Kitty Foster's blog

My Week of Work Experience

Day 1

My work experience began with a tour of the building by Rachel and provided my first glimpse of Wessex as a company on a daily basis. 
 
In the late morning and rest of the afternoon I worked in the archives department with Thomas and Jennifer, the two new archivists. Jennifer showed me the new processes of archiving including digitising everything for easier access and availability as well as regulations and guidelines for both the company and the country. We worked on two cases and I was impressed to see the dedication and perseverance of both Jennifer and Thomas in a job which involved so much scanning!
 

Day 2

3296 On day two I did environmental sampling with Tony and Mai. I found out how environmental research is extremely important to discover past environmental conditions, old changes in landscapes like rivers and the progression of things like farming or cooking from charcoal fragments. The most surprising thing I learnt was the role of mollusc shells in establishing these facts! 

 
I helped Tony wash some samples which are collected in huge buckets and then sieved to collect flotsam like charcoal pieces. Not even a broken pump could diminish Tony's enthusiasm who then showed me a second method of sieving which was actually lots of fun! Afterwards I filtered off the charcoal pieces and washed clay off the rest of the sample. I was nervous as I found sieving a lot harder than expected and didn't want to wash away any of the samples but the whole team were very encouraging and helpful throughout. 
 

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In the afternoon I helped Erica and Sue in the finds department. They gave me a job of 'marking' which involved labelling pottery shards and CRM (ceramic building material) from Winchester. I had to use a fine nib pen and black Indian ink to write the location number on each piece which was tricky but got easier as you got into the rhythm of it. It was satisfying to know I was helping their finds process and helping contribute to the historical conservation process in a very small way. 
 

Day 3

I spent the morning of day three with Roberta. She taught me how to use GPS and how archaeologists rely heavily on technology nowadays to accurately pinpoint and locate finds. She helped me map out a ditch, posthole and an 'imaginary sword' in the car park which was fun although it was raining (although this did help set the scene of a real archaeological dig). 
 
When inside we uploaded my 'finds' and I could see the areas I had plotted using the equipment. She showed me various techniques used in surveying including the work of lasers which was fascinating. She showed me many examples of the department's work including various skeletons and a laser scan of a church. I even got to draw an electronic outline of a skeleton which was quite eerie since I was drawing what was once a living person. Roberta gave me a real insight into her job, and told me many stories of previous sites she had worked even including sites in Afghanistan!
 
The rest of the afternoon I spent in archiving helping Thomas with another case which now has a digital copy. In this particular case one of the only things found was the remains of a pig!
 

Day 4

I spent day four with Peta and Tom of the Coastal & Marine department of Wessex. The biggest department of its kind in the country it showed me the extraordinary circumstances archaeology can be found. First, I had an introduction to the services and work the team do with Peta showing me various maps, photos and books used to research and find artefacts. Peta also carefully explained the various maritime services and organisations such as ORPAD who help preserve and regulate the locating of historical finds. Next I helped Peta scan some maps for another of her colleagues to use, highlighting the enormous amount of work the department puts into their research of possible sites. Peta made me feel very welcome and impressed me with her stories of the Iona II which sank off Lundy Island.
 

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I then worked with Tom, who gave me the task of photographing, sketching and measuring the remains of a gun from the 18th/ 19th century. Once again, I was terrified I would drop and break this valuable object but Tom was very reassuring and helped me get the best possible angles for the photographs. I finally finished my sketch and measurements (which took a while as I’m a terrible artist) and Tom asked me what my favourite era of history was in the hope of being able to show me some finds from the time. I replied with the very specific era of Tudor but even so Tom was able to find some Tudor cannonballs to show me. I think working with Coastal & Marine was one of the best experiences of the week and has definitely made me consider other career options in archaeology.  
 
In the afternoon I was lucky enough to work again with the finds team cleaning Roman pottery, bones and pieces of lead. Using only lukewarm water and a toothbrush I cleaned the pottery and bone and let them dry in a paper-lined tray. It was quite humbling to be the first person to see these objects clean again after they had been underground for hundreds and hundreds of years. 
 

