Thursday, 29 December 2011

Digital landscapes at Leicester

The New Year will bring new activities and this February I hope to get a WEA on digital archaeology going. I hope that enough adult learners will enrol I am myself so excited about this. It will bring together several themes I am really interested in – namely landscape archaeology, computer-assisted mapping and community archaeology.

The government is making noises about cutting red tape at the same time as it wants to empower communities. As a village resident I am waiting with horror the consequences to the already jammed rush hour traffic the new development towards Groby will bring to our village. Let’s hope that the archaeology of the area will be checked properly since I found out only after the planning consultation had started that the fields of our village have not apparently been fieldwalked and that the developer has bought the land. One can only keep eye on the progress of the plans and the safeguards that will be in place, if any. A provision for professional work by an archaeological unit will hopefully be among them.

Knowing where to look for archaeological information and how to create plans and maps with free software and free satellite images is an important asset for any office archaeologist – no matter if they are professionals, students, part of an archaeological group or just needing tools for private study. It is also important to know where to look for different archaeological organisations, such as the Council for British Archaeology or National Trust for information and networks, and if they offer any additional web content.

Leicestershire has a marvellous asset in its professional archaeologists – not the least in its community archaeologist Peter Liddle. However, with the continuous cheese slicing to cut public spending there will be only so much they can do. Naturally, the existing archaeological groups can help but often they are already very involved in different activities. Thus, it is important that those with an interest in heritage keep an eye on developments, both in technology – that can truly empower although not necessarily in the way the government wishes – and in our own backyards so that we do not lose our past. The National Trust with other organisations is already looking alarmed and probably we all have to if we want to look after the Charnwood forest and other riches in our area.

Beginners guide to archaeology and heritage will start on February 20, 2012, at 12:30pm (six two-hour sessions) with the 101 Hinckley Road branch. Fee: £40.20 (FREE for unemployed and people on benefits; T&C apply). You can get more information and enrol over the Internet [link not valid any more].

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Winter solstice

Today is December 22, 2011, the Winter Solstice, the probable original reason for us having Christmas in the middle of winter, to replace Roman Saturnalia and other pagan celebrations that are related to this date. If there is any archaeological landscape, which can be associated with Winter Solstice – or any solstice – it is the Stonehenge landscape. The actual direction from which the sun rose or to which went down at any past moment or the visibility of any other star is a matter of archaeo-astrological calculations, carried out in case of Stonehenge with prior knowledge by Clive Ruggles and published in 2001. It may well be that the stones were raised in order to celebrate astrological event(s), if not the ancestors, buried in and around the enclosure, as Mike Parker Pearson suggests. The strong directly visible veneration and evaluation of this landscape as a religious landscape is a recent phenomenon, related to the needs of modern pagan religion.

David Field’s and Trevor Pearson’s Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project report published in 2010 gives a thorough plan of this landscape in the state it exists today. In order to consider the relationship between different phases and different features inside and outside the circle and the related earthworks AND winter solstice would require thorough astronomical calculations together with the complete deconstruction of this monument. Nevertheless, one can suggest that the earthworks and the stones as they are preserved underline the importance of south-western–north-eastern alignment. This emphasizes the direction of the Woodhenge, although the Avenue seems to curve to a totally different direction. However, if one arrived along it and stopped at the so-called Heel stone the slope towards the south-west was rising, as if to raise something on show either inside the circle or to bring the circle to frame something more clearly.

The photo from last year in E. Duffy's blog

The importance and the emotional effect of the event of seeing a rising sun through the gaps between the stones is without doubt. The beautiful photographs and long treaties on the Celtic aspects of pagan religion are evidence of this. Similarly, the mental importance of this landscape at Winter Solstice and throughout the year is evident from the number of projects, reports and articles devoted to it in archaeological literature and the discussions among the archaeological community.

Pollard, J., and Ruggles, C. L. N., 2001. 'Shifting perceptions: spatial order, cosmology, and patterns of deposition at Stonehenge', Cambridge Archaeological Journal 11(1), 69–90.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Landscape for a treasure?

Recent news has provided us with the latest treasure found with the help of a metal detector. This time the find was made on a field in the outskirts of Silverdale in Lancashire. The treasure contained a 201-piece silver hoard from AD900 and revealed the name of an unknown Viking king of northern England in Northumberland called Airdeconut, not to be mixed with a later well-known Scandinavian and English ruler Harthacnut. Silver arm-rings, brooch fragments, ingots and all but one of the coins had all been found in, or underneath, a lead container. Whoever placed the items there apparently did not make it through the traumatic experience that led to the hoarding in the first place. The person never returned and a metal detectorist was able to find it with his Christmas present.

