Kitty Foster's blog

Conservation Training Day

Last week Wessex Archaeology Conservator, Lynn Wootten gave a training day at their head office in Salisbury. The presentation gave staff the opportunity to learn about preservation and burial environments with some simple rules for retrieving and preserving fragile material. Factors affecting the survival of bone, metal, textile and organic matter as well as glass and stone were looked at and some case studies were examined. Ground conditions and the environments in which they are found have different effects on the artefacts and ecofacts and their preservation.


The day also included very useful training on the physical protection of finds being brought back from site or for storage in archives, which included looking at how to use packing material and closely controlled environments, including different types of silica gel and how this can be used not just to keep objects dry, but to keep them at their ‘ideal’ humidity. The insight into packing material and how the objects themselves can react or be affected by them as well as each other was fascinating.
Wessex Archaeology has often created short or long term displays of artefacts for clients or for their own events and open days and Lynn gave some tips and tricks for these displays as well as a reminder about the environments in which these artefacts are displayed.
She ended the day with some case studies of x-rays and the information that can come from them and the different features that can appear at different exposures – even the most unpromising looking lump may have an interesting object revealed within!
All in all it was a very interesting day and the staff from different teams all felt they’d learned a lot from such an informative and knowledgeable speaker. 
If you would like Lynn to provide this training day for your local group, society or archaeology team please contact Lynn for details
By Lorraine Mepham, Senior Manager

The Late Bronze Age−Middle Iron Age Mortuary Landscape at Cliffs End


Featured in the most recent edition of Current Archaeology, the extraordinary mortuary deposits revealed at Cliffs End Farm represent an internationally important assemblage of unusual size (for its date) and complexity. An interactive mosaic of mortuary rites are indicated, many associated with the theme of transformation, including; excarnation, manipulation, exposure and curation, charring and mixing with midden; human and animal sacrifice. 
Thanks to extensive radiocarbon and strontium/oxygen isotope analysis, a broad geographic and temporal range has been demonstrated. The location – overlooking Pegwell Bay − formed a ritual hub for peoples from northern and southern Europe, inter-acting and maintaining links with the local population across centuries from the Late Bronze Age (9− 11th century) to the Middle Iron Age (3rd−4th century). 
A further highlight of the site’s significance is illustrated by the fact that the number of Late Bronze Age individuals identified represents one-third of the total for the period known from Kent – another major difference being that most others of this date were cremated. 
But why here? Situated on a geographically significant sea-board boundary, projecting into the Channel, did Cliffs End represent a ‘triangulation point’ between this and distant but similarly located coastal communities with which it shared economic interests in which the roles of ritual and ‘politics’ remained firmly intertwined?
If you are interested in hearing more about Cliffs End and other sites in Kent why not come to the Celebrating Prehistoric Kent conference on 12 September at Greenwich University Medway Campus.
By Jacqueline McKinley, Senior Osteoarchaeologist

10 Years of Thames’ Finds on Display


In one of our most extensive, innovative and exciting Coastal & Marine projects of the last 25 years, Wessex Archaeology has supported DP World London Gateway in the investigation and protection of the archaeology of the Thames Estuary, during the construction of the DP World London Gateway deep-sea container port and the associated dredging of the river’s shipping lanes.

Wessex Archaeology has been working with DP World, above and below the water, for over a decade, in a partnership which has been praised for its ground-breaking approach to investigating and understanding the country’s long history with the River Thames. We have conducted desk-based research, geophysical surveys, diver investigations and on-board watching briefs, and operated a Protocol for any stray or unexpected finds not picked during our initial surveys; and we have published the results of our investigations.
The archaeology of the Thames is complex, and many known and previously undiscovered wrecks and artefacts were encountered during the project. Our work has seen the careful investigation of aircraft wrecks, and numerous shipwrecks – ranging from the Elizabethan Princes Channel Wreck (investigated for the Port of London Authority) to the SS Letchworth, lost during the Second World War – as well as odd (and sometimes surprising) artefacts lost to the seabed.
Some of the finds have recently gone on display at DP World’s Europe and Russia Regional head office in central London, where they have been carefully curated by Beth Ellis, who is part of a team that oversees the P&O Heritage Collection for DP World. The finds, including cannonballs, pottery from the site of a paddle steamer, and an art deco taxi licence plate, help to draw visitors’ attention to the work undertaken by DP World and Wessex Archaeology, and to engage them with the region’s rich maritime heritage.
Beth says: ‘The pieces of crockery from the paddle steamer look great and have the added novelty of coming from a paddle steamer similar to those P&O used to own and run, like the William Fawcett (launched in 1828), traditionally known as P&O’s first ship.
Moving these finds from our stores to an exhibition means that they can now be seen by thousands of people during their time at DP World’s London office, and Wessex Archaeology is proud to support the display. In time, more of the artefacts recovered will be displayed in Southend Museum so that they can be viewed by the wider public, and where they will form part of an education programme for local schools and colleges. 
By Gemma Ingason

Celebrating Prehistoric Kent in the heart of Chatham Maritime

This year Wessex Archaeology is excited to be able to host a conference focusing on recent discoveries and ideas associated with prehistoric Kent. We have great speakers and great topics so this meant that we required a great venue.

