Kitty Foster's blog

Launch of the Marine Antiquities Scheme

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After months of hard work, the Marine Antiquities Scheme (MAS) has been officially launched amongst the grandeur of the British Museum. The MAS encourages the voluntary recording of archaeological objects and sites found by marine users in England and Wales. Divers, fishermen, and other marine users who make a find can report their discovery through an app or an online record form. The find is then researched by Wessex Archaeology who sends the historical information back to the finder and also makes sure that relevant organisations, such as the Receiver of Wreck and national heritage bodies, are informed where necessary.
 
On Thursday 21st July, a whole range of marine users gathered at the Stevenson Lecture Theatre, at the British Museum to attend the launch of MAS. There were representatives from recreational dive clubs, museums, government, heritage organisations, fishing groups and archaeological associations, all keen to show their support for this scheme. The event was hosted by The Crown Estate who commissioned this initiative, and Wessex Archaeology brought along some examples of what marine users might find and report in the future. MAS is based on the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and both schemes will work together to help increase our knowledge of the UK’s rich and varied heritage.
 
British Museum Director, Hartwig Fischer, welcomed all the attendees to the event, while Phil Harding gave an inspirational talk about his past underwater discoveries. The afternoon’s official proceedings were concluded with a live demonstration of the MAS app by Matt Clear of The Crown Estate. For the rest of the afternoon there were excited discussions, over tea and cake, about the possibilities of this new scheme!
 
 
 
 

Investigations in South Yorkshire

Industrial archaeology in Sheffield and Mexborough, and investigations at Wincobank Hall, Sheffield

2973 New Don Glass Works, Mexborough

Wessex Archaeology has now completed analysis of fieldwork on four sites in South Yorkshire. Three of the four sites are industrial – a glassworks at Mexborough which included finds of bottles, jars and Codd-bottle marbles; the Butcher Wheel, a fomer cutlery works on Arundel Street, Sheffield;  and the remains of the former Kelham Rolling Mills in Sheffield – whilst the fourth, the 18th-century Wincobank Hall, Sheffield, revealed evidence for five phases of development of the buildings and significant assemblages of window glass, lead cames (some with makers’ marks), bottle glass and pottery were recovered. 
 
We hope in due course the reports will be published in the journals for which they were prepared. In the meantime, we are pleased to be able to provide the reports here although some images have not been reproduced due to copyright restrictions.
 
 
 

Perham Down WWI Practice Trenches

Over the past few weeks Wessex Archaeology, in collaboration with Operation Nightingale and Breaking Ground Heritage, has been carrying out a geophysical survey and then excavating WWI practice trenches on Perham Down, Hampshire.  
 
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The trenches, known as the ‘Bedlam Trenches’, replicated German trench systems in the Somme region, enabling soldiers to learn trench warfare tactics by practicing attacking the enemy lines, as well as learning how to construct trenches. 
 
Battalions that used the Bedlam Trenches included the Kings Royal Rifle Corps – now The Rifles (incidentally, significantly involved in Operation Nightingale), the 13th Essex Regiment, and the 16th and 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment – the renowned ‘Footballers’ Battalion.
 
The work was commissioned by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), and the team has consisted of volunteers, veterans and some professional archaeologists. So far they have uncovered:
 
- part of a trench with a step that would have been used for firing at the enemy (fire step), and with evidence of a possible sap – a trench used to advance into land to gain a military advantage.
 
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- a First Aid post, with seating dug out of the chalk;
 
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- Officers’ latrines, the relatively shallow depth of which indicates that these were probably not long-drop toilets; 
 
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- a dugout (shelter) within which the surface which has clearly been trampled down by many pairs of boots, with some corrugated tin and lots of postholes which probably would have supported the revetting which secured the sides of the trench;
 
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- a communications trench;
 
- other support trenches.
 

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A number of finds have also been recovered, including blank ammunition, and screw pickets – used (instead of wooden stakes) to create barbed wire obstacles on No Man’s Land. We are looking forward to discovering more as the week progresses.
 
 
 

Coastal & Marine Internship

I haven’t written one of these in ages. Times are busy as the diving season is getting well underway. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to.
 
I have spent the past few weeks recording, identifying and reporting on finds that have been reported through the Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol. The finds range from leather to wood, ceramics and various metalwork such as forks and ordnance. This variety has been a huge help to extending my ability to record and report on finds and understanding what conservation different finds need; but mostly it has vastly improved my object identification.
 
Other than this, I am still working on preparing several museum transfers for later in the year. This has involved liaising with the museum staff and those within the Wessex office. Being given the responsibility to arrange all of this myself, with no one looking over my shoulder has been a greatly appreciated responsibility. 
 