The picture on the British Museum web site

This find included coins of Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Viking, Frankish and Islamic types, including coins of Alfred the Great (871-99) and his god-son the Viking leader Guthrum, who became king of East Anglia with the baptismal name of Athelstan. It is the proof of the wide contacts the elite in Danelaw had but the news tell very little of the place where the hoard was buried. Nevertheless, this is often the case with the treasure finds partly to protect the find spots, which often are under emergency excavations shortly after the find. This was the case in Staffordshire with the now famous Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire hoard found in farmland in Hammerwich parish, near Lichfield in Staffordshire. After recognizing the importance of the find, English Heritage and Staffordshire County Council funded an excavation that was carried out between 24 July and 21 August in 2009, just after the original find was made in July. However, following the excavation the finder Mr Herbert found a few more pieces, but a final search that September, by a specialist police remote sensing team, found nothing else on site, which suggested the entire hoard has now been recovered. This shows how the secrecy is important, at least initially, since there may be an extended period of recovery.

A sword pyramid on the Staffordshire hoard web site

Similar secrecy needed to be maintained at Hallaton in southern Leicestershire, where the local archaeology group (Hallaton Fieldwork group) with its metal detectorist member was essential in both finding and excavating the treasure alongside The University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) with the help from the English Heritage. This treasure is a local pride and unlike the previously mentioned treasures reveals details of the later days of pre-Roman Iron Age. The joint effort discovered more than five thousand silver and gold coins, the remains of an ornately decorated Roman silver-gilt helmet and some silver finds the function of which is not clear. Hallaton is one of the most important Iron Age sites in Britain, now interpreted as a shrine.

A part of the Hallaton treasure

Here we know more about the context and dissimilarly to the Silverdale and Staffordshire treasures this was definitely a structured deposit. No a trace of a grave, building or anything else have been found at the Staffordshire hoard site whereas the Hallaton hoard is part of a complex. According to the archaeologists studying the finds the hoarding was made between around 50 BC and the Roman invasion of AD 43 in an open air shrine. This was located on a hilltop and was probably enclosed by a ditch with a palisade to one side. The Hallaton Helmet was found just outside the palisade together with a pig’s jaw and 1170 coins and even more coins beneath it. The find spot at an archaeological site, detailed study of the find together with further project funding have allowed interpreting this site and allow exploring its landscape.

  • A selection of objects and coins from the Silverdale Hoard will be on display at the British Museum in Room 2, from Thursday 15 December through the New Year.
  • The Hallaton Helmet will be on display for the first time at Harborough Museum with Roman cavalry and infantry in attendance on Saturday January 28, 2012.
  • The inaugural meeting of the Friends of the Hallaton Treasure is planned for February 2012.
  • Tuesday, 13 December 2011

    Wonders of the world

    I had a joy to teach a small group of enthusiastic adult learners a week ago in Madingley Hall just outside Cambridge. I was running a residential course on the Seven Wonders of the World and we travelled in time to the Hellenistic period and the empire of Alexander the Great. We very pleasurably looked at the seven buildings or art works around the eastern Mediterranean and explored at the reasons of these wonders were built.

    The ruins of Temple of Zeus in Olympia

    We stuck to the conventional list of the Great Pyramid, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes and the Pharos of Alexandria. This meant concentrating on locations and landscapes mainly along the Anatolian coast. Not to mention to marvel the apparently imagined location of the Hanging Gardens.

    At the end of our journey we put our heads together and listed important archaeological sites and finds that were there during the Hellenistic times but also those we know were not there but are now known to have been important. We did consult the criteria of UNESCO for the World Heritage sites but ultimately we listed the sites we happened to remember and fancied so it was more for fun than a really serious scientific exercise. However, we considered their after effect and enjoyed the whole voting process.

    I am relatively proud of our choice although I must admit we set our sights because of our interests relatively closely to the Mediterranean and Europe. Our list composed of:

  • cave paintings in France and northern Spain
  • Stonehenge
  • Pyramids at Giza
  • the walls and ziggurat of Babylon
  • Knossos
  • Acropolis
  • Pompeii.

  • We ended up choosing Acropolis on the basis of the general importance although several of us preferred the landscape and ambiance at Delphoi.

    Thursday, 1 December 2011

    What is a ceramiscene?

    Recently, while finishing the Romanisation of a Faliscan Town project that aimed at analysing the Roman material from the Nepi Survey, I and my Roman pottery expert Philip Mills suggested a new concept ‘ceramiscene’ (see Mills and Rajala 2010a,b). ‘Ceramiscene’ is defined as the landscape that is created, manipulated and experienced by the manufacturing, usage and disposal of material of deliberately fired clay; this definition that excludes more friable materials such as mud brick and daub. This concept is clearly a specific view of Ingold’s (1993) taskscape that emphasizes the experience of a landscape through social every day actions. A ceramiscene can be taken on its own terms, but it can also be developed with the parallel studies of the other antique landscapes of production, use and disposal, such as the ‘lithoscene’ (lithics) or ‘sideroscene’ (iron).

