- About Us
For the past seven months Wessex Archaeology has been working with Horizon Nuclear Power at Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey in advance of the construction of a new power station. Our work has comprised the excavation of over 1200 evaluation trenches across a 250ha site with a team of up to 50 archaeologists. The site is located on the northern limits of Anglesey, an area with a rich archaeological past, and the findings will add considerably to our understanding of Anglesey’s prehistoric and medieval history.
Our findings include Neolithic and Bronze Age features and the remains of field systems spanning a number of millennia. Further details on these features will be made available by Horizon Nuclear Power as the post excavation evaluation proceeds.
The work could not have been completed without the assistance of the team at Gwynedd Archaeological Planning Service and our partners from Irish Archaeological Consultancy and Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. The whole team have made a sterling effort, often working in atrocious weather conditions including three extratropical cyclones (otherwise known as Storms Clodagh, Desmond and Gertrude).
To learn more about our work with Horizon on the Wylfa Newydd project please click here
Recently a number of Wessex Archaeology staff took part in training organised by Breaking Ground Heritage’s Richard Bennett. The training was in Mental Health First Aid, with a focus upon the Armed Forces, Wessex Archaeology staff were invited onto the training due to our involvement with Operation Nightingale. Richard Harrington led the training, Richard is the Director of the charity Support Our Forces (Forces in the Community) so has vast experience of and passion for supporting ex-Service personnel. The training was hosted by Tedworth House and was given to a range of individuals. Having staff trained in Mental Health First Aid means that Wessex Archaeology can better support the people it works with.
Wessex Archaeology's Scottish Office has been involved in recreating two British wrecks using 3D printing. The two shipwrecks are of an 17th/18th century cannon wreck in Scotland and a large requisitioned WWI steamship in use as a floating hospital off the south coast of England. The use of 3D printing adds to the suite of existing 3D techniques such as virtual reality and digital reconstruction that archaeologists are increasingly using to share wreck sites with the public, and for carrying out analysis of the remains.
The first of the wrecks to be printed was the Drumbeg shipwreck. This enigmatic site is believed to be a late 17th or early 18th century wreck of northern European type. The wreck lies at a depth of 12 metres in Eddrachillis Bay in Sutherland and consists of three cannon, two anchors and partial hull remains preserved on and below the seabed. The wreck was discovered and reported by local residents Ewen Mackay and Michael Errington while scallop diving (BBC link March 2013). Archaeologists are still working to confirm the identity of the wreck but one intriguing possibility is that it is the Crowned Raven, a Dutch trading vessel known to have been lost in the bay the winter of 1690/1691 during passage from the Baltic Sea to Portugal with a cargo of timbers and hemp. The wreck has had undergone several surveys since 2012 including sonar, magnetometer and photogrammetry, data from these combined data sets was used to prepare model ready for 3D printing. The wreck site has been designated by Historic Environment Scotland as a Historic Marine Protected Area (HMPA).
The second and much larger site was 3D printed using multibeam sonar data. Sonar techniques cannot capture the colour details but are suitable for recording the shape of the wreck in 3D over a wide area. The wreck was the HMHS Anglia – a 100 m (329 feet) long steamship built in Dumbarton in 1900 and lost off Folkestone just over 100 years ago in 1915 during WWI. At the time of sinking the ship was in use as a hospital returning wounded veterans to the UK. Over 164 people lost their lives after the ship struck a mine on its return journey from Calais to Dover. A high resolution 3D sonar survey of the site was carried out by Wessex Archaeology on behalf of Historic England in 2014 (BBC link October 2014). Using 3D printing the archaeologists have been able to add colours based on depth to the 3D print and also overlay historical information on the print such as an illustration of the ship sinking, to assist in the interpretation of the model.
Archaeologist John McCarthy, who undertook the 3D modelling of the sites, said:
"It’s been a fascinating process to transform the light captured in the photographs and the sound captured by the sonar sensors back into solid objects through the 3D printing process. We are very excited about the potential for this technology to help us to show the wider community what it’s like to visit the site without having to learn to dive or even get your feet wet! We hope that future surveys by our team can result in more models which can be used in local and national museum displays and at talks and open days".
