Karen Nichols's blog

University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)

2707 Alex Grassam

International Women’s Day:
In February, I was invited to give a talk at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) to third year students about my experience working in commercial archaeology and my role as a heritage consultant. This year marks my 14th year as a professional archaeologist and I really wanted to give a well-rounded, fair and balanced opinion about my time in the industry. I wasn’t sure, however, whether I should draw on my experience as woman in the profession. Was it something I really needed to talk about in 2016? And is there anything actually to say about this topic? I informally canvassed opinion from my fellow female colleagues and the answer was firm yes, I should. So, I did. 
 
The talk I gave, the themes of which I have summarised below, are based on my own observations, experiences and anecdotes from female colleagues. 
 
As a woman, I don’t believe I have ever encountered direct discrimination within archaeology. That is not to say, however, that have not had issues when working on site with other, non-archaeological, contractors (who are almost always male). As a woman on site, behaviour from my fellow site workers tend to vary being plain scared or bewildered by my presence, to treating me with supreme reverence, and unfortunately, in some cases, trying to deliberately embarrass me with language which would make a docker blush. Colleagues have reported that they feel a lack of respect for their opinions from contractors, and a sense that they have to go the extra mile before they are listened to. The general consensus, however, was that such behaviour tends to settle down after a day or so when they become accustomed to the presence of women. 
 
So, what about the role of women within archaeology itself? Our involvement in the subject goes back a long way, with the likes of Gertrude Bell (also known as the Mother of Mesopotamian), born in the mid-19th century, although our numbers have always been dwarfed in comparison to men. However, there we were, making a difference and contributing actively to the development of the subject, and leaving a lasting legacy. 
 
And where do we stand now in the 21st century? It is worth remembering that commercial archaeology is a comparatively young profession (being born in the 1990s with the changing of planning policy guidance), and as such we are trying to grow up fast. Figures collated for the Profiling the Profession (IFA 2003) reveal that in 2002–3 just 36% of the profession were female, although by 2007–8 this had risen to 41% (IFA 2008). The stats would suggest that the profession is moving the right direction, and I am waiting with interest for up to date statistics to see how they look.
 
Matters such as equality and diversity are difficult ones for all industries and professions to tackle. Men still appear to outnumber women significantly when I attend meetings with people from other disciplines. Female archaeologists are also not immune from factors which impact on all working women, especially those with families. Flexible working arrangements for field archaeologists is not, and cannot practically be, provided, and those wishing to take career breaks will encounter the same problems as others when trying to re-enter the work force after time out. 
 
I’m aware that the above sounds very much like doom and gloom. But I think we have lots of reasons to be positive. Women are staying in the profession and climbing up the ladder in greater numbers, including up to the most senior positions within the largest companies in the UK (including Wessex Archaeology). Commercial archaeology is so much more than just field work and there are opportunities for both men and women who are juggling family and careers to have a role which can provide some level of flexible working. Discrimination on grounds of gender within our own industry seems to be limited and men and women are used to mixing and working alongside one another as equals in all environments. And with the continuing focus on issues such as Equality and Diversity across the construction industry more widely, problems we encounter when working with other contractors will hopefully become a thing of the past. It certainly would be a nice thing to see archaeology actively helping push the agenda forward so in the future it is not a topic which even needs to raised. 
 
By Alex Grassam
 

Coastal & Marine Intern - Month 1

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I have now finished my fourth week working with the Coastal & Marine department at Wessex Archaeology, and so far I am thoroughly enjoying my time here, and importantly I’m learning new things each day. Currently the work I have undertaken in this short time has exceeded my expectations in terms of both opportunity and responsibilities. I can’t cover everything I’ve been up to in this blog, but I’ll provide a summary of some of the more foremost tasks.
 
