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Barrow Clump 2014: Week 4

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The continued good weather has meant that we have been able to make excellent progress on site. Our excavation of the Anglo-Saxon graves has continued apace with some exciting discoveries. One of the graves revealed an unusual burial, as the remains were in a crouched position. Whilst not unknown in Saxon burials, this is a first for this site and an interesting addition to the other inhumation burials.
 
The highlight of the week, however came in the form of a particularly special grave. This was first encountered towards the end of last week when the excavation of a deep grave unearthed a shield boss along with the pointed tip of an iron object. Full excavation of the grave exceeded our expectations, with the pointed tip belonging to a sword. This is a particularly rare find and a first for Barrow Clump. The condition of the sword was impressive, with the copper alloy fittings from the scabbard surviving in-situ along with an associated bead. The mineralised remains alongside the metal suggest that the scabbard was made of wood and leather, with the handle made from horn. We will X-ray the sword in order to gather more information on its design and construction. Along with the sword and shield boss, the grave contained a spearhead and a knife making it the most richly furnished male burial on site, the sign of a prestigious individual.
 
Our week ended with a site open day for the local community, featuring site tours and a range of exciting displays and demonstrations.
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Written by Angus Forshaw
 
 

Archive Intern Week 7: The Witch in the Basement

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I’m told that the life of an archivist is mostly spent ferreting away in the well regulated temperature of the archives room and yet whilst this image is terribly appealing in such hot weather, this week I attended an event held by Santander and the University of Sheffield. Alas the coolness of the room was not on par with the basement, but the delicious free sandwiches, quiche and spring rolls helped me cope. The event was to highlight the partnership between the two institutions and to promote the work they do together. Hannah and I were invited as we are fortunate enough to have our internships part funded by this partnership. Without the partnership between Wessex and the University, the internship opportunity would not have been possible and other Wessex staff involved in the setup and day to day supervision of the internships were also invited – Andrew Norton, Richard O’Neill and Jess Tibber.  We were introduced to Simon Bray who heads the Santander Universities initiative and I think he was really impressed with the variety of experiences that we have accrued since the inception of our internships – from the Bronze Age Cremation Urn that I’ve been looking at as part of an archive due for deposition, to the community work that Hannah has been engaged with on the Exploring Tinsley Manor Project; our internships with Wessex Archaeology have shown the amazing variety that Wessex has to offer. 
 
The social events don’t stop there as this week Wessex Archaeology Chair Eugenie Turton and Commercial Director Peter Dean visited our Sheffield office and were given a tour of the archives room (Eugenie particularly liked “the witch in the basement”) and next week I shall be travelling down to our Salisbury office to see the huge archives at Portway House and get stuck in there!
 
By Emma Carter

Wear and Tear

...in an early post-medieval kitchen

This metal cooking vessel has had a hard life. It is a cast tripod vessel with a single handle, of a type known as a ‘posnet’, more or less equivalent to a saucepan, and would have been used over an open fire on a hearth. It was found during excavations by Somerset County Council at Burtle Priory, in the heart of the Avalon Marshes in Somerset, in a layer which might be associated with demolition at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. This gives us a good terminus ante quem for the posnet (ie, it must date prior to the mid-16th century), but the posnet itself gives us a clue as to its date from the profile – from the beginning of the 15th century, bag-shaped vessels such as these were beginning to replace the spherical vessels of the medieval period.
 

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The posnet’s handle is decorated with a line of raised squares, and on the square nearest to the rim is a stamped cross-shaped mark, probably the maker’s mark.
 
However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this posnet is the way in which it has been used and repaired. Tripod vessels such as these suffered much wear and tear through daily use, from being continuously dragged across stone hearths. This example has lost two of its original tripod feet in the process. One was replaced by a cruder version, soldered on, while the other was not – the posnet could then only have functioned by being propped up on something, perhaps a stone, and the underside of the broken edge is worn smooth.
 
The posnet is an interesting survival – metal vessels are not common in archaeological contexts as they were so easily recycled. This well-used example may have been overlooked during the demolition of the priory following its dissolution in 1536.
 
Reporting by Wessex Archaeology on the posnet and other finds from Burtle Priory is continuing.

Explosive News for Coastal & Marine

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Unexploded ordnance training went with a figurative, but thankfully not literal, bang today at Wessex Archaeology’s Salisbury office.
Dave Welch of Ramora UK visited to train members of our Coastal & Marine team in the types of ordnance they may encounter during work offshore, in the intertidal zone or during post-excavation. Given the varied nature of our project work, members of our diving, geoservices and marine protocol teams were all in attendance. 
 
It is estimated that 10% of all ordnance dropped during recent conflicts failed to detonate and can pose a real hazard when encountered today – especially given the instability that can result from submersion in a marine environment. 
Dave brought inert examples, and his expertise, to train us in how to keep safe whilst we protect our coastal and marine heritage.

Phil Harding Home and Dry!

 

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We are happy to report that Phil Harding is home and dry after his experience on the River Ouse this weekend.
Phil donned his best hat to drum for the New YAC Dolls  in the Rotary Club’s Dragon Boat Race . Despite an unseasonal downpour, the team romped home to complete the course in good time and good spirits. 
 
Money raised from their entry in the event goes to support the Young Archaeologists’ Club  and it is not too late to donate. Pledge your support here.
Phil says, ‘It’s not about winning; it’s about sensible people doing silly things because they care about YAC.’ 
 
