ISSN 1357-4442Editor: Simon Denison

Issue no 1, February 1995


Military training

From Ms Kate Ashbrook

Sir: You imply that the army's plan to move most artillery training from Salisbury Plain to Otterburn in the Northumberland National Park is desirable (`Army protects plain', British Archaeological News, December 1994).

But the MoD's plans for Otterburn are deeply worrying, involving huge guns, the upgrading of 5lkm of road, new tracks and buildings. While such development may be less damaging to archaeology than at Salisbury Plain, it will destroy a wild landscape which is part of our history.

Rather than be drawn into arguing the merits of one site against another, we should all campaign together for a nationwide, independent review of military training needs. The recent report of the Commons Defence Committee says the committee `would consider such an inquiry necessary by the end of the decade if there were continuing evidence of shortcomings in MoD's estate policy and practice'.

I hope the CBA would join a lobby for such a review.

Yours faithfully,
General Secretary
The Open Spaces Society
19 December

From Ms Caroline Hardie

Sir: So the army are moving artillery training to Otterburn? What about the 643 archaeological sites at Otterburn? It seems to me they are simply moving the problem from one place to another.

Yours sincerely,
County Archaeologist
Northumberland County Council
5 January

Turning English

From Mr Hywel Keen

Sir: Alex Woolf proposes that acculturation did not take place in Saxon England (British Archaeological News, November), and that the Romano-British people were gradually replaced by Anglo Saxons, by a mechanism in which the lord's kindred expanded at the expense of other followers.

This model only applies to the upper stratas of society, and would result in a situation similar to that of 18th century Ireland, where an English protestant nobility ruled over an Irish catholic peasantry. It does not apply to Saxon England, where the peasants changed their culture.

The Romano-British could have copied the ways of the Saxon kings, so that they were (in Woolf's words) `those resembling kinsmen in social and cultural orientation' which is acculturation. There is also the possibility of inter-marriage between Romano-British and Saxon families; and the children of these marriages must have chosen the culture they preferred. Parallels can be drawn with the Norman invasions.

Woolf's model, far from disproving acculturation, provides an excellent way namely the preferment by the king of people with the same cultural background - of giving the impetus behind it.

Yours sincerely,
28 November

Museum storage

From Mr Michael Farley

Sir: Archaeologists care deeply about the product of excavations; broadly speaking, developers do not. Landowners (or owner- developers) are quite within their rights to do whatever they like with the products of an excavation - including dumping them in the nearest skip.

Charging developers for storage will undoubtedly produce precisely this result (`Unhappy museums', British Archaeological News, December), so long as antiquities are perceived to be private property.

To avoid this situation, and undignified squabbles between museum professionals and excavating archaeologists, we need the creation of one or two low-cost storage facilities, where materials not requiring sophisticated environmental storage controls - such as animal bone, building materials, and the great majority of pottery sherds - can be stored with minimal curation.

Museums wishing to deposit material would pay an annual charge for storage or retrieval. Only items unlikely to be referred to on a regular basis could be housed in this manner, but they constitute a very large percentage of the products of many excavations.

The idea is not new, but its execution requires co-operation by many different authorities. The Museums and Galleries Commission is probably the only body with sufficient resources and influence to set in motion the creation of such a facility. May we learn the Commission's views?

Yours sincerely,
County Archaeologist
Buckinghamshire County Museum
21 December

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