Kitty Foster's blog

Shipwreck Timbers Give up their Secrets

2409 Dr Roderick Bale revealing tree rings

A large number of artefacts discovered as part of the London Gateway Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries were recently investigated by timber experts to potentially find out the wood types, origin and age of the timbers. This will help our marine archaeologists here at Wessex Archaeology to identify potentially significant shipwreck sites from which these artefacts may have come. 
Dendrochronology specialists Dr Roderick Bale and Nikki Vousden examined the 40 wooden artefacts retrieved from the Thames Estuary seabed and collected samples for further detailed examination. This will take place at their laboratories in the Department of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter.
The timber artefacts had been stored in tanks of water at Wessex Archaeology to prevent them from drying out. They were carefully removed from their water tanks so that the experts could assess their potential for dendrochronological dating. This involves taking a section through the timber to allow the annual growth rings to be counted, to show the number of years the tree was alive and to measure the thickness of the rings to show the yearly growth conditions. In general, it is preferable to have at least 50 tree rings to get reliable results.  As it is a destructive testing method, experts must be fairly certain that the artefact has enough tree rings to provide a date, otherwise important information may be lost.

2411 Timbers ready for further testing

Once the results are back, Wessex Archaeology staff will be able to compare the information about where the timbers came from, when the trees were felled and when the artefacts were made, with specific local databases. In this way, it will add to the information available regarding some of the wrecks that have been discovered in the Thames Estuary, and perhaps even shed light on their maritime histories. 
By Peta Knott, Archaeologist

A Civil War Candlestick?


An unusual ceramic object came up recently from a site just outside Salisbury. The site itself is enigmatic – it is rectangular in outline with ‘bastions’ at the corners, and looks just like a classic fort, except that it consists only of a shallow ditch, with no structural remains at all, and no internal features. Whatever it was, it was very ephemeral. The suggestion is that it is some kind of very temporary military construction – but what date is it? There are practice trenches from the First World War close by, but this is clearly older. This object is the only find made from the ditch, apart from a few pieces of abraded medieval roof tile, which is ubiquitous in the fields around Salisbury.
The object is in the form of a female figurine, holding the candleholder in her right arm; the head and base of the figure are missing. It is made of a pale red clay, covered in a white slip and a clear lead glaze mottled with green and brown. Slipwares were made at various centres across the West Country in the 17th and 18th centuries, for example at Donyatt in Somerset, but expert opinion suggests that this object is more exotic. The most likely source is France, and the date probably 17th century, although no direct parallel has yet been found. Our investigations continue, but one burning question remains – what was an elaborate imported candlestick like this doing on a 17th century, perhaps Civil War, military site in Wiltshire?
By Lorraine Mepham, Senior Project Manager

Come and Try your Hand at Being an Archaeologist at our Open Day on 4 July!


As well as seeing some of the incredible finds we have uncovered in the last five years you are welcome to try your hand at washing and marking finds which have come from archaeological sites in Kent.

There is something for everyone, with numerous activities for children including mini-dig sandpits, with the opportunity to discover some real artefacts.
The sandpit excavation is not exclusively for children, adults can have a go too, as the photo shows, team leader Mark Williams carefully excavating Roman pottery – his choice of excavating implement may explain why he was ‘promoted’ out of the field!
Come at try these as well as many other activities at our free open day at our London & South East Office in Rochester on 4 July 2015.

Geology and Wind Farms in Northern Ireland

2394 Giant's Causeway2395 Holly Rodgers

Holly Rodgers from our Geoarchaeological & Environmental team has just got back from a three day Engineering Geology field trip to Northern Ireland, where she has been exploring some of the geological issues which can affect the development of wind farms.
Along the way they were able to see much of the diverse Quaternary deposits and bedrock geology of Northern Ireland around the Lagan Valley, Antrim Coastline (including the Giant’s Causeway, the photograph shows the basalt columns of the Causeway) and Sperrin Mountains. In this stunning scenery a broad range of geological and glacial landforms were encountered, including drumlins, eskers and Pleistocene channels associated with glacial advance and retreat.
As well as windfarm development, solutions for floating roads over peat deposits were explored, as was the urban 3D deposit model for Northern Ireland.
By Holly Rodgers, Geoarchaeological Technician

T-7 New Team Members!

