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The Coastal & Marine team often encounter Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) in their day-to-day work from researching projectiles reported through the Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol, to diving on minelaying U-boats. To help develop our knowledge of these potentially hazardous historical artefacts and to maintain our health & safety standards, we recently held a UXO Identification refresher workshop. Dave Welsh of Ramora UK led the training day and shared his wealth of knowledge and experience gathered from years working as a Navy Clearance diver and then establishing the explosive ordnance disposal company in 2005.
Our training started off with Dave dispelling many common misconceptions about underwater UXO, such as – ‘bombs aren’t dangerous after they’ve been underwater for 60 years’ – yes they can be! We then learnt how to identify if a UXO is: Inert (contains no explosives), Blind (armed, but undetonated) or Live (not yet armed and potentially dangerous). It is very important to be able to assess the state of the UXO as it effects whether you can examine the UXO very carefully or give it a wide berth and leave it to the experts. Dave then gave us a crash course in the variety of bombs, mines, torpedoes, mortars, missiles, rockets, shells, bullets and grenades we might encounter during our marine archaeology work and how to identify them.
We finished off the day with a practical session of ‘identify that UXO’. There was great competition between the groups to successfully identify each of the 10 items which ranged from cannon balls, a 4in shell, and a torpedo arming device!
With the training over, we are now armed (sorry!) with the knowledge to deal with any UXO we encounter in our marine archaeology work, including knowing when to leave it alone and call in Dave and the experts!
I found myself thinking this morning as I struggled to get out of bed, having pulled a muscle in my leg, just quite how I had managed to get myself into this. Yes, it’s a wonderful cause and a great opportunity to walk across a part of the country that I have never before visited. But really – what on earth was I thinking?
It is the morning after our second training walk. As a team that is based in Sheffield we are fortunate to be extremely close to the wonderful Peak District. As many of you will know it is home to a vast array of different geographical challenges. You can go for a gentle stroll or climb a big hill. Or do both. Several times. Like we did yesterday. It can be a challenging environment to walk across – both physically and mentally – no one wants to walk up one big hill only to find another waiting for you at the top. It does however provide a perfect training environment for the event we will be taking part in just over a month’s time.
Having completed an initial 10 mile hike up through Padley Gorge, Carls Wark, Burbage and Limb Brook last month we decided that for our next training day we would attempt to double our distance and go for a 20 mile round walk.
This time round we were joined by Alex Grassam, also from the Sheffield Office, who is participating in the event in another Wessex Team. Alex found a circular route around Chatsworth taking in Froggatt, Curbar, Beeley, the Chatsworth Estate, Baslow and Calver. We set off at 8:30 from Grindleford Station heading clockwise towards Froggatt Edge.
The weather wasn’t quite as sunny as it was during our first training walk but given how hot it had been during the week it was nice to have some cloud cover and a bit of a breeze. Once we were up on Froggatt Edge the views were amazing and we took the opportunity to take some group photos.
As soon as we hit The Chatsworth Estate the weather started to turn against us. It got very wet very fast. This put neither us nor the dog owners who were participating in the Kennel Club Gun Dog Training Event off and our walk along this top part of the estate was frequented by the sound of gunfire. Every bang was responded with cries of ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’.
The rain had made our trip back down the hill very difficult. We got slightly lost heading into a wooded area which meant walking down steep slopes with exposed tree roots which had become very slippery due to the falling rain. We had a few scares, all members of the team slipped at some point – ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic’!
Our biggest slip came when I was at the front and Lincoln fell behind me and started rolling downhill. Now, I have bad knees. I used to play rugby until recently after I found out that the ligaments in my legs are like rubber bands and don’t actually hold my knees together properly. I have also ruptured knee ligaments and dislocated my kneecap whilst playing rugby. This medical history doesn’t make my career choice as an archaeologist seem like a particularly sensible one as I now spend quite a bit of time on my knees trowelling. Being also approximately half-way along the route my knees were also getting ready for a short break from walking. In summary this meant that Lincoln was rolling down the hill faster than I could run.
I don’t know how many of you will have seen the latest Star Wars movie but there is a scene where Harrison Ford’s character, Han Solo, has to run away from a large rolling alien in a scene not too dissimilar to his famous temple escape in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark where he activates a trap is chased by a boulder (something all archaeologists dream to do at some point in their careers). There is a 34 year difference between the two films and without meaning any offence, in the latest Star Wars, Harrison Ford does run like a man in his seventies. My short run away from my rolling colleague was quite similar and up until I ran into the tree I was doing quite well and Lincoln stopped rolling just behind me.
