Karen Nichols's blog

Prehistoric Ceramic Research Group

The Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group consists of pottery specialists, other archaeologists and members of the public. The group aims to promote regular contacts between those with interests in prehistoric ceramics and to keep in touch with recent developments and current research.

1001 Members of the Prehistoric Ceramic Research Group in the WA finds room

The Group held its annual Spring meeting at Wessex Archaeology earlier this month. Archaeologists, amateurs and potters met to hear about recent discoveries from Wessex Archaeology's recent excavations on the Salisbury Plain Training Area, at MOD Durrington, Porton Down, Amesbury and Yeovil.

1003 Collard Urn and Armorican vessel

Grace Jones talked about pottery from Poole Harbour, and brought an extraordinary pair of pots to show the Group: the larger vessel (on the left) is an ordinary Collared Urn of the Early Bronze Age. The smaller one (on the right) was found inside it, and comes from the Armorican region of north-west France (shown here by courtesy of Bournemouth University).
Bill Crumbleholme – a professional potter – produces replicas of prehistoric pottery, and brought a selection along. He is currently replicating pots for the Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre, and is researching and developing a range of clays and inclusions to use for the pottery, which covers styles from the Neolithic to the late Iron Age. Interestingly, clay dug on the Head makes very poor pots – as you can see on the project's website.

MP visits Portway House

1004 Dr Andrew Murrison and CE Chris Brayne

Dr Andrew Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire visited our Head Office at Portway House to familiarise himself with the range of work we undertake in both the terrestrial and marine environments.
He met the Executive Team and was briefed on the many projects we have undertaken which relate to MOD land holdings or interests. Dr Murrison, an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, took a great interest in our work with Operation Nightingale and met Steve Winterton, until recently a Corporal in the Rifles, who is now working full time in our geoarchaeology team whilst studying for a degree in archaeology.
At the end of the meeting CE Chris Brayne presented Dr Murrison with a copy of our 2008 publication, An Iron Age Settlement outside Battlesbury Hillfort as a memento of his visit.
Chris Brayne commented "We are very pleased to have been able to share a number of ideas with the Under Secretary of State and we look forward to pursuing several areas of opportunity which will benefit the local economy".

Inspiration day at Chisenbury

10th May 2013 - Inspiration day at Chisenbury Iron Age Midden, Salisbury Plain
On Friday morning (10th May 2013) an eager group of Jon Egging Trust representatives, students, teachers, archaeologists, volunteers and military personnel gathered on a windswept Salisbury Plain for the second archaeology-themed session of the Jon Egging Trust Blue Skies programme. The event was set-up by Richard Osgood, Senior Historic Advisor for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) in consultation with Wessex Archaeology (WA), and took place at the c. 2700 year old midden site close to East Chisenbury. 
The site comprises a considerable mound of probable feasting waste and has been partly disturbed by badgers. The students’ mission was to methodically investigate the badger spoil heaps in order to recover as much archaeological material as they could find. 
Three teams were headed by Wessex Archaeology’s Steve Winterton, Dave Norcott, and Angus Forshaw, James Spry (Leicester University), Richard Osgood and Cpl Tyler Christopher (DIO and 4 Rifles; Operation Nightingale). Each team was given a different spoil heap to tackle. Three volunteers from the Southampton University Air Squadron also gave up a day of their time to help out.
Within seconds all of the teams had found something. Large sherds of Iron Age pottery with some fantastic decoration, burnt and worked flint, and masses of animal bone quickly filled finds trays and then buckets. The students, teachers, archaeologists and soldiers were hooked. Even some of the more reserved characters were frequently heard exclaiming excitedly, and keenly engaged with all those nearby. Each of the teenagers got the chance to wash their finds and discuss them with the finds team – Sjt George Pas and Cpl Paul Turner or the 6 Rifles, and Dr. Matt Leivers (Wessex Archaeology). Star finds include some amazing decorated pottery, an antler tool and a large flint core. 
Other activities included a map reading task with RAF Cpl Martin Puxley, where students scanned the landscape from the site’s incredible viewpoint, and identified locations and features seen on the map; you could even see the white horse at Alton Barnes! Another highlight of the day was the intense examination and sampling of the contents of the army ration packs. 
It was wonderful to see the students so engrossed, so much so that it was difficult to get them to stop digging; they even enjoyed washing the artefacts! We were all impressed by their attitudes, motivation and enthusiasm, and how completely unphased they were when it came to communicating with everyone on site, including the media. 
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and express gratitude to all those involved, together we may have made a little bit of a difference.

