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My Nuffield Placement - Week 1

2497 Tom at work in the environmental department

Archaeology is certainly not what I thought it was. Having been taken into the conservation lab on my first day to see a Junkers Ju 88 compass on the shelf next to an ancient mammoth jaw bone, the sheer range of areas within the one title ‘archaeology’ was put into perspective. Anything can be discovered anywhere and as I was meeting everyone it was amazing to see the diversity of the jobs ranging from re-building old pots to analysing seabed scans. ‘Diversity’ is certainly a good word to sum up my first week too. 
 
My second day was spent out collecting data with the terrestrial geophysics team. We collected data with a gradiometer which works by detecting small changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. Here I learnt that before any development is done, the archaeology is considered and sometimes an archaeological survey needs to be carried out. Sometimes the archaeology team concludes that there is nothing there, however if a whole settlement is found it may all need to be investigated, which can take weeks or months. When the data was checked on site we didn’t notice any obvious archaeology, however it was all still interesting to me. The data was then sent back to the office for processing and interpretation by other members of the team.
 
Wednesday was a very varied day. In the morning I learnt about the power of GIS, a mapping tool where data can be plotted, layers can be built up and complex maps showing a range of information can be produced. GPS and laser scanning were the topics of the afternoon. As well as learning how to set up and make a laser scan of an area, I also learnt the different types of GPS survey that can be done and plotted. The precision of the GPS was incredible, and it never ceased to amaze me how satellites that are thousands of kilometres away can be used to plot a point on the ground down to less than 10cm accuracy.
 
Rockworks is a fantastic program for analysing and mapping data from boreholes. Unfortunately, however, all the data has to be manually entered as I learnt on Thursday. This means retrieving data from borehole reports which are not always set out clearly. As well as mapping boreholes, the geoarchaeology and environmental department sieves and analyses soil samples. In the afternoon I discovered how to wash all the mud off the soil samples before separating out pieces of bone, charcoal and flint for analysis. Seeing how tiny burnt seeds, left behind after washing away the mud, could reveal so much about the site they came from was extraordinary.
 
It has been a very rewarding week and, having explored how to use geophysical processing software such as Fledermaus and Coda on Friday, I can’t wait to begin processing and analysing multibeam echosounder data next week, where I will hopefully spot some interesting undersea features and wrecks. I’m really enjoying my time at Wessex Archaeology and have gone home smiling every day.
 
By Tom Syndercombe – Nuffield Research Placement
 
For the second year running Wessex Archaeology is 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. 
 

Meonstoke School Saxon Day

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It’s that time of year again! For one day a year our Finds Supervisor, Sue Nelson, clambers into her time machine along with the pupils and staff from Meonstoke School in Hampshire’s Meon Valley and travels back to Saxon times.
 
The intrepid band of Saxons march from their school through the villages to visit Corhampton Church, built in 1020 AD, where they are given Saxon names for the day, are told stories from the beautiful wall paintings, study the sundial and measure the girth of the yew tree in the churchyard, which predates the church.

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In a field behind the church the children are told the tale of Beowulf, which they then re-enact, jostling for a chance to be part of the dragon or to slay Beowulf (played with great dash by Robin Isles from the Hampshire Cultural Trust).
 
The afternoon sessions are when the children have a chance to learn about archaeology, studying different artefacts with our Finds Supervisor, excavating in a sandpit, making jewellery or building the church from wooden blocks. The whole day is one of learning through fun and is overseen by Peter O’Sullivan of the Saxons in the Meon Valley project and Linda Coumbe, Headmistress.
 
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By Sue Nelson, Finds Supervisor
 
 

Trailwalker 2015 – they did it!

As feared at Checkpoint 9, the heavens finally opened not long after our Trailwalker team had left for the big climb up Castle Hill, which meant a very soggy finish to their challenge. However, they pulled together, supported each other, and crossed the line at Brighton Racecourse in a time of 27 hours and 36 minutes.
 
