Karen Nichols's blog

Ethan Bowden’s Work Experience


I have done a lot during my work experience: I have found pottery and bone in environmental samples; learnt how geomatics helps to map out an area; learnt about marine finds and what coastal & marine archaeology is; have cleaned finds from sites to find out what they are. My favourite activity was doing observational drawings, I enjoyed everything about it. The most difficult part of the work experience was using the microscope to look at environmental samples.


I went to Larkhill on Friday morning for a commemoration of the Somme. Seeing the soldiers and hearing the words of the readings I found really moving.
I have also been lucky enough to meet Phil Harding, which was something I was hoping would happen.
I would definitely think about working here in the future, as it is a really nice place to work and it is really interesting to research the history about a place and the finds found there.
By Ethan Bowden

Somme Centenary Event


As a part of the preparations for the building of service family accommodation for the Army Basing Programme on Salisbury Plain, Wessex Archaeology has been carrying out archaeological investigations for over a year at Larkhill. During this work a large array of WWI practice trenches came to light. Under the guidance of our client (Martin Brown of WYG) we have recently completed a characterisation of a sample of those trenches. Martin is one of the UK’s leading WWI specialists and his knowledge of the period has been invaluable. The practice trenches were used to train soldiers (including named divisions from Australia) in advance of their mobilisation to the theatre of war. For the field archaeology team this has been a profound and humbling experience.


Images captured by Rob Rawcliffe of FIDES Flare Media Ltd.
As the first Centenary of the beginning of the Somme Offensive fell shortly after our excavations had been completed, we were extremely keen to mark the date in a meaningful way. After due consultation with Lt Col Grace of the Royal School of Artillery, Wessex Archaeology and WYG were honoured to take part in an extremely moving commemorative event centred on surviving WWI practice trenches. It was an extremely profound event that remembered the sacrifices of WWI Commonwealth soldiers and families and, the continuing service of the Larkhill Garrison. 
For my part, standing next to WWI trenches on the day and at the very moment that men went over the top on the first day of the Somme will remain with me forever.
To see more images on our Flickr site follow this link.

What to do with UXO


The Coastal & Marine team often encounter Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) in their day-to-day work from researching projectiles reported through the Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol, to diving on minelaying U-boats. To help develop our knowledge of these potentially hazardous historical artefacts and to maintain our health & safety standards, we recently held a UXO Identification refresher workshop. Dave Welsh of Ramora UK led the training day and shared his wealth of knowledge and experience gathered from years working as a Navy Clearance diver and then establishing the explosive ordnance disposal company in 2005. 
Our training started off with Dave dispelling many common misconceptions about underwater UXO, such as – ‘bombs aren’t dangerous after they’ve been underwater for 60 years’ – yes they can be! We then learnt how to identify if a UXO is: Inert (contains no explosives), Blind (armed, but undetonated) or Live (not yet armed and potentially dangerous). It is very important to be able to assess the state of the UXO as it effects whether you can examine the UXO very carefully or give it a wide berth and leave it to the experts. Dave then gave us a crash course in the variety of bombs, mines, torpedoes, mortars, missiles, rockets, shells, bullets and grenades we might encounter during our marine archaeology work and how to identify them. 
We finished off the day with a practical session of ‘identify that UXO’. There was great competition between the groups to successfully identify each of the 10 items which ranged from cannon balls, a 4in shell, and a torpedo arming device!
With the training over, we are now armed (sorry!) with the knowledge to deal with any UXO we encounter in our marine archaeology work, including knowing when to leave it alone and call in Dave and the experts!

Our New Man in Wales


We are delighted to announce that Matt Williams has joined the ever expanding Wessex Archaeology team. Matt will be based at our new premises in Welshpool where he will take up the post of Business Manager, Wales. Matt is already well known to many of us at Wessex from his many appearances on Time Team, where his experimental archaeology cameos were always a treat – Matt’s role as a Navvy is a must see! Matt also presents Digging for Britain with Alice Roberts.
Prior to joining Wessex Matt was a director and manager with L-P Heritage for 14 years, which he helped expand from a small consultancy to a national fieldwork unit and also set up their Shrewsbury office. Matt’s other roles included leading on heritage consultancy and developing and managing the fieldwork team.
Matt will now focus his attention on developing WA Cymru and managing heritage, geophysics and fieldwork projects; Matt has already started work on projects in Anglesey, the Welsh borders and for HS2. We are all looking forward to working with Matt and seeing the Welsh office prosper.

