Thursday, July 5, 2007

Mistreatment of the Long Man of Wilmington

This famous site is under the stewardship of the Sussex Archaeological Society, and was given in trust to the Society in 1925. The terms of the gift include keeping it safe from injury, damage and defacement, and to keep it free from weeds, etc allowing public access to the land around the figure at all reasonable times.
One would think that this policy could be adhered to easily but no, this is the 21st century and the media on the lookout for cheap publicity has to intrude in the form of a popular ITV programme featuring two famous females whose job it is to dress its badly attired viewers properly. The particular form of abuse that the television show perpetuated on the monument was to ask 80 women to lie down surrounding the Long Man and to give him the form of a woman – all this in the name of 'female empowerment' and a quick gimmick to be featured in the programme.
The Long Man of Wilmington has been dated by written evidence to 1711, but it has many folktales in its history and could in fact be dated much earlier. In recent times it has become the focus for Pagan ceremonies, and they have naturally been infuriated by this blatant intrusion and superficial use of a cherished monument.
The Sussex Archaeological Society laid down certain strictures to the tv company and in their press release have stated that:

"Our professional staff judged that the activities involved in filming this sequence, essentially walking and lying on the monument, will not damage the archaeology underneath. Thousands of Scheduled Ancient Monuments are walked on every year, not least Stonehenge at the recent solstice."

True enough, the archaeology may or may not have been damaged, but surely a respect for our historical and archaeological past should be the first call of any historic Society and they should definitely not set a precedent of historical sites being used for cheapskate shows. One further point, the Sussex Society states that "monuments are walked on every year, not least Stonehenge at the recent Solstice". Heritage Action would also like to point out that most of the people who attended the Solstice were there for a good reason which was to watch the sunrise appearing above the horizon and bathing the stones in its light - they were experiencing an age-old event that has happened for five thousand years, very different from a two minute frivolous television appearance making a questionable statement!
For a detailed report of what took place in the name of entertainment at a Scheduled Ancient Monument, follow the link to The Modern Antiquarian and view the report from Heritage Action's South East Site Inspector, Jim Mitchell:

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