Kitty Foster's blog

NAS Conference 2017

3749 Our Coastal & Marine team's display at the 2016 NAS conference in Glasgow

Our Coastal & Marine team are looking forward to attending the 2017 Nautical Archaeology Society conference in Portsmouth this weekend. The theme of the conference this year is ‘Discovery is Just the Beginning’, and the conference will not only explore the legacy of the Nautical Archaeology Society’s education programme but also showcase nautical archaeology projects from around the world.

As one of the sponsors of the conference, the team will have a display stand, showing some finds from the Marine Aggregate Industry Archaeological Protocol and handing out copies of the latest newsletter, Dredged Up. They will also be raising awareness for the Marine Antiquities Scheme; an initiative that encourages the reporting of finds from beach combers, dog walkers, divers, fishermen and other coastal and sea users around the country. There will also be short video on some of the recent work the Coastal & Marine team have been doing this year.

Meeting the Future of our Industry in Sheffield

The past couple of weeks have been a busy time for the Sheffield team who have been out and about speaking to the future of our industry. On 30 October Andy Norton joined a host of fellow archaeological professionals from the north of England to partake in the University of Sheffield ‘s archaeological employers day. The event hosted by Colin Merrony is held each year at Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute and involves talks followed by a round of ‘speed dating’. The ‘speed dating’ involves groups of both undergraduates and postgraduates moving between tables to chat to and question panels formed from local contractors, specialists, museums staff, consultants and planning archaeologists. It was a pleasure speaking to such engaged students and great to see that the future of archaeology is in safe hands.
On 8 November it was the students of Sheffield Hallam University’s turn to find out the realities of a life as an archaeologist. Chris (Bre) Breeden, Jess Irwin and Mili Rajic hosted a stand at Sheffield Hallam University Natural & Built Environment (NBE) Careers Day, an event designed to allow NBE undergraduate and postgraduate students to network with employers, explore a variety of career options and engage in career planning. For NBE students archaeology would not necessarily seem like the obvious career path but we offered tips for approaching archaeological companies and how to make the most of the opportunities available. Over 40 students came to our stand and talked to us about building surveys and heritage management to 3D reconstructions and GIS, and a myriad of other abbreviations. Bre also co-hosted a workshop on GIS and remote sensing resulting in some fantastic ideas for placement projects for the current GIS students. The day was a great success and we have demonstrated to the students that choosing a career in archaeology entails much more than just digging (and mud) and offers a lot of different possibilities. We are honoured to have been invited back next year look forward to meeting old and new faces.
By Andy Norton and Mili Rajic

New Chairperson Appointed


Today we are delighted to announce the appointment of our new Chairman, Mr. Anthony Fry. Anthony studied History at Oxford University and embarked on a career in banking with Rothschilds where he advised businesses and governments around the world. He was instrumental in the structuring of the UK National Lottery and until recently served as Chair of CALA Group, The Premier League and Dairy Crest. He has also held non-executive positions on the boards of companies including Southern Water, BSI and Molem. His experience of charitable, cultural and academic organisations includes Board positions with The British Lung Foundation, SOAS, The English National Opera and The Natural History Museum. From the late 1990s Anthony was Global Head of Media and European Head of Telecoms at Credit Suisse where he worked with major media companies including the BBC, BSkyB and Vivendi. He also became a member of the BBC Trust. Anthony now lives in Wiltshire and is an enthusiastic fan of Time Team. We are very pleased that he has agreed to lend his wealth of expertise to the benefit of Wessex Archaeology.

Sadly, we must also say goodbye to our outgoing Chair, Genie Turton, who has guided the organisation through the toughest economic conditions in living memory. Genie agreed to take on the role on a temporary basis but, recognising the need for stability, she has remained with us for five years. During her tenure, Genie encouraged our teams to balance clear-eyed business thinking with the delivery of public benefit and used her commitment to diversity and equality to inspire our staff and return our organsisation to a strong financial position. The Board and the management team benefited hugely from her experience and energy and she has been a consistent source of sound advice and moral support. We are tremendously grateful for the contribution Genie made to our organisation and we have no doubt that her next initiative will be a great success.

Miles' Week of Work Experience


Monday 23 October
On Monday I was given a brief tour of the various departments of Portway House, and was able to see where I would be volunteering for the remainder of my week. After this tour, I was introduced to one of the project managers Si Cleggett, he explained what Wessex Archaeology did, and demonstrated how a project was received and enacted with some of the current projects. Following this meeting I was introduced to the photogrammetry department, where Roberta kindly demonstrated the process of making an accurate archaeological 3D model. She then recruited my help to create a precise model of one of the outside walls. 
Tuesday 24 October 
On Tuesday morning I volunteered with the environmental team. I was handed a pair of gloves, and an apron and began sluicing environmental samples from a Neolithic site. In this process we discovered a variety of molluscs, charcoal, and some fragments of animal bone. I spent the afternoon with the finds team, and was shown how to clean an array of archaeological finds, primarily ceramic building material, but also a few animal bones, and sherds of everyday pottery. 
Wednesday 25 October 
On the Wednesday morning I returned to the finds team, where I assisted Sophie with cataloguing the processed articles, and met some of the more frequent volunteers. I was incredibly impressed by the team’s ability to date and identify the various objects. Later in the day I was introduced to Bob Clarke in the research department. It was fascinating to hear about the process in which these reports are compiled. Bob showed me some of the more difficult reports that he’s had to compile, with very few pieces of evidence, and gave some of his explanations for some of the unusual sites. I was then taken around the library, and given a brief history of Portway House itself. 