 
Hats off to Mark Williams (Team Leader London & SE), Dave Norcott (Geoarchaeology & Environmental Manager), Susan Clelland (Senior Fieldwork Project Officer) and Vi Pieterson (Heritage Consultant). Special mention too to their Support Team lead by Lisa McCaig (Project Officer), with Chris Brayne (Chief Executive), Andy Crockett (Regional Manager South) and Rob De’Athe (Project Manager). This is a fantastic achievement that all at Wessex Archaeology are very proud of – well under the target 30 hours and all four of the team finishing together (despite some considerable pain).
 

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With pledges still coming in, we’re looking likely to surpass £3k in fund-raising. This will be double the original target, helped enormously not only by friends and family, but also by advance sponsorship from Opti-Cal Survey, Thomson Ecology and Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), as well as fantastic support from Waitrose for essential provisions during the challenge – thanks everyone for your immense support!
 
Now, long hot baths and soft comfy beds beckon!
 
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!
 
 

Trailwalker - the home strait

Checkpoint 9 and dawn breaks cold, grey and slightly damp. A pink glow to the east tells us the sun is about to rise, but spots on the windscreen also herald the rain that is forecast. Checkpoint 8 to 9 is the longest stretch of Trailwalker and we wait for our team, Mark, Dave, Vi and Susan, all now walking through the pain barrier. For Operation Nightingale and Project Florence, we are privileged to work with service men and women, all heroes and do what little we can to help their rehabilitation process.
The Team Wessex Support Crew have been fortunate to work with our own Trailwalker heroes, we are all so very proud of them. When they come limping through the checkpoint, there'll still be 10km to go - they'll make it!
 
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By Andrew Crockett, Regional Manager South
 
 
 

Trailwalker - blazing a trail!

 
Checkpoint 3 and our Trailwalkers are ploughing on at an impressive pace, with the first 30k knocked off in just 6 hours. The Gurkhas had everything impeccably well-organised from the free breakfast at the start, to the stirring sound of the Gurkha pipers blasting out Scotland the Brave as our team set off bang on 7am. Next stop will be Checkpoint 4, about 40km along the route, which will be about 3pm - getting close to halfway now!! Sponsorship continues to climb, and we're just short of £2.5k now, so anything spare will be very welcome indeed https://www.justgiving.com/Wessex-Archaeology/
 
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By Andrew Crockett, Regional Manager South

Trailwalker 2015, there's no going back...

So, the trucks were loaded in Rochester and Salisbury, and our intrepid band of Trailwalkers Mark, Dave, Susan and Vi, supported by our Chief Executive Chris alongside Lisa, Rob and Andy, have rendezvoused at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park start point and registered, alarmingly filling in next of kin forms. They then enjoyed an excellent complimentary carb-loading pasta tea courtesy of the Gurkhas. The organisation is second to none, even in some atrocious weather, but we are reassured the weather will be much improved for the team’s 7am start (ouch!) today. Sponsorship continues to flood in, with nearly £2.5k raised so far. This includes some fantastic generosity from, amongst many others, Opti-cal Survey Equipment, our strategic partners Thomson Ecology and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC). Always room for a bit more sponsorship though…
 
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By Andrew Crockett, Regional Manager South
 
 

Trust us with the Thames’ Heritage

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The Garden Bridge Trust has a simple aim – to give Londoners and visitors to London a green space thriving on a bridge crossing the River Thames. To do this, the Trust will need to build supports and other structures into the riverbed, a riverbed that has seen thousands of years of history, and move HQS Wellington, Britain’s last surviving member of the Grimsby Class of sloops which served in World War Two. HQS Wellington is currently moored where the bridge will make landfall on the north side of the river.
 
In July 2015 Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine dive team mobilised to support the project. As with any development in England, on land or in the water, the impact of the proposed development on the heritage of the site was carefully considered in the planning stages. 
 
