LETTERS • NEWS • SPECIAL REPORT • COMMENT • CONTEXT
Excavating the CA archive Joe Flatman explores half a century of reports from the past.
This latest column continues the thread that I began two issues ago, exploring Current Archaeology’s coverage of sites in the care of the National Trust down the years. Last month, I explored stories from issues 101-200 (the years 1986 to 2005), and in this column I come right up to date, exploring issue 201 onwards, from 2006 to the present day.
STORIES WRIT IN IRON AND STONE One of the most beloved aspects of Britain’s industrial archaeology in the care of the National Trust featured in CA 216 (March 2008): the tin-mining landscapes of Cornwall. This came as part of a wider exploration and interview with Sir Neil Cossons, at that time recently retired as the Chairman of English Heritage. While for many the appeal of the National Trust lies in the ‘archetypal’ country house/ garden/tearoom, this issue was a timely reminder of the wider-ranging cultural and natural heritage commitments of the Trust, especially around the coastlines of our nation, where the organisation is a significant landowner and manager. With the rise in awareness in more recent times of climate change on the coastline, the responsibilities to protect such iconic sites as the Cornish Mining Landscape (a World Heritage Site since 2007, large parts of which are owned by the Trust) have grown and grown in the last 20 years, and the management of such sites is as dynamic as the environment they sit in. This is not and never can be heritage ‘in aspic’, but is, rather, part of the living communities of Cornwall.
A very different and equally beloved World Heritage Site featured repeatedly in the mid-2000s: that of Avebury in Wiltshire. Telling the tale of this particular series of sites in the pages of CA allows me to make a modest confession: although the WHS listing comprises Stonehenge and Avebury, it is the latter of these two that holds my heart – and I suspect I am not alone in that opinion. Meaning no offence to the more famous of the WHS pairing, for me it is the more
RIGHT & BELOW The splendid sight of Silbury Hill – part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site – starred on the cover of CA 215 and CA 293, marking the end of work to stabilise the monument after a partial collapse and the publication of the book that came out of the related research programme.
intimate beauty of Avebury, the view from West Kennet Long Barrow on a summer’s day, and glimpsing Silbury Hill on a frosty winter’s morning…
I know which site I keep returning to: sorry Stonehenge!
CA visited Avebury itself in issue 330 (September 2017), and Silbury Hill in issues 215 and 293 (February 2008 and August 2014). In each of the latter cases, the Hill featured on the front cover. In 2008, this was related to the conclusion of long-term stabilisation and monitoring works following a partial collapse in May 2000; those works had offered an opportunity to explore deep into the heart of the monument. The final outcome of the 2000-2007 research programme was eventually published another six years later in 2014, in the definitive book of this most wonderful of sites: Silbury Hill: the largest prehistoric mound in Europe. It was this publication that justified CA’s return.
LIFE ON THE EDGE I mentioned the name ‘Alderley Edge’ to a friend just recently, and their response – as someone who grew up not far from there in Cheshire – was intriguing: ‘What, you mean where all the football players live?’. It got me thinking: what makes places ‘special’ in archaeological terms, in the present and future as much as in the past? While Alderley Edge these days is most often associated with football superstars and their similarly stratospheric wages, in the past ‘the Edge’ had, well, a different social edge to it indeed. It was the search for a better understanding of issues such as these that set an interdisciplinary