By the time we had managed to get ourselves back on track we had added about an extra mile onto our walk so we decided to cut out part of the original walk and take a slight shortcut which would keep us within our initial 20 mile target.
Our return leg brought us through the Chatsworth Estate along the river close to the house itself. Somehow Chris managed to catch his foot on a gate and started to struggle. I wanted to leave him behind but sadly my other team mates thought it would be more in keeping with team spirit if we motivated him to continue. So I said ‘We’ll leave you behind if you don’t continue’ and offered to see if I could borrow a gun from the participants of the gun dog training if he thought it would be needed – which worked wonders.
After we had passed through Chatsworth our pace had dropped slightly and we all had some part or other that was starting to ache. Chris’ foot, Lincoln’s blisters, my hip – we had completed about 16 miles and we were feeling it. Although most of us do Geophysics as part of our job even surveying proved to be inadequate preparation for the endurance test of walking long distance over varying terrain. Out of our team I am the only one to have participated in any long distance walking before. I completed my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award in 2009 and qualified as an Assessor whilst at University, but even my experience pales in comparison to the challenge of the event itself.
Our return back to Grindleford took us through Baslow, Froggatt and Calver, but being in the valley bottom rather than hill top, the scenery wasn’t much to write home about.
When we finally arrived back at the car park we had been walking just over eight hours (we had a bit of a longer break in Beeley before starting our return leg) and it was just gone quarter past five. Lincoln had sprinted the last 150 m so he could sit down faster and I don’t think anyone talked to anyone else for a good five minutes whilst we caught our breath. I was surprised to find that I only had two small blisters and that my kneecaps had not slid down to my ankles. This was the first major test of our fitness and endurance – with the exception of small injuries sustained during the walk I think we passed. Things didn’t start to really hurt until we stopped and we had completed roughly 21 miles in less than nine hours including stoppages to check the map, walking up steep hills, sliding down slippery slopes and having a generous break time. We were roughly in line with our target time of 25–27 hours for the actual event. Even though we were suffering a little it wasn’t as though it could get any worse until after we completed Trailwalker. How wrong I was.
Monday morning I felt like my legs were made of wood, I couldn’t bend my right knee, I felt like I needed a hip replacement and my feet were on fire whenever I stood on them. I struggled to get in the car to drive to the office never mind climb the stairs once inside. Our Logistics Manager, who served in the Army, could not stop laughing and told us how his sympathy bag was empty. A taste of things to come perhaps?
I keep stretching the muscles in my leg in the hope that in a few hours I’ll be able to walk without looking like I’ve had an accident on my way to the bathroom. Does the pain put me off the event all together? Of course not. I know it’s going to be a lot worse on the day as well as after the event. Our second practice, injuries and all, has helped prepare us for just how bad it could potentially be. But if people are kind enough to sponsor us – even if it is just to laugh at our expense then it will be worth it. I go away on holiday at the end of this week so in all likelihood this may be our last practice – although we are hoping to do some training at night when I get back in order to get used to walking in the dark. I think our second practice has prepared us for the struggles that we will inevitably face when we start walking on the 23 July and despite everything I can’t wait to get started.
By Jack Laverick
Nathaniel Welsby (aka Nate) is from our Sheffield team, but is on secondment to the Salisbury office for three months training within the Geoarchaeology & Environmental team. The aim of the training is to teach Nate all our methods and processes in order that he can help run a new environmental processing set-up back in Sheffield on his return.
Nate had spent the previous five months excavating at Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey and on his arrival in Salisbury says he was flung straight into the thick it by the environmental team.
‘I’ve been kept busy with samples from Wylfa Newydd (seems I can't escape that site), getting mucky with waterlogged and clay samples, having a whale of a time processing skeletons from Tidworth and Bulford and even finding a Saxon blue glass bead’.
Nate recovered the glass bead (pictured) during processing of a soil sample taken from the skull cavity of one of the many 7th-8th century Saxon graves at the MOD site in Bulford.
‘From working with the geoarch and environment team I have learnt that samples need as much attention on site as in the processing shed, and intend to keep a close eye on sampling strategies on my return to Sheffield. I have learnt about the processes involved with sampling on a large scale and had the excitement of finding the unknown in the next sample bucket’.
Wessex Archaeology has entered three teams in this year’s Trailwalker challenge. The teams are all busy training for the epic event. Salisbury based manager Gareth Chaffey has been giving us some thoughts on why he is taking part.
