British

Archaeology

The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 106

Issue 106

May / June 2009

Contents

news

Breton hoard of stone axeheads is first for UK

Flint finds point to Scotland's first people

Antiquities Scheme unearths second Roman pan

In the press

In Brief & Phase 2

features

Beneath the Sea Special: Part 1
Discovery and work on HMS Victory

Beneath the Sea Special: Part 2
Underwater landscapes and the Swash Channel wreck

THE BIG DIG: Wallingford
Community research project in this historic Oxfordshire town, said to have been founded by King Alfred

The Nighthawing Report
While most metal detectorists give positive contributions to the archaological world, nobody is perfect. Pete Wilson considers tackling the rogues

spoilheap

Proud of all humanity – and Homophobic (Latin or Greek?)

on the web

Recommended websites
Discovering historic landscapes, and a major Gallo-Belgic pottery resource

letters

your views and responses

CBA Correspondent

Gill Chitty introduces some recent examples from the CBA's advocacy files

 

ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

CBA Correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA

Gill Chitty introduces some recent examples from the CBA's advocacy files

One of the CBA's key roles is to act as an advocate for archaeology on behalf of its membership. This includes making our voice heard in response to issues across the UK which concern the protection of the historic environment, particularly where there may be consequences – either good or bad – from new policies and developments. These are some of our recent responses.

World heritage sites

A recent UK government consultation on world heritage for the nation considered future nomination of World Heritage Sites (WHS) and the production of a new "tentative" list. It also sought views on ways in which WHS can be better managed and promoted to strengthen their protection and to increase the opportunities for public education and interpretation.

The CBA strongly supports the proposal to maintain the UK's commitment to future WHS nominations in a shorter and more focussed tentative list, with the introduction of a two-stage application process to reduce wasted resources in developing applications. We encouraged future UK nominations to represent live cultural traditions (particularly reflecting 20th century cultural history and popular culture) which have shaped places in ways that have international significance and influence (see Blackpool feature, Sep/Oct 2006).

The CBA supports the measures that have been introduced to increase protection of WHS through the planning system, as well as proposals to enhance awareness of world heritage, for example through the Cultural Olympiad leading up to the 2012 Olympics. A nationally supported strategy for education is needed to highlight awareness of international heritage, and to encourage reflection on identity and appreciation of diversity, leading in turn to increased respect for our own and other countries' cultures and care for their heritage.

Human remains

English Heritage and the National Trust are responsible for the care of prehistoric human remains excavated around Avebury, Wiltshire, which are kept in the Alexander Keiller Museum for research and display. In 2006 the Council of British Druid Orders (CoBDO) requested the reburial of these remains. As this raises sensitive issues, and would set a significant precedent, EH and the NT undertook a public consultation exercise (News, Jan/Feb 2009).

The CBA suggested that the claims of groups requiring reburial of human remains from the distant past should be considered proportionately, bearing in mind whether the claimants have any close genealogical relationship with the remains, and the potential of future research into the remains to advance understanding and interest in past lives.

We argued that CoBDO's Avebury request should be rejected, and that a more balanced approach would follow the majority view within western society, which considers that the retention of human remains is acceptable if based on respectful, ethical and careful treatment. The CBA supports this within a museum, with reasonable access both for legitimate future research and educational activity, and for those inspired by spiritual or religious concerns. We believe that to remove the opportunity for continued study of these remains would significantly limit future knowledge of these important sites and their development, and our understanding of their prehistoric societies.

There is a wide, popular interest in the ceremonial and religious practices of prehistoric peoples, particularly where they are associated with iconic monuments such as Avebury. There is also a broad range of views about how best to serve the public interest in the treatment of human remains from the distant past, with unanswered questions and genuine enthusiasm for discovering more. A consultation of this kind provides an important opportunity to gauge the widest opinion on a sensitive subject which will continue to be debated.

Stonehenge

The long-running saga over the presentation of the UK's most famous world heritage site continues. Most recently the CBA wrote to the minister for culture to encourage her to find a realistic and acceptable solution for new visitor facilities that could be in place in time for 2012 (see feature, Sep/Oct 2008). Following press reports that options had been reduced to two, we proposed Airman's Corner as a workable location to the west of the world heritage site. This option, which brought concerns about visual intrusion within the WHS, deserved further consideration as a short-term, reversible development, linked with the closure of the A344 running past Stonehenge.

In early March the minister answered a parliamentary question on progress, reiterating that "The government have stated their commitment to delivering environmental improvements at Stonehenge, including new visitor centre facilities by 2012. To this end, the Stonehenge project board has recommended to ministers a location for the new visitor centre, following a public consultation. I am currently considering the recommendation and an announcement will be made in due course."

The CBA will continue to press the government to ensure that financial pressures do not lead to all options being dropped.

Heritage protection

Despite the disappointing absence of a heritage bill in the Queen's speech last December, work has continued across the UK to increase momentum for heritage protection reforms. Legislation is anticipated in the Scottish parliament later in the year, and English Heritage and Cadw are both developing their own plans in England and Wales to continue progress, without primary legislation at this stage.

A key development will be the publication of the new planning policy statement for the historic environment in England. A draft is anticipated for public consultation in early April. This will be a critical document for archaeology undertaken through the planning process, especially in the absence of primary legislation. The final version of the PPS will come into force in early 2010 and will replace the current PPGs 15 and 16.

The CBA has been involved, with other partners in The Archaeology Forum, to influence the contents of the PPS in line with our policy to protect the historic environment, enhance historic environment services in local authorities, and maximise the public benefit that derives from the archaeological work undertaken through the planning process. Further details are available on the websites of the CBA and The Archaeology Forum.

All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group

The CBA continues to work closely with parliamentarians at Westminster, particularly through the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group (the CBA's director is secretary to the group, on behalf of The Archaeology Forum). APPAG meets every other month and provides a channel for communicating concerns and briefings to parliamentarians. Recent meetings have considered archaeological issues relating to the marine and coastal access bill and the coroners and justice bill, as well as matters relating to heritage protection reform and the impacts of the recession on archaeology.


All CBA consultation responses, along with other letters and campaigning documents, can be found on our main website.

Gill Chitty is the CBA's Head of Conservation.

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