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Work Experience


3488 This was me cleaning the edge of a ditch

My name is Euan O’Neill and I decided to do my work experience at Wessex Archaeology in Sheffield. I am 15 and I have had an interest in the study of Archaeology for some time now because both my parents were involved in the subject and my dad and brother work in archaeology.
I didn’t know quite what I would expect in a working environment for the first time so I was eager to try it out. I contacted the company and was put in touch with Lucy Dawson, a project manager. She told me what I would be doing and all the requirements. We went through all the Health and Safety measures and I was given a basic two-week calendar with my working times on it. I was going to be out on site at Rossington for much of my period of work. I was interested to see what I would find waiting for me.
On my first day, I was taught how to clean, process and sort finds in the basement floor of the building. These finds consisted mainly of different types of bone and pottery. It was a slow process at first but I soon got better at it over the course of the day. At lunch time, I was fitted with my PPE gear so that I would be ready to go out on site the next day.
My first day on site. I woke up and had to get to the office for 7 am to get on a bus taking us to the site. The drive took about an hour but when I got there I got a general introduction, I learnt about what a cut, fill, and feature is, what I would be doing and how to do it. The other people on site were very helpful, giving me tips and highlighting confusing information but I got the gist of it after a short amount of time. Rossington is a Romano-British site but we were unsure on what date it was from and when it was active/used. I was asked to dig a marked posthole before moving onto a terminal. The posthole was easy enough because it was filled with soft clay, but the area where the terminal was located had been hardened because it was baked by the sun and was very difficult to mattock considering I had just started. I was taught how to fill out context forms as well as sketch my feature and record drawings and photographs. On my second day out on site, I got to watch a drone survey the area for a small amount of time but it was still really cool. I enjoyed this work however, I found it interesting and fun in some ways. I went out onto site for a third day and I also dug a ditch filled with some bones and the most pottery I had seen yet! I had to spend Friday in the office because one of my school teachers was sent to see how I was doing (every school student doing work experience is visited by a teacher).
We talked about the past week’s work and how later that afternoon I would be doing some environmental processing. At this point, I was happy with everything I had done so far and I couldn’t wait for my second week. I think that the best part of my first week was just being out on site; it was different than a usual day.
 By Euan O’Neill

Hollis Croft, Sheffield – the Cock Public House and the Mystery of a Medieval Coin

