Karen Nichols's blog

New face in archives

1085 Lorraine Mepham showing Hanna how it's done

Wessex Archaeology welcomes Hannah Lamarque, who is spending a six week internship with us as an archives assistant. Hannah has just graduated from Exeter University, has already had considerable experience of working with film archives, and hopes to expand her archive knowledge here by working in the environment of commercial archaeology.
During the next few weeks Hannah will be learning the ropes of archive preparation, maintenance and deposition, and will also learn more about the role of archives in the heritage sector, and some of the issues that face archaeological practices and museums. Hannah will be writing her own regular blog about her experiences while she is with us, so watch this space to find out how she’s getting on!


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The Survey Association, in partnership with English Heritage, hosted a one day conference on the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for surveys last week at the Newark Showground which was attended by Paul Baggaley and Ben Urmston. 
These UAV systems can provide high resolution photogrammetry surveys over sites ranging in size from individual buildings to entire landscapes and have already been utilised on projects by Wessex Archaeology on sites in the South West in partnership with Callen Lenz, the market leader for UAV surveys.
1084 UAV data from Holcombe: RGB and Near Infa-red
Ben Urmston, Terrestrial Geophysics and Geomatics Technical Manager, said “We are only just starting to appreciate the opportunities which these new technologies can bring to archaeological projects and heritage asset management. A conference like this was very useful in term of understanding how the hardware and software is developing, so that we can keep Wessex at the forefront of delivering high-tech solutions for our clients which will save them both time and money”.


1082 Ben, Louise and David

Wessex Archaeology has recently brought together its geophysics, geomatics, geoarchaeology and environmental archaeology teams into a single geoservices division, with a core team of over 20 staff. The new division is led by Paul Baggaley and will focus on providing these specialist services, both internally and direct to our clients.
As part of these changes, we are pleased to announce that we are continuing to support the professional development of our staff, and have appointed David Norcott as our Technical Manager for Geoarchaeology and Environmental Archaeology, and Ben Urmston as our Technical Manager for Terrestrial Geophysics and Geomatics. The geoservices management team is completed by Louise Tizzard, who will continue to be responsible for Marine Geophysics.
Louise, David and Ben have over 25 years’ experience at Wessex Archaeology between them, and are increasingly involved with developing new proposals and delivering complex projects as the company continues to provide market leading services both onshore and offshore.
Paul Baggaley said, “We are delighted to have been able to bring these teams together formally within Wessex Archaeology so that we can highlight the value of the work we undertake, and also seek out new opportunities with a new and enthusiastic team”.

Innovative New Partnership Aims To Help Developers Through Planning

1083 Chris Brayne and Phil Watkins

Ecological and archaeological consultancy services and surveys for construction projects will now be available from a single professional source it was announced today.   Top specialist businesses, Thomson Ecology and Wessex Archaeology will join forces to offer an innovative “one stop shop” for developers offering their joint expertise in biodiversity, ecology and archaeology. The new approach will provide developers with one source for two different planning solutions with the aim of providing a more efficient streamlined service.  
Phil Watkins of Thomson Ecology and Chris Brayne of Wessex Archaeology signed the agreement following a joint review that showed that combined archaeology and ecology services would offer developers a professional set of specialist planning disciplines that would add value and help them through the planning process.
Phil Watkins, commercial director of Thomson Ecology, sees the alliance as a spring board for both companies to establish a competitive presence for large scale, complex projects in and beyond the UK. 
Thomson Ecology and Wessex Archaeology are market leaders in their sectors and already chosen by informed project managers for many of the UK’s largest infrastructure and energy projects. We know that our specialist expertise is highly valued. Creating this alliance places us in a strong competitive position, as together we now offer the breadth of an even wider set of skills as well as the in depth knowledge of highly experienced specialists.
Chris Brayne, newly appointed chief executive of Wessex Archaeology, said: 
 “All new construction projects have to pass specific ecological and archaeological requirements before they receive planning permission. This alliance offers developers a more efficient and streamlined method for commissioning these two specialist services allowing them access to the best advice available as part of one contract without the need to go to multiple firms.” 
For more information see the news on Housing Specification and Build.

Stanford goes to Stonehenge


Wessex Archaeology was delighted to take visitors from Stanford University (USA), here to study archives at Salisbury Cathedral, on a tour of the iconic sites of Old Sarum and Stonehenge. English Heritage had kindly allowed evening access to both sites with tour guides Alistair Barclay, Chris Brayne and Genie Turton providing local and expert knowledge. Our walk through the earthworks of Old Sarum provided a stunning view of the ‘new’ cathedral from the Norman castle and a visit to the remains of Osmund’s cathedral within the ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort.  
This was followed by a visit to the Neolithic temple sites of Woodhenge and Durrington Walls and a walk through the World Heritage Site towards Stonehenge Bottom, along ‘the avenue’ up to Stonehenge. Fittingly our tour ended in the evening sunshine at the centre of Stonehenge, with a stroll through the trilithons and the bluestone circles, and a discussion of the architecture, various carvings and graffiti.
Chris Brayne said, “It was a great opportunity for us to meet the team from Stanford. I was struck by the similarities between the team’s approach to archive material and ours in managing heritage at the landscape scale; looking at the reworking and reuse of material, the changing value placed on components and the impact of previous conservation strategies. We have a great deal to share and we hope to engage in more discussion and collaboration in the future.