‘Once I had signed up for Trailwalker I almost regretted it. I enjoy walking, but haven't done any for some time now. And I thought to myself that it can't be that hard. Can it?
I have been training when I can, mostly in the evenings and occasional weekends and only now I am beginning to truly understand the enormity of the task ahead. I recently undertook my biggest training walk from Salisbury back home, a gruelling 40km trek through the Hampshire countryside. And it was tough. A hot and sticky day (made all the harder by occasional erroneous map reading), but I got there. No blisters, a few aches and the dawning realisation that on the day I would have to effectively turn around and walk back to Salisbury, and then keep going for another 20km!
This has now become a personal challenge for me. Not getting as much exercise as I used to is making it harder but I will do it. I will do it because I will be walking with my friends and colleagues, and I will do it for the amazing charities of Oxfam and the Gurkha Trust. Together we can provide safe drinking water, training, schools and sustainable ways of living for those who need it most.
If you can give anything at all, please do'.
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.
This week (6/06/16–10/06/16) I have done work experience with Wessex Archaeology. The last five days have been filled with numerous activities from all over the different sections of archaeology; and not only have they given me a better idea of how in-depth archaeology is, they have also shown me how well linked to other professions being an archaeologist can be.
On the first day I was given a tour of the office, and immediately picked up on how important skills like teamwork and communication are in this career. Each section overlapped with the next, allowing them to continue, and expand their work until they had the full picture. Then, after lunch, I was introduced to Roberta and Damien, who work as the survey team, and make sure the correct recording equipment is available, and working, for each site. Roberta showed me how to use the GPS, and then we looked at AutoCAD and photogrammetry, both of which were amazing.
On the second day I had worked in the environmental section with Nicki in the morning, and I washed and filtered five different soil samples. I was covered in water, and mud, but learnt how different types of soil preserved artefacts and remains, and how even finds like microscopic snail shells could show them what the land was like. In the afternoon, I worked with Susan, who is the senior logistics officer. Her job is important as it allows all the sites to run smoothly. I was tasked with finding the dates for a three day first aid course, and for finding suitable accommodation for archaeologists on two sites. I never fully understood how much work goes into organising the sites, and the people working there.
On Wednesday I worked with the finds team, and the volunteer cleaning finds. The bulk of the artefacts I cleaned were Roman pottery, many pieces being black burnished ware which comes from around Poole. You could see the connection between some sherds, as they had the same pattern – a particularly common one being a lattice. There was also a lot of animal bones, and CBM, which is ceramic building material. My personal favourite was a curved handle, presumably from a tea cup, or teapot.
Day four bought me to my site visit, which was in the on the west side of Wiltshire. It was amazing to see how the sites work, and I got to see the specific conditions the finds from here had to be stored in. I spent the day helping the volunteers clean the finds, and was shown how different conditions affected, and marked the finds in different ways. Day four was probably my favourite day.
On my fifth, and final, day I spent the morning with the environmental team again, this time with Ines. She showed me how they used the floating parts of samples, called the flots, to enhance their knowledge of the landscape. We looked at barley, and wheat grains, and how you could identify cereals because they have an embryo cavity, which is a small dent on one side where the embryo sits. She also showed me the outside of a sloe stone, and compared it to one that hadn’t been affected by heat and time. Then, in the afternoon, I was working with the marine team, and started off by re-wrapping some of the marine finds with Tom. They were all eventually being sent to a museum for display. After that, I helped Maddy wrap a new wire around the ‘umbilical’ so that when the team went diving next week the people on the boat could have a live stream of what the diver was seeing. Finally, Peta showed me some more photogrammetry, and allowed me to have a go creating a model of a shell that had been dredged up. After loading up the photos, we were left with a digital 3D model of the sides of the shell.
I have really enjoyed my week here at Wessex, and it has opened my eyes to how busy archaeology is. There is so much to still discover, and it has been amazing to see that.
By Ella Regan
After learning about the Bulford excavation during the Introduction to Archaeology Day at the Salisbury Office, the students on Jon Egging Trust’s Blue Skies Programme were thrilled to get the chance to visit the site and meet the fieldwork team. They spent the day working in pairs, learning how to excavate small features, accurately plan to scale, and survey using a dumpy level. Some also got the chance to sieve spoil from the excavated features to see if they could find anything of interest. It was great to see how quickly they picked up the various skills and techniques, and how enthusiastically the teams functioned.
