Kitty Foster's blog

Jon Egging Trust Brought the Blue Skies to Site

In late May 2017, following on from their visit to the Wessex Archaeology (WA) Salisbury office, the students on the first year of the Jon Egging Trusts’ Blue Skies Programme, joined us in the field at Perham Down (on the Salisbury Plain Training Area) for a day of teamwork exercises with themes relating to archaeology, the military and the First World War. The event was co-hosted by Richard Osgood, Senior Archaeologist for the
Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). The Defence Infrastructure Organisation is part of the Ministry of Defence and manages the defence estate which includes the responsibility to assess and maintain both historical and archaeological features, and Dickie Bennett, Project Director for Breaking Ground Heritage (BGH), an archaeology-based recovery pathway for injured military personnel.
 
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The students were welcomed onto site with glorious sunshine and were eager to get out of their minibus and into the fresh air. Split into three groups for the day, they participated in various sessions aimed at developing their historical and archaeological understanding, and enhancing their observational and team-working skills.
 
Nick Crabb, WA Senior Geophysicist , directed an activity using Ground Penetrating Radar to search for archaeological remains without disturbing the ground. He explained how and why this method of investigation is used in archaeological projects. This was a popular session despite the results not being immediately observable. 
 
 
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Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy and Mai Walker (WA) helped the students accurately set out and excavate a 1 m square test pit, using the correct equipment, in order to investigate the soil safely and collect any artefacts. One lucky participant found evidence for military activity on the site. The test-pitting was thoroughly enjoyed by all, despite the warm digging conditions. Sharing the work emphasised the benefits of working as a team.

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Each group also took part in an observational activity organised by BGH, based on genuine military training techniques. It was a real test for both the students and the supervisors, highlighting the importance of clear communication and the value of working together. 
 
Particularly popular was the First World War session, led by Dickie and Richard and his colleagues, in which the students were allowed to handle a selection of artefacts. Photographs of the original owners of some of the objects provided a real sense of connection with the past. A number of the students got to try on genuine First World War army uniforms, which had a similar effect, although all agreed that the summer kit was much too warm, even for an English summer. The activity leaders talked about military training on the site, past and present, and used their own experiences to illustrate examples of teamwork in the military.  
 
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One of the highlights of the day was when the BGH team gave the students a real taste of army life by serving up a delicious lunch of army rations – luckily the modern, rather than the First World War, variety!
 
It was great to see the students away from the classroom, enjoying the outdoors and working together so successfully. Thank you to all involved in making it happen – particularly Kaye Jackson of the Jon Egging Trust, Richard Osgood of the DIO who generously granted access to the venue at Perham Down and provided welfare facilities, Dickie Bennett of BGH and his colleagues Matt Smith and Chris Boyd, Mark Khan, military historian who kindly provided his expertise, Rachel Brown (Senior Community and Outreach Officer, WA) who ensured that the aims of the exercises were met, and Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy (WA). 
 
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Volunteer Trip to Avebury

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On Monday Avebury welcomed a group of about 40 volunteers from the local area. The volunteers were given a fascinating tour of Avebury Stone Circle by four of the volunteer guides and then visited the
Alexander Keiller Museum where they had the chance to explore the archaeological collection. All the volunteer guides from Avebury were extremely knowledgeable and clearly had a great passion for the site, we all greatly appreciated having them guide us through the landscape. The visit also included tea, cake and a chance for people to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
 

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The visit was arranged by the Stonehenge and Avebury Learning and Outreach Group (SALOG) which is made up of staff from English Heritage, National Trust, Wessex Archaeology, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum. The group arranged the visit to say thank you for all the work the volunteers do to protect, record, share and maintain heritage.
 
It was a great day and we would like to say a big thank you to the National Trust Avebury for hosting us all and Bridget Telfer from The Salisbury Museum for all the extra work she put in organising the visit. And once again thank you to all the volunteers who work across the heritage sector in and around the Stonehenge and Avebury landscape, we are all very grateful for the dedication and skills you provide.
 
 
 

Inspiring Careers in Science

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Wessex Archaeology staff members Holly Rodgers and Rachel Brown visited South Wilts Grammar school as part of their roles as STEM Ambassadors. The STEM Ambassador programme encourages organisations and individuals to ‘volunteer their time, enthusiasm and experiences to encourage and inspire young people to achieve more and progress further in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)’, Wessex Archaeology supports the programme and Holly and Rachel are representatives for Wessex.

