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Coursing at Stonehenge in 1865
Coursing at Stonehenge in 1865. The Illustrated London News
 
In a recent BBC regional news report, Stonehenge manager Kate Davies is reported as saying an alcohol ban at Stonehenge would, “…help everyone to have a better experience of solstice.” In what way, Ms Davies, would such a ban help people have a better experience? Are you saying that by presently allowing a moderate degree of drinking at solstice time that is somehow adversely affecting people’s enjoyment of the overall solstice event there? If so, do you have details and the statistics to support such a claim? No-one, of course, wants to see drunkenness and rowdiness at Stonehenge but aren’t you perhaps taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut here? Perhaps this is an opportune time to remind you that, just over thirty years ago, a hard-won battle was fought to allow –
 
The Peace Convoy, a convoy of several hundred New Age travellers, from setting up the 1985 Stonehenge Free Festival in Wiltshire, England. The police were enforcing a High Court injunction obtained by the authorities prohibiting the 1985 festival from taking place. Around 1300 police officers took part in the operation against approximately 600 travellers.
 
Dozens of travellers were injured, 8 police officers and 16 travellers were hospitalised. 537 travellers were eventually arrested. This represents one of the largest mass arrest of civilians since at least the Second World War, possibly one of the biggest in English legal history.
 
Two years after the event, a Wiltshire police sergeant was found guilty of Actual Bodily Harm as a consequence of injuries incurred by a member of the convoy during the Battle of the Beanfield. Source: the Wikipedia entry on The Battle of the Beanfield.
 
In the same BBC report, Senior Druid King Arthur Pendragon is reported as saying English Heritage was, “…looking for confrontation [and that he will fight] “…the total ban on alcohol. It’s a celebration – not to be sanitized. It does not matter how they dress it up, we will not Pay to Pray.”
 
Well, is there a possible middleway here? The problem really comes down to a minority who spoil the event for everyone else. Would it not be more sensible, therefore, to control the amount of alcohol taken on site (as is now the case) and to restrict access to the actual stones; meanwhile allowing people the freedom to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the event from the perimeter?
 
If King Arthur were to bend just a little, and if English Heritage were to think a little more laterally, could we possibly achieve the best of both worlds? Last year 23,000 people attended the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge. If each were to pay just £1 that would achieve £23,000 and would probably cover the cost of providing portaloos, litter pickups etc. Actually, why not go a little further and give people rubbish bags as they arrive on site with, Stonehenge is a World Heritage Site and sacred to many. Please take your litter home with you, printed on them. Why not try to persuade people to be considerate rather than employing what might be seen as profit-motivated, strong-arm tactics against them. Stonehenge has, after all, been a gathering place of one sort or another from the beginning. Let’s not relegate that fact to the rubbish bin through lack of compromise and creative thinking.
 
Heritage, after all, is not just about stones, architecture and artefacts; it’s also about real-time cultural awareness and real-time human interaction.
 
Published by the Sketch 1896 an open-air concert
An open-air concert at Stonehenge. Published by the Sketch 1896
 

A guest feature by Mohamed Badry and Mohamed Abdalla.

Ancient Memphis (Mit Rahina): Human-induced Impact Assessment, Heritage Impact Assessment was conducted by Mohamed Badry Kamel Basuny and his colleague Mohamed Abdallah under the supervision of their professor, Dr Michael Schmidt and his assistant Mr Mohamed Ravankhah. This short Introduction to their Assessment is a welcome guest feature on the subject. For the complete report please click on the link here.

Encroachment on Kom el-Rabi’ at Mit Rahina
©
Mohamed Badry (16 January 2014)

Introduction for our case study:

Although the site is included in the list of World Heritage Sites, Memphis and its Necropolis, UNESCO is actually only interested of the Giza plateau site and other neglected sites from Saqqara to Dahshur. ​Mit Rahina is considered an adequate archaeological site for implementing Heritage Impact Assessment methodology providing an example of the Human-induced Impact on such archaeological sites. ​

The researchers used archaeological and Egyptological-related libraries, internet sources etc, together with oral sources obtained when interviewing Mr Mohamed Fathy Mansour of the Mit Rahina Inspectorate, during a fieldtrip conducted on Thursday, 16 January 2014. The visit evaluated the ground cover and potential for buried archaeological materials, as well as recording any standing or obtrusive archaeological and historical features.

