Kitty Foster's blog

Conservation Training for External Groups


Following our blog about the staff Conservation Training Day held by Lynn Wootten, our conservator, at our head office in Salisbury in September, we were contacted by CAMP (Community Archaeology on the Mendip Plateau) who wanted to arrange something similar for its members. And so on the morning of 25 November a group of CAMP members visited our office, and brought along some examples of metalwork, as they were particularly keen to learn about how to best look after such material. 
Lynn’s presentation provided background information on the kinds of preservation you might expect in different environments, and how changes in those environments affect different materials. She described what conditions affect an artefact’s survival in the ground, from the soil’s acidity/alkalinity, to the presence of oxygen and ground salts, and biological activity. She then talked about how objects should be lifted on site and transported, and some of the methods by which they are conserved, and she demonstrated the best methods of packing and storing them, including the appropriated use of silica gel where relevant.
The group was very enthusiastic about the training session, and expressed an interest in coming back to make further use of our finds and environmental expertise, in particular to look in detail at some of their objects and get some x-rays done.
If you too are interested, Lynn can provide similar training for your local group, society or in-house archaeologists. We speak from experience, as many of our own staff have also benefitted from her expertise, and have felt much better informed after attending these very interesting and enjoyable sessions.
Contact Lynn Wootten for more information.

World Pins and Needles Day


Originally a commemoration of a famous play, Pins and Needles day has now also become a chance to partake in a quirky annual celebration of the sewing world. Our contribution to this is to highlight a recent laser scan we carried out of a Roman bone pin found at South Shields Roman Fort. The head at the decorated terminal is carved in the style of a native British male. The pin is thought to date to the 2nd or 3rd century. The pin was scanned as part of a collaboration with Newcastle University. To see more info and an animated video see our Roman artefact scans blog.
By John McCarthy, Project Manager 

South Yorkshire Archaeology Day

2601 Andrew Norton with the Mayor of Sheffield

Wessex Archaeology was privileged to have taken part in this year’s South Yorkshire Archaeology Day organised by South Yorkshire Archaeology Service, on Saturday 14 November. The day saw around 200 people join together to hear about local archaeological projects from the past year along with the Civic Mayors from all the South Yorkshire authorities. Wessex Archaeology’s senior project manager, Richard O’Neill, joined forces with Tinsley Meadow Primary School and Heeley City Farm to provide information on the recent Tinsley projects, whilst Lucy Dawson talked on the Lost Buildings of the Sheffield Inner Relief Road. 

In addition, other members of the Wessex Archaeology Sheffield team manned our stall, selling our recent publications, and organised activities with the Young Archaeologists’ Club. Further information can be found on Sheffield News Room.
By Lucy Dawson, Senior Consultant

NAS / SPMA Conference 2015


Last weekend, staff from the Coastal & Marine team had an inspirational time at the joint Nautical Archaeology Society and the Society for Post Medieval Archaeology Conference in Portsmouth. 
Apart from attending an amazing array of presentations from all around the globe, we also had a display in the break-out area. Copies of our last four Dredged Up newsletters were snapped up by the conference delegates, who were clearly interested to learn about artefacts discovered by the Marine Aggregate industry. A short video showed off our latest work from diving cannon sites off Weymouth to surveying intertidal hulks in North Kent and using photogrammetry to further analyse a wreck site in the Farne Islands. And as always, our Iona II Dive Trail project with Historic England proved a popular topic of conversation with attending archaeologists and wreck enthusiasts. 

2598 Phil Harding excavating HMS Colossus with ADU

President of the Nautical Archaeology Society and Wessex archaeologist Phil Harding popped by our display. He was amused to see footage of himself diving the Colossus wreck in 2000 with Time Team. The footage was digitised earlier in the year as part of our Archaeological Diving Unit cataloguing project for Historic England. 

