Information has been provided to the Police in relation to instances of wilful criminal damage caused to separate sites managed by Manx National Heritage.
Manx National Heritage, the national heritage agency for the Isle of Man, is appealing for users of the Island’s countryside and ancient monuments to respect and appreciate the history of the Island after a spate of damage in recent weeks.
In Maughold, two of the ancient standing stones at Cashtal yn Ard have been defaced with imprints of female figures. The figures appear to have been created by a woman applying chalk to her legs, hands and torso and then pressing herself against the stone.
Andrew Johnson, Manx National Heritage Inspector of Ancient Monuments said:
“This is a serious act of vandalism to an ancient monument. The stones at Cashtyl yn Ard form part of a megalithic chambered tomb, dating back to around 4000 BC. The stones are heavily colonised by lichens, which will have taken decades to grow and it may take a couple of years for the marks to disappear completely.
Our professional conservator will now attempt to remove the damage using specialist techniques and the public are asked not to try to remove the damage themselves as this may mark the stones for decades to come”.
Damage has also occurred at Ballawoods Keeill in Santon, where a tent has been pitched within the Keeill, which is located on private land. The keeill site has been damaged by the creation of a fire pit and litter left on the site. The chapel (Manx, keeill) stands on the banks of the Santon Burn on land forming part of the farm of Ballawoods in Malew. The keeill is one of a network of Christian sites which covered the island and were used as places of worship and burial before the creation of the parishes familiar today. Almost 200 of these sites are known, although visible traces of only about 40 are apparent today. The earliest sites are known to have been in existence 1,400 years ago, and the last of them went out of use less than 900 years ago when the parish system came into being. The keeills are a type of site which is iconic on the Isle of Man. Although similar chapels are found elsewhere in the Celtic world, the sheer numbers which are known on the Island are unparalleled.
Because of their importance and significance, many of the sites where visible remains survive are protected under the terms of the Manx Museum and National Trust Act: both Ballawoods keeill and Cashtal yn Ard are protected in this way. Any burning activity at an archaeological site can compromise the archaeological deposits which are present. Archaeologists use scientific techniques to date ancient burnt material, but if this is contaminated by more recent charred material, the dates will be inaccurate.
There have also been reports of open fires being lit causing damage at Cronk ny Merriu and a further two fires at Maughold Head car park.
Andrew Johnson continued:
“We are saddened by the recent damage to the Island’s historic sites. In some cases this extends to ancient monuments dating back thousands of years, with damage that can never be put right.
Damage to our historic sites is something we take seriously and can have serious consequences for those responsible, including prosecution”.
Under the Manx Museum and National Trust Act 1959, any person injuring or defacing the Isle of Man’s historic monuments is liable to prosecution, possible imprisonment and a fine of up to £5,000.
Pc Louise Kennaugh of the Southern Neighbourhood Policing Team states:
”The information provided to me about the unique history of the sites that have been targeted by irresponsible people just astounds me. It is quite obvious that all sites are an important part of our Island’s history and what makes our home and our countryside unique and fascinating. We should all be working together with Manx National Heritage to protect such areas. We should be visiting these areas with our children and teaching the next generation to care for them and respect them not setting fires, camping and littering and defacing them. I urge anyone who has any information at all to make contact with me as it our responsibility as residents of the Island to protect our history for generations to come”.