Wessex Archaeology’s human bone specialists – osteoarchaeologists Jacqueline McKinley and Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy – are hard at work this week putting together a new display for the head office in Salisbury.
The display introduces staff, volunteers, clients and other visitors to the scientific analysis of human remains. It consists of material unearthed by our teams in the field, including examples with many interesting pathological conditions, such as fractures, arthritis, and growths caused by prostate cancer. It also explains the methods for determining the age and sex of the individuals.
Our display cabinet provides a point of interest and learning within the office. The displays are changed every few months and usually feature a site that we have excavated, or a particular archaeological process.
By Laura Joyner
Wessex Archaeology has again been helping the RAF Museum’s efforts to conserve and display the unique Battle of Britain Dornier 17 wreck recovered from the Goodwin Sands last year. Working with French and British air crash recovery experts, and with the help of the French local authorities, volunteers from Wessex Archaeology and Belgian company ADEDE catalogued hundreds of parts recovered from a World War II Dornier 17 wreck site on the beach at Berck-sur-Mer, near Boulogne, as well as scouring the beach itself for further parts of the aircraft.
The wreckage is now being transported to the RAF Museum’s conservation facility at Cosford, where the Goodwins Dornier is being conserved. Many of the parts recovered from the beach at Berck are missing from the Goodwins Dornier, so they will contribute to what will eventually be a very impressive and important exhibition on the aircraft.
Historical images courtesy of ADEDE
These pictures show the Dornier on the beach at Berck in occupied France, shortly after it crashed. The soldiers milling around are probably part of the German garrison of this stretch of the coastline – Berck was part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’, a continuous line of formidable fortifications built on the French coast to oppose the expected Allied invasion. Also pictured is some of the wreckage laid out as it would have been arranged in the aircraft – you can clearly see the bomb bay doors.
By Graham Scott
This October, Alexandra Grassam, Senior Heritage Consultant at Wessex Archaeology and a volunteer Leader at the Pontefract Branch of the Young Archaeologists’ Club, attended a training weekend for all branch leaders held at the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site. The Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) was setup up over 40 years ago and is currently run by the Council for British Archaeology. There are currently 65 branches based across the UK providing regular practical sessions for young people aged between 8 and 17 who are interested in archaeology. Alexandra began volunteering as a leader with the Pontefract YAC, who are based at Pontefract Castle in West Yorkshire, in 2010 and along with her fellow volunteers provide monthly sessions aimed at teaching the members all about archaeology and heritage in a fun and readily accessible way.
The training weekends bring together the leaders from the various branches and this time the theme was ‘Industrial Treescapes in Ironbridge Gorge’. On the Saturday, participants took part in activities with an industrial theme devised and delivered by the Ironbridge YAC branch, which included making suspension bridges strong enough to run a toy train over. On the Saturday night, the leaders were treated to a torch light tour of the Iron Bridge, the world‘s first cast-iron bridge (built in 1779). Sunday morning saw the leaders take to the woods where they were introduced to the Archaeology of Woodlands resource pack. They then had the opportunity to undertake their own woodland survey, providing them with the chance to explore and identify further evidence for the industrial past which the Ironbridge Gorge is famous for.
The aim of the weekend was to provide an opportunity to get all the branch leaders together to share ideas for activities and their experiences as volunteers. All departed from Ironbridge with lots of interesting and exciting ideas for future sessions.
The Archaeology of Woodlands resource pack can be accessed from here: http://www.yac-uk.org/sites/www.yac-uk.org/files/node-files/Are_Trees_Archaeology_YAC_Resource_Pack_2014_lowres.pdf
By Alexandra Grassam
Gold beads found in a rare Beaker grave found during excavations at Kingsmead Quarry, Horton, Berkshire, have now been declared as Treasure by H.M. Coroner. The beads were discovered in 2011 in a small grave and may have formed part of a necklace. Other grave goods also found with the gold beads were a number of amber and jet/shale beads, a Beaker vessel and the poorly preserved bones of an adult, possibly a woman.
These items are more than 4000 years old and the gold beads are composed of more than 10% precious metal, and therefore considered as ‘Treasure’ under the terms of the Treasure Act 1996.
The Beaker burial is without close parallel in Britain. Each of the five ornaments comprises a strip of thin sheet gold rolled to form a tubular ‘bead’. Only small numbers of Beaker graves, both in Britain and continental Europe, contain gold ornaments and tubular beads of this sort are rare. Further examples are known in copper or bronze, but again they are far from common finds. The indications are that Kingsmead Quarry is an Early Beaker context making the ornaments some of the earliest goldwork from Britain.
Now declared as treasure, the gold objects will be inspected at the British Museum before returning to the Windsor & Royal Borough Museum for display.
The inquest was attended by Wessex Archaeology Project Manager Gareth Chaffey and CEMEX UK archaeological consultant Adrian Havercroft (The Guildhouse Consultancy).
By Gareth Chaffey
Whether you’re studying the Saxons, exploring Stone Age life or recreating Roman Britain we’re here to help with our period-themed loan boxes.
Each box features a range of real artefacts and replica materials and comes with a handy teacher’s guide. Current themes available include the Stone Age to Iron Age, Romans, Saxons, Medieval period and Victorian period.
Need some inspiration? Read about our Stone Age to Iron Age loan box’s recent outing to Fordingbridge Junior School.
Find out more about our loan boxes and how to hire them by contacting our Community & Education Officer.
By Laura Joyner
...to help monitor wrecks for the future
Wessex Archaeology has recently commenced a project for English Heritage to archive the Archaeological Diving Unit’s collection created from 1986 to 2003 while investigating wrecks in British waters.
