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Thornborough "debate"
I have just received an interesting e-mail from George Chaplin of Timewatch regarding Thornborough. On another forum [url]
[/url]. I had responded to an article in the Ripon Gazette "Dig near henges site under fire" dated 04/11/05 that I felt misconstrued commercial archaeology methods, and was quite insulting about the professional ethics of the archaeologists involved. Mr Chaplin's email raised some points which I had not considered, but my complaints about the insinuations in the article remain. I will not reproduce either e-mail here, but the original article is worth a look.

Most of the insinuations in the article can be seen to be ill informed with a quick look at the site diary present athttp://www.archaeologicalplanningconsult...diary.html.

What has really got my back up though, is the fact that my original post to that discussion has not appeared on the discussion board. Another post commenting on the differences in approach to the Thornborough site and the recently publicized Milfield site (also in a Tarmac quarry, beside a henge) has not appeared either.

It looks to me that the site is far from an open discussion at all. I don't even disagree in principle with the goals of Timewatch regarding Thornborough, yet I have been censored regardless.Sad
Hi Mercenary,

Sorry for the delay, I've been writing you a more detailed response but I need to spell check it. I'll post it tomorrow.

Save the Thornborough Henge Complex -
[:0] That is a fairly shocking post, for me as a curator, and as you say it shows a lack of detailed knowledge of the workings of commercial archaeology. I'm sure we would all love to do a full research dig on the site but for now it isn't an option. I think I'll calm down after reading their website before I say any more Big Grin

I also can't believe that they are censoring you just because you don't agree with the postee!

Try not to calm down too much CK Wink. I've kept tabs on the web diary and been very impressed by the open nature of the comments, and also took note of the open invitation to anyone who fancied a look. Furthermore that the CBA were entirely satisfied with all the monitoring arrangements gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside [:I]

I shall read the eventual response to Mercenary with interest and an open mind.

(I really have worked in the field)
Its refreshing to see a bit of informed debate on this topic, as I?ve also been quite disappointed by some of the insinuations made regarding the fieldwork at Ladybridge.

As a freelancer who?s worked with FAS, OSA, and MG&A I?m fully aware of the standards that these companies maintain, and having visited the site on a number of occasions I fail to see how the current work at Ladybridge could be made any more transparent.

Regarding accusations that the current work is only focusing on prehistoric remains, there?s a very simple answer. The archaeology at Ladybridge is not particularly inspiring, and what exists has been severely truncated (see the article on plough damage on the APC web site). If the remains were anywhere else they would hardly warrant a mention, but English Heritage is arguing that it is the association with the henges that gives them value. Aside from the fact that there is currently insufficient dating evidence from both Ladybridge and the henges to prove an association, except in the broadest terms, it is inevitable that the investigations will focus on features thought to be contemporary with the henges.

People are entitled to oppose the quarry extension for various reasons, but in my opinion the potential archaeology on the site is not one of them. Even English Heritage have stated that the current research has successfully characterised the archaeology of the area, and that 75% of the Ladybridge site holds no archaeology of significant interest.
Hi, in response to your questions regarding the substance of TimeWatch?s concerns regarding the past and current archaeological work carried out at Ladybridge, I think it is important to understand the background to this.

On 20th September a meeting of NYCC planning committee accepted a request from Tarmac to defer the decision regarding the application to extend existing quarrying operations into Ladybridge farm ? a 109 acre field that sits within the setting of the Thornborough Henges complex. So far there has been a considerable campaign of opposition to the proposal, including more than 1,000 letters of objection, a petition of 10,000 signatures, statements of support and representation from The Landmarks Foundation, CIA, CBA, CBA Yorkshire, Yorkshire Archaeology Society and English Heritage.