On 20 April 2017, an Edward I long cross silver penny was found during the excavation of the former site of the Cock, a 19th-century public house, just off Hollis Croft, Sheffield. The penny is remarkable, not just with regards to its age and relative scarcity but also to the context in which it was found. 
Wessex Archaeology Sheffield has been carrying out excavations at the Hollis Croft site ahead of a major urban residential development. This work has targeted several potentially interesting areas; these include examples of back-to-back housing typical of 18th-century urban development in Sheffield and two public houses, the Cock and the Orange Branch, which can both be seen clearly on several 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps. Sheffield has been inhabited since at least the mid-11th century, and is recorded in Domesday in 1086. The Hollis Croft area was, for much of the medieval period, left open and known as Town Field and by the early modern period had been enclosed and subsequently comprised several closes and crofts. It is from these enclosures that many of the current streets, first laid out in the early 18th century, take their names. Over the course of the following two centuries ‘The Crofts’, as the area would come to be known, was to become a centre for manufacture and trade, particularly that of the metal trades such as cutlery. The scale of this industry would continue to increase until the widespread decline of manufacturing in Sheffield during the late 20th century. The Hollis Croft area came to be largely the property of one company, Footprint Works, which was established in 1944.
During the 1960s the site was developed, with the construction of a Footprint Tools building. It was considered likely that this development would have destroyed any archaeological remains, however the excavations carried out by Wessex have demonstrated that this was not the case. The site has so far produced a variety of finds, although the lack of any obvious residential occupation of Town Field during the medieval period means that medieval artefacts have proved few and far between; the majority of the archaeological material identified dates from the site’s industrial occupation. Amongst this material there were a large number of leather shoes and a substantial deposit of decorated but unfinished bone handles, reflecting the high density of craftsmen and manufacturers listed as having been resident in Hollis Croft in the late 19th-century Trade Directories.
The first reference to the Cock Public House, where the coin was discovered, is in the Henry & Thomas Rodgers Sheffield & Rotherham Directory from 1841. The pub is also shown on an 1853 Ordnance Survey map and its name – the Cock – probably comes from the stop-cock used on contemporary beer casks. 
The aim of the archaeological investigation was to enhance the understanding of the early phases of the construction of this part of the city to compliment the extensive late 18th- and 19th-century archival evidence. An awareness of earlier phases is central to Wessex’s methodology so the coin clearly holds significance. But why was a medieval coin found in such a late context? The rarity of the find and the location raised immediate questions of authenticity and some of us thought the coin was a fake. Visualisations of cheeky Yorkshire pub locals with tricks up their sleeves and fakes in their pockets are enticing for a born and bred Sheffielder such as myself. However, when inspected by experts, the authenticity of the coin was confirmed. To further determine the coin was the real thing, its composition was tested. It was found to be 93% percent silver with small traces of iron, gold and magnesium. It has therefore been identified as a silver penny from the reign of Edward I, with a bold long cross embossed on its reverse and the face of the king on the obverse.
The obverse face of the penny showed a more realistic portrait of the monarch than had be previously been usual and also depicted him facing forward as opposed to in profile. The reverse showed a long cross, equal armed and stretching from one edge to the other. We know that any silver penny with these attributes must have been minted within the 39-year reign of Edward I, more than five centuries prior to the establishment of the Cock Public House. 
Edwardian coins are important when studying the economic history of later medieval England. Monetary denominations had changed very little in the five hundred years prior to the coronation of Edward I in 1272AD but he would soon make some sizable reforms. The long cross was originally introduced as a device to make more difficult the clipping and splitting which had previously been used to divide the penny into the literal half penny or farthing.  Edward I also introduced other new coins, the groat, halfpenny and farthing, further reducing the need to physically divide larger denomination coinage. The new coins strengthened England’s foreign trade power and the penny proved especially successful because of its high silver content and uniform weight.
The coin found at Hollis croft has a chip on the lower side slightly to the left when examining the obverse. The face of Edward I is badly worn, however the reverse long cross and accompanying pattern is clear. The only link the site has with the medieval period is that this area of Sheffield followed the old field boundaries laid out following the enclosure of Town Field. Hollis Croft’s layout is the only clue to the continuity of the inhabited area from the reign of Edward I and the minting of the penny, to the establishment of the Cock public house in the 19th-century.
It remains unlikely that the coin’s context will be further illuminated by the planned excavation. The coin could have been dropped by an absent mind in the medieval period, churned up by ploughing, finding its way into material which was reused when the pub was erected. However, firmer conclusions remain out of reach. Although the coin confirms to a degree that the site was being used in some form during the medieval period, the nature of this link is unknown and any more definitive historiography would be speculation.
By Oisin Mercer Archaeological Technician

Out on Site again with Jon Egging Trusts’ Blue Skies Students and Breaking Ground Heritage

On Friday 26th May 2017 Wessex Archaeology (WA) hosted our third and final Jon Egging Trust (JET) Blue Skies inspiration day for this year. The participants are enrolled in the Level 2 (second year) of the programme, which offers inspirational activities and experiences to encourage the 13–15-year-old students to reach their full potential. Once again the day, held at Perham Down on Salisbury Plain, was based on archaeology and history, but this time with an underlying theme of ‘leadership’. 
The students were divided into three groups and asked to choose a leader. Two of the groups kept the same leader throughout the day, while one decided to take turns. The three exercises on offer, which were devised to emphasise good leadership, allowed the participants to take on the responsibility of directing a team, and showed the importance of recognising people’s skills and of strategic delegation. Team members also assessed how well their leader managed their role. 
Overseen by Nick Crabb (WA), each group was tasked with conducting a geophysical survey of a defined area of the landscape, in order to detect buried archaeological features. They used Ground Penetrating Radar equipment mounted on a cart. They soon found that wheeling the cart could be very tiring, but group leaders solved this problem by rotating the task between the team members. 
After some instruction, Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy and Mai Walker (WA) asked the team leaders to direct the setting-out and excavation of a test pit as safely and as accurately as possible. A Safety Officer was assigned to take responsibility for team welfare, including ensuring everyone drank plenty of water on such a hot day! A few of the students were delighted to find a few interesting artefacts associated with the military use of the site. 
The Breaking Ground Heritage (BGH) team, led by Dickie Bennett, and Richard Osgood of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) were very successful in promoting leadership skills and encouraged all the groups to work as effective units. Their military-based activities enabled some of the shyer students to feel confident enough to contribute to, and even direct the teams.
The students clearly enjoyed working outdoors and engaging with the various activities, and it was a pleasure to see them growing in confidence and using skills they have been working so hard to develop. 