News from Horizon


For the past seven months Wessex Archaeology has been working with Horizon Nuclear Power at Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey in advance of the construction of a new power station. Our work has comprised the excavation of over 1200 evaluation trenches across a 250ha site with a team of up to 50 archaeologists. The site is located on the northern limits of Anglesey, an area with a rich archaeological past, and the findings will add considerably to our understanding of Anglesey’s prehistoric and medieval history.


Our findings include Neolithic and Bronze Age features and the remains of field systems spanning a number of millennia. Further details on these features will be made available by Horizon Nuclear Power as the post excavation evaluation proceeds.
The work could not have been completed without the assistance of the team at Gwynedd Archaeological Planning Service and our partners from Irish Archaeological Consultancy and Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. The whole team have made a sterling effort, often working in atrocious weather conditions including three extratropical cyclones (otherwise known as Storms Clodagh, Desmond and Gertrude).
To learn more about our work with Horizon on the Wylfa Newydd project please click here

Underwater Wreck Sites Recreated by 3D Printing


Wessex Archaeology's Scottish Office has been involved in recreating two British wrecks using 3D printing. The two shipwrecks are of an 17th/18th century cannon wreck in Scotland and a large requisitioned WWI steamship in use as a floating hospital off the south coast of England. The use of 3D printing adds to the suite of existing 3D techniques such as virtual reality and digital reconstruction that archaeologists are increasingly using to share wreck sites with the public, and for carrying out analysis of the remains.


The first of the wrecks to be printed was the Drumbeg shipwreck. This enigmatic site is believed to be a late 17th or early 18th century wreck of northern European type. The wreck lies at a depth of 12 metres in Eddrachillis Bay in Sutherland and consists of three cannon, two anchors and partial hull remains preserved on and below the seabed. The wreck was discovered and reported by local residents Ewen Mackay and Michael Errington while scallop diving (BBC link March 2013). Archaeologists are still working to confirm the identity of the wreck but one intriguing possibility is that it is the Crowned Raven, a Dutch trading vessel known to have been lost in the bay the winter of 1690/1691 during passage from the Baltic Sea to Portugal with a cargo of timbers and hemp. The wreck has had undergone several surveys since 2012 including sonar, magnetometer and photogrammetry, data from these combined data sets was used to prepare model ready for 3D printing. The wreck site has been designated by Historic Environment Scotland as a Historic Marine Protected Area (HMPA).


The second and much larger site was 3D printed using multibeam sonar data. Sonar techniques cannot capture the colour details but are suitable for recording the shape of the wreck in 3D over a wide area. The wreck was the HMHS Anglia – a 100 m (329 feet) long steamship built in Dumbarton in 1900 and lost off Folkestone just over 100 years ago in 1915 during WWI. At the time of sinking the ship was in use as a hospital returning wounded veterans to the UK. Over 164 people lost their lives after the ship struck a mine on its return journey from Calais to Dover. A high resolution 3D sonar survey of the site was carried out by Wessex Archaeology on behalf of Historic England in 2014 (BBC link October 2014). Using 3D printing the archaeologists have been able to add colours based on depth to the 3D print and also overlay historical information on the print such as an illustration of the ship sinking, to assist in the interpretation of the model.
Archaeologist John McCarthy, who undertook the 3D modelling of the sites, said:
"It’s been a fascinating process to transform the light captured in the photographs and the sound captured by the sonar sensors back into solid objects through the 3D printing process. We are very excited about the potential for this technology to help us to show the wider community what it’s like to visit the site without having to learn to dive or even get your feet wet! We hope that future surveys by our team can result in more models which can be used in local and national museum displays and at talks and open days". 
To read more about this story on the BBC follow this link 24 May 2016
By Karen Nichols, Graphics Manager 

