Kitty Foster's blog

Anglo-Saxon Cemetery - Collingbourne Ducis

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Excavations at Collingbourne Ducis, Wiltshire revealed almost the full extent of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery first recorded in 1974, providing one of the largest samples of burial remains from Anglo-Saxon Wiltshire. The cemetery lies 200 m to the north-east of a broadly contemporaneous settlement on lower lying ground next to the River Bourne. The results have just been published in the latest Wessex Archaeology monograph.
 
The excavations, carried out in 2007, revealed 82 inhumation graves and four cremation graves, in addition to the 33 inhumation graves discovered in 1974. The cemetery was in use between the late 5th and 7th centuries, delineated to the east by a coombe for much of its duration. There was an apparent shift to the south and east in the 7th century, when the area east of the coombe was used. 
 
Notable features included a four-post structure and a rare example of a ‘bed’ burial. The human bone assemblage provides a glimpse into the lives of those living on the western frontier of the Anglo-Saxon world, in the late 5th–7th century. The cemetery was probably used for several generations of the local community, although there are some indications that some individuals or groups originated outside the local area. General health was notably poorer than that of some contemporaneous rural populations, and there is some evidence for infections such as tuberculosis and leprosy.
 

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Several burials were accompanied by weapons and a diversity of jewellery assemblages, though none exhibit a particularly impressive range of wealth. As virtually the entire cemetery appears to have been explored, reliable observations can be made about its establishment, layout and development. This is particularly significant for the 7th century, when the focus of burial shifted, and changes in mortuary strategy may have reflected changes to the structure of society and the emergence of large Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
 
To read more about the project follow this link.
To buy the monograph follow this link.
 
 
 

HMS Caroline Visitor Centre Launch

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31 May is the centenary of the Battle of Jutland in 1916 that took place in the southern North Sea during World War I. Wessex Archaeology surveyed and prepared a conservation management plan during 2014, of the HMS Caroline a light cruiser Royal Navy ship docked in Belfast harbour, which is the last vessel to survive the Battle.

The Conservation Management Plan was part of a successful HLF bid for £12 million to convert the ship and neighbouring pump house into a visitor centre, in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast and adjacent to the Thompson Dock where the Titanic was fitted out in 1912.  
 
On 31 May a commemorative service will be held at the HMS Caroline during the day and in the evening there will be a dinner hosted by Captain John Rees OBE of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which Rosemary Thornber will be attending on behalf of Wessex Archaeology. Rosemary, originally from Belfast, completed the heritage survey of the ship, consultation, historic research as well as writing towards and compiling the CMP, while Dan Atkinson, Director of Coastal & Marine at Wessex Archaeology, coordinated the project and conducted the vessel survey, together with Graham Scott, Senior Archaeologist Coastal & Marine.  
 
The visitor centre, which will open to the public on 1 June, is close to the award-winning Titanic visitor centre and increases the number of historic attractions of international significance in Belfast, as well as the complement of historic vessels curated by the NMRN.
 
 
 

Mental Health First Aid Training

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Recently a number of Wessex Archaeology staff took part in training organised by Breaking Ground Heritage’s Richard Bennett. The training was in Mental Health First Aid, with a focus upon the Armed Forces, Wessex Archaeology staff were invited onto the training due to our involvement with Operation Nightingale.  Richard Harrington led the training, Richard is the Director of the charity Support Our Forces (Forces in the Community) so has vast experience of and passion for supporting ex-Service personnel. The training was hosted by Tedworth House and was given to a range of individuals. Having staff trained in Mental Health First Aid means that Wessex Archaeology can better support the people it works with.
 
 
 

Pontefract Castle ‘Key to the North’ Community Archaeology Project

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This May, Wessex Archaeology is pleased to be a part of the community archaeology project which forms an important part of the HLF funded Pontefract Castle ‘Key to North’ project. The aim of the community project is to collect finds from a spoil heap deposited during the late 19th century on a group of buildings known as the Royal Apartments. The Royal Apartments are made up of the Queen’s Tower and King’s Tower which sit at either end of the Great Hall. As the name suggests, the towers contained bed chambers and provided a private living space for the occupants of the Castle. The spoil dumped on the Royal Apartments has the potential to contain remains collected from around the Castle site which the Victorian workers did not deem to be important and which relates to the planned dismantling of Pontefract Castle following the conclusion of the Civil War, which saw the site sieged three times between 1644 and 1649. 

