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The Bromham / Rowdefield Project 2017

This was the fourth of five seasons of the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group’s project at Mother Anthony’s Well near Devizes, led jointly by Phil Andrews and Jan Dando, with geophysical support from Dave Sabin and Kerry Donaldson of Archaeological Surveys Ltd. It has proved a very successful programme of evaluation/excavation, following earlier geophysical survey and fieldwalking, on an intriguing but poorly understood site focused around a spring at the foot of Roundway Hill.
A summary of the previous seasons’ results was reported in the last Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, with discoveries including a pair of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age oval enclosures – one containing a pit with a significant assemblage of Grooved Ware, animal bone and worked flint, a Middle Bronze Age D-shaped enclosure and two Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age enclosures. The extensive Romano-British remains spanned the late 1st−4th century and comprised a probable farmstead which lay close to the spring and around a long-lived trackway. Although few building remains were identified, there was a sequence of enclosures, several well preserved crop dryers and a midden.
3816 Romano-British double crop dryer (photograph ©Mike McQueen)
In 2017 part of an Early Iron Age roundhouse and a pit were recorded in one of the late prehistoric enclosures, as well as the remains of a further Romano-British building with stone footings that had been used as a smithy. However, the highlight was the discovery of a probable Roman water shrine, its location indicated by a strong geophysical anomaly. This was a 2 m deep, oval, stone-lined structure with an outlet to the stream to the south-east. Lined with opus signinum and roofed with stone tiles, it appears to have been constructed around a spring – the original Mother Anthony’s Well! This may not have been the only structure of interest in the vicinity, for an L-shaped trench containing large, closely-spaced postholes and some painted wall plaster hints at the presence of another, possibly related building. We clearly have something more than a simple farmstead next to the spring, the only one in the area which – in living memory – has never been known to dry up.
3817 Romano-British water shrine (photograph ©Mike McQueen)
We will return in 2018 to further unravel the complex history of this important site, and then in 2019 get together to analyse and prepare the results for publication.

Turkey – Not Just for Christmas!


Recent excavations at the Fruit and Vegetable Market in the historic core of Southampton revealed a cluster of intercutting pits associated with a medieval and later property boundary. One of the pits contained the femur from a turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and dates to the 17th century. Turkey bones are very like those of chicken, simply much larger as the photo demonstrates.  
They originate from North America and were first imported to parts of Europe during the early 16th century, with the earliest bone finds from England dating to the mid-16th century. Their rarity meant that they were initially consumed by the rich, but once they became more widely available, due to the establishment of breeding populations in Britain, their popularity spread and by 1585 they first start appearing on the Christmas menu in Britain. The turkey bone from the Southampton pit dates to the time when these birds started to become a more established part of the Christmas food traditions we know today. 

A Year in Publications

At this time of year our thoughts turn to achievements over the last 12 months − we have published two occasional papers (Steart Point and Queen Mary’s Hospital, Carshalton); one popular booklet (East Kent Access Road); 18 journal articles (including the nationally significant Late Upper Palaeolithic remains from Kingsmead Quarry, Horton in Antiquity), and one contribution to a monograph for the Geological Society. Fieldwork summaries have been published in 26 local, regional and national journals, and we have used social media to disseminate our publication news. In conjunction with Historic England we produced We die like Brothers (by John Gribble and Graham Scott) which tells the moving story of the loss of the SS Mendi − a First World War troop ship carrying 802 men of the South African Native Labour Corps – in February 1917. 
In July we worked with Oxbow Books during the Festival of Archaeology to promote Wessex Archaeology publications. Looking forward to 2018 a number of publications are being prepared and typeset including Prehistoric Ebbsfleet, the final volume in the HS1 series, MOD Durrington, Beanacre, and Barrow Clump. Numerous articles have been submitted to journals which will appear throughout 2018 and beyond.
Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to these publications – the excavators, specialists, writers, illustrators, editors and typesetters, and project managers without whom we couldn’t produce as many quality publications.
Check out our publications here.  

