Kitty Foster's blog

University of the Third Age Visit


On the morning of 9 February a number of the U3A (University of the Third Age) Salisbury Archaeology Group visited our Salisbury office to discover more about what our Graphics Team get up to.

The group spent one and a half hours with Liz James, Senior Graphics Officer, exploring finds illustration. They were able to learn how and why finds are drawn through Liz’s expert knowledge and examining her work and that of others. The group then went on to have a tour of our Graphics Office, where they were surprised to find the team produce a wide range of illustrations, display materials and even typeset books
The morning was well received by those who attended and it was great for us to be able to shed light on important work that goes on behind the scenes.

New Members of the Geoarchaeology and Environmental Team

GeoServices is pleased to welcome two additions to the Geoarchaeology and Environmental Team
Dr Alex Brown and Dr Ines Lopez Doriga.


Alex is an experienced geoarchaeologist and environmental archaeologist, as well as a respected academic, having lectured and presented widely at conferences, including internationally. He has spent the decade since his PhD undertaking a wide range of projects, both in Britain – particularly around the Severn Estuary – and across Europe where he has been co-directing sites in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Hungary and Spain as part of the Ecology of Crusading project funded by the European Research Council. Alex joins the team in the role of Senior Geoarchaeologist. 


Ines is an experienced archaeobotanist and environmental archaeologist, who has most recently been working alongside Historic England in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Her PhD focused on the Mesolithic and Neolithic exploitation of plant resources in Atlantic Iberia. She has worked on a range of cave, open-air, rural and urban sites, from Middle Palaeolithic to post-medieval date, across the Iberian Peninsula, Patagonia, South-West Asia, as well as in Britain. Ines joins the team in the role of Environmental Archaeologist.

Imperial College Sports Ground and RMC Land, Harlington

Our latest book Imperial College Sports Ground and RMC Land, Harlington. The Development of Prehistoric and Later Communities in the Colne Valley and on the Heathrow Terrace by Andrew B. Powell, Alistair J. Barclay, Lorraine Mepham and Chris J. Stevens is available from Oxbow Books. 


This volume brings together the results from three programmes of excavation undertaken by Wessex Archaeology from 1996 to 2009 on two large areas proposed for mineral extraction to the north of Heathrow Airport, between the villages of Harlington and Sipson in the London Borough of Hillingdon. Fieldwork was commissioned by Henry Streeter (Sand and Ballast) Ltd (Imperial College Sports Ground and Land East of Wall Garden Farm sites) and by RMC Ltd – now CEMEX UK (RMC Land). The post-excavation analyses were combined further into a joint publication proposal by the Guildhouse Consultancy. The excavations revealed a rich and diverse archaeological landscape with evidence for Neolithic through to medieval activity.
Occupation during the Early to Middle Neolithic period was demonstrated by the recovery of assemblages of Plain Bowl and Peterborough Ware-style pottery, a rectangular ditched enclosure and numerous pit deposits. A possible dispersed monument complex including two penannular ditched enclosures and one double ring ditch associated with rare and important remains of cremation burials is of contemporaneous Middle Neolithic date. There is less evidence for activity in the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age other than a small number of pit and burial deposits. This is in stark contrast to the Middle to Late Bronze Age when a formalised landscape of extensive rectangular fields, enclosures, wells and pits was established, possibly across both sites. 
A small Iron Age nucleated settlement was established, with associated enclosures flanking a trackway. This settlement continued in use into the Romano-British period. There were wayside inhumation and cremation burials, as well as middens and more widely dispersed wells and quarries. 
In the early Saxon period there was rather less activity, with settlement represented by two possible sunken-featured buildings. There was also a small cemetery. Subsequently, a middle Saxon to medieval field system of small enclosures and wells was established.
For more information about these sites please visit the project page.

WWII Eltham Air Raid Shelter


In December 2015, Wessex Archaeology undertook building recording (Historic England Level 2 record) of a WWII air raid shelter situated beneath the playground of Eltham Church of England Primary School, Roper Street, Eltham, Royal Borough of Greenwich. 
The Historic Building Record was commissioned by Kier Construction prior to the redevelopment of the existing Primary School, due to concerns raised over the shelter’s ability to withstand any heavy structures being placed on the existing playground surface during development works. 

2631 Vijaya Pieterson and Nigel Cunningham

The Historic Building Recording exercise was carried out by Bob Davis and Vijaya Pieterson (Wessex Archaeology), through a programme of measured survey and digital photography, and ably assisted by Nigel Cunningham, Project Manager for Kier Construction.
The shelter beneath the Eltham C of E Primary School follows the established early wartime Government pattern of public air raid shelters that were constructed across London from 1939–1940. Made possible by the passing of the Civil Defence Act on the 15 July 1939, they were built to afford some protection against the threat of mass bombing. Several types of shelters were used during WWII and this particular one remains a relatively good example of the ‘covered trench’ type, purpose-built by a cut and cover technique whereby the spoil from digging the trench was later used to provide overhead protection.


The plan of the air raid shelter consists of an irregular form of narrow connecting passages and covers an area of approximately 906 m2. It is constructed from pre-cast concrete sectional frames and panels and contains three main stepped entrances (now blocked) and seven emergency exists. Little survives in the way of graffiti or original fixtures and fittings except for light conduits and evidence for telephones.
Although benches had been fitted to some of the passage frames, there was no evidence to suggest that this particular shelter had been intended for long term use. It is assumed that after the War any fittings were removed and the shelter entrances sealed. The soil covering the shelter was also removed and the playground reinstated.
The WWII Air Raid Shelter at Eltham provides an excellent example of a particular pattern of Government guided construction in the history of communal air raid shelters in pre-war and wartime Britain. It attests to the strength of engineering during a time when labour was scarce and materials, especially steel and concrete, were limited.