 

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As all the finds from the spoil heap are technically unstratified, the team are able to sieve the material in order to identify the finds. Wessex staff are being ably assisted by interested members of the public, including local school children. This Saturday, the team were joined by the York and Pontefract branches of the Young Archaeologists’ Club. Finds so far include medieval and post-medieval pottery, clay pipe fragments, animal and fish bones, oyster shell and very interestingly worked stone fragments from the Castle buildings itself. Other interesting finds include a musket and pistol shot which could also relate directly to the Civil War sieges. Work is set to continue for the next two weeks and will conclude on Saturday 21 May. 
 
There are still some places left on the afternoon sessions. To book, please contact the Castle team on 01924 302700 or for more information please email castles@wakefield.gov.uk
 
You can download the flyer here.
 
 
 

SAA Annual Meeting, Orlando

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Our Geoarchaeology and Marine Geophysics technical managers Dave and Louise were out in Florida last month at the SAA (Society for American Archaeologists) 81st Annual Meeting in Orlando. They were meeting up with colleagues from across the pond to share our expertise in dealing with the impact of offshore windfarm developments on submerged archaeology, which includes submerged prehistoric sites and paleolandscapes, as well as seabed remains such as ship and plane wrecks. 

I’m sure they’re relieved to be out of the tropical sunshine and back to enjoying our lovely British spring. 
 
 
 

CIfA 2016 Annual Conference and Training Event: University of Leicester

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This month, Alexandra Grassam attended the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) annual conference in order to attend the CPD Workshop entitled ‘Equality and Diversity in Archaeology’. The CIfA has recently established a specialist interest group focusing on Equality and Diversity following the previous years’ conference where a heated debate about such issues was sparked off. 
 
The workshop focused on three key areas, gender, disability and LBGT. On each topic, and introductory talk delivered and then all present were encouraged to debate the issues within groups, providing personal insights and suggesting positive solutions. All were asked to identify matters which require actions from individuals, institutions/employers and the CIfA and the allocated a timescale for the response (immediately, within a year or in five years). 
 
The workshop covered some difficult and occasionally emotive topics and much discussion was had. It is clear that all present realise the need for improvements in equality and diversity, not just from within our own profession but within a wider context too. What is noticeable at the moment is the lack of clear statistics which reveal the true level of diversity within the profession. Surveys such as the highly useful Profiling the Profession are unable at this stage to scope in the more difficult questions surrounding this as this is not the purpose of them, although they are able to provide information about simplistic information about gender proportions within the industry – which are, incidentally, continuing to show a continued move towards a gender balance. Issues that we are not able to get grip of at the moment include the presence of hidden disabilities amongst the work force, such as dyslexia and mental health conditions, and whether we are a LBGT friendly profession. And the biggest challenge by far is to establish why we continue to be populated by a vast majority of White British in ethnic terms. 
 
For a clearer understanding of where we are and how we can improve, we need a better understanding of where we are at now. The aim of the Equality and Diversity group is to facilitate this conversation and provide a focus for efforts. They have also produced an action plan which sets out the aims of the group. What is clear from this plan is the need for wide ranging cooperation from all corners of profession, from academia through to commercial, to allow these goals to be achieved. 
 
To see a transcript of the Twitter discussion from the day, please follow this link
For more information about the E&D group, please follow this link
 
 
 

Working with Archaeology Groups

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Finds Processing Training

Members of the team from the London & South East Office have recently carried out the second of three training sessions for the Cliffe at Hoo Historical Society, ahead of their excavation this summer. 
 
This month’s session focused on finds processing and participants had a go at marking some finds and some basic identification. Following on from the previous session, members were able to try their hand at constructing Harris Matrices from a series of section drawings of varying difficulty. 
 
Before our next training session the group will be undertaking their exploratory test pits to get a better idea of what is in store for them in the summer.
 
 
 
 

Successful integration of Bartington Geophysics Cart and Leica Geosystems

At the end of 2015, Wessex Archaeology decided to upgrade their geophysics capabilities by acquiring some really interesting new devices.
 
The initial push to get this new equipment came from the need to solve a series of issues that the Geophysics team have to face in the field every day, it also needed to be something that would improve productivity and the quality of data collected, while overcoming some of the problems encountered on site such as harsh weather conditions, complex land features and GPS signal failures, all of which can very often influence the successful conclusion of a project. 
 