A Celebration of Archaeological Illustration

We are sorry to say goodbye to Liz James who retires on 21 December after over 34 years as an illustrator at our Salisbury Office. In that time Liz has helped to train just about every illustrator we’ve employed in aspects of finds illustration – and indeed she has trained and mentored some of our staff from scratch. We really want to thank Liz for her huge contribution to Wessex Archaeology, for the skills she has helped us to hone and for the many thousands of report graphics that she has prepared. 
Her contribution to our publications has been quite outstanding. She is listed as a major contributor in a large proportion of our in-house monographs, from the first to the most recent, and goodness knows how many journal articles she has illustrated – there are too many to list. Liz is also well known for her artist’s impressions and reconstructions.
On Friday 8 December we had a small celebration of Illustration at Wessex, with displays of some of the work we undertake, many of which are by Liz. There was also some cake! The celebration was extended to our regional offices to which examples of the posters and illustrations were distributed in order to share the incredible skills of the graphics team – and of course more cake.
Warmest wishes to Liz for the future from all of us.


Between the 4 and 5 December maritime archaeologists Isger Vico Sommer and Graham Scott from Wessex Archaeology were invited to present at the first Tecnoarqua conference held at the ARQUA, National Museum of underwater archaeology in Cartagena Spain. The conference was organised by the ARQUA, the ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and a spin-off from the University of Malaga – ‘Nerea Archaeology’.


The conference was opened by General Director of Fine Arts of the Ministry of Culture, Luis Lafuente in an address to archaeologists to value the scientific approach to the submerged cultural heritage. The topics presented included the excavation of the frigate Mercedes at over 1000 m depth; latest advances of remotely operated vehicles and autonomously operated vehicles by Könsberg, the excavation and extraction of the Jissel Cog; advancements of underwater photogrammetry and computer applications in archaeology. 
Graham Scott and Isger Vico Sommer presented a review of the practical application of technology to maritime archaeology in the UK, which was received very well by an interested audience made up of members of the Spanish navy, members of the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), government officials, archaeologists, business leaders in the maritime industry and journalists. 
It was an honour to be invited to present at the conference and we hope that we will be present and able to contribute to the next Tecnoarqua!

Season's Greetings

Season’s Greetings from Wessex Archaeology. This year’s animation has been designed by our illustrator based in the Sheffield office, Ian Atkins.
With sustainability at the core of our company ethos, instead of sending traditional Christmas cards this year, we are making a donation to the following charities:

New arrival, back from the south-west


Having moved from Nottingham to join the lovely team at Wessex West, just seven months previously, last week I found myself once more a resident or Nottinghamshire and commuting into Sheffield for my first day as a member of Wessex North
Prior to joining Wessex in April 2017, I worked for a number of archaeological field units across the Midlands as well as undertaking research at the University of Leicester in collaboration with the British Museum. I am passionate about ensuring that adequate consultation within the planning process ensures the protection of our heritage resource, both within the UK and abroad. I have long standing research interests relating to the Nile valley, and continue to work in the region, currently collaborating with Dr Kathryn Howley at Cambridge University on Egypt Exploration Society funded excavations at Sanam temple, near Karima, in northern Sudan. 
Here at Wessex North, I will be continuing my role as a Senior Heritage Consultant, whilst also taking on responsibility for implementing future community and outreach projects from this office. I’m looking forward to using my knowledge of the Midlands and Yorkshire, working within our Heritage team, to provide high quality consultancy to our clients across the region. 

Back to Barrow Clump with Breaking Ground Heritage / Operation Nightingale

3802 Photography © Harvey Mills
After a gap of three years we returned once more to Barrow Clump, again with the support of Defence Infrastructure Organisation, but this time in mid-Winter rather than mid-Summer! The reason, as before, was further badger damage to Anglo-Saxon graves, in particular those inaccessible (to us) beneath the roots of mature beech trees. Would 2017 live up to the excitement of 2012−14 … and what would it be like for people camping on site during a particularly cold snap at the end of November?
For the first few days we sieved badger spoil – not exciting but necessary − recovering disarticulated human bone as well as a Saxon knife. We then brought in a machine and opened a small area and two evaluation trenches beyond the trees and outside the scheduled area. At first it looked like we might be going home early, but a rapid trowel of the chalk revealed four graves in the excavation area and three more in one of the evaluation trenches, helping define the known extent of the cemetery.
3804 Adult male burial with pot. Photography © Harvey Mills