A big thanks to the Nautical Archaeology Society and the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology for organising a great line-up of speakers and for restoring the traditional beer and skittles social event to reconnect with colleagues! 
By Peta Knott, Archaeologist

Volunteers Process Polish 303 Squadron Hurricane


Volunteers at Wessex Archaeology have recently finished processing finds from the Hurricane P3700 of 303 Squadron crash site at Saddlescombe Farm, West Sussex. The aircraft finds were given to Wessex Archaeology to process by Richard Osgood, Senior Archaeologist for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation
The crash site was excavated as part of Operation Nightingale by a team of archaeologists and historians supported by Polish and British veterans of foreign missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Polish Embassy and Polish MOD have played an important role in this project as the aircraft was part of the 303 Polish Squadron. 
Hurricane P3700 (RF * E) of 303 (Polish) Squadron was shot down on 9 September 1940 in the Battle of Britain, following air combat with the Luftwaffe over Beachy Head. Its pilot Sgt Kazimierz Wunsche bailed out successfully though suffered serious burns. Sgt Wunsche’s daughter Grazyna and granddaughter Joanna were both present at the dig site during recovery of the aircraft. If you wish to see a video about the recovery of the aircraft please follow this link.
The aircraft’s remains will eventually be displayed at the Polish Museum in RAF Northolt, where the 303 Squadron was stationed during the Battle of Britain.

North Ridge Community School Anglo-Saxon Day

On October 20th, Wessex Archaeology North's Jess Irwin and Alix Sperr visited the North Ridge Community School, in Adwick-le-Street, Doncaster, to help it celebrate its links with the Anglo-Saxons who used live in this part of Yorkshire. North Ridge Community School caters for pupils with severe learning difficulties, with some pupils having additional needs. The school intake spans preschool up to the sixth form (aged 3 to 19) and it currently has around 120 pupils. 
The present school was built in 2008, and an archaeological excavation undertaken prior to its construction identified a small Anglo-Saxon cemetery, dating to the late 7th to late 8th century. So the School invited Wessex Archaeology along to help bring the period to life. All the pupils had the chance to take part in a range of activities, including pottery making, handling Anglo-Saxon objects, exploring Anglo-Saxon houses, dressing up and discovering what Anglo-Saxon graves looked like. There was also an opportunity to have a go at excavating real archaeological finds from a sand pit. 
For more information about Wessex Archaeology's Community, Education and Outreach projects and the services we can offer, please click here or email
By Alexandra Grassam, Senior Heritage Consultant

The Sheffield Team Expands

2583 Owen Batchelor, Peter Noble, Milica Rajic and Paula Whitaker

Following a successful recruitment drive we are pleased to welcome three new project officers and a supervisor to the Sheffield team
Peter Noble has more than 20 years’ experience, much of which was gained working in Ireland and the north-west. Milica Rajik has worked as a commercial archaeologist since 1999 and as well as running infrastructure projects in Ireland Mili is an experienced post-excavation manager and finds specialist. Paula Whitaker also has over 15 years’ experience working throughout Britain, and is Education Officer and a trustee of the Mellor Archaeological Trust – a local community group. Last, but not least, Owen Batchelor joins us as a supervisor with a diverse portfolio of projects in Britain, Canada and Australia.  
We also welcome 30 new site assistants to the Sheffield team, who are currently deployed on large-scale infrastructure and energy projects in Greater Manchester, North Wales, East Anglia and Humberside. To further strengthen our place as the market leader in the north we hope to add a new manager and additional support staff in the following months. With our new additions the Sheffield team is almost 90 strong; we wish all our new staff a warm welcome and look forward to working with you all over the following year – exciting times at Wessex North!

Roman Archaeology Workshop


This week I visited the children in Year 3 at St James’ School, Bournemouth, to share with them how we use archaeology to learn about the Romans, their topic for this half-term. We started with a presentation to show the types of artefacts that archaeologists find on Romano-British sites and what these tell us about the people who used them. We looked at the changes that the Romans brought to Britain including new styles of building; different types of food and drink, and the way they were prepared and served. The children also learnt about a large-scale pottery industry that was in operation around the Poole Harbour and Wareham area. They asked lots of interesting questions, including how we actually know that something comes from the Roman period. 

