The Martian Chronicle II

Bulletin of the Monuments At Risk Survey
April 1995


This Chronicle, the second of a series of bulletins, comes during the initial stages, of the data collection phase. This edition aims to highlight the activities and progress of the programmes feeding data into the system to meet the project's data collection objectives.

The first Chronicle was an Introduction to the Project; this edition will show you what has been achieved so far, what will be accomplished next, and how we are going about it.

Any comments regarding this Chronicle should be addressed to Timothy Darvill MARS Project Director or Andy Fulton MARS Project Manager.


THE MARS NATIONAL SURVEY

Who are the National Survey Team?

The National Survey Team comprises: Bronwen Laughlin, Paul Newman and Katy Walke. They are graduates of Bournemouth, Bradford and Leicester Universities respectively.

What is the National Survey?

The National Survey aims to record a point-in-time estimate of the state of the recorded archaeological resource. This involves identifying the location and curators of the recorded resource and analysing the records themselves.

The first stage of the research has been to identify the curators. All counties in England now have a Sites and Monuments Record, and many have full-time staff dedicated to working on the SMR. An increasing number of district, borough and city authorities are also in the process of developing SMR resources for use within the planning process, as research tools, and for other purposes.

Whilst there are 46 counties, there are also an increasing number of other records being developed for a variety of purposes. MARS recognises that each SMR is individual in nature, even though many share common coverage structures and recording methods. MARS will not be touching on museum records, but has identified that many of these also record extensive information relating to archaeological sites, as well as to stray finds, historical details, and museum accessions.

The analysis is being undertaken through a questionnaire which was developed in consultation with Dave Buckley of ACAO and several SMR officers. The SMR Data Recording Form is being completed by SMR officers, or by MARS staff, or a combination of the two so that MARS research may be undertaken without unduly impeding the normal work of the SMR officer. The main areas for inquiry are:

  1. Survey Details
  2. Composition of SMR and Period Breakdown
  3. Monument Classes
  4. Designations
  5. Completion of the SMR as viewed in 1994
  6. Migration Backlog
  7. Built-Up Land
  8. Rural Land-Use
  9. Accessibility of Monuments
  10. Monument Survival
  11. Monument Condition

    It is realised that not all SMRs will hold all of this information, or be able to complete all of the form. However, it is expected that all respondents will be able to complete most of parts 1 to 3, and have opinions on much of the rest. It must be stressed that this is not an 'examination' of the SMR, but a statement of development to date.

    The Need for the National Survey

    The National Survey follows a sequence of surveys which have commented on or analysed the nature of the recorded resource. These include the 1977 Survey of Surveys conducted by the RCHM(E) and the 1984 report England's Archaeological Resource (DoE 1984). Some of the themes from the more recent Recording England's Past (RCHME 1993) will also be explored further.

    The main need for the data from the National Survey for MARS is to set the sample data from the Field Survey into its national context, thus setting the general picture of the whole study. The data will also form a stand-alone section in the final report.

    Results from individual SMRs are being returned to the SMR officers, once the information is checked. This has two purposes. First, to confirm with the SMR officer the data retrieved or provided, and second, as a tool for the SMR officer. MARS is already uncovering facts and trends about individual SMR data sets which were unknown to those working with them. Data may later be used on a local or regional level for planning future SMR development and archaeological research.

    CASE STUDY RESEARCH TEAM

    The Case Study team consisits of Hugh Beamish a graduate of Victoria University of Manchester and Oxford University Department of External Studies, and Karen Gracie-Langricka graduate of Reading and York universities.

    Purpose of Case Study Research

    The overall aim of this part of MARS is to examine the effect of monument condition on the quality of archaeological information retrievable from excavation. This will be undertaken for a range of single monument classes, urban areas, and landscape types. The methods employed will vary between these areas, but the basic aims remain the same.

