Kitty Foster's blog

New arrival, back from the south-west

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Having moved from Nottingham to join the lovely team at Wessex West, just seven months previously, last week I found myself once more a resident or Nottinghamshire and commuting into Sheffield for my first day as a member of Wessex North
 
Prior to joining Wessex in April 2017, I worked for a number of archaeological field units across the Midlands as well as undertaking research at the University of Leicester in collaboration with the British Museum. I am passionate about ensuring that adequate consultation within the planning process ensures the protection of our heritage resource, both within the UK and abroad. I have long standing research interests relating to the Nile valley, and continue to work in the region, currently collaborating with Dr Kathryn Howley at Cambridge University on Egypt Exploration Society funded excavations at Sanam temple, near Karima, in northern Sudan. 
 
Here at Wessex North, I will be continuing my role as a Senior Heritage Consultant, whilst also taking on responsibility for implementing future community and outreach projects from this office. I’m looking forward to using my knowledge of the Midlands and Yorkshire, working within our Heritage team, to provide high quality consultancy to our clients across the region. 
 
 
 

Back to Barrow Clump with Breaking Ground Heritage / Operation Nightingale

3802 Photography © Harvey Mills
 
After a gap of three years we returned once more to Barrow Clump, again with the support of Defence Infrastructure Organisation, but this time in mid-Winter rather than mid-Summer! The reason, as before, was further badger damage to Anglo-Saxon graves, in particular those inaccessible (to us) beneath the roots of mature beech trees. Would 2017 live up to the excitement of 2012−14 … and what would it be like for people camping on site during a particularly cold snap at the end of November?
 
For the first few days we sieved badger spoil – not exciting but necessary − recovering disarticulated human bone as well as a Saxon knife. We then brought in a machine and opened a small area and two evaluation trenches beyond the trees and outside the scheduled area. At first it looked like we might be going home early, but a rapid trowel of the chalk revealed four graves in the excavation area and three more in one of the evaluation trenches, helping define the known extent of the cemetery.
 
3804 Adult male burial with pot. Photography © Harvey Mills
 

3807 Photography © Harvey Mills

The seven graves contained two adults and five infants/juveniles – one of the latter with a brooch and another with a small pot. A female adult was buried with a pair of copper alloy disc brooches, tweezers, pin and a perforated Roman coin, along with glass and amber beads. However, it was the adult male that stole the show this time – there was a well preserved spearhead, buckle and knife, but the undoubted star find was a beautifully decorated pot in exceptional condition (pictured right), the only such vessel from Barrow Clump and of a type rare in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in Wiltshire.
 
It was all over too quickly … another success for Breaking Ground Heritage / Operation Nightingale, not only for the archaeological results but also − and just as important − in bringing together friends from earlier years at the Clump with new participants, all sustained by the camp fire and Dickie Bennett’s catering skills – never have hot dogs tasted so good! So, thank-you everyone who took part, those who provided invaluable support in various ways, and others who brought timely gifts of home-made cakes, warm mince pies and firewood. An excellent result that certainly did live up to the excitement of earlier years – though Winter camping was voted a distant second to Summer camping!
 
 
 

‘Nets, Wrecks and Artefacts’ Exhibition at Littlehampton Museum

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In January 2018, a display of material reported through the Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD) will be opening at Littlehampton Museum. FIPAD has been successfully operating for several years, encouraging the reporting of archaeological material by the fishing community, with some significant and interesting finds reported by the Sussex fishing fleet. 
 
The exhibition will run from Saturday 6 January to Friday 2 March 2018, in this fascinating museum owned and run by Littlehampton Town Council; it is also free to visit, making it part of a fantastic day out in the town. The exhibition will show the contributions the Sussex fishing fleet are making to our shared heritage through the material they accidently encounter and recover in their day to day fishing operations. The display will be a mixture of display posters, artefacts, and a video montage of material found. Items forming part of the exhibition will include cannons, a lead ingot, an unusual anchor, pottery and glassware, along with many more unusual and fascinating finds to interest all the family.
 

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Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and managed by Wessex Archaeology, FIPAD has helped to increase the reporting of archaeological finds in Sussex through the Historic Environment Fisheries Liaison Officer and the support of the Sussex fishing community and the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA).
 
