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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

Historic Vessels and the Muddy Quagmire


After experiencing high winds and seas, that made it impossible for us to carry out a planned diving survey in the outer Thames Estuary, Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team had the fortuitous opportunity to undertake a rapid assessment of a cluster of eight threatened historic wooden hulks and structures in an area of the estuary known as 'The Saltings', south and adjacent to the Erith Yacht Club.
The Thames intertidal area is a unique and archaeologically rich resource. Access to the site was not without its challenges, as thick mud prevented us from traversing over much of the area. This didn’t prevent us from documenting the extant remains in situ, and recording changes that have occurred to some of these structures, such as a 19th century barge named Lady Mary, a large rudder and other hulked vessels, since they were last recorded in 1996, by the Thames Archaeological Survey (which has been superseded by the Thames Discovery Programme).
Due to the cultural complexity of such remains, and their continuing exposure to damage from the elements, these kinds of surveys have an important role in promoting the much-needed preservation of the rich heritage of intertidal sites in the Thames Estuary, and in other areas of the UK. Wessex Archaeology will continue to provide an invaluable service in this area of work, by conducting regular assessments of similarly intriguing archaeological features such as those observed in this survey. 
More on this survey and our foreshore work can be found here.

New Project Officer


Wessex Archaeology is pleased to welcome Patrick Daniel to the Sheffield Team, who joins us as a Project Officer. Patrick’s first brush with archaeology came in 1987, working as a schoolboy volunteer on the late Iron Age trading post site at Redcliff, East Yorkshire. He has maintained a keen enthusiasm for archaeology ever since, through higher and post-graduate education, and working on innumerable excavations, both in the UK and abroad.
Much early field experience was gained as a volunteer, and then as a circuit digger, before becoming established as a Project Officer at Network Archaeology Ltd (Lincoln). His role there involved overseeing excavation work, typically on linear development schemes, consequent post-excavation assessment and analysis work, and monograph production.
Between 2001 and 2004 Patrick spent his summers working as a supervisor on the Anglo-American Project in Pompeii training archaeologists on a research excavation. We all look forward to working with Patrick and hope he finds Romano-British Doncaster a similarly enlightening experience.

Field Archaeologist Intern - Weeks 9: Pottery and animal bone


This week I continued work on the urban site in South Yorkshire. A couple of my classmates from the University of Sheffield have started work at Wessex and it’s great to see some new but familiar faces! Working with them on site has shown me just how much I have learnt in two months. The site is the earliest site that I have dug with Wessex, and it is part of an Iron Age settlement. I was working with one of my fellow Sheffield graduates when we found some pottery sherds; the first pieces of datable evidence recovered from site! It was nice to confirm the provisional Iron Age date of the site and bring to life the idea that the site was once a settlement lived in by people and their animals (of which we found some probable dog and young cattle bones).
By Hannah Holbrook

Field Archaeologist Intern - Weeks 8: Ditches, ditches and more ditches

This week I have been back in South Yorkshire on more of an urban type of site: both rural and urban sites have their advantages and disadvantages so a balance of working between both is good. On Tuesday I graduated from the University of Sheffield, which was slightly unusual hop from commercial archaeology to the ceremony and academia and then back again in a few days. The site is just under a hectare in size and I spent a few days digging slots through a potential boundary ditch for a small settlement and across some outlying field boundaries. Working so closely with such experienced archaeologists has really developed my eye for often indistinct features on site. The site consisted mainly of Iron Age ditches although the archaeological features were obscured in places by modern and geological features which gave us something to think about. I really enjoyed the balance of digging and thinking about the site and its formation and the relationship between the features, both archaeological and geological or modern. Site taphonomy is something we are taught about at university but there really isn’t any substitute to working it out on site. In this respect being an intern has really helped as everyone has been enthusiastic to help me learn as I work in the field. I can’t believe that I’ve completed two of my three months of my internship already!
By Hannah Holbrook

Field Archaeologist Intern - Weeks 7: I do like to be beside the seaside!


Well not quite, but this week was my first time digging on a sandy site which presented a whole set of challenges that I haven’t encountered before. The site was in rural north Nottinghamshire which was quiet and peaceful giving me a chance to train my eye to see the Roman field boundaries that traversed the area. Trying to trowel straight section edges was difficult as the glorious sunshine dried the sand making it crumbly although I wouldn’t want to complain and make it rain! The site didn’t produce that many finds although I got my first chance to half section some ditch terminals. The site had been stripped of the topsoil by machine which gave an interesting perspective of land use in the area, as opposed the smaller evaluation trenches that I have worked in on other sites.
On Tuesday there was an event hosted by Santander who have supported and facilitated the internships for Emma (archives) and I (field).  It was a good opportunity for the interns, Wessex managers, Santander representatives and university coordinators to meet up and celebrate the successes of the internships and identify areas for improvement in the future. It was good to see that the internships have worked well for everyone and to take the time out to talk about the internships as well as the archaeology.
By Hannah Holbrook

Archive Intern Weeks 9 and 10 : Quern baby quern


There are three things they don’t tell you when you become an archivist: firstly you will find an array of different sized boxes meeting museum requirements oddly pleasing; secondly having finished neatly arranging finds in said boxes ready for deposition, you will look upon your tidy boxes with Zen-like appreciation; and thirdly, you won’t find the previous two geeky at all.
Last week we loaded up the van and made our way down to Leicestershire to deposit the archives I’d been working on and to get a tour! Like all museums/county archives, Leicestershire Museums have a strict set of guidelines on how the finds should be packed and ordered. It was really interesting to see that they have that same approach but on a much bigger scale to the whole of their archaeological archives. On the tour we were shown an extensive collection of quernstones – some of the most complete ones I’ve ever seen, and then some lovely pottery. We were also shown into a very hot, dry and secured room in which they ensure that the metal items held there (such as swords and coins) are kept in exactly the right conditions to ensure the preservation and integrity of the objects. It was especially nice to think that some of the significant finds in the archives we were depositing would be preserved in such excellent conditions.
I really liked the organisational approach that Leicestershire Museums have towards their archaeological archives as it unifies all the various projects or finds deposited over the ages into one big amalgamated collection.
Speaking of macro and microcosms, the more I learn about environmental sampling the more intriguing it becomes – this may be to do with preparing a box of flots and residues for deposition recently. I especially like seeing the glass bottles filled with delicate pieces of desiccated plant matter and seeds; holding them up to the light makes me feel like some old Victorian botanist.


And who said the world of archiving was boring?
By Emma Carter

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