It is a long whispered part of archaeological folklore that at midnight on Mid-Winter Eve 1935 Sir Mortimer Wheeler met with pseudo archaeologist and Ley Lines researcher Alfred Watkins and the legendary occultist Aleister Crowley on the summit of the Iron Age hillfort of Maiden Castle in Dorset, where Wheeler was then conducting excavations on behalf of the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Dorset Field Club.
What precisely happened that night remains subject for conjecture, at least until the files of the Security Service relating to the event are released from a hundred year embargo at the National Archive in 2035.
What is known however is that ever since a highly secret ceremony known as the “Casting of the Trowels” has been held on each anniversary of the Maiden Castle event where, it is rumoured, all the leaders of UK archaeology come together to speak with one voice, making predictions about what will happen in the UK heritage sector during the next twelve months.
In 2014 a highly placed source, who we cannot name, leaked information about that year’s “Casting of the Trowels” to thePipeLine and regularly since then this website has been able to publish information, which we believe may be accurate, about this most closely guarded of archaeological events.
[The only events in archaeology which are more secret are the meetings of representatives of archaeology with Government which are so secret the archaeologists represented are not even told when they happened or what was discussed.]
As 2023 recedes in the rear view mirror, thanks to an anonymous source who found a clandestine video of this year’s “Casting of the Trowels” posted on the Dark Web by British Library hackers the Rhysida gang, thePipeLine is once again able to publish these most sensitive of top secret predictions.
We must make clear no Bitcoin changed hands.
As always we publish the predictions as we received them, with no editorialising and we do so in the public interest. This in spite of a rumoured campaign by senior members of the archaeological profession to suppress the story, which includes blocking suspected authors and sources on Social Media.
The video, which appears to be bodycam footage possible taken by one of the participants, shows masked and skyclad senior members of archaeological organisations, gathered in what appears to be a large and strangely familiar, stone circle, lit by torches.
To the music of a guest Shaman, paid for by event sponsor the Stonehenge Alliance, after intoning the names of the Time Team to all four cardinal points of the compass and the pouring of libations, this year, an Expresso Martini and Blick Mead mineral water, the trowels were cast into the centre of a ritual fire and these predictions were made.
The Judge in the judicial review of the lawfulness of the A303 Stonehenge Tunnel and Upgrade announces his decision. The losing side announces that it is to seek leave to appeal.
On the back of the decision Richard Curtis announces Netflix are to remake “Groundhog Day” moving the setting from rural Pennsylvania to the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.
Tom Holland will be played by Hugh Grant and Punxsutawney Phil by archaeologist Phil Harding.
Archaeologists take to “X” formerly known as Twitter, to complain that Mr Harding is the wrong age to play Punxsutawney Phil and that he is not a Groundhog.
In other news the British Museum does not announce anything scandalous or controversial.
Making up for its silence last month the British Museum chair George Osborne announces the organisation has reached an agreement with its new sponsor BP to licence exploratory drilling for oil and gas in the Great Court of the museum.
GB News reveals former director of alleged AstroTurf campaign group Restore Trust, Zewditu Gebreyohanes, as its new Culture Correspondent.
Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party, and GB News anchor, Lee Anderson threatens to resign from the broadcaster in protest telling the Express newspaper,
“Ooh needs a “Culture Correspondent, the only culture my common sense constituents know abaht is yoghurt and yoghurt is fookin’ woke!” adding,
“And if them Elgin Marbles came to Britain illegally they should fook off back to Greece!”
Neil Oliver claims the appointment of Ms Gebreyohanes is part of a woke conspiracy.
Following an unfortunate incident involving Prime Minister Rishi Sunak using rhyming slang in an attempt to tell a joke about Chancellor Jeremy Hunt at Prime Minister’s Questions, and with the budget statement due on 6 March, current British Museum Chair and former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is spotted getting out of a car in Downing Street.
Shortly afterwards at a Downing Street press conference Mr Osborne is announced as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer by Prime Minister David Cameron as “Prime Minister” Rishi Sunak looks on.