 
 

Investigating Aurochs

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Ewan Chipping a PhD student at The University of York visited Wessex Archaeology as part of his research. Ewan is researching aurochs and cattle in the UK looking at skull shape changes over time in relation to evolution and ecology. He visited Wessex to meet with Senior Zooarchaeologist Lorrain Higbee, so that he could gain access to our animal bone collection which includes an aurochs horn and cranium.
 
The research topic came about due to Ewan’s interest in cattle, he noticed how the animal have a clear connection to the human past and views the animal as ‘integral and entwinned in the human story’. Though he is not from a farming background he does originate from Norfolk, where he grew up in an agricultural landscape.
 
Availability of aurochs skulls for study has been surprisingly good; Ewan has had double the number he initially thought he would have access to. He estimates by the end of his research he will have recorded between 30−40 skulls. Another positive for Ewan has been the variation in skulls both spatially and temporally, which will allow him greater analysis. One problem he has faced though is that many of the skulls are unstratified which makes absolute dating harder, however often they can still be dated to broad periods such as the Holocene or Pleistocene.
 
Ewan is using non-destructive recording methods called geometric morphometrics and finite element analysis, both require surface scans/3D models of the skulls to run the analysis. To create the 3D models he is using several methods including photogrammetry and surface scanning. The recording methods measure absolute shape changes and stress/strain in bones when moving. It is hoped this research will establish a new line of zooarchaeological inquiry able to assess complex variation in animals through the scientific methods he is using that are often elusive. Ewan gained knowledge of these recording methods through his lecturer Dr Phil Cox, and is based within the Hull York Medical School at York so has had exposure to other disciplines which are already using this technology.
 

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Ewan’s PHD is a great example of the ever-changing research methods in archaeology and the importance of maintaining reference collections and archival material for future study, as a new method is often just around the corner.
 
Ewan Chipping’s PhD is likely to be completed within the next couple of years, so keep an eye out for his research.
 
To discover more about aurochsen take a look at our information page.
 
 
 
 

Winterbourne Medieval Barn

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In April 2017 Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by West Waddy ADP on behalf of the Winterbourne Medieval Barn Trust to undertake archaeological investigations in the grounds surrounding the medieval Court Farm Barn. 
 
Geophysical survey had suggested the presence of a moat ditch. Three trenches to the south of the barn were located to target this anomaly, with a fourth trench positioned closer to the barn to investigate any related structures. Three test pits were also hand-excavated to the north of the barn to investigate standing wall footings and related stratigraphy.
 
Whilst no evidence for a moat was revealed, investigations found intact medieval soil horizons, with ditches both contemporary and later in date than the 14th-century barn, as well as 18th- and 19th-century stone drains.
 
For more information on the site, follow this link to the project page.
 
By Tracey Smith
 
 

'Hats and vests’ St Thomas’s Christmas Tree Festival

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Wessie the fairy sits atop our health and safety themed tree ‘Hats and Vests’ (number 9) in the St Thomas’s Church Christmas Tree Festival in Salisbury. The Festival opens today and runs until 10 December.
 
For further information visit www.stthomassalisbury.co.uk
 
By Sue Johnson, Librarian 
 
 

New Senior Geoarchaeologist

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Hi, my name is Andy Shaw and I’ve just joined the team as a Senior Geoarchaeologist. I am a specialist in Pleistocene sedimentology and Palaeolithic archaeology.
 
I have been involved in researching the archaeology of our earliest ancestors (in particular Neanderthals) for 16 years, both through academic and commercial investigations. This has involved an undergraduate degree at the University of Durham, an MA at the University of Southampton and a PhD back at Durham. I have carried out studies in Britain, northern Europe and the Near East. 
 
Since completing my PhD (in 2008) I have been employed as a doctoral researcher on two projects; one investigating the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic of Syria and Lebanon, and the other the early Neanderthal archaeology of La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey and (what is now) the English Channel.  The latter is ongoing through the Ice Age Island Project and the La Manche Prehistoric research group. Since 2011, I have been employed as a specialist in Pleistocene geoarchaeology on commercial contracting projects and have taught university courses on reconstructing Pleistocene landscapes and environments, and human behavioural evolution. 
 
My work focuses on the unique issues of investigating the Pleistocene geoarchaeological record, spanning as it does more than a million years. How we tackle such deep-time scales and use snap shots of information (archaeological, sedimentological, paleoenvironmental, chronological etc.) to reconstruct human engagement with the hugely varied landscapes and changing glacial-interglacial environments of the Pleistocene, is a challenge that continues to excite.
 
