Karen Nichols's blog

Searching for the Gatehouse

3520

Salisbury Museum
Festival of Archaeology 2017
In what has rapidly become an annual institution, Phil Harding and Lorraine Mepham joined this year’s Festival of Archaeology to dig a hole in the Museum’s front garden. The aim was to find evidence of the gatehouse for the King’s House which was listed in the Parliamentary Survey of 1649, and depicted in a sketch from 1799, but of which there is now no trace above ground. A preliminary geophysical survey picked up responses suggesting walls, and a 1-metre square test pit was placed to pick up one of these. Work started on Saturday morning, and the remains of the wall were swiftly uncovered. By late afternoon we had exposed the wall down to its foundations, and dug through a series of layers, including a medieval make-up layer containing many fragments of roof tiles, possibly hardcore used to raise the ground level. We were fortunate enough to find good dating evidence for the gatehouse too – a clay tobacco pipe with a maker’s mark came up from the wall’s construction cut, and this could be dated quite closely to the middle of the 17th century, just before the time of the Parliamentary Survey. Rubble from the gatehouse’s demolition included pottery sherds and a glass bottle dating to the late 18th or early 19th century, and once more this tallied with the historical sources – there is a documentary note of the demolition in 1803. The owner of the King’s House at the time was said to have kept a good wine cellar, so the glass bottle that we found could well have come from this! Thanks to Adrian Green and to Owain Hughes of Salisbury Museum for inviting us back to the Festival, and to all those who turned out to visit, despite the weather. We were very glad of our gazebo covering!
 
 
 

A Roman Altar from York

3511

Staff from the Sheffield office have been monitoring a development in central York for much of the year. The site lies within the medieval walled city, and due to the archaeological sensitivity of the area, the retirement home proposed for the site is being built on foundation piles, with minimal impact on lower levels. An archaeological watching brief was required for any ground disturbing works, and this passed off with little incident, until the last day when a Roman altar was found. The artefact was spotted amidst the upcast generated when a service trench was excavated through a backfilled Victorian cellar.

The workmanship of the artefact appears rather crude, and the sculptor was probably as native as the millstone grit from which it is carved. Although the altar lacks an inscription on its front, a design can be seen on one side (height of altar approximately 40 cm). RTI recording of the artefact (lower image) has enabled us to decode the carvings: a patera (libations bowl) and handled jug. A deep bowl has been carved into the top of the object, and it has been suggested that the artefact was re-purposed as a garden planter or bird bath in more recent times. Such a reuse might account for its presence within the cellar.
 
 
By Patrick Daniel
 
 
 

WA Seeks New Chair

3500

Wessex Archaeology, one of the leading archaeological charities in the UK, is searching for a forward-thinking individual to take up the role of Chair of our Board of Directors to oversee the continued development of our vision of public benefit delivered through professional service.
 
For more information please download pdf here
 
 

Titanic Works - Open Day

3495

Stoking the furnace of Sheffield steel making 

As part of this year’s Festival of Archaeology, Wessex Archaeology offers a rare opportunity to visit the crucible cellars of the former Titanic Works, Malinda Street/Hoyle Street and the underground remains of cementation furnaces recently uncovered at Hollis Croft, Sheffield. This event will take place on Friday 21 July and will provide the chance to explore a once commonplace and important part of Sheffield’s industrial past.
 
The sites are located in an area of Sheffield established as a steel manufacturing centre prior to 1850, with the principal surviving buildings of the former Titanic Works dating to that period. The extant building includes a nationally rare crucible furnace with two end stacks. The former works is a Grade II listed building and during the redevelopment of the site in 2008, two previously unknown crucible cellars were unearthed, adding to the known cellar beneath the listed structure.
 
The works was occupied by a series of steel and file manufacturers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By 1876, the works was occupied by William Mickelthwaite and Co, steel manufacturers, and was listed as the ‘Titanic Works’.
 
The archaeological site at Hollis Croft, currently being excavated by Wessex Archaeology, is a fine example of remains of the highly significant cementation furnaces depicted on 19th century OS maps of Sheffield, as large Hollis Croft Steel Works with two circular structures.
 
Wessex Archaeology will be conducting four 1 hour tours of the crucible cellars at Hoyle Street each followed by a half an hour visit to our archaeological site at Hollis Croft, all free of charge, each tour accommodating up to six members of the public. The tours will include exploring all three cellars, and the archaeological site, with information about the steel-making process, the history and development of the sites and their significance within Sheffield.
 
Tours will need to be booked in advance due to limited space within the cellars. Please click here to book your tickets. Please be aware that the tours are not suitable for those with impaired mobility or children under the age of 8 years. Suitable footwear (walking boots) is recommended. Any other protective clothing required will be provided. Please note that there is a 15min between the two sites.
 
Come along and delve into Sheffield’s rich industrial past.
 