To read more about this story on the BBC follow this link 24 May 2016
By Karen Nichols, Graphics Manager
Following last year’s epic success in the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge Wessex Archaeology are entering three teams in this year’s Trailwalker challenge. This year the teams come from across Wessex Archaeology’s offices with staff members from Salisbury, Sheffield and the Maidstone offices taking part.
In true archaeological fashion the teams are named after the types of fill recorded in features! Team Primary is made up by four tough Sheffield lads – Chris Hirst, Matt Tooke, Lincoln Spencer and Jack Laverick; Secondary, comprising Salisbury based managers Gareth Chaffey and Simon Cleggett with Alex Grassam (Sheffield) and Phoebe Olsen (Salisbury) and Tertiary, Dave Norcott (Salisbury) bravely takes the challenge on again with Rachel Williams (Salisbury), Andy Callen (Salisbury) and Will Santamaria (Maidstone).
Collectively they are the Wessex Walkers the link below will take you to their Just Giving page where they are trying to raise £4200 for Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
By Rachel Williams, Archaeologist (Salisbury Office)
In Spring 2016, the Salisbury office advertised for full time post-excavation assistants to help process the finds from several excavations, including the exciting Neolithic and Anglo-Saxon remains from Bulford, Wiltshire. A team of four was chosen – Rob Wheeldon, Jen Whitby, Amy Hall and Sophie Clarke. Here is a little more about them, and how they have been getting on.
My academic background is in history and working with heritage organisations in the north east, and for me, archaeology is a relatively recent and exciting change in career direction. I volunteered with the finds department at Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield office last summer, before taking up the offer of a temporary contract there as a finds technician.
I feel very privileged to have been offered a similar role at the Salisbury office. I’d worked with human remains before, processing finds from a Victorian cemetery in Halifax. Whilst we know a lot about the Victorians, how they lived and how they died, we know comparatively little about the Anglo-Saxons, which makes the Bulford project really exciting to be part of. What I have enjoyed most is listening to the various interpretations of the cemetery and grave goods. As someone coming from a historical background it’s cool to feel I am on the cutting edge of current discoveries and research.
I am originally from Northamptonshire and got into archaeology after an archaeologist visited my primary school. I have a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology from the University of Wales, Lampeter, as well as a Masters in Archaeology from Oxford University. My interests are in Ancient Civilisations and I have a background of working with finds through years of volunteering as finds supervisor for my local community archaeology project, working behind the scenes at my local museum, and as a trainee for Cotswold Archaeology.
I feel very lucky joining Wessex Archaeology and have enjoyed my time so far. I have learned so much about archaeology in the South West, particularly from such a fantastic site as Bulford. This is the second opportunity I have had to handle human bone (previously a skeleton dating to the Bronze Age – Iron Age) but I was not prepared for the scale of the cemetery, despite warnings from the project manager, Simon Cleggett. It has been amazing to process the finds and to help rediscover the story of these people, such as the woman buried with the conch shell and work box, and the giant of a man buried with a spear. I have also enjoyed further developing my archive skills.
I look forward to processing the rest of the finds from Bulford; delving deeper in the past as far back as the Neolithic, and continuing to learn more about the archaeology and history of the area.
Whilst completing my archaeology degree at University of Bristol, I joined Wessex Archaeology as a weekly volunteer working in the Finds Department. This gave me the opportunity to discover an area of archaeology that I found truly fascinating and I was delighted when I was offered full-time employment. There is much to learn about the appropriate techniques for extracting artefacts from their earthly coatings and it usually calls for delicate handling and an eye for detail as they are prepared for x-ray, dating, interpretation, exhibiting and/or archive storage.
To be able to handle skilfully made objects from the past has been inspiring. The recent surprising discovery of a large Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Bulford, has resulted in an influx of human skeletons that need to be processed. We discuss how age may be determined through analysing the different bones and looking at how disease or accidents may have altered their appearance. This and associated artefacts tell us about the life and death of these people.