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Paul Baggaley, Head of the Geo-Services Department at Wessex Archaeology, paid a visit to Bartington Instruments upon which decided to purchase their new Non-Magnetic Geophysics Cart.
 
The carbon fibre cart is designed to host up to 12 Grad-13 or Grad 01 Gradiometers together with their data loggers. This particular cart is 3 metres long, only weighs 20 kg and can be pushed by one-person or alternatively towed by a small vehicle. The cart can be easily transported in the back of a small van and it is really light to push and can mount up to 12 sensors which considerably improves the number of sensors that can be operated by one person. (Normal gradiometer surveys are done with two sensors mounted on a bar and operated by one person at a time).
 
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The cart works in conjunction with a GPS and a laptop and is designed to have a constant stream of GPS data so that all the data coming from the gradiometers is spatially referenced; the laptop is used to gather data from the different sensors. 
 
The GPS antenna is placed in the middle where there is space allocated and the laptop is located in the front near the operator. However, there are a few flaws in this system. Firstly, the cart needs a constant stream of positioning data from a GPS, but the system can experience several data dropouts and signal failures during the day which does not provide the constant data flow required. Another issue is the presence of the laptop to collect the data coming from the sensors; this idea seemed a bit impractical even with a fully rugged device. It became clear that the cart needed a different data logging and positioning system. 
 
During consultations between Damien Campbell-Bell, Geomatics Officer at Wessex Archaeology, and Doug Murphy Account Manager and GPS specialist at Opti-cal Survey Equipment, they came up with an idea. Doug suggested trying the GS14 RTK Base and Rover Kits with GS08+ NetRovers and the CS35 Panasonic Field Controller from Leica Geosystems. 
 
The CS35 Tablet Controller has been specifically modified by Panasonic to work with Leica equipment and features the new Leica Captivate software. The controller can receive data from both the Rover and the Sensors, and can be mounted in front of the cart and is easily controllable by the technician operating the cart. The Rover Antenna is mounted in the middle behind and close to the Sensors, which records the position of the gradiometer data as it is being collected and sends signals to the base, which would be set up in a static position in the field. 
 

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This system overcomes the usual GPS signal failures as the Rover sends the positions to the base via a radio signal while the base, set-up on a known point, calculates the positions of the Rover according to its own or it can also be connected to an RTK Network to establish the coordinates of its own location at the beginning of the survey. 
 
This way a constant flow of satellite data is not required but the positions are given continuously to the cart via the Rover. Opti-cal arranged some trials on the field with Wessex Archaeology’s geophysicists to test the system together and immediately it become clear that the solution was spot on! The team realised that the set-up was quick and easy, taking only 30 minutes.
 
So far, the Bartington Geophysics Cart coupled with the Leica Base and Rover as well as the CS35 Panasonic Tablet Controller has been able to achieve the completion of geophysicical surveys very quickly, as it takes less time on large areas for the possibility of hosting a bigger number of sensors. 
 
The presence of the Leica Base and Rover has solved the usual problem of signal dropouts when using GPS, making the system more stable and reliable during surveys.
 
The choice of the CS35 Panasonic Tablet Controller from Leica Geosystems over a rugged laptop has been a way better solution, the Tablet Controller can operate under harsh weather conditions and is more manageable than a laptop; also the system once put together looks very neat as the quantity of flying cables is diminished. 
 

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Moreover, something that was not considered initially is that rather than downloading the data from the laptop and the GPS separately, now the data can be downloaded all together from the Tablet Controller (geophysics and geospatial data from the Base and Rover), cutting down the number of operations required for processing. 
 
On the Tablet, the Leica Captivate software used for topographical surveys can be turned off and the user can access a desktop featured Tablet which works just like a normal Tablet so the data can also be sent via email etc. In addition, wherever the ground conditions are really complex, the Cart can now perform topographical and geophysicical surveys at the same time also improving the grade of detail and quality of data collected. 
 
The integration of the Bartington Cart and Leica Base and Rover provided by Opti-cal has proven to be a success in combining different products on the market to develop an efficient geophysics and survey system which answers the needs of the Geophysics team, raises the productivity and overcomes the daily difficulties encountered in the field every day. 
 
