Karen Nichols's blog

European Conference on Scientific Diving


This week WA Coastal & Marine's John McCarthy and Isger Vico Sommer travelled from Edinburgh to a surprisingly sunny Sweden to participate, present and exchange ideas with national and international colleagues at the 2nd European Conference on Scientific Diving. It was hosted at the Sven Lovén centre (about 2 hours north of Gothenburg) by the University of Gothenburg in collaboration with Bohusläns Museum and Västra Götaland Regional Council. Some of the main topics included coastal research using scientific diving, new technologies and methods for scientific divers, research in cold waters using scientific diving and archaeological diving regulations!
WA presented the project SAMPHIRE which fitted very well to a theme of working with the public to gather scientific information often touched upon throughout the conference. We would like to thank all the participants and organisers for a great conference!
By Isger Vico Sommer, Archaeologist
(WA Coastal & Marine)

Wessex Archaeology Supports the Ten Tors Challenge 2016


The Ten Tors Challenge (TTC) is a major event for youth teams taking place in May each year – 400 teams each of 6 teenagers take on hikes of 35, 45 or 55 miles (56, 72 or 88 km) over the difficult terrain of Dartmoor, visiting 10 nominated tors  and check points in under two days. The teams must be self-sufficient, carrying all that they need to complete their route and stay out overnight.
The TTC is organised by the Army, specifically Headquarters 1st Artillery Brigade & South West, from its Moor Group Headquarters at Okehampton Camp. It is assisted by the Royal Navy (with manpower and helicopters), the Royal Air Force, the Dartmoor Rescue Group, the Police and British Red Cross: between them they oversee the participants and ensure that none comes to lasting harm.
In his ‘other’ job as a Reservist, Major Toby Gane (a Senior Project Manager at Wessex Archaeology’s Salisbury office) who works at Headquarters 1st Artillery Brigade & South West, supported the TTC by working over four days in the TTC Operations Room at Dartmoor Camp helping to co-ordinate military and civilian agency support to the event and teams. This included helping co-ordinate evacuations from the moor, some by helicopter, when required.
Chief Executive Chris Brayne says: ‘Wessex Archaeology is delighted to support the Ten Tors Challenge by releasing staff who are Reservists to assist with the set-up and running of this important event.

FIPAD Relaunched 2016


Following on from the immense amount of interest and engagement from the fishing industry and the wider community during its pilot project, a new approach to the reporting of archaeological finds has been launched.
In 2015 following the successful pilot project of the Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was approached for funding to support and create the position of Historic Environment Fisheries Liaison Officer (HEFLO). Wessex Archaeology, with the support of the Sussex IFCA, was successful in their application to relaunch the FIPAD, and in February 2016 Alistair Byford-Bates was appointed to the HEFLO post. 
As a permanent presence on the ground in Sussex the HEFLO will liaise with the fishing community at times that suit the ebb and flow of their daily operations. The HEFLO will also engage with the wider community to raise awareness of our shared maritime heritage and the role the fishing community have played in it.


For further information on this project or to report a find please visit: https://fipad.org/
By Alistair Byford-Bates, HEFLO

Freedom Day Reception


Wessex Archaeology’s Graham Scott attended the Freedom Day reception at the South African High Commission in London on 29 April at the invitation of His Excellency Mr Obed Mlaba.
The invitation reflects the success of the ‘We Die Like Brothers’ team in creating a permanent exhibition on the loss of the steamship Mendi for the South African National War Memorial at Delville Wood and ongoing plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of 1917 loss, South Africa's worst maritime disaster, by carrying out archaeological fieldwork on the wreck.
Watch out for a ‘We Die Like Brothers’ education resource pack which will appear shortly on the Wessex Archaeology SS Mendi web pages and on Historic England's dedicated First World War web pages.
By Graham Scott, Senior Archaeologist and Dive Superintendent

