Estuarine archaeology under threat by Fiona Haughey Intertidal Archaeologist & Archaeological Illustrator
The archaeological world has for some time been aware of the effects on the coastline of Britain of erosion with its consequential exposure and loss of archaeological features and surfaces of a range of periods. English Heritage and Historic Scotland have funded a number of projects both desk-top assessments and field surveys to establish where archaeology is extant and to estimate the damage erosion is inflicting upon these remains. In England, the north Norfolk coast, Essex and Suffolk coastlines have received attention and in Scotland, systematic survey under, latterly, the Scottish Coastal Archaeology and Palaeo-environment (SCAPE) Trust have identified 12,000 sites of half of which are thought to be of ‘exceptional importance’. The disappearance of cliff top sites as such as those at Happisburgh, North Norfolk, have captured the public imagination and illustrate the inevitability of the loss through natural erosion.
Natural erosion is not confined to coastal environments. The many estuaries that are found around the British Isles also suffer erosion at a variety of rates. Several of them penetrate deep inland and a significant number also have an urban context. Best known is the London Thames which is tidal almost all the way across the metropolis; others include Glasgow (Clyde), Newcastle (Tyne), Kingston upon Hull ( Humber ) and Selby (Ouse). In these contexts, it is not just the tidal current which poses a threat but also the fluvial current. To the public, the twice-daily tidal regime is the most noticeable characteristic in estuaries, but the river-current itself will also a cause erosion patterns on the foreshore. Urban rivers are subject to extra constraints of containment and in some places they can be considered more or less as canals. The waters causing flooding in the upper reaches of major systems such as the Thames must eventually pass through these areas of constraint, generally in the lower stretches of the river as it reaches the coast. This has resulted in extensive erosion in some areas and accretion in others. The Thames basin has suffered three significant inundations since the turn of the century, in 2000, 2003 and 2007. The combination of this extra volume of river water and rising tidal heights has stripped archaeological remains exposing new deposits and features, as well as submerged forest and peat beds in many areas threatening archaeological as well as natural deposits along the foreshore.
The Nighthawking Survey update by Oxford Archaeology
The Nighthawking Survey has been up and running since June this year (go to www.nighthawking.thehumanjourney.net), and the response has been anything but indifferent! Quite apart from the responses to the on-line questionnaire reaction to the Survey’s very existence has provoked a lot of strong feelings and discussion. We’ve been accused of being the smokescreen for an anti-detectorist vendetta and of generating false data to support a total ban on all metal detecting. Ironically we’ve also been accused of generating false data to downplay the seriousness of nighthawking, and so take pressure off English Heritage.
We can’t win! If nothing else this Survey – and the reaction in some quarters to it – has shown the depth of mutual distrust between the more extreme elements of both the archaeological and metal detecting worlds.
Adapting archaeology: foresight for climate change in the UK
Due to circumstances beyond our control RN102 unfortunately appeared after the conference, on climate change organised by the CBA at the British Academy on 10 th July, had already taken place . For those who want to know more the papers are available at: http://www.britarch.ac.uk/conserve/confadapt.html
Bad Archaeology: www.badarchaeology.net
Bad Archaeology is the brainchild of Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews and James Doeser, archaeologists who are fed up with the distorted view of the past that passes for knowledge in popular culture. They are unhappy that books written by people with no understanding of real archaeology dominate the shelves at respectable bookstores, or appreciate news programmes that talk about ley lines (for example) as if they are real. In short, they are Angry Archaeologists . Log on and see for yourself.
The cultural heritage of Iraq after the 2nd Gulf War by John Curtis, Keeper of the Middle East collections , British Museum
Full text with illustrations of the talk to the Rescue Open Forum in April 207
The Independent Published: 17 September 2007 (see http://news.independent.co.uk/fisk/article2970762.ece) published a Special investigation by Robert Fisk It is the death of history
A letter from J ohn Curtis, was also published in the Independent on 17 September 2007 stating; `We had hoped the looting of archaeological sites was on the wane but if Robert Fisk’s information is correct, looting is on the increase. We have signally failed in our duty to safeguard and protect the Iraqi cultural heritage. And lessons still have not been learned. Not only did military planners fail to heed the warnings of archaeologists at the time of the invasion, they continue to do so. This cavalier behaviour must stop, and we must unite to try to rescue the Iraqi cultural heritage.
World Heritage Status: an evolving definition : The final of the three excellent contributions to Rescue’s 2007 Annual Meeting, a well-structured presentation by Susan Denyer of ICOMOS is summarised by RESCUE Vice-Chaiman Mick Jones.
The Archaeological Heritage – Malta leads the way! by Brian Philp, RESCUE Council
Following the exceptionally revealing report in Rescue News 102, on Afghanistan and Macedonia and in this issue on Iraq , it seems appropriate to outline recent progress in Malta . I have been associated with this newly elected European Union member, for over 9 years from 1998. I have often outlined in the Malta Sunday Times the failing and advantages of UK Archaeology over the past 40 years, hoping to interest the growing band of archaeological graduates being generated by the University of Malta . In addition, I was fortunate enough to join an urgent rescue excavation in the centre of Mdina, the ancient capital. By introducing Kent rescue methods, the multi-national team ( Malta , Kent, Essex and Australia ) was able to provide drastic evidence of the ‘lost’ Roman city of Melita , deep beneath the present streets.
Not withstanding these events, the Maltese were themselves actively updating their protective legislation and this resulted in the Cultural Heritage Act 2002. My view is that this should be a model for other EU members (and beyond) to follow. Some of its highly significant conditions are reproduced.
