Kitty Foster's blog

My Week at Wessex Archaeology

I decided to do a week of work experience with Wessex Archaeology as I had already done a dig at the Barrow Clump site with them. I really enjoyed the dig, and so decided to come back to do a week of work experience. As I am considering studying archaeology or archaeology and history as a degree, this would be a great opportunity to learn more.  The week not only gave me an insight into how all the different parts of archaeology worked but which parts I might like to study further – such as environmental archaeology.
 
My first day, I was introduced to staff and was shown around the Coastal & Marine department and Unit 2 which contained both dive equipment and artefacts such as the remains of Junkers plane engines and wooden panels brought up from shipwrecks along with hand axes and cannonballs – one of the most intriguing finds for me was a mammoth bone in which you could see the hole in the bone that would have held a vein or artery roughly the same size as a £2 coin.
 

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My second day was spent in the Graphics department drawing pot sherds as you would see them in publications, split half and half so one side shows what the pot looks like and the other shows the profile and the thickness of the pottery. I also worked in the GeoServices department to see how GIS and CAD are used along with surveying equipment such as Magnetometry, Radar, Bathymetry are used to look at what is found buried under the ground or sea bed. 
 
My third day was spent processing soil samples in the environmental department, so I could then sort them on my last day – it involved running and sieving mud through mesh until it was clean and then again so only the larger parts remain that could be processed and studied. The types of snail, vegetation and charcoal found in the samples could tell you about the environment and activity at the time the sediment was originally deposited. Different types of snails live in different types of habitat and so give an indication of the conditions and vegetation that existed at the time of deposition. I was also in the finds department labelling artefacts with site and context numbers using permanent ink.
 

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My fourth day was spent on a site visit to a proposed development, to take photos and then to the Records Office to assess whether the new buildings would have any impact on near-by sites such as a motte and bailey castle and Listed buildings and also how the village had changed over time looking at old tithe (ownership) maps of the area.
 
My Last day was spent looking at the contents of soil samples I had processed earlier in the week, such as charcoal, snails (indication of the habitat) as well as seeds which can tell us about habitat and farming practices – germinated grain would indicate brewing, and parts of wheat sheaf would indicate different methods of harvest such as threshing.
 
Overall: I have really enjoyed my week at Wessex Archaeology and working with the staff in all the different departments. I have been able to see all work the various departments do as well as being able to follow processes such as environmental processing and finds sorting from initial stages to the finished products. It has definitely given me a clearer idea of archaeology departments such as environmental processing which I knew little about; there is the fieldwork but also laboratory work and computers used to process data, samples and reports for sites and finds as well as desk-based assessments beforehand; I would also like to thank the staff at Wessex for being so welcoming and making the week possible!
 
by Charlotte Harris
 
 

New Techniques on Historic Sites

2504 Surveying the Landrail at Conyer

Maritime specialists from Wessex Archaeology have carried out rapid condition surveys of intertidal hulks on the north Kent coast. The work, carried out for Historic England during breaks from diving work in the Thames and on the Goodwin Sands, has updated records originally collated in the 1990s by The Society for Sailing Barge Research for several hulks in Conyer and Milton Creeks and at Uplees.
 
Wessex Archaeology’s team used a combination of RTK GPS and photogrammetry to record the hulks, which included the 1894 mud lighter Landrail, shown below. The results will allow the National Record of the Historic Environment to update its intertidal records for this area, which are accessible through its PastScape web portal. The results will also be made available in a downloadable Wessex Archaeology report.
2505 Plan view of a preliminary 3D photogrammetry model of the Landrail
 
By Graham ScottSenior Archaeologist/Dive Superintendent
 
 

New Geoservices Team Member

2498 Becky Hall

Geoservices is pleased to welcome Becky Hall as another new member of the team, following our continued growth. Becky started as an Assistant Geophysicist earlier this month and her primary role will be to collect high quality data in the field. Additionally, she will be processing datasets under the supervision of our senior personnel, and will begin training on data interpretation and report writing. 
 
Becky gained an undergraduate degree in Archaeology and a master’s degree in Archaeological Computing (Spatial Technologies) from the University of Southampton. Her postgraduate degree focused on landscape mapping and analysis using ArcGIS, and included modules on 2D and 3D modelling in AutoCAD, databases and geophysics. As a volunteer she successfully ran the geophysical survey for the Teffont Archaeology Project during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and her other fieldwork projects include excavations at Silchester and Syon House, and geophysical surveys at Wolvesey Castle, Bodiam Castle and Hoglands Park, Southampton. 
 
Becky has already undertaken a number of small projects with Wessex Archaeology, including a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) project for an outreach opportunity for a local community garden. We are extremely pleased to have her join us, as her skillset and passion complements the knowledge and experience we are already have in the team.
 
By Lucy LearmonthManager, Terrestrial Geophysics
 

75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain

This year is the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Many people will already have heard about the fly past taking place today to mark the start of the battle. This Sunday 12 July has also been designated as Memorial Day at the National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne between Dover and Folkestone.
 