Beyond archaeology, I spend time with my daughter, Freya (6 years old) who, with two parents that study the Palaeolithic and six years of experience of Pleistocene fieldwork, has herself developed a wide knowledge base on the subject. 
 
 
 
 

Larkhill Nominated for Rescue Project of the Year

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We are delighted to announce that our Larkhill SFA project has been nominated for Rescue Project of the Year in the 2018 Current Archaeology Awards.
 
The Ministry of Defence earmarked land at Larkhill for new housing as part of the Army Basing Programme. Defence Infrastructure Organisation and its consultants WYG employed Wessex Archaeology to investigate the archaeological potential of the area − previously thought to be free of significant archaeological remains − before building work began.
 
Excavation revealed an Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure, a hengiform monument surrounded by 14 postholes, Beaker inhumation burials, a Middle Bronze Age cremation cemetery, a very small ring-ditch, and the extensive remains of military practice trench systems, mainly from World War I.
 
The Larkhill excavations will prompt a re-think on the development of the World Heritage Site and add to our understanding of the funerary/ceremonial/social landscape of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. In a very real sense, the WWI archaeology links to how 21st century soldiers and their families strive to protect our collective identity... putting service family homes there is hugely appropriate. 
 
The partnership with our client WYG has allowed for innovative and effective solutions throughout the lifecycle of the project and for me this nomination (Wessex Archaeology and WYG) is an opportunity to celebrate our effectiveness as a team and, our ability to mesh coherently within a multi-disciplinary (and often challenging) environment. 
 

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Voting is open from now until 5 February, and the winners will be announced at the Current Archaeology Live! 2018 conference, held at the University of London's Senate House on 23-24 February.
 
Follow this link to place your vote!
 
 
 
 

Wessie the fairy prepares for St Thomas’s Christmas Tree Festival

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Wessie the fairy tries her PPE for size as she prepares to take part in the WA entry for this year's Christmas Tree Festival at St Thomas's church, Salisbury.
 
See the finished tree at the church December 5-10.
Further information: www.stthomassalisbury.co.uk
 
By Sue Johnson, Librarian
 
 

South Yorkshire Archaeology Day 2017

3768 Image © of Greg Coley from SUAVE Aerial Photographers
 
Wessex Archaeology’s Phil Weston and Lucy Dawson were invited to talk at this year’s South Yorkshire Archaeology Day, which took place on Saturday 18 November in Sheffield. 
 
Phil set the ball rolling with his talk about our recent excavations at Rossington Inland Port, Doncaster. The excavations at Rossington targeted areas within a 125 hectare parcel of land, affording us the opportunity to really explore an agricultural Romano-British landscape, characterised by field boundaries, enclosures, trackways and areas of settlement and industrial activity. Our aim was to chart the development of the field system and trackways and to characterise the nature of the areas of settlement and industry. 
 

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Our excavations revealed roundhouses of 1st−2nd century date which probably had Iron Age antecedents; an enclosure, truncated by the railway, that, given the large assemblage of 2nd−3rd-century pottery, had clearly been the focus of domestic settlement as well as producing and working lead; and, the remains of a large enclosure within which were a corn dryer and the bases of 19 ovens or kilns. Several fragments of quernstone were recovered from the enclosure suggesting crop processing, again dating to the 2nd−3rd centuries. 
 
In the afternoon Lucy presented the results of recent works carried out by the built heritage team at Ardsley House, Barnsley. Ardsley House was built by Richard Micklethwait in 1773, with subsequent additions through the 19th century, creating a very comfortable country house. The house was sold in the late 1960s, and refurbished and extended to create a hotel which opened in the early 1970s. Continued extension and refurbishment works at the hotel throughout the 1980s and 1990s meant further damage, unfortunately, was inflicted on the historic fabric of the former house. 
 

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The team produced an archaeological assessment and building appraisal to accompany the client’s planning application for demolition and redevelopment of the site. Planning permission for the scheme at the site was approved with archaeological conditions. The team then went back to carry out the mitigation works in the form of historic building recording to a Historic England Level 3−4, and subsequent watching brief during the soft strip and demolition works. The recording works included detailed laser scanning and photogrammetry of rooms where historic plasterwork had been retained. 
 
The day was a great success and we really enjoyed all the other speakers that contributed to the day. Many thanks to South Yorkshire Archaeology Service for asking us to participate; we’re already looking forward to next year, when we hope we’ll be able to partake again. 
 
 
 
 
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