The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 84

Issue 84

September/October 2005



We found new megalith, say dowsers

Good news for Silbury Hill - if money is found

Orkney dig first to date gold and amber jewellery

Objectors scent victory at Stonehenge

Exeter bids for new students

Stone plaque is first neolithic face in over a century

In Brief


Saving the H Blocks - Long Kesh/Maze: An archaeological opportunity
The artefacts of fear...and why we should preserve them - Laura McAtackney questions Northern Island proposal

Cemetery requiem for a lost age
Roberta Gilchrist reveals extraordinary Christian practices

Lake rescue
Saving Llangors Crannog, a unique medieval Welsh royal island, from erosion

on the web

Recommended websites


Views and responses

CBA news

Headlines from the CBA office.


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts


Academic decline

by David Bird

While reading a recently published book, I wanted to check a reference quoted in support of a particular statement. But the reference was inadequate: it gave only the author and date of publication, without a page reference. A quick check established that this was the case with all of the references given in the book, even for direct quotations. I have come across this problem before both in published works and in university theses. Presumably the latter indicates that inadequate university teaching is at the root of the problem.
Anyone reading an academic work is entitled to be given information about the sources on which the arguments are based. He or she should not have to read through an entire book to find the page(s) that provide support for what is said, or pages whose argument is being attacked. I cannot be the only person to have checked a direct quotation to find that it is not what was actually printed, or looked for the pages quoted as stating such and such to be the case when they did nothing of the sort. We are all conscious of a gradual decline in academic standards but proper references are easy to achieve. Is it too late to reverse the trend?

David Bird, Head of Heritage Conservation, Surrey county council


by John Malam

The Carrow Road item made me smile (News, July/Aug). Must show it to my trendy soccer-mad Norwich supporting vicar, who does his best to mention the Canaries each week in his sermon: a voice in the wilderness amid a congregation of Man U, Man City, Liverpool and Everton supporters. Other soccer grounds allegedly have stuff under their turf, from their previous uses, as reported in Ian St John's Book of Soccer Lists (Collins Willow, 1992): Aberdeen, Pittodrie – Dung heap
Aston Villa, Villa Park – Amusement park
Exeter City, St James's Park – Pig-grazing land
Manchester City, Maine Road (former ground) – Claypit
Portsmouth, Fratton Park – Market garden
Shrewsbury Town, Gay Meadow – Open-air theatre
Southampton, The Dell (former ground) – Duckpond
Tottenham Hotspur, White Hart Lane – Nursery
West Ham United, Upton Park – Cabbage patch
Wigan Athletic, Springfield Park (former ground) – Horse-trotting track
...and there's the fabulous urban myth that under the hallowed turf of Wembley lay a steam locomotive used in its original construction in the early 1920s. Said to be easier to bury it than haul it back out of the stadium once its job was done. I have seen this reported as "fact", and know that the Wembley Press Office has issued statements denying it.

John Malam, Winsford

Mortgaged peasants

by Andy Worthington

Thanks very much for the latest issue and offprints (A black day for British justice, Jul/Aug). What a fine-looking issue. It's certainly worked for me already, with The Observer breaking through the mainstream media's lack of interest in the story [of the Battle of the Beanfield] (which is apt really, as it was the only paper paying attention 20 years ago) and running a piece in today's edition.

Andy Worthington, Brockley

by V Sweet

The land, sea and air belongs to everyone. God/mother earth given. The majority of us in this country are landless peasants and ought to stick up for these brave travellers who are confronting reality whilst the rest of us have caved in and resigned ourselves to an expensive long mortgage for a "postage stamp" of land.

V Sweet, Somerset

Road concerns

by Kate Fielden

It should be said, concerning English Heritage's proposals for the future of Stonehenge (Being bold at the stones, Jul/Aug), that not everyone is confident that the right way forward has been identified.
The A303 road improvement scheme would leave two thirds of the World Heritage Site divided by dual carriageways and deep tunnel cuttings. Traffic noise would still be heard at the Stones.
Many archaeological, environmental and conservation bodies, including the National Trust, ICOMOS-UK and the CBA, opposed the road scheme at Public Inquiry, arguing that the surroundings of Stonehenge need better protection. Valid concerns have also been raised about the new visitorcentre proposals which include construction of c3.5km of new roads across the archaeological landscape to carry visitors closer to the henge.
There is indeed a general consensus for providing a better deal for Stonehenge and its visitors. Let us remain hopeful that a way forward may yet be found that achieves this objective without further damage to the landscape.

