Our Salisbury office is huge, amazing and fantastically friendly but it was the archives that really stole my heart – oh, and the Barrow Clump sword, and the flint sherds, and the complete Roman vessels and the bone garlands – the list does indeed go on and on!
It’s safe to say that I was enchanted by all that our Salisbury office contains, but some things really did stand out. The first and most spectacular was the much talked about sword from Barrow Clump; we caught Conservator Lynn Wootten unwrapping it, and we were lucky enough to have a peek.
Next on the ‘feast for the eyes’ list was the finds room; this had two tables at about chest-height running down the length of the room. Their length is particularly handy when you’re putting bones back in the right order. Lining one side of the room were hand-cranked archive shelves housing all the finds.
Speaking of bones, there was a wealth of animal skulls in drawers and shelves, and a whole wall of strung vertebrae!
But where, you ask, are the pictures of the archives? Well, alas I didn’t get the chance to capture the scale of the archives stores, but imagine, if you will, three large rooms with soft yellow lighting, corners framed by the odd spider web, and row upon row, shelf upon shelf of archives! I spent most of Friday in there, and it was wonderfully immersive.
Many thanks to everyone I encountered who answered all my questions and made me feel so welcome down in Salisbury. Hopefully we’ll see you in Sheffield one day!
Last Saturday’s community open day at Barrow Clump really ended the three-year Operation Nightingale project in style!
It provided the last opportunity for local people to visit this exciting archaeological dig, before the project finally comes to a close this week. In spite of the appalling weather forecast, we had only a few drops of rain and over 230 people visited the site.
Volunteers and service personnel from Operation Nightingale guided visitors around the site to view this year’s findings. Highlights included the burial of an Anglo-Saxon warrior complete with shield boss and spearhead, and another unusual crouched burial, also Anglo-Saxon. Several of the artefacts from the site were on display in the finds tent, including a pair of beautiful Anglo-Saxon saucer brooches, a much older Roman-style brooch and a modern Parachute Regiment badge.
Visitors were also treated to a range of interesting displays and demonstrations. Phil Harding spent the day knapping flint tools and teaching people how to identify worked flint, while Jackie McKinley, Wessex Archaeology’s senior osteoarchaeologist, bravely excavated one of the Bronze Age cremation urns in front of a fascinated audience. A range of Anglo-Saxon replica weaponry, jewellery and domestic materials were displayed by Wiltshire Museum, Wessex Wildcraft and Weorod, and these really brought the site to life for visitors and staff alike, with the fantastic ‘Burial Rites’ and ‘Dressing the Warrior’ demonstrations placing the site in its context.
Young people were invited to create their own Bronze Age pots, excavate mini sandpit digs, design Saxon shields and make Anglo-Saxon brooches to take home. A special heritage trail was also designed for participants in the Children’s University scheme, which proved a big hit.
The day was made possible by our wonderful volunteer team, who worked behind the scenes all day to ensure that the event ran smoothly. We would like to say a huge thank you to all of the volunteers and exhibitors who took part, and to Wiltshire Council for generously contributing funding
On Wednesday 23rd July 2014 we opened our excavations at Batsworthy Cross, Knowstone, Devon, to the public. Over 200 local residents turned out on a scorching day to come and see our previously unknown medieval settlement which includes the remains of stone wall foundations.
Wessex Archaeology were commissioned by RWE Innogy UK to undertake the archaeological investigations on the site of a proposed wind farm. The works have included an earthwork survey, trial trench evaluations and the excavation.
The open day was an opportunity for local people to view some of the pottery that has been found on the site, as well as walk around the remains of the medieval building. The structure may have been for agricultural use, or perhaps a dwelling forming part of a small farming community. Other archaeological features on the site include drainage ditches and droveway. The discovery has the potential to shed more light on how this part of Devon was occupied and used during the medieval period.
The open day also attracted media attention, with interviews with BBC Radio Devon and the North Devon Gazette.
More information on our excavations, including blogs, will be posted onto our website in the coming weeks. You can also keep up to date with the wind farm developments by visiting www.rwe.com
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.
Written by Angus Forshaw
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
...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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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