Latest News


Drumbeg Shipwreck – Sonar Surveys Below the Seafloor

1921 Ewen Mackay deploys the magnetometer

A team from our Scottish branch returned last week to the Drumbeg shipwreck, a 17th/18th century wreck in the NW Scottish Highlands. We have undertaken the first marine geophysical survey of the site, with the help of project partners from German hydrographic specialists INNOMAR and staff and students from the University of Bangor. The team was led by John McCarthy, Project Manager from our Edinburgh office with coordination of the geophysical survey by Dr Paul Baggaley, Head of GeoServices. We were also joined by local resident Ewen Mackay, who first discovered the wreck site while diving with his friend Michael Errington. They reported the site to Historic Scotland who has provided funding for the ongoing investigations. The first stage of these investigations began in in 2012 with a series of scuba dives to confirm the location and nature of the remains. Subsequent analysis of the data gathered by the divers found it to be a 17th/18th century wreck with several cannon and anchors present. Importantly a significant section of well-preserved wooden hull was also recorded. Since then the wreck has been designated as a Historic Marine Protected Area by the Scottish Government, one of a handful of wrecks in Scotland given this status in recognition of national significance.

1922 The survey team reviewing results of the sub-seabed sonar data on MV Nimrod

The purpose of last week’s survey was to establish whether there were further remains under the seabed. INNOMAR is a world leader in the design and construction of parametric sonar, an amazing technique that allows us to see remains below the seabed in three dimensions. Peter Huembs of INNOMAR flew over to Scotland from their HQ in Germany, bring a prototype parametric sensor. INNOMAR have kindly donated the use of this equipment and their staff time to this important archaeological survey. This is the first time this hardware has been tested in British waters and it is ideally suited to the conditions on the wreck site. This array is capable of creating a dense three dimensional point cloud showing us where hard surfaces occur below the sands. At the site the survey penetrated the sand by more than 2 metres!

1923 Dr Dei Huws establishing a dGPS base station on the mountain above the wreck site

We were also joined by Dr Dei Huws, Senior Lecturer in Marine Geophysics at the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University in Wales. Dei is an expert in the use and interpretation of geophysical survey data and will be processing the resulting data. Dei and Bangor student Penny Haywood also provided the highly accurate GPS equipment needed for the survey. Alongside the sonar we undertook a magnetometer survey of the wider area around the wreck site. This will help us to establish whether there are more areas of wreckage further away from the main wreck site that might have been overlooked. This project has been a great example of the use of cutting-edge technology to investigate important and sensitive shipwreck sites in a non-intrusive and non-destructive way. We will be processing data and releasing the results early next year so watch this space!

From George W to Wessex Archaeology


– the Ice Bucket Challenge knows no Boundaries!

Our Southern Regional Manager, Andy Crockett braved the ‘ice bucket challenge’ at lunchtime today to raise money for charity. 
Andy faced 10 buckets of icy water thrown by 10 lucky members of staff and managed to keep a cool head throughout! He was nominated by our Regional Manager for Wales, Nick Cooke who had already taken the plunge himself. Both Andy and Nick, and the thousands of others who have completed the ‘ice bucket challenge’ have done so in support of the Motor Neurone Disease Association
You can support the appeal by texting ICED55 to 70070 to donate £5. You can also follow the challenge on Twitter by following @mndassoc or tweeting #IceBucketChallenge
Olly Good takes up the challenge here
Andy Norton takes up the challenge here word from Dan Atkinson yet!