My interest in archaeology began with an FdSc, progressing to BSc degree level at Plymouth University. I regularly participated in excavations and voluntary projects such as the Bronze Age Boat located in Falmouth, Cornwall. I then went on to do my Master’s degree at Durham University where I studied Museums and Artefacts. I learned more about the aftercare and treatment of objects after excavation, preservation techniques, politics, debates, repatriation and archaeological legislation. In 2014 I became a conservator for Longleat House. I monitored the environment and performed integrated pest management, cataloguing, archiving and participated in the overall care of the furniture and artefacts.
Everyday I find myself considering the finds from the Bulford site in a new way. So far, I have been archiving, washing and marking human bones and their associated grave goods, and I have even spotted signs of injury and disease.
As a team we regularly share our collective knowledge and we have helped each other to improve our skills, as we steadily work through our tasks.
Simon regularly discusses his different theories about the Bulford site with us, which really makes us feel involved and helps us understand the importance of what we do in order for the next stage to continue. We find that the communication between departments has made the significance of the site really strong to us; and as a result we thoroughly look forward to continuing our employment here.
Most of our training has been provided by finds supervisors, Sue (Nelson) and Erica (Macey-Bracken). We have also benefitted from talking to individual specialists such as Kirsten (Egging Dinwiddy) and Jackie (McKinley) on the human bone, and Elina (Brook), Rachael (Seager Smith) and Grace (Jones) on the pottery and other finds, and Lorrain (Higbee) about the animal bone. This has made us feel so much more involved in the team and we really feel like we are now part of Wessex Archaeology. We have been introduced to different departments so we can understand how the archaeology goes from excavation to publication. We are actively developing the necessary skills to document the finds prior to further analysis. This has also provided us with the opportunity to see the complexity and variety of archive requirements museums have before any archive deposition can take place.
Over the next few months we are expecting to develop and broaden our skills further, and work on similarly fascinating assemblages from other sites.
By Rob Wheeldon, Jen Whitby, Amy Hall and Sophie Clarke, Finds Assistants
To read more about the Anglo-Saxon Cemetery site at Bulford follow this link.
Teenagers completing their first level of the Jon Egging Trust’s Blue Skies Programme were recently treated to an Introduction to Archaeology Day at the Wessex Archaeology offices in Salisbury.
The day kicked off with an introduction to the concept of archaeology, and how and why we do it. An animated discussion, led by Project Manager Simon Cleggett, considered archaeological projects and teamwork.
Peta Knott and Maddie Fowler (Coastal & Marine) created an entertaining activity involving the young people kitting-up their friends in unwieldy diving gear – a task which needed a well-organised team!
Thanks to Alex Brown and the Geoarchaeology team, the students learnt how and why we gather environmental evidence (eg, seeds, pollen, snail shells) – and how it helps to paint a picture of past landscapes and environments; by viewing a sample through a microscope, they saw how amazing and varied pollen spores can be.
The finds activity with Sue Nelson and Erica Macey-Bracken allowed the students to see, handle and discuss the materials and objects used in the past, and contemplate how large tasks (such as digging a ditch) might have been achieved with the materials and technologies available. By stacking crates of artefacts from the earliest up to the most recent, the pupils were able to visualise how stratigraphy – one of the main principles of archaeology – works.
As archaeology is about people, a particularly tangible resource is their skeletal remains. Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy (Senior Osteoarchaeologist) talked about how we study human bone in order to find out about the health and lifestyles of past peoples. The students were fascinated to see how age, biological sex and various conditions affect the skeleton, and were helped to understand how essential ‘context’ is when interpreting any archaeological remains.
As always, Phil Harding’s session on flint knapping and tool use was enthralling. Sharpening a stake with a replica flint axe – attempted by most of the children – was one of the highlights of the day.
The day demonstrated the variety of ways in which archaeologists contribute to projects, and how each part of the team have valuable roles to play in order to achieve project and company aims. The Blue Skies Programme provides the students with credits towards a BTEC in Workskills, and the sessions at Wessex Archaeology help towards this.