    This landscape is naturally not directly observable but it is an end product of a research project. Most of the material preserved from Roman times is ceramic based – ceramic vessels and ceramic building materials. An assemblage collected during a surface survey in the Mediterranean, such as the Nepi Survey c. 45 kilometres north-west from Rome, is usually dominated by ceramic materials. Therefore, we argued that the ceramics is a key proxy for Roman action within the landscape. The ceramiscene also ties the concepts of landscape, consumption and discard together.

    The methods of ceramic analysis applied were fabric and functional analysis. After the separation of different wares (e.g. amphorae, black gloss, white wares), they were grouped into different fabrics. In addition, all rims and/or handles of pottery vessels were defined into different functional categories (e.g. amphorae, flagons, jars, storage jars, mortaria, bowls, dishes, lids). The fabrics could provide information of different sources used in different parts of the area whereas the proportions of different functional categories suggested statuses of different sites. In those areas where the distributions of different fabrics, different producers, overlapped with geographically definable districts, the ceramiscene could be presented in detail and used in explanation and interpretation.

    For an example of a ceramiscene representation, in this case a ware distribution at selected sites, see this map:

    This way of approaching ceramic materials in a landscape worked well in central Italy. However, since it is a theoretical construction, it is perfectly well applicable in Britain or other areas as well. It should not be restricted to the study of Roman ceramic material but be applied in the study of Medieval and later wares as well.


    Ingold, T. 1993. The temporality of the landscape. World Archaeology 25, 152–174.

    Mills, P., and Rajala, U., 2011a. Interpreting a ceramiscene landscape – the Roman pottery from the Nepi Survey Project, in D. Mladenović and B. Russell (eds.). TRAC 2010. Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Oxford 2010, 1-17.

    Mills, P., and Rajala, U., 2011b. The Roman ceramic material from the fieldwalking in the environs of Nepi, Papers of the British School at Rome 79, 147-240.

    Thursday, 24 November 2011

    Peaks and rituals

    The Dartmoor National Park Authority gave a press release last week on their recent excavations with the English Heritage on Whitehorse Hill where they studied a Bronze Age cist grave this August before its contents were lost due to the disappearance of the peat that had covered it and preserved the tomb. The cist located at the altitude of 600 meters on one of Dartmoor’s highest tors. The archaeologists involved considered that the cist offered high potential for good preservation of any perishable materials and an opportunity to better understand archaeological preservation within upland peat at a time of change in upland management.

    The cist was located in an isolated and elevated position well away from other known archaeology. Its unusual location can be puzzling but the ritual use of isolated high ground is not anything new in archaeology and is a well-known phenomenon in different places around the world. The peak sanctuaries of Crete are known to any enthusiast of Greek archaeology and the mummies on the Andes are another case of peak burials. The mountain tops could be seen the nearest platform to the gods and it is no wonder that they presented a natural spot for those trying to approach the skies.

    The cist on Whitehorse Hill revealed an in situ burial lying on the base stone of the cist after the large cover stone had been removed. The burial consisted of bone fragments, a shale bead and what appeared to be hair or fur. Two sharpened wooden stakes were also discovered outside the cist, one lying horizontally against one of the side walls and the other still vertically placed into the peat against one of the end stones.

    The lifted context was excavated in the laboratory and this work revealed further organic materials; burnt textile had been placed within an animal hide or fur on top of a very thin leather and textile object, itself placed above a mat of plant material. At one end of the fur or hide was a delicate woven bag or basket with fine stitching still visible. The contents inside included beautifully preserved shale disc beads, amber spherical beads and a circular textile band. A further layer of matted plant material covered these objects. The find is dated to the Early Bronze Age. Together with the outfit of Ötzi the Iceman, the finds at the Must Farm in Cambridgeshire and the ‘Bronze Age Pompeii’ in Campania this site adds further to our knowledge about the prehistoric skills and craftsmanship.

    However, it is the admiration of high locations anybody can relate to. A climb to the mountain gives one an exhausting experience that is rewarded by a wonderful view. Especially in the past when one could not enter the Google Earth and visit virtually far-flung places and see air photographs on a computer screen, a view over a large stretch of familiar landscape must have been empowering. The possibility to oversee everyday landscape, then often covered by woods that hinder seeing farther, may have been a reason to choose a special site.

    When I climbed on Monte Soratte, mentioned already by Horatio during the Roman times, I marvelled on the ‘same’ view as the prehistoric visitors on that spot. We know that they were there since a site with pottery sherds has been discovered relatively near the top. An extraordinary place like that allows you to share a view with the past, however fleetingly. You can appreciate if some of those heights were used to send a loved one to the voyage to the other side.