Exercise Adlertag

1918 Images Crown Copyright

Last week saw the latest archaeological investigation by Operation Nightingale take place, this time on the Lulworth Ranges. Codenamed Exercise Adlertag, after the German military operation by the Luftwaffe to destroy the RAF in WWII, the project aimed to excavate and record the crash site of a Messerschmitt BF110 aircraft. 
The plane itself, a twin-engine heavy fighter, is believed to have been from V (Z) Lehrgeschwader 1 and was on a mission to attack Portland when it crashed on 13 August 1940. An eye-witness to the crash tells of the German squadron being intercepted by the RAF off the Dorset Coast and of this aircraft being shot down. The crash was almost certainly fatal to the aviators, and the plane is one of two possible candidates from this squadron. It is thought to be either that crewed by Lt Günter Beck who was killed (buried at Portland Royal Naval cemetery) whilst the bordfunker, Uffz Karl Hoyer, is listed as missing. Or possibly that piloted by Fw Hans Datz, who was made prisoner of war whilst the bordfunker, Uffz Georg Lämmel was killed and is also buried at Portland.
The aim of the Operation Nightingale investigation was to determine the exact location and extent of the crash site and to recover the remains of the air frame, which are suffering damage due to their location directly across on the South West Coastal Path. This project built on the work carried out in August 2013 on the crash site of Spitfire P9503, though this time examining a German wreck from the Battle of Britain. 
Following magnetometry, ground penetrating radar and laser-scan surveys, the site investigation began with a walkover survey with metal detectors; with each artefact flagged and recorded by total station. Being located within the active firing area, work was closely monitored by ordnance experts from the RAF bomb disposal squadron. Areas with a high density of results were selected for hand excavation by the team of volunteers, aircraft specialists and injured service personnel and veterans. 
The week proved to be very productive with large quantities of material recovered including fragments of propeller, Daimler Benz engines, ammunition (including spend cases illustrating that the rear gunner had, not surprisingly, fired back at RAF fighters), perspex canopy, magneto and other elements. The excavation demonstrated that the aircraft had crashed directly into the cliff at a near-vertical angle and had then been engulfed in flames.
The remains will be brought to the lab here at Wessex Archaeology to be processed by our enthusiastic volunteer team before further analysis can take place. 
Written by Laura Joyner (Wessex Archaeology) and Richard Osgood (Defence Infrastructure Organisation)

Dental Discoveries


Excavations at Barrow Clump may have come to an end, but there is still plenty that we can learn about the Saxons who were laid to rest there. 
One of the things we would like to know is whether these people, buried here throughout the 6th century, originated in this area or whether they migrated here during their lives. We hope to ascertain this through isotope analysis – assessment of the isotopic composition of the tooth enamel from several individuals. Oxygen and strontium isotopes in particular will indicate geographic origin, whilst analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotopes may shed light on the diet of the people buried at Barrow Clump. 
This assessment is being very kindly facilitated by Cranfield University as part of a research project, and the work is being conducted at laboratories in Oxford (pictured) and Leuven in Belgium. Keep an eye on the News Blog for the exciting results of this analysis. 
Written by Laura Joyner

New Project Manager


Wessex Archaeology is delighted to announce the appointment of Si Cleggett as Project Manager within the WA South fieldwork team. Si graduated from Bournemouth University, having studied Archaeology, in 1999, and has since then amassed considerable experience within the archaeological sector, both throughout the UK (including a year at WA) and abroad. Although focusing on fieldwork, Si has been a temporary curator for Dorset County Council museum service, lectured at both Yeovil College and Bournemouth University, and was a Research Assistant. For over a year, Si was based in Basingstoke, working as an Archaeological Consultant for WSP Environmental. Si has always maintained a very keen interest in and commitment towards education within archaeology, and two years ago accepted the role of Head of House at Winton Community Academy, based in Andover. Whilst at Winton, Si was responsible for the academic progress and well-being of a large number of young students and, running the Winton Community Academy Archaeology & Cultural Heritage Society. Si will continue with the Archaeology Society whilst with Wessex Archaeology.

The Crew of the Last Dornier 17

Seventy-four years ago today, at the height of the Battle of Britain, a Royal Air Force fighter plane shot down a German Dornier 17 bomber off the coast of Kent.
The Dornier ditched in the sea on the Goodwin Sands. These dangerous sandbanks have earned the nickname ‘Ship Swallowers’ due to the number of ships that have been lost on them and because of the remarkable state of preservation of some of the historic ships that are revealed when the sandbanks move. The pilot and his observer survived to be captured, but the Dornier sank and was ‘swallowed’ by the Goodwins. It was then forgotten.