Wessex Archaeology is very grateful to Richard Osgood of DIO for arranging access to Perham Down and for again being on-hand to help host the session, together with Dickie Bennett and his team (Matt Smith and Chris Boyd) from BGH – an archaeology-based recovery pathway for injured military personnel. Mark Khan (DIO) was kind enough to offer his time to assist, particularly with identifying various objects found during the day. We also extend our thanks to the staff of Ferndown Upper School and Kaye Jackson (JET Youth Liaison Officer) for co-ordinating and supporting the visit. It is always a pleasure to contribute towards the JET Blue Skies Programme. 

Jon Egging Trust Brought the Blue Skies to Site

In late May 2017, following on from their visit to the Wessex Archaeology (WA) Salisbury office, the students on the first year of the Jon Egging Trusts’ Blue Skies Programme, joined us in the field at Perham Down (on the Salisbury Plain Training Area) for a day of teamwork exercises with themes relating to archaeology, the military and the First World War. The event was co-hosted by Richard Osgood, Senior Archaeologist for the
Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). The Defence Infrastructure Organisation is part of the Ministry of Defence and manages the defence estate which includes the responsibility to assess and maintain both historical and archaeological features, and Dickie Bennett, Project Director for Breaking Ground Heritage (BGH), an archaeology-based recovery pathway for injured military personnel.
The students were welcomed onto site with glorious sunshine and were eager to get out of their minibus and into the fresh air. Split into three groups for the day, they participated in various sessions aimed at developing their historical and archaeological understanding, and enhancing their observational and team-working skills.
Nick Crabb, WA Senior Geophysicist , directed an activity using Ground Penetrating Radar to search for archaeological remains without disturbing the ground. He explained how and why this method of investigation is used in archaeological projects. This was a popular session despite the results not being immediately observable. 


Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy and Mai Walker (WA) helped the students accurately set out and excavate a 1 m square test pit, using the correct equipment, in order to investigate the soil safely and collect any artefacts. One lucky participant found evidence for military activity on the site. The test-pitting was thoroughly enjoyed by all, despite the warm digging conditions. Sharing the work emphasised the benefits of working as a team.



Each group also took part in an observational activity organised by BGH, based on genuine military training techniques. It was a real test for both the students and the supervisors, highlighting the importance of clear communication and the value of working together. 
Particularly popular was the First World War session, led by Dickie and Richard and his colleagues, in which the students were allowed to handle a selection of artefacts. Photographs of the original owners of some of the objects provided a real sense of connection with the past. A number of the students got to try on genuine First World War army uniforms, which had a similar effect, although all agreed that the summer kit was much too warm, even for an English summer. The activity leaders talked about military training on the site, past and present, and used their own experiences to illustrate examples of teamwork in the military.  


One of the highlights of the day was when the BGH team gave the students a real taste of army life by serving up a delicious lunch of army rations – luckily the modern, rather than the First World War, variety!
It was great to see the students away from the classroom, enjoying the outdoors and working together so successfully. Thank you to all involved in making it happen – particularly Kaye Jackson of the Jon Egging Trust, Richard Osgood of the DIO who generously granted access to the venue at Perham Down and provided welfare facilities, Dickie Bennett of BGH and his colleagues Matt Smith and Chris Boyd, Mark Khan, military historian who kindly provided his expertise, Rachel Brown (Senior Community and Outreach Officer, WA) who ensured that the aims of the exercises were met, and Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy (WA). 

Volunteer Trip to Avebury


On Monday Avebury welcomed a group of about 40 volunteers from the local area. The volunteers were given a fascinating tour of Avebury Stone Circle by four of the volunteer guides and then visited the
Alexander Keiller Museum where they had the chance to explore the archaeological collection. All the volunteer guides from Avebury were extremely knowledgeable and clearly had a great passion for the site, we all greatly appreciated having them guide us through the landscape. The visit also included tea, cake and a chance for people to catch up with old friends and make new ones.


