Wednesday, 19 March 2008
What comes to mind when you read the word Chagford?
Any comments greatfully received while I think about how this dissertation thing might work....
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
There once was a man
Though you wouldn’t know it
He sat in the corner
But only when the crowds where thin
When the music suited his skimming mind
When the light cast no shadows
When the earth was closed
And the sky was all there was
And in his dark corner he sat,
The beer blundered through his fingers
And dragged down his fractured mind
And on that day she saw him
She was the Goddess of the floor
The Goddess of the sky
The Goddess of the brightest light
AND SHE SAW HIM
And he looked up
There was no lightning
No thunder cracking bolt
But when the dancers looked around
The dark corner was grey
In the pub the burnt out people
Pirouetted to a halt
Their frames where lead
Their feet soft clay
They drew in
No one left to prop up
The dark corner
That placed them in the light
They went home
They left the womb
As they trundled back
A few looked up
At the burnt stars
Cinders of distant suns
They saw her light
She was there
She was there
But at her back
The black flamed,
In velvet blossomed sky
And she stood proud
She stood bright
For the moon was
Than on the
Monday, 3 March 2008
In this essay I will be looking at how far archaeology could be considered to be a political practice. This is a very large question to be answered in within the word-count. Because of this I will be focusing on one area, namely the influence that archaeological remains and their interpretation can have on wider political activities. I will be using the example of Stonehenge to illustrate this, with particular reference to the events of the solstice of 1985 that became know as ‘the Battle of the Beanfield’. I shall not be looking in any depth at the flipside of this approach, the effect of politics upon the archaeological discipline (Shanks 2006:6).
I will look at the history of political connections to Stonehenge, starting with a brief review of some of the historical political appropriations of the monument, before turning to the modern day. For this I will first focus on the connections the monument has with the ‘alternative’ scene in Britain, then look at ‘the Battle of the Beanfield’ and its background. Finally I will compare Stonehenge with another similar monument, Balfarg/Balbirnie, and how differently it is treated due to its lesser political, not archaeological, importance. Through out this I shall assess the information in light of the question set. The main sources I will be using Cippindale et al’s “Who owns Stonehenge?”(1990) and Barbra Bender’s “Stonehenge: Making Space” (1998) primarily, though not exclusively, for their insights into the views of the Archaeologists. I shall also extensively use Andy Worthington’s collection of interviews and essays in his book “The Battle of the Beanfield” (2005) to provide an outline of the beanfield event itself. It must be acknowledged that Worthington's book has a slight bias toward the views of the travelers and festival-goers being, in his own words, an attempt to “redress the balance” of media misinterpretation (2005:1).
In its early recorded history until the 17th century Stonehenge kept a relatively low profile, after which early antiquaries and tourists started to take an interest in it (Chippindale 1983:173). One important exception lies in the early 12th century author Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book “History of England” (Cippindale et al 1990:13) that could be seen as an early use of the monument as a political tool, supporting mythical classical roots to British society (Cippindale et al 1990:69).
Aubrey, in 17th century, and later Stukley, in the 18th, both linked Stonehenge (incorrectly) to the Druids (Sebastian 1990:96, Greene 1995:22) and, in the case of Stukley, these druids are connected to the old testament (Bender 1998:111). To Welsh nationalists Stonehenge and its druidical connections symbolized ancient British and not classical roots (Bender 1998:112). Stonehenge was being used as a tool to legitimize Britain’s place in the world of the 18th centaury. For these people Stonehenge had enormous theological and political connotations (Bender 1998:111)
It has, since the 17th century, become a very important area for the study of British archaeology, both in the development of the discipline and in understanding British prehistory (Cippindale et al 1990:14). From this time on Stonehenge began to acquire more and more visitors, some of them quite destructive (Cippindale et al 1990:14-16). The land was in private ownership but it was not until 1900, when erosion from visitors caused two of the stones to fall that the land was fenced and the footpath that had previously run through the monument closed (Chippindale 1983:174). This event caused uproar at the time; many people saw Stonehenge as a creation beyond the ownership of individuals, as a monument that could properly belong only to the people of Britain (Chippindale 1983:174).
In 1918 the last private landlord gave Stonehenge to the government, and received (in return?) a knighthood, with the 600ha of surrounding country being bought by public appeal for the National Trust to manage (Cippindale et al 1990:16). If it is correct to say that Stonehenge was swapped directly for the knighthood, then this is evidence of how archaeological remains can directly influence the political control of a nation.
From 1905 until the 1970’s (and more recently they do so again) Druid revivalists celebrated the solstice at Stonehenge, in line with Aubrey’s original interpretation (Bender 1998:126) but at odds with more modern archaeological interpretations. To these people Stonehenge had acquired a status that was no longer ‘a curiosity’ or an archaeological artifact, but a dynamic part of today’s reality. This dimension also exists for some people outside the druidic tradition and one only has to look at documentation put out by groups such as the ‘Antiquarian Society’, an organisation that focuses the spiritual dimensions of ancient remains and natural phenomena, to appreciate this (The Antiquarian Society 2006). It could be said, as Shanks does, (1992:27-28) that this reaction against archaeological approaches is because archaeology is seen as operating using “contemporary capital[ist]” (1992:28) ideologies, treating the world as a collection of items to be controlled and utilised for self-interest.