South Wilts Grammar school hosted a ‘Meet the Scientists’ day which provided the students with the opportunity to speak to people working in science and gain insight into the various roles and areas of work. There were professionals from a wide range of organisations and industries who attended the event, there were science sessions being run by people who work in science and careers talks. Holly and Rachel participated in the careers talks where small groups of students spoke to professionals about their careers, the students rotated around the different professionals so that they got a chance to speak to everyone. The lab the event was held in was a buzz of conversation and you could hear the excitement from many of the students as they realised the vast possibility of roles and professions they could go into. Holly and Rachel promoted the broad range of roles linked to STEM within the archaeological sector and provided valuable insight into how they had progressed their own careers.
 
We hope that many of the students have been inspired to pursue a career in a STEM area and that we have inspired some future archaeologists.
 
 
 

A Month in Bristol

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One month ago, I headed down from the East Midlands to join Wessex Archaeology in their Bristol Office as their Senior Heritage Consultant. My arrival coincided with the office’s third birthday, which was duly celebrated with cake and photographs! 

 
It has been a whirlwind few weeks, getting to know a completely new city, new colleagues and new job. Bristol is a lovely city and, luckily, its residents seem very willing to provide directions and advice to a lost and confused new resident! In terms of first impressions, it has outdone itself. I’ve been spoiled for choice for things to do, see and eat; the latter being reflected in an expanded waistline since my move!
 
The WA Bristol and Heritage teams have been similarly accommodating to their lost and confused new colleague and have obligingly fielded my endless questions! A trip over to Salisbury during my second week enabled me to meet another part of the team, and I look forward to meeting the rest of my heritage colleagues as part of staff training next month. 
 
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Whilst work within the office has predictably been that ‘first month’ mix of training, induction and getting to grips with new templates, procedures and protocols for tenders and reports, I’ve been lucky enough to join my colleagues for a couple local heritage events. An evening out at the M-Shed in Bristol to attend a lecture by Professor Steve Poole (University of Western England) proved an interesting and slightly gruesome experience, exploring the history of ‘gibbetting’ in the Bristol area. An engaging speaker, he took us on a journey around the local area, with a brief detour up to Sheffield, explaining the practice itself and its place in shaping local identities and collective memory in later periods. 
 

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Last week, I joined Project Managers Kirsty Nichol and Bruce Eaton on another evening trip to explore the University of Bristol’s excavations at Berkeley Castle for their end of dig open evening. Professor Mark Horton took us on a tour of the site, explaining the results of this season’s work and identifying archaeology from the Roman through to the Post-medieval period in the immediate environs of the Castle and Parish Church. The picturesque setting of the site, combined with great archaeology and excellent weather (not to mention, delicious catering) made for an informative and enjoyable evening. 
 
As I move into my second month at Wessex, I am looking forward to expanding my portfolio of projects. I am learning lots about the local history of the area, am excited about broadening my knowledge and helping to develop Wessex’s presence across the south-west. 
 
 
 
 

Laurence's Week at Wessex Archaeology

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My name is Laurence Whiting; I am a student at Canterbury Christ Church University studying for a degree in Archaeology and American Studies. During my degree I chose a module which has led me to a placement with Wessex Archaeology.

It may be cliché, my work placement in Wessex Archaeology’s Maidstone office has been valuable in a way I would not have previously thought. Even though I have barely scratched the surface of what it is like working in an office within the archaeological field, I truly feel it has helped me and will continue to help me discover what I want to pursue as a career after university.
 
My time here at the office has been spent looking at social media within the archaeological field, and making comparisons between archaeological organisations and then presenting my research. While my tasks here may not have been indicative of what it is really like to work within the field; being around the other members of the team, I have had a great chance to see what their work is like. Everybody has been friendly to me during my time here and I haven’t been made to feel that I’m out of place; considering the type of work I was doing and being a student, rather than an employee. 
 
I am very grateful for the opportunity, so a big thanks to everybody at Wessex Archaeology Maidstone and to those who guided me through the project.
 
By Laurence Whiting
 
 

Sutton Down Badges

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The Sutton Mandeville Heritage Trust (SMHT) has recently announced the award from The Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the regimental badge of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which was cut into the hillside by soldiers in 1916, prior to their deployment in France for the Battle of the Somme. 
 