Also on a related note, the display case in the reception of our Salisbury office needed updating, so I spent a day putting together my first display cabine t showing off finds from the Coastal & Marine department. Using materials received from the Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol, the display was designed around showing the variety of objects and material types that we work with in the marine sector. The cabinet now contains: munitions (decommissioned!), past and present; objects of war; aircraft wreckage; prehistoric remains and a whole host of ships’ fixtures and fittings from throughout the ages. Creating this exhibition was an excellent insight into the mental process of piecing a display together, not only for visual effect but to make the display make sense to those who are viewing it. 
 
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I have also now added ‘surface supply tender’ to my list of skills. This required me to look after the umbilical providing air to the diver below, making sure they didn’t have too much so the umbilical got tangled or not enough and they couldn’t move along the seabed.  It took a few goes to get the coiling of the umbilical right and I was the butt of a few jokes about pulling divers around, but all went well and the additional experience will no doubt help when it comes to hopefully completing the course myself.
 
Another task keeping me busy is working on the preliminary research for a wreck that we are diving later in the summer. Using books and the internet for research is nothing new, but being in contact with the Receiver of Wreck and historic environment agencies is a new one for me. I’ve also had to learn to write reports in the style expected by Wessex Archaeology and its clients and I have found that this has had a big effect on my writing abilities.
 

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One final thing, since I am here on an internship (although hoping for more!). It’s great to see the numbers of volunteers around the building, mostly helping out in the finds room. But there are also school students that come and spend some time at Wessex. The latest work experience student, Ethan, is just about to start his final year of school. It is great that these guys and myself are given such an opportunity to learn about all the different departments and experience the work going on within the company. Wessex Archaeology should be commended for its role in supporting the younger generations in the industry. Plus, it’s always a bonus when you find out how much they enjoyed what we are doing.
 
As you can see, it’s getting busy and I am lucky enough to be involved in this line of work and experiencing the diverse roles of a maritime archaeologist.
 
 
 
 

Photogrammetry at the Scottish Fisheries Museum

As part of the ongoing Conservation Management Plan project with the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Wessex Archaeology Scotland has been engaged in photogrammetric recording of the vessels within the museum’s collection. This recording allows 3D scale models of the vessels to be produced in Agisoft Photoscan. The results will be used alongside existing plans of the vessels to check for changes in the shape, state and condition of the individual boats, or in the case of some, to allow scaled plans to be drawn up using both the models produced and on-site recording. 

The premise behind photogrammetry is relatively simple, but requires a large amount of processing power and dedicated software. The software (in our case Agisoft Photoscan) compares areas of similar colours, light and lines within the selection of photographs to find point matches between the dataset, which are then used to hang the wider pictures across. The more of these points there are, the more complete, the finer quality and the more accurate the end model will be. The amount and time of processing therefore increases exponentially to the number of photos put into the model, with any new photo having to be compared to all of the others by the software. 
 
2926 Jubilee
 
It is vital for the process to have as complete a photographic coverage of the subject as possible. An efficient way of doing this is to choose an easily recognisable starting point and work around the object in defined steps at a constant height and distance (where possible) from the object until the start point is reached again. Then start again at the next height to capture the next ring of images. By keeping a systematic approach to the photography, we are able to ensure we have all the angles covered when the images are put into Photoscan.
 
For the larger complex vessels within the museum fleet, it was necessary to ensure there was coverage not only of the exterior of the vessels but also of the interior. Some of these, such as the Newburgh Salmon Coble, contained complex machinery which required an extra series of photographs to make sure they were fully recorded. With three of the vessels being indoors, it was easy to regulate the amount of light around the subjects, with extra lighting being used to ensure dark areas, particularly towards the keel and floors of the boats were illuminated. After all the more black areas in the photographs, the fewer points of recognition the software can pick up on. This is equally true of over-exposed white areas within photographs, which proved problematic in the photogrammetric survey of White Wing which was outside in occasionally glaring sunlight during the survey. 
 
Ideally the lighting and the subject, along with the surroundings, should be constant for the period of the survey ie, people or items should not suddenly appear within the view of the camera for some photographs of an area and then disappear for other photographs of the same area. This is not disastrous if it does occur, but again reduces the number of potential matching points for the dense point cloud.
 