Day 5

My last day at Wessex was spent with the environmental department. The first half I spent sieving and dividing my previously found samples from Tuesday. Using different sized sieves, I separated my finds and bagged them up, picking out any unusual finds such as burnt rock, pottery or bone. Several times Tony had to tell me I had not picked up a lovely shard of pottery but actually a smooth rock but that did not dampen my spirits to find a ‘thing’. After labelling (and writing on the wrong side) several bags I started the process again with finds from a location with lots of chalk. It was a bad day to wear black jeans as I discovered but it was still lots of fun. Next, I went inside and using the charcoal and small flots I had collected on Tuesday I used a microscope to examine them. It was amazing to see all my work so close and be able to pick out snail shells, burnt grains and even a tiny piece of slag from my small glass dish. 
 
Thank you so much to the entire company for the wonderful opportunity to experience a field and sector of work I knew very little about! I’m extremely grateful.
 
By Tabitha Gulliver Lawrence
 
 
 

Elizabeth House Social Centre

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Instead of sending traditional Christmas cards last year, we made donations to a number of charities. Project Manager Damian De Rosa was pleased to present Elizabeth House Social Centre with a cheque for £188 yesterday, which also included a share of the money raised by our Christmas raffle!

 

 

 

 
 
 

New Sheffield Team Members

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Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield office has had a busy 2016 and is looking forward to an even busier 2017.  Following on from Liz Chambers addition to the team as our environmental lead, we have now added three additional project officers to our ranks. Alex Schmidt has joined us from Headland Archaeology as a Geoservices Officer and joins our growing ranks of geophysicists currently surveying the Midlands.  Alex has worked across the north of England for both Headland and Archaeological Services WYAS and has also undertaken an ERASMUS placement in the Czech Republic.
 

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Alvaro Mora-Ottomano has joined us this week from Archaeological Research Services as a Built Heritage and Fieldwork Officer and already has a full programme of building recording work. Alvaro has worked in commercial archaeology since the late 1990s, working for several major commercial British archaeology companies, as well as spells in Spain and Oman. In addition to his above and below ground archaeological skills, Alvaro has also produced reports on lithic analysis and led training sessions for the Young Archaeologists Club.
 

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Phil Weston joins the team as a Fieldwork Officer with over 15 years’ experience.  Phil has previously worked as a Project Officer for Archaeological Services WYAS and as a Project Manager for CFA Archaeology, and also brings lithic skills to the Sheffield office. Phil is also a volunteer leader at the Pontefract Young Archaeologists’ Club and a regular face at the YAC sessions at South Yorkshire Archaeology Day. In his short time at Wessex Phil has already been deployed hunting Vikings with the Universities of Sheffield and York and trained staff in graveyard survey, and is now working on a journal article for recent work in Stamford. 
 
Welcome aboard Alex, Alvaro and Phil!
 
 
 

Celebrating 30 years of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

It is 30 years since the inscription of Stonehenge and Avebury onto the World Heritage list in 1986, and on 19 and 20 November the Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit celebrated with a conference in

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 the Corn Exchange, Devizes and series of events across the World Heritage Sites. 

The Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site consists of two blocks of Wessex chalkland some 40 km apart. Individually they contain distinctive complexes of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments; together they are one of the most iconic and important prehistoric landscapes in the world.
 

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Wessex Archaeology has been coordinating the revision of the Avebury Resource Assessment, the Research Activity in the Stonehenge Landscape and writing an Agenda and Strategy to cover both of the World Heritage Sites. These important documents were launched at the conference on Saturday 19 November and will guide future researchers and those involved in the management of these iconic sites.
 
You can download these documents from www.stonehengeandaveburywhs.org
 
 
 
 

The Chain Gang

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Staff and volunteers prepare decorations for our entry in local Christmas tree festivals. See the finished results at St Thomas Church, Salisbury on 29 November–4 December or at St Laurence Church, Downton on 10 and 11 December. 