The site where HQS Wellington is moored used to hold a Victorian coffer dam, built c. 1870 some 5 metres from the current embankment wall. The coffer dam held back the water during construction of part of the embankment. Whilst the top of the Victorian dam has long since been removed, the base may still lie in the murky water or muddy bed of the Thames. Our divers were supported by the Port of London Authority dive team, who we have worked with many times ahead of development in the Thames and its estuary, to find out.
 

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As the project continues, Wessex Archaeology will continue to support the development, and the Garden Bridge Trust, in this bold and innovative project to add a touch of greenery to the cityscape of one of England’s oldest and most vibrant cities.
 
 
 

Salisbury, Sun and Sensational Archaeology

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Last weekend The Salisbury Museum came alive for the 25th Festival of Archaeology with re-enactors, archaeologists and thousands of visitors getting hands-on with heritage. Some of the biggest names in British archaeology gave talks in the marquee; archers loosed arrows in the gardens; the air rang with the sound of prehistoric musicians; dancers danced and dyers dyed (and spun, and weaved!); and celebrity archaeologist (and all round nice guy) Phil Harding kept rapt audiences engaged with the art of flint knapping.
 
Our team on the Wessex Archaeology stand were getting down and digging – helping young people learn about our past, and keeping the grown-ups busy with our Coastal & Marine handling collection.
 

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So thank you to The Salisbury Museum for hosting the biggest and boldest Festival yet, and thank you to everyone who visited us to make it a success.
 

Four Days to the Festival

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That’s right – there are only four days until we join The Salisbury Museum and friends for our annual Festival of Archaeology celebration. 
 
This Saturday and Sunday Wessex Archaeology will be at Salisbury Museum. Come and join us to see some of the finds our Coastal & Marine team have investigated, dig deep in our mini digs to complete our Collection Countdown challenge, and meet our engaging staff who are happy to answer all of the questions that you never knew you had about commercial archaeology.
 
Did we mention it’s entirely free?
 
The Museum is open from 10am Saturday 18 July and 11am Sunday 19 July 2015.
There will be a whole range of talks and events taking place.
Find out more here: http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/events/1674
 
 

Iona II Dive Trail Shortlisted for Award

2481 Divers study the information booklets

Historic England and Wessex Archaeology are pleased to announce that the Iona II Dive Trail has been shortlisted for an Association for Heritage Interpretation (AHI) 2015 Discover Heritage Award in the Interpretation for a Target Audience category. The shortlist nomination adds to the growing recognition of Historic England's diver trails. In May 2015 UNESCO recognised the five trails as international examples of best practice for public access.
  
The Iona II Dive Trail was created, in conjunction with the diving community, to improve diver engagement with protected wrecks and to enable responsible licensed access to the wreck. The trail consists of a range of themed underwater guides to entice divers of varied interests to explore the wreck and learn more about its diverse history.  A self-sustaining monitoring scheme also allows divers to actively participate in the ongoing preservation of the wreck. By sharing images and video footage of the wreck in an online forum, changes to the wreck site can be tracked over time which is useful for Historic England’s management of the site. Non-divers can experience the wreck of the Confederate gunrunner Iona II through themed booklets and a detailed website. The Iona II Dive Trail was launched at the beginning of summer 2014 and has already proved popular with divers.
 

2480 Wreck plan with monitoring points, by Wessex Archaeology

Wessex Archaeology created the dive trail on behalf of Historic England with Appledore Sub Aqua Club, Bristol Channel Divers, Ilfracombe and North Devon Sub Aqua Club, Potters Bar Sub Aqua Club and Severnside Sub Aqua Club. It is an honour for the Iona II Dive Trail to be shortlisted for an AHI 2015 Discover Heritage Award which is a testament to the collaborative team that created this unique interpretation project. 
 
Winners will be announced at the Gala Dinner on 21 October at the AHI conference The Past, Present and Future of Interpretation.
 
You can find out more about the Iona II dive trail at: http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/lundyisland/iona-ii-dive-trail/
 
 
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