The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 96

Issue 96

September/October 2007



Ambassador sees peace message in museum

Archaeologist who fought for history's underdogs dies

Roman fort found in Cornwall

Full scale of ancient Welsh stone quarry revealed

In Brief & Phase 2


More travels - This is not just a walk, this is an archaeological walk
John Cannon considers places to see in County Durham

Green treasures from the magic mountains
Alison Sheridan describes exciting new French project on Jade Axes

Fading star: Star Carr
Fieldwork at the iconic mesolithic site reveals new fears


Let Lucy sparkle

on the web

Recommended websites
Who's blogging? And the Society of Antiquaries of London


Views and responses

CBA correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA
Mike Heyworth wonders what lies ahead for archaeology


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts


Locked out – Star letter

Christy K Robinson

In Anglesey Revisited (Nov/Dec 2006) Mick Aston wrote that "there is much of interest in many of the churches on Anglesey, as elsewhere in Britain". Amen to that. He continued, "Sometimes the churches are not open to travellers". Last September I put 3,500 miles on a hired car, zipping around England and Wales between cathedrals, ruined abbeys, and medieval parish churches, looking for stone tomb effigies of my ancestors (my third such trip). Some churches were open, and I left a few pounds in the offering box as thanks. Then, inexplicably, I was unable to enter others in which I was assured by internet research that my ancestors "resided". It was heartbreaking to be a few feet away from my goal and not able to enter.

At Merevale Abbey near Atherstone, Warks, the manor owner dug up a key and the farm manager's wife let me in to visit my de Ferrers ancestors. At Coverham Abbey in Yorkshire, the property owners allowed me walking access to their beautiful farm, and took a photo of me between my 12th century ancestors' effigies. At Tutbury, Staffordshire, an octogenarian tending her husband's grave not only found a key to the church, but had me in for tea: the quintessential English "thing" this American will long remember. It lessened the sting that one snippy secretary refused admittance to let me take exterior photos of my ancestral castle during business hours on a weekday.

Mr. Aston concluded his article by saying that the "wealth of history, sculpture, architecture and archaeology to be seen in our parish churches makes them an important part of the cultural tourist industry". In a couple years I'll have enough savings to return (the dollar-to-pound exchange is brutal). Like California's "Governorator" Schwarzenegger says, "I'll be back" – investing in your economy via airline and train fares, accommodations, car hire and petrol, admission fees, purchasing books and antique china, and leaving my vat/gst money there, too. By all means, keep those churches unlocked.

Christy K Robinson, Redlands, California

PS As the editor of a 30,000-circulation Christian ministry magazine, I salute Mike Pitts's chutzpah in publishing the interesting assortment of letters in the Nov/Dec issue.

Original sin

Yoni Kinory

I find it absurd and insulting in roughly equal measures to call the legend of Adam and Eve a "Christian story" (standfirst to medieval view of Stonehenge feature, Jan/Feb). This is cultural imperialism at its worst, unless it's simple ignorance: so, which is it? Perhaps the editor could inform us which early Christian saint or church elder is credited with writing the book of Genesis, because I have always been under the impression that it is part of my own heritage, and was written down by Jewish scribes 500 years or so before Christianity even existed.

I expected more in the way of cultural knowledge and sensitivity from British Archaeology.

Yoni Kinory, Steeple Aston

Bright future

Geoffrey Wainwright

Your amusing account of our recent presidential election missed the point (Spoilheap, Jul/Aug). The debate was about our future not about the past or personalities. The 45% of fellows who voted clearly understood the issues, and a substantial majority supported our vision of the future. This is a time of change for the society and that can be uncomfortable for some. Our public rooms at Burlington House are undergoing extensive renovation for the first time in 40 years. In September we shall be opening a major public exhibition at the Royal Academy highlighting the achievements of the past 300 years. That exhibition will mark the launch of a tercentenary campaign to raise funds to increase the range of our research and publications, invest in our library and collections, improve the services we already offer to fellows and develop our advocacy role for the heritage. These changes will ensure a bright future for our society as we enter out fourth century, and they will take place within the framework of the traditions and values that have sustained us for the past 300 years.

Geoffrey Wainwright, president, Society of Antiquaries of London

Community intervention

Helen Bradley

The Council for Scottish Archaeology shares Gill Chitty's view that climate change offers great opportunity for collaboration across the archaeological community (CBA correspondent, May/Jun). In our Adopt-a-Monument Scheme we have teamed up with community members, the scapeTrust and guard to temporarily conserve the archaeological site at Sandwick Bay, Unst (featured in Gill's article). Through the provision of improved access and interpretation, the consolidation of the structure, and the creation of a small sea defence, more visitors will be given the opportunity to learn about the site and the threat it faces before it is eventually lost. Community intervention at this site has proved an effective means of highlighting the problem of coastal erosion, and demonstrates the value of collaboration between community stewards and professional archaeologists.