On the Move

992 Ian taking delivery of the new fleet

Wessex Archaeology has just received the latest additions to its fleet of cars and vans, featuring our new branding. With fleet vehicles now based in Sheffield and Rochester, as well as Salisbury, we are definitely on the move!
Ian Phillips, Company Secretary said “the recent additions to our vehicle fleet shows continuing investment in our employees and the equipment that we operate, and also helps to ensure that the Wessex Archaeology brand is seen across the country
Wessex Archaeology now operates a fleet of eight vehicles, which is set to increase in the months ahead reflecting our growing portfolio of projects.

Jon Egging Trust – Blue Skies Programme

2nd May 2013 Inspiration day at Wessex Archaeology HQ

On a sunny Thursday 2nd May the students participating in the Jon Egging Trust Blue Skies programme (Bournemouth) visited the Salisbury office to learn about what archaeology is, who archaeologists are, and how such a diverse range of people and skills come together to work towards a successful outcome.

Kirsten Dinwiddy, Angus Forshaw, Steve Winterton, Sue Nelson and Phil Harding all contributed, explaining about their roles within the company, and discussing the variety of evidence we gather in order to better understand the lives of those who lived in the past. 

987 Angus Forshaw and Steve Winterton speaking to the students

The session kicked-off with an overview and presentation by Angus Forshaw who involved the students in identifying features on aerial photographs and geophysical surveys. 
Steve Winterton explained how he became involved in archaeology and Operation Nightingale. A visit to the environmental department followed, where the group saw how soil samples are processed, what may be found, and what information specialists can glean from such evidence. 

988 Sue Nelson on identifying artefacts

Sue Nelson asked the participants to try to identify different artefacts and think about how they might have been used in the past. Next came the pottery sequence challenge where, as is often the case, there was some amazement when they learned that the finely finished sherd of samian pottery was around 2000 years old.

989 Kirsten Dinwiddy explaining what we can tell from human remains

The skeleton of a late Romano-British man from Boscombe Down was of great interest, particularly as he had evidently rarely brushed his teeth. Kirsten Dinwiddy demonstrated the ways in which the age, sex and sometimes lifestyle may be assessed from human bones, whilst the participants considered and questioned the manner in which the remains were treated in the past.  
The final session of the day comprised a flint knapping demonstration by Phil Harding, who managed to mesmerize the teenagers (and adults) by talking about the connection he felt with the past through knapping flint. His comments made people think about the differences and similarities between modern and stone age everyday activities. He produced a number of tools including a large axe.

990 Phil Harding demonstrating flint knapping

All those involved were impressed by how focused the students were, and by their interesting, thought provoking questions. From their debrief evaluations it seems that all the students had learnt something new and left feeling happy. The same could be said of the Wessex staff too! Thank you to everyone for their support and advice.
We now look forward to a day at the East Chisenbury Iron Age midden with the Operation Nightingale team.

Prehistoric Ceramic Research Group

986 Mortlake Ware

Wessex Archaeology will host the Prehistoric Ceramic Research Group's Spring meeting at its Salisbury office on Saturday 11th May 2013 (10.30-4.00)The theme is pottery from Wessex and the South-West with an opportunity to hear about new research and recently excavated sites (Lyde Road, Somerset, Salisbury Plain and Amesbury), view and handle material of Neolithic to Iron Age date. 
Speakers will include George Kirke (University of Bristol), Grace Jones (University Bournemouth) and Matt Leivers, Rachael Seager Smith and Alistair Barclay from Wessex Archaeology.

World's oldest railway tunnel?

