Karen Nichols's blog

Barrow Clump 2013: Phil’s Round-up Week 2

1196 Excavation of one of the Saxon graves

2013 has been an exciting year up at Barrow Clump. Site Director, Phil Andrews sums up the latest discoveries for the blog:
 
Summer digging at last!
 
"Well July went far too quickly, with the summer heatwave coinciding almost exactly with our stay on site. Excellent weather for camping, while the trees gave us welcome shelter from the sun – they were protection from the drizzle last year!
 
Our final Anglo-Saxon grave count was 22, a few more than I had anticipated, with a variety of grave goods. Although not as spectacular as last year the finds included two shield bosses, two spearheads and several knives as well as a pair of saucer brooches, three finger rings, tweezers and numerous glass and amber beads.
 
Archaeologically the most exciting discoveries were of prehistoric date. A large Neolithic pit containing deer antlers, a hammerstone, pieces of sarsen and struck flint was uncovered while a rare and beautiful section was exposed showing the Neolithic land surface, the ‘Beaker’ mound and ditch, and the overlying turf core of the Early Bronze Age barrow."
 
Next week, the site from above as we’ve never seen it before.
 
1198 Dave Murdie admires his lovely section

Piece of Cake for Volunteers

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Wessex Archaeology’s volunteers were treated to an exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ tour at Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum last week as part of a Volunteer Together event. Organised by the Stonehenge Learning & Outreach Coordination Group (SLOCG) this event was open to everyone who volunteers within the Stonehenge landscape for either English Heritage, the National Trust, Wiltshire Museum, Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum and of course Wessex Archaeology.
 
The afternoon featured updates by the five SLOCG members on their current volunteering opportunities, a tour of the museum’s new gallery space and a special viewing of some of the rare artefacts that have been temporarily removed from the display cases. There was also plenty of time to network and chat over tea and cake! The event was attended by over 80 volunteers and was enjoyed by all.
 
To find out more about volunteering with Wessex Archaeology please contact our Community & Education Officer, Laura Joyner.
 
 

Manchester Cathedral

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In April and May a team from the Sheffield Office carried out the excavation of a 7 m by 7 m  trench within the nave of Manchester Cathedral in advance of the construction of a raisable dais. The work was carried out on behalf of Lambert Walker and with help and advice from Norman Redhead (Cathedral Archaeologist) and Dr Peter Arrowsmith. Five lead coffins and 49 inhumations were revealed during the excavation and watching brief. The high status of the burials was notable and contrasted well with the individuals seen during our recent work at Wakefield Cathedral. As well as the lead coffins, items of note included ornate coffin fittings and decorative wooden coffins.

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Our osteological team analysed the excavated bones on site and our heritage team are currently unearthing information on named individuals – although considering the family’s long association with Manchester, Thomas William De Trafford is proving strangely illusive. 
 
The identifiable remains comprised broadly equal numbers of male and females but there were only seven young children and adolescents – possibly a reflection of the lower infant mortality amongst the high status of the buried population, or may reflect the small sample excavated. As well as the burials and coffin fittings 44 ledger stones – horizontal grave stones – or fragments were revealed during the watching brief, although very few are complete or well preserved. 
 
For more information about Manchester Cathedral click here
 
 

Barrow Clump Open Day 2013

Local residents gathered on Salisbury Plain last week for the Barrow Clump open day 2013. 
 
As the second phase of Operation Nightingale excavations at the Bronze Age burial mound and Saxon cemetery drew to a close, members of the public were invited onto the site. Visitors had the chance to tour the trenches, witness ongoing excavation and view this year’s artefacts which included Saxon weaponry, jewellery and even a pair of tweezers. 
 
Phil Harding’s flint-knapping demonstrations proved popular, as did Wiltshire Museum’s excellent collection of Saxon replicas. Young visitors were entertained by hands-on activities, including clay pot making and mini dig sandpits. 
 
With over 360 visitors and £300 raised for Operation Nightingale and Care 4 Casualties, the day was a huge success! 
 

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Wessex Archaeology staff, Op Nightingale soldiers and many volunteers worked together to deliver this event. Funding was kindly provided by Wiltshire Council.
 

Busy Festival Weekend

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Last weekend was a busy one for Wessex Archaeology’s Community & Education Officer, Laura Joyner, who took part in two local Festival of Archaeology events. 
 
