Monuments to the Future

Flipped

Stonehenge, imagine being there, about 5000 years ago, when people first started building the earthwork enclosure.  If you could linger, perhaps five hundred years later, you may have witnessed the first stone circle being erected.  If you were able to revisit in another two hundred years time, you could have helped remodel the monument and created the unique arrangement of hanging stones which are celebrated to this day.

Earth Avenue

Yet, it is easy to focus on the construction, physical representations of a will to transform, and overlook the long moments of reality when monuments were actively used. Monumental statements (fetishistic moments of monumentality) sit comfortably with contemporary concerns for master plans and iconic buildings : architect-planner-deity.    Perhaps monuments such as Stonehenge, dangerously legitimise the short term political gestures (remember the difficult birth of the Millennium Dome !), grand projects of great people, and as such belittle the everyday, annual or generational uses of places we value?

Mounds

So it is with interest  I have watched over the past few years the emergence of a new complex of stones at Crawick : which if witnessed by the monument obsessed archaeologist of the future could readily, mirroring contemporary archaeo-parlance, be described as a ‘monumental landscape’ but in the absence of overt function be easily classed as a ‘ceremonial landscape’ or ‘ritual landscape’.  Yet Crawick is of its time, as post-industrial imagineering, an overt expression of regeneration, a cosmological dream beyond the short half-life of industrial decay.

Industrial Shadow

A solution to the problem of the blasted legacies of open cast coal extraction.

Terraformed

Emergent

New Mound

Imagine

So again, like Stonehenge, we are encouraged to focus on the monumentality of the project, the grand vision of the architect god.  Yet it may represent a moment in time which is worth studying, as a contemporary archaeology, as an unfolding of possible futures.  Crawick landforming (phase 1) completed 2015, how will decades and centuries of humanity respond to this new space ?

Wandering

Our opportunity is to engage in the moments between monumentality : phase 1 completed 2015 and Crawick landforming (phase 2) due to be commenced in 2215 !  What potentials lie in new birthed spaces, what opportunities to explore and express in the longer flow of time ?

So perhaps at generational monuments like Stonehenge, what sang through the ages, was the joy of the use of the space, dance and music, life and death transforming to place.

Perhaps such monumental places should be other worldly, liminal zones.  Places where we can encounter a pantheon of archetypes, explore the boundaries of humanity and through activities (perhaps challenging our definitions of art, culture and heritage) find pathways to revitalise earth from disturbed ground.

Contemplation

Sound Around

Flight

Ascent Sky Epiphany

Contact

In the line

I found my ... on Silbury Hill

Undetected

Direct

Form

Poised

Motion

Extend

Transitions

Journeys

Gift

Believe

 

Extended

Place is made, not by those who assert their will upon space,

Released

but by the people who dwell there.

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Following an encounter with another Land Formation by Charles Jencks, I learned about the plans for Crawick and visited in May 2014 when ‘land-forming’ works were underway.  A subsequent visit was undertaken in June 2014 when we were kindly allowed in the site to see the work in progress.  The next encounter with Crawick was when it was launched in June 2015.  The opening weekend was alive with the wonderful performance by Alex Rigg and Oceanallover which forms the basis of the peopled images above : and the only time when the monument made sense !

A further visit was undertaken in February 2016 with Kenny Brophy and Public Humanities students from University of Glasgow during which we had a heated debate about the cosmological frame of reference of the monument forms.  A parallel perspective on this contemporary cosmological space was produced by the Urban Prehistorian.

Collectively these visits, revealed the obvious, it is not the monument that matters or who conceived of it or who built it (sorry !), rather it is how it is used and by who and for how long – and that transcends the meaning assigned by the architect.  Thus the stage has been created and the meaning will be writ in the long term by those who perform upon it and dwell with it.

I wonder how the monument might change in use with Crawick landforming (phase 2), provisionally due to be commenced in 2215… … !