2537 The Pilkington Building

Located within the heart of historic Chatham we are working with the University of Greenwich to offer state of the art equipment within a purposely designed open space. The conference will be held in the Pilkington Building, a Grade II Listed Building adjacent to the former Royal Navy Barracks Drill Shed. Designed by Colonel Henry Pilkington the construction of the Drill Shed or ‘Drill Hall’ was completed in March 1902 and provided accommodation and training facilities for the men of the reserve fleet who, up until that time, had been located within hulks moored alongside the River Medway close to Chatham Historic Dockyard. An ideal spot!
On the day head for the University of Greenwich Medway, Central Avenue, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4TB, the Pilkington Building is accessed via Central Avenue adjacent to the Drill Hall Library and Parade Ground. There is ample parking on site and we will happily arrange priority disabled parking closer to the building. We will have signs and directions set out and staff on hand to help.
For further details please see our upcoming events page,
or contact David Britchfield on 07515 998871 or email
By David Britchfield, Project Manager

New Community & Education Officer

2536 Rachel Brown

Wessex Archaeology is delighted to welcome Rachel Brown as our new Community & Education Officer. 
Rachel has worked as a History teacher and more recently as People and Learning Manager for the British Red Cross. These roles have taken her into a variety of learning environments and given her the opportunity to teach a wide range of people – from 3-year old pre-school children and 16-year old school students through to volunteers in their 80s. 
Rachel also has experience in developing an interest in archaeology, in a range of audiences, such as when volunteering with Dorset County Museum. Also, as a teacher, she involved sixth form students with archaeology, and created lessons focussing on archaeological sources for Key Stage 3.
While working for the British Red Cross she coordinated a variety of events. She also gained skills in managing research and evaluation projects in order to understand audiences, and better support business development.
In her new role Rachel will be engaging the public with the work of Wessex Archaeology, and in doing so she aims to develop existing and new partnerships both with our clients and the wider community.
Rachel has said: “I have a passion for history and hold the belief that cultural learning is of great importance to society, and should be accessible to all. So I am very excited to be joining Wessex Archaeology.”

Explore an 18th Century Dutch Shipwreck in 3D!

Cannon 6002 - Gun Rocks, Outer Farne Islands by Wessex Archaeology on Sketchfab


In the early 1700s a Dutch ship was lost on the notoriously dangerous rocks of the Farne Islands, off Britain’s east coast. Since then the wreck has lain at the bottom of the sea, hidden and forgotten, until the 1970s when divers from the local Tyneside British Sub Aqua Club came across a large collection of cannons scattered across the seabed. The club undertook a measured survey of the site.
In 2013 Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by English Heritage (now Historic England) to revisit the wreck site and update the survey. We worked closely with the local divers who had found the site, and undertook both sonar and hand-measured survey, helping us to understand the site more clearly than ever before, as reported on the BBC. Earlier this year we went back to give a talk to the local divers about our results, see our blog about the evening. 
As well as our normal survey methods, the survey in 2013 gave us another opportunity to use a fairly new technique called photogrammetry. This is fantastic for underwater archaeology and allows us to create realistic 3D models of parts of the site. We have now put our 3D models online ahead of our upcoming talk about the wreck at the Ordnance Society’s Guns from the Sea conference on the 5th September. These models are a great tool in helping us to rapidly record and understand these amazing artefacts, and now you can see them in all their detail through your browser!
The cannons below are a variety of cast iron 6- and 8-pounders. We have uploaded examples of three found on the seabed, and one, also recovered, which now sits on a modern gun cart outside the nearby Bamburgh Castle. Photogrammetric survey was carried out by John McCarthy and Peta Knott of Wessex Archaeology.
By John McCarthy, Project Manager

Hadrian's Wall Monument Scanning

Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site is one of Britain's most important and evocative archaeological monuments. It stretches right across the north of England and when it was built it marked the northern extent of the Roman empire. The purpose of this epic feat of engineering was to separate the Roman world from the barbarian world beyond the wall. A series of forts and milecastles were placed along the wall and over time these became as domestic as military, with civilian settlements growing up beside forts and numerous temples being constructed.
An amazing array of altars, statues and other carvings have been found along the wall by archaeologists and many of these have been preserved within the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, now housed within the Great North Museum. We have scanned over 50 of these as part of our recent collaboration with University of Newcastle through the NU Digital Heritage project ( One of the planned uses of these digital models will be for use as a teaching resource for initiatives such as Newcastle University’s free online Massive Online Open Course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. For more information on the scans see
By John McCarthy - Project Manager

Yorkshire Day Celebrations


Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield office had their white roses at the ready for the Yorkshire Day Celebrations at Pontefract Castle on Saturday 1 August 2015. The busy summer season for the community team continued with another outing for the ‘Sands of Time’ sandpit excavation activity. This time, the team were joined by Senior Geomatics Officer, Chris Breeden, who came to show off his ‘machines that go bing’, otherwise known as a Bartington Grad601-2 dual fluxgate gradiometer and a CAT scanner. Chris was on hand to explain to the visitors to the Wessex Archaeology stall how gradiometers are used to undertake surveys to identify the presence of possible archaeological remains below the ground and demonstrate the use of CAT scanners to detect buried cables. 

The event was very well attended with over 1000 people coming to see all the attractions on offer, which also included falconry displays, fresco painting and medieval bread making. There was also a very special stall run by the Friends of Pontefract Castle which celebrated all things Yorkshire. For details of all the events happening at Pontefract Castle this summer, please use the following link:
If you would like Wessex Archaeology’s Community and Education team to help you with your event, please email
By Alexandra Grassam, Senior Heritage Consultant

Rotherham Family Fun Day


On Tuesday 28 July 2015, Wessex Archaeology took part in Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s Family Fun Day at Clifton Park Museum. Wessex Archaeology’s Jessica Irwin and Alex Cassels supervised our ever popular ‘Sands of Time’ sandpit excavation along with the sample sorting challenge, which requires the careful identification of various types of seeds from a sieved sample, including maize, millet and wheat. 
For information about other family friendly events held at Clifton Park Museum over the summer holidays, see
For more information about the range of activities our Community and Education team can provide please follow this link or email
By Alexandra GrassamSenior Heritage Consultant

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.


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.


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
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