2925 Maggie

Once the photographs have been collected, they are put into Photoscan, and a series of processes applied to them, culminating in a scaled 3D model of the object, which can then be covered with a computer-generated textured mesh made up of the textures and colours from the photographs. These models will there be traced off, also using a set of reference photos for guidance and a set of field plans, sketches and notes for extra detail, to form accurate deck plans, sheer plans and cross sections of the vessels within the fleet. These will become the record of how the vessels appear now, and where previous plans are available, the changes to and potential deterioration of the vessel will be noted. 
 
Even where no previous plans exist, as with the Maggie, it is clear from the model that this vessel has had a tough working life, with the shape in plan being slightly twisted and multiple repairs being obvious. It is vitally important to note these adaptations and changes prior to further conservation work being completed, so that an accurate understanding of the vessel’s fabric is known.
 
 
 
 

The Wessex Walkers – Trailwalker 2016

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With only three weeks to go, the pressure on the Trailwalking team is continuing to build!

Yesterday saw Dave Norcott take the opportunity of an early appointment at Southampton General to walk home to Sutton Scotney along the Itchen Way and Pilgrims Way – just a touch under 25 miles.
 
Although it was a lovely summer’s day the paths were very overgrown with nettles; not a great situation when wearing thin running shorts as you can see Dave’s expression in the picture! Dave completed this walk in around 7 hours, which included three 15 minute breaks – well on target for the sub-24 hour time his team would like to achieve this year for the 100 km distance.
 
Although somewhat sore today, his feet are fine with no blisters – Dave puts this down to pre-taping his feet before big walks, a tip he picked up from a fell-running blog before last year’s event.
 
For more information and to consider sponsoring the team, please click on the link below.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Trailwalker Training Take 2 – The Day After

I found myself thinking this morning as I struggled to get out of bed, having pulled a muscle in my leg, just quite how I had managed to get myself into this. Yes, it’s a wonderful cause and a great opportunity to walk across a part of the country that I have never before visited. But really – what on earth was I thinking?
 
It is the morning after our second training walk. As a team that is based in Sheffield we are fortunate to be extremely close to the wonderful Peak District. As many of you will know it is home to a vast array of different geographical challenges. You can go for a gentle stroll or climb a big hill. Or do both. Several times. Like we did yesterday. It can be a challenging environment to walk across – both physically and mentally – no one wants to walk up one big hill only to find another waiting for you at the top. It does however provide a perfect training environment for the event we will be taking part in just over a month’s time.
 
2898 Approach to Carls Wark – from first training day
 
 
Having completed an initial 10 mile hike up through Padley Gorge, Carls Wark, Burbage and Limb Brook last month we decided that for our next training day we would attempt to double our distance and go for a 20 mile round walk.
 
2899 Route map of our first Trailwalker practice
 
 

 

2904 I didn’t want to sit down in case I couldn’t get back up

This time round we were joined by Alex Grassam, also from the Sheffield Office, who is participating in the event in another Wessex Team. Alex found a circular route around Chatsworth taking in Froggatt, Curbar, Beeley, the Chatsworth Estate, Baslow and Calver.  We set off at 8:30 from Grindleford Station heading clockwise towards Froggatt Edge. 
 
The weather wasn’t quite as sunny as it was during our first training walk but given how hot it had been during the week it was nice to have some cloud cover and a bit of a breeze. Once we were up on Froggatt Edge the views were amazing and we took the opportunity to take some group photos. 
 
 

2905 The Hunting Lodge in the hills above Chatsworth House

 
As soon as we hit The Chatsworth Estate the weather started to turn against us. It got very wet very fast. This put neither us nor the dog owners who were participating in the Kennel Club Gun Dog Training Event off and our walk along this top part of the estate was frequented by the sound of gunfire.  Every bang was responded with cries of ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’. 
 
The rain had made our trip back down the hill very difficult. We got slightly lost heading into a wooded area which meant walking down steep slopes with exposed tree roots which had become very slippery due to the falling rain. We had a few scares, all members of the team slipped at some point – ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic’!
 
Our biggest slip came when I was at the front and Lincoln fell behind me and started rolling downhill. Now, I have bad knees. I used to play rugby until recently after I found out that the ligaments in my legs are like rubber bands and don’t actually hold my knees together properly. I have also ruptured knee ligaments and dislocated my kneecap whilst playing rugby. This medical history doesn’t make my career choice as an archaeologist seem like a particularly sensible one as I now spend quite a bit of time on my knees trowelling. Being also approximately half-way along the route my knees were also getting ready for a short break from walking. In summary this meant that Lincoln was rolling down the hill faster than I could run.  
 