 

 

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Patarei – darkness and light

Patarei  1

From outside,

summer sun graffiti regeneration,

walls white washed realities,

gives sense of warmth and light.

Brief sun glimpses,

trapped in small world exercise yards,

never escape glare of guards.

So try hiding in the warren of corridors

and mouldering rooms.

So try finding the darkness pierced by light.

Patarei Window Light

Fallen signs of medication and disease.

Treatment of deteriorating conditions.

Patarei ward

Traces of nameless and named remained.

Curios,

cabinets,

tidied and arranged

Rooms rummaged,

staged and reworked,

towards artful forgetting

of impositions from above.

Were their ever moments of humour and love?

We linger on,

traces of presences.

Patarei Sight and Sound

We shudder at,

spaces of absence.

Patarei Shadow and Light

We are poised,

semi-ruinous,

Patarei darkness

threatened by the realities of

forgetting

and

decay. 

——————————————————————————

Patarei was one of the most disorienting and disturbing heritage sites I had visited.  Patarei operated as a prison till 2002 and is described ‘as the most notorious prison in Estonia.’  It was recently shortlist nominated as one of the most threatened heritage sites in Europe and as such I thought this post may be of interest in the context of the Europa Nostra nomination by The Estonian Heritage Society.  The images were taken in August 2011, and I am not sure what state it is currently in, but yet to this day, when I think of the visit to Patarei, it still makes me shudder.  It was not always clear what had been left by prisoners, and to what extent it represented their experiences, or where later interventions of art or looting had modified the rooms and corridors.

I remember being struck by learning that Patarei (in 2011) catered for stag and hen parties (providing drink, food and drink) : with the unwitting bride or groom having to spend some time in a cell during the evening.  A form of entertainment which I was uncomfortable with : yet it was an attempt to ‘generate revenue’, to find a reuse for a heritage site.  Like many heritage sites it faces the challenges of finding new uses but in the current economic climate probably will not find sufficient core funding to keep running without some other revenues.  Finding reuse is perhaps even more challenging with a site which could be described as relating to ‘dark-heritage’.  Difficult and painful places, which we must remember, and through which have to reconcile tensions from the past.

There is a deeper story to Patarei, having been built as a military fortress at the instruction of Russian Czar Nicholas I from 1829 to 1840.  The fortress was then converted into a prison, between 1920 and 2005, and became a powerful symbol of national resistance in Estonia to both the communist and Nazi regimes.

Information on Patarei which strikingly sums up the aspirations for historical transformation and regeneration as:

‘This unique example of finest military engineering and architecture of early 19th century has finally, in the 21st century, changed from a longtime symbol of repressions and evil to a favourite hangout for the residents of the nation’s capital and visitors alike, a multifunctional place to spend one’s leisure time and have fun.’

A real challenge in these times perhaps, but I hope the site is not lost through further decay and neglect. Patarei is a remarkable part of the heritage of Estonia, and importantly it contributes to, and resonates in many ways with, the broader history of Europe which we all share.

More about the Patarei Sea Fortress Europa Nostra shortlisting

Door of Secrets

Hiding in the shadows is a metal studded door.

Shadows

Door

It is located on the west face of Pittenweem Tolbooth Steeple, Fife.  A building which dates back to the late 16th century and according to Stell (1982) it is one of only 20 tolbooths in Scotland which date to before 1707.

I was drawn to the door due to its old and weathered character but was soon attracted by letters scratched on its surface.

At one point is the date 1829.

DatesFurther below is inscribed in the wood:

NamesJ BeGole

1854

I am not sure, why these dates have been singled out.  And, if I am reading it correctly, who was J BeGole.  Did they live in Pittenweem?  Or was this a clandestine act of a traveler, perhaps only in the harbour for a matter of hours?

Subsequently, some rapid research, produced a photo on RCAHMS of the Tolbooth, taken in 1882 (at 1 pm) by archaeologist Erskine Beveridge.

Erskine Beveridge RCAHMS ImageBeveridge had been born in Dunfermline in 1851, three years before J BeGole was scratched on the Tolbooth door.

