« Friday Night is Music Night (Drums Edition) | Main | A Lesson eBay Is Teaching Everybody »

The Wind Farm, The Professional Archaeologists And The Undiscovered Inconvenient Monuments

Mynydd Y Betws wind farm stone row - the discoverer's tale « The Heritage Journal

... a look at an area of moorland which had been fenced off at Bancbryn as part of the wind farm development on Mynydd Y Betws. This development has caused considerable local disquiet for a number of reasons and some of those actively campaigning against the wind farm wondered whether the archaeological work in advance of the development had been carried out properly.  .... There are currently three scheduled monuments on Bancbryn and we decided to head straight there. What we found certainly justified the trip. Within moments we had identified several sites including a number of stoney mounds,  a few hollows,  a line of pits with associated banks and leading into and returning out from the fenced off area - a line of stones.  In amongst these archaeological features but significantly not actually touching any of them were the scars of archaeological trenches indicating that excavation had indeed happened but appeared to have missed all the visible archaeology.  ...

The 700m long stone row is probably the most important of the features we found and as it is associated with over 30 cairns some of which are kerbed it seems to form the focus of an incredibly important ceremonial landscape where the form of space between the numerous earthwork and built elements are as integral and important as the earthworks themselves....

Helen contacted the local archaeological trust to inform them of our discoveries.  They were initially very dismissive of our claims saying that the hillside had been extensively studied.  Eventually they agreed to accompany us on a visit and a date was set. On the morning of Monday 16th January we met up on site.  We asked if an earthwork survey had been conducted as part of the archaeological evaluation and were told that they had not felt it necessary since the "€˜desk based" assessment had not indicated there was a need. We expressed our dismay at this decision and we then proceeded to the site.  We showed the DAT officer the features we had identified and he explained to us that they had not been found previously because the area had been under thick vegetation. ...

... for the sake of clarity let’s just accept the explanation that this area adjacent to three scheduled monuments was covered in a high sward of vegetation making it impossible to see the archaeology hiding beneath. If this was the case why on earth was the vegetation not cleared? After all a brand new road was going to be built which was to be capable of taking lorries each weighing over 100 tons, this was serious civil engineering not some puny track for a bloke on a pushbike then. Surely construction works on this scale would have a somewhat negative impact on any archaeology which might have inconveniently stumbled in the way of such progress....when one is in the ‘last chance saloon’ as archaeologists we must remember anything we miss will be lost for ever, so surely we should try extra hard to record everything that is visible and ensure that the site record is as complete as humanly possible? It is difficult to believe that it is acceptable in any way to squander such a chance by not carrying out an earthwork survey first and then during the works failing to ensure that the archaeology is even looked at properly. If such work had been carried out in this instance and had been looked at, it is tempting to speculate the various features would have been spotted immediately. After all it took us less than 5 minutes to spot four separate monuments. ....

The other great sadness is that the archaeological profession in Wales has seen fit to ignore us. Finding archaeology would appear to be a crime. Community Archaeology – I think not. First they refused to accept that you could have found something then they exclude you from the process – perhaps because you questioned the strategies which precipitated the situation. ...

Perhaps this experience is considered a threat? Who knows – we certainly don’t. Perhaps it was because we were accompanied by wind farm observers? Perhaps it’s because we live in the area and overlook the hill? Or might it be that they would rather not have admitted to missing such an obvious and potentially important archaeological monument? Could it be a combination or all of these things or perhaps something else entirely appropriate?....

Comments

But build something useful like, say, a power plant or airport extension or (insert useful civil engineering works here) and I (like the writer) would be seeing a major report and request for extension, etc...that would tie that up for a long time

Not that I think ancient megaliths and burial fields should tie up new works forever (with some exceptions if they discover does turn out to rise above "interesting but not really THAT unusual or important" ) but the least they can do is do their jobs, and be embarrassed if they screw up.

If this were happening for a power dam you know there would be a scandal.

Ah, a "Desk Based Survey" - pretty definitive then, just like those "flood assessments" before houses are built in flood plains ... No site visits necessary, just leave the brown envelop in the usual place and we'll take care of the assessment for you.

The threat is you poking into a "green project". Such projects can't be delayed by anything, especially smalltime legal problems like the site being a historical landmark, threatening endangered species, noise regulations, etc. etc.

Post a comment