Latest News


Another Archive Deposited

Our archives team has been busy preparing archives for deposition, and yesterday saw the delivery of a batch to Hampshire Cultural Trust (formerly Hampshire Museums Service). At the request of David Wilson Homes, the landowners, we took selected finds from our site at Marnel Park, Basingstoke, to the Willis Museum in Basingstoke for a photo opportunity. These included pottery, metalwork and shale objects from Romano-British settlement and cremation graves.
2063 Copyright David Wilson Homes
Lorraine Mepham and Catherine Coates from WA, and David Allen (right) from Hampshire Cultural Trust, were on hand to show the finds to Simon Kirk (left) of David Wilson Homes. Many photographs were taken, including some of the group arranged around a life-size model of the occupant of a Roman sarcophagus, rather disconcerting as he relates his life story! Thanks to David Wilson Homes, who as well as funding the excavation of Marnel Park and part-funding the publication, which also includes the adjacent site of Merton Rise (available to download from the WA website), have signed the necessary transfer of title, the archive will now be safely curated at the Hampshire Cultural Trust’s store in Winchester.

Kent Jones at Large

Are you keeping up with Kent Jones?

Follow these links to find out how Kent got on in Finds and when he went back to School.

Thames Archaeology Day

London Gateway Port’s German Bomber Flies into
"Thames Archaeology Day"

On Saturday 12 October 2014 Graham Scott, Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine, gave a talk on the Junkers 88T discovered during dredging work for the new London Gateway Port to a packed public meeting at Southend Museum during their Thames Archaeology Day. Afterwards Graham manned a stand and showed a number of important finds recovered from the World War II aircraft to visitors to the event.

The photograph shows an x-ray of the Luftwaffe first aid kit found amongst the wreckage. This could have been used for makeshift operations – note the hacksaw!
A full colour booklet on the discovery, recovery and identification of the aircraft can be obtained from Thurrock Thameside Nature Park Visitor Centre.

Going, Going, Gone!

It will be a full house at the BIM and the ‘ologies Breakfast workshop being run by Wessex Archaeology and Thomson Ecology. This event is now fully subscribed and has a waiting list.
However if you are not one of the lucky ones attending a summary of the keynote speakers presentations will be available on our website after the event. Watch this space!

Wessex at South Yorkshire Archaeology Day

2059 Rossington Inland Port

South Yorkshire Archaeology day is upon us again, and Wessex Archaeology is dominating this year’s programme. In a slight change to the published list, at 11.25 Andrew Norton (Regional Manager, North) will be speaking on ‘The land the pot forgot: FARRRS and Rossington Inland Port – a Roman landscape; Grace Corbett (Senior Heritage Consultant, Bristol) is on at 2.30 with ‘Protecting heritage for the future: archaeology and Rotherham’s local plan’; with Jacqueline McKinley (Wessex’s Senior Osteoarchaeologist) closing proceedings at 3.50 with ‘Dead people telling tales: the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Adwick-le-Street, Doncaster’

2060 Part of leather shoe from FARRRS

As an added bonus Alexandra Grassam (Senior Heritage Consultant, Sheffield) will also be speaking on Rossington to local Young Archaeologist clubs , with the young archaeologists having a go at making ‘Rossington’ Roman shoes, and Sally Rogers will be also be on hand to discuss Wessex and Heeley City Farm’s recent work at Tinsley School.
Unfortunately tickets have already sold out, but for those fortunate enough to have secured seats at the hottest gig in town – we look forward to seeing you.
To find out more follow this link

London Archaeological Prize

2054 Wessex Archaeology is proud to have had not one, but two of our publications shortlisted for the London Archaeological Prize 2014!
The London Archaeological Prize, administered by the London Archaeologist, aims to encourage a higher standard of writing and broader coverage of London’s archaeology. The two WA publications nominated and shortlisted expand on the archaeological work that took place on the site of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
2058 The first publication (Renewing the Past: Unearthing the history of the Olympic Park site) provides a colourful overview of the changes to the landscape over time in a short book suitable for all ages. The second (By River Fields and Factories: The Making of the Lower Lea Valley), a monograph, provides a far more detailed analysis of the results from the archaeological and cultural heritage investigations conducted ahead of construction. Both books are available to buy online via Oxbow books.
Author of the two volumes, Andrew B Powell, and editor, Pippa Bradley, attended the awards ceremony last night at the London Archaeology Forum meeting, and were delighted to have been shortlisted for such a highly contested award. Our congratulations go to the winner Hazel Forsyth, Museum of London, for London’s Lost Jewels: The Cheapside Hoard.
By Laura Joyner