Discovering Maritime Archaeology Along Scotland’s West Coast


A three-year project designed to locate previously unknown maritime archaeological sites on Scotland’s west coast has just been completed by a team from Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine based in Edinburgh. Project SAMPHIRE, which was carried out in partnership with the Flinders University of South Australia and funded by The Crown Estate, has resulted in the discovery of over a hundred new maritime archaeological sites from Cape Wrath to the Solway Firth.
The project worked by harnessing local knowledge about possible sites in the marine environment, with the archaeologists talking directly to harbour masters, scallop divers, recreational divers, fishermen and local residents all along the west coast of the Scottish mainland. After checking any reported locations against existing records, the most promising of the sites were visited by teams of volunteer and professional archaeological divers.
Over the three years of fieldwork (2013–2015) the project has led to the discovery of more than 100 maritime archaeological sites, including metal and wooden shipwrecks, flying boats and other aircraft, cannons, cannonballs, ancient anchors, prehistoric coastal sites, as well as more recent sites such as 20th-century fishing vessels. Among the highlights was the recording of a group of previously unreported World War II flying boats in the Firth of Lorn.
The project results include over 40 new shipwreck sites including a dozen wrecks on the seabed for which there are confirmed or probable identifications. These 18th, 19th and 20th-century wrecks reported by divers include the Yemassee (an American cargo ship lost in 1859), the schooner Medora (lost in 1860), the Falcon, a previously unlocated paddle steamer built in 1860 and lost in 1867 with great loss of life, the Lady Middleton (a schooner lost in 1868), the Iris (a brig lost in 1874), the Lord Bangor (a wooden ship lost in 1894), the Cathcartpark (a steamship lost in 1912 near Iona), the Hersilla (an armed iron naval yacht lost in 1916), the SS Viscount (lost in 1924), the Sheila (an early MacBrayne ferry built in 1904 and sunk in 1927), the Mafeking (a salvage vessel lost in attempts to recover the Sheila), the SS George A. West (a wooden steam trawler lost in 1927), the Carrigart (a steam drifter lost in 1933) and the Thalia (a steam yacht lost in 1942).
Project SAMPHIRE stands for Scottish Atlantic Maritime Past: Heritage, Investigation, Research and Education.
Associated pages

Veterans Visit Tidworth Saxon Cemetery Excavation


A recent excavation in Tidworth, of a 1300-year-old Anglo-Saxon cemetery, was visited by wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans from the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Tedworth House. Archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology showed them the work in progress and some of the finds from the site, as well as discussing their significance.
The cemetery, comprising around 55 burials and of late 7th- to early 8th-century date, was discovered ahead of building works associated with a £70 million housing development, to provide 322 new homes for Army families, by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) in partnership with Hill, an award-winning housebuilder.
Preliminary results suggest that the burials represent a cross-section of a local community, with men, women and children all present. Nearly all the burials included grave goods – personal effects or significant items interred with the dead. Most commonly these were small iron knives, although other finds included combs and pins made of bone, beads and pierced coins thought to form necklaces, several spearheads, a shield boss and a finely decorated bronze workbox. 
Many of the visitors from Tedworth House had previous experience of archaeology through Operation Nightingale, a ground-breaking military initiative which uses the technical and social aspects of field archaeology to aid the recovery and skill development of service personnel and veterans who have been injured in conflict. This has included the excavation of a 6th-century Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Barrow Clump, Figheldean, in partnership with Wessex Archaeology.


Richard Bennett, formerly of 40 Commando, who spent 17 years with the Marines serving four tours of Afghanistan, and also served in Iraq and Northern Ireland, said,
 “I naturally jumped at the chance to take part [in the visit] and it was a good opportunity to compare and contrast some of the graves at this site to some of the graves that we had been excavating over several years at Barrow Clump, which is not too far away and dates to a similar period."
“This visit gave me personally the opportunity to reflect on just how far I had come over the 5 years since my first experience of archaeology at Barrow Clump. Since then I have progressed from an occasional volunteer with Operation Nightingale, to getting a Degree in Archaeology and have now taken over responsibility for enhancing the veterans experience not just in archaeology but in heritage in general through Breaking Ground Heritage. This is a project set up and run by veterans, for veterans, in order to help those who are wounded, injured and sick through some of the challenges that they face. They do it alongside people of a similar nature and outlook on life. I know through personal experience how taking part in heritage can help your recovery pathway.
Ryan Harris, Project Director at Hill, commented, 
“The area has a fantastically rich history and the recent archaeological excavation really brings this to life. As with any development, we are working hard to protect and record these important findings for posterity. Tidworth is quickly becoming one of our most fascinating projects, and it is great to be creating homes for Service personnel – something the whole team is very proud to be working on.”
To find out more about this site click here

