrace the wider community. They should become places of worship or meditation for people of all faiths as well as for those of none. Places where concerts are performed, exhibitions held, talks on all matters delivered. Most of all they should be places where all are made welcome and do not feel it necessary, like our elderly gentleman above, to feel excluded.
 
Happy Easter to all our readers.
 
A thought… by Moss.
 
 
 
Stonehenge by Hesketh David Bell (1849 – 1872)
 
Can one ever imagine  Stonehenge as peaceful and open as this painting, the clawed hand of industrial farming is still not to be seen, as are also the trees. Sometimes romantic versions of what we want and not what we have are just flights of fancy, as I am sure this painting is, though obviously painted when the dreaded car was yet to be seen.  I have seen elsewhere discussion about the rocks in the foreground, not to be seen today, but I think a certain artistic licence is granted to  artists, and Bell’s other work features dramatic rocky landscapes.  Strangely it reminds me of the North York moors, featureless except for the open space but coloured by the vegetation of its underlying stone. Subject matter contrasts our lowly ‘peasant’ with his two cows and smattering of sheep against the far off prehistoric stones. Judge against the ‘horror’ of the traffic laden road which is the subject of  controversy today and weep.
 
 
 
Stonehenge today. Image credit BBC News

 

See also Mike Pitts’ feature, What did the world heritage site mean to people who built Stonehenge? Nothing, here.
 

French President François Hollande officially launches the Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas on the 20 March 2017 at the Louvre in Paris
Image credit Élysée

A new global fund for endangered heritage sites has been launched by France and the United Arab Emirates. Writing in The Art Newspaper, Vincent Noce, reports that –

A new global fund to protect cultural heritage in war zones, spearheaded by France and the United Arab Emirates, has so far raised $75m of a planned $100m. The fund was officially launched [yesterday], 20 March, at the Louvre in Paris by the French President François Hollande and the vice premier minister of the Emirates, Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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.
 

An Egyptian craftsman weaving a mat on a floor loom

Mohamed Badry Kamel Basuny, writing for UNESCO, reports on the Intangible Heritage of Egyptian mat-making –

Mat, as a traditional craft, is considered a local craft dating back to ancient Egyptian era. The local people had been developed this innovative production “Mats” to face the common problem of humidity and insects. There are numerous models and forms to Egyptian mats, which are displayed in Torino Museum, Italy, that was used in ancient Egyptian rural community. This craft is needed a group of material and tools such as reeds and grasses especially el-Summar herbs (Juncus), and flax to weave strongly these reeds together. Unfortunately, the craft of mats doesn’t be well-known and popular like the old periods. Now, it is known in few Egyptian governorates such as el-Qaliubiya, el-Sharkeya, Kafr El-Sheikh, Qena, Assiut, el-Monoufia. (Egyptian Archives of Folk Life and Folk Traditions (EAFLFT), 2013).

Detail of an Egyptian floor loom

Full article here.

 

A guest feature by The Sarsen Slumberer

An aboriginal youth of the indigenous Tsou people of Taiwan (pre 1945)

China’s recent little rattle-throwing-out-of-the-pram fitty over Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen’s telephone call to President-elect Donald Trump is yet another example of China’s big bully agenda towards its neighbours. China claims that Taiwan is part of China. What nonsense. China has no more of a claim to Taiwan than it has to Tibet. And, lest it be forgotten, the Chinese only started settling in Taiwan in the late 17th century. To claim Taiwan as ‘theirs’ is just another smoke and mirrors land-grab by a big bully nation. If Taiwan belongs to anyone it belongs to the Austronesian peoples who first settled there at least 15,000 years ago. The native Austronesian peoples of Taiwan still number around 530,000. Are their voices, cultures and heritage heard? Hardly ever. Big game politics take centre stage but, like the native peoples of America, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere around the world those voices, small though they are, should and must be listened to.

Heritage is not just about monuments and artefacts from the ground (important though they are as you so rightly highlight on your pages here) it’s also about languages and crafts, food, ways of dressing, and a different way of looking at the world. Should we kowtow to China because it’s in our financial interests. I don’t think so. Taiwan is a functioning democracy where free speech is encouraged. President Tsai of Taiwan is the first woman leader in Asia who isn’t the daughter or wife of a previous leader. China on the other hand is a failing dictatorial system in the grip of a corrupt few.

As Fox News recently, and so accurately reported, “China and the Washington foreign policy establishment thought they could tell President-elect Donald Trump whom he can and cannot speak with on the phone. They thought wrong.” Let’s hope our own politicians and people of influence here in Britain have the same courage to stand up to bullying regimes wherever they may be.

See also The Sarsen Slumberer’s earlier feature Common sense and common courtesy.