For further details of the festivals please click on the links below:
 
By Sue Johnson, Librarian
 
 

The NAS and SCAPE Trust Conference

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Wessex Archaeology delegates have returned buzzing after a conference in Glasgow where new research in coastal and underwater heritage was shared. Held at the University of Glasgow on 5 and 6 November, the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) teamed up with the SCAPE Trust (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion) to host their annual conference. In addition to a strong Scottish research focus, international speakers presented studies from Spain, Germany, Canada and Oman.
 

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Eight staff from the Coastal & Marine team attended, four based in the Salisbury office and four from conference sponsor Wessex Archaeology Scotland. Andrew Bicket presented a locally-relevant paper co-authored with Dan Atkinson and Robert Prescott of the Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust. His insights into early historic whaling in Scotland, and in particular the Anstruther Whale Fishing Company (1757–1762), highlighted the under-studied area of Scotland’s first major whaling industry based in the Forth. Wessex Archaeology’s recent Coastal & Marine work on behalf of the Scottish Fisheries Museum is explored here and here.
 
Outside the lecture theatre, Wessex Archaeology’s presence was strong with two posters displayed in the exhibition space. One featured the Galmisdale Bay wreck, located on the Isle of Eigg and surveyed during the SAMPHIRE project. The other introduced Chatham Dockyard, a site of considerable archaeological investigation by Wessex Archaeology.
 
Delegates were also able to discuss research and exchange ideas on our maritime cultural heritage with Wessex Archaeology staff at the sponsor exhibition stand. A huge drawcard was the colour 3D print of the Drumbeg wreck site, a fantastic visualisation technique for wreck sites which many colleagues were interested in.
 

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The conference was also an excellent venue to promote the recently launched Marine Antiquities Scheme, funded by The Crown Estate and implemented by Wessex Archaeology. While currently contained to archaeological discoveries made in English and Welsh waters, Scottish delegates showed considerable interest in the scheme. Demonstrations of the easy-to-use MAS app and the opportunity to pick up a some of the scheme’s guides drew in delegates.
 
True to form, the NAS and SCAPE Trust conference ended with the raffle draw. A unanimous round of applause followed the suggestion that the remaining raffle prize, paintballing, should go to a competition between Wessex Archaeology and CITiZAN. CITiZAN – challenge accepted!
 
 
 
 

North Ridge Community School Anglo-Saxon Event

3178 Images courtesy of North Ridge Community School

In October, Wessex Archaeology North’s Alix Sperr, Maria-Elena Calderon and Emma Carter made a return visit to North Ridge Community School in Adwick-le-Street, Doncaster, to help them with their annual Anglo-Saxon celebrations.
 
North Ridge Community School caters for pupils with severe learning difficulties, with some pupils having additional needs. The school intake spans preschool up to the sixth form (aged 3 to 19) and it currently has around 120 pupils. The present school was built in 2008, and an archaeological excavation undertaken prior to its construction identified a small Anglo-Saxon cemetery, dating to the late 7th to late 8th century; the results of which have just been published in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal (click here for our list of recent publications). 
 
As part of this year’s celebrations, the school played host to two groups of visiting students from London and Sweden. 
 
The pupils took part in a range of activities which included the always popular Anglo-Saxon dressing up, excavating real archaeological finds from a sand pit, colouring in sheets-a-plenty, and this year Wessex Archaeology took two extra activities along: Anglo-Saxon bread and butter and brooch making.  
 
The bread making activity gave the pupils a hand-on opportunity to see how bread was once made. Once the basic ingredients were mixed, the children kneaded their own dough and then decorated it with seeds and oats. The bread was later baked in the school ovens. 
 