Placement Students in Sheffield

2051 Lewis Greenway - Elsecar Heritage Centre

After having two wonderful work placement students at the Sheffield office over the summer – Lewis Greenway and Jack Malloy, who both made a valuable contribution to a number of projects – we will be taking on another four students between now and February 2015. Three of these will be coming to us from the University of Sheffield, whilst the other will be from Ridgewood School, Doncaster.
We will be giving them a taste of a range of commercial archaeological experiences including field excavation and recording, finds processing, geophysical survey, and working within the heritage sector. 
We are very much looking forward to meeting and working with our new placements. 
If you’re interested in undertaking a work placement or wanting to take part in voluntary work with the Wessex Archaeology Sheffield office, then please email Lucy Dawson at

Back to the Dockyard


As part of our ongoing work with the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust we were once again invited back to the dockyard and this time the weather favoured us! Our target of investigation on this occasion was a pickling pond which is believed to exist beneath the Wheelwrights House. Does it still remain in situ and if so how is it built and what condition is it in?
Firstly a little background. Initially build in the 18th century this pond would have formed an extension to the original Southern Mast Pond the extent of which was around 20 m east of the later one we found on our last visit. So what was it used for? Well in order to produce ships you need wood, and lots of it! This may have been sourced locally but with such vast quantities required the adjacent river would have provided an ideal route for delivering the necessary raw materials. In order to prepare the logs for use they would have first needed to be seasoned and this is where the pickling pond would have come in. Filled with brackish water the timbers would have been immersed and stored during which time sap would have been leached out and replaced by salt from the pond water which would have been provided via a series of culverts and tunnels connected to the adjacent river. Once adequately treated and dried, a process that would take many months, timbers would have been transported to the sawyers for use or stored for later use in the adjacent storehouses. The pickling pond therefore formed an essential role in the mechanism of the dockyard and the production of ships such as HMS Victory (1765), HMS Namur (1756) and HMS Unicorn (1824).


Today the pickling pond lies below the Wheelwrights Shop which was constructed in about 1780 and currently house timbers of the broken up 17th century Warship HMS Namur.
So, what were we expecting to find? Well, excavations carried out on the site over the last few years have suggested that the base would be formed of a timber grid, lined with puddle clay approximately 3 m below the existing ground levels. As to whether this construction pattern remained consistent was at the time unknown. This is why we were there. Future plans for the site need to take into consideration any underlying archaeological material and in order to do that architects, engineers and inspectors from English Heritage all need to know what remains. That way safeguarding measures can be put into place before, during and after development to ensure the survival of buried archaeological deposits. 
So back to the excavation! With the assistance of the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust our Fieldwork Director David Britchfield opened Test Pit 6 on a bright and sunny day (although we were under cover within the existing Wheelwrights Shop so still a wee bit chilly!) in March. After marking out an area that measured about 3.5 m square the initial work began with the removal of the existing concrete slab – a somewhat noisy process! This needed to be done in haste as we immediately noticed the difference from our last visit – the site is now open! Numerous buses, school coaches and cars were starting to arrive and the coffee shop was about to open. The last thing they wanted was noisy workman in the next building. Thankfully the construction team from Spadeoak, pictured above, did a great job - the slab was out within the hour and morning tea could be taken in peace! 
Using a small machine (we were rather restricted for room and height) we started to peel away at the upper layers which consisted of modern redeposited chalk and clay, carefully keeping an eye out for artefacts and changes in the soil sequence. Once we were down about a metre or so below the existing slab level the foundations for the Wheelwrights Shop became clearly visible cut into redeposited chalk that formed the upper fill of the pickling pond, as can be seen in the photograph below. ‘Stop please Mr machine driver, we need to record this’!
Following recording  we carried on removing the upper layers of fill and it wasn’t long before the test pit began to get deep and things were getting, well, for want of a better word…..smelly. You see the pond has only been filled for a few hundred years. Organic material in such a wet environment takes time to break down and as it does it produces a rather pungent odour.
It was at this level that we also started to notice a difference in the colour and consistency of the soil – we were no longer in deliberate backfill, but in naturally formed silts and clays. In other words, the silted up base of the former working pond. To add to our discovery we had wood….and lots of it! Wood chips were frequent, as one would expect in a timber yard, but added to this we had sections of roundwood that had been deliberately cut and trimmed into large dowel-shaped pieces. We had found treenails! In excellent condition these treenails, a few of which are shown in the photograph above, would have been essential for the construction of ships and of course timber framed buildings and would have been used to fasten pieces of wood together. A great find considering part of the existing building was occupied by the Treenail Makers Workshop! 


