BACAS is pleased to announce that all its preparations are complete and the society is now ready for exit from the EU. New procedures will be rolled out for all future projects.
Director of Archaeology Bill Harding explained: “We knew Brexit would be a challenge for us and other societies so we assumed the Council for British Archaeology would be publishing some guidance. It became clear that their main concerns were the removal of EU funding and a shortage of skilled workers and, quite frankly, those two things have never worried us. So we pushed ahead with our own plan and that is primarily to do with measurement, an issue the CBA has completely ignored.”
The EU forced the UK to adopt metric measures as a condition of membership and this was enshrined in the Weights and Measures Act 1985. Now leading politicians such as Bill Cash and Peter Bone and the journalist Simon Heffer are calling for a return to imperial measurement. Harding said “We are going to exercise our taking back control by using yards, feet and inches on all fieldwork. Some remoaners have said it will make calculations more difficult but, to be frank, most of our members are of such an age that they work better in imperial. Ask them to estimate the depth of a deposit in a trench and they will tell you instantly in inches – if you ask for centimetres you could have a bit of a wait.”
Head of Geophysics Ally Gater admits to being more sceptical initially. “I thought we would have to switch from 20 metre grids to 20 yard grids. The problem is that a square yard is just 80% of the area of a square metre. A four day survey would now take five days. It was going to create a lot more work.”
But an ingenious solution was found. “Someone said why not use a chain? This solved the problem! As you know, a chain is 22 yards and this is just over 20 metres. So we will be setting out grids with sides of one chain and will actually see a productivity gain of 1% because of the slightly bigger squares.”
Harding is dismissive of criticisms that calculations would be more fiddly: “A chain divides neatly into other measures, for example there are 10 chains in a furlong and 80 chains in a mile which is handy for mapping, and don’t forget one chain is made up of four rods or 66 feet. Chains were used successfully by surveyors and archaeologists for centuries. In fact, we thought it would be good to revert to using original metal surveyor’s chains – they don’t stretch or break.”
However, in field trials, Gater found a problem with the metal chains: “The magnetometer went bananas. It’s back to plastic, I’m afraid.”
Harding does admit there may be a few problems in the transition period. “There is an issue with the geophysics software as it doesn’t handle imperial units but we expect a technological solution will turn up from somewhere.”
The new BACAS fieldwork procedures go live from today, Monday April 1st.
Surveyor’s chain photo by Roseohioresident – Own work, Public Domain