Elected representatives agreed to the deferment despite the advice of the CC planning professionals who had recommended refusal. The relevant sections of the report state as follows:

it is recommended that the application BE REFUSED for the following reasons:-
? The proposal is contrary to Policy 4/8 of the North Yorkshire Mineral Local Plan as it would have an unacceptable adverse impact on nationally important archaeological remains-; and Proposed site is not a preferred area nor a small scale extension
? The proposal is contrary to Policies 3/2, 3/3 and 3/4 of the North Yorkshire Minerals Local Plan in that the site is neither a Preferred Area or Area of Search nor does it constitute a small scale extension by virtue of its geographical extent and scale in relation to the existing quarry working, mineral quantity and annual production.

Other Notes:

8.12 It can be seen therefore that there is currently no overriding need for the mineral that would outweigh other material considerations.
8.16 English Heritage and other objectors have suggested that the trial trenching was not sufficient to adequately characterise the archaeology, particularly in relation to Thornborough Henges, which are a scheduled monument. The proximity of the scheduled monument approximately a kilometre to the southwest lends additional significance to archaeological remains of the prehistoric period. The precise extent and significance of this archaeology is therefore a matter of dispute between the applicant and several key objectors.

8.17 Although concerned about the adequacy of trial trench sample size, English Heritage and other objectors have argued that on the basis of the information available, the southern part of the application area contains "nationally important archaeological features" for which insitu preservation is the only appropriate option and quarrying should therefore not be permitted.

It should be noted that that application does not simply fail because of the impact on archaeology, It fails a further three more significant policies and fails to show there is any need to consider the application due to lack of resources.

The planning delay, is to allow Tarmac to address a single issue ? the archaeology, but since it will not address the other failures we believe that the delay should not have been granted ? for the application fails to show there is a need.

This is why we feel the additional archaeology is an unwarranted intrusion on the archaeology at Ladybridge.

Furthermore, this is from English Heritages response to the application:

?It is clear from the evaluation report that this combination of techniques has not characterised the archaeological deposits of the Ladybridge site. Recent research would indicate that a 2% excavation sample is not an adequate sample size to detect early prehistoric activity, whilst the use of long, narrow trenches further compounds the limitations of a 2% sample.?

It has been our contention all along that Ladybridge is not simply an issue of ?setting of the henges?. We have contended that Ladybridge forms an integral part of Thornborough?s archaeological landscape. Based on the evidence uncovered at Nosterfield Quarry, together with fieldwalking done by Newcastle University we have contended that a Neolithic short term camp extended onto Ladybridge from Nosterfield and that other features are also likely to exist ? Nosterfield Quarry had ritual remains from periods up until the Late Iron Age ? Ladybridge is close to a glacial lake that appears to have had some significance to ritual life at Thorborough and that lake was drying out over time.

When we discovered the pre-quarry archaeological assessment was for a 2% trenching, we immediately raised our concerns because of two factors:

1. Recommendations in Hey and Lacey ? Evaluation of Archaeological Decision-making Processes and Sampling Strategies that strongly suggested that evaluations of less than 5% in Neolithic/BA landscapes was unlikely to reveal any useable information ? they suggest 8-10% or more. English Heritage also stated that they recommend a follow up targeted excavations following an initial 8-10% evaluation.

2. Evidence from The archaeological work carried out by Tarmac some 10 years ago on a site known as area 1:

The outcome of the initial 2% evaluation:

?The five trenches in the east area only revealed three features that may be of some antiquity, but none of these produced any finds to support this assumption. The two features 1103 and 1002 could be a ditch terminals. If so, their alignment and shape suggest that they are two different ditches, with feature 1103 possibly containing a palisade.?

What was found under the watching brief:

?As stated above it is the pits and hearths in Area 1 which are of greatest archaeological interest. Both the pottery and lithic traditions imply dates between 4300 and 2000 BC and they currently constitute the largest group of Neolithic features of this type so far recognised in the North of England. Given their proximity to the henges, which are currently the subject of nationally funded research by Jan Harding, their significance is greatly increased.?