I wonder…

was the name visible to him when he photographed the Tolbooth,

and separated by only 28 years, did it resonate with any meaning to him?

I assume Beveridge would have realised that the door led into the jail cells within the Tolbooth.

Key HoleIf so, he may also have been aware of the stories of those who were locked in the cells in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  The RCAHMS records make no reference to this, while the Places of Workship record largely focuses on architectural details.

It is only in broader sources that you find out in 1704

Beatrix Lang,

Thomas Brown

and

Janet Cornfoot

were accused of Witchcraft

and subject to torture : behind the Door of Secrets.

I have not had time, yet, to find details of primary sources relating to these stories and their veracity.  However, it is clear that there is a horrific account of what may have happened.  Additionally it appears that in 2012 there was vote in the community as whether to erect a memorial to those accused of witchcraft who had suffered.

As always, knowledge and meaning of the past, is partial and diverse: some know of archaeology, history and heritage, some wish to remember and some wish to forget.

It would be greatly appreciated, if anybody has any further information, or suggestions as to the associations or meanings of the dates and name on the door of secrets dating to the 19th century.

But, perhaps, then the door should now reveal its secrets

and have

B Lang 1704, T Brown 1704 and J Cornfoot 1705

(and all the other names of those who may have suffered inside)

inscribed on it ?

——————————————————————————————————————-

Stell, G 1982 ‘The earliest tolbooths: a preliminary account‘, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 111, 445-453.

And other doors which have cause me to ponder:

Beautiful Door

Time Travel, Through The Bronze Door

Door Way to The Imagination

Remembering the Forty Five

Trophée d'Auguste 4Trophée d’Auguste à La Turbie overlooks the French Riviera.

Between 25 and 14 BC the Alps were conquered by Emperor Augustus.  Situated at the frontier of Gaul, the trophy dedicated to the subjugation of Forty Five tribes was created from 7 – 6 BC.  Still a prominent monument in the landscape 2000 years later, it was then a symbol of Imperial dominance.  Yet when it was constructed it required legitimacy from a mythical past, perhaps to evoke demi-god like status upon the Emperor, deliberately situated in part of a landscape associated with the journeys of Hercules (Heracles Monoikos), referred by some as the ‘Heraclean Way’.

Trophée d'Auguste 1 The site was remodeled in the Medieval period as a fortress, which was inhabited to 1705, at which point it was largely dismantled to provide stone for the construction of the adjacent village.

Trophée d'Auguste 2In 1913 consolidation and reconstruction with remains from the site (anastylosis) commenced.

Trophée d'Auguste 3This process continued in 1934 by Jules Formigé but with more significant reconstruction with new materials. To the extent on the west side a marble slab (17.45 m x 2.66 m) was re-created, in part from original fragments found at the site, and based on an account of the original transcription in Pliny the Elders Naturalis Historia. 

It reads:

To the Emperor Caesar, Son of Divus Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, Imperator fourteen Times, and invested with the Authority of the Tribune seventeen Times : the Senate and People of Rome : For that under his Conduct and Auspices, all the Alpine Nations which reached from the Upper Sea to the Nether, were reduced under the Empire of the People of Rome. The Alpine Nations subdued:  Triumpilini, Camuni, Vennonetes, Isarci, Breuni, Naunes, and Focunates. Of the Vindelici four Nations: the Consuanetes, Virucinates, Licates, and Catenates. The Abisontes, Rugusce, Suanetes, Calucones, Brixentes, Lepontii, Viberi, Nantuates, Seduni, Veragri, Salad, Acitavones, Medulli, Uceni, Caturiges, Brigiani, Sogiontiiy Ebroduntii, Nemaloni, Edenates, Esubiani, Veamini, Gallitce, Triulatti, Ectini, Vergunni, Eguituri, Nementuri, Oratelli, Nerusivelauni, Suetri.