The Royal Warwickshire badge appeared nearby to that of the ‘Shiny 7th’ badge of the 7th (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment, but had become overgrown and invisible until initial clearing of the site was undertaken by the SMHT. It was at this stage that Wessex Archaeology was asked to assist in restoring an accurate outline of the badges based on photogrammetry data (supplied by Callen-Lenz) from a UAV that flew over the site. This information was combined with rectified historic photographs and postcards, revealing extensive recutting of the chalk badges years after they were first made. This has resulted in the shape of the badge changing considerably. 
 
Wessex Archaeology has provided the SMHT with an outline of the Royal Warwickshire badge as true to the original cut into the hillside in 1916 as possible. This will then be laid out on site by Wessex to enable the recutting of the badge. 
 
 
 

My First Week in the Coastal & Marine Team

I am very happy to be the new archaeologist joining the Coastal & Marine team at Wessex Archaeology in the Salisbury office! My first week has given me an insight in to some of the various future work I will be involved with as part of this brilliant team.
 

Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries

The first project I have been working on and will continue to work on during my time here is the
Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries. This scheme, funded by The Crown Estate and the British Marine Aggregate Producer’s Association and implemented by Wessex Archaeology has just entered in to its 12th year of existence where by archaeological finds discovered during dredging works are reported. The scheme was put in place to keep an archaeological record of material that may otherwise be thrown away as waste material and as a result, over 1600 finds have been reported since its launch in 2005. The aim of the Protocol is to raise awareness among dredging or construction companies about archaeological finds that they may encounter in the maritime environment and the importance of recording them and making the correct people aware of their existence. It is very simple for the companies to report a find through online forms and once these (along with photographs) are uploaded to the online system, Wessex Archaeology can then take the necessary steps to make sure the information reaches the relevant people such as the Receiver of Wreck. There are information booklets online on the Protocol and how to report finds and awareness talks can be requested by companies so that a member of the Protocol Implementation Team at Wessex Archaeology will come and speak to them directly about the scheme and answer any questions.
 
During my first week, I downloaded the information that had been uploaded for two new finds that were reported and submitted to the online system on Monday 24 April 2017. The two items reported by the same vessel were a brass porthole ring and a brass and copper pipe coupler, possibly used for fuel pipes. The archaeological reports were drawn up and the Nominated Contact of the dredging company along with the Receiver of Wreck were informed. Once these were sent, I researched both items to gather more information about their date and possible use, enlisting the help of a specialist to identify the pipe coupler and its possible function. This information, along with the find’s track plot and finder are compiled into two reports (Wharf and MIDAS) and sent to the client who reported the item, the Receiver of Wreck, and to external bodies such as Historic England and the local Historic Environment Record.
 
Another aspect of this project is the geospatial data. All the finds recovered since the project’s inception in 2005 are recorded and plotted on to a single map using each finds individual track plot or given coordinates. By doing this, we can see the spread of finds and the regions where most finds are reported. The lack of finds in some regions may be due to the type of aggregate being recovered, however, the masses of finds from other regions shows the success of the Protocol overall.
 
The last phase of finds reporting is that the items are shared with the public through social media as a means of outreach and engagement to get the public excited about maritime archaeological finds. Through Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries, companies at construction level are being made aware of archaeological finds and the importance of reporting them, the information about the objects are then registered in the correct places and the public are made aware of these new discoveries. It is hoped that through constant outreach in this way that archaeology will become a subject that everyone gives a second thought to and hopefully will aid in preserving our underwater heritage for the future.
 

Tarmac_0779: Porthole Ring

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This brass porthole ring was discovered in Licence Area 395/1 in the South Coast dredging region, approximately 12 km south-west of Selsey Bill. The remains do not include the second frame that would have been hinged to the remaining frame and would have contained the glass or the deadlight (a metal plate that was both a curtain and a reinforcement against heavy seas). This porthole ring has an internal diameter of 260 mm.
 
Portholes have been used for centuries to allow light and ventilation to enter the lower, darker levels of vessels and in some early cases, as a means of seeing out of a submersible. Portholes are watertight and are generally crafted from glass, secured within a metal frame that is then bolted to the vessel. The popular metals that are used to create the frame of the portholes are bronze and brass because these metals are less corrosive in saltwater. Modern types such as Tarmac_0779, appeared in 1863, where a hinged frame containing the glass would be attached along with the deadlight. 
 
It is possible that this item came from a wreck and due to the fracture damage evident from the photographs, may have been removed from the wreck site by salvagers. The second frame attached via a hinge has been broken off, possibly as a result of damage caused by a wrecking event or due to a diver removing the item from a wreck and taking the glass element. Equally, the damage could have been caused whilst the vessel was in harbour and the glass element was salvaged to be reused with another frame, whilst remains of the damaged frame were discarded in to the sea.
 