This research will assess the current situation of Mit Rahina, the open air museum and the surrounding archaeological components which have been affected by human-induced impacts. It will then provide Heritage Impact assessment procedures, describe the current or proposed changes, and then identify the threats to the site in order to analyze its potential impact. Consequently, it will then suggest some mitigating measures.

Salinization close to archaeological remains at the Hathor Temple, Mit Rahina
©
Mohamed Badry (16 Jananuary 2014)

Acknowledgements:

We are grateful to our professor Dr Michael Schmidt, Chair of Environmental Planning, BTU- Cottbus, Germany and his assistant Mr Mohamed Ravankhah, Research Assistant in the Department of Environmental Planning in Heritage Studies, for their guidance, encouragement and also, for their continuing support, and comments on the submitted paper. Moreover, we would like to thank Mr Mohamed Fathy Mansour, Mit Rahina Inspectorate, Mit Rahina Inspectorate register, who assisted us in doing direct on-site observations.

We are also grateful to the coordinators of both Helwan University (HU) in Cairo, Egypt and Brandenburg Technical University (BTU) in Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany in selecteding us for this prestigious Joint Master Program Heritage Conservation and Site Management (HCSM).

The authors:

​Mohamed Badry graduated from the Faculty of Arts, History Department, Cairo University (2009) and continued his education by graduating from Guidance Diploma, Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Helwan University (2011). He has a Master of Arts in Heritage Conservation and Heritage Site Management held jointly between two prestigious universities – Helwan University (Egypt) and BTU-Cottbus Senftenberg (Germany). His dissertation was in the field of heritage marketing under the title Developing Innovative Marketing Plan to Augment the Visitation of Egyptian World Heritage Sites: A Case Study of Saladin Citadel.

Mohamed Abdalla graduated from the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Guidance Department, Helwan University (2000). He has much experience in the tourism industry through his position as Aviation Manager. He has a Master of Arts in Heritage Conservation and Heritage Site Management jointly between two prestigious universities – Helwan University (Egypt) and BTU-Cottbus Senftenberg (Germany). His dissertation was in the field of heritage marketing under the title Branding World Heritage Sites: Case of Egypt.

 

 
 
One of the five Stonehenge land trains
©
The Heritage Trust
 
All five of the so called land trains that convey sightseers from the Stonehenge Visitor Centre to the monument itself were withdrawn last week just days before thousands of people were expected to visit the monument over the Easter break. Each train carries about 45 people and is pulled along by a single Land Rover. There have been concerns expressed in the past that there was not enough turning room at the Visitor Centre for the land trains to easily manoeuvre in and also that they would be unable to cope with thousands of sightseers during peak periods. Sightseers are now being transported to the monument by a fleet of buses.
 
According to Historic England (formerly English Heritage), “They [the land trains] have all gone for the moment. They went about a week ago. We do not know when they will be back. The land trains are being serviced and will be offsite for several weeks while we also take the opportunity to look at design improvements.”
 
The land trains were supposed to provide a low environmental impact on the Stonehenge area and if they are now to be replaced by a fleet of buses ploughing backwards and forwards between the Visitor Centre and the monument that objective will have been lost. Historic England’s comments that, “We do not know when they will be back.” and, “…while we also take the opportunity to look at design improvements.” are not encouraging ones but let’s hope we’re wrong and the land trains will be back in service again soon.
 
Update. BBC News reports today (10 April 2015) that, “A 26-space coach park is set to be built at Stonehenge and will operate for two years… English Heritage will convert farmland next to the existing coach park and will include walkways for pedestrians.”
 
 

Heritage is identity, don’t steal it! A UNESCO video

Dear tourist, make sure that the souvenir you take home from South East Asia [or from any other part of the world] hasn’t been looted from a museum or illegally excavated from an archeological site. Please check its provenance and verify that it can be exported out of the country! Keep in mind that a cultural object is not simple merchandise: it embodies history and has a symbolic value for the local people. Help stop illicit trafficking!