Names of peoples long forgotten by most…

Monaco GoatThe site however overlooks Monaco,

its name derived in antiquity from Heracles Monoikos

More importantly, perhaps, the Victory Monument towers above the site of Oppidum du Mont des Mules.  The site of the Ligurian fortification created perhaps about 250 BC which would have been subjugated during the campaign of Emperor Augustus.Oppida BuildStill the stone ramparts, of this tribal center, stand.  An alternative claim

on the landscape

from the Roman dominance

above.

The lines of the ramparts can still be

traced,

Oppidum du Mont De Mules 1Dressed blocks showing the scale of what was once before.

RampartQuarried from the hill top, reconfigured, bounded in stone.

Oppidum du Mont De Mules 2Its ramparts, so close, as its wider landscape, to still be part of Monaco below.

Oppidum du Mont De Mules 3But go off the path, and you can find gestures which evoke different views of the world.

Offerings 1 Offerings 2   Not simply one stone, embellished as a tribal head.

Rather a component of a bigger piece, a cairn with other stones embellished.

The individual pieces expressed in different terms but together creating a visible statement of unity.

Offerings 3One had a stenciled profile of a building, and I wonder what the hidden faces of other

stones

would

reveal.

But then from the view point at Oppidum du Mont des Mules,

another world

was revealed

below…

Way Below…Casino de Monte-Carlo,

shaken and stirred,

I reflected on the

forty five tribes.

 ———————————————————————————————————————

The visit to these sites was part of a study tour to the Maritime-Alps which followed the salt routes from the coast to the inland mountainous landscapes.

Further information:

Trophée d’Auguste à La Turbie

Pliny’s Natural History For the 45 tribe passage quoted above see page 192-193

Oppidum du Mont des Mules

Via Julia Augusta

Monaco Museum of Prehistory

Old SignageOlder Interpretive Plan of Oppidum du Mont Des Mules.

Sign of the TimesRecent Interpretive Signage of Le Trophée d’Auguste

How times change !

Beautiful Door

Beautiful Door 1 A patchwork of bronze can be found on the Beautiful Door.

Beautiful Door 2Exquisite detailing,

Beautiful Bronzeis  made all the more remarkable as it is said to have originated from the Temple of Tarsus, in eastern Turkey, in the second century BC.  Monumental bronze over 2000 years old, wrapped around a wooden core.

Bronze and Wood It is said to have been moved to Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, by Emperor Theophilos in the 9th century AD.  Even now, over 1000 years later, it is a significant threshold, a last exist to the tourist.  So long has the Beautiful Door stood here that subsequent floors have been built around it, the lower portion sealed beneath the ground, now unable to close.

Unopened

 

Heritage Futures of the Past

MSC

This sign has probably been up for more than 25 years…!

The sign reminded me about the ways in which the conservation and regeneration of heritage sites can provide a focus for hopes and aspirations for the future.

The sign is located on the side of Charlestown Limekilns, Fife, which were originally constructed between 1759 and 1790.  When I last visited the site in 2012, this nationally important heritage site was partially overgrown and had obvious significant conservation needs.

Charlestown LimekilnsThe sign is also a reminder of other difficult economic times, which were also very turbulent in social and political terms for many parts of the UK.

The ‘Community Programme‘ was one of a series of government training schemes of the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) which attracted a lot of controversy at the time.  However, through MSC many archaeological excavations and heritage restoration projects were undertaken in the early and mid 1980’s before it stopped in 1987.

TunnelsThe lime kilns imposing industrial forms, were constructed from stone quarried from the sandstone cliffs of the raised beaches of the Firth of Forth, against which they were built.  They now comprise a small network of spaces which made up the bank of kilns.  The functioning of the kilns is explained in interpretative signage, showing the scale of the operation which was as much focused on the upper surfaces of these massive structures.