    Work has commenced on the single monument classes. Twelve classes have been selected to be representative of monument forms: small and large areas, dispersed, and linear. They are also representative of various periods. Work has already begun on those marked *:

    Case Study Methodology

    For each class three examples were chosen which have been recently extensively excavated. These criteria have also influenced the selection of classes, since many interesting sites have been excavated which are unique or almost so and have no comparisons, or the majority of which were excavated before 1970. The chosen examples must also fall into a range of conditions at the time of excavation: good, medium and poor. It is acknowledged that this may be a subjective assessment, sometimes biased by the presentation of results in the excavation report. It is also becoming apparent that excavated examples of some classes of monument lie within a narrow range of conditions, and have already reached a level of low quality or legibility of evidence, thus at the lower end of the natural decay curve for the class as a whole.

    The methodology for examining single monument classes has been evolved and treated. Currently, the quality of data in four main areas is being examined, these are: the monument as a whole; the features and components of the monument; the artefacts and ecofactual / environmental information. The results will be presented as a textual analysis supported by graphic representations of the data quality.

    AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHIC TEAM

    The Aerial Photographic Team consists of three people Joe Lawrence (AP Co-ordinator) Lindsey Thomson and John Hogan (AP Interpreters).

    Their job is to investigate and interpret aerial photographs over the past five decades in 1300 randomly chosen (1 X 5km) transects. The purpose behind this is to study and find reasons for changes to any archaeological sites within those areas.

    The work involves the examination of stereo pairs of photographs taken in the 1940's, 1950's, 1960's etc, and features concerning many characteristics about the sites and their surroundings, entered into a database. It is particularly easy to measure features like the area of a site using stereoscopic equipment combined with planimeters if one has good aerial photographs. The aerial photographs are extracted from a photo library of approximately two million stored at the NMRC (National Monuments Record Centre) of the RCHME (Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England) at Kemble Drive, Swindon.

    The Information obtained from the photo interpretation exercise will be compared with the information obtained by the MARS field survey teams, who are presently examining every site. It is hoped that as a result of these investigations a clearer idea of what is happening to England's archaeological resource will evolve.

    THE FIELD SURVEY TEAMS

    Northern Area

    The Northern Area consists of five people Mark Robinson (Northern Regional Supervisor) Nicholas Herepath and Susan Buckham (Field Surveyors NW) Dunstan Keene and Benjamin Stephenson (Field Surveyors NE).

    The Northern Field Teams proceeded rapidly in Humberside encountering minimal problems with site locations, ownership identification, etc. The smooth progress was later slowed as a result of clarification of the MARS parameters (e.g. criteria for calculating site estimated current area) necessitating many transect re-visits.

    The Northern Team is now conducting a phase of checking before transferring the Humberside notes to the aerial photographic team. They are currently preparing maps and validating data prior to starting their field work in South Yorkshire.

    Eastern Area

    The Eastern Area consists of five people Melanie Pomeroy (Eastern Regional Supervisor) Ian Baxter and Lee White (Field Surveyors ME) Joanna Ecclestone and Adrian Gascoyne (Field Surveyors SE).

    Both teams are making excellent progress despite major set backs at the start of the project due to a lack of data. Computer problems have also caused some delay, but have now been overcome by compiling a paper record in the field and transferring the data at a later stage.

    The Midlands East Team, based in Cambridge, have now travelled close to 5,000 miles and have finished their field work for Northamptonshire. They have encountered mainly crop marks and a few DMV's. They are now preparing to start work in Hertfordshire, where they have a number of post-medieval breweries and a sewage works to look forward to!.They should be ready to start Cambridgeshire early in the New Year.

    The South East Team, based in Bournemouth have covered just over 3,000 miles. They have completed the field work on the Isle of Wight, and are currently half way through the Hampshire transects. Most of the sites encountered have been prehistoric, including two Bronze Age Barrows and sites on MOD Porton Down Agency Land.

    Early in 1995, the regional base will be moved to the Tonbridge Wells area of Kent in order to tackle the next batch of counties, starting with Kent, Surrey and Greater London.

    Western Area

    The Western Area consists of five people Rob Haslam (Western Regional Supervisor) Tamsin Goldring and Leif Pallister (Field Surveyors SW) Karla Graham and Huw Sherlock (Field Surveyors MW).

    The South Western Team are currently finalising the data collection phase for Wiltshire. The county contains an extensive amount of archaeology. One transect alone had 101 monuments within its boundary. The team have had to work hard to complete Wiltshire, covering more than 6,000 miles in process. They will move onto Avon and then Somerset.