Mr Osborne’s last act as Chair of the British Museum is to agree a new multi million pound sponsorship deal with E-Bay.
At the subsequent Budget Statement Mr Osborne denies that his return to the Treasury ushers in a return to the austerity of the 2010 Cameron Government.
The Budget Red Book reveals swinging cuts to non-protected departments such as the Department for Culture Media and Sport and for local government.
The Government appoints Lee Anderson MP as Chairman of the British Museum Board.
His first act is to persuade the Trustees of the British Museum agree to ratify the sponsorship deal with E-Bay.
Answering criticism of the deal a spokesperson for the Museum says,
“It makes complete sense for a world famous institution like the BM to link up with another world famous body with which we, and our collection, already have such close links.”
Increasingly desperate to turn around the deficit in the opinion polls Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces a ban on higher education because students taking degrees might choose to become academics who could then teach courses which might attract foreign students.
Mr Sunak also announces a last minute plan to privatise UK archaeology along the lines of the railways, privatised in the last days of the Major Government of 1992 to 1997.
Under the plan Historic England will be rebranded as Great British Heritage and the Department for Culture Media and Sport will create a series of regional franchises, with archaeological infrastructure and equipment from Hi-Mac 360 Degree tracked excavators to WHS trowels supplied by a new quango to be called Network Arch.
An industry consortium led by the British Archaeological Jobs Resource [BAJR] bids to run Network Arch, but loses out to a company named “Archpro” which has no previous experience in the heritage sector and which was registered at Companies House by Baroness Mone and her husband the week before the new Government policy was announced.
A Government spokesperson denies the new arrangements will ensure archaeologists in England will become increasingly expensive, usually late and often won’t turn up at all.
Asked about the controversial plan for archaeology a spokesperson for Sir Keir Starmer says the Labour Leader is still considering policy options and nothing is ruled in or out.
At the Local Elections thousands of candidates of all parties stand for office in the hope of being elected to carry out the latest wave of Government generated cuts to local services, sell off community assets and close museums, libraries and galleries.
Elsewhere, there is a set back in the AI Revolution as a pilot scheme from the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers [FAME] to replace qualified archaeologists with AI bots in the writing of archaeological post excavation reports are abandoned when the bots go on strike and demand to be switched to a career with better pay, job prospects and quality of life.
As a result the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers announces that it intends to seek a Memorandum of Understanding with the AI bots.
NB: If Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calls a General Election to be held in May these predictions may be even less accurate than usual.
The English Heritage Midsummer Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge are sponsored by National Highways.
Baroness Mone is spotted cruising the Mediterranean in a new super yacht.
Quizzed by the media Baroness Mone claims that under a perfectly legitimate fast track process, supported by her MP and several friends in the cabinet, her new company “MariArchPro” has beaten more established archaeological contractors to undertake maritime archaeology projects for Great British Heritage.
More established archaeological contractors say,
“What do you mean there was a contract on offer?”
In international news, following encouraging comments about the potential repatriation of the Parthenon Friezes made in February by Lee Anderson MP, the Greek Prime Minister, Culture Minister, and the Parthenon Project join a roll call of museum experts, academics and Hellenophiles to call on the British Government to reach a deal to return the sculptures to Athens.
Now chairman of the British Museum Board of Trustees Lee Anderson MP tells them that after detailed consideration of the international opportunities which come with co-operating with a European partner in an unprecedented cultural exchange, which could benefit the whole world, and with due consideration of polling which suggests the UK public support the return of the friezes, the Greeks can,
As it celebrates its eightieth year the Council for British Archaeology Festival of British Archaeology takes place across the UK, celebrating the unique role of heritage and identification with time and place in building communities and sharing cultures.
The CBA has never been more important as a means of communicating archaeology to the nation as cuts at the BBC lead to the announcement that the next series of flagship archaeology programme “Dig for Britain” will be moved on line and will now consist of selfies and Tik-Tok videos, accompanied by a studio panel discussion.