On Saturday 27th July 2013 Laura took artefacts and activities to Salisbury & South Wilts Museum as part of their Family Archaeology Day. Children had a go at sandpit digs and pottery jigsaws whilst adults tried to match up artefact trays with historical periods. Some of our interesting marine artefacts were also on display, including a cannonball, a Palaeolithic axe head and a mammoth tooth. 
 
Sunday 28th 2013 saw Laura at the Rockbourne Archaeology Festival at Rockbourne Roman Villa. The sandpit digs weren’t needed here as the Rockbourne staff and volunteers had constructed a large pretend trench, jam-packed with artefacts for children to excavate! Laura demonstrated excavation techniques to the excited young people, before showing them how to wash and sort their finds. 
 
The Festival of Archaeology 2013 has been a fantastic opportunity to inspire the next generation of archaeologists. We’re looking forward to next year's already! 
 

Job Centre Plus – Return to Work Initiative

Alan Spooner who was recently made redundant from his previous company, has been working for Wessex Archaeology on a Job Trial for the last 2 weeks, this is as part of ‘Job Centre Plus Return to Work Initiative’ which is 3 weeks long in duration. Alan has been fulfilling the role of Facilities Supervisor, which is a new position in the Company which  focuses on Facilities, Equipment care and Vehicle Fleet Management. Alan has so far found the Job Trial to be both rewarding, and beneficial on the often difficult path of gaining full time employment. As a Company we fully support these initiatives and will look to support Job Centre Plus in any way we can.

1179 Alan hard at work with Company Secretary Ian Phillips ‘mucking in’

 
 

Archives Intern

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Our Archives intern, Hannah Lamarque, has now completed her 6-week post. During that time, she has got to grips with our system for recording, preparing and depositing archives. That may sound deceptively straightforward, but Hannah has had to cope with a number of different systems – just when she though she had it cracked, we introduced her to a new set of guidelines! She managed admirably, though, and her efforts over the last 6 weeks means that we now have several batches of archives ready to deposit with Museums, and Hannah has a good grounding in the principles of archive management in the heritage sector. 
 
Hannah’s steep learning curve also included getting used to the working environment in a busy professional archaeological unit. For an English graduate, that was a daunting task, but we think she survived! Hannah is now off to pastures new, in this case another placement, in a gallery in Paris. We wish her all the best, and thank her for all her hard work.
 
In two weeks’ time, we welcome Catherine Coates, who will follow Hannah in a 6-week archives internship. Watch this space to find out how Catherine gets on!
 
 

Opening the Doors to the Public

1174 WA environmental archaeology department

On Wednesday 17th July 2013, Wessex Archaeology opened the doors of our head office in Salisbury for a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into the diverse nature of our work.  
 
As part of the Festival of Archaeology 2013, members of the public were given the opportunity to learn more about all aspects of archaeology by speaking to a range of specialists and touring our unique building, Portway House (RAF training centre, and medical block), built in the 1930s as part of the airfield complex. 
 
Tour groups visited our environmental archaeology department, drawing office and finds lab and were shown around each area by the relevant experts. They also heard talks about the history of Portway House, archaeological conservation and terrestrial and marine geophysics. 
 
The day was a great success and enjoyed by all. Positive feedback included:
Brilliant open day! Very informative.
Very interesting building and experts within.
Fascinating – lots more please!
 
 

SAMPHIRE Team Get Their Feet Wet

1173 Shieldaig

This week Wessex Archaeology’s Scottish dive team is diving on potential shipwrecks, and examining sites on the foreshore reported by members of the public through project SAMPHIRE. Watch their dedicated project website for news on where they are and what they have found.
 
 

New X-ray Facility at Salisbury

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Wessex Archaeology has added an X-ray facility to its in-house conservation service. The machine has been adopted from its previous owner – the Isle of Wight Museum Service. It is a ‘Faxitron’ self-contained X-ray unit.
 
The machine will be operated by WA conservator Lynn Wootten and it will be mainly used to investigate corroded metal finds to reveal the details of the objects. It can also be used to look at the structure of other materials and inside solid lumps such as soil blocks and marine concretions.
 

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The first material to be analysed by Lynn is human bone from the important rural Romano-British cemeteries from Boscombe Down, Amesbury, part of a housing development (funded by Bloor Homes and Persimmon Homes), and currently being researched by osteo-archaeologists Jackie McKinley and Kirsten Dinwiddy. Here, X-rays are used to examine injuries and any physical signs of pathology. 
 
 
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