Thursday 26 October 
On the Thursday morning, I attended a social media team meeting, where as well as seeing the ‘exciting new conference call device,’ I was also able to understand how Wessex Archaeology’s various media accounts were managed. Following this meeting I was taken to the maritime archaeology department, where I was given a tour of Unit 2 whilst Joaquin kindly modelled the diving equipment. The department also showed me the excavated 17th-century merchant cannon along with Paolo’s excellent analysis report. Later in the day, I volunteered with the heritage department. I was shown how the Environmental Heritage Record worked, and was given the opportunity to see some historical maps of Salisbury from the 19th century.
Friday 27 October 
On Friday, I returned to the environmental department to sort the material that I had previously processed. In the process, I gathered some more mollusc shells, a few pieces of charcoal, and some struck flint. On Friday afternoon, I was introduced to the osteoarchaeology department. Kirsten showed me the remains that she was currently working on. It was fascinating to hear what they could be deduced from such a small amount of evidence, establishing that the Victorian skeleton was a muscular syphilitic, male. Jackie then explained her role, and showed me some examples of the cremated remains that she has worked on. 
It was a fascinating insight into how commercial archaeology works. I was introduced to a multitude of departments, most of whom I had very little or no knowledge of, and met some fascinating, and extremely knowledgeable people. 
By Miles Lonergan

Archaeology has taken a grip on Bulford St Leonards school

We have been absolutely thrilled that a local school has run with the theme of archaeology after discovering about the local archaeological works happening across the road from them in Bulford. Before the summer holiday Bulford St Leonards school in Salisbury was visited by Phil Harding, who opened their eyes to the exciting discoveries being made in the area and the subject of archaeology. From this moment onwards teacher Chris Baker and her colleagues decided to use archaeology as a major theme and allow the students to delve deeper into the area’s local history.


Wessex Archaeology has been delighted to be able to assist the school by providing artefacts and resources to support the learning programmes organised by the school’s staff.
We know that the students will have gained a greater insight into historical sources and how we construct our understanding of the past, as well as had a lot of fun which will have added to their love of learning.
It is great to see people of all generations engaging with new discoveries and archaeology in general.
If you wish to find out more about what has been happening during recent excavations on Salisbury Plain follow this link.

Coastal & Marine Training and Development

In September as part of Coastal & Marine’s skill development and programme of increasing capacity, I attended the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO) approved Basic Offshore Safety Induction & Emergency Training (BOSIET) course with Compressed Air Emergency Breathing Systems (CAEBS) and Escape Chute Training (ECT) at Warsash Maritime Academy in Southampton.
Over three days using a mix of theory classes, practical training and tests I was instructed in how to travel safely by helicopter to offshore installations, how to live and work safely in that environment and how to respond to offshore emergencies on an installation. This was broken down into a safety induction, firefighting, self-rescue, sea survival, and helicopter safety and escape. Though very full on and serious in its content and aim, there were lighter moments during the three days, being number 15 in a line of people naming ways of raising an alarm requires some invention. The skills taught were a combination of new in many cases, such as the self-rescue, and helicopter safety and escape training, and the reinforcement of others, such as first aid and sea survival skills, so helping to build up our knowledge and competency to deal with situations we might encounter offshore or during transit. 
As a follow-up to this course myself and my colleagues in Coastal & Marine who hold BOSIET certificates have also had our shoulder measurements taken due to a change in the requirements for working offshore. This is to ensure that individuals are seated in locations in a helicopter that allow for them to exit from the nearest authorised underwater escape exit.
My successful completion of the course, along with another colleague who did the course in Aberdeen, means that Coastal & Marine’s team of BOSIET trained staff has doubled to four, plus the qualified geophysics team members, giving Wessex Archaeology extra capacity and resilience, and with many new and exciting projects coming up I look forward to a busy time ahead working with stake holders, developers, and the offshore industry.

Wylfa Head Community Archaeological Excavation

The construction of a new power station on Wylfa Head for Horizon Nuclear Power has afforded Wessex Archaeology the opportunity to explore the rich archaeological landscape of the headland. Several places of interest were identified during a phase of archaeological evaluation in 2015− 2016 and one of these locations was selected to be the focus of a community archaeological excavation. The work was enabled by a partnership between civil engineering companies Jones Brothers and Balfour Beatty.


