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August 03, 2017, 12:27 PM

A Controversial Milestone

By Michael Morel

Cornish milestone SalvoWEB

Cornwall, UK - Today the word 'milestone' is used to mark notable achievements along the passage of time. Learning to walk. Getting one's driver's license. A big promotion at work.

Often forgotten are Europe's original milestones - actual stone markers scattered across the continent and beyond, signalling land boundaries, supplying vital directions to weary travellers, or marking the high reach of a river's floodplain.

Milestones occasionally appear on SalvoWEB, though sadly not for sale. Instead they have starred in public advisories for stolen property, and have been successfully returned to their rightful home this way.

Reclaimed materials and antiques are certainly targets for thieves, but missing milestones are sometimes 'stolen' unintentionally. They have a tendency to become lost when displaced during construction projects. Indeed there are few incentives to steal a typical milestone. With so many about they do not usually command high prices. Perhaps more importantly, they tend to be easily identifiable thus making them difficult to pawn.

Even so, milestones hold tremendous value. Collectively they embody a major advancement in humankind's capacity to accurately map and navigate the natural world. Forming a continent-wide network, milestones reinforce seminal modern concepts like national boundaries and property rights. You could say the invention of milestones are a milestone in and of themselves.

The UK's own Milestone Society is dedicated to preserving the many ancient markers throughout the British Isles. In an effort to spread public appreciation for their historical significance, the Austrian Society of Surveying and Geoinformation is endeavoring to gain World Heritage site status for surviving milestones across Europe. They believe these borders should be recognised for having enabled peace and stability between peoples and nations.

With today's headlines, that perspective can be difficult to appreciate. Be it Brexit, Trump's call for a wall with Mexico, Russia's annexation of Crimea, or the mass migration crisis straining Europe's borders, boundaries are a passionate and polarising topic. In today's political climate, commemorating Europe's ability to create boundary lines could be controversial.

Whatever your views on national sovereignty and border policy, it is impossible to deny that boundaries have profoundly shaped and continue to shape human history. The important role of milestones in that story is worth recognising.

The Case for Making European Boundary Stones Into a World Heritage Site
The Milestone Society

Story Type:  News

ID: 101394

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