I don’t know how many of you will have seen the latest Star Wars movie but there is a scene where Harrison Ford’s character, Han Solo, has to run away from a large rolling alien in a scene not too dissimilar to his famous temple escape in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark where he activates a trap is chased by a boulder (something all archaeologists dream to do at some point in their careers). There is a 34 year difference between the two films and without meaning any offence, in the latest Star Wars, Harrison Ford does run like a man in his seventies. My short run away from my rolling colleague was quite similar and up until I ran into the tree I was doing quite well and Lincoln stopped rolling just behind me.
 
By the time we had managed to get ourselves back on track we had added about an extra mile onto our walk so we decided to cut out part of the original walk and take a slight shortcut which would keep us within our initial 20 mile target.
 
Our return leg brought us through the Chatsworth Estate along the river close to the house itself. Somehow Chris managed to catch his foot on a gate and started to struggle. I wanted to leave him behind but sadly my other team mates thought it would be more in keeping with team spirit if we motivated him to continue. So I said ‘We’ll leave you behind if you don’t continue’  and offered to see if I could borrow a gun from the participants of the gun dog training if he thought it would be needed – which worked wonders. 
 
2906 We paused again for a team photo outside Chatsworth House
 
After we had passed through Chatsworth our pace had dropped slightly and we all had some part or other that was starting to ache. Chris’ foot, Lincoln’s blisters, my hip – we had completed about 16 miles and we were feeling it. Although most of us do Geophysics as part of our job even surveying proved to be inadequate preparation for the endurance test of walking long distance over varying terrain. Out of our team I am the only one to have participated in any long distance walking before. I completed my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award in 2009 and qualified as an Assessor whilst at University, but even my experience pales in comparison to the challenge of the event itself.
 

2907 At least this section of the route was flat

Our return back to Grindleford took us through Baslow, Froggatt and Calver, but being in the valley bottom rather than hill top, the scenery wasn’t much to write home about.
 
When we finally arrived back at the car park we had been walking just over eight hours (we had a bit of a longer break in Beeley before starting our return leg) and it was just gone quarter past five. Lincoln had sprinted the last 150 m so he could sit down faster and I don’t think anyone talked to anyone else for a good five minutes whilst we caught our breath. I was surprised to find that I only had two small blisters and that my kneecaps had not slid down to my ankles. This was the first major test of our fitness and endurance – with the exception of small injuries sustained during the walk I think we passed. Things didn’t start to really hurt until we stopped and we had completed roughly 21 miles in less than nine hours including stoppages to check the map, walking up steep hills, sliding down slippery slopes and having a generous break time. We were roughly in line with our target time of 25–27 hours for the actual event. Even though we were suffering a little it wasn’t as though it could get any worse until after we completed Trailwalker. How wrong I was.
 
Monday morning I felt like my legs were made of wood, I couldn’t bend my right knee, I felt like I needed a hip replacement and my feet were on fire whenever I stood on them. I struggled to get in the car to drive to the office never mind climb the stairs once inside. Our Logistics Manager, who served in the Army, could not stop laughing and told us how his sympathy bag was empty. A taste of things to come perhaps? 
 
I keep stretching the muscles in my leg in the hope that in a few hours I’ll be able to walk without looking like I’ve had an accident on my way to the bathroom. Does the pain put me off the event all together? Of course not. I know it’s going to be a lot worse on the day as well as after the event. Our second practice, injuries and all, has helped prepare us for just how bad it could potentially be. But if people are kind enough to sponsor us – even if it is just to laugh at our expense then it will be worth it. I go away on holiday at the end of this week so in all likelihood this may be our last practice – although we are hoping to do some training at night when I get back in order to get used to walking in the dark.  I think our second practice has prepared us for the struggles that we will inevitably face when we start walking on the 23 July and despite everything I can’t wait to get started.
 
By Jack Laverick
 
 
 
 
 
 

Environmental Training – it’s not all seeds and charcoal…

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Nathaniel Welsby (aka Nate) is from our Sheffield team, but is on secondment to the Salisbury office for three months training within the Geoarchaeology & Environmental team. The aim of the training is to teach Nate all our methods and processes in order that he can help run a new environmental processing set-up back in Sheffield on his return.
 
Nate had spent the previous five months excavating at Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey and on his arrival in Salisbury says he was flung straight into the thick it by the environmental team. 
 
I’ve been kept busy with samples from Wylfa Newydd (seems I can't escape that site), getting mucky with waterlogged and clay samples, having a whale of a time processing skeletons from Tidworth and Bulford and even finding a Saxon blue glass bead’. 
 
Nate recovered the glass bead (pictured) during processing of a soil sample taken from the skull cavity of one of the many 7th-8th century Saxon graves at the MOD site in Bulford.
 