The community excavation was focused on a large circular monument thought to be the remains of a henge. Henges date to the New Stone Age, or Neolithic period (4000 to 2500 BC), and generally consist of a roughly circular space defined by a ditch usually with an external bank. Henges are considered to be ceremonial monuments that would have been the focus of activity on certain days of the year, particularly the summer and winter equinoxes. As you stand within the monument and look around, it is easy to imagine dispersed farming communities making their way towards the henge along the shallow valleys leading inland and perhaps arriving by boat in the sandy bays to the north. 
The excavation volunteers represented a diverse cross-section of the Anglesey community and all were given the opportunity to learn the archaeological process from excavation through to recording their findings. 
Wessex Archaeology would like to thank Horizon Nuclear Power, Jones Brothers and Balfour Beatty

St. Leonard's Old Church, Sutton Veny


Wessex Archaeology has a continued interest in the exploration and development of opportunities for heritage recording and preservation provided by three-dimensional modelling techniques. As part of this interest, a photogrammetric survey of St. Leonard’s Church, Sutton Veny was undertaken by members of our Built Heritage and Geomatics teams.

St. Leonard’s Church is a partial ruin located in the village of Sutton Veny, near Warminster in south-west Wiltshire. The Grade II listed building dates to the 12th century, although it underwent revisions in the 13th and 16th centuries. The chancel, previously used as a mortuary chapel, is the only intact part of the building left, with the nave, transepts and crossing now partially ruinous following the abandonment of the church in the 1860s. The remaining walls and arches survive to a good height in many areas, with many interesting architectural details still visible. 
The church is currently in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The Trust is a national charity operating the third largest heritage estate in charitable ownership in the UK. It ensures that the churches under its care are conserved and regenerated, allowing them to be enjoyed as ‘cultural, social, tourism and educational resources’.
The photogrammetric technique used at St. Leonard’s Church involved the taking of over 900 photographs, from a variety of viewpoints, during the course of one day. The Geomatics and Graphics teams then used computer software to combine these images into a fully animated three-dimensional model from which scaled, orthographic plans and elevations can be generated, and which can be examined and manipulated in Sketchfab for wider dissemination and appreciation. 
If you are unable to view the model please follow this link.
The results are a detailed, accurate, three-dimensional model of the church, which provides an in-depth record of its structure along with the potential for further study. In addition to providing a valuable record, the survey may contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of the building, for example by monitoring its fabric and helping to inform repair schedules.

Finding Wessex West


Owen Watts has recently taken over the role of Finds Supervisor at Wessex Archaeology West. He graduated from Sheffield University in 2010 with a degree in Historical and Classical Archaeology and has worked with Wessex Archaeology as a field technician since 2014. Owen was brought in from the field initially to assist with the very large quantity of material being recovered from a Roman kiln site. Since then he has overseen the processing, marking, sorting and packaging of nearly half a ton of Roman ceramics, as well as a wide variety of artefacts of different periods from other sites around the region. 


Owen liaises with our many in-house and external finds specialists to ensure that they get the information needed to produce assessments and reports. Aside from all the pottery one of his favourite finds in recent weeks has been an intricate 4th-century enamel brooch (pictured) as well as a quantity of coins from the same era, which are in remarkable condition. In the future he's looking forward to expanding his knowledge of different artefacts as well as working with our conservation team to learn more about the specific techniques used. 

New Discoveries at Larkhill Camp

Wessex Archaeology was commissioned by Aspire Defence Capital Works (ADCW) on behalf of the Ministry of Defence to undertake an archaeological evaluation within part of Larkhill Camp, Wiltshire. The evaluation forms part of the wider, ongoing archaeological investigations which are being undertaken in support of the regional Army Basing Programme (ABP).  
The archaeological evaluation comprised of excavations within an area proposed for redevelopment to build a new sport pitch. The excavations revealed archaeological features cut into the natural chalk geology, ranging in date from the prehistoric period through to the Second World War.  The archaeological remains also included three prehistoric inhumation burials. 


Osteological assessment has revealed that the remains from the three graves comprised those of an infant, of about 3 years of age, a teenage male of around 15−17 years and an adult female aged between 35 and 50 years.  
The infant burial had been made in a grave cut through the lower fill of an existing ditch. Over time, the latter gradually silted up sealing the grave. Prehistoric pottery was found in the ditch fill which suggests the burial is also prehistoric.
The teenage male was of a robust build and his remains show no obvious signs of pathology. He was buried in a prone position – that is face down –  but his legs were bent up behind him with his feet resting up against the side of the grave some way above the level of his head. There are indications that his grave was relatively shallow, and the unusual position of his legs would have resulted in his feet lying close to the surface; most of his foot bones are missing and there is evidence suggestive of canid gnawing to some of the surviving foot bones. Wessex Archaeology has produced an interactive 3D model of the burial and a video based upon photogrammetry undertaken of the burial remains. 


If you are unable to view the 3d model please follow this link.


The adult female was laid in a flexed position and we know such a posture is typical of – though not exclusive to – burials made between 2400 to 1600 BC.  Osteological assessment has revealed that this individual would have suffered from back pain and stiffness indicated by to pathological changes evident in her spine. 
Other finds within the location of the proposed sports pitch include prehistoric pits and ditches, worked flint, five military air raid trenches dug in a zig-zag formation and the foundations of three military buildings thought to date from the Second World War.
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