In 1974 the first Stonehenge free festival (an inherently anti-capitalist event) took place not far from the monument itself (Worthington 2005:12). These people where less tolerated at Stonehenge than the druids had been, perhaps being less conductive to the paid tourism, (Bender 1998:126). The scattering of the ashes of the initial organizer, Phil Russell, whom some saw as being murdered by the state, initiated the first large illegal invasion by festival goers of Stonehenge (Worthington 2005:15). The free-festivalers resented what they saw as exclusive dictatorial approach of Stonehenge’s appointed managers to when and by whom the monument could be used (Worthington 2005:16). In many ways this was a resurfacing (in a different guise) of the uproar caused by the first closing of the monument to the public (see above). By the 1980’s the festival had become the central point for the ‘alternative’ scene, (Worthington 2005:12) with Stonehenge being seen as an intrinsic element of the event (Bender 1998:199).
What changed was the politics of the people involved. (Worthington 2005:21)In the lead up to the 1985 festival, the travelling component of the ‘alternative’ community in Britain was coming under an increasingly heavy handed treatment from the police (Worthington 2005:24). Political pressure was also being brought to bare upon these sections of society (although around this time the higher levels of the political establishment believed “…there is no such thing as society” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987) (www.margaretthatcher.org 2006a) Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister, set herself against those participating in the alternative scene, and is recorded as having said “I am only to delighted to do anything I can to make life difficult for such things as hippy convoys”, (www.margaretthatcher.org 2006b) with Tory MP Robert Key suggesting the use of troops in the removal of mass nomadic squats (Bender 1998:115). Indeed, the eviction of one camp saw “the largest peacetime mobilisation of troops in the UK” (Worthington 2005:24)
In 1985 the National Trust, English Heritage and 17 others issued a ‘precautionary injunction’ against 83 named individuals (Cippindale et al 1990:151), threatening further injunctions against organizations like St Johns Ambulance (Worthington 2005:25) in an attempt to stop the festival taking place. It is hard to understand how the removal of 83 individuals from an anarchic, leaderless event could have made a serious impact on reducing damage to the monument, unless this stemmed merely from a complete misunderstanding of the nature of a different culture. Another (less kind) interpretation might be that they realized that this could be used as a justification to target everyone involved.
The reasoning given behind the injunctions was that it was considered that the free festival constituted a threat to the integrity of the archaeology of the Stonehenge surroundings (Cippindale et al 1990:147). This is surprising, given that the festival field had been deep ploughed in the 1970’s and that in 1985 a 4.6 meter by 1.8 meter ditch was dug to prevent the festival site being used, with more dug in 1989 (Cippindale et al 1990:147). Chippindale states in his 1983 article for Antiquity that the solstice two day invasion of the monument that year left “no immediate sign of damage” (:177).
This may be why the stones are now reopened to the public for solstice (English Heritage 2006) as a result of a House of Lords ruling and further invasions of the monument from those wishing to celebrate the solstice there (Worthington 2005:229). This reopening may also in part result from the fact that the free festival is now dead, due in part to changes in the law (Worthington 2005:212). Note the new attitude taken by English Heritage in the last lines of their document ‘Summer Solstice 2006 Conditions for Entry’ given to those who wish to attend – “We hope the weather will be kind and wish you a peaceful and celebratory summer solstice” (English Heritage 2006:7). This stands in stark contrast to the events of the 1st of June, 1985.
On this day a convoy of travellers and festival goers headed towards the festival site near Stonehenge ignoring police warnings to stay away (Worthington 2005:60) and where stopped by roadblocks eight miles from the henge (they never actually reached the ‘exclusion zone’ set out in the injunction) (Worthington 2005:34). The convoy pulled up into a field beside the roadblock, around the same time as having some of their vehicles smashed by police (Worthington 2005:36,61,97-98,142). The police, who when all evidence is taken into account, seem to have set out with the intention of arresting all present (Worthington 2005) then prevented them from leaving the field, unless into police custody, (Worthington 2005:83) while reinforcements were arriving (Worthington 2005:122). This is despite offers by the travelers to leave and even to be escorted “as far as Newcastle” (Worthington 2005:82) and therefore achieving the (reported) primary objective of protecting the integrity of Stonehenge.