Heritage InterpretationTwo of the kilns, had clearly been re-purposed, wooden shuttering creating what may have been workshop or storage spaces, probably during the 1980’s Community Programme Project.  I don’t know whether these timber insets were planned as no more than a temporary reuse.  Or perhaps the intention, the heritage future of the past, was to convert all the kilns to a more permanent reuse, which no longer became possible when the MSC funding was cut.

Imagined futures of the past then remaining derelict to this day.

AbandonmentHowever, when we look back on other examples of heritage futures of the past at such difficult times we can see different results.

Then and NowOne example is the industrial cotton mill village founded in 1784 by David Dale and Richard Arkwright and now transformed into the internationally important New Lanark World Heritage site.  When cotton production ceased in 1968 the condition of structures at New Lanark deteriorated to the extent there was need for major restoration by the 1980’s.  This resulted in an ambitious project as part of which there were ‘up to 250 workers per annum on building restoration, funded by Manpower Services Commission Community Programme.’ in the 1980’s.

Newlanark Canmore ImagePresumably if there had not been such an ambitious intervention (and without the sustained passion, enthusiasm and commitment of individuals and organisations who champion heritage sites) New Lanark would have continued to deteriorate and there would have been no World Heritage Site designation.  The associated opportunities for education, tourism and other forms of cultural activity would have been lost.  In an alternative heritage future of the past, we would now have been left with ruinous shells, or perhaps due to safety issues or a desire for quick development of a ‘brown field site’ it would have been torn down and today we would be left with a poor quality flatted development of the 1990’s building boom.

 New LanarkHistoric building regeneration projects can be enormously challenging in technical and financial terms but when completed provide enormous potential to generate hubs of social, economic and cultural activity.  There is a huge resource which provides remarkable opportunities but it takes real vision and determination to deliver such projects.

If we are serious as a society about sustainability, if we want to live in richly textured places, if we want to be part of communities who have a proud sense of identity, we can not keep ignoring the opportunities which historic buildings provide.  Wiping the slate clean, and flinging up a new build, is not always the best option in the long term for society as a whole.  But inaction, (a lack of care and maintenance, no stewardship, no conservation and absence of enhancement of historic buildings), has essentially the same result, just more slowly…

with time

the building is lost to society for ever.

Thus heritage professionals have an important role in reminding people to think in the longer term.  But perhaps we should also be challenging others, such as architects and developers, to propose imaginative new schemes to re-purpose and re-vitalise heritage assets whose value (in social and cultural terms) when actively used only increases with time.

On a positive note the newly launched Inner Forth Landscape Initiative has identified a project for the clearance of vegetation and consolidation of the Charlestown Limekilns, surely a step in the right direction for a new heritage future.

———————————————————————————————————————

The black and white image is from the Professor John Hume archive, taken in 1981, and is available from RCAHMS Canmore.  Part of the caption for the image explains:

This view shows the roof of part of the New Buildings being repaired by men employed under the Community Programme of the Manpower Services Agency. The belfry on the left was originally on one of the spinning mills.’

A great example of re-purposing, recycling and renewal.

Cultural Capital – the Santiago Pilgrimage

We move to the final panel of the Santiago triptych,

upon which I found myself drawn to

The Two Towers

on a distant hillside.

BeyondMoving through the city…

Crossingbeyond the dual carriageway,

into the peri-urban,

stone marking transitions.

Peri-UrbanityTrafficless I ascended.

RouteAn uncertain entrance.

Entrance Light dancing on the polished steel of hope.

SignageEngineering Culture

amongst steel beams and rods,

Bones watery inner belly exposed,

Bowelswaiting

encasement in concrete

before facadification.

CladdingOld Distant Towers.

CityscapeSignal to the New.

Glimpses Glass and granite clad

organic forms

flow

across the hillside.

Cultural Capital 4Baleen   The Two Towers                   drew                      me                              towards them.

Cultural Capital 3 Cultural Capital 2Twin TowersBefore I realised,

I had crossed the

threshold.

ThresholdBroken shadows danced across the raw concrete.

Cut by ShadowsFalling shards.