It was then time for some activities and they had the opportunity to try to identify some of the tile types they had seen on the slides (the tegulae and imbrices from Roman roofs and box-flue tiles from a hypocaust) and make a mosaic out of tesserae. They divided Roman pottery into different types and then counted and weighed the sherds. They became archaeological detectives, describing a range of replica objects and trying to decide what they would have been used for, and had fun dressing up. The object that provoked the most interest? The ear scoop!
To find out more about school workshops visit our education page.
By Grace Jones, Archaeologist/Finds Specialist

The Andrew Townsend Collection

2580 Just some of the books from the Collection

Wessex West has recently inherited a quite remarkable library of volumes concerning archaeology and history from the late Dr Andrew Townsend’s family.

The Collection, numbering approximately 400 titles, represents many years of research, study and a keen interest in the subject. 

2578 Andrew turned from a much more lucrative career in the construction industry to pursue his personal interests in archaeology and attained a range of qualifications and professional accreditations as well as publishing widely. Andrew’s working and academic interests took him to Spain, Libya, Jordan, Cyprus, America and the Caribbean and he made an outstanding contribution to the published archaeology of Malta’s prehistory.

In his commercial archaeological employment with the field unit of Bristol Museum Service, Andrew raised the bar for standards of research into primary source material.  
Through his membership of the Chartered Institute of Building he was a driving force in establishing cohesion and understanding over Health & Safety between the construction industry and archaeology, particularly for CDM regulations. 
In order to have a fully accessible catalogue one of our volunteers will assist with digitising the existing card-index to link the book titles to the main Wessex library database.
The collection will make a very valuable addition to our library resources, assisting future researchers.
Our Chief Executive, Chris Brayne said ‘the collection will remain in Bristol and will be known as the Townsend Collection in recognition of the very great contribution Andrew made to archaeology in general and in the south-west in particular’.

Scottish Fisheries Museum Boat Collection


Specialists from Wessex Archaeology are currently undertaking a suite of Conservation Management Plans (CMPs) on behalf of the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther in Fife. The project has been made possible through funding from the Coastal Communities Fund and this exciting opportunity will look at the boat collection as a whole, in addition to specific CMPs for a number of vessels, to assist the museum in the development of robust management arrangements for the long term, sustainable future of the collection.
With such a valuable boat collection, the museum identified the need for the development of CMPs for three of the larger vessels; the Fifie Reaper and Zulu Research, both examples of 1st Class sailing herring drifters, which represent significant survivors of the once prolific Scottish herring fishing fleet. In addition the smaller Fifie herring fishing vessel White Wing, also known as a ‘Baldie’ will also be included as an exemplar of the smaller vessels operating in the fishery. All three vessels are registered with the National Historic Fleet and are recognised as rare examples of vessels operating within the Scottish fishing fleet from the early 20th century. The CMPs will aim to identify the specific needs and management considerations of each vessel, both as operational vessels, and in the case of the Zulu Research, an archaeological artefact on permanent display undercover in the museum.
In addition to the larger vessels, at least two of the smaller boats in the collection will also be investigated including the Montrose Salmon Coble Jubilee, and a Tay Salmon Coble. The latter is particularly significant as an example of a unique adaptation of the standard rowing coble, known as a ‘Bermondey Boat’ developed for use during salmon netting on the exposed sand banks located in the Tay Estuary. The vessels together provide an important vernacular theme based around the understanding of small craft used in the Scottish east coast salmon fishery.
The team will be undertaking a variety of tasks in the development of the CMPs over the coming months and will be working closely with the Museum and the Coastal Communities Project Manager in the development of the plans and assisting with opportunities to disseminate the work in conjunction with upcoming community engagement opportunities. The first of these comprised an event hosted by the museum as part of the Scottish Archaeology & Heritage Festival in September. The event , ‘Different Generations of Boat Builders but the same old boats’ allowed members of the public to visit the working boatyard in the museum to experience the work of wooden boat builders through materials, tools, and techniques; including insights through pictures into the old boatyards of Fife and the people who worked in them. 
To see what is happening at the Scottish Fisheries Museum see
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