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The Marine Antiquities Scheme extends to Northern Ireland


The Marine Antiquities Scheme (MAS), the initiative created to improve knowledge of our underwater heritage through the recording of marine finds, is launching in Northern Ireland. 
The scheme, which launched in England and Wales in July 2016, aims to enhance awareness of Northern Ireland’s marine heritage by helping record archaeological finds in the marine environment. Through its website and mobile app, MAS enables users to record archaeological material discovered anywhere from the Mean Low Water Level in England, Wales and now Northern Ireland too. 
MAS was created through the partnership of a number of organisations including Wessex Archaeology, The British Museum, The Crown Estate and the British Sub-Aqua Club, and in consultation with the Receiver of Wreck. With the launch of MAS in Northern Ireland, the Historic Environment Division (Department for Communities) has joined the partnership to support the research and documentation of finds in the region’s waters. 
In the 18 months since MAS was launched in England and Wales, 352 finds have been recorded by members of the public. Some of the most interesting finds include a collection of Roman pottery, which includes the legible name-stamp of Advocisus in Central Gaul from around AD 200, and a medieval pilgrim’s ampulla used for carrying holy water.
Toby Gane, project manager in charge of implementing MAS at Wessex Archaeology said: “We are delighted to be involved with the Marine Antiquities Scheme and that it is now to be extended to Northern Ireland.  A team at Wessex Archaeology is responsible for implementing the Scheme on behalf of the partnership, which means that we manage all finds made under the scheme and ensure that they are recorded on the MAS database. We look forward to working with organisations in Northern Ireland as the scheme is extended”. 
Iain Greenway, Director of Historic Environment Division, adds: “I welcome the extension of the Marine Antiquities Scheme to Northern Ireland. The scheme will undoubtedly help to increase public participation with marine archaeology in Northern Ireland waters, whilst also promoting best practice with regard to the treatment and legal reporting of these finds.”

About MAS

The MAS app allows users to locate, record and submit information about archaeological material discovered anywhere within the waters of England, Wales or Northern Ireland from the Mean Low Water Level. It is also a resource for anyone wanting to know more about marine archaeology and underwater heritage. All finds, once verified by a team of archaeological experts and when the legal requirements relating to wreck have been observed, are published on the MAS database with details of the item’s origins and history. 
Since the launch, a Heritage Lottery Funding grant and support from the Fishing Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries has enabled improvement to the app to allow users to input their activity at time of the find. The Crown Estate and Wessex Archaeology are working with industry bodies and partners to secure long-term future funding for MAS.  
It is available to download from relevant app stores for iOS and Android phones and tablets. 
Finders can also submit information on-line via an electronic recording form located on the scheme’s website.

Major Neolithic ceremonial enclosure is uncovered in sight of Windsor Castle

A major 5,500 year old Neolithic ceremonial gathering place known as a causewayed enclosure has been partially uncovered within sight of Windsor Castle in Berkshire. The discovery was made at Riding Court Farm, near Datchet as part of CEMEX UK’s archaeological programme on the quarrying site, which is monitored on behalf of the local planning authority by Berkshire Archaeology.
Defined by encircling bank and ditch segments with gap entrances, such sites represent some of the earliest known acts of monument building in Britain. Around 80 monuments have been identified across Britain, and others are known on the Continent. The Riding Court causewayed enclosure may have been seasonally occupied, a place where communities gathered to undertake ceremonial feasting, exchange of goods, the marking of festivals and social obligations. Imported objects found in other enclosures suggest trade and exchange of exotic objects (stone axes and pottery), while evidence of feasting and human burials are known from other sites.
One feature is the deliberate consumption and wasting of meat and the exposure of human remains including the placing of skulls in the base of ditches. There are signs that pots were deliberately smashed perhaps as festivities came to a close.
 John Powell, fieldwork director for Wessex Archaeology, said:
The discovery of, and chance to excavate an early Neolithic causewayed enclosure is incredibly rare. The enclosure lies within the central area of the quarry and future work will allow us to systematically excavate and study the site’s surrounding landscape. We will be able to see how the Neolithic community influenced their natural landscape and the lives of later people by leaving their mark on the land.
Although we have only uncovered part of the site so far, the monument appears to be an oval shape with a projected perimeter of 500 metres. Currently 265 metres of the enclosure’s arc - some 12 ditch segments -  have been traced with the remainder due to be uncovered in 2018. The monument occupies a slightly raised area in what may have been a marshy or seasonably wet landscape within the Thames floodplain. Towards the base of the ditches, small concentrations of animal bone, pottery and worked flint have been found and probably relate to the activities that took place within the enclosure. The finds include finely worked flint arrowheads, knives and serrated blades, decorated pottery sherds and in one segment part of a human skull. A sparse scatter of internal features included a pit that contained a finely ground flint axe.”
Roland Smith of Berkshire Archaeology added: 
This is such an exciting and important discovery in the Royal Borough. The excavation of this monument will add so much to our shared human story, especially at this pivotal time in the earliest years of farming in Britain. CEMEX UK has been extremely conscientious in addressing the archaeology of this site and I applaud their commitment to ensuring this ancient prehistoric monument will be thoroughly investigated by Wessex Archaeology”.
The enclosure at Datchet lies within the well populated Neolithic landscape of the Middle Thames Valley that includes cursus monuments, timber framed houses and middens. Its excavation will add significant new evidence to a dynamic period of prehistory.  Along the northern bank of the River Thames three similar monuments have been identified within a 15 km stretch of the River Thames: one to the south-east, down river, at Staines and two others to the west, up river, at Eton Wick and Dorney.
As well as the enclosure, archaeologists have found remains of several periods of prehistoric, Roman and later date activity. Traces that indicate people periodically lived, farmed, settled and gathered in the area from the end of the last Ice Age, a period of 12,000 years. 