We look forward to seeing the group at one of our excavations on Friday.
The Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group held its Spring meeting (Prehistoric Pottery: time for a change?) at Canterbury Christ Church University on Saturday 14 May. Chaired by Alistair Barclay and Emilie Sibbesson, the meeting focused on pottery chronology, one of the key themes of the Research Framework, and speakers included Neil Wilkin (British Museum), Barbara McNee (freelance specialist), Prof John Collis (Sheffield University) and Lisa Brown (Oxford Archaeology & University). Topics for the day included the chronology of Food Vessels, Bronze Age pottery from Thanet, constructing Iron Age chronologies and the re-dating of Danebury and its environs. In the afternoon a display of newly excavated material from sites in Kent allowed people to share their knowledge and expertise.
The meeting was also an opportunity to formally launch the PCRG 2016 Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group Research Framework: Agenda and Strategy (PCRG Occasional Paper 7). The document will be available to download from the PCRG website.
The document was designed and typeset for the PCRG by Ken Lymer and features images of a number of vessels from Wessex Archaeology sites.
Alistair Barclay PCRG chair
This week WA Coastal & Marine's John McCarthy and Isger Vico Sommer travelled from Edinburgh to a surprisingly sunny Sweden to participate, present and exchange ideas with national and international colleagues at the 2nd European Conference on Scientific Diving. It was hosted at the Sven Lovén centre (about 2 hours north of Gothenburg) by the University of Gothenburg in collaboration with Bohusläns Museum and Västra Götaland Regional Council. Some of the main topics included coastal research using scientific diving, new technologies and methods for scientific divers, research in cold waters using scientific diving and archaeological diving regulations!
WA presented the project SAMPHIRE which fitted very well to a theme of working with the public to gather scientific information often touched upon throughout the conference. We would like to thank all the participants and organisers for a great conference!
By Isger Vico Sommer, Archaeologist
(WA Coastal & Marine)
The Ten Tors Challenge (TTC) is a major event for youth teams taking place in May each year – 400 teams each of 6 teenagers take on hikes of 35, 45 or 55 miles (56, 72 or 88 km) over the difficult terrain of Dartmoor, visiting 10 nominated tors and check points in under two days. The teams must be self-sufficient, carrying all that they need to complete their route and stay out overnight.
The TTC is organised by the Army, specifically Headquarters 1st Artillery Brigade & South West, from its Moor Group Headquarters at Okehampton Camp. It is assisted by the Royal Navy (with manpower and helicopters), the Royal Air Force, the Dartmoor Rescue Group, the Police and British Red Cross: between them they oversee the participants and ensure that none comes to lasting harm.
In his ‘other’ job as a Reservist, Major Toby Gane (a Senior Project Manager at Wessex Archaeology’s Salisbury office) who works at Headquarters 1st Artillery Brigade & South West, supported the TTC by working over four days in the TTC Operations Room at Dartmoor Camp helping to co-ordinate military and civilian agency support to the event and teams. This included helping co-ordinate evacuations from the moor, some by helicopter, when required.
Chief Executive Chris Brayne says: ‘Wessex Archaeology is delighted to support the Ten Tors Challenge by releasing staff who are Reservists to assist with the set-up and running of this important event.’
Following on from the immense amount of interest and engagement from the fishing industry and the wider community during its pilot project, a new approach to the reporting of archaeological finds has been launched.
In 2015 following the successful pilot project of the Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was approached for funding to support and create the position of Historic Environment Fisheries Liaison Officer (HEFLO). Wessex Archaeology, with the support of the Sussex IFCA, was successful in their application to relaunch the FIPAD, and in February 2016 Alistair Byford-Bates was appointed to the HEFLO post.
As a permanent presence on the ground in Sussex the HEFLO will liaise with the fishing community at times that suit the ebb and flow of their daily operations. The HEFLO will also engage with the wider community to raise awareness of our shared maritime heritage and the role the fishing community have played in it.
For further information on this project or to report a find please visit: https://fipad.org/
By Alistair Byford-Bates, HEFLO