    The West Midlands Team have completed the West Midlands Metropolitan county and are already working in their next county, Staffordshire. The archaeology is of different form to that in the South West, with far more industrial and transportation sites. Here the team have covered 7,000 miles.

    Again, both paper and electronic means are being used to store their field survey information.

    PROGRESS IN DATA TRANSFER

    The pre-data collection database for the Field Survey teams and Aerial Photography team has been completed. The structure of the database tables have been completed in detail and all of the data entry forms finished. Data collection for these activities follows guidelines set out in the relevant collection manuals.

    Data transfer from the National Monuments Record and from the County Sites and Monuments Records began in late August. There have been some delays in the data transfer due to the technical problems with some Sites and Monuments Records. To overcome these problems, the MARS project has been working closely with English Heritage.

    A temporary assistant has been employed to speed-up the data transfer to the Field Survey team and Aerial Photographic team. Miss Kate Anderson joined the project on the 31 October 1994. Kate graduated from Glasgow University in 1992 with an MA in Archaeology and she has just completed her Msc. in Archaeological Computing at the University of Southampton.

    Eighteen sites and monuments records have now provided data to the project as electronic files, with another seven only being able to provide data as paper print-outs and maps of their records. Another dozen counties are expected to provide data from their Sites and Monuments Records very shortly. This will enable us to transfer the data to the MARS database by the end of December. Also by the end of December this information will be cross referenced with the National Monuments Record to compile the definitive list of monuments that MARS will investigate.

    ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT

    Jane McMullen and Michelle Tubbs provide the MARS Project's administrative support and are the first point of contact for both internal and external enquiries and requests.

    They will both be involved in visiting each of the data collection teams, experiencing the daily operation of each programme and the sorts of support each team needs, in order to carry out efficient data collection. They are in part, also responsible for maintaining communication between all teams and with those organisations directly involved with the Project.

    NEWS, OFFERS & REQUESTS

    Video Offer
    A short video presenting the objectives of the Project has been produced. Entitled "Still standing after all these years", the 10 minute film illustrates the nature of each data collection programme, the practicalities of data collection, and some of the many values of the overall initiative. If you would like a copy of the video please send a cheque or postal order for 6.00 (payable to Bournemouth University) to the address given at the end of this issue.

    Damage Surveys and Monitoring Reports
    MARS would like to hear about any studies which have surveyed and monitored monument condition over a period of time. We are particularly interested in any work undertaken on monuments in the 12 single monument classes listed above, but would welcome information on other monument classes too.

    These may be in the form of regular monitoring for management agreements, or for experimental purposes to investigate the effects of landscape, land-use, visitor pressure or whatever on single monuments. Examples from anywhere in Britain or beyond are sought; whilst MARS is examining England's resource, we are conscious of the wider British and European context.

    MARS is also interested in hearing any opinions on the issues of condition and decay and their relevance to the quality or legibility of archaeological deposits.

    Any information should be addressed to Nicola King, the MARS Research Co-ordinator, who can be reached by telephone on 0202 595415, or in writing at the MARS address below.

    Bibliography of condition surveys
    The National Survey Team is compiling a bibliography of all the surveys and studies dealing with monument condition which have been carried out over the last 50 years. These include surveys of specific monument classes, discrete geographical regions, urban areas, or landscape types. Many such surveys were carried out in the 1970s and 1980s and were reported in relatively ephemeral publications with limited circulations. Some were connected with appraisals of areas for development purposes, others had a more research orientated purpose.

    We are trying to construct a bibliography of these studies and would welcome information in one of the following formats: a full Harvard style reference (including notes on length and content), a copy of the cover page with the main bibliographic details shown, or, better still, a copy of the whole report.

    Any information should be addressed to Andrew Fulton, the MARS Project Manager, who can be reached by telephone on 01202 595415, or in writing at the MARS address below:

    MARS Project Office, Department of Conservation Sciences
    Bournemouth University, Fern Barrow, Poole, Dorset. BH12 5BB
    Tel: (01202) 595430 Fax: (01202) 595255


    © The MARS Project 1996.