The visit was arranged by the Stonehenge and Avebury Learning and Outreach Group (SALOG) which is made up of staff from English Heritage, National Trust, Wessex Archaeology, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum. The group arranged the visit to say thank you for all the work the volunteers do to protect, record, share and maintain heritage.
It was a great day and we would like to say a big thank you to the National Trust Avebury for hosting us all and Bridget Telfer from The Salisbury Museum for all the extra work she put in organising the visit. And once again thank you to all the volunteers who work across the heritage sector in and around the Stonehenge and Avebury landscape, we are all very grateful for the dedication and skills you provide.

Inspiring Careers in Science

3462 Holly (top) and Rachel (below centre)

Wessex Archaeology staff members Holly Rodgers and Rachel Brown visited South Wilts Grammar school as part of their roles as STEM Ambassadors. The STEM Ambassador programme encourages organisations and individuals to ‘volunteer their time, enthusiasm and experiences to encourage and inspire young people to achieve more and progress further in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)’, Wessex Archaeology supports the programme and Holly and Rachel are representatives for Wessex.

South Wilts Grammar school hosted a ‘Meet the Scientists’ day which provided the students with the opportunity to speak to people working in science and gain insight into the various roles and areas of work. There were professionals from a wide range of organisations and industries who attended the event, there were science sessions being run by people who work in science and careers talks. Holly and Rachel participated in the careers talks where small groups of students spoke to professionals about their careers, the students rotated around the different professionals so that they got a chance to speak to everyone. The lab the event was held in was a buzz of conversation and you could hear the excitement from many of the students as they realised the vast possibility of roles and professions they could go into. Holly and Rachel promoted the broad range of roles linked to STEM within the archaeological sector and provided valuable insight into how they had progressed their own careers.
We hope that many of the students have been inspired to pursue a career in a STEM area and that we have inspired some future archaeologists.

Jon Egging Trust Students Visit the Salisbury Office


In May, we were pleased to welcome back the Jon Egging Trust to our Salisbury office, with a new group of students (12–13 years old) on the first year of their Blue Skies Programme. The programme aims to inspire young people to reach their full potential by engaging in exciting activities and experiences. 
Although some of the students thought that archaeology would be a bit dull, our enthusiastic staff opened their eyes to the diverse and interesting nature of our work. All of them participated fully in the sessions and thoroughly enjoyed the day. 
Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy set the scene by explaining what archaeology is – both how we do it and why we do it. Later in the day she also provided the students with a fascinating insight into what we can find out from the study of human remains.
The theme for the first year of the Blue Skies Programme is ‘teamwork’, a key element of Wessex Archaeology’s working practices that was highlighted throughout the day, and manager Si Cleggett held an inspiring session based solely around the issue. Activities were designed to get the students to work together, demonstrating their collaborative skills and assessing how each member contributed to the group. A lot of productive discussion and team-bonding ensued.
Vicki Lambert and Tom Harrison of the Coastal & Marine department devised a fascinating activity where the students learned about underwater archaeology, and completed a dive simulation exercise that demonstrated how vital working together is when diving. 
The students relished the opportunity to get wet and muddy washing soil samples in our Environmental department, under instruction from Tony Scothern. While showing examples of materials recovered from samples, Tony explained how the Environmental department, and the evidence they find, contributes towards our archaeological projects.  
Finds team members Sue Nelson and Erica Macey-Bracken provided a finds-handling session featuring artefacts of different materials and dates. They encouraged discussions about how different people may have contributed towards making an artefact, and how they would have worked as a team using the objects to achieve a common goal. 
Any initial doubts about archaeology soon disappeared, and by the end of the day Phil Harding’s flint knapping demonstration earned him, and Time Team, a new generation of fans. He even let them have a go at using a flint axe to sharpen wooden stakes. The experience was met with such enthusiasm that people felt the need for Phil to sign their shirts!
We would like to thank Jon Egging Trust Youth Liaison Officer, Kaye Jackson, the staff from St Aldhelm’s Academy, and Drew Tallentire from the Southampton University Air Squadron for supporting the visit. As always, it is a pleasure to be able to contribute towards such a fantastic programme.



Aurochs (pr. or-ocks; pl. aurochsen)

An aurochs is a type of wild cattle that lived throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia and became extinct in Britain by the Late Bronze Age. They roamed and grazed in small herds across plains and in open woodland (T O’Connor and N Sykes 2010 Extinctions and Invasions; A social history of British fauna, Oxford).