 

A video describing the work of Global Heritage Fund narrated by Executive Director Vince Michael

 

The ancient site of Göbekli Tepe in south-eastern Turkey
Video the Global Heritage Fund

The Global Heritage Fund reports that –

Göbekli Tepe is an Early Neolithic site of enormous significance, featuring 5-meter-high monolithic pillars carved in relief and dating to 10,000 or more years ago. Erected within circular “temple” structures, the latest excavations have revealed that these structures likely covered the entire hillside and could number as many as 20 in total. Göbekli Tepe has been interpreted as the oldest human-made place of worship yet discovered. Until excavations began, a complex on this scale was not thought possible for a community so ancient. The massive sequence of stratification layers suggests several millennia of activity, perhaps reaching back to the Mesolithic. The oldest occupation layer (stratum III) contains monolithic pillars linked by coarsely built walls to form circular or oval structures. So far, four such buildings, with diameters between 10 and 30m have been uncovered. Geophysical surveys indicate the existence of 16 additional structures.

However, the site and its extant remains are threatened by looting, exposure and insufficient management of the site and its resources. GHF’s goals at Göbekli Tepe are to support the preparation of a comprehensive Site Management and Conservation Plan, construction of a shelter over the exposed archaeological features, training local community members in guiding and conservation and aiding Turkish authorities in securing World Heritage Site inscription.

More here and here (PDF).

 
Reproduction of a bison from one of the Altamira cave paintings
Source Wikimedia Commons. Image credit Rameessos
 
BBC News Europe reports today that –
 
Spain’s famous Altamira caves are briefly being opened to the public, for the first time in 12 years. Five elderly Spaniards chosen in a draw can marvel at its ice-age paintings of bison, bulls and other animals. The visit, including time accessing the caves, will last only about half an hour – allowing the group just eight minutes to admire the paintings.
 
During the visit, dozen of sensors will monitor changes in the cave’s temperature and humidity, to see if more visitors can be allowed in in future, our correspondent says. As part of the experiment, a total of 192 people will be allowed to see the paintings in weekly visits until August, El Pais newspaper reports. Despite the historic nature of the viewing, taking pictures will not be allowed. Nor will visitors be allowed to touch the rock. They will be also dressed in protective clothing, to help prevent contamination of the site.
 
The caves were closed in 2002 to protect the paintings from microbiological damage caused by visitors. Perhaps they should stay closed to the general public. These 22,000 year-old paintings are just too precious and too vulnerable to risk further degradation from public viewing – no matter how small and restricted those viewings may be. 
 
Full BBC article here. Includes an excellent video, presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon, showing a visit to the replica Altamira caves housed in the National Museum and Research Center of Altamira.
 
   
 
Image credit the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities
 
BBC News Middle East reports that –
 
Archaeologists have discovered the tomb of a brewer who served an ancient Egyptian court more than 3,000 years ago in Luxor. The man buried in it was “head of beer production”, archaeologists say. A Japanese team found the tomb during work on another tomb belonging to a top official under Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who died around 1,354 BC.
 
Luxor is home to a large and famous temple complex built by Amenhotep III and later by Rameses II. Experts say the tomb’s wall paintings are well preserved and depict daily life as well as religious rituals.
 
More here.
   
 
Slender rods support the roof of the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Rain clouds gathered as Trust members arrived at the entrance to the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre this morning. After decades of wrangling, and millions of pounds spent trying to decide what the Centre should be, what it should look like and where it should be sited, the big day had at last arrived – the first day that the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre opened its doors to the public. We can only say that the atmosphere there this morning was electric. The smiles and pride on the faces of the English Heritage staff, as well as on the faces of the windswept guides and security folk we saw and spoke to were infectious. There are still a few minor problems to sort out but English Heritage, and everyone else involved in the project, seem to have pulled it off in a way that will satisfy all but a few.
 