 
 
 

Wessex Week Work Experience - Day 5

The Last Day: 8.4.16

AM: Labelling

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My small handwriting came in useful, for once, this morning as I was back in the finds lab to label artefacts. With an ink pen I was labelling very small numbers on pieces of pottery and animal bones, although I was very nervous about getting the numbers wrong Erica reassured me that they can always be taken off with acetone. I labelled four bags of pottery and then the two trays that I had washed yesterday. This was another monotonous task that was very enjoyable, although the white ink was a bit of a pain. Because I had finished all the artefacts to be labelled, I was back to washing and brushing a sheep’s teeth. After having seen the human bones yesterday I was very much enjoying washing the sheep bones having a much better knowledge of bone structures in general.

 

PM: Conservation of artefacts

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In the afternoon I met with Lynn, the conservator, whilst initially the idea of the high levels of chemistry involved scared me as I haven’t touched the subject in two years, conservation actually sounds far more interesting that previously perceived. The different types of adhesive and solvent used were quite mind-boggling as these different chemicals can have an overwhelming effect on the preservation of artefacts. After spending the afternoon with Lynn I have a new found appreciation for how complex conservation is. Lynn also showed me several examples of artefacts she has ‘stuck back together’ and artefacts that the on-site teams had to ask her for advice to remove and conserve them straight away as they looked especially important or fragile. Unfortunately, while Lynn’s work was fascinating and wonderfully intricate, I think my chemistry and eye sight is a bit too poor to pursue this path of archaeology.
 

The Overview

There were three decisions that I wanted to be sure on after this week – Was archaeology and anthropology the right degree choice? Should I go to Southampton or Bournemouth? What area of archaeology do I want to focus on when I’m further on into my degree? The answer to those three questions – Yes, yes, yes archaeology was a very good decision. To be honest, if anything I am more confused about what uni I want to go to having been given glowing reviews of both. Osteology, at the moment, is a clear favourite of mine and whilst that may change between now and my latter years of uni, I highly doubt it. So in conclusion I’m overwhelming grateful for this opportunity and am still trying to process everything that I’ve absorbed during my week work experience. Also I’d like to put out that I’m available 24/7 for washing, marking or standing in excavations in an oversized high-vis jacket (if you need that). 
 
I’d like to thank everyone that I worked directly with for being so lovely and patient with me, and for introducing me to many new sections of archaeology that I had previously no idea about; and I’d like to thank everyone around the office for creating such a friendly working environment. Rachel has also been absolutely wonderful and made me feel very safe and welcome, as I’ve stepped hugely out of my comfort zone this week, Rachel made the week very easy and fun. Thank you for giving me this incredible opportunity- I could not be more grateful.
 
By Laura Slow
 
 

Harworth Colliery

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During March 2015, the built heritage team carried out a programme of historic building recording of the 1920s Power House and 1989 Number 1 Winding Tower at the former Harworth Colliery, Nottinghamshire. The colliery at Harworth had been established in the early 20th century, but was mothballed in 2006, and it was announced in 2014 that the site would not reopen. The majority of the former buildings and ancillary structures on the colliery site had been demolished in recent years, but the Number 1 Winding Tower and Power House remained. Planning consent was granted for the demolition of the remaining buildings and for the redevelopment of the site by Harworth Estates with the construction of 996 residential properties.
 

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Both the Power House and Number 1 Winding Tower were recorded by the built heritage team prior to their demolition. The Winding Tower, constructed in 1989, was a huge and important landmark in the area, visible from miles around, dominating the landscape. The Tower demonstrated ingenuity of design whereby it had to be constructed around and over the original headgear without interrupting the continuous coal winding operations, allowing the removal of the redundant gear and commissioning of the new tower, all during a three week holiday period. Its great structural advantage was its cellular design which provided walls of considerable strength to withstand suction from ventilation fans in upcast shafts, with the economy of materials. The Tower in fact received a commendation in the 1990 Civic Trust awards.
 
On Sunday 10 April 2016, the Tower was set for demolition, and with crowds of local people gathered to watch the iconic tower fall, the explosives weren’t enough to topple the tower. It wasn’t until the following day that the tower finally fell. Videos of the failed demolition can be viewed here
 
Our report and site archive will be deposited with Nottinghamshire Archives. 
 
 
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