Oxfam Trailwalker Challenge 2016

2855 Rachel, Si and Dave Salisbury Trailwalkers

Following last year’s epic success in the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge Wessex Archaeology are entering three teams in this year’s Trailwalker challenge. This year the teams come from across Wessex Archaeology’s offices with staff members from Salisbury, Sheffield and the Maidstone offices taking part. 
In true archaeological fashion the teams are named after the types of fill recorded in features! Team Primary is made up by four tough Sheffield lads – Chris Hirst, Matt Tooke, Lincoln Spencer and Jack Laverick; Secondary, comprising Salisbury based managers Gareth Chaffey and Simon Cleggett with Alex Grassam (Sheffield) and Phoebe Olsen (Salisbury) and Tertiary, Dave Norcott (Salisbury) bravely takes the challenge on again with Rachel Williams (Salisbury), Andy Callen (Salisbury) and Will Santamaria (Maidstone).
Collectively they are the Wessex Walkers the link below will take you to their Just Giving page where they are trying to raise £4200 for Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
By Rachel Williams, Archaeologist (Salisbury Office)

Meet the Salisbury Finds Assistants


In Spring 2016, the Salisbury office advertised for full time post-excavation assistants to help process the finds from several excavations, including the exciting Neolithic and Anglo-Saxon remains from Bulford, Wiltshire. A team of four was chosen – Rob Wheeldon, Jen Whitby, Amy Hall and Sophie Clarke. Here is a little more about them, and how they have been getting on. 


My academic background is in history and working with heritage organisations in the north east, and for me, archaeology is a relatively recent and exciting change in career direction. I volunteered with the finds department at Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield office last summer, before taking up the offer of a temporary contract there as a finds technician.
I feel very privileged to have been offered a similar role at the Salisbury office. I’d worked with human remains before, processing finds from a Victorian cemetery in Halifax. Whilst we know a lot about the Victorians, how they lived and how they died, we know comparatively little about the Anglo-Saxons, which makes the Bulford project really exciting to be part of. What I have enjoyed most is listening to the various interpretations of the cemetery and grave goods. As someone coming from a historical background it’s cool to feel I am on the cutting edge of current discoveries and research. 



I am originally from Northamptonshire and got into archaeology after an archaeologist visited my primary school. I have a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology from the University of Wales, Lampeter, as well as a Masters in Archaeology from Oxford University. My interests are in Ancient Civilisations and I have a background of working with finds through years of volunteering as finds supervisor for my local community archaeology project, working behind the scenes at my local museum, and as a trainee for Cotswold Archaeology. 
I feel very lucky joining Wessex Archaeology and have enjoyed my time so far. I have learned so much about archaeology in the South West, particularly from such a fantastic site as Bulford. This is the second opportunity I have had to handle human bone (previously a skeleton dating to the Bronze Age – Iron Age) but I was not prepared for the scale of the cemetery, despite warnings from the project manager, Simon Cleggett. It has been amazing to process the finds and to help rediscover the story of these people, such as the woman buried with the conch shell and work box, and the giant of a man buried with a spear. I have also enjoyed further developing my archive skills.
I look forward to processing the rest of the finds from Bulford; delving deeper in the past as far back as the Neolithic, and continuing to learn more about the archaeology and history of the area. 



Whilst completing my archaeology degree at University of Bristol, I joined Wessex Archaeology as a weekly volunteer working in the Finds Department. This gave me the opportunity to discover an area of archaeology that I found truly fascinating and I was delighted when I was offered full-time employment. There is much to learn about the appropriate techniques for extracting artefacts from their earthly coatings and it usually calls for delicate handling and an eye for detail as they are prepared for x-ray, dating, interpretation, exhibiting and/or archive storage. 
To be able to handle skilfully made objects from the past has been inspiring. The recent surprising discovery of a large Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Bulford, has resulted in an influx of human skeletons that need to be processed. We discuss how age may be determined through analysing the different bones and looking at how disease or accidents may have altered their appearance. This and associated artefacts tell us about the life and death of these people. 



My interest in archaeology began with an FdSc, progressing to BSc degree level at Plymouth University. I regularly participated in excavations and voluntary projects such as the Bronze Age Boat located in Falmouth, Cornwall. I then went on to do my Master’s degree at Durham University where I studied Museums and Artefacts. I learned more about the aftercare and treatment of objects after excavation, preservation techniques, politics, debates, repatriation and archaeological legislation. In 2014 I became a conservator for Longleat House. I monitored the environment and performed integrated pest management, cataloguing, archiving and participated in the overall care of the furniture and artefacts. 
Everyday I find myself considering the finds from the Bulford site in a new way. So far, I have been archiving, washing and marking human bones and their associated grave goods, and I have even spotted signs of injury and disease.  
As a team we regularly share our collective knowledge and we have helped each other to improve our skills, as we steadily work through our tasks.
Simon regularly discusses his different theories about the Bulford site with us, which really makes us feel involved and helps us understand the importance of what we do in order for the next stage to continue. We find that the communication between departments has made the significance of the site really strong to us; and as a result we thoroughly look forward to continuing our employment here. 