By Lucy Dawson and Milica Rajic
 
 

Jon Egging Trust Students Visit the Salisbury Office

3454

In May, we were pleased to welcome back the Jon Egging Trust to our Salisbury office, with a new group of students (12–13 years old) on the first year of their Blue Skies Programme. The programme aims to inspire young people to reach their full potential by engaging in exciting activities and experiences. 
 
Although some of the students thought that archaeology would be a bit dull, our enthusiastic staff opened their eyes to the diverse and interesting nature of our work. All of them participated fully in the sessions and thoroughly enjoyed the day. 
 
Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy set the scene by explaining what archaeology is – both how we do it and why we do it. Later in the day she also provided the students with a fascinating insight into what we can find out from the study of human remains.
 
The theme for the first year of the Blue Skies Programme is ‘teamwork’, a key element of Wessex Archaeology’s working practices that was highlighted throughout the day, and manager Si Cleggett held an inspiring session based solely around the issue. Activities were designed to get the students to work together, demonstrating their collaborative skills and assessing how each member contributed to the group. A lot of productive discussion and team-bonding ensued.
 
Vicki Lambert and Tom Harrison of the Coastal & Marine department devised a fascinating activity where the students learned about underwater archaeology, and completed a dive simulation exercise that demonstrated how vital working together is when diving. 
3455
The students relished the opportunity to get wet and muddy washing soil samples in our Environmental department, under instruction from Tony Scothern. While showing examples of materials recovered from samples, Tony explained how the Environmental department, and the evidence they find, contributes towards our archaeological projects.  
3456
Finds team members Sue Nelson and Erica Macey-Bracken provided a finds-handling session featuring artefacts of different materials and dates. They encouraged discussions about how different people may have contributed towards making an artefact, and how they would have worked as a team using the objects to achieve a common goal. 
3457
Any initial doubts about archaeology soon disappeared, and by the end of the day Phil Harding’s flint knapping demonstration earned him, and Time Team, a new generation of fans. He even let them have a go at using a flint axe to sharpen wooden stakes. The experience was met with such enthusiasm that people felt the need for Phil to sign their shirts!
3458
We would like to thank Jon Egging Trust Youth Liaison Officer, Kaye Jackson, the staff from St Aldhelm’s Academy, and Drew Tallentire from the Southampton University Air Squadron for supporting the visit. As always, it is a pleasure to be able to contribute towards such a fantastic programme.
3459

The Meridian Pull Challenge – Taking on the Thames

3439

Wessex Archaeology will be taking part in a charity rowing event organised by the Thames Estuary Partnership June 2017, competing against teams from the maritime industry, engineering firms, urban developers, regulators, local government and academia. 
 
Our team, composed of staff from both our London & South-East and Salisbury offices – none of whom have any significant rowing experience – will row 8.5 miles down the Thames through central London, past the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and under Tower Bridge.
 
3438
The intrepid crew – Dave Norcott, Mark Williams, Paul Baggaley, Becky Hall, Paolo Croce and Guillermo Santamaria – aim to raise at least £1,800, which will go directly to the AHOY Centre, a London-based charity which changes lives through sailing and rowing. 
 
The AHOY centre works with disadvantaged children, young vulnerable people and those with disabilities, running courses and training programmes to help them gain the qualifications and life skills needed for employment.
 
 
The Challenge itself is on 28th June, with a training session on the Thames on the 22nd – please sponsor us if you can, and keep posted to our sponsor page below to follow our training progress and inevitable mishaps!
 
 
Many thanks are already due to SUERC (the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre), who have made a very generous donation – should any other corporate sponsors feel so inclined, we still have space on our team shirts for a few more logos! Contact Dave Norcott for details.
 
 
 

Reflections from Finland

3435

Collecting our award for Project SAMPHIRE
 
We were delighted to announce recently that one of our flagship marine heritage projects, Project SAMPHIRE had been awarded the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards 2017 in the category of Education, Training and Awareness building. 
 
Wessex Archaeology’s Chris Brayne (Chief Executive) and Dan Atkinson (Director) have just returned from the European Heritage Congress 2017 in Turku, Finland where, alongside John McCarthy (former Manager for SAMPHIRE) from Flinders University in Australia, they together received the highly prestigious award. 
 
3436
Here are their experiences of their weekend in Turku
 
Finland rolled out under the wing of our small aeroplane as a patchwork of closely packed islets, shining lakes and endless forest – more like its map than any other country in the world. In early May, winter was just about over and the sky was a clear pale blue but spring was still waiting to be sure of its footing. 
 
The first day of the Congress, held in a converted ropeworks by the river, consisted of project presentations from all thirty Laureates, and we talked to Europa Nostra representatives about the work of their organisation. We learned more about the individual project achievements and started to understand how such remarkable initiatives are developed, how they are funded and how the teams work to deliver real social impact. 
 