3807 Photography © Harvey Mills

The seven graves contained two adults and five infants/juveniles – one of the latter with a brooch and another with a small pot. A female adult was buried with a pair of copper alloy disc brooches, tweezers, pin and a perforated Roman coin, along with glass and amber beads. However, it was the adult male that stole the show this time – there was a well preserved spearhead, buckle and knife, but the undoubted star find was a beautifully decorated pot in exceptional condition (pictured right), the only such vessel from Barrow Clump and of a type rare in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in Wiltshire.
It was all over too quickly … another success for Breaking Ground Heritage / Operation Nightingale, not only for the archaeological results but also − and just as important − in bringing together friends from earlier years at the Clump with new participants, all sustained by the camp fire and Dickie Bennett’s catering skills – never have hot dogs tasted so good! So, thank-you everyone who took part, those who provided invaluable support in various ways, and others who brought timely gifts of home-made cakes, warm mince pies and firewood. An excellent result that certainly did live up to the excitement of earlier years – though Winter camping was voted a distant second to Summer camping!

‘Nets, Wrecks and Artefacts’ Exhibition at Littlehampton Museum

In January 2018, a display of material reported through the Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD) will be opening at Littlehampton Museum. FIPAD has been successfully operating for several years, encouraging the reporting of archaeological material by the fishing community, with some significant and interesting finds reported by the Sussex fishing fleet. 
The exhibition will run from Saturday 6 January to Friday 2 March 2018, in this fascinating museum owned and run by Littlehampton Town Council; it is also free to visit, making it part of a fantastic day out in the town. The exhibition will show the contributions the Sussex fishing fleet are making to our shared heritage through the material they accidently encounter and recover in their day to day fishing operations. The display will be a mixture of display posters, artefacts, and a video montage of material found. Items forming part of the exhibition will include cannons, a lead ingot, an unusual anchor, pottery and glassware, along with many more unusual and fascinating finds to interest all the family.


Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and managed by Wessex Archaeology, FIPAD has helped to increase the reporting of archaeological finds in Sussex through the Historic Environment Fisheries Liaison Officer and the support of the Sussex fishing community and the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA).

Investigating Aurochs


Ewan Chipping a PhD student at The University of York visited Wessex Archaeology as part of his research. Ewan is researching aurochs and cattle in the UK looking at skull shape changes over time in relation to evolution and ecology. He visited Wessex to meet with Senior Zooarchaeologist Lorrain Higbee, so that he could gain access to our animal bone collection which includes an aurochs horn and cranium.
The research topic came about due to Ewan’s interest in cattle, he noticed how the animal have a clear connection to the human past and views the animal as ‘integral and entwinned in the human story’. Though he is not from a farming background he does originate from Norfolk, where he grew up in an agricultural landscape.
Availability of aurochs skulls for study has been surprisingly good; Ewan has had double the number he initially thought he would have access to. He estimates by the end of his research he will have recorded between 30−40 skulls. Another positive for Ewan has been the variation in skulls both spatially and temporally, which will allow him greater analysis. One problem he has faced though is that many of the skulls are unstratified which makes absolute dating harder, however often they can still be dated to broad periods such as the Holocene or Pleistocene.
Ewan is using non-destructive recording methods called geometric morphometrics and finite element analysis, both require surface scans/3D models of the skulls to run the analysis. To create the 3D models he is using several methods including photogrammetry and surface scanning. The recording methods measure absolute shape changes and stress/strain in bones when moving. It is hoped this research will establish a new line of zooarchaeological inquiry able to assess complex variation in animals through the scientific methods he is using that are often elusive. Ewan gained knowledge of these recording methods through his lecturer Dr Phil Cox, and is based within the Hull York Medical School at York so has had exposure to other disciplines which are already using this technology.


Ewan’s PHD is a great example of the ever-changing research methods in archaeology and the importance of maintaining reference collections and archival material for future study, as a new method is often just around the corner.
Ewan Chipping’s PhD is likely to be completed within the next couple of years, so keep an eye out for his research.
To discover more about aurochsen take a look at our information page.
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