The conclusion:

?In the light of the results obtained from the 1995 watching brief it is clear that the results obtained from previous work requires re-interpretation. The pits discovered in the AOC evaluation clearly belong to the same general period and type of occupation, and suggest that it extends into other areas of proposed extraction.?

Our opinion has always been that the evidence provided by Nosterfield has comfirmed the area holds archaeology of great significance and that this area should not be quarried but so long as Tarmac are determined to continue with it we must make sure that the best methodoligies are used to ensure that ALL archaeology is located and understood prior to any determination. It is clear that 2% cannot be said to be the best or even adequate.

Geophysics has been shown to be a little value (though not all methods have been applied) and whilst flint scatters have proven to be good indicators, these are only approximate and appear to be diagnostic of only a few feature types.

This was our position prior to the decision to delay the planning determination and whilst we were concerned that the council had granted the delay on grounds that should not affect the overall decision we hoped that this would be a chance for English Heritage to explain that these features cannot be viewed in isolation ? it is clear they are related to the henges and as such form part of the monument complex ? if we allowed Tarmac?s approach (seeing each feature in isolation) I?m certain the same appraoch could be applied on Thornborough Moor itself.

However, now that the project brief for the new assessment has been published, it is clear that it appears to satisfy neither our wish for a 8-10 assessment nor Tarmac?s wish to show the archaeology as being not of national importance.

The trenching has been placed on what is called a ?transition zone?, which presumably is the best guess for the furthest reaches of the short term camp. It does assess the archaeological potential of 75% of the site (no trenching in the north and east) and neither does it serve to estimate the density and structure of the settlement (no works within the settlement boundaries).

Whilst locating the boundaries of the settlement is certainly an important thing to do, but I?d suggest it is a secondary concern ? surely we need to know that the right archaeological evaluation has been applied to the whole site and its results have been properly interpreted? English Heritage are not happy about what has been done so far and given the above evidence neither are we.

Regarding the importance of the asset, which Tarmac are very keen to prove is not nationally important, English Heritage say this:

?Nevertheless English Heritage believes that, on the basis of the information available, the southern part of the Ladybridge Farm site contains nationally important archaeological features. These features relate to the zone of early prehistoric activity running east from and through the Nosterfield Quarry site. The archaeological deposits within Nosterfield Quarry are clearly of national importance and will be destroyed by the proposed extraction. The loss of archaeological features without record from the area west of the henges coupled with the loss of a large assemblage of early prehistoric and later features within Nosterfield Quarry (e.g. Investigation 3 (Trench 4, Area 1) increases the importance of preserving in-situ the surviving archaeology at Ladybridge Farm.?

In situ preservation is the only appropriate option for the deposits in this part of the site (i.e. south of the field boundary running west/east from Ladybridge Farm), and quarrying should therefore not be permitted.?

Our position is quite simple. Thornborough is Yorkshires most important ancient site, we need to preserve as much of the monument as we can. This includes all releated archaeology, even less significant monuments from later periods ? they all serve to illustrate a site whose history and setting we need to take great care of. Ladybridge is known to contain a settlement, this in itself has a setting that must cover much of Ladybridge. The remainder of the site has had insufficient archaeology to judge its merits but we suggest, given the other policy breaches and lack of fundamental mitigation this quarry aplication should not be permitted.

Tarmac position is as follows:

?The applicant does not concede that the archaeological deposits recorded on Ladybridge Farm are of national significance. Currently the dating of the cursus, henges and other features has not been adequately resolved to prove a contemporary relationship between the recorded deposits and any particular phase of monument construction and use. Establishing such a chronology should be the priority of any further research in that area.?

This statement is inconsistent with earlier statements regarding Area 1 at Nosterfield Quarry ? which is the settlement that extends onto Ladybridge:

?Given their proximity to the henges, which are currently the subject of nationally funded research by Jan Harding, their significance is greatly increased.?

