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BRITARCH  July 2008

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Subject:

Re: BretArch - a tourist's view

From:

Andrew Smith <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 12 Jul 2008 11:56:02 +0100

Content-Type:

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Michael wrote: "(At least when I
>> asked the staff at Quimper museum where I would find such archaeology 
>> they could not tell me where there was any)."

"could not" or, possibly, 'would not?

I remember being incredibly frustrated in the tourist information office in 
Quimper, many years ago, I must admit. An older lady was sitting behind a 
sign that said "English spoken" . Out of courtesy I tried making my request 
in rusty 'O' - level French to be met with an uncomprehending stare then a 
torrent of French that I could not understand. The process was repeated and 
she then turned away, so I left also. I had a much more friendly reception 
in a small TI office adjacent to the campsite, but it did much to reinforce 
the stereotype of the 'Anglophobic French'. I am not sure if it still 
exists, but when I saw the photographs of St Lo, virtually completely 
destroyed except for the cathredral and part of the prison, after it was 
taken from the Germans, who had stubbornly resited the Allies, I came to 
understand the possible resentment.
I am afraid with the family in tow I did not see very much megalithic 
archaeology - a regular cry from the children on any outing was, "Not 
another ancient monument, Dad?" - and I have never been back.
They are now more indulgent as adults.
Andrew Smith.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Merryn Dineley" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, July 12, 2008 10:47 AM
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] BretArch - a tourist's view


> Michael, sounds like you and your family had a great time! My earliest 
> memory is of climbing around, on and over stones. I have photos of me and 
> my brother at Stonehenge. Medieval castles too! etc etc. I am sure this is 
> what gave me my love of the past.
>
> Now I work at Tomb of the Eagles and hand out 5000 year old stone tools 
> for people to hold and tell them tales of the Stone Age (all true!) Their 
> eyes light up. Some of our visitors come back years later with their own 
> children. Come and visit us, if you have not been already!
>
> Also, people come to Orkney and are amazed that they can actually walk 
> round a stone circle, unlike Stonehenge. I guess it must always be a 
> balancing act between conservation and and letting people experience 
> things first hand.
>
> I think much more could be done in schools to take artefacts in and the 
> young people out to sites. Such a shame that Archaeology is not taught in 
> schools. I have often wondered why 'prehistory' is not a subject and yet 
> 'history' is. There is so much more of it!
>
> Merryn
>
> Michael Haseler wrote:
>> I was intrigued during a recent camping holiday in Brittany. Here are a 
>> few comments:
>>
>> 1. I learnt that Carnac not Stonehenge is the greatest megalithic 
>> monument in the world - could they be meaning "We have far more 
>> fencing!". But there was a woeful lack of information and e.g. I only 
>> realised that there was a stone circle on the site by reading a handy 
>> guide to stone circles I took along for bedtime reading.
>>
>> 2. I thought that it was impossible to have a lower regard to archaeology 
>> than my council (East Dunbartonshire) but no, in Brittany many megalithic 
>> sites show the signs on not only historical attacks with wedges to split 
>> the rocks, but modern day confetti and official disinterest with many 
>> information boards either lacking or barely unreadable because they have 
>> faded.
>>
>> Fortunately most of the archaeology is so substantial that barring 
>> visitors/archaeologists with hammers, chisels, JCBs and fence posts, it 
>> is likely to remain as impressive as it is today.
>>
>> But as I learnt, not all the sites seem to be listed. We went to one 
>> Dolmen and parked next to a 6m menhir which although split in half was 
>> still impressive. There were a couple of obvious standing stones in one 
>> place we camped with no obvious sign that they were official known. On 
>> another campsite there was a huge pile of 2-3m weather worn boulders at 
>> the side of the field which the owner said they had "Acquired from 
>> another farmer".
>>
>> 2a. On the positive side, this lack of official concern, did allow the 
>> children to climb all over the monuments and e.g. to climb onto the split 
>> menhirs. And when asked "what was the best monument we visited (Britanny 
>> +Stonehenge+Avebury)" the response from my children was an unexpected 
>> insignificant dolmen near Cherbourg. The reason? Because this Dolmen was 
>> two lines of upright stones with lintel stones at both end and it created 
>> the most amazing assault course. And funnily enough, if anyone was to ask 
>> what sparked my interest in archaeology, it was crawling into the long 
>> barrow of Bellas Knap, running along Hadrians wall, feeling the hot water 
>> at Bath and squeezing into the gap between the inner and outer walls of a 
>> broch.
>>
>> The point is far too many "British heritage" sites forget that children 
>> understand the world through play - by touching, feeling and even jumping 
>> on. How do children know a rock is solid, heavy, unmoveable? They jump on 
>> it!
>>
>> 3. Whilst every guidebook mentions the Army of Britains that went with 
>> Magnus Maximus to Gaul and "gave Brittany its name", there appears to be 
>> not a shred of archaeological evidence to support this. (At least when I 
>> asked the staff at Quimper museum where I would find such archaeology 
>> they could not tell me where there was any).
>>
>> 4. The Temple of Mars near Corseul is well worth a visit. It may be 
>> little more three sides of a 10m mostly original wall, but the hundreds 
>> of meters of reconstructed wall-line gives the site an impressiveness 
>> that matches Stonehenge for scale. And, whilst I did not realise it there 
>> is a similarly grandiose Roman town which I had assumed was part of the 
>> temple until I read the Brittany history book on the ferry.
>>
>> 5. One last Britarch comment - where is the visitor centre at Stonehenge? 
>> Even Carnac had a scale model of the 4km site, but I searched in vain to 
>> find the room at Stonehenge with all the scale models showing the various 
>> phases of the monument - and where are all the artefacts that have been 
>> discovered at the site? - Children's comment re Stonehenge "Not as bad as 
>> we had thought".
>>
> 

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