2851 Sue Nelson

Most of our training has been provided by finds supervisors, Sue (Nelson) and Erica (Macey-Bracken). We have also benefitted from talking to individual specialists such as Kirsten (Egging Dinwiddy) and Jackie (McKinley) on the human bone, and Elina (Brook), Rachael (Seager Smith) and Grace (Jones) on the pottery and other finds, and Lorrain (Higbee) about the animal bone. This has made us feel so much more involved in the team and we really feel like we are now part of Wessex Archaeology. We have been introduced to different departments so we can understand how the archaeology goes from excavation to publication. We are actively developing the necessary skills to document the finds prior to further analysis. This has also provided us with the opportunity to see the complexity and variety of archive requirements museums have before any archive deposition can take place.
Over the next few months we are expecting to develop and broaden our skills further, and work on similarly fascinating assemblages from other sites. 
By Rob Wheeldon, Jen Whitby, Amy Hall and Sophie Clarke, Finds Assistants

Visitors from the Jon Egging Trust


Teenagers completing their first level of the Jon Egging Trust’s Blue Skies Programme were recently treated to an Introduction to Archaeology Day at the Wessex Archaeology offices in Salisbury
The day kicked off with an introduction to the concept of archaeology, and how and why we do it. An animated discussion, led by Project Manager Simon Cleggett, considered archaeological projects and teamwork.
Peta Knott and Maddie Fowler (Coastal & Marine) created an entertaining activity involving the young people kitting-up their friends in unwieldy diving gear – a task which needed a well-organised team! 
Thanks to Alex Brown and the Geoarchaeology team, the students learnt how and why we gather environmental evidence (eg, seeds, pollen, snail shells) – and how it helps to paint a picture of past landscapes and environments; by viewing a sample through a microscope, they saw how amazing and varied pollen spores can be.
The finds activity with Sue Nelson and Erica Macey-Bracken allowed the students to see, handle and discuss the materials and objects used in the past, and contemplate how large tasks (such as digging a ditch) might have been achieved with the materials and technologies available. By stacking crates of artefacts from the earliest up to the most recent, the pupils were able to visualise how stratigraphy – one of the main principles of archaeology – works. 
As archaeology is about people, a particularly tangible resource is their skeletal remains. Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy (Senior Osteoarchaeologist) talked about how we study human bone in order to find out about the health and lifestyles of past peoples. The students were fascinated to see how age, biological sex and various conditions affect the skeleton, and were helped to understand how essential ‘context’ is when interpreting any archaeological remains.
As always, Phil Harding’s session on flint knapping and tool use was enthralling. Sharpening a stake with a replica flint axe – attempted by most of the children – was one of the highlights of the day. 
The day demonstrated the variety of ways in which archaeologists contribute to projects, and how each part of the team have valuable roles to play in order to achieve project and company aims. The Blue Skies Programme provides the students with credits towards a BTEC in Workskills, and the sessions at Wessex Archaeology help towards this.
We look forward to seeing the group at one of our excavations on Friday.

PCRG Spring Meeting


The Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group held its Spring meeting (Prehistoric Pottery: time for a change?) at Canterbury Christ Church University on Saturday 14 May. Chaired by Alistair Barclay and Emilie Sibbesson, the meeting focused on pottery chronology, one of the key themes of the Research Framework, and speakers included Neil Wilkin (British Museum), Barbara McNee (freelance specialist), Prof John Collis (Sheffield University) and Lisa Brown (Oxford Archaeology & University). Topics for the day included the chronology of Food Vessels, Bronze Age pottery from Thanet, constructing Iron Age chronologies and the re-dating of Danebury and its environs.  In the afternoon a display of newly excavated material from sites in Kent allowed people to share their knowledge and expertise.
The meeting was also an opportunity to formally launch the PCRG 2016 Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group Research Framework: Agenda and Strategy (PCRG Occasional Paper 7). The document will be available to download from the PCRG website.
The document was designed and typeset for the PCRG by Ken Lymer and features images of a number of vessels from Wessex Archaeology sites. 
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