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Twilight at Stonehenge (circa 1840). Watercolour by William Turner of Oxford
Image credit Wikimedia Commons
Changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act saw protesters at the Australian State Parliament last year
Image credit and © ABC News: Katrin Long
Laura Gartry, writing for ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), reports that –
A proposed new West Australian heritage bill highlights a “disturbing racial differentiation” between the level of protection offered between non-Indigenous and Aboriginal sites, archaeologists say. It comes after the State Government released for public comment the draft Heritage Bill 2015, aimed at modernising heritage regulation.
The draft bill oversees the protection of all WA heritage sites except Aboriginal sites of significance, which come under the Aboriginal Heritage Act (AHA), itself also the subject of proposed changes by the Government. The draft Heritage Bill 2015 has been welcomed by the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA), the peak national body for the profession. But spokesman Professor Ben Smith from the University of Western Australia said the discrepancies and contradictions between the two proposed sets of changes were “untenable”.
“There is a perhaps unintentional but nonetheless very disturbing racial differentiation between the two types of heritage,” Professor Smith said. He noted how in the new Heritage Bill, the decision to add or remove a site will remain with the minister for heritage, while in revisions to the Aboriginal Heritage Act the decision will be left with a senior public servant.
“So here we have a very interesting contradiction where a site of state significance is Aboriginal, it will be a civil servant that decides whether it goes on [or off] the register. If the site is non-Aboriginal — that is settler, colonial — it is the minister that decides … the minister is the highest authority possible,” Professor Smith said.
“We have watering down of the Aboriginal Heritage Act whereas we have continued strength of non-Aboriginal preservation.”
“We seem to want to protect white fella heritage, better than we want to protect black fella heritage” adds AACAI WA Chairperson Phil Czerwinski.
Full article here. See also our earlier features on Australian heritage issues by keying in Australia in the search box above.
In the Shadow of the Hill: The Rough Tor Triangle. A totally speculative article but with a hint of truth to it?
Text and images © Roy Goutté
Nestling neatly in the shadow of Rough Tor lies the wonderfully rustic stone circle of Fernacre. Just 2km to the west of it is the equally rustic Stannon circle and 800m to the south east of that a third in this triangle of large Cornish circles…Louden. All three are believed to have been built in the Late-Neolithic although a lack of dating evidence in Cornish circles is a problem.
But that is not the only triangular thing about these three circles built on the north-west fringe of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, for within their settings they all feature a single large triangular granite upright. It is these iconic Cornish tri-stones and their possible meaning and connection to Rough Tor that I would like to concentrate on in this article and not so much about the circles themselves other than their basic details and possibly why they were erected where they are.
Fernacre circle has so much in common with the other two circles that it doesn’t take much figuring out that the three are likely to be contemporary with each other and possibly erected by the same people because they are so close together. All are very large by Cornish standards but are surprisingly made up of a large number of small stones. Stannon has around 70 laid out in an irregular ring but originally there may have been as many as 82+. Fernacre also has a large number of stones in its setting, Louden fewer, yet the three circles are the largest in Cornwall along with the Stripple Stones henge circle at the base of Hawk’s Tor and could have been amongst the first to be built. All three are irregular in shape and may have been laid out by eye instead of using a central peg and rope, rather like children marking out a demarcation area for a football pitch in the park with jackets and jumpers!
Unfortunately, Stannon circle lies immediately to the south of a huge china clay works, which, to my mind, destroys much of the magical feel associated with moorland circles we are used to seeing in an open landscape. I wonder if in these more enlightened times permission for this type of activity would still be allowed adjacent to a Scheduled Monument?
Stannon circle looking north-east toward the huge china clay works
All three circles have been labelled as ‘ceremonial’ in certain quarters, but I’m not quite sure what that is based on but may well be true. In my mind I visualise ceremonial circles as being not only large in size, but displaying magnificent uprights within their settings with a true look of grandeur. But this is not the case here as it almost seems that any size stones the builders could get their hands on were used in their construction and in this instance, quite small. It suggests to me that each circle was just one part of a much larger blueprint, so individual grandeur and precision was not required and their use different to other stand-alone circles…whatever that may have been!
Fernacre circle sits in a magnificent bowled landscape. Brown Willy to its east, Garrow Tor to the south, Louden Hill to the west-north-west and the daddy of them all and we believe most revered, Rough Tor to its north.
Aside from its own feature tri-stone it has around fifty-five stones remaining out of what some believe was around as many as ninety which indicates the smallness of many of them! It’s almost like the stones just marked out a temporary demarcation area rather than a permanent and functional structure to be admired. It is this side of things I find really odd.
Although it is just as irregular in its own diameter as Stannon circle, Fernacre is slightly larger being forty-six by forty-four metres, so again, somewhat slightly elliptical in plan.
A section through Fernacre circle looking toward the south-west. Louden circle is away to the top right on the left-hand side of the track. Note the selection of small stones for such a large circle and common in all three
It does appear that stone circles are located within the landscape in relation to other foci with sacred or spiritual significance, not all of which are necessarily visible today. The spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has also been thought by some to represent a tribal gathering point for specific social groups and Fernacre, being set as it is within a landscape rich in contemporary ritual monuments, settlements and field patterns, demonstrates the complex integration of ritual practice with domestic and agricultural organisation of the landscape during the later Neolithic and Bronze Ages. (Access to Monuments. Cornish Heritage).