I’ve been given the responsibility of re-homing finds from the London Gateway dredging project, currently stored here in Salisbury, to a multitude of museums. I’ve been speaking to the museums about how they want the finds to be delivered and how they are going to care for and display them upon arrival. The finds range from leather boots and plates to cannon and aircraft wreckage with a mixture of wet and dry finds. Working with Lynn Wootten, our resident conservator (and my lifesaver), to ensure the safe packaging and movement of the finds has been a very informative lesson, and I’m still yet to move an artefact.
 
As part of the archaeological protocols set up with offshore renewable energy industry, I took a trip to Grimsby with Peta Knott to give a talk on the archaeological protocols and the possible finds that workers in this industry may encounter. Having previously worked with young children in outreach and witnessed their enthusiasm, it was great to see project managers have similar enthusiasm and interest when handed something such as a cannonball or mammoth tusk. Additionally to this, on the topic of enthusiasm, we took a side trip to the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre which is without doubt one of the best museums I’ve visited. Watching our 76 year old tour guide fly around a fishing trawler like a 20 year old free-runner was a sight to remember. 
 
The highlight of my time so far, was being invited to sit in on the talks with Historic England about the work Wessex will undertake in the upcoming diving season. I have also met the maritime designation advisor from Historic England, which gave me a great insight into the relationship between both HE and Wessex when it comes to the study and potential designation of wrecks in our waters.
 
A bonus was my first dive with the C&M team at Vobster Quay Dive Centre, which I have to say has got me itching to get back into the water, even though it was 7 degrees. And with an upcoming course in Personal Survival Techniques and further pre-season dive training, I am getting evermore excited to see how the diving season develops.
 

Square Chapel, Halifax

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Wessex Archaeology is pleased to announce our first project working with Associate Consultant Angela Boyle. Angela is a specialist on post-medieval cemetery excavation and has worked as a professional archaeologist and osteologist for more than 25 years across the UK. Working with Wessex Archaeology’s Burial and Church Archaeology team, Angela is analysing the skeletons of over 100 Non-Conformists buried at the Square Chapel, Halifax in the 19th century. The western limits of the Square Chapel churchyard were excavated by Wessex Archaeology in the autumn of 2015, in advance of the Cornerstone Project, the refurbishment and extension of the Square Chapel Arts Centre. 
 
Angela’s analysis is in the early stages but has already revealed interesting information about the health of the people buried in the churchyard. Angela has already identified evidence for osteoarthritis, spinal degeneration and dental disease amongst the skeletons from the chapel.
 
 
The work was carried out through Kier and Evans Vettori on behalf of the Square Chapel. The skeletal remains will be reinterred on site later this year after full osteological analysis. Angela will provide regular web updates as the work continues. 
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New Coastal & Marine Intern

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My name is Tom Harrison and I am the new intern in the Coastal & Marine department at Wessex Archaeology. I am a qualified SCUBA instructor and I recently completed my MSc in Maritime Archaeology at Bournemouth University. Combining my love for diving with a passion of underwater heritage, I have been lucky enough to be given this opportunity to learn directly from one of the leading departments in my field. Prior to this my background has most notably been prehistoric terrestrial, including long barrows in Germany, settlement sites in Finland. Further work in experimental archaeology has included the research and replication of the various construction techniques used to build a portion of a Bronze Age Mediterranean vessel and running several associated outreach days, other work includes, the beginnings of a Mesolithic log boat, prehistoric buildings and even re-enactment.
 
So far in my first week, I have: undergone induction, met the Coastal & Marine team and read more guidance and legislation than you would find on a lawyers bookshelf. But more notably I have already written a double page article for the bi-annual Dredged up newsletter, aimed at people working in the Marine Aggregate Industry. Also, I spent a lot of time working with these finds, and familiarising myself with the sort of materials I’m likely to be dealing with when I help research the finds made through the BMAPA Protocol.
 
My first week bodes well for more exciting opportunities throughout my six month internship including the upcoming dive season. I am sure that my learning experience here is going to become invaluable to pursuing a career in maritime archaeology.
 
