The archaeological community was shaken to its core yesterday morning when confidential government documents were published on the whistle-blower website ‘WikiLeaks.’ Originating from an undisclosed Whitehall source, the papers reveal the coalition government has been planning a large-scale cull of National monuments to take place with immediate effect.
News of the cull follows the Government’s ‘Comprehensive Spending Review’, slashing £81 billion from public spending. The Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) faces overall budget cuts of 24% over the next 4 years, raising fears that the most vulnerable monuments will be hit hardest. First on the list is Stonehenge, which will be phased out over the course of 2011, and will be bulldozed to create a level playing field for the 2012 Olympics. Low maintenance Woodhenge however, will enjoy a brief reprieve. Benefiting from the ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ effect, it will be merged with Sutton Hoo, and will now be known as Woo Hoo.
The merger was met with total dismay by leading figures in archaeology. TV personality and famous archaeologist Tony Robinson is said to be ‘devastated’ by the cull, and has threatened to leave the county in protest. Unfortunately this has served to harden the coalition’s resolve, and they have fast tracked monuments scheduled for demolition in any Parish that ever hosted an episode of Time Team.
Declined to Comment
Seamus O’Mara, spokesperson for the IFA said ‘the Irish Farmers Association is very concerned.’ Other organizations were less forthcoming, including ‘The Committee for the Discussion of Important Insights into Great Matters of Archaeological Interest’ which has so far declined to comment, but insiders say that Chief Executive Dr Simon Thurley will say something important, insightful and interesting very soon. Critics have argued that the cull will decimate the country’s flailing tourist industry, but members of the public questioned by Diggingthedirt seemed largely unimpressed and even acquiescent.
“I come here for a view, a brew and the loo,” said Michael Black, adding “to be honest, I’m not that arsed.”
Economists have argued that the coalition is walking a tightrope, attempting to bring down the deficit without killing off the growth of new monuments. But sources close to the government challenged this view; far from killing off growth, they argue the 20-30% cut in monuments will free up space for new types of monument, such as Second World War pillboxes, and knackered Transit vans. The government was also bullish about a private sector driven recovery, pointing out that commercial archaeology jobs are set to benefit through monument demolition contracts. Cambridge Archaeology graduate and Deputy PM Nick Clegg has had his strings pulled to ensure historic houses and stately homes will also profit, both from the rise in visitor numbers and the government’s generous tax breaks to other multi-millionaire sons of privilege.
Seasoned Whitehall watchers have suggested that leaks are a cynical attempt by a morally bankrupt government to soften up the public – carefully choreographing expectations of a cull in order to push through ‘less bad’ but equally horrifying cuts to public service heritage bodies.
But diggingthedirt couldn’t possibly comment, preferring instead to make like a bird, and get the flock out of here. For anyone else feeling less flighty and more fighty, connect with these guys:
Archaeologists Against the Cuts: Here
Archaeologists for Global Justice: Here
Coalition of Resistance: Here
Good luck to Neil Faulkner, Umberto Albarella, Brian Hole and other archaeologists brave enough to stick their head above the parapet.
You do us all a service.