International Shipwreck Conference, Plymouth

The Marine Antiquities Scheme (MAS) and Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team had a busy day at the 36th International Shipwreck Conference in Plymouth on Saturday 3 February 2018. The conference was organised by the International Maritime Archaeology and Shipwreck Society (IMASS) and held at Plymouth University. The variety of speakers on a number of informative topics were excellent and in some cases extremely powerful and moving. The topics included HMS Hampshire and HMS Vanguard, Wrecks of the Baltic and Gulf of Finland, HMS Victory and Gairsoppa, Musashi, Antikythera, Shipwrecks along the Coast of Aegean Sea and USS Monitor.
On the stand, we were visited by a number of people who we were able to interact with through the eclectic finds we had on hand and through the materials handed out. We were impressed with the support and interest in the MAS, Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD) and the Marine Aggregate Industry Archaeological Protocol. It was good to see some familiar faces and to make acquaintances with new ones. We look forward to seeing you all at the next conference!

Uncovering Lincolnshire's Past

Numerous archaeological remains in Lincolnshire and the surrounding area have been unearthed as part of the on the onshore construction phase of Ørsted's Hornsea Project One offshore wind farm.
When fully operational in 2020, it will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm capable of producing power for well over one million homes. The wind farm will be located 120km off the Yorkshire Coast, and the onshore cable route runs for approximately 40 km from Horseshoe Point, east of Tetney, to a new substation in North Killingholme, North Lincolnshire. 
3832 Saltern site, North Coates
The team at Wessex Archaeology have been working with Ørsted since August 2015, alongside staff from consultants Royal Haskoning DHV and contractors J. Murphy & Sons Limited. Work has included trial trenching, excavation, watching brief, earthwork survey and historic building recording during pre-construction and construction phases of the project. The archaeological works throughout the scheme have been monitored for three local planning authorities by archaeologists from North Lincolnshire Council, North East Lincolnshire Council and Lincolnshire County Council, as part of planning conditions. 
Richard O’Neill, Wessex Archaeology Project Manager said:
Large linear schemes like this can be challenging; we’ve had seventy people working on the scheme over two years with some pretty inclement weather at times. Work has included excavation of two Iron Age settlement sites in North Killingholme, prehistoric farming activity and a Romano-British settlement in Stallingborough, Romano-British settlement sites in Tetney and Holton-le-Clay, and medieval moated sites in Harborough and South Killingholme
"One of the more interesting finds was a medieval burial found near Killingholme. The individual was not buried at the medieval hospital or cemetery which we know existed three miles to the north west. The body was actually found in the upper level of a field boundary, on the outside of a moated enclosure.” 
Key finds from the scheme have included:
  • Two human burials (one medieval and one Roman) near Killingholme 
  • An array of finds predominantly pottery and animal bone, but also metalwork (coins, fragmented brooches, a ferrous knife and nails) and quernstones
  • Marine and fresh water shells were commonly found; oysters seem to have been a particular favourite in Tetney during the Roman period 
  • Recovery of Bronze Age pottery at a site in Holton-le-Clay
  • Further late prehistoric / Romano-British settlement activity in Tetney 
  • Evidence of an unexpected Anglo-Saxon settlement in Laceby with finds from the site including a decorated worked bone comb, worked bone pins and spindlewhorls 
  • Two medieval / early post-medieval salt production sites (salterns) in North Coates. 
3833 Medieval ditches and ceramic
Bronagh Byrne, Environment and Consents Manager from Ørsted said: 
Most people wouldn’t associate renewable energy sources with historical artefacts, but it just goes to show the variety of activities needed to build an offshore wind farm
We are burying our cables as we understand the sensitivity to the surrounding landscape and the importance this is to local stakeholders and residents. A lot of work goes into deciding where the cables will be buried, including environmental and technical assessments and considerations from local stakeholders. Working with Wessex Archaeology, we can be confident that any artefacts are handled delicately and we’re delighted to see they’ve unearthed so many items spanning decades of history.” 
All the archaeological excavations have been completed in advance of cable installation. Archaeological monitoring during excavation of the cable trench is ongoing and further monitoring will be carried out during reinstatement works in key areas, with monitoring fieldwork scheduled to be completed in 2018. 
Post-excavation assessment and reporting work is also ongoing with over 27,827 artefacts recovered weighing 569 kg in total being processed, along with approximately 8000 litres of soil. The results of the archaeological excavations will be published in due course providing an insight into how the landscape of this part of Lincolnshire has been both utilised and transformed from prehistory through to the present day.