John McCarthy presented SAMPHIRE at the end of a very long, but very rewarding day. The presentation highlighted the project’s innovative approach to community engagement and applauded the hard work of the project team and the individuals and communities on the west coast of Scotland who gave their time and knowledge so freely to the project. 
 
John commented:
It was a great honour to be considered alongside such fantastic projects, and the success of our project is due to the participation of maritime communities and the flexibility of the Crown Estate funding that allowed the project to develop in such an effective way. It is also great that a maritime project such as SAMPHIRE has helped to raise the awareness for this important cultural heritage resource among coastal communities, and to encourage the stewardship of their heritage.
 
The evening of the second day was crowned by the awards ceremony at the beautiful St Michael’s Church in Turku where Chris was honoured to receive the award on behalf of the project team. Guests were also treated to some amazing operatic performances and an address by the President of Europa Nostra, Maestro Placido Domingo. 
3434 Europa Nostra / Felix Quaedvlieg https://www.flickr.com/photos/europanostra/34019068954/
 
As part of Chris’s acceptance speech, he commented:
The SAMPHIRE team struck a deal with the communities they visited. They traded technical expertise and professional capabilities for local knowledge and traditional skills. Together they built a resource which will continue to provide value for the community and for academics on into the future. To find ourselves selected to receive this award is humbling but wonderful and will be a source of encouragement to maintain the momentum on this and other projects. It has been genuinely inspirational to experience the level of recognition and value placed on cultural heritage by our colleges across the European Union
 
The evening finished with a gala dinner at the Castle of Turku where surprised guests were met with flaming torches and trumpet fanfares from the tower windows. Champagne and a dinner of reindeer, potatoes and lingonberries was accompanied by a string quartet and a thousand-year-old vocal lament in old Finnish – enhanced (as these things should always be) with an interpretation in contemporary dance. It was quite a night.
 
Full acknowledgement for the achievement must go to the SAMPHIRE team and to those individuals and communities from the west coast of Scotland; and to the Crown Estate for funding the project. Congratulations must also be extended to all the prize winners, and to Europa Nostra for putting together such an engaging and successful event. A local award ceremony will also be held in Edinburgh in the near future to celebrate this achievement. The standard has been set.
 
What the jury said about SAMPHIRE
 
In awarding the prize to project SAMPHIRE the jury stated:
This project was not just a survey but also contributed to identity building in these West Scottish communities and encouraged the participants to act as stewards of their heritage. It has had a far reaching and long lasting effect in inspiring consciousness of heritage sites and, impressively, informing fishing practices where known drowned heritage assets are located. SAMPHIRE’s methodology has a great degree of transferability and is an excellent model for similar sites throughout Europe.
 
A major part of this project’s success was the community’s choice of their own ‘local champion’, giving ownership of the heritage to these local communities. The project gave these participants the skills and confidence to participate in a major archaeological project which may otherwise have been viewed as being in the inaccessible domain of specialists
 
Other award categories included Conservation, Research, and Dedicated Service which recognised excellence in heritage projects from throughout Europe.
 
 

Pits, Pots and Animal Burials

3429

Excavations at Queen Mary’s Hospital Carshalton

Excavations between 2008 and 2010 at Queen Mary’s Hospital Carshalton revealed a fascinating Iron Age and early Romano-British site dominated by enclosures and numerous pits. The site began as an open settlement in the Early Iron Age but was enclosed by the Late Iron Age, and was subsequently modified a number of times. Pits and pit deposits are one notable feature of the site – some contained the debris of domestic life reflecting activities in a small settlement (farming, craft/industry including metalworking in the Romano-British period). However, many of the deposits were more complex and included materials (metal objects, pottery and other objects) that had been carefully selected for deposition in pits. Other pits contained partial or complete animal carcasses, sometimes in large numbers, for example one layer in one pit contained the remains of between 25 and 30 animals (mainly sheep/goat but also including two dogs, a perinatal horse, two domestic fowl and a raven). Dog burials were also quite common and included a rare example of a ‘lapdog’, which was buried at the time of the Roman Conquest. 
 
You can read more about this remarkable site in our latest Occasional PaperQueen Mary’s Hospital Carshalton. An Iron Age and early Romano-British Settlement by Andrew B. Powell
 
 

New Starters in the Edinburgh Office

Hello our names are Stephanie and Lesley and this is our blog to introduce ourselves to the Wessex Archaeology family!
 

3432

Hello everyone, my name is Stephanie; I am a marine archaeologist at the Wessex Archaeology Edinburgh office. Before starting my Scottish adventure, I worked as a freelance commercial archaeologist in Malta, mostly dealing with terrestrial salvage archaeology during development works and a handful of maritime related EIAs. I graduated from the University of Southern Denmark in 2016 in Maritime Archaeology, where I gained my commercial diving qualifications and focused my research on traditional boat building techniques. Since starting, I have been provided with induction training and asked to help with the technical report for the Norfolk Vanguard project. 
 