Chaired by Professor Alice Roberts, the panel discussions will be between Executive Director of the CBA Neil Redfern, Lee Anderson MP and someone from a Tufton Street think tank.
FAME are invited also to take part in the “Dig for Britain” panel discussions by the BBC, but threaten to report the BBC to Ofcom for harassment saying they are a private body and are not obliged to make themselves accountable to anyone, least of all licence fee payers and people who pay for the developments their members help facilitate.
Following last month’s announcement by the BBC about changes to the format of “Dig for Britain” other areas of the traditional broadcast media are also under pressure to cut costs because of falling advertising revenue and declining audiences.
High level discussions are held by Channel 4 between the producers of “The Great British Dig” and the rebooted “Time Team” regarding a possible merger of the two programme strands.
The merger goes ahead, but nobody notices any difference except that Hugh Dennis looks taller than Tony Robinson and has fewer associations with a turnip.
Meanwhile new Chair of Governors of the British Museum Lee Anderson MP continues to make his mark.
Mr Anderson announces that to make the collection more widely available and to prevent a continuing drain on the public purse, the physical archive of the British Museum is to be fully digitised.
Under the programme the most famous items will be kept for public display, while the rest will be melted down for scrap, or sold on E-Bay.
A secret feasibility study regarding the British Museum digitisation project is leaked to the media and is reported as stating this programme has been running unofficially for some years.
A furious Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancels meetings with the Scottish and Welsh First Ministers after an interview with Laura Kuensburg during she asks them about the repatriation of the Mold Gold Cape and the Lewis Chessmen.
The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists [CIfA] and the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers [FAME] mark the first anniversary of their Memorandum of Understanding by releasing a new Memorandum of Understanding.
FAME makes clear that as far as it understands,
“The archaeological profession should understand that, understandably given the current economic situation and the equally understandable need to secure contracts at a reasonable cost to developers, there can be no significant improvements in pay and conditions for sector workers.”
A new cohort of would be archaeologists enter Higher Education with high hopes of a glittering academic career, or the opportunity to make discoveries in the field which will re-write the history books.
Some will, and some might even see their departments survive long enough for them to graduate from in three years time.
At least one leading University will axe its archaeology courses because of the debts it incurred in an ill-advised property deal over student accommodation.
The student accommodation development is delayed because of a shortage of archaeologists to fulfil a planning condition.
Bonfire Night: Across the United Kingdom listed buildings, pubs and other historic sites loved by communities, but which are in the way of developers, will catch fire mysteriously in the middle of the night.
In other news, the National Trust holds its AGM.
Rejuvenated under new leadership, while smarting from the failure of its Red White and Blue whisky and foie gras flavoured entry to win “Scone of the Year”, the allegedly opaquely funded would be entryist group “Restore Trust” fails again in its annual attempt to have “anti-woke” candidates elected to the Trust’s Council, but it does get lots of coverage in the Telegraph and on GB News.
On his GB News show Neil Oliver claims the latest failure is due to a “woke conspiracy”.
Other archaeologists claim, “if only we were that organised”.
NB: If Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calls a General Election to be held in November these predictions may prove even less accurate than usual.
With a new Government in place and after another year when archaeology and other environmental considerations in the planning process remain under threat, the museum sector remains under staffed and under resourced, the Portable Antiquities Scheme groans under the stress of unregulated Metal detecting rallies’ which continue to strip mine the heritage environment and populist opinions about heritage matters continue to make headlines in the media, a group of archaeologists get together to discuss why nobody is taking any notice of what real archaeologists think?
To try to effect a reset in the discussion of archaeology in Britain’s cultural and economic life they circulate a letter among archaeologists demanding that the dial on discussion of heritage matters is shifted.
Nobody outside of archaeology notices.
Meanwhile Lee Anderson MP forgets his Windows password and the entire British Museum digital archive disappears.
Still, there is always 2025…maybe?
Happy New Year!