 
Entrance to the new Visitor Centre, with cafeteria and shop on the left, conveniences and exhibition hall on the right
©
moss
 
The Centre itself could easily be mistaken for a large farm building, even from quite close up, and it sits comfortably in the surrounding landscape; light and airy but totally functional. The building is actually two quite plain buildings (exhibition hall in one and the cafeteria/shop in the other) both sitting under a floating, undulating roof; and it’s the roof that pulls the two together. We took the land train up to Fargo Plantation where it stops and where one can walk the remaining 15 minutes or so; Bronze Age round barrows on one’s left and the monument itself slowly appearing in the distance.
 
 
The final walk from Fargo Plantation to the monument
©
The Heritage Trust
 
The old ‘facilities’ are in the process of being demolished. The road that once ran past (and very close to) the Heelstone no longer does so and the stone has now regained much of its rightful place in the Stonehenge landscape. A new innovation is that visitors are now directed to walk round the monument clockwise from the Heelstone, not anticlockwise as was previously the case. The visual impact of this is that one sees the monument from ever increasing points of closeness – ending in a very close and stunning view at the end of the walk.
  
 
The Heelstone returning to its rightful place in the Stonehenge landscape
©
The Heritage Trust
 
The new Stonehenge Visitor Centre offers world-class facilities and an information/exhibition area second to none. We never thought we’d see some of the earliest literature and illustrations on Stonehenge, let alone see them gathered together in one exhibition room (it was worth the admission fee just for that!) though there is so much more to see and enjoy there now.
 
 
The closest point to the monument at the end of the clockwise walk one can get. Stonehenge revealed in all its majesty, but note the truck visible through the stones on the right as it travels along the A303 (click on image to enlarge). Next step, a tunnel or bypass to complete English Heritage’s excellent work so far?
©
The Heritage Trust
  

La Cotte de St Brelade. Image credit Man vyi. Source Wikipedia

Sara Palmer, writing for BBC News Jersey earlier this month, reports that –
 
Jersey’s rich ice age history is being used in an attempt to attract more tourists to the island.
 
“Jersey has a story to tell about human evolution relevant across Europe and the wider world,” according to Dr Matt Pope, who is leading an archaeological team. Previous work has uncovered hunting sites and submerged ice age landscapes ranging from the earliest occupation by Neanderthals more than 250,000 years ago, to the arrival of the first modern humans.
 
The creation of ice age walking trails around the island’s coast has been done by Jersey Heritage in partnership with the archaeological team, Societe Jersiaise and the National Trust for Jersey. It has been supported by a £199,000 grant from the Tourism Development Fund (TDF) to deliver Ice Age Island. Peter Funk, chairman of the TDF panel, said: “There is a huge level of interest in archaeological discovery and Jersey has a unique story to tell which we believe will be an integral part of Jersey’s tourism offering in the years to come.”
 
Jersey has an exceptionally rich record for the Stone Age considering the small size of its land mass. The site of La Cotte de St Brelade contains more Neanderthal artefacts than the rest of the British Isles put together and ranks as one of the world’s richest Stone Age localities.
 
Full article here.
 
 
The Valley of the Kings
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Patrick Kingsley, writing for The Guardian earlier this month, reports that –
 
An exact replica of the tomb of Tutankhamun is set to be installed near the 3,000-year-old original, in what one of the world’s leading Egyptologists has called a revolutionary development in Egyptian archaeological conservation. Officials hope the £420,000 project will prolong the life of the original while promoting a new model of sustainable tourism and research in a country where many pharaonic sites are under severe threat. Tutankhamen’s tomb is one of 63 burial sites in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings. After years of visitors, some have had to close due to damage while others – such as Tutankhamun’s – are under threat, with restoration efforts likely to make the problem worse.
 