Times of Their Lives Project Team Wins SAF International Research Award

2628 Neolithic tell of Vinča-Belo Brdo, courtesy of Miroslav Maric of the Vinča archaeological project

The Times of Their Lives (ToTL) project led by Alasdair Whittle of Cardiff University and Alex Bayliss of Historic England, funded by ERC, and in which Wessex Archaeology is collaborating has won a global award at the Shanghai Archaeology Forum (SAF). These awards are presented biennially and recognise the World’s major discoveries and research, in particular projects that promote excellence, innovation and collaboration.  The ToTL project was one of 11 winners from a short list of 93 projects.   
The ToTL project is involved in a major re-think of the European Neolithic through the application of Bayesian statistics to radiocarbon dating. The goal is to produce much finer timescales that equate to lifetimes and generations. It has many strands in a dozen countries that include the redating of settlements in Late Neolithic Orkney, megaliths in the Paris Basin, rock cut tombs in Malta, and long houses and tells in Eastern Europe.  One element that Wessex Archaeology has been involved in is the redating of the great Neolithic tell (settlement mound) of Vinča-Belo Brdo adjacent to the Danube and just south of Belgrade, Serbia. Made up of eight metres of occupation deposits that span the later sixth to the mid-fifth millennium cal BC and has given its name to the Vinča culture. Further details can be found here.

Seeing the Light of Day – the Future of Archaeological Archives in South-West England


The current crisis in museum storage space is an issue which has been widely debated across the heritage industry for some years – developer-funded archaeological work has produced, and continues to produce, a steady stream of archives (finds and records) that require storage. The space available is finite, and is rapidly filling up. Archaeological contractors are sitting on large numbers of undepositable archives.
A meeting held last week, convened by Devon County Council and held at the Bristol offices of Wessex Archaeology, aimed to address this issue for the south-west region. Representatives from planning authorities, museums and archaeological contractors were invited to hear a proposal by Stephen Reed of Devon CC, involving a greater emphasis on the digitisation of site records, and the use of off-site ‘deep storage’. Quinton Carroll from Cambridgeshire County Council gave his positive experience of working with deep storage (the DeepStore facility in Cheshire), and Lorraine Mepham from Wessex Archaeology summed up the contractors’ point of view. Lively discussion amongst the delegates focused on the financing and accessibility of such a scheme, but a consensus was reached that this might be a possible way forward, and plans were made to flesh out the scheme and build a business case. Watch this space for further developments!

Work on the 'South Australian' Nominated for Award

The wreck of the South Australian, which lies close to the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel, has been put forward for the BSAC Wreck Award 2015, which is awarded by the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC). The BSAC Wreck Award ‘aims to celebrate our underwater heritage by using BSAC members’ first-hand experiences to bring their favourite wreck sites to life’.
Wessex Archaeology carried out a geophysical survey of the South Australian for Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub-Aqua Club (ILFSAC) last summer (more details here). Keith Denby of ILFSAC has put together a website all about the club’s diving on the wreck and the geophysical survey and this has been submitted for the award. 
The website features photographs and videos about diving the wreck site as well as images and information from the geophysical survey. Take a look
We wish Keith and ILFSAC all the best for the award, the result of which will be announced later this month.

Geoservices Welcomes New Marine Geophysicist


Geoservices is pleased to welcome Megan Metcalfe to the team in our Salisbury office where she will be working as a marine geophysicist, processing and reporting on geophysical data to help investigate sites of potential archaeological interest below the waves.
While at university, Megan gained experience in geophysical survey techniques, palaeoclimatology and archaeological fieldwork. Since graduating in 2011, she has spent time working offshore where she expanded her knowledge and gained practical experience collecting and interpreting geophysical data for an array of different clients around the globe. Megan is excited to be able to combine her practical knowledge of geophysics with her interest in archaeology in her new role at Wessex, and we are looking forward to working with her over what looks to be an exciting year ahead! 

Sheffield Office Welcomes New Geoservices Team Member


Wessex Archaeology is pleased to welcome Joanna Debska to the Sheffield geoservices team where she will be working on survey control and all things CAD. This will be Joanna’s second spell at Sheaf Bank having previously worked as an illustrator for ARCUS (Archaeological Research & Consultancy at the University of Sheffield) prior to their closure in 2009. Wessex Archaeology subsequently took on the ARCUS premises and many ongoing projects.

Joanna has been on a career break for the past few years and we are delighted that she has decided to return to the world of archaeology with Wessex, and an office where there are still many familiar faces from her ARCUS days. Old and new colleagues alike all look forward to working with Joanna over the next few years, and what is already shaping up to be a busy and exciting future.  

A Review of the Submerged Prehistory and Palaeolandscapes of the British Isles

2612 Handaxes recovered from the southern North Sea

Wessex Archaeology, Coastal & Marine and Geoservices divisions, have been developing market-leading expertise in submerged prehistory and palaeolandscapes research for well over a decade. As part of our remit to disseminate our work we have synthesised the results of the last 15 years of the many commercial investigations and research in this newly-published review for the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association.
The paper summarises over a century of interest in submerged prehistoric landscapes under the North Sea and around all the coasts of the British Isles, from early theories trying to understand how our early prehistoric ancestors lived within now-flooded offshore landscapes to current high-tech survey methods for investigating sites and inundated river systems. The review provides a comprehensive bibliography and online resources (many open-access) to encapsulate the work to-date on this fascinating and rapidly developing discipline of submerged prehistoric archaeology.
We can share the article via this link until January 30, 2016, no sign up or registration is needed – just click and read! After this date the site provides an abstract and a login prompt.
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