3433

My name is Lesley and I started work with Wessex Archaeology’s Edinburgh office at the end of April as part of the Coastal & Marine team. Before coming home to Scotland in February I was studying for my Masters in Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southern Denmark during which I gained my diving qualification and had the opportunity to help on several exciting projects including assisting Dr Innes McCartney in the geophysical survey of the scuppered German High Seas Fleet of WWI in Scapa Flow. Prior to my foray into the world of maritime archaeology I spent a couple of years working in terrestrial archaeology, mostly in the north of England and on the Northern Isles. 
 
Being accepted to join the Wessex team is a brilliant opportunity for both of us and we are super excited to begin our maritime careers with Wessex Archaeology.
 
3426
We both experienced a taste of what may lie ahead, yesterday when we travelled to Bristol to undertake a day of dive familiarisation at Vobster Quay. We met the diving team and had the opportunity to see how they work first hand. Despite not being able to dive we still managed to get wet due to the constant downpour! But we kept our spirits up with plenty of coffee and tea. The day provided us with a great opportunity to examine the equipment first hand; this was particularly useful for both of us as it is very different from what we have previously used and we can’t wait to try it out ourselves!
 

Recording Experiment at Bulford

A comparison between geo-rectified photography and photogrammetry to record human remains.

In late 2015 Wessex Archaeology started the excavation of a large Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Bulford which presented the opportunity to carry out some tests to investigate the best, most cost-effective and efficient way to record burials. We wanted to understand the differences and economic viability of some of the most popular techniques on the market: geo-rectified photography and photogrammetry. 
 

3422

After permission was granted by site manager Simon Cleggett, in December 2015 the WA Geomatics team, Damien Campbell Bell and myself gathered at Bulford to carry out this field experiment. 
 
For the work, we used a Leica Netrover Viva GPS and a Pentax K50 digital SLR camera for the photogrammetry and the geo-rectified photography. Additional accessories included a ladder and lots of targets. 
 
The type of camera we used (a Pentax K50) is a weather-resistant digital SLR camera with approximately 16.49 Mega pixels and mounting 18-55 mm lens. We normally use this type of camera in the field. A Leica Viva GPS was also employed to record the position of the targets used in the photos. 
 
For the success of both the photogrammetry and the geo-rectified photography, targets were placed both on the base of the graves and on top at ground level.
 
With photogrammetry, we can produce a 3D model using a set of photos taken from every angle of the subject. With the Pentax K50 we took approximately 23 photos for each grave; the shots were taken all around the grave cut, on top and at the sides aiming to get complete coverage. These photos were later post-processed to obtain a photogrammetry 3D model. We tried to keep the number of photos below 50 so that the processing would be faster.

 

As for the geo-rectified photography, each burial was photographed from the top in one single shot. Geo-rectified photography only requires one image, but for it to work it needs to be taken on the same plane as the subject, with the camera in a horizontal position. If these two important conditions are not met, the photo can be distorted and would be unusable. This operation required the photographer to climb on a ladder as to make sure that the whole grave was in the photo frame, this also contributed to the photo being less detailed because of the distance. Afterwards, the middle point of each target was recorded with a Leica Netrover Viva GPS with accuracy settings set below 0.02 m. 
 
For both photogrammetry and geo-rectified photography, to measure the position of the targets with a GPS or Total station is essential as this will provide the constrains for the 3D model and will also accurately locate the burials within the national coordinate system.  
 
Back in the office, the data from these various sources were post-processed and compared to each other using the photogrammetry models and the metric surveys as references. These different methodologies were analysed according to level of accuracy achieved, time of execution, least potential damage/disruption caused to the archaeology, time of post-processing and cost for the project. 
 
The results of these techniques were very good but photogrammetry was most successful, the 3D models produced were highly accurate. Unfortunately, some of the photos taken for geo-rectification had to be discarded, highlighting one of the problems with the geo-rectified photography: the shot must be on point and horizontal to minimise any distortion; if the shot is taken too far away many small details will not be clear. In addition to this, another problem that we encountered was the lack of space inside the grave to place the targets. Still, despite some problems in post-processing, the geo-rectified photography gave good accurate results, the photos were rectified and geo-located to be then digitised in the office. The records obtained with geo-rectified photography worked out to be the fastest technique while photogrammetry requires powerful computers and can take a long time to process.

 

For both of these methods used there are pros and cons so that one might be better than the other, depending on what level of accuracy is required and how much time is available on site. 
 
It was really instructive and fun to experiment with these methods on site and to compare them; the results obtained are going to be very useful to plan future archaeological works, allowing us to consider different methodologies according to specific site conditions and project budgets. 
 
Syndicate content