Dauntsey’s School Scholars’ Supper

3831 Photograph courtesy of Dauntsey’s

The annual Dauntsey’s School Scholars’ Supper, organised by Caron Hunter (Teacher of Art and English at Dauntsey’s, and their Able, Gifted and Talented Coordinator), is an opportunity for their academic scholars (15 to 18-year-olds) to meet with local business people, and learn about their passions, knowledge and experience. This year the theme was ‘Local Treasures’, and our very own local treasure Phil Harding (with Andy Crockett) were delighted to be invited to attend, as representatives of Wessex Archaeology.
The evening, centred on an informal hot supper (and the food was excellent), was a tremendous success for all concerned. All of the scholars we spoke to were clearly deeply interested in archaeology, and very well-read on some of the current hot topics (not least regarding the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site). It was particularly pleasing also that many were as interested in what had motivated us to get into archaeology in the first place, and how that passion remains undimmed today.

36th International Shipwreck Conference


The Marine Antiquities Scheme (MAS) and Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine team are excited to have a display stand at the sold out 36th International Shipwreck Conference in Plymouth on 3 February 2018. At the stand, conference attendees can handle a range of finds reported through the MAS, and have a go with the MAS app. The MAS provides a platform for reporting discoveries made by beach combers, dog walkers, divers, fishermen and other coastal and sea users around the country. 
At the stand, there will also be short video highlighting some of the recent work the Coastal & Marine team have been doing this year, how the MAS app works, and on finds reported through the Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD).
We look forward to seeing you there for some lively discussions and informative and interesting presentations.

Prehistoric Larkhill community may have been architects of the Stonehenge landscape


The community that built the Neolithic causewayed enclosure at Larkhill which has been dated to between 3650 to 3750 BC, pre-dating Stonehenge by 600 years may have been the architects of the Stonehenge landscape that we see today.

The causewayed enclosure was uncovered in 2016 after Wessex Archaeology were commissioned by WYG on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to undertake excavations on land adjacent to Royal Artillery Larkhill in Wiltshire. The land, on the very edge of Salisbury Plain and, immediately north of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, has been earmarked for the provision of service family accommodation under the Army Basing Programme.
Project manager Si Cleggett now believes that the community who built the causewayed enclosure may have been more closely involved in the planning of Stonehenge than previously thought.
Si Cleggett said:
"The causewayed enclosure at Larkhill was constructed during the late Stone Age, a period of transition when our ancestors gradually moved away from a mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle and embraced a farming existence where the domestication of livestock and control of agriculture began.
"The communities who gathered at the Larkhill Causewayed Enclosure during the Early Neolithic were there 600 years before the landscape setting of Stonehenge was conceived and may have been involved in the conceptualisation or even the creation of the landscape we see today. 
 "It is enormously fitting that thousands of years later, those that strive to protect our identity as a nation will again meet at Larkhill through the delivery of service family housing."
Causewayed enclosures are variously believed to be meeting places, centres of trade and cult or ritual centres to name but a few. They are the first earthen physical manifestations of the human need to enclose special spaces in the UK and, with only 70 known examples, are comparatively rare.  
The Neolithic causewayed enclosure found at Larkhill was allowed to silt, was re-cut and then backfilled. During the early stages of the subsequent Beaker period a five-post alignment was driven through the now-filled ditch at the causewayed enclosure entrance on an orientation almost identical to what would later become the orientation of the stones of Stonehenge in relation to the rising and setting of the sun during solstices.
At 24 hectares, the Larkhill site is the largest open area archaeological excavation ever undertaken in proximity to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
The Larkhill site has also revealed a sequence of socio-cultural changes in burial and funerary belief systems when another transition took place − the end of the Stone Age and the beginning of the Beaker Period and the Bronze Age.