    Thursday, 17 November 2011

    A lost road

    Anstey Lane is a relatively straight road that connects our village to the city centre. It passes several stretches of ridge and furrow on its way, which shows how these landscapes were intensively used during the Medieval period. Lately these areas were used for pasture so the features survived the beginning of more intensive ploughing.

    However, it was not this end of a possible ancient route that made people excited about the possibility of an earlier road line. No, it was the stretch of road at Kegworth that attracted attention. Long Lane there presents an ‘aggered’, raised and cambered, profile and straight alignment. If the Romano-British origins are real, this road would have joined the Roman settlement at Red Hill near Radcliffe-on-Soar to Ratae Corieltauvorum (Leicester).

    Stephen Lycett discussed the possible existence of a Roman road on this route, originally suggested by Peter Liddle, the current community archaeologist in Leicestershire, in 1982. The argument depends greatly on the current alignments of public footpaths, their alignments and their connectivity but the alignments of footpaths together with those of field boundaries often do preserve ancient linear features. Further evidence are an eroded agger south of Kegford, the name of Bradgate, ‘broad road’ (brad – gata) or ‘broad gap’ (brad – geat) and a stretch of a double linear feature at Anstey, now under a relatively recent housing development. The distribution of Swithland slate, the product of this Charnwood area, reached Roman settlements of Little Chester, the destination the road took – or was likely to take – from Red Hill.

    The author is relatively positive about this hypothesis. The recently published excavations at Beaumont Leys (Thomas 2011) together with the existence of a kiln site nearby and an Iron Age hill fort farther away along the route show that this area needed a line of communication during the Iron Age and Roman times.

    Thursday, 10 November 2011

    Walk up a mental road

    Does the name of your home village or town give you a mental image of a past landscape? The name of ‘Anstey’ is a road name, although it seems to be slightly unclear what it exactly means. In addition, we know that the villagers here changed the name from ‘Ansty’ since there is another village of the same name relatively near outside Coventry. One can imagine there were misunderstandings and unnecessary travel behind this decision. ‘Anstig’ is supposed to mean ‘single-file uphill path’. Some Ansties do lie near crossroads. In our village there is a historic crossroads ‘The Nook’.

    Many of the villages in the area have Scandinavian names, such as ‘Thurcaston’ or ‘Thurmaston’. ‘Markfield’ in its turn refers to the Mercians. The next village from us is called ‘Cropston’ and its link to agriculture and crops is not difficult to see. ‘Swithland’ behind Cropston got its name from Old Norse word ‘svitha’, ‘land cleared by burning’. The woodland theme is enforced by the names of ‘Woodland’ and ‘Woodland Eaves’. ‘Quorn’ in its turn does not refer to a meatfree mycoprotein but to ‘cweorn’, a millstone. It was shortened from Quorndon, where ‘don’, Old Norse ‘dun,’ refers to a hill.

    When driving back from the city centre heading to Anstey the outline of Old John can be seen at a distance. One can then start daydreaming of a day when a Medieval farmer was taking the same path. In the past the traveller moved uphill towards different villages or towns, perhaps towards Swannington, Ratcliffe-on-Soar or Ashby-de-la-Zouch. They chose a road to follow from the Nook onwards across this wooded land with a population from different origins who may have used slash-and-burn techniques brought back from the northern countries. The traveller may also have passed by the stone quarries at Quorn. In this way the place names create a mental map forming a palimpsest of Medieval Leicestershire.

    The placename data is from Gelling and Cole’s book The Landscape of Placenames, which I got as a ‘spoil’ after the dismantling of most of the Madingley Hall library.

    Thursday, 3 November 2011

    Known places, unknown locations

    I find locations known from various historical sources but unknown in the real physical world fascinating. In classical studies these were for long a norm and the antiquarians spent lifetimes pondering over the location of such mythical places as Crustumerium or Fidenae. These places were found and confirmed only through archaeological fieldwork, which was something the early antiquarians normally were not accustomed to do. Only after Schliemann found Troy exploring became a norm although historians often restricted themselves to observing potential locations without looking for material evidence.

    A very recent example nearer the home where only through archaeological exploration a mythical place has become reality is the battlefield of Bosworth in southern Leicestershire. Immortalized by Shakespeare in his play Richard III this location was even celebrated with a visitors’ centre, currently the only one adorning a battlefield in England, even if its precise whereabouts were not clear. Only recent survey and coring work, presented also in Time Team, has established the true location of the battle of Bosworth. Before 2010 the battlefield was a matter of theorizing, a theoretical landscape.

    This idea of mental landscapes that moved around and did not even exist in the end is captivating. Because of the changes in physical landscape at Bosworth it was impossible to locate the swamp that was the defining feature of the battlefield and its surroundings without entering private land and coring for the marshy layers below the surface. This did not hinder historians such as Peter Foss from trying to decipher the place from later descriptions of the battle and explain the different movements during the battle in their chosen location. These interpretations turned out to be fictional and imaginary but they create a sort of alternative reality now when revisited after the surface finds of cannonballs and armour fragments as well as the rediscovery of the swamp have revealed the true battlefield and allow reconstructing the strategic moves in their real locations.