What followed when the final arrests came was in many cases violent. This description, I think, dose not give an adequate description of the events, so I will outline a few individual occurrences: a heavily pregnant women being hit with a truncheon, babies showered with glass; people being dragged by their hair through broken windows; police throwing grapefruit-sized lumps of flint through the windscreens of moving vehicles; 12 year old children sitting in riot vans watching while someone was beaten unconscious (Worthington 2005:52,100,104,108,174). In the follow up to these events children were separated from their parents and homes where looted, destroyed or made uninhabitable. (Worthington 2005:53,71) Over 500 people where arrested, (Fowler 1990:151) of which 70 where latter successfully charged and almost all of them had pleaded guilty to minor offences (Worthington 2005:161). Those who pleaded not guilty were almost entirely acquitted (Worthington 2005:161). 21 people successfully sued the police force for events relating to that day, despite the best efforts of the judge (Worthington 2005:147,150). When considering that all this was done (supposedly) to protect an ancient monument from possibly being damaged it becomes obvious that wider issues than Stonehenge where at stake.
With the benefit of hindsight, given friction between the police and traveling people in the lead up to the solstice the outcome becomes fairly inevitable. The festival at Stonehenge saw the majority of the new traveling community gathering in place. It happened to be a well known archaeological site, with plenty of archaeological and public sympathies to be played upon to give justification to any activities undertaken by the police. Perhaps one unexpected side effect was that it “martyred” the festival, and intensified traveler connection to revivalist pagan traditions (Worthington 2005:217) – and therefore with ancient (‘archaeological’) monuments, politicizing the remains still further.
Compare this ultra-precautionary approach taken by the government and the public landlords (English Heritage and the National Trust) in 1985, using the archaeology as a justification, (Shanks 1992:59) and to a by no means total threat, with that of another henge, Balfarg/Balbirnie by Glenrothes, Scotland in 1977/8 that was completely removed to make way for housing (Barkley and Russell-White 1993:49). This henge was connected with a less visually impressive stone circle (moved in 1970/71 to make way for a road) (Barkley and Russell-White 1993:49) and had with fewer outlying features, in a less archaeologically famous area of the country (Barkley and Russell-White 1993:43) (Cleal et al 1995:0-1). But it also has less of an archaeological history of excavations on the site. This latter factor could be seen as giving Balfarg/Balbirne a higher priority for preservation in situe, as Stonehenge has been widely excavated and preserved in record (Cleal et al 1995).
Baring this comparison in mind there appear to be relationships of power and control at play around the practice of archaeological that show it as being far from politically neutral. This arises because archaeology is merely an academic discipline in a larger political world and as such its operators as well as its operations are influenced by current political and cultural trends. Nobody called in riot-police when a large ditch was dug through the Stonehenge avenue in 1979 to insert a telephone cable, (Cippindale et al 1990:133) because this action was considered legitimate by the state.
In conclusion, I hope to have shown through the example of Stonehenge that ‘archaeological’ remains, even the operational requirements of the discipline, can have serious present day political connotations. The artifacts and theories that archaeologists study are not neutral, they are heavily charged with political power and influence. Sometimes real present day lives can be altered by the actions taken and not taken by in the pursuit of archaeological knowledge (even in modern Britain). In asking ‘to what extent is archaeology a political practice’ I think the answer has to be that it is intrinsically so. The past influences how one thinks about oneself and how one views the world and each other. This is probably its fascination.
· Barclay, G.J. and C.J. Russell-White, 1993. Excavations in the ceremonial complex of the fourth to second millennium BC at Balfarg/Balbirnie, Glenrothes, Fife. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 123: 43-210
· BBC 2006 On This Day June 1st BBC.co.uk. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/1/newsid_2493000/2493267.stm [Accessed 30/11/2006]
· Bender, B. 1998 Stonehenge: Making Space Oxford: Berg
· Cleal, R.M.J., K.E. Walker and R. Montague 1995 Stonehenge In Its Landscapes: Twentieth-Century Excavations English Heritage : Archaeological Report 10
· Chippindale, C. 1983 What Future For Stonehenge? Antiquity (57) pp172-180
· Chippindale, C., P. Devereux, P. Fowler, R. Jones and T. Sebastian 1990 Who owns Stonehenge? London: B. T. Batsford Ltd
· English Heritage 2006 Summer Solstice 2006 Conditions for Entry English Heritage http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/upload/pdf/Conditions_Entry2006v6.pdf
· Greene, K. 1995 Archaeology: an introduction London: B.T. Batsford Ltd
· Lodge, A. 2005 Stonehenge And ‘The Battle Of The Beanfeild’ Available from: http://tash.gn.apc.org/sh_bean.htm [Accessed 01/12/2006]
· Margaret Thatcher Foundation 2006a Interview for Woman’s Own (“no such thing as society”)1987 Sep 23 Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Available from: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=106689 [Accessed 30/11/2006]
· Margaret Thatcher Foundation 2006b House of Commons PQs 1986 Jun 5 Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Available from: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=106413 [Accessed 30/11/2006]
· Shanks, M. 1992 Experiancing The Past London: Routledge
· Worthington, A 2005 The Battle Of The Beanfeild Teighmouth, Devon: Enabler Publications