 
Section of Tutankhamen’s Tomb
Image credit Stefano Benini
 
The facsimile is said to be one of the most sophisticated replicas ever made. Its creation involved measuring 100 million points in every square metre of the original tomb. Factum Arte used laser scanners to capture the texture, shape and colours of the tomb, before reproducing it with machine-operated blades, some with a width of less than two-tenths of a millimetre. “There’s a lot of arguments between conservators and tourism experts about whether replicas will help or hinder tourism,” said Weeks [Kent Weeks is a leading Egyptologist who has been researching pharaonic sites since the 1960s]. “But we should be able to show that there is no conflict between the economic needs of the country and conservation needs of the tombs. One can make a much more meaningful visit to the replica than one ever could to the original.”
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
Image credit World Monuments Fund
 
The World Monuments Fund has announced that –
 
WMF’s Everyday Preservationist Photo Contest is underway, and if you haven’t already submitted, please join today! We want to see what preservation looks like to you. You’re invited to share your favorite photos of the architecture, landscapes, historic centers, archeological sites, and other special places you’ve found most compelling.
 
Whether you’ve found inspiration close to home or during a memorable trip, perhaps years ago or even during this summer’s vacation, you probably already have many images that fall within our five Everyday Preservationist categories.
 
From July 1-31, World Monuments Fund invites photographers of all levels to submit original, evocative digital images that advocate for historic sites by reflecting their aesthetic beauty and importance to the communities in which they are located. WMF sends preservation experts to endangered sites all over the world, but there are things you can do closer to home to help save the world’s most treasured places. Becoming an everyday preservationist is as easy as sharing something special about your hometown, a favorite vacation spot, or someplace you’ve always wanted to visit.
 
Closing dates for entries is 31 July 2013.
 
Details here. Submission form here.
 
 

One of the gardens within the grounds of the Kyōto Imperial Palace (Kyōto Gosho 京都御所) Japan ©
The Heritage Trust

The garden above is just one of many in Japan where access is restricted in order to both protect the site and preserve an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. Other heritage sites around the world are not so well protected and, until they are, the World Monuments Fund Sustainable Tourism Pledge suggests the following –

Unmanaged tourism can damage cultural sites. Visitors can make a difference. Travel responsibly with these ten simple guidelines.

1. Know the History

Before you travel, read up on the history and culture of your destination. Use the internet to get leads on local specialties and off-the-beaten-path sites from locals and other travelers. Learn a few basic phrases in your destination’s local language.

2. Reduce Your (Carbon) Footprint

Walking, biking, and trekking or exploring one place in-depth is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. At urban destinations, walk or take public transit whenever possible. You’ll see more and avoid getting stuck in rush-hour traffic!

3. Be Eco-Friendly

Conservation should always be on a traveler’s mind: whatever helps the environment, such as recycling or staying in an eco-friendly hotel, also protects heritage.

4. Respect the Local Culture

Show respect for and interest in the local culture. At sacred sites, dress modestly, speak softly, and be mindful of people who are there to worship. Seek out local celebrations and festivals – they can provide a unique glimpse into local culture and are a fun way to meet locals, sample traditional foods, and learn about your destination’s heritage.

5. Go Off the Beaten Path

Visit lesser-known places—they may be far more rewarding (not to mention less crowded) than tourist hotspots. The Taj Mahal may be a must-see, but India has more than 25 other spectacular World Heritage Sites.

6. Be Gentle in Your Travel

Be mindful of visitor wear and tear. Visiting crowded sites at off-peak hours or popular destinations in the off-season will reduce your impact. Stick to marked paths. Wear comfortable footwear such as sneakers; heels can damage fragile sites. Don’t climb on monuments or touch rock carvings, as it can damage them.

7. Don’t Be Flashy with Photos

Take only photographs, and make sure that a flash is permitted because a flash can damage centuries-old artwork. Be aware of local traditions when photographing people and when in doubt, ask permission before snapping a picture. Never remove anything from a site: you may think one stone won’t be missed, but if every one of Pompeii’s two million annual visitors took something home, soon there’d be nothing left.

8. Buy Local

Support the local economy by buying crafts from local artisans as souvenirs. Be wary of “antiquities” as these could be looted or forgeries. Patronize smaller hotels and local restaurants—that way the money you spend boosts the local economy and helps preserve heritage.

9. Join the Cause

Help threatened sites, either through donations to organizations like the World Monuments Fund or by volunteering—either in your community or on a “voluntourism” trip. There are many opportunities to combine travel and volunteerism, and ways to help range from building houses to participating in archeological digs.

