Solving the myriad mysteries of archipelago's sunken landscape
Why are there ten times as many ancient entrance graves on the Isles of Scilly as there are in the whole of the Cornish mainland and what treasures are still to be found in the waters around the archipelago?
These and a host of other puzzles will be under discussion as part of a six-year research programme looking into every aspect of Scillonian history.
Led by Charlie Johns, the senior archaeologist for historic environment projects at Cornwall Council, the aim is to create an academic assessment of the islands and create a strategy to ensure historic sites and artefacts are properly protected.
Mr Johns, who has been studying the history of the Isles of Scilly for more than 20 years, is holding a public information day at the Isles of Scilly Museum in Hugh Town today, when local people are invited to find out more about the project.
"This is a very important development because it will identify gaps in our knowledge about the Islands' historic environment and guide the direction of future research," he said. "We hope to involve interested local people in this process so that there is a sense of community ownership of the research framework."
Work has already begun on the preparation of a Research Framework for the Historic Environment of the Isles of Scilly (SHERF), which was commissioned by English Heritage.
Mr Johns explained that although there is a research framework for the wider South West region, Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly felt that because the islands were a separate entity they needed special treatment.
"There are three stages of the project, the first being to gather what is already known and to identify the gaps. This is where the knowledge and assistance of local people will be invaluable. We are also receiving voluntary contributions from around 30 academics from all over the country."
All aspects of Scilly's past will be studied, from its buildings to marine archaeology, the Civil War to family history, seafaring and farming.
He added that the programme is considered important because although much of the islands' history is documented, a great deal is not. Victorian amateurs taking holidays there simply dug up graves and extracted their contents with little regard for proper identification or preservation.Consequently many important finds are scattered or lost. Isles of Scilly Museum, the Royal Cornwall Museum at Truro and Penlee House in Penzance have good collections, but the location of many more items is not known.
It is hoped to complete a draft plan in time for a seminar in Exeter during the autumn, which will lead to the creation of a research strategy likely to last for five years.
Posted by moss
12th May 2011ce