Aurochs were much larger than modern domesticated cattle, and one of the largest herbivores in Europe post-Ice Age. They had huge curved horns, each horn almost 1 m long, and when standing, bulls could reach 1.8 m shoulder height; taller than many people. The appearance of aurochs has been determined through the study of their bones found on archaeological sites, historical descriptions, and even images of aurochs seen in cave paintings.
Aurochs began to be domesticated in South West Asia, and through selective breeding, eventually became the domesticated cattle we know today. Domesticated cattle appear in Britain by the Neolithic period (4000—2400 BC). 
Wessex Archaeology has recovered a number of aurochs bones, including their enormous horns, from several archaeological sites across Britain, in particular on Salisbury Plain, as well as in other locations further afield such as Horton (Berkshire). The bones are found on prehistoric sites, frequently in Neolithic contexts such as pits. These pits are often filled with many finds such as flint tools and arrowheads, pottery and animal bone. Some objects within these pits are domestic refuse, whilst other more unusual items appear to have been carefully placed. 
By Natalia Hunt

A Month in Bristol


One month ago, I headed down from the East Midlands to join Wessex Archaeology in their Bristol Office as their Senior Heritage Consultant. My arrival coincided with the office’s third birthday, which was duly celebrated with cake and photographs! 

It has been a whirlwind few weeks, getting to know a completely new city, new colleagues and new job. Bristol is a lovely city and, luckily, its residents seem very willing to provide directions and advice to a lost and confused new resident! In terms of first impressions, it has outdone itself. I’ve been spoiled for choice for things to do, see and eat; the latter being reflected in an expanded waistline since my move!
The WA Bristol and Heritage teams have been similarly accommodating to their lost and confused new colleague and have obligingly fielded my endless questions! A trip over to Salisbury during my second week enabled me to meet another part of the team, and I look forward to meeting the rest of my heritage colleagues as part of staff training next month. 
Whilst work within the office has predictably been that ‘first month’ mix of training, induction and getting to grips with new templates, procedures and protocols for tenders and reports, I’ve been lucky enough to join my colleagues for a couple local heritage events. An evening out at the M-Shed in Bristol to attend a lecture by Professor Steve Poole (University of Western England) proved an interesting and slightly gruesome experience, exploring the history of ‘gibbetting’ in the Bristol area. An engaging speaker, he took us on a journey around the local area, with a brief detour up to Sheffield, explaining the practice itself and its place in shaping local identities and collective memory in later periods. 


Last week, I joined Project Managers Kirsty Nichol and Bruce Eaton on another evening trip to explore the University of Bristol’s excavations at Berkeley Castle for their end of dig open evening. Professor Mark Horton took us on a tour of the site, explaining the results of this season’s work and identifying archaeology from the Roman through to the Post-medieval period in the immediate environs of the Castle and Parish Church. The picturesque setting of the site, combined with great archaeology and excellent weather (not to mention, delicious catering) made for an informative and enjoyable evening. 
As I move into my second month at Wessex, I am looking forward to expanding my portfolio of projects. I am learning lots about the local history of the area, am excited about broadening my knowledge and helping to develop Wessex’s presence across the south-west. 

New Staff in Coastal & Marine

My name is Joaquin and I started work with Wessex Archaeology, in the Salisbury office, at the beginning of May. 


I am a Marine Archaeologist with experience of commercial diving. I graduated in History from the University of Cantabria and have a Masters in Prehistory and Archaeology from the same university. Since then, I have been working freelance on different underwater and terrestrial projects in Spain and Sweden. I got my first commercial diving certificate in 2002 and I have continued to improve my diving skills by working as a marine archaeologist and as a commercial diver. I am ROV Pilot Technician Grade II by IMCA as well. Being an ROV pilot allows me to explore underwater sites in new ways.

These first weeks at Wessex Archaeology I have been trained in terms of work methodology and safety in order to offer better services to our clients. I have also participated in a training day at Vobster Quay where I met the rest of the Coastal & Marine diving team and tested the diving equipment. It was a great day to get familiar with equipment and get to know my new colleagues. 
Wessex Archaeology is one of the biggest archaeology companies in UK and in Europe, with a great impact on social media. WA believes in the importance of making our heritage accessible to the public. I am very enthusiastic about this, so now I look forward to being involved with this as well. 
To sum up, the position with Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team is a great opportunity to be involved in some of the most important marine archaeology projects in the UK. I am sure it will be fascinating, and I am ready to do my best!
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