From working with the geoarch and environment team I have learnt that samples need as much attention on site as in the processing shed, and intend to keep a close eye on sampling strategies on my return to Sheffield.  I have learnt about the processes involved with sampling on a large scale and had the excitement of finding the unknown in the next sample bucket’.
 
 
 

Oxfam Trailwalker Challenge 2016

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Wessex Archaeology has entered three teams in this year’s Trailwalker challenge. The teams are all busy training for the epic event. Salisbury based manager Gareth Chaffey has been giving us some thoughts on why he is taking part. 

Once I had signed up for Trailwalker I almost regretted it. I enjoy walking, but haven't done any for some time now. And I thought to myself that it can't be that hard. Can it?
 
I have been training when I can, mostly in the evenings and occasional weekends and only now I am beginning to truly understand the enormity of the task ahead. I recently undertook my biggest training walk from Salisbury back home, a gruelling 40km trek through the Hampshire countryside. And it was tough. A hot and sticky day (made all the harder by occasional erroneous map reading), but I got there. No blisters, a few aches and the dawning realisation that on the day I would have to effectively turn around and walk back to Salisbury, and then keep going for another 20km! 
 
This has now become a personal challenge for me. Not getting as much exercise as I used to is making it harder but I will do it. I will do it because I will be walking with my friends and colleagues, and I will do it for the amazing charities of Oxfam and the Gurkha Trust. Together we can provide safe drinking water, training, schools and sustainable ways of living for those who need it most. 
 
If you can give anything at all, please do'.
 
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.
 
 
 
 

A Week of Work Experience

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This week (6/06/16–10/06/16) I have done work experience with Wessex Archaeology. The last five days have been filled with numerous activities from all over the different sections of archaeology; and not only have they given me a better idea of how in-depth archaeology is, they have also shown me how well linked to other professions being an archaeologist can be. 
 
On the first day I was given a tour of the office, and immediately picked up on how important skills like teamwork and communication are in this career. Each section overlapped with the next, allowing them to continue, and expand their work until they had the full picture. Then, after lunch, I was introduced to Roberta and Damien, who work as the survey team, and make sure the correct recording equipment is available, and working, for each site. Roberta showed me how to use the GPS, and then we looked at AutoCAD and photogrammetry, both of which were amazing.
 
On the second day I had worked in the environmental section with Nicki in the morning, and I washed and filtered five different soil samples. I was covered in water, and mud, but learnt how different types of soil preserved artefacts and remains, and how even finds like microscopic snail shells could show them what the land was like. In the afternoon, I worked with Susan, who is the senior logistics officer. Her job is important as it allows all the sites to run smoothly. I was tasked with finding the dates for a three day first aid course, and for finding suitable accommodation for archaeologists on two sites. I never fully understood how much work goes into organising the sites, and the people working there.
 
On Wednesday I worked with the finds team, and the volunteer cleaning finds. The bulk of the artefacts I cleaned were Roman pottery, many pieces being black burnished ware which comes from around Poole. You could see the connection between some sherds, as they had the same pattern – a particularly common one being a lattice. There was also a lot of animal bones, and CBM, which is ceramic building material. My personal favourite was a curved handle, presumably from a tea cup, or teapot. 
 
Day four bought me to my site visit, which was in the on the west side of Wiltshire. It was amazing to see how the sites work, and I got to see the specific conditions the finds from here had to be stored in.  I spent the day helping the volunteers clean the finds, and was shown how different conditions affected, and marked the finds in different ways. Day four was probably my favourite day.
 
On my fifth, and final, day I spent the morning with the environmental team again, this time with Ines. She showed me how they used the floating parts of samples, called the flots, to enhance their knowledge of the landscape. We looked at barley, and wheat grains, and how you could identify cereals because they have an embryo cavity, which is a small dent on one side where the embryo sits. She also showed me the outside of a sloe stone, and compared it to one that hadn’t been affected by heat and time. Then, in the afternoon, I was working with the marine team, and started off by re-wrapping some of the marine finds with Tom. They were all eventually being sent to a museum for display. After that, I helped Maddy wrap a new wire around the ‘umbilical’ so that when the team went diving next week the people on the boat could have a live stream of what the diver was seeing. Finally, Peta showed me some more photogrammetry, and allowed me to have a go creating a model of a shell that had been dredged up. After loading up the photos, we were left with a digital 3D model of the sides of the shell.
 
I have really enjoyed my week here at Wessex, and it has opened my eyes to how busy archaeology is. There is so much to still discover, and it has been amazing to see that.
 
By Ella Regan
 
 
 
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