    Thursday, 27 October 2011

    The emptiness of a field

    It is the time of the year when the community groups and research projects are fieldwalking over some ploughed fields up and down the country and all over Europe. I recently spent a morning in Loddington to see what is happening there with the Leicestershire community archaeology training fieldwalking project. I did my official training day last year in order to learn from the father of community archaeology and the systematic practitioner of the traverse and stint collection method Peter Liddle himself. It seems that I am not the only one to revisit Loddington since by coincidence there were two of us that had been doing exactly the same on the same day one year ago – and she was even then just coming to see what was happening and enjoying a chat with Peter, Paul, Richard and others.

    p>Loddington on the Rutland boundary is actually interesting because the find levels ARE NOT very high. This suggests that this area may have been relatively peripheric during the pre-modern periods even if in places there are find concentrations. Unfortunately, not on the field the fieldwalking of which I participated in. This field was so empty one started to wonder if one’s eye sight has taken a turn to the worse once again. In addition, the really nice finds – i.e. two fragments of Roman grey wares and a nice blade core – were made by those guiding the ‘newcomers’. May be this was for the better since they had already covered one half of this field the day before and looked pretty miserable in the morning with the prospect of covering the other half. Or was it just the effect of the Leicestershire council consultation period to cut the costs further…

    For the amateur archaeologists and the fieldwalkers the empty fields are a disappointment and very boring. However, for the people processing the finds professionally they are a partial delight. The processing goes quickly and you end up having real differences between different fields so you will be able to spot concentrations and land use changes between periods. However, there is very little to cheer about if you try to learn to recognize material or sort it out as an exercise. Luckily, a cultured walk over a field is also very good gentle exercise for you.

    Friday, 21 October 2011

    Female landscapes?

    Are the interests of the female archaeologists different from the male ones and do female archaeological landscapes exist? Before and after gender archaeology the study of textiles has been popular among women archaeologists but it is unclear if the sex of a researcher affects the choice of sites or landscapes.

    The Jewry Wall site in Leicester was excavated by Kathleen Kanyon, one of the famous female archaeologists of the recent times. Her activities coincided with the 1930s and the war time, which seem to have been the time periods for the women archaeologists to flourish. This was the time when Dorothy Garrod became a professor at Cambridge and the first female professor in Scandinavia, Ella Kivikoski, took her post at Helsinki. Garrod excavated at Mount Carmel in Palestine whereas Kivikoski carried out excavations at many archaeological sites in Finland and in the Karelia area. Garrod contributed to the study of the earlier periods of the Paleolithic whereas Kivikoski wrote the basic readers of the Finnish Iron Age. These topics were not very female but laying the foundations of different basic chronologies. They represented research that was widely respected.

    Garrod worked with mainly female workforce recruited from the nearby villages and in this way created momentarily female archaeological spaces and landscapes. The interest in the qualities of the landscape, also female landscape, is more evident in the work of Ruth Whitehouse as part of the Tavoliere-Gargano Prehistory Project. She and her colleagues were inspired by the ideas of Christopher Tilley, often criticized for not showing due diligence to his data or research methods. Unlike him Ruth Whitehouse and her colleagues planned a systematic recording of different sensory experiences at prehistoric sites. She together with Sue Hamilton, her co-director of the project, and their team observed how voice can be heard and how sites are visible in this southern Italian landscape. This work, similarly to her ideas on the ritual caves, has been controversial but it truly embodies ‘alternative voices’.

    Thursday, 13 October 2011

    Corporation and urban landscape

    The reason one can admire Jewry Wall in central Leicester is that when the activities seized in the factory next door, the Leicester Corporation saw its opportunity and bought the site. There were plans to build public baths onto this site and the demolition work made the extent of the ruins obvious The importance and value of the standing structure had already been recognized and the Corporation sought to know more about its character through archaeological study. These were different times when there was no automatic system of planning requirements to deal with archaeology but any intervention was voluntary.

    The original hope was that the plot next to the Jewry Wall would reveal the site of the civic forum but this turned out not to be the case. Instead of any modern baths the late 1930s excavations gave the city Roman baths the study of which continued in the late 1960s and early 1970s when this area went through an upheaval. At this time any hope that the area had at some point been a forum was abandoned. The standing wall itself was deemed to link with the bath complex and not be a temple as wished for by the antiquarians during the 18th and 19th century.

    The laudable act of the 1930s excavation was later followed by the building of the St Nicholas circle, which cut Jewry Wall and its museum apart from the historic city centre. This made any connectivity with the Medieval and earlier Roman road plan difficult to perceive. Apparently, this placement of inner ring road was offset by the preservation of the New Walk, the 18th century promenade created south of the city centre. The brutality of the 1960s and 1970s had its momentary silver lining.