There is a reason why this archaeology has to be of national importance:

NYMLP Policy 4/8 - Archaeological Sites
"Proposals for mining operations and the associated depositing of mineral waste which would have an unacceptable effect on nationally important archaeological remains, whether scheduled or not, and their settings, will not be permitted. The Mineral Planning Authority will seek to preserve, in-situ or by record, other sites of regional, county or local importance, as appropriate to their archaeological interest, in making decisions on planning applications."

This is the local planning policy ? it does not give an option for preservation by record of nationally important remains.

Regarding our recent criticisms. In no way were we trying to imply that any individual archaeologist is not working to the best of their ability. What we are saying is that the archaeology being carried out is not really going to change anything. In addition we feel that it is not being carried out in the right circumstances to deliver maximum results. We are concerned that there are no tents being deployed, I?m sure you know what the weathers been like here. This combined with the short timescales mean that the archaeologists have a real challenge at the site, as well as the follow up specialist reports if these are to be collated and reported by January.

The chronology for the previous assessment was as follows:

September 2003 ? Pre-application Written Statement of Works agreed with North Yorkshire County Council for the archaeological assessment of Ladybridge.

June 2004 ? Tarmac submit application to Quarry Ladybridge Farm. No archaeological assessment of Ladybridge is included.

September 2004 ? NYCC planning committee opts to delay consideration of the application until after the archaeological assessment has been provided.

June 2005 ? Archaeological assessment is submitted by Tarmac.

August 2005 ? Archaeological mitigation strategy sent to interested parties.

You can see from this that Tarmac knew the archaeological evaluation was essential in September 2004, yet it still took almost a year to complete this. Whilst not delivering the full 8-10% assessment we would like, the new excavations are extensive and I?d suggest that the trenching strategy owes more to the compressed timescales than the optimum way of understanding a site of national importance with minimum disturbance. I am certain there may be some logic behind the decision making process regarding the current works but I?m afraid we were not privy to this and so far this has not been published.

Can I just say I do understand the position archaeologists are in. As far as I am concerned archaeologists are definitely part of the solution. I make it a point to emphasise this at every meeting I do and I am really sorry if anyone thinks I?m getting at them. You must understand, with the best tools in the world it is still possible to design a project to have a pre-determined outcome or to present the results of research in a way that undermines the value of the research itself.

Save the Thornborough Henge Complex -
Regarding the accusation that the archaeologists are only looking for Neolithic features. this was inspired by this:

The focus for this work is an area of presumed fade/transition along the northern and eastern edge of the Neolithic and Bronze Age features and artefact scatters previously recorded in the south western corner of Ladybridge Farm. This zone has been produced to reflect a number of natural,archaeological and historical factors which include;

the extent of the desiccated peat
past farming regimes and land management processes
location of dateable Neolithic features as identified in the initial evaluation.
extent of worked flint.

Since nothing to the north of here is being researched, yet we know the glacial lake was drying up and there is evidence of continued use of the site up till the late Iron Age, is it not reasonable to suggest that further BA/IA features may well exist to the north of the "transition zone"?

Save the Thornborough Henge Complex -
Quote:quote:Originally posted by freelance

People are entitled to oppose the quarry extension for various reasons, but in my opinion the potential archaeology on the site is not one of them. Even English Heritage have stated that the current research has successfully characterised the archaeology of the area, and that 75% of the Ladybridge site holds no archaeology of significant interest.

I have to agree with this post, and Merc's and others. From what I understand of the site, and having read the WSI and seen the website, I would be pretty pleased to have this level of archaeological response on a quarry in my area - it seems entirely reasonable to me, and looks as though a great excavation and interesting publication will come out the other side, so that the best possible information will be collected and disseminated.


Where did EH say this?

Save the Thornborough Henge Complex -
The statement that 75% of the site contains no archaeology of significant interest was made at the monitoring meeting held on the 4th November. Minutes of this meeting will be available via the APC and CBA websites once they have been approved.

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