Kitty Foster's blog

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

Underwater Archaeology Services for Historic Scotland

2333 Surveying the Drumbeg wreck site

We are delighted to announce that Wessex Archaeology has been awarded the contract for Underwater Archaeology Services for Historic Scotland (soon to be Historic Environment Scotland).

This programme will involve diving and surveying on some of Scotland’s most important historic wrecks, marine and freshwater archaeological sites over the next two years.

This contract adds to our dive programme in Scotland which also includes archaeological dive surveys taking place as part of the SAMPHIRE Project on the west coast in July. Wessex Archaeology has also recently been awarded a contract with Historic England (formerly English Heritage) to fulfil the Archaeological Services in Relation to Marine Protection contract, which is similar in scope. Taken together with a variety of other diving and marine archaeological survey contracts this confirms our position as the leading provider of marine archaeological services in the UK. Our dive teams are looking forward to getting their feet wet!

By John McCarthy - Project Manager

Wessex at Trailwalker 2015 – Nepal update

The dreadful events in Nepal have provided a shocking reminder as to why we’re doing the Trailwalker Challenge.
Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust are working in Nepal in the aftermath of the worst earthquake to affect the country in 80 years. Oxfam are already digging latrines and delivering water. The Gurkha Welfare Trust are making their facilities and resources available to help with the relief effort. 
Oxfam have let us know that any sponsorship that we raise for this event within the next two weeks will be used for the emergency response in Nepal. 
The next few days will be critical to help those most in need. Clean water, emergency food support, shelter and hygiene kits will be needed if we are to save lives in the wake of this disaster. 
Anything at all you can give would be very gratefully received  
We promise that more light-hearted blogs will be back soon, including updates on our varied (and occasionally disastrous) training regimes!
Best wishes, 
The Wessex Trailwalker Team 

Marine Ecology Diving Initiative Launched

Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine team are delighted to partner with Marine Ecological Surveys Limited (MESL) in facilitating the launch of their Ecological Diving Services.

2309 Dr Delphine Coates, Phil Durrant, and Euan McNeill

MESL, part of the Gardline family of companies, are experts in marine ecological consultancy, taking adaptive scientific approaches to investigate habitats and ecosystems offshore. They are joining our experienced commercial diving team to get closer to the marine life they are studying. This offers clients the marine ecological expertise of a trusted provider with WA Coastal & Marine's 15 years of experience as a diving contractor, and gives MESL access to our professional diving expertise, equipment and some innovative technology. 
Euan McNeill of Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team says, ‘We are very pleased to lend our 15 years of commercial diving experience to assist MESL in their valuable ecological work. This represents a new direction for our team, and one which we strongly believe has cross-discipline applications and benefits for both Wessex Archaeology and MESL, but also for our clients in a diverse range of industries.’
The collaboration was launched at Ocean Business 15 – the largest ocean technology event of the year – held at Southampton Oceanography Centre. Diving projects will be co-ordinated for MESL by Dan Brutto and Delphine Coates. For more information on what we can offer to clients, visit our commercial services page.
to find out more from MELSL follow this link
By Euan McNeill Coastal & Marine

Trailwalker 2015 – T Minus 15 Weeks

I am part of a team from Wessex Archaeology undertaking a daunting endurance event – Trailwalker 2015 – raising money for the Gurkha Trust and Oxfam. The challenge involves walking 100km in 30 hours across the South Downs from Waterlooville in Hampshire to Brighton in East Sussex. 
Thankfully, personal trainer Kent Jones has agreed to try and get me prepared for the event and as an incentive we are visiting Heritage sites on our long walks and we propose to blog about these journeys each week.
Our first walk was a 15 mile local walk taking some of the Medway Megaliths. These monuments are thought to be the remains of Neolithic Chambered Tombs clustered mostly north of Aylesford in the Medway Valley; one of the largest clusters of such monuments in Southern England outside Wiltshire.
2306 Little Kits Coty and the White Horse Stone
The first we visited was ‘Little Kits Coty’ on the Medway Valley, a collapsed jumble of Sarsen stone in a field off Rochester Road north of Aylesford. The monument is also called the ‘Countless Stone’ because legend has it that when each time you count the stone you come up with a different answer, so I didn’t bother trying.
After eight miles on the relative flat it was time for the hills. The first of the hills took us past the White Horse Stone, a large Sarsen stone which could be the wall stone of a chambered tomb. All the rest has been removed. There is a local tradition that it is the burial place of Hengist and Horsa.