    Thursday, 6 October 2011

    Trademarking heritage

    While researching for the local sites of wider importance I found out the fact that the Bradgate Park Trust owns the trademarks for selected ruins. They say that “The Bradgate Park Trust has formal Trade Mark Registration of the names Bradgate/Bradgate Park/Bradgate Country Park, its logo and of a comprehensive range of images and outlines of Old John Tower/Ruins of Bradgate House. The Trust does not permit the use of any of these registered name(s) or design(s) by any third party without its prior written permission. Any third party wishing to use such name(s)/image(s), need to apply to the Land Agent & Surveyor at the Estate Office for a Licence. Action will be taken against any business/organisation/ individual infringing this copyright.” As long as I understand that the entities working for the benefit of the public have to be economically viable and use their assets for their own good, the ruins in this park are part of our common heritage, bequeathed to the people of Leicester and Leicestershire, and part of the body of evidence used by the archaeologists and historians to study our common past. Naturally, as landowners The Trust has an ownership of the area but would they really consider denying a right to publish a book on local history where the park is discussed? Could they ask for money for photographs taken by other people from outside the park that feature the tower? Naturally, they have copyright for the photos they display on their publicity material and have commissioned themselves. The boundaries, however, feel grey and muddled.

    Apparently, the English Heritage has sent out letters and e-mails stating that “we are sending you an email regarding images of Stonehenge in your [website]. Please be aware that any images of Stonehenge cannot be used for any commercial interest, all commercial interest to sell images must be directed to English Heritage.” Probably the laws of the country where the photos and the web pages are are to take into consideration as well as there are differences – even inside the EU. Of course, the preservation and maintenance requires money but this definitely raises the question of who owns the past. Cannot a photographer sell photos he or she took and produced if they have Stonehenge on? As a World Heritage site it is recognized to be our common heritage, not just in Britain but in the entire world. Nevertheless, the request seems to have coincided with the funding cuts in 2010.

    I do know from my own circle that the Superintendency of Pompeii has the rights to photos of the structures there. This has turned up as an issue when a friend of mine wanted to upload his photo project on one of the houses there onto the WWW. The payments are per photograph and his montage included tens if not hundreds or thousands of photos. Thus, other people could not appreciate his achievements. In some countries there is a distinction between the uses and the scientific ones are viewed differently from blatantly commercial interests. Nevertheless, in the countries where the State owns the monuments, naturally, the official bodies have a right to assess and regulate the work on their heritage. But it is a pity and quite sad when scholarly work remains unseen.

    Saturday, 1 October 2011

    M1 – improving your landscape?

    When whizzing back yesterday on M1 I had a new viewpoint to consider. I found out that a famous conservationist had written in 1935 that some dull, rolling landscapes, not very attractive for a walker, could be improved by building motorways over them. The landscape could become alive with speed when especially younger drivers would develop a new kind of relationship with their rural countryside passing by.

    From the beginning rural beauty was something to consider when motorways were planned. However, in the beginning there was little opposition to the plans until the first campaign against a route of a British motorway took place in Leicestershire in 1957 and 1958. The routing of the second phase of M1 through Charnwood Forest was opposed by ramblers and even by the Royal Fine Art Commission. The alternative route through the Soar Valley was opposed by the farmers who did not want to lose their valuable agricultural land. The current route was the compromise, which saved a chunk of National Forest.

    It was fascinating to read Merriman's book that discussed geographically constructing, planning and designing M1 but did not really mention archaeology. The constructors must have ploughed through some archaeology. At least they seem to have recorded their building work meticulously. There were air photos, helicopter rides, even an artist painting motorway construction scenes. The locals sometimes recorded the landscape to be altered and to be vanished – in Northamptonshire the Camera Club did exactly this and in Luton local residents did the same. The locals also came to see diggers and to take photographs. There must be ditch sections visible in some of those photos.

    Thursday, 22 September 2011

    Archaeology and Thomas Cook

    The first regular tourist destination of Thomas Cook travel agency was Ashby-de-la-Zouch and its ruin of a castle. Whereas the company of this famous son of Leicester was born out of one railway trip to a temperance rally, the fame of the ruins is based on the success of one book, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. The publication of this book in 1819 secured the place of the Ashby castle on the tourist trail that is unthreatened still today. English Heritage owns the castle ruins and organizes jostling events such as depicted in the book regularly – although these are much more good-humoured.