Finally, a massive thank you to both Wessex Archaeology and Santander for setting up this internship and giving me the chance to show what I am capable of.
 
By Tom Harrison, C&M Intern
 

Onwards and Upwards

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Wessex Archaeology London & South East have moved. After five years located on the outskirts of Rochester we have now moved to the centre of Maidstone. This new location provides better access to our core areas and easy access into London.
 
We can now be found at:
Wessex Archaeology London and South East
69 College Road 
Maidstone
ME15 6SX
 
 
Please contact Team Leader Mark Williams to find out how we can help you with all you heritage issues on:
 
Phone 03303 133541
 

BMAPA Annual Archaeology Awards 2016

Announcing the winners of the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) annual Archaeology Awards for 2014–2015!
 
These annual awards encourage the reporting of archaeological finds through the Marine Aggregates Industry Protocol that was developed by BMAPA and Historic England and further supports this partnership.
 

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The Protocol provides a mechanism for marine aggregate industry workers to report archaeological finds and the Protocol’s Implementation Service provides training in identifying, recording and conserving finds. Once the finds have been researched, this information is disseminated back to the marine aggregate industry so that they can learn about the variety of finds that they have discovered during the year and their contribution to enhancing and preserving our marine heritage. 
 
Best Find – Underwater Swimmers’ Breathing Apparatus (Bedhampton Wharf, Tarmac) – a brass mouthpiece with twin rubber hoses manufactured by Dunlop, and used by Naval clearance divers during the Second World War. The find was discovered at the wharf in a cargo dredged from Area 372/1, located east of the Isle of Wight.
 
Best Attitude at a Wharf – Burnley Wharf (Tarmac) – for reporting more than twice as many finds (20 in total) during the protocol year as any other wharf.
 
Best Attitude on a Vessel – Arco Dart (Hanson Aggregates Marine) – for reporting a fragment of unusual sandstone recovered following a cargo dredged from Area 472 in the Bristol Channel.
 
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a: German hot water plaque, b: Spoon, c: Mammoth tooth d: Aircraft frame or stringer
 
Congratulations to the award winners and to all of the vessel and wharf staff who keep their eyes peeled for interesting archaeological discoveries as they go about their regular work!
 
 

WA Scotland - Autumn and Winter

The autumn and winter have been a busy time for us disseminating the broad scope of our recent research work in Scotland, ranging from maritime and coastal archaeology to submerged prehistory. We have spoken to a wide range of public groups, archaeology and historic societies, and specialist audiences.
 
In late August, we gave a presentation to the Friends of Portencross Castle n the recent coastal survey work in and around Hunterston Sands, North Ayrshire, outlining the range of discoveries made – from Roman pottery to medieval structures. The talk was given on a beautiful evening within the castle itself, and with a very warm welcome it was a memorable occasion.
 
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In early September, at the conference of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) at the University of Glasgow, we gave specialist presentations on the research undertaken across the British Isles on submerged prehistory covering about 500,000 years.
 
Professional training has also been high on our agenda, and late September saw the first Archaeological Landscape : Professional Skills fieldschool in Upper Loch Torridon and around Applecross, in the west highlands. The training focussed on investigating archaeological landscapes, early prehistory and geoarchaeology.
 
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In October we were invited by the Ayrshire Archaeology and Natural History Society to talk to them about the wider coastal survey work in the Clyde Estuary undertaken through the COALIE project. The talk was given to a full house in the impressive Ayr Town Hall, and with an engaging question-and-answer session at the end it made for a great evening.
 
November was another busy month. First we gave a presentation to the Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Archaeology Conference held at Queen Margaret University, Musselburgh, on the potential for submerged prehistoric landscapes and archaeology in south-east Scotland. 
 