2298 Kits Coty House

Kits Coty House is the most impressive of the Medway Megaliths with three remaining uprights and capstone and has excellent views; the site is well worth a visit not least because of the excellent views across the Medway valley!
For information on some recent research and results of exciting fieldwork by Paul Garwood of Birmingham University come along to the conference organised by staff at Wessex Archaeology on the 12 September 2015 where Paul will be speaking along with a number of other speakers. Follow this Link.


And finally, a reminder to all even experienced hikers such as Kent Jones make the mistake of not wearing appropriate footwear!
Look out for a training update next week and more of our perambulations in Kent and please consider donating to these excellent causes, by selecting the button. 
Mark Williams, Regional Team Leader, London & South East

South Australian Wreck Survey Planned

2292 Magnetometer and sidescan sonar survey equipment

Wessex Archaeology and the Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub-Aqua Club (ILFSAC) have been awarded a research grant from the Honor Frost Foundation by the British Academy to conduct a geophysical survey of the wreck of the vessel South Australian.
Built in Sunderland in 1868 the South Australian was sister-ship to the City of Adelaide, one of only two clipper ships that survive today, the other being the Cutty Sark. The City of Adelaide was recently transported from Scotland to Port Adelaide, Australia, for conservation and display. Like that vessel, the South Australian was heavily involved in the emigrant trade between the UK and Australia. The wreck is therefore potentially of international significance. 
The South Australian was later used as a cargo vessel and sank in bad weather in February 1889 in the Bristol Channel. The ship was on passage from Cardiff to Argentina laden with railway materials. In the late 1980s, members of ILFSAC discovered a mound of rails within the remains of a wooden shipwreck whilst investigating a fishing snag. After many years of diving they positively identified the wreck as the South Australian in 2005. 
Keith Denby of ILFSAC said “I have dived the wreck site for nearly 30 years and as the story has slowly unfolded my fascination with it has grown. We have long wished to carry out a proper archaeological survey of the site but the conditions are too challenging for conventional plotting and measuring from a datum point, so the generosity of the Honor Frost Foundation will really open up a new phase to the history of the South Australian. It will also help to forge links with the City of Adelaide project in Australia and give members of ILFSAC the chance to learn to use some of the latest technology in underwater archaeological surveying.”
Wessex Archaeology will carry out a geophysical survey of the wreck site this summer, with ILFSAC’s help, in order to develop a site map to guide ILFSAC’s future work at the site. Keep an eye on this blog for further updates as the project progresses!
By Dr Stephanie Arnott, Senior Marine Geophysicist

A Mammoth Adventure


Today our Coastal & Marine team waved goodbye to a precious find that has been carefully conserved at our Salisbury office over almost an entire decade.

2291 Mammoth tusk

The find – an impressive section of mammoth tusk – was reported in 2006 through the
Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol, which provides a safety net for any archaeological discoveries made during aggregate dredging work offshore.
Mick Hayward found the tusk at Purfleet Wharf in Essex after it toppled from the conveyor that would take it to the crusher (used to reduce oversize material) and certain oblivion! It comes from Mammuthus primigenius, which is more commonly known as the woolly mammoth.
Historic England, which in 2006 was called English Heritage, funded radiocarbon dating which revealed that this tusk is around 45,000 years old. This particular mammoth lived during a period in which Britain was home to Neanderthals, not modern man.
The tusk is going on display at the Head Office of the finders, Hanson Aggregates Marine Ltd. along with other finds reported through the Protocol. 
By Gemma Ingason – Archaeologist Coastal & Marine
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