    The tourists flocked to Ashby even before Thomas Cook started his business but tourism preserved these ruin to the future generations and the success of the tours guaranteed it. Without a continued interest in the castle and the town itself – which even today is not without plenty of charm – the bricks and stones from the ruins would have disappeared to local building works as materials. The ruins meant then and even today business and like all over the world tourism guarantees the relevance of both archaeology and heritage. Perhaps the so-called heritage industry could have been supported to some extent as an educational activity but without people queuing up to see the pyramids or Pompeii and being happy to pay for the privilege, there would be much less preservation.

    The ruins of the Ashby castle and their draw among the paying visitors guaranteed a go-ahead of all sorts of programmes and initiatives. The Ivanhoe Baths used the salt spring water from near-by Moira that could not succeed on its own as a spa destination next to a colliery. In 1822 the baths opened and were a relative success until the end of that century but did not rival Bath or Lemington Spa. The ruins of the Baths were demolished in the 1960s and present the different destinies of past and modern ruins, both in their way related to or benefitting from Ivanhoe, fictional events and Thomas Cook.

    Saturday, 17 September 2011

    Changing companies, rich heritage

    The railways in England have a fascinating history that includes the oscillation between fragmented commercial railway lines and centralized nationalized business and back. I can remember the British Rail and the delightful easiness of buying tickets and receiving information. No different rules on refunds or the definition of peak hour. Nevertheless, in the beginning the railways were private enterprises and different companies carried passengers through East Midlands and other regions. The current East Midland Trains continues the history of Midland Railway in the area, which ran passengers from 1844.

    The Beeching Report and its aftermath killed many lines in the East Midlands and elsewhere. The last mainline to be built, Great Central Railway, disappeared and was partly dismantled but continues as a double track heritage railway company running steam trains from Leicester North to Loughborough. East Midlands has other heritage rail routes as well. Colliery trains run from Snibston to Coalville and the former sidings site in order to celebrate the vanished coal mining transportation around Coalville. The vanished lines and engineering features are presented along the heritage trail in the north-western Leicestershire that commemorates the early Leicester and Swannington railway that became part of Midland Railway. An additional steam trains on Battlefield Line Railway are run by the Shackerston Railway Society in southern Leicestershire passing the Bosworth battlefield. It is the last remaining part of the former Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway from the late 19th century.

    The marvel of Leicestershire railway heritage can be named jointly ‘Central Midland railway’. This term is a conglomerate of different main companies, which created the coal transport system to Leicester in the earlier part of 19th century and the period stations of the last mainline in England in memory of their once stylish service to London. It is difficult to say, which of the companies and railways was or is the greatest railway achievement. Are the early engineering achievements more important than the modern-day heritage experiences at the period stations and how does one evaluate a trip to a famous battle site by a steam train?

    Saturday, 10 September 2011

    The essentials of a princely garden

    When you enter a traditional garden of a country house from a certain period such as Belvoir Castle, you encounter the fountains and the statues. You have the beautiful rose gardens and the picturesque woodland walks while the largest and the most ambitious contain fake temples and shrines as part of a cultured landscaped garden plan. The Belvoir castle may not have a garden that is the most extensive but it is very representative of its type. It may not have a lake or a shrine but it contains a grotto with the smallest of Swiss alpine gardens, a real ancient marble column from Bologna, a solar dial and a pond with gold fish and water lilies. The small of roses is overpowering if you arrive at the right time of the year. You may even be lucky and see the only remaining peacock.

    However, the garden of an estate needs hunting grounds to twin with it. The existence of game is made apparent by wandering pheasants along the roads near the castle and by the roadside. In January they will not be crossing the road as peacefully.

    Monday, 5 September 2011

    Live history

    When I started studying archaeology, I and my fellow students we took it seriously. So seriously that the idea of a re-enactment was a frivolous one and something that as a professional you should not do. This feeling was partly enforced by a lack of societies re-enacting in Finland in the late 1980s and early 1990s and by certain uneasiness among the older generation who had experienced the real war on one hand and the mainly leftist younger archaeologists on the other who wanted to participate in peace marches and fairtrade instead of being involved in recreating battles.

    My first personal encounter with a re-enactor did not make me feel any more positive about this activity. A so-called character in an archaeology students’ conference in Sweden delivered such gold nuggets as “it is a pity that one can have a real [Viking] battle [with real swords] only once” when loosely discussing experimental archaeology. The fact that the Vikings had swiftly passed Finland and sailed directly to Staraja Ladoga in the east made this kind of re-enactments more unlikely back home. This all changed with Dragons and Dungeons and role-play.

    Suddenly, during the late 1990s a new generation of archaeology students took over. They were interested in postprocessual archaeology and had more personal/relaxed approach to archaeology. I got to know a female student who was an important figure in the contemporary medieval province of Finland in her spare time and had an alias of an upper-class maiden who participated in the annual feasts and other happenings.