In 1986, the Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) at the University of St Andrews, Scotland was awarded the government contract to investigate shipwrecks in need of legal protection within the 12-nautical mile limit of the United Kingdom coastline. For the next 17 years the dive team monitored changes, caused by both human and environmental influences, to wrecks designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 and surveyed undesignated wrecks to determine if they needed legal protection. During this process, a large archive of paper documents, video and cassette tapes, slides and photographs was created relating to the archaeological investigation of British shipwrecks.
When the contract was transferred to Wessex Archaeology in 2003, the ADU collection was divided up and appropriate sections of the archive were lodged with the relevant heritage agencies in England and other Home Countries for safe keeping. Recently, funding has been made available to catalogue the English component of this archive and make it more accessible to researchers. The plans, photographs and reports in this archive provide significant baseline information on the condition of wrecks investigated during the 1980s to early 2000s and can track any degradation due to human or environmental factors in recent times. The archive also provides a social history insight into the early development of marine archaeology in this country including the development and implementation of the Protection of Wrecks Act and the changing relationships between the government, archaeologists, recreational divers and other sea users.
Cataloguing of the 5373 items has started, with information about each archive item being added to the English Heritage archive database AMIE. Conversion into digital format of over three hundred video tapes of underwater investigations will be undertaken next. Once completed in 2015, the ADU archive will be available to researchers through English Heritage’s online catalogue with viewing of the archive items at their Engine House facility in Swindon.
By Peta Knott
Two members of staff from Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine have just returned from the biennial international maritime archaeology conference IKUWA V, held in Cartagena in Spain from the 15–19 October. The conference was held in the beautiful surrounds of the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Industrial on the Campus Muralla del Mar. John McCarthy and Andrew Roberts from our Edinburgh office travelled to Spain to present some of our exciting underwater photogrammetry and also the results of our west coast maritime community project SAMPHIRE to an international audience.
Both talks were very well-received and it was an excellent opportunity to compare what Wessex Archaeology has been doing with similar projects globally. English Heritage were also in attendance and gave a presentation on the knowledge gained in recent years from work on England´s Marine Aggregate Areas, including a spotlight on the results of work by Wessex Archaeology in Area 240. We were delighted to be able to announce the publication of an article in the Journal of Quaternary Science summarising the work undertaken between 2008 and 2013 and the extraordinary discoveries of submerged prehistoric material in the Southern North Sea.
By John McCarthy
Recently Dr Claire Mellett of British Geological Survey in Edinburgh hosted a project meeting for “Understanding submerged palaeo-environments in the southern North Sea: Pathways and timescales of hominin colonisation”. The project is funded by English Heritage through the National Heritage Protection Plan, and is a collaboration between Wessex Archaeology and the BGS. The meeting focused on the recent nearshore survey conducted by BGS off the coast of Howick, Northumberland. Bathymetric data and chirp sub-bottom data were acquired and evidence of bedrock channels tracing existing river channels offshore and potential relict coastlines can be seen in the data.
This new data combined with a resource assessment of existing onshore and offshore geological, geophysical, geotechnical and archaeological datasets aims to provide key baseline assessments of palaeolandscape potential between the Humber and Northumberland. The results of this project will facilitate further research, archaeological prospection and cultural heritage management.
The datasets produced will also be publically-available and contribute to the development of merged onshore and offshore bedrock geology mapping. Keep an eye on the blog for further news!
By Louise Tizzard.
Two new publications will be available in November – excavations along the A46 with our partners Cotswold Archaeology and industrial archaeology at Hoyle Street, Sheffield.
The A46 trunk road in Nottinghamshire has its origins as the Roman Fosse Way. Archaeological work ahead of road improvements between Newark and Widmerpool undertaken by Cotswold Wessex Archaeology, has shed light on both Roman and pre-Roman use of this land. A number of significant sites were revealed, including evidence for Late Upper Palaeolithic flintwork at Farndon Fields on the gravel terrace south of Newark. This nationally important site comprised scatters of debris left in situ by a flint-knapper of the Creswellian and Federmesser hunter-gather cultural traditions. At Stragglethorpe there was a ring-ditch with a number of inhumation burials of Beaker date. Iron Age and Roman settlement in the hinterland around the Roman small town of Margidunum near Bingham was also investigated. Further to the south-west near Saxondale, Roman roadside enclosures became the location of early Anglo-Saxon cremation burials and perhaps also a ‘tumulus’, as recorded by William Stukeley in 1722 in the middle of the Fosse Way.
Excavations in 2006–08 by ARCUS (Archaeological Research and Consultancy at the University of Sheffield), and now published by Wessex Archaeology, revealed a complex industrial site which sheds light on steelmaking and the conditions that workers lived and worked in. Historical research, building recording and archaeological excavation revealed the complex history of the site that in 1800 was still surrounded by fields on the town’s north-western edge, but which soon after was swallowed up by the steelworks, foundries and workers’ housing. Sheffield’s burgeoning population provided the workforce for the series of industrial premises – Roscoe Place Works, William Hoole’s Works (later Malinda Works), Hoyle Street Works, Progress Works, Titanic Works and Australian Works.
These industrial complexes were located among the cramped housing of the local working populations, and a number of cellars belonging to the back-to-back tenements and terraced houses were excavated, revealing evidence of possible cottage industry.
Available in November 2014, buy online from Oxbow Books
To learn more about our publications follow this link
Wessex Archaeology was invited by NMC Nomenca to present at a Lunch and Learn session for contractors working with Severn Trent Water on 15 October 2014. Alexandra Grassam’s (Senior Heritage Consultant) and Andrew Norton’s (Regional Manager, North) presentation ‘An Introduction to Archaeology’ provided a history of archaeology in the planning process and explained the range of archaeological and heritage services that Wessex Archaeology can offer. The event took place at Severn Trent Water’s offices in Derby and in particular focused on how our work applies to utility and linear schemes.