Louden circle, in elevation terms, is the highest of the three with Fernacre circle seen down from it to the north-east. It has an irregular diameter of between forty-five and forty-three metres and although now reduced in numbers, it probably had up to 40 stones in its original setting. Of the three, Louden circle is the least obvious to the eye due to recumbent and buried stones, but fortunately it still has its iconic tri-stone in place as a guide to finding it. However, a clearance of the turf now enveloping the fallen stones would be of benefit to finding it as PastScape list it as being on Louden Hill…which it isn’t!
Louden circle. Less stones than both Stannon and Fernacre circles, but equally small ones
Let us turn our attention now to the iconic singular large tri-stones within the settings of these three circles and ask the usual questions…what is their meaning or purpose?
It was only when I was in Louden circle recently and taking a photograph of the tri-stone with Rough Tor in the background, that it suddenly dawned on me that I was seeing something close to a double take! I then ventured across to Stannon circle to take a similar photograph and to my amazement witnessed the same and wondered if the builders had purposely made an attempt at replicating the image of Rough Tor as best they could within their ring settings by erecting tri-stones which can be found amongst the clitter masses on the various tors and hills in the area. The same applied at Fernacre and it left me thinking!
Rough Tor as seen from the far side of the Louden circle and tri-stone
The Louden tri-stone as viewed from inside its circle…an attempt at replicating Rough Tor?
The iconic tri-stone at Stannon circle with the equally iconic Rough Tor in the background. Note the ‘notch’ in Rough Tor’s peak as seen from the circle
The Fernacre tri-stone
Fernacre’s tri-stone with Rough Tor looming large in the background
The top photo is a natural tri-stone on Treswallock Downs and the lower the same on Leskernick Hill
So, we have three large irregular stone circles of similar size and with similar sized stones of all shapes and all with a prominent tri-stone in their ring settings and all in close proximity to each other.
It would be easy to suggest that if the people of their time revered or worshipped Rough Tor, then the tri-stones in each of the three circles may well have been seen as near images of their ‘God’ and revered during ceremonies carried out in the circles.
Let’s leave that thought for a moment though and look further into those tri-stones and consider where they are positioned within each circle as it could also tell a speculative but interesting tale.
Remarkably, the circle to the east (Fernacre) has its tri-stone positioned due east in its setting and the circle to the west (Stannon) has its tri-stone positioned due west in its setting. To complete the set, Louden, the southern-most circle, has its tri-stone due south in its setting. Why should all three circles have their individual tri-stones on the side of the triangle they themselves form in the landscape? Draw a direct line between those three circles and note that they form a scalene triangle (no equal sides) which ‘by ‘chance?’ just happens to be a mirror image of Rough Tor!
Copied directly off an OS map for accuracy, the triangle formed by the three circles produces a mirror image of Rough Tor in profile!
So, is this then the ‘finished product’ of the blueprint I referred to earlier and not the individual circles themselves? Are the circles just the demarcation points where boundaries joined up and possibly ritualistic ceremonies took place in…or just pure speculation on my part? In the photocopy above it can be seen quite clearly that the greater majority of solid black circles, rings and enclosure boundaries in the area (cairns, hut circles and field systems) are within the triangle. Black denotes Prehistoric, red, Medieval or Post-Medieval. Did our prehistoric ancestors not only live, work and get buried within sight of Rough Tor, but also within its mirrored image?
Furthermore, are there comparisons elsewhere?
The Heritage Trust
Ed Caesar’s article, in the Smithsonian Magazine, deals with a ground-breaking survey which is revealing tantalizing new clues as to what might have gone on in the Stonehenge area four and a half thousand years ago –
Gaffney’s [Vince Gaffney, archaeologist from Newcastle upon Tyne in north-east England] latest research effort, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, is a four-year collaboration between a British team and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria that has produced the first detailed underground survey of the area surrounding Stonehenge, totalling more than four square miles. The results are astonishing. The researchers have found buried evidence of more than 15 previously unknown or poorly understood late Neolithic monuments: henges, barrows, segmented ditches, pits. To Gaffney, these findings suggest a scale of activity around Stonehenge far beyond what was previously suspected. “There was sort of this idea that Stonehenge sat in the middle and around it was effectively an area where people were probably excluded,” Gaffney told me, “a ring of the dead around a special area – to which few people might ever have been admitted… Perhaps there were priests, big men, whatever they were, inside Stonehenge having processions up the Avenue, doing… something extremely mysterious. Of course that sort of analysis depends on not knowing what’s actually in the area around Stonehenge itself. It was terra incognita, really.”
Read the full Smithsonian article here.
Three scout leaders in the United States are to face criminal charges after filming themselves destroying a natural, mushroom-shaped rock formation (known as a hoodoo) in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. The three men (Dave Hall, Glenn Taylor and Dylan Taylor) are seen in their own video toppling the formation while one of them is heard to say, “Some little kid was about ready to walk down here and die and Glenn saved his life by getting the boulder out of the way, so it’s all about saving lives here at Goblin Valley.”
Hoodoos take millions of years to form and there are thousands of them in Goblin Valley State Park. Spokesman Eugene Swalberg said, “It is not only wrong, but there will be consequences. This is highly, highly inappropriate. This is not what you do at state parks. It’s disturbing and upsetting.” It certainly is inappropriate; let’s hope better signage will be put in place warning visitors of the consequences of damaging the park’s features and that this particular hoodoo can be re-erected.