By Lowri Roberts, Archaeologist
 
 

Miranda’s work experience

This is my blog of the week I spent doing work experience at Wessex Archaeology.  I've been interested in history and archaeology since primary school and I still go to the Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) in Salisbury.  Every day was brilliant and it was absolutely wonderful to broaden my experience with archaeology. I would like to be an osteoarchaeologist in a few years.

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Day 1

In the morning, I had a tour and met most members of staff. In the afternoon, I was with the coastal & marine department (Peta and Tom). I then went over to unit 2, looked at different finds to start off with then we laid out part of a plane and recorded it by taking photos and measuring it. We then took some photos of a pot so a photogrammetry model could be made, which is still probably being completed. Next, I learnt how to do detailed scale drawings of artefacts, for this we used quite a large bit of timber from an old lifeboat. I then helped Peta with finding some information from ship plans. 
 

Day 2

In the morning, I headed over to environmental where I met: Mai, Emma, Orla and Dudley. First Mai taught me how to sort through wet samples taken from dig sites, then we placed the stones, gravel and small finds (if there are any!) into the oven where it will usually remain for two days. Obviously, we couldn’t use the samples that had just been put into the oven so Mai found some dry samples which we used to find any small finds and separate it from the dirt and gravel. Mai taught me the process of separating a tray. First we had to sieve the whole tray through a set of sieves, next, starting from the biggest sieve and working our way down, we needed to find some small finds and separate them into the different categories, eg, charcoal and bone, then we had to put the finds into small bags, weigh them and label them. After lunch I headed over to the finds department where I met Sue and Erica and spent the afternoon labelling finds. 
 

Day 3

This morning I went to the Graphics and Surveying office where I met Virva and Roberta. Virva took me outside so I would learn how to use the surveying equipment. Once back inside Virva showed me how to edit the area by changing the units and adding extra points to the site. In the afternoon, I was in the finds department washing finds with the volunteers. 
 

Day 4

For this day I spent the whole day in graphics working with Nancy, the first thing I did was drawing Roman pottery then we scanned my drawings and edited them on the computer such as filling in some areas and adding a scale to the drawings. After lunch I drew some other finds including an Iron Age bone comb. 
 

Day 5

In the morning, I was back in environmental doing a different task this time I was looking at different soil samples from different sites underneath the microscope and working out the type of ground and area as well as looking at how much it had changed overtime and finding out the different species of plants that grew there. In the afternoon, I was talking to Kirsten and Jackie, the Osteoarchaeologists at the company, about their work and what they do and learning how it isn't just about identifying skeletons it's also about looking at the burial as a whole and working out why it was done in that way, and why was this person buried like this.  
I would like to thank everybody at Wessex Archaeology for such an enjoyable week!
 
By Miranda Roberts
 
 
 

New Team Member for Built Heritage

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My name is James Wright and I have recently joined Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield Office as a Built Heritage Technician. Following my return to education as a ‘mature student’, I graduated from the University of York with a BA in Archaeology last year. Since then, I have been working as a Planning Intern for Calderdale Council, assisting with the preparation of their Local Plan (focusing on the Historic Environment Policies, which means I have some experience of built heritage from a slightly different perspective, which I hope will prove useful!) 

It was my passion for buildings archaeology and the historic environment that was the driving force for me returning to education − my aim was to secure a position in the field that I felt so enthusiastic about, and so I feel very excited to begin my career with Wessex Archaeology.
 
Since starting, I have begun undertaking my training, which will continue over the coming days, weeks and months −  next is my photographic and survey training, and then a trip to the archives!
 
 
 
 

New Discoveries at Chisenbury Midden

In 2016, following earlier English Heritage investigations, additional excavation and a geophysical survey were undertaken at this remarkable Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age midden site by Wessex Archaeology working with Operation Nightingale and Breaking Ground Heritage, supported by Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Landmarc.

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A substantial ditch and bank which enclosed the midden were confirmed – a proto hillfort? – along with clear evidence for contemporary settlement represented by a complex of postholes associated with timber structures. Large numbers of finds were recovered including pottery, animal bone, some disarticulated human bone, spinning/weaving equipment and a possibly unique copper alloy ‘pendant’.

The report made available here presents the results of the two-week excavation, with further investigation proposed this year, specifically to open a larger area and identify roundhouses and other structures amongst the plethora of postholes recorded in a narrow trench in 2016.
 
 
 
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