Now as we were so deep we needed to use a combination of steel sheet piles, props, steps and battered edges in order to get to the levels required, as can be seen below. Unfortunately this meant that space was rather limited at the base and our Fieldwork Director is not a slight man!
Be that as it may we struck gold….well brown really as at the very bottom of our test pit we located a large horizontal timber. Initial examination of the timber confirmed that it was in excellent condition, as can be seen from the two photographs below. The anaerobic environment of the lower sequence of deposits provides ideal conditions for preservation attested to by the frequency of wood chips and treenails within the higher deposits. The timber was sawn, appeared to be made from oak and measured 0.45 m in width with a depth of 0.10 m. Despite a thorough examination there was no indication any joint details or of vertical timber piles below this timber.
Of particular interest is that the timber was found alone. Chatting with Nigel Howard, the Historic Environment & Buildings Project Manager for The Historic Dockyard Chatham, he told us that previous geotechnical excavations to the south of the site suggested that the base of the pickling pond would have been formed using a grid of timbers with two (or more?) layers laid tangentially on top of each other at regular centres. This was confirmed during the earlier geotechnical works where the thickness of timber was recorded as being at least 0.90 m suggesting that the borehole drilled through more than one timber. The timber exposed in Test Pit 6 was also thinner much than originally expected. Its presence directly on top of a chalk bed may suggest that the base of the pickling pond was originally formed using shallower timbers, possibly in order to create a level formation? 
So it had all been worth it! Not only did we located the base of the pickling pond we confirmed that the preservation conditions were excellent. Of course as with most forms of archaeological and historical enquiry as soon as you answer one question another three pop up! Where was the timber grid recorded to the south? Was the horizontal base supported on vertical piles? How does the construction of this pond compare with the larger Northern Pond and Southern Pond? Well the simple answer to that is that we may never know as we may not have another opportunity to investigate these levels. That said we now have a better idea as to how the pond was constructed. We are more informed of the preservation conditions and we know what levels the archaeological horizons start and finish. Armed with that information the engineers and architects have produced designs for the new development that enhance the present while protecting the past.
Coming soon - Works at The Historic Dockyard Chatham throughout the summer of 2014 including the excavation of part of the Southern Mast Pond and Brunel Canal.
Associated links:

BIM and the ‘ologies


Heard about BIM? But what does Building Information Modelling actually mean for Archaeology and Ecology?
Wessex Archaeology and our partners Thomson Ecology will be hosting a breakfast workshop to do just that!
This informative event for BIM project managers is being held in London on the 2 December 2014 and will examine some of the ways in which we can lifecycle data throughout projects in a more efficient and collaborative way. This is a great opportunity for project managers to find out about how information from archaeology and ecology can be integrated to benefit both the historic and natural environment, as well as aiding the project process.
The workshop will feature talks from David Philp, who leads the UK 2050 BIM Task group, as well as the Head of BIM at Costain and speakers from both Wessex Archaeology and Thomson Ecology who will share their thinking on how BIM fits into our everyday working practices.
More details can be found here.

X-ray Machine on Low and High

The experiments to get the best images out of the x-ray machine have produced some useful results.
Producing a good x-ray relies on getting the x-rays to just pass through the material. You want them to pass through the slightly less dense areas and not to pass through the denser areas. This is how you pick up the internal structure. You have to judge the power so that the x-rays just pass through the material so that these differences in density are significant enough to affect the image on the x-ray plate. 
The x-rays generated by the machine can produce lower energy secondary x-rays when they hit other things (like the bottom of the x-ray machine). These low energy x-rays can also affect the x-ray plate and fog the image slightly. You can put different filters in, in different places to remove these secondary x-rays but you have to judge it so that you get the best results. 
2038 Low kv
I have been doing a lot of human bone, at the lower end of the exposure range of the machine. Bone is not very dense and lower energy x-rays are needed (between 65kv and 80kv). Having tried exposures with and without a filter underneath the plate, the general consensus is that the image is slightly sharper with the filter in place. However, putting a filter on top at these low kv values, produces a very ‘thin’ result (see figure 1) and detail is lost. 

2039 high kv

At the other end of the scale, you definitely need a top filter at high kv values. The image is very much fuzzier if you do not use a top filter when x-raying thicker metal (see figure 2). The trick has been to work out at what point you need to add the top filter. The cut-off point appears to be 100kv.  
Syndicate content