Wessex Archaeology's Dive Team on TV

1023 Wessex Archaeology Diver

On June 5th Wessex Archaeology's dive team featured on BBC1's The One Show as they dived on a wooden shipwreck in water off of the Scilly Isles.
The wreck, which was discovered by recreational divers, is thought to be the Flying Joan - part of Sir Walter Raleigh's fleet which set sail in 1617 and sank without a trace.
Divers from Wessex Archaeology have been investigating the site on behalf of English Heritage with the aim of retrieving samples of the wooden shipwreck suitable for dendrochronological analysis. This technique involves studying tree ring formation in cut wood to provide a date for the vessel's construction.
During filming Wessex Archaeology's divers obtained several samples of the ship's frame that are thought to be suitable for dating. These samples are en route to a laboratory where, it is hoped, analysis will help date this shipwreck.
The episode is available on BBC iPlayer until 12th June 2013.
The One Show scroll to 4 mins
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Latest Survey Kit Arrives


As part of our ongoing investment to ensure we have the latest Survey kit Wessex Archaeology has today taken delivery of four sets of Leica Viva GS08 NetRover GNSS units from our partner Optical.
This new equipment will be based in Salisbury and Sheffield and will enable us to provide state of the art technical solutions to our clients.
Paul Baggaley, Director GeoServices, commented “these new systems include 3.5G mobile broadband technology which allow the users to just turn it on and start surveying straight away instead of having to manually connect to a local reference network. The purchase of these systems show our continuing commitment to invest in our staff and provide them with the best tools for the job”.
This is the latest in a series of capital investments Wessex Archaeology has made this year to ensure it is best able to meet its increasing client needs in a flexible and cost effective manner.

Living on an island

1012 Burial with chalk fragment near mouth

Life & death at Cliffs End Farm
Extraordinary finds made during excavations at Cliffs End Farm, Thanet, Kent in 2004-5 have allowed archaeologists at Wessex Archaeology to rethink the movement of people between this part of Kent and Continental Europe during the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Support from English Heritage has enabled an extensive radiocarbon dating programme and isotope analyses to be undertaken. These have produced some surprising results which shed new light on occupation, mortuary rites and the movement of people during later prehistory.
The site is located on the southern edge of the Isle of Thanet, roughly 300 m from the shoreline in the north-west corner of Pegwell Bay. The excavation was undertaken prior to development of land for housing, and uncovered six round barrows, Bronze Age enclosures, and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and settlement. 
A later prehistoric midden pit and an enigmatic large mortuary feature in use during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, which contained an extraordinary series of deposits of human remains (complete in situ burials, placed groups of articulated bones, as well as disarticulated remains), accompanied by complete or near-complete carcasses of animals (lambs, horse, cattle), and some placed artefacts. 

1015 Human remains in a pit

A number of mortuary rites were observed, which included corpse manipulation, use of communal and individual graves, human and probably animal sacrifice, excarnation with manipulation and redeposition of partially articulated body parts, and curation of individual skeletal elements. The extensive programme of radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis, generously funded by English Heritage, further light has been shed on these complex deposits by providing a robust and precise chronology.  

Strontium- and oxygen-isotope analyses revealed evidence for migrations from the Western Mediterranean and ‘Scandinavia’; locals from Kent were also represented in the assemblage. These long distances are made all the more remarkable as they were undertaken when some of the individuals were between the ages of three and twelve. These individuals were dated to the Late Bronze Age, Early and Middle Iron Age suggesting that the importance of the Cliffs End site persisted.
An early 6th to late 7th century Anglo-Saxon cemetery was established on the site. Grave goods included brooches, beads, a pin and weapons (spears, a sword, two shields and a seax). Several lines of Middle Saxon pits, some of which contained large deposits of  marine shell, were dug across the southern portion of the site appearing to delineate boundaries, but no associated structural evidence survived. 

1014 Probable sword cuts to back of skull

The evidence from this remarkable site is currently being prepared for publication and will be available later this year – Cliffs End Farm, Isle of Thanet, Kent. A mortuary and ritual site of the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon Period with evidence for long-distance maritime mobility by Jacqueline I. McKinley, Matt Leivers, Jörn Schuster, Peter Marshall, Alistair J. Barclay and Nick Stoodley.
British Archaeology July/August edition 131

Marine Stewardship Fund


The Crown Estate is the largest marine land owner and is responsible for about half the UK’s foreshore and virtually all the seabed out to the 12 nautical mile limit and beyond. It leases the seabed for many uses such as marine aggregate dredging and offshore wind and renewables projects. 


Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine interacts frequently with The Crown Estate when assessing archaeological potential and possible impacts for proposed marine development, and helps deliver mitigation through the various marine industry protocols. Their Marine Stewardship Fund is a great asset in supporting elements of this work such as the ORPAD (Offshore Renewables Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries), SAMPHIRE (Scottish Atlantic Maritime Past: Heritage, Investigation, Research & Education) and the Marine Aggregate Dredging Industry Protocol and its awareness programme.
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Meonstoke School Heritage Day

Sue Nelson represented Wessex Archaeology at a Saxon Heritage Day at Meonstoke School on Thursday May 9th. This is the fourth year the event has been held and was enjoyed greatly by children, staff and visitors alike. Sue was involved, alongside Robin Iles of Winchester Museums Service, with engaging the children in a number of archaeological activities. The pupils dug for artefacts buried in a sand-pit, identified the materials of which they were made, learnt what different parts of an animal skeleton looked like and reconstructed a broken plate in jigsaw fashion.


The day culminated in the children re-enacting the Battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings with great gusto!


This event now forms part of a wider project looking at the presence of the Saxons in the Meon Valley  in which Wessex Archaeology will be further involved in the coming year.
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