FallingTrapped

the body

beneath.

FallenDescending to another level,

traces of others

before

me.

EmbellishedUnfinished displays.

RevealedHidden from site,

I found The Three Towers…

Micro-towersReturned,

to the city

boundary

marked by

standing stone.

Standing StoneAnd thus my pilgrimage ended.

——————————————————————————————————————-
The Two Towers are part of The City of Culture of Galicia (Cidade Da Cultura de Galicia) which when I visited was a building site partially open to the public.  It became apparent, however, as I was ushered out by a workman, that the degree to which The Two Towers were open to the public was ambiguous ! 
The Two Towers are conceived as a memorial to architect John Hejduk (who designed them in 1992 for another project) but also function as a means of ventilating underground galleries and will act as a information centre.  The void between the towers is an exact inverted profile of one of them: so in a sense there are actually Three Towers.
The City of Culture Galicia was designed by architect Peter Eisenman in response to a design competition in 1999.  Based on overlaying a morphed ground plan of Medieval City and five main pilgrimage routes across the hillside of Mount Gaiás.  The City of Culture was conceived as comprising buildings for several major Galician cultural institutions.  It is a remarkable project in many respects, a modern assertion of confidence in Galician cultural identity which converses with the historic environment of Saniago de Compostela.
However, construction commenced in 2001, with a budget of 109 million Euros.  The project required another intervention in 2005 ’12 Actions to Make the Cidade da Cultura Transparent’ by architect Andrés Jaque to raise its awareness in the public consciousness. By 2011 400 million Euros had been spent on construction and in March 2013 work was stopped.    It is unclear as to whether all elements will actually be completed, and how well it will articulate with the Old City.
The standing stone encountered at the end of my journey was erected in 2006 to commemorate the opening of a new suburb, others can be found around the margins of the city.

New Cultural Landscapes

New Cultural Landscapes

Landscapes are a dynamic complex sets of relationships and interactions between natural and human factors, tangible and intangible.  Landscapes always change, some times almost imperceptibly in a human lifetime, other times there is rapid flux which we can readily see.  At times people have actively created new forms of landscape, in some cases by physically transforming them and in other cases by changing perceptions of them.

The future of cultural landscapes is explored in a recently published volume New Cultural Landscapes edited by Maggie Roe and Ken Taylor.  The volume emphasises the lived nature of the multiple relationships, values and qualities which comprise all of our landscapes.

Many of the papers in the volume highlight the active role people have in (re)imagining and (re)creating new cultural landscapes.  Exploring a wide range of issues and case studies, from: the remediation of post-industrial landscapes; the ‘rebranding of landscapes’ by an ecomuseological approach; the transformative nature of conflict on landscapes; the appropriation and use of wastescapes and disasterscapes; the role of film tourism in creating commerical and dream landscapes; landscape urban – rural interactions in developing countries; the rapid growth of New Urban Landscapes in China; through to the challenges of increasingly rapid change in landscapes due to climatic pressures.

For those of you who are interested in the lived and dynamic nature of landscapes, this academic volume, is a useful contribution to the ongoing debate about how we value, manage and enhance all types of landscape.

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You may also be interested in Resilience and the Cultural Landscape.

Flowing Lines – the Santiago Pilgrimage

A few weeks ago, I found myself traveling to Santiago De Compostela, Galicia.  A journey along lines which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims before me will have made over the centuries.  For most an act of faith, along the Way of St James, leading them to the great cathedral overlooking Praza do Obradoiro.  Faced with limited time, my dilemma was, do I experience the ecclesiastical riches that this World Heritage Site has to offer or do I seek contemporary intersections between heritage, landscape and creativity.

Some cities reveal a creative pulse as you arrive on their outskirts, the first indications of life can often be tagging and stickers, as you travel further in you may encounter murals and other street art, which then blends and blurs with public art in the heart of the city.  In the short time I had spent in Santiago De Compostela there was already enough signs of playful creativity…

Dali's PeekEmbelishmentThus I found myself outside the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea (CGAC) before it opened, and to fill a few minutes began to explore a park adjacent to it.  I soon encountered a large piece by Basque Sculptor Eduardo Chillida, Porta da Música: it is said there is a peculiar sound when the wind blows against it !