Understanding Zooarchaeology

Animal bones are a common sight when dealing with archaeological assemblages and archives, so when the opportunity to attend the University of Sheffield’s Understanding Zooarchaeology I short course came up on the 17−19 January, I jumped at the chance to expand my awareness. Over the three days the course covered methods and techniques zooarchaeologists use to understand animal bone evidence; including identification of different species from their bones and teeth; learning how to age and sex bones; recognising taphonomy, butchery and pathology on bones and understanding how material is analysed and quantified.
The teaching was delivered through short lectures, hands-on practical activities and case studies presented by various members of the zooarch staff and students. I felt that the part of the course which will most benefit me on a day to day basis was the basic identification of species and recognising taphonomy, this skill will enable me to identify any unusual and interesting bones as they come off site and notify the project manager and the field staff so they can develop and adapt techniques/research questions during the course of a project. Although on the side I have also found myself in the last week noticing degrees of epiphyseal fusion and roughly estimating how old the animals might have been when they died! 
The course is directed towards students, professionals and enthusiasts and does not require any previous knowledge. If you’re thinking about it then I would highly recommend it, my high expectations were exceeded by the quality and depth of the information which was presented over such a short space of time. Details of upcoming courses can be found here
Access to the extensive reference collection is free through appointment – contact Umberto Albarella

Barrow Clump – the surprises continue!

Following the new discoveries made at Barrow Clump just before Christmas 2017, another surprise awaited us in January. The Breaking Ground Heritage / Operation Nightingale excavation at the end of November had revealed a further seven Anglo-Saxon graves, two containing pots, the first such vessels found at the site, both of which were lifted with their contents intact.
The complete, decorated pot – the highlight of the excavation – was emptied last week by Jackie McKinley, our principal osteoarchaeologist, but contained nothing obvious of interest. It may have originally held food or drink, and perhaps something may be found when the soil samples are processed … but we are not optimistic.
3819 Left image © Harvey Mills
However, to our surprise, it was the second, rather unprepossessing and undecorated pot that took the starring role last week. Careful excavation of the contents by Emma Robertson, out trainee osteoarchaeologist, revealed this to contain cremated human bone – the first Anglo-Saxon cremation burial to be found at Barrow Clump and the furthest south-west in Britain, lying approximately 10 km beyond the four found at Collingbourne Ducis a decade ago.
As well as burnt bone, the pot contained a small pick or scoop from a toilet set and a fragment of melted copper alloy. It appears that the pot had been slightly damaged by a later inhumation grave, as well as by ploughing, but it may not be the only Anglo-Saxon cremation burial at Barrow Clump. The backfill of an inhumation grave excavated in 2014, just 20 m to the east, also contained a blob of melted copper alloy and a few tiny flakes of burnt bone, too small to identify – were these redeposited from another, disturbed cremation grave?

Submerged Prehistory Lecture

On the evening of Thursday 1 February, Wessex Archaeology Geoservices director Louise Tizzard and senior marine geophysicist David Howell will be giving a joint talk to the Clifton Antiquarian Club in Bristol. 
The talk, entitled ‘Beneath the waves: investigating submerged landscapes of the southern North Sea’, aims to provide an introduction to marine prehistoric archaeology, and to the geophysical and geoarchaeological methods used to investigate submerged landscapes. The talk will include results from the aggregate extraction Area 240 project, alongside case studies from other projects, such as offshore wind farm development sites, undertaken by Wessex Archaeology.
Clifton Antiquarian Club was originally founded in 1884, although the current incarnation dates from 2006, and exists to ‘promote a better understanding of our archaeological heritage’. Further information can be found on their website
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