Helen Bradley, Adopt-a-Monument officer, Council for Scottish Archaeology

Illustrators' rights

Kelvin Wilson

When the review of illustrator's Victor Ambrus's new picture book (Books, Mar/Apr) called it "a haul for lecturers looking to enliven presentations", my drawing hand started shaking... Ahaul? For the picking, you mean? No, "a cache" is what I'd rather hear you say, to which at all times only the copyright holder has the key!

I have gone on record for calling the uk "a hellhole of copyright abuse"... from my experiences stronger than in any other, there is a persistent thought in that country that images made with an educational purpose are free for any publicist in education to use. Because copyrights seem to throw up a hindrance to that practice, copyright holders are often seen to be merely nagging.

That is a selfish argument. If only because copyright infringements sometimes take money from a professional's pocket, and sometimes honour from his roll, it should remain to the copyright holder to determine who hauls his work, when and where.

Kelvin Wilson, council member of the Association of Archaeological Illustrators & Surveyors, Ridderkerk, The Netherlands

Hair Dio

Nick Corcos

Unless he had access to his own personal Tardis, I doubt that Julius Caesar was in a position to make *any* remarks about Boudica's personal appearance – he had, of course, been dead for over a century by the time her rebellion kicked off (News, Jul/Aug). The comments about her red hair actually originate with Cassius Dio. Mistakes can happen, but as schoolboy howlers go, this really was pretty basic. It did give me a good chuckle though!

Nick Corcos,

Dying breed

PM Hughes

When I was first introduced to landscape "archaeology", my open mind thought that perhaps there was some sense in this "new"? idea. I then read a few essays on landscape. Strange, they contained little information, little anything really, what is going on? Realisation! An academic ploy to verbalise trivial information – saves soiling the hands. Landscape studies I can accept, landscape archaeology never. The two do not relate.

Imagine my surprise to read in Christopher Dyer's review of Ideas of Landscape by Matthew Johnson (Books, Jul/Aug), that I was an "empiricist". I was even more surprised to read that "one doubts if the empiricists will be won over, as he [MJ] devotes so much space to a rather disdainful commentary, which would lead the empiricists to feel that much of their work is worthless".

Exactly how I now feel. Have I just wasted 15 years? Swamped by the verbosity of the "new age" archaeologist.

I am a detail recorder, it takes time but at least gives opportunity for discussion, debate, reassessment and future reinterpretation by others, perhaps in the light of further knowledge. Am I part of a dying breed?

PM Hughes, Holmfirth

Lost mill

Simon Hudson

In response to Aleyn Lester's enquiry about the mill at Trumpington, which featured in Chaucer's Reeve's Tale (Letters, May/Jun), it seems to have disappeared by the 16th century. According to the Reverend Dr Stokes, writing in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society in 1910, the foundations of the old mill could then still be seen in Byron's Pool. It is understood that these footings were visible more recently when the river was drained, although it is not known if the opportunity was taken to record them. Considering its literary associations, it could be argued that the Trumpington mill has a broader interest than merely another lost watermill site. Stokes notes that the mill also inspired Tennyson, when he wrote The Miller's Daughter, although this was presumably the newer mill at Grantchester, which stood on an artificial cut near where the Bourn brook joined the Granta or Cam, and which was burnt down in 1928.

There were once many watermills and windmills in the neighbourhood of Cambridge. Some sites and buildings can still be identified and there are even a few mills that have been repaired and are maintained in working order. Some still produce meal and flour using millstones, carrying on a tradition that would be immediately recognisable to Chaucer's miller.

Simon Hudson, SPAB Mills section secretary, London

No folk memory

I was puzzled by the transcription of the 12th word in the medieval inscription about Stonehenge (feature, Jan/Feb) as "derecta" when the "r" is clearly "v" or "n" and the word must be "devecta" which means "carried away". The inscription then translates as "in this year the circle of the giants was carried away, not by strength but by Merlin's magic; from Ireland to Stonehenge near Amesbury". I can see nothing in the text which refers to erection of the circle at Stonehenge (or its deconstruction in Ireland). The drawing is clearly of the sarsens. Unlike the bluestones, these are local to Stonehenge and not brought from Pembrokeshire, which makes the idea that this is some sort of folk memory rather implausible.

GJ Dawson, Orpington

• The first point was also made by D Banham (Letters, Mar/Apr). Ed

I wanted to be a palaeontologist, excavating Australopithecus bones in northern Kenya.
Novelist Mark Haddon, Observer.

Please send your ideas for the magazine: we may not publish them all, but we will read and take notice. Ed

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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