Coastal & Marine - Month 3


Over recent weeks much of my work has revolved around the upcoming dive season and finds reported to us through the dredging protocols. As a recreational dive instructor I have had very little dealings with surface supply equipment or even full-face masks. So being able to shadow Dive Superintendent Graham Scott while checking, maintaining and testing the dive equipment was an excellent chance to gain knowledge about the equipment itself. After checking over the voice communications, video feed and obviously air supply, we serviced the Kirby Morgan switching blocks with nice clean, new O rings. After this we had an external test of the dive kit, and once again I was given the chance to shadow while this was taking place. So while I still have very limited dives in a full-face mask, and none in surface supply kit, I now have a far improved knowledge of the equipment, that others will be using over the upcoming dive season, and hopefully get a few dives in full-face masks myself over the season. 
As mentioned previously, other work that I have been undertaking includes the latest discoveries reported through the Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for the Reporting of Finds of Archaeological Interest. I have completed the reports for quite a lot of these now (so go and read them!), and I have noticed an improvement in my own abilities in artefact identification, report writing and organisational skills. All of the current finds reported through the Protocol are uploaded to the RSS feed as soon as possible, and then single page wharf reports are distributed among the wharf and vessel staff, as well as the Receiver of Wreck, Historic England, local HERs and The Crown Estate. 
I have also completed my first two solo field trips since my last blog. The first was delivering archaeological timbers to a student at Bournemouth University to aid in their research for their Master’s thesis. And the second being a trip to Portsmouth, where the channel is being deepened. The aim of the visit was to undertake Quay Side Archaeological Monitoring. 

The Sheffield office expands


After six years of growth Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield team have outgrown our offices and taken on new space elsewhere within the historic shovel works that is Sheaf Bank Business Park. This last year in particular has seen unprecedented levels of work for the northern team, and our work across the breadth of England and Wales led to a turnover of close to £4 million for 2015. 
We’ve recruited additional admin and logistics staff to support the growing office, and with 2016 looking to be just as busy we expect more new faces soon. With the team now numbering 60 our existing meetings room has been claimed for additional desk space, but our growth is to our neighbours’ benefit – our new meetings room is available for hire at very reasonable rates!

Netheravon Cremation Urn


Tom Theed of Landmarc, re-united with the unusually large Early Bronze Age cremation urn that he and his team found on a burial mound at Netheravon, 'excavated' in pieces by badgers! Controlled excavation of the find spot was subsequently undertaken by Wessex Archaeology in conjunction with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Operation Nightingale, and the urn put back together by Gabby Flexer at the Wiltshire County Conservation lab in Chippenham.
This amazing find and an equally remarkable group of bronze, stone and bone objects from the same burial can currently been seen on temporary display at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes.
To find out more about this project click on this BBC link

Another Good Show by Wessex Archaeology!


Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Conference, Devizes (Saturday 16 April)

Over 200 people filled the Corn Exchange – an ideal venue − to hear an excellent range of talks covering archaeological work in the county over the past year.
There were no less than five presentations involving Wessex Archaeology projects: Si Cleggett and Martin Brown on Bulford/Larkhill, Phil Andrews and Jan Dando on Mother Anthony’s Well, Rachael Seager Smith and Alistair Barclay on Roman burials from Amesbury (Boscombe) Down, and Phil Harding on the ‘beast’ of a flint core from West Kennet near Avebury (see video below). 
The day was rounded off by Richard Osgood with a characteristically amusing description of the Operation Nightingale/Wessex Archaeology project on the Netheravon barrow, followed by a visit to the museum to see the enormous urn and wonderful finds now on temporary display there.
Rachel Brown looked after a very busy Wessex Archaeology stand with some nice up-to-date display panels, sold new publications and gave away old − which meant the van went back a lot lighter than when it came! 
This must be one of the best attended and consistently good and enjoyable county conferences in the country – book early next year to avoid disappointment!
Click on the link below to watch the video of the drawing of the ‘beast’ of a flint core from West Kennet near Avebury.
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