    This long prelude brings me to a real landscape of Bosworth, the scene of the famous battle during the Wars of the Roses. This is one of the numerous landscapes in England where famous battles are restaged and relived, though not too realistically with bodily harm. When there are no major re-enactments, there is a smaller campsite with soldiers, knights or archery during the weekends. The re-enactors can forget their everyday lives and act to be somebody else for a day or weekend. They can enliven distant times to their contemporaries and try to show how past battles were played out. These re-enactments are important in making history alive and the kind of events today’s heritage centre visitors expect. More seriously, they allow testing the dynamic interplay between a landscape and the flow of people and the stages of a battle.

    Sunday, 28 August 2011

    Invitation for ospreys

    No matter what one thinks about the concept of flooding a large patch of countryside in order to create a reservoir one has to be impressed how Rutland Water has managed to enrich the natural life in the area. The way ospreys arrived and started nesting and how they number has been multiplying shows what can be achieved with continuous preservation work. Even the works to improve the functionality of the reservoir encompass their effect to the animal life and try to mimic natural environments.

    When it comes to the recreational use of the reservoir, commenting as a person coming from a country of thousands lakes, it was a surprise to me that as a human being you are not invited to enter the waters of Rutland Water. Unless you are in a boat or on the shore with wellington boots in your feet and a fishing rod in your hand that is. Swimming is not allowed in the water parks. This seems a bit ironic since the sheep along the neighbouring shore were swimming happily. Must be the effect of Health & Safety!

    Wednesday, 24 August 2011

    A landscape for Ramadan

    A friend is celebrating Ramadan. We had a meeting last week and she had her mobile alarming her of the sunset when she could have coffee with us. I am also reminded of Ramadan by the everyday landscape at Tesco’s where the shelves are packed with cooking oil, fruit juices, rice and chopped tomato tins and freezers are full of lamb kebab, okra and samosas.


    On Mill Road I used to pass the crowd chitchatting along the lane after the Friday prayers and notice the coming of Eid by the ‘Closed for Eid’ in the windows of the local café and halal butchers. However, Ramadan was not visible there in the same way in the shop windows as on Belgrave Road. Eid Mubarak signs where not on in Cambridge.

    Saturday, 20 August 2011

    Foxton Locks: lifting the spirits

    The canals in Leicestershire run literally in the middle of nowhere. That’s why Foxton Locks, the engineering feat on the waterway to Market Harborough, is not right outside a busy village but in the middle of beautiful rolling countryside dotted with farms. The view from the top is pleasing.

    The structures at the Locks also testify of failure. Of a failure to compete with railways. Even if the Thomas lift, a canal boat lift, had been constructed to speed up the movement of commercial boats, it managed to run only for ten years. After 1911 it was left to rust and rut. The Partnership at the site has been doing sterling work with Lottery Heritage funding repairing buildings and constructing walkways and a viewing platform. The money has paid for clearing the docks and cutting trees in the Thomas lift area and presenting it for the public.

    However, the Partnership aims at reconstructing the lift into working order. Although I understand this from the local point of view, it is a pity if the ruins that are evidence of past events – and failure – are lost from full view in the process. This is an age-old problem in heritage: to preserve the original features as they are or to reconstruct to show how they were in their heyday? Different coloured building materials will probably ensure that the difference between the original and the new is underlined – and a working boat lift will probably be an awesome sight.

    Saturday, 13 August 2011

    Burrough Hill and the modern uses of hillforts

    What can you use a hillfort for? The days of needing a hideaway in a place where you can see an enemy coming are over. Even the need for Ordnance Survey triangulation points is not there any more. So what can you use a scheduled monument for? At least in Leicestershire the answer is for leisure, recreation, sport and fresh air. Near Beumont Leys there is a small Iron Age hillfort in the Castle Hill Country Park but the huge site at Burrough Hill is a proper country park with cows roaming across the ridge and furrow. The hillfort has its parking area where the participants of a leisure ritual, i.e. visitors, can leave their cars in order to take part in their chosen activity and visit a revisit the site. They can take a walk, experience the route around the banks and marvel the beautiful view. Even the skies are reclaimed with local model airplane society manning the ramparts.

    Tuesday, 9 August 2011

    Castle Donington:
    Landscape of Noise, Landscape of Leisure

    When you walk along the High Street of Castle Donington, pass by the church and enter the residential areas, you could be in any lovely Georgian and Regency village in the Midlands. However, on a quiet afternoon you may suddenly catch the sound of motor cars and airplanes. Two steps from the village in the south you have East Midland Airport and Donington Park side by side, the former the first stop for international travel from Leicester, Nottingham and Derby and the second one of the main sites of motor racing in England. One person’s noise is another person’s reminder of easy access to motor sport, travel and/or plane spotting. Race tracks convey ideas of speed, danger and adventure. Airports allow old-fashioned daydreaming in a modern context and pining for far away lands even if one may choose never to leave. Both create distinctive modified landscapes, pleasing to the lovers of machines but not necessarily for traditionalists.