10. Educate

Tell friends and family about responsible heritage tourism. Raise awareness by sharing your experiences on social media sites like Facebook and Flickr, or your own travel blog. Start a global conservation conversation!

 

Traditional Burmese spinners at work. Image credit Tourism Transparency

Continuing our theme on responsible tourism, an anecdote by a New Zealand museum curator, also an experienced and politically aware traveller to Burma, shows how responsible tourists can make a difference to the people and places they visit.

I’m going to tell you a little story, which is so typical of why I love travelling so much. I have been to Burma many times, yet on this particular trip I travelled up north to Putao in Kachin State. I hired a truck and driver from one of the churches so I could visit a nearby village as there was no public transport. All along the way the truck stopped to pick up people walking along the road. As they jumped off they would give me a big smile of thanks and a wave.

As we passed through a small village a man told me that the daughter of a woman living there had gone to live in New Zealand. On the way back I stopped and visited the old lady. She was a tiny soul, bent over but full of smiles and friendship. Her traditional house and garden were spotlessly clean. Through my friend I asked her about her daughter and took some photos. I also got her daughter’s address in Auckland, so when I got back to New Zealand I printed some enlarged photos of the mother and sent them off to her daughter who she hadn’t seen for years.

A few days later I had a lovely letter in the mail and then a phone call from the woman – almost in tears with emotion. She hadn’t seen a photo of her mother since leaving Burma 10 years ago. I could tell her all about her mother’s house and garden and her neighbours and an old school friend that she went to school with. She was so thankful and full of joy.

Now, who would dare tell me I can’t travel to Burma? Such are the joys of travel.

More here.

 

 

View on Mrauk U right after sunrise from Shwetaung pagoda. Source Wikipedia. Image credit Jmhullot

 

Is the conservation of heritage sites and mass tourism compatible? THE IRRAWADDY of Burma and Southeast Asia asked Dr Andrea Valentin, founder of Tourism Transparency, an NGO campaigning for an open and accountable tourism industry, and recently returned from Burma’s first Responsible Tourism Conference held in Naypyidaw, to define responsible tourism and the difference between that and traditional tourism; also what benefits responsible tourism would bring to Burma –

Responsible tourism offers a solution to the problems caused by mass tourism. It’s about travelling in a better way and taking responsibility for the impacts that our actions have socially and economically on others and on their social, cultural and natural wellbeing. It minimizes negative impacts, involves local people in decisions, improves working conditions and contributes to conservation of natural and cultural heritage. Responsible tourism is culturally sensitive, generates respect between host and guest, and provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through meaningful connections with locals. It can bring great benefits to travelers, the host population and the tourism business, without causing intolerable ecological and social damage.

The demand for responsible tour operations is definitely on the rise worldwide, and businesses following responsible tourism standards increase profitability. Personally I think this is more than a passing trend, because responsible tourism is a consumer-based counter to the mass production of tourism.

Of course there are many problems with responsible tourism. It seems everything has gone green these days. Not long ago tourism was one of the least likely industries to have an ethical dimension, but today we are seeing more and more claims about being carbon-neutral, sustainable, organic, eco, green or responsible. Green-washing is a real threat. When a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be green than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact, we speak of ‘green-washing.’ This is a big problem for sustainability.

During my pro-poor tourism talk at the Responsible Tourism conference in Naypyidaw, I stressed that the long-term success for sustainable tourism in Myanmar [Burma] depends on whether it can deliver development to civil society, especially the poor and poorest. I suggested that government take steps to strengthen the pro-poor benefits of tourism. I mentioned to businesses to embrace pro-poor tourism by adapting their supply chain and facilitating partnerships with the poor. There are many partnership models for locals to benefit from tourism—but we need fair land and resource rights. Businesses could offer microfinance aimed at promising small businesses, or create rural cooperative societies. Such initiatives could be coupled with rural manufacturing and cottage industries. The government could create incentives for companies to invest and operate in pro-poor ways.
 
Full article here.
 
 

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