2470 Sidescan sonar image of the aircraft on the seabed

Wessex Archaeology has been involved in some of the key aviation archaeology projects off the English coast in recent years. It is therefore a good time to pay our own archaeological tribute to Ian Thirsk and his colleagues at the RAF Museum, who took the courageous decision to undertake the difficult recovery of an almost complete Battle of Britain German Dornier 17 bomber from the Goodwin Sands off the Kent coast in 2013. We were closely involved in studying this unique survival whilst it was on the seabed and the museum first learnt about its existence through us. You can read more about the aircraft and the museum’s extremely challenging work to conserve it at http://rafmuseum.mobi/cosford/things-to-see-and-do/dornier-17-conservation.aspx
 
By Graham Scott, Senior Archaeologist/Dive Superintendent
 
 

The Fate of the SS Mendi

2465 Shawn Sobers

Wessex Archaeology is committed to communicating the results of archaeological and historical investigations in new and interesting ways. For the Historic England supported ‘We die like brothers…’ exhibition, artist, film maker and Associate Professor Dr Shawn Sobers of the University of the West of England was invited by exhibition lead Susan Hayward to exhibit his film African Kinship Systems: Emotional Science – Case Study: The fate of the SS Mendi. The film, partly inspired by Dr Sobers’ discovery of our online desk-based assessment of the Mendi wreck site, asks how communities respond to personal memorial and the fate of the ship. Dr Sobers collaborated in making it with former British soldiers of African heritage, the dance choreographer Remi Tawose and the Bristol-based poet and film maker Rob Mitchell to examine the loss of the Mendi from many different viewpoints.

2467 Rob Mitchell

You can see the film either at the South African National War Memorial at Delville Wood on the Somme or by visiting Dr Sober’s website at http://www.shawnsobers.com/african-kinship-systems-emotional-science-case-study-2-ss-mendi-tragedy/.

 
 

Over Here – American Soldiers in the Salisbury Plain Area, Wiltshire

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Situated as we are geographically, right on the edge of Salisbury Plain, alongside the wonderful prehistoric archaeology we find many examples of the activities of the modern military custodians of the land.

Amongst the finds we have uncovered in recent years there have been obvious remains of WWII mess kitchens, such as spoons and plates, bottles of sauce and camp coffee, tins of cooking oil and even what appeared to be a block of lard!
 

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This week, as our American friends celebrate their Independence Day, we can show evidence of US military presence on Salisbury Plain and the surrounding area. The state of preservation of some of the US issued provisions goes to show how well made they were.
 
We found a rare hoard of tins of US Army sun cream – still with the contents intact. 
 
Sadly there were no contents left in these tins of sliced bacon!
 
By Sue NelsonFinds Supervisor
 
 

Publication of Wessex Archaeology Projects in Yorkshire

Various projects in Yorkshire, carried out by our Sheffield office in 2014, are reported in the new volume of the Council for British Archaeology’s FORUM Yorkshire. The new edition of the journal (volume 3) contains summaries of all of our recent projects in the area and a longer article about our extensive investigations within a cropmark landscape near Rossington in South Yorkshire. 
 

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The work at Rossington was carried out between 2011 and 2014. A combination of geophysical survey, excavation and environmental analysis showed that woodland was cleared during the 1st century AD in preparation for building fields enclosures which were occupied from the 2nd to 4th centuries. Apart from the ditched boundaries we also found a cremation burial, five waterholes and a working hollow. Artefacts were generally scarce but waterlogged conditions allowed for the survival of fragments of a leather shoe, unworked wood and environmental remains..
 
We are also pleased to support CBA Yorkshire’s open access policy which means that FORUM Yorkshire volume 2 is now available to read and download on the FORUM Yorkshire webpage. Volume 2 contains summaries of our Yorkshire projects from 2013 and an article about our investigations at All Saints Cathedral, Wakefield, West Yorkshire by Diana Mahoney Swales and Andrew Norton.
 
Volume 3 will become open access upon publication of the next edition, volume 4, in 2016.
 
By Andrea Burgess, Post-excavation Manager
 
 

Behind the Scenes

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Are you interested in what goes on behind the scenes at an archaeological company? There is much more to the business than traditional excavation in the field! We will have displays of the services that we provide including desk-based research projects, archaeological fieldwork, geophysics, geoarchaeology and more.
 
This would be an excellent introduction to anyone considering a career in archaeology, providing insight into the diversity of an archaeological unit. Archaeologists will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about what it is like to work for an archaeological company.  
 
By Marie Kelleher, Heritage Consultant
 
 
 
 

Exhibition of Finds from Sites in Kent

At our open day on 4 July we will have an exhibition of finds that we have recovered from sites in Kent. Pictured below are just two examples from a site at Wainscott in Medway. Both of these items are brooches and as you can see are quite different in appearance. On the left is a brooch dating to the Romano-British period made of copper alloy. It would have had 10 semi-circular projections around its edge, with the two concentric circles inlaid with coloured enamel in the centre. 
 

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On the right is a Saxon button brooch decorated with a highly stylised human mask at its centre. These are just two of the personal items recovered from one of our sites in Kent, come and see these and many more at our London & South East office open day on the 4 July
 
 

Artistic Collaboration

2413 Frances Hatch (left) and Joanna Lloyd

Contemporary artists Frances Hatch and Joanna Lloyd visited Wessex Archaeology’s Salisbury headquarters this week to discuss how their work could benefit from collaboration with us.
 
Frances, who creates landscape paintings from materials found on the landscape surface, is interested in expanding her practice to incorporate materials found below ground. She has therefore been talking to our environmental specialists about how she could use borehole and monolith soil samples that are no longer needed, together with their associated archaeological records. Her work can be seen at http://www.franceshatch.co.uk/.
 
Joanna is a glass artist who is interested in archaeological textures. She currently produces work based upon casts of archaeological surfaces, for example an excavated Tudor brick wall. She came to discuss how her work might be expanded to include casting the texture of borehole cores and ship and aircraft wreck material, both on the seabed and in our finds stores. Joanna’s work can be seen at http://www.joannalloydglass.co.uk/.
 
By Graham Scott, Senior Archaeologist/Dive Superintendent
 
 
 
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