983 Archaeologist Chris Breeden

Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by the Derbyshire Archaeological Society to undertake an archaeological evaluation and building survey on the former railway tunnel and line at Fritchley, Derbyshire. The fieldwork formed part of a HLF funded Your Heritage project investigating the former Butterley Gangroad – built in 1793 to transport materials between local quarries and the Cromford Canal. Desk-based research for the project is being carried out by the Derbyshire Archaeological Society. The aim of the fieldwork was to investigate the date and type of construction of the tunnel and railway. The tunnel was subject to laser scanning and building inspection as well as the excavation of a single trench to the south of the tunnel to investigate the presumed original line of the railway. 
The investigations focused on the Fritchley Tunnel which allowed the Butterley Gangroad to pass below Chapel Street, Fritchley. The Gangroad was constructed by Benjamin Outram by 1793 to transport materials between quarries near to Crich and the Cromford Canal and the tunnel is therefore thought to be one of the oldest railway tunnels in the country. The Gangroad would originally have been constructed as a plateway and operated by horse drawn trains of wagons. In the 1840s the line was upgraded, and re-aligned and the old tunnel altered at Fritchley. 
The excavation of the trench revealed a single in situ sleeper and adjacent path. However, in the construction of the new line in the 1840s, the majority of the stonework from the old line appears to have been removed, presumably for re-use elsewhere. 
The building inspection and survey of the tunnel has confirmed it was constructed over two main phases, the latter phase corresponding with the railway’s re-alignment in the 1840s.
984 Recording the tunnel
Associated links:
ITV News - Full report: Andy Bevan vimeo video

Dornier in the news

980 Wessex Archaeology diver

The recovery operation of the Dornier 17 bomber, the last of its type, has been prominently featured on national television. Graham Scott of Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team tells us about Wessex Archaeology’s involvement with this world class aviation archaeology discovery:
"It was reported to us by a local diver. We took up the reins and, after considerable time and effort spent promoting the site, a highly successful geophysical survey commissioned by English Heritage led to the brave decision by the Royal Air Force Museum to try to save it. Subsequently we were involved in the initial stages of the recovery project, carrying out a diver survey of the site for the museum. 
I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with the aircraft when it goes on display at Hendon."
For the latest news from the RAF Museum blog click here.
Associated Links
BBC news -  
BBC news -
BBC news -
BBC news -

Kingsmead Exhibition Proves Popular with the Public

On Saturday 27th April 2013 we held an open day for the public and local residents to learn more about the exciting discoveries made at the CEMEX UK run Kingsmead Quarry, Horton near Wraysbury. 

The exhibition contained a selection of the most fascinating finds with experts on hand to answer questions and explain the significance of the artefacts. This was an opportunity for local people to see some of the brilliant discoveries that have been made over the 10 years of excavation at Horton.
Of course Phil Harding’s demonstration of flint knapping and Jackie McKinley’s skeleton stand proved extremely popular. 

976 Wraysbury Primary School

Children had the chance to have a go at several different activities including making their own ‘prehistoric’ pots. These were inspired by the amazing Beaker burial that was discovered at the site. 

977 Jesus Gonzalez and Colin Rayner

We are delighted that over 500 people took the opportunity to visit the event on Saturday and we received extremely positive feedback. 
‘One of the most interesting things I have seen in my 50 years in Wraysbury’
‘Fascinating exhibition. Well worth the trip’ 
The exhibition was formally opened on the Friday morning by Jesus Gonzalez, President CEMEX UK, who gave a welcome address, followed by Cllr Colin Rayner, the Worshipful Mayor of Royal Windsor and Maidenhead and Fiona Macdonald, Principal Archaeologists, Berkshire Archaeology.
Classes from three local schools: The Hythe School, Staines, Datchet St Mary’s and Wraysbury Primary took the opportunity to learn about the discoveries, do the activity trail, make a pot and watch Phil knap flint. Later in the afternoon the exhibition was opened to the staff from CEMEX UK and in the evening over 50 people attended a public lecture by Gareth Chaffey and Alistair Barclay.

978 Lecture by Gareth Chaffey and Alistair Barclay

Further talks to community groups will be taking place over the coming months, and school visits and workshops are planned.
For more information about our work at Kingsmead Horton click here

Scottish Diver Magazine

972 Scottish Diver Magazine

The latest edition of the Scottish Diver Magazine includes an article on  Project SAMPHIRE, a Coastal & Marine archaeology project for the west coast of Scotland. The project brings together local communities, divers and professional underwater archaeologists to support the identification, investigation and understanding of Scotland’s marine heritage.

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