One student, Megan, spent some time in the afternoon interviewing her peers; from her journalistic skills it is clear that discovering finds was the highlight of many of the students’ day. When Shyla was asked what she liked about archaeology her response was "finding bones and flint”, and KC answered “I enjoyed sieving”. Isaac was surprised that "by just looking at mud you can find out a lot”, which was echoed by Devon, who expressed his surprise at finding a piece of prehistoric burnt flint. Some of the students excelled in identifying finds, using their knowledge gained in the previous session, and in particular from Phil Harding’s flint knapping demonstration.
The archaeology sessions have enabled the students to continue developing their work skills, offering them the chance to interact with new people in novel environments, and helping them to recognise their own strengths, as well as those of others.
They should all feel very proud of what they have achieved. Many thanks to all those involved!
Excavations at Collingbourne Ducis, Wiltshire revealed almost the full extent of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery first recorded in 1974, providing one of the largest samples of burial remains from Anglo-Saxon Wiltshire. The cemetery lies 200 m to the north-east of a broadly contemporaneous settlement on lower lying ground next to the River Bourne. The results have just been published in the latest Wessex Archaeology monograph.
The excavations, carried out in 2007, revealed 82 inhumation graves and four cremation graves, in addition to the 33 inhumation graves discovered in 1974. The cemetery was in use between the late 5th and 7th centuries, delineated to the east by a coombe for much of its duration. There was an apparent shift to the south and east in the 7th century, when the area east of the coombe was used.
Notable features included a four-post structure and a rare example of a ‘bed’ burial. The human bone assemblage provides a glimpse into the lives of those living on the western frontier of the Anglo-Saxon world, in the late 5th–7th century. The cemetery was probably used for several generations of the local community, although there are some indications that some individuals or groups originated outside the local area. General health was notably poorer than that of some contemporaneous rural populations, and there is some evidence for infections such as tuberculosis and leprosy.
Several burials were accompanied by weapons and a diversity of jewellery assemblages, though none exhibit a particularly impressive range of wealth. As virtually the entire cemetery appears to have been explored, reliable observations can be made about its establishment, layout and development. This is particularly significant for the 7th century, when the focus of burial shifted, and changes in mortuary strategy may have reflected changes to the structure of society and the emergence of large Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
To read more about the project follow this link.
To buy the monograph follow this link.
We are delighted to announce that Matt Williams has joined the ever expanding Wessex Archaeology team. Matt will be based at our new premises in Welshpool where he will take up the post of Business Manager, Wales. Matt is already well known to many of us at Wessex from his many appearances on Time Team, where his experimental archaeology cameos were always a treat – Matt’s role as a Navvy is a must see! Matt also presents Digging for Britain with Alice Roberts.
Prior to joining Wessex Matt was a director and manager with L-P Heritage for 14 years, which he helped expand from a small consultancy to a national fieldwork unit and also set up their Shrewsbury office. Matt’s other roles included leading on heritage consultancy and developing and managing the fieldwork team.
Matt will now focus his attention on developing WA Cymru and managing heritage, geophysics and fieldwork projects; Matt has already started work on projects in Anglesey, the Welsh borders and for HS2. We are all looking forward to working with Matt and seeing the Welsh office prosper.
31 May is the centenary of the Battle of Jutland in 1916 that took place in the southern North Sea during World War I. Wessex Archaeology surveyed and prepared a conservation management plan during 2014, of the HMS Caroline a light cruiser Royal Navy ship docked in Belfast harbour, which is the last vessel to survive the Battle.
The Conservation Management Plan was part of a successful HLF bid for £12 million to convert the ship and neighbouring pump house into a visitor centre, in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast and adjacent to the Thompson Dock where the Titanic was fitted out in 1912.
On 31 May a commemorative service will be held at the HMS Caroline during the day and in the evening there will be a dinner hosted by Captain John Rees OBE of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which Rosemary Thornber will be attending on behalf of Wessex Archaeology. Rosemary, originally from Belfast, completed the heritage survey of the ship, consultation, historic research as well as writing towards and compiling the CMP, while Dan Atkinson, Director of Coastal & Marine at Wessex Archaeology, coordinated the project and conducted the vessel survey, together with Graham Scott, Senior Archaeologist Coastal & Marine.
The visitor centre, which will open to the public on 1 June, is close to the award-winning Titanic visitor centre and increases the number of historic attractions of international significance in Belfast, as well as the complement of historic vessels curated by the NMRN.
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