Kate Fielden, Devizes

Fringe politics

by Chris Preece

Congratulations on another excellent issue. Nice to see a readiness to tackle quasi-controversial topics (eg A black day for British justice).
In this vein (and at the risk of adding to your post-bag by further stirring the invidious brew of politics close on the heels of the election), I wonder if other readers have noticed the similarities between the present political map of Britain and post-Roman distribution maps? There is, for example an uncanny parallel between Conservative constituencies and Anglo-Saxon sites of the fifth to seventh centuries AD (see enclosed maps [post-election map from the Independent/map from Britain & the End of the Roman Empire, K Dark 2000]). And at the risk of stirring up the "Celtosceptics" what about the western Celtic fringe and its affiliation with the Liberal Democrats (UKIP and Plaid Cymru/SNP)? Is this a rejection of the Romanising influence of development-mad New Labour which confines its strongholds (in the main) to urban centres?
Finally, just what is a "Celtophil" (John Collis in Books, Jul/Aug)? Surely not an unwarranted slight on a much loved west country archaeologist with a regional accent?

Chris Preece, Westward Ho!

Digging for art

by Rosemary S Hall

I would like to say how enjoyable I find the magazine. I have only recently (in about the last 18 months) been reading it. I especially like the way that it is open to the way archaeology inspires (or is reflected in) the visual arts. The article on Alan Sorrell (Jul/Aug) was fascinating; I had no idea he had worked on paintings or drawings of Stonehenge, but I remember as a teenager being fascinated by his postcards of North Wales castles and the article on Jacquetta Hawkes and her art collecting (Jan/Feb) was interesting (especially as I used to collect Britain in Pictures books). I do enjoy the tv reviews too – though I accept that not everyone does!

Rosemary S Hall, Coventry

Walking the wall

by BE Baldwin

I read with interest Finding the way (Jul/Aug) and write both as a walker, and having an interest in archaeology. In June 2004 I walked along sections of Hadrian's Wall after a gap of 13 years.
In that time I observed no significant deterioration in less frequented parts of the path (and few walkers), but this was not the case with more popular sections. Surely this does call for some "hard surfacing" to be constructed provided archaeological remains are not compromised.
Diversions are not palatable, and closure of sections too grim to be contemplated. After all, walkers "prefer" a grass surface, not demand it.

BE Baldwin, Newport Pagnell

by Peter Fowler

In July I examined the wall and its trail between Appletree c2km west of Birdoswald and Turret 13a east of Rudchester, in all c50kms. I saw "significant deterioration in the grass sward". English Heritage's statement that "nearly 80% of the trail needs treatment" is background to my own observation that c40% of the length I looked at is in urgent need of management action now. I saw no work in progress.
The thick sward between Appletree–Birdoswald, helped by recent spiking, is currently withstanding the wear of trail-walkers. Eastwards, however, deterioration begins, eg near Longbyre. East from Cawfields, thin-soiled and now dry and dusty, the trail is etched as a virtually continuous wobbly brown line across northern England. East of Limestone Corner down to Black Carts a bare path where there was none before now scores the berm in front of the wall and its scant remains.
Numbers of walkers have increased in 2005. Fine – the more people who can enjoy one of the world's great monuments, the better; but why is provision for their impact on a World Heritage Site so inadequate? As the authorities seem unable cope, perhaps use of the trail should be rationed.

Peter Fowler, London

Millstone graffiti

by Richard Turner

Nigel MacBeth is puzzled by marks on the Cloud (Letters, May/Jun). Over 20 years ago, when Cheshire county archaeologist, I was shown these by the editor of the Congleton Chronicle, a keen local historian.
He explained that they were the sites where millstones were cut from the outcrops of Millstone Grit. The quarrymen had developed long curving saws to make the rough shapes of the stones in situ. When the stones were removed the distinctive graffiti that Nigel has recorded were left. The practice continued well into the last century.

Richard Turner, inspector of ancient monuments, Cadw, Cardiff

Tuning in

by Ernest Hazell

To answer the question as to why the builders of Stonehenge needed blue stone from 130 miles away.
The blue stone and the local granite offered the correct frequency for the operation of that huge electronic – vibratory – solar system operated machine. Simple really.

Ernest Hazell, Skipton

We welcome letters from readers. They may be emailed to Mike Pitts the Editor at or faxed to 01904 671384. They may be edited.

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