1917 Sidescan sonar image: Dornier 17

In the early years of this century a fisherman snagged his nets on an obstruction at the same location. He reported it to local archaeologist Bob Peacock, who dived the site, and found the remains of a mystery aircraft. He then told Wessex Archaeology. We thought it might be important, so we in turn reported it to English Heritage. We were due to carry out a geophysical survey for them in the area and we therefore got the chance to look at the wreck using sidescan sonar. This produced this remarkable image of an almost intact aircraft that looked as though it might be a Dornier. 
Eventually this sonar image excited the interest of the RAF Museum and with their assistance we were able to return with our diving team and confirm that the wreck was a Dornier 17. Subsequently the museum embarked on a risky and very brave attempt to recover the wreck for public display, an attempt that was successful in June 2013 when the aircraft finally resurfaced under the glare of the world’s media. It is currently at the RAF Museum in Cosford where the ongoing work of their specialist conservation team to preserve the aircraft, assisted by scientists from Imperial College London, can be seen by visitors. You can read more about their conservation project here
A major focus of the RAF Museum’s plans for the future revolves around its very popular and important Battle of Britain collection of historic aircraft. What excited the RAF Museum and its sponsors about the aircraft that crashed off Kent is that the Dornier 17, nicknamed the ‘Flying Pencil’ because of its thin and fast shape, is the only major Battle of Britain aircraft not already in that collection; indeed no example of this bomber had been preserved in any museum collection. As an almost intact wreck, the Dornier was therefore unique and nothing less than a world-class aviation archaeology discovery.
Wessex Archaeology’s role in the discovery and identification of the Dornier reflects the growing interest in aviation archaeology at sea and helps build upon the major strategic study that we undertook for English Heritage in 2008, Aircraft Crash Sites at Sea. That study demonstrated that despite the time that has elapsed and the numerous threats to their survival, there was evidence that hundreds of aircraft wrecks of the Second World War could lie in the sea off the UK coast. Furthermore, it showed that the potential of those wrecks to inform our understanding of that war and of the development of aviation in the 20th century was very great.
Since then our work on aircraft crash sites has continued and we have recently helped the new DP World London Gateway Port to investigate and recover the wreckage of a rare secret prototype Ju 88 bomber, shot down by Norwegian fighter ace Marius Eriksen in the Thames Estuary in 1943. 
Today, however, we remember Helmut Reinhardt and Heinz Huhn, the crew members who did not survive the loss of their Dornier 17 in 1940 off Kent – two of the Second World War’s many victims.
By Gemma Ingason and Graham Scott

Nuffield Research Placement


Wessex Archaeology has been hosting a four-week placement student over the summer holidays as part of the Nuffield Research Placements scheme. This scheme offers sixth form students hands-on experience of a professional research environment to help them make better informed choices for the future. Placements provide insight into a wide range of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers, and are organised by the Nuffield Foundation. Read on to find out what our placement student, Caroline has been up to.  
"For the last four weeks I have been doing work experience as part of a Nuffield Research Placement at Wessex Archaeology, working with the Geoservices team. I applied to do this because I am interested in geology and wanted to see how it is applied to archaeology.
During my first week I worked with the marine geophysics team, learning how to use a variety of different software used to process data collected from the boats. I also learnt about the different data collection methods for this data and what the differences between them are.
Week two was working with terrestrial geophysics going out and surveying the land and seeing whether there was anything of archaeological interest there. Then I was able to try and identify archaeology from the natural geology using even more software.
Week three involved working the geo­archaeology department, where I mostly cleaned off sediment to see if there was any archaeology in all the mud! During this time I cleaned and sorted a cremation, where some pottery and some worked flint were present along with quite a bit of bone. At the end of the week I got to look at a couple of boreholes that had been collected and document what I saw.
In my final week, I started by entering some borehole data into Rockworks software so it could then be processed and then worked on a GIS of the area so that many of the different data sets could be overlaid.
Overall I have had a great four weeks here, learning how to use many different pieces of software and equipment. I have found it really useful for understanding how geophysics is used to find archaeology and I hope to continue studying geology in the future.”
Written by Caroline Burden