Then, later in the month, WA Coastal & Marine held two breakout sessions at a research framework symposium, Unfolding Argyll’s Archaeological Story, held in Kilmartin, which was attended by a wide range of archaeological and historical specialists. Our sessions were on marine and maritime aspects of Argyll, including early prehistoric landscapes and shipwrecks of all periods; these are important but under-represented aspects of the west coast’s many islands and complex coastline, since earliest times.
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Finally, we kicked off 2016 with a talk to Glasgow University Archaeology Society, entitled An Introduction to Marine Archaeology. The fully attended event, on 10th February, outlined various strands of archaeology related to the coastal and marine environments, including shipwrecks, aircraft crash sites, harbours, submerged prehistoric landscapes and a host of other features. With excellent questions at the end, and hopefully some sparks of inspiration for future marine archaeologists, it was a very enjoyable evening.
 
 

Harnham Bunker

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Wessex Archaeology’s Bob Davis and Grace Flood are currently carrying out historic building recording of a 20th century Civil Defence Corps underground bunker in Harnham, Salisbury, prior to its redevelopment as a youth music and education facility – The Sound Emporium. Although disused for many years, the bunker is very well-preserved. 
 
Historic maps show that the bunker was built some time between 1939 and 1952 on the site of a chalk quarry, and it is hoped that the on-going research will shed more light into its origins. The Civil Defence Corps was created in 1948 in response to the threat of nuclear attack and the onset of the Cold War. The bunker operated as the Salisbury Urban District Control Centre between September 1963 and 1968 when the Corps was stood down; it replaced an earlier control centre in the basement of the Council House at Bourne Hill, Salisbury. 
 
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There is little to see above ground apart from concrete ventilation shafts and an emergency escape hatch. The bunker, which is constructed from cast reinforced concrete, is accessed via a long inclined ramp down to an entrance lobby that was used as a decontamination area – complete with a shower cubicle. This area could be sealed off from the rest of the bunker by double gas tight steel doors which are still in situ
 
From the lobby a corridor gave access to the rest of the bunker. These included a communications room, a situation room and a control room from which a passage led to the vertical escape shaft with ladder. The bunker was self-contained, with a generator room and air filtration plant room providing clean air to the main rooms. In the event of a major incident, the occupants were prepared to spend long periods underground, with the provision of bunk beds for sleeping, a kitchen, and male and female toilets. 
 
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The Harnham bunker provides an important insight into a period of our recent history, and the time of renewed threat, the Cold War, following the end of Second World War. The building recording work, commissioned by The Sound Emporium, is being undertaken to Historic England Level 2 standard at the request of the Assistant Archaeological Officer at Wiltshire Council. This involves a programme of documentary research, survey and digital photography to ensure that the structure of the bunker is adequately documented prior to the redevelopment.
 

New Partnership with the Workers' Educational Association

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On 8 February 2016 Wessex Archaeology will be signing a memorandum of understanding with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) setting out our joint aim of building a lasting link between learning and heritage.  
 
This new partnership is the result of a lot of groundwork (no digging!) done by Rachel Brown, our Community & Education Officer, working with the WEA’s tutors to develop new ways of encouraging a wider public engagement with our cultural heritage. 
 
The agreement will be signed at the WEA’s Omega Centre in Portsmouth at the launch of one of these projects, an Archaeology Day offering adult learners the opportunity to develop an appreciation of heritage and archaeology – through maths, English and art. This will lead into specific lessons using archaeology-themed resources created by Rachel. She has certainly not been short of ideas, and we look forward to telling you about other projects as they evolve.
 
 
To find out more about click on the links below:
 
To download the press release follow this link.
 
 

New Bristol Office for 2016

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Wessex Archaeology West is pleased to announce that we have now moved to our brand new premises at Filwood Green Business Park, Bristol. With our recent increase in heritage-related business opportunities these new offices will enable us to continue to expand and provide the professional services our customers expect.  
 
Filwood Green Business Park is a well-known environmentally efficient development with an ethos based around sustainability and green thinking. Read all about it at: http://filwoodgreen.co.uk/about-2/
 
We very much look forward to a new year and new challenges – once we’ve finished unpacking….
 
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