2378 Chris and Andy researching race nutrition

Wessex Archaeology CEO Chris Brayne and Southern Region Manager Andy Crockett have stepped up and out from behind their enormous desks and joined the Trailwalker support team, providing invaluable support, encouragement and thinly veiled threats to the walkers as they attempt to complete the 100 km in 30 hours.
With only seven weeks to go things are getting critical and the addition of two extra people to the support team is very welcome! 
Training for the walking team is mixed, ranging from Susan Clelland sticking rigidly to the training plan and Mark taking a risky extreme carb loading approach – it will be interesting to see which of the techniques work on the day . . . or two!
Please consider sponsoring the team for this event, all money goes to Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust to continue their excellent work and clearly at time when Nepal in particular could really use that help!



Mystery Object!


Can you guess what this find might be? Come and find out at our Open Day at our London & South East Office in Rochester on 4 July 2015.

A File in the Nail-stack



Most metal artefacts are routinely X-rayed as part of the post-excavation process. Metal objects, particularly those containing iron, are commonly recovered just as lumps of corrosion, and X-rays reveal otherwise unobservable details that aid in their identification and recording. 
The value of X-raying was demonstrated recently when a small iron file was identified among a batch of nearly 500 Roman nails recovered from a site in the south-east of England. The 104 mm long tool, which had closely set teeth and a tapered end, would have been used for detailed metalworking. Its short tang (visible on the left side of the X-ray) would have been set in a handle made of wood or bone. The design and use of such tools has changed little since the Iron Age; much earlier examples have been found in Egypt and Greece.
Wessex Archaeology benefits from in-house X-raying facilities and the services of experienced Conservator Lynn Wootten.
By Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, Osteoarchaeologist

Fun in the Sun for our Volunteer Team



Wessex Archaeology staff and volunteers mingled in the sun at this year’s Volunteer Summer Picnic. 
Hosting the picnic is just one of the ways we are able to say thank you to our fantastic volunteer team for all their hard work. Recent volunteer projects have included processing the Bronze Age and Saxon artefacts from Barrow Clump 2014, as well as a range of Roman material from Chedworth Roman Villa on behalf of the National Trust. 
We were joined at the picnic by a team of Operation Nightingale participants, who are currently excavating an Iron Age site on Salisbury Plain. They popped into Wessex Archaeology HQ for a tour of the building and to find out what happens once the digging is done. 
To find out more about our volunteering opportunities contact our Community & Education Officer
By Laura Joyner, Community & Education Officer

On this Day in History


On 7 May 1765, 250 years ago today, HMS Victory was launched at Chatham Dockyard. Victory was a 1st Rate vessel and carried 104 guns making it one of the most formidable ships of the day. Best known as Lord Nelson’s Flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Victory was active for over 40 years and served in several engagements. Victory’s career ended on 7 November 1812 when it was moored in Portsmouth and used as a depot ship.
Today Victory is the only remaining example of a Royal Navy 1st Rate man-of-war from the age of sail. Though heavily repaired and restored over the years, the vessel is still one of the best examples of naval architecture from this period.
By Dan Atkinson , Regional Manager Wessex Archaeology Scotland 

Sheffield Office Welcomes New Logistics Officer

2343 Ivan Machin

Following another successful year and continued growth, the Sheffield office is pleased to welcome Ivan Machin to the team as our new Logistics Officer. Ivan will oversee deployment, plant/welfare, vehicles, PPE and equipment for the Sheffield team and assist other Wessex offices where needed.
Ivan has had a long career in logistics, and has worked for the Territorial Army, as a Training Officer for the Humberside and Yorkshire Army Cadet Force, and as a Country Parks and Ranger Service Manager. We all look forward to working with Ivan and wish him a warm welcome.
By Andrew Norton, Regional Manager, North
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