House ‘Lost’ Since the Civil War

New Water Pipeline under the River Trent in Kelham leads to theory of a house that has been ‘lost’ since the Civil War

1913 View of site and planWessex Archaeology regularly work with Severn Trent Water and their partners Laing O’ Rourke at an early stage of pipeline schemes to assess whether their planned works will affect any known archaeological sites. 

In this case there were no specific known sites on the pipeline route but because Kelham has a long and interesting history – and the Trent Valley is known to be very rich in archaeological remains dating back to prehistory – we advised that an archaeologist should be on site during the soil stripping.
Along the route our team have found fragments of pottery, tile and clay tobacco pipe – probably all dating to around the 17th or 18th centuries, and they also found some pieces of flint, including a Neolithic arrowhead (4000–2400 BC).
The most surprising discovery though was two stone walls adjacent to the Kelham Road. Angled to lead away from the main road, they seem to be the base of a gateway. Once the walls were found we were given plenty of time to investigate and record the walls properly and Laing O’Rourke’s engineers modified the pipeline route to avoid the walls, so that they can be reburied and preserved.
We think this was a gateway leading into the grounds of a large house. We don’t know when the house was built but it is possible that it was demolished in the 17th century. The theory is that the house was demolished by Royalists during the Civil War (1644–46) to remove any cover for attacking forces. This was an important area because Newark was a Royalist stronghold and the besieging Parliamentarians had encampments in and around Kelham. 
This would explain why there is no sign of the gateway or house on 18th century maps.
When fieldwork is finished the records will be checked and the finds analysed before a report on the discovery is prepared and sent to the Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record.
Alan Clifford Show (start at 1hr 22mins 30sec) -  BBC Link

Submerged Prehistory & Palaeolandscapes Research

1909 Data source SRTM and EMODNET

Wessex Archaeology, Coastal & Marine and Geoservices have been busy on publishing substantial works on Submerged Prehistory in UK waters. Major publications on the Middle Palaeolithic artefacts and palaeogeography of Area 240 are in their final stages of completion. Recent syntheses of palaeolandscapes and sites, palaeoenvironmental assessments of peat from Dogger Bank and heritage management of submerged prehistory have underlined what is currently known about key regions of the southern North Sea and other waters around the English coasts linked to offshore development and various marine industries.
As we move into a new phase of palaeolandscapes research, we’re examining areas outside these core areas of the southern North Sea and east English Channel, to put the lessons learned and methodologies developed, to work in less well-understood regions of the UK. As part of the National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP) in collaboration with the British Geological Survey (BGS) we are currently examining the potential for submerged prehistory and palaeolandscapes across a wide stretch of shallow waters off the coast of north-east England. This is a key region for investigating the palaeogeography during the Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic (between around 15,000–6,000 years ago) on the northern coasts of ‘Doggerland’. Look out for further blog posts over the next few months.

Field Archaeologist Intern - Weeks 10: I’m safe to drive!


This week has been my third week on the Iron Age site in South Yorkshire. Watching our understanding of the site progress over several weeks has been great! We have had a few more people on the team this week which gave me the chance to take and record some environmental samples. I had my driving assessment this week, and the instructor is happy that I can drive some of the vehicles in the shiny new Wessex fleet without causing chaos, which is always a good thing!
Next week I am off to an Iron Age site in Lincolnshire which will be my second away job. I’m looking forward to it as the archaeology on site seems promising from the reports that have been produced so far and travelling to new places is one of the things I love about working in field archaeology. The weather for most of my fieldwork so far has been positively Mediterranean, so I hope that continues! 
By Hannah Holbrook
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