Porta da MúsicaInevitably, I was drawn to the ruins of a building,

Wash House ?which appeared to be a wash house,

Flowingand then I began to weave and flow up hill.

Past another ruined building,

A Number of Ruinsthe floor of which the stone slabs had been inscribed with numerous numbers.

Numerous NumbersWhether these stones were an artistic intervention, interpretative device or integral to the work of Medieval numerologist was not revealed.

As I flowed further up, a succession of devices led the water down the hill,

Chain FlowFlowFlow 2Until I encountered a stone cut hole

possible water cistern, grotto,

entrance to an underworld.

GrottoSo having flowed to the source, I was led downhill by a different path,

autumn leaves nestled in dry flowing meanders.

LinesLeading to the remains of a contemporary stone circle, what ancient rites have taken place here?

Stone CircleBut despite the joy of finding traces of contemporary prehistory,

moth-like I was drawn towards the walls of white beyond, to be immersed in a cemetery.

CemeteryI was looking so hard at what I was meant to see, the emptied recesses, names and numbers variously inscribed, that I nearly missed the continued flow of lines, no longer in water but this time a flow of stone.

These tiny traces, I first spotted adjacent to the entrance, and could follow, in one

Stone Flow 1two

Stone Flow 2three

Stone Flow 3four compartments

Stone Flow 4Before they turned the corner.

Stone Flow 5The stone then flowed along the length of another four tombs.

Occasional traces of embellishment punctuated the flow.

Stone Flow DetailAnd round the corner they continued.

Stone Flow 6Meandering across another recess

Stone Flow 7and splashing to the other side.

Stone Flow 8Stone Flow 9And then they stopped… was there no more….it made no sense, why only on this side…

Eyes frantically danced across the compartments, and rested on a plume of feathers on the other side of the cemetery.

Feather DetailsStone Flow 10And there the line was…

And across the gap broken by steps,

Stone Flow 11a sherd of brown glass, marked another point of departure.

Meandering through another recess.

Stone Flow 12Shells caught in the flow of stone.

Stone Flow 13Round another corner it continued, then stone upon stone it flowed up the wall…

…beneath shiny marble progressed

Marble DetailsFurther embellishment of feathers…

Feather DetailAnd there, in the fourth compartment along the flow ceased….

Stone Flow 14

Why do stones flow through the cemetery?

There is intent.  There is an order of stones in the cemetery.

The stones are small, discretely positioned, but not hidden.  In the higher, longer runs of stone, they have been placed at the very front edge of the compartments.  Perhaps seeking to be spotted, yet precariously living on the edge. In contrast, the lower flows of stone which meander and splash across the gaps, hug the wall closely, nervous of being disturbed by passers.

The evident dislocation and obscuration of some stones by small plants, suggests they originally flowed some time earlier this year, it is clearly in a process of decay, but not totally ruinous.  The traces of feather embellishment have a regularity, which suggests further feathers may have been placed to create an overall pattern or design.

We can imagine how it may have looked when first completed, resplendent ! But even in its full glory, how many have noticed the flow of stone within the cemetery.

We can only speculate as to who may have produced this, perhaps furtively, with no one else aware of their repeated visits to the cemetery: an individual act, contemplative, obsessive, beautiful in intent ?

Or was this created collectively as part of an art work, a publicly made installation ?

Widely known, much celebrated in the city,

and very occasionally revealed to the

flowing pilgrim.

————————————————————————————————————————

I flowed through the Parque de San Domingos de Bonaval.  It was was the site of a 13th century convent, and after years of abandonment and neglect, was converted into a public space in 1995, about the process for which more details can be found here.
The core of the city is a World Heritage Site, Santiago de Compostela (Old Town),  characterised by a rich ecclesiastical architectural and continued cultural heritage traditions of pilgrimage. There is also further World Heritage Site designations of locations associated with the pilgrimage routes, comprising Route of Santiago De Compostela and Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.  