 

Nine Stones Altarnun
Image credit and © Roy Goutté
 
In a new series, Roy Goutté delves into the archives to search out some interesting old Cornish archaeological articles, stories, tales and chapters in books now in the public domain that were published way back in the 19th and 20th centuries.
 

Part 2… Hero to Zero!

Archaeology is a serious subject as we well know, but now and again things do happen that make you smile.

This (as written) from The Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 1886 – 1889.

The Hero…

Re-erection of the Nine-Stones.

“On April 8th, Mr. F. R. Rodd, accompanied by Mrs. Rodd, took some men to the old circle of this name, which lies about three quarters of a mile S.E. of Fox Tor, and the diameter of which coincides with the boundary-line between Altarnon and North Hill. The stones (which happen to be nine in number), were all fallen except two: this was not to be wondered at considering none of them are more than 6 or 7 feet high, and they are not large of their kind; besides, the cattle constantly trampling round and rubbing against them hasten the effects of winds and rains. Two stones of the circle were missing; but the one in the centre, though fallen, was in place; for which a fresh pit was excavated, without, however, bringing to light any indications of there having been an interment there.

“This is but a small circle, and so not particularly valuable as a relic of antiquity yet the restoration of it none the less serves a good purpose, as tending to shew the moor-men, especially those on the look-out for gate-posts, that labour (i.e. money) is expended on their preservation: and therefore Mr.Rodd deserves the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. For this is the only practical way of carrying out the spirit of Sir John Lubbock’s Act, on these moors, where people are so scarce, and knowledge travels so slowly, that prehistoric remains may be destroyed and removed, without the discovery of such destruction, until too late to prevent it.”

The nine-stones in question are in fact the Nine Stones of Altarnun stone circle of course on East Moor just up the lane from where I live and my favourite circle. Its southern boundary is Ridge Hill.

Ridge Hill cairn as seen today © Roy Goutté

This follow-on piece in the same Journal is what made me smile… not the wanton destruction and desecration of a sacred and beautiful stone cairn of course, you understand, but the possibility that it may have been carried out by our former hero who gained such respect with his work done at the stone circle on East Moor a few hundred yards below. What an embarrassment!

The Villain?

Opening of a Cairn on Ridge Hill.

“On May 22nd, 1889, I received the following from Mr. Rodd, of Trebartha Hall:

“We have been raising a wall round the old plantation below Ridge Hill lately, and have driven an adit (a horizontal passage) through the cairn on the top, in order to get stone for the purpose. This morning I see that the men have arrived at a central rock, around which the cairn appears to have been built. The top of the cairn appears to have been disturbed at some former time, and to have been composed of a number (7 or 8) of irregularly shaped cells, or chambers, very roughly built: I cannot conceive for what purpose; we hope to go up there again with two carts and clear away stone to the centre of the ground-line: I should much like you to see what we have done.

“Accordingly on July 3rd, I accompanied Mr.Rodd and some friends, and found that a passage had been made from the circumference at the north side to the centre, and beyond the centre of the cairn, by removal of loose stones, and that the original ground-level of this portion of it was exposed to view. In the centre (or thereabouts) of the area on which the cairn had been constructed was a large slab of granite, about 5 feet long, 2 to 3 feet square, partially embedded, and apparently as laid there by nature. This block certainly seemed to have been the nucleus round which the cairn was formed, for it seemed to be the centre of some concentric circles of stones, on edge, which, at some little distance, circumscribed the block. The surface of the ground, and the faces of the loose stones all around in the “crater” of the cairn were so coloured and scarred with tar and tire from the bonfires, or beacon-tires of various generations, including the jubilee bonfire, and the molten tar had penetrated between the interstices of the stones, and permeated the soil to such an extent, that it was most difficult to determine whether the burnt earth immediately above the subsoil was due to this cause only, or was indicative of a funeral pyre. However, on excavating round the granite-slab previously divided into two parts for the more easy removal, it distinctly appeared by the depth of such darkened earth, the absence of any tar, and the homogeneity of the soil, that the ashes of the primal interment had been laid against, but not under the N.W. side of the granite block. There was no paving, fragment of pottery, or anything whatever of interest, just here, and the earth was turned over down to the “country 5″ apparently there had never been any kist-vean under the cairn; but it is possible there may have been another interment without kist-vean elsewhere below the ground level, in other parts of the cairn, where the ground has not yet been excavated.”

I wonder if Mr.Rodd (assuming it was the same person that is) was expecting the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for that little lot as well?

Note:

My thoughts every time I visit both the cairn and the circle focus on the centre stones of both and wonder is there is a direct connection. In their mindset, did whatever took place below on the moor in the living world, get replicated at the cairn in the next i.e. the Afterlife?

 

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