 
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Batsworthy Cross Open Day

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FREE ENTRY
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
2pm – 6pm

 

We are delighted to announce that we will be holding an open day at our excavations at Batsworthy Cross, Knowstone, Devon.
Come and discover a previously unknown settlement, including a stone-built structure,  which has been providing further information as to how this part of Devon was occupied during the medieval period.
 
Contact details and more information see right.
 
 

 

Barrow Clump 2014: Week 3

1863 1864 As we reach the halfway point of this season on site we are making excellent progress. So far we have excavated and recorded seven of the 13 Anglo-Saxon graves. Initial analysis of the skeletal remains is already revealing much detail about the lives of the individuals who lived, and were subsequently buried, in the area.
 
One male skeleton was particularly informative to Wessex Archaeology’s Osteoarchaeologist Jackie McKinley. The size of the bones clearly indicated that this was a large man, with the areas of muscle attachment to the bone showing that he must have been of muscular build. On closer inspection it was revealed that he would have suffered from a condition known as DISH (diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis). This leads to ossification of spinal ligaments resulting in a ‘dripped candle wax’ appearance to the spine. He was also suffering from arthritis in his neck. Studying the condition of the bone allowed Jackie to assess the age of the individual as between 50 and 80 years old, one of the older individuals found on site. 
 
1866 Further excitement regarding the Anglo-Saxon graves came in the form of 25 beads from a female burial. These were found alongside the left arm and were highly decorated.
 
Activity this week also involved the careful lifting of the second Bronze Age cremation urn. It is now awaiting the delicate process of excavating the deposits within it.
 
Written by Angus Forshaw

Welcome to Wessex

1859 1860 1861 Saturday saw the grand opening of Salisbury Museum’s new Wessex Gallery, and what an event it was!
 
Over 2,000 people turned out to witness Professor Alice Roberts open the new state-of-the-art gallery, and experience the wide range of activities, displays and demonstrations on offer. These included falconry, Saxon battle techniques, traditional woodworking and many other ancient crafts.
 
Local heritage societies and organisations also had interactive displays for the day. The Wessex Archaeology stand featured mini digs and pottery jigsaws for children, examples of the work that we do and a selection of mystery artefacts to put visitors to the test.
 
The day was brought to a conclusion with the drawing of a raffle to raise money for the museum and the Young Archaeologists’ Club. Winners were drawn by Alice Roberts, with the star prize being a beautiful hand axe knapped and donated by our own Phil Harding.

Archive Intern Week 6: Appreciating Pottery

 
Getting to know your CHARN from your BERTH
 
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How often have you picked up a broken piece of pottery and thought nothing of its history or context? Unless you have a trained eye for that sort of thing the chances are…not much. Normally it’s the shiny or gruesome things that attract the layman or the media but I think fresh appreciation should be awarded to those sherds and orangey broken pieces.  
 
The finds we’re depositing will end up in Leicestershire Museums so each find has been marked in accordance to their set of requirements. This means that on any one of the bags of pottery I can find something along the lines of ‘BERTH (EA2)’ or ‘CHARN (SX)’ or a myriad of other perplexing combinations, but what does this mean? Essentially its museum generated short hand for what type of pottery it is; BERTH is Brown glazed earthenware whereas CHARN is Charnwood ware.
 
Look at the two sherds – which one looks more “important” to you? Perhaps the top one with its shiny glaze and distinct shape? The top one is Brown glazed earthenware with a date range of AD 1550–1800, but the bottom one, the Charnwood ware, is dated to AD 450–800.  With more context about the date and the age of the sherds you may have reviewed your preferred object – I certainly did! So the next time you’re faced with a pottery sherd, dull and weathered by time and earth, or a shinier piece, don’t discard the duller one on aesthetics alone as who knows, it could have been around longer than you had imagined!
 
By Emma Carter
 
 
 

Field Archaeologist Intern - Weeks 5 and 6

 
Week 5 – Reports, stratigraphy and growing cress!

At the beginning of week I had the chance to start work on the second season of evaluation on the Exploring Tinsley Manor project. In addition to the report, I started work on washing, sorting and counting the finds. It was interesting to see the variety of finds recovered - glass, pottery, metal and leather - as most of the sites I have previously worked on have tended to produce finds of one material type. On Thursday I went to Tinsley Junior School to help Sally teach stratigraphy to the children. We helped them build ‘trenches’ in plastic trays using stones, sand, compost and clay to demonstrate how crop marks are formed using cress. It was nice to see that their enthusiasm for archaeology hadn’t dimmed now that the trenches have been backfilled.
 
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Week 6 – Become an archaeologist, see the world!

Week 6 of my internship has been a great learning experience. I’ve reached the half-way point of my internship and it has flown by! I worked on my first ‘away’ project with Wessex, which led me to Worcestershire. The site was an evaluation, like the one that I worked on in week one. Being away for four days was a good opportunity to really focus on the archaeology and rural Worcestershire was a beautiful place to work, especially in the sunshine. The sandy soil was a real challenge to work with but my supervisor seemed pleased with my progress. My recording skills have developed a lot since we had last worked together in week one in Derbyshire. To round off the week I have been working on the Tinsley report back in the office although next week I should be back on site, this time  in Nottinghamshire.
 
By Hannah Holbrook
 
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