Burning the Circle

Burning Before the Mountain

The power of the place became apparent long before the burning began.

When the final timber was erected, we knew there was something potent at this location.

Antler Dig

Perhaps it was the result of our physical labour, of breaking earth with antler pick, heaving timbers into place.  Or maybe it was the growing mood of anticipation amongst those who built this place about what was going to come next: a nervous excitement, an uncertainty of what exactly would happen as night fell, and what the following morning would witness.

Spoil Or perhaps it was the way the mountain top back-dropped the site.  Or maybe it was knowing that you had created something tangible, solid, yet nothing more than a series of fleeting frames.

Wooden Circle

And then there was the creation of a central focus, a figure head, a guardian.  Around which deposits were placed, pottery made by the roundhouse located lower down the hillside.

Carving Head

And, as the sunset, we were ready to commence.

Sunset

It was time, the right time, to burn the circle.

As the light faded, as day was stolen by night, we seized back the light, as the timbers began to blaze.

Ceremony 2

It was transformed, another world, another place, of night and fire.

Burning the Circle

For nearly four hours, we fed more fuel, creating an insatiable heat.

The guardian in the centre of the circle looked on.

Glowing sternly, in quiet contemplation of the events.

Guardian of Fire

In the centre, did it sit between one world and another, night and day, past and present, the sacred and the profane.  What strange things did the guardian see ?

Other Worlds

Hours passed so quickly, months of planning, collection of masses of wood, moving soil and timber, the other world we temporarily created burnt less brightly, faded…

…our past.

Worlds Below

Yet we were left the next morning with the proud timbers, survivors around the guardian.

Survivors

Only two companions had fallen in the night, others had burnt nearly through but stood on, what seemed to be precarious bases, slender charcoal sticks.

Fallen Stump

Then we left the other world.

Trowel our instrument of divining the past. A past so recent, its smell permeated our hair and clothes, our eyes still blazed with a reflection of the night before.

Excavation

So, faithful trowel revealed that, despite masses of fuel (nearly five hours of burning in the night), once the wind had blown ash away and when ground was eroded away, beneath the topsoil there would be no significant trace of the burning to the archaeologist of the future.  In time, only the post-holes, would reveal we were ever there at all.

Fragments

Yet as we departed, we knew we left something more behind, a tangible place overlooked by the mountain.

Place of Fire

They say the guardian still watches from the hillside,

most times it stands a lonely vigil.

But I am sure it has visitors, who mark special times,

who seek a place of quiet contemplation,

a place permeated by a vivid, visceral, vibrant, burning past.

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Burning the Circle was a festival of the Bronze Age delivered in July 2013 in partnership with Northlight Heritage, the National Trust for Scotland, the University of Glasgow and the Isle of Arran Brewery to raise awareness of and celebrate the prehistoric remains on the Isle of Arran. 
There is evidence for timber circles having been built on Isle of Arran, on Machrie Moor, over 4000 years ago.  There are some excavated examples of prehistoric ceremonial monuments in Scotland and beyond where the soil has scorched deep into the ground when they were destroyed by fire.  As part of the event, the timber circle was built for experimental firing to begin to explore what archaeological traces the burning of timber structures may leave behind and to better understand what circumstances are most visible to the archaeologist.
Many thanks to Marvin Elliott for undertaking the fantastic carving with bronze tools. The event was greatly helped by the expertise, in other forms of pyro-technology, of Graham Taylor and Neil Burridge: amazing insights from both.  For another perspective on the events, please visit the Urban Prehistorian.  Big thanks to Corinna, Kenny, Richard, Joss, Steven, Katy, Katie, Kate, Ingrid and Derek they made it all possible.  Looking forward to next years event….!