Butter churning proved also very popular, and the children were asked to shake a jar containing ceramic baking beans and double cream. This process emanates the churning process thought to have been used in Anglo-Saxon times and made many a sore arm from vigorous shaking! The pupils were amazed to see butter and buttermilk made after their efforts and all who tasted it agreed it was delicious.
 
Another opportunity for sticky messy hands was given in the brooch making activity. The pupils were given a range of craft materials and resources showing the types of brooches worn by wealthy Anglo-Saxons, and encouraged to use their imagination to create magnificent jewelled brooches and pins. Shiny metallic confetti proved particularly popular! The finished creations added the finishing touches to Anglo-Saxon dressing up, allowing the children to proudly wear their creations. 
 
A lot of fun was had by pupils and teachers, and the team felt honoured to be given the opportunity to spend time with the pupils of North Ridge School and their visitors. 
 
For more information about Wessex Archaeology's Community, Education and Outreach projects and the services we can offer, please click here or email education@wessexarch.co.uk
 
 
 
 

Finds from Chisenbury

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Our excavation at East Chisenbury with Operation Nightingale and Breaking Ground Heritage revealed a great selection of finds. Take a look at some of the particularly interesting artefacts: 
 
Ines Lopez Doriga found a small copper alloy figure. At present it is believed to probably be prehistoric, however as we are not certain our specialists will be investigating the object further.
 

 

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Matt Smith uncovered a carved bone weaving implement; this tool has also been dated to the Early Iron Age and would have been used to push the thread tight when using a loom to weave cloth. 
 
A decorated spindlewhorl was uncovered by Lisa Miller. The object is made of fired clay and is dated to the Early Iron Age. Spindlewhorls were used to maintain or increase the speed of the fibres being spun by a spindle.
 
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A Roman coin which has been identified as a dupondius of Vespasian c. 69–79 AD was uncovered by David Norcott.
 
Wessex Archaeology’s team of volunteers are currently processing the rest of the finds from the excavation and we are looking forward to seeing what more the clean finds reveal about this unique and important site.
 
 
 

Celebrating the Success of Future Scientists, Engineers and Mathematicians

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Last night the University of Bath hosted a celebration event for the students who participated in the Nuffield Research Placement Scheme in the South West region. Holly Rodgers, Geoarchaeologist and Rachel Brown, Senior Community and Education Officer attended the event to support the scheme and celebrate the achievements of the students, in particular the achievements of Corrina Begley who completed a month placement with Wessex Archaeology’s Geoarchaeology and Environmental team.
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The Nuffield Placements Scheme provides sixth form students with the chance to experience working in a professional research environment. A range of organisations which are working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) offer placements to students, which are organised through the Nuffield Foundation. The celebration event offered the opportunity for students to share their research and experiences from their placements. All of the research was of a very high standard and all who attended were deeply impressed with what the students had achieved over the summer.
 
Talks were given by a range of students and providers and demonstrated the diversity of research projects; from work in mental health to materials fit for conditions on the moon the students had it covered. Rachel provided a talk on the benefits of hosting a placement to both the organisation and the student.
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We are pleased to be a placement provider for the Nuffield Research Placements Scheme and thoroughly enjoyed working with Corrina over the summer. Congratulations to all the students who were involved in the Nuffield Research Placements Scheme, you should all be very proud of what you have accomplished.
 
 
 

The Wreck of the Thesis

3150 A volunteer diver investigates the wreck

The Thesis is a wreck of a 19th-century steamship that sank in 1889 in the Sound of Mull. From 1994 to 2005 the Sound of Mull archaeological Project run by the Nautical Archaeology Society planned the wreck out in detail and undertook a sidescan sonar survey.

Wessex Archaeology visited the wreck briefly during the 2014 and 2015 fieldwork season of project SAMPHIRE and noted that the external hull of the bow structure had collapsed inwards. After some investigation it was decided that this was mainly due to natural degradation rather than dredging damage!

You can read all about the wreck in the Project SAMPHIRE report and on the Lochaline dive centre page about the wreck! 

 
 
 
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