Grants to Ancient Monuments near quarries
English Heritage will disburse £4 million of ALSF in 2007–08. The majority on research to improve understanding of archaeological sites that lie within areas favoured for extraction; publication of results of archaeological discoveries made during past extraction; and to develop a higher awareness within communities and aggregates companies of the relationship between the historic environment and the aggregates industry. It also helps to repair nationally important monuments built as part of that industry or others that are directly threatened by the legacy of past extractions.
Eight important historic monuments consisting of four churches, a park, an old mine, a guildhall and a 14th century castle, all situated on or close to working aggregates sites, have received repair grants estimated at £433,000 from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF). The Fund is partly distributed by English Heritage on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to reduce the impact of aggregate extraction on the historic environment, both on land and under the sea
Bonds Garage, Avebury: request for Emergency Listing by Kate Fielden, WANHS: www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk
The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society (WANHS) has written to English Heritage asking them to consider Listing Bonds Garage, Avebury, for its rarity, and its historic and architectural interest. The building is under threat of demolition with a planning application registered for five new houses on the site.
Bonds Garage was constructed in the 1930s, at the instigation of Alexander Keiller who, we understand, provided a plot of land and a loan for removal of the business from inside Avebury stone circle to its present position just north of the henge and on the northern approach to the village.
We hope that emergency Listing of the garage would not only preserve an interesting building and an historic element of Avebury’s more recent history, but also save the site from inappropriate redevelopment that would form an incongruous and prominent feature in the World Heritage Site.
New British Archaeological Awards by Alison Taylor Secretary BAA
British Archaeological Awards launched in 1976 and held biennially ever since had become accepted as the most prestigious and wide ranging archaeological awards in Britain , growing to fourteen categories and incorporating every aspect of British archaeology.
It was realised in 2006 that the Awards needed an overhaul to appreciate the greater professionalisation of archaeology, increased public interest and involvement, and more varied means for disseminating knowledge. Gill Andrews was asked to conduct a thorough review. She came up with a new constitution, a streamlined list of possible awards with formal criteria attached, an improved system for running judging panels, and a more open system of organising the whole programme in accordance with the requirements of The Charity Commissioners. After much debate and refinement, revisions were formally approved in October 2007. The new approved constitution (a lengthy document to satisfy the Charity Commission) can soon be read on the BAA web site. The next BAA ceremony and prize giving will be in November 2008 in the British Museum . Details of the new awards andhow to nominate will shortly be available on the British Archaeological Awards website, http://www.britarch.ac.uk/awards/index.html, or can be requested from Alison.Taylor@archaeologists.net, or Sarah Howell, c/o Robert Kiln Charitable Trust, 15a Bull Plain, Hertford SG14 1DX.
Prospect Archaeologist’s: Terms and Conditions Survey by Chris Perry, Prospect HQ
Some months ago Prospect trade union conducted research into the remuneration or its archaeologist members via e-mail. focused on all of Prospects archaeologist members not just those in Archaeologists’ Branch. Responses were received from fellow-archaeologists in other larger union Branches such as English Heritage, the National Trust and Natural England.
The total of 185 responses proved to be statistically valid, and the many accompanying comments made by respondents will assist the analysis. Brief details and observations on the results are set out.
Minister responds on archaeological storage and access problems by Jude Plouviez, RESCUE Council
RESCUE was represented, along with Philip Wise, chair of the Archaeological Archives Forum and Sue Davies, director of Wessex Archaeology, at a meeting between Robert Key, MP for Salisbury and James Purnell MP, Secretary of State for Culture Media & Sport. Robert Key (who is also a trustee of Wessex Archaeology) had asked questions of the former minister, David Lammy, about the problems of archaeological archives in temporary storage because no museum could or would take them (as highlighted by RESCUE, see RN 99 on Saffron Walden and RN 86 on opening of LAARK) but had received no relevant response and had not received a reply to a letter in May outlining the problem. The meeting was positive in tone, with a recognition that it was not fulfilling the implicit requirements of PPG 16 for thousands of boxes to remain in temporary stores in arbitrary places around the country (The minister had been well-briefed on the problem (a copy of RESCUE’s pre-meeting submission is elsewhere on the website) and had brought with him a reply to Robert Key’s letter published in full in RN 103. Hopefully recognition of the problem at this level will mean we now have a chance to make some progress.
Roman bath house for sale: Offers sought over £300,000
Freeman Foreman, an East Sussex and Kent Wealden area estate agency, has on its books the site of Beauport Park Roman Bath House, and iron working site, Sussex .
The site is a scheduled ancient monument, dating from the first to the third century AD, was one of the largest ironworks in the Roman Empire and is remarkable for the quality of its bath house, considered to be one of the best-preserved small Roman buildings in Britain .
The site is being sold to fund a proposed child-friendly native wildlife visitor centre, and represents an important and unique opportunity to secure a scheduled site of significant archeological importance for the educational and cultural benefit of future generations.
AGM and Open Forum 2008
In a change of venue the 2008 RESCUE AGM and Open Forum will be held jointly with the Council for Kent Archaeology on Saturday 19th April at the Sevenoaks Community Centre, Cramptons Road, (off Otford Road) Sevenoaks Kent. The Community Centre is near the Bat and Ball Station and easily accessible from the A25 and the M25. It is hoped to have speakers talking about RESCUE’s long running campaigns at Verulamium and Stonehenge as well as contributors on Kentish archaeology. Full details will be given in the Spring issue of Rescue News, but make a note in your 2008 diary now.