Latest News


A File in the Nail-stack



Most metal artefacts are routinely X-rayed as part of the post-excavation process. Metal objects, particularly those containing iron, are commonly recovered just as lumps of corrosion, and X-rays reveal otherwise unobservable details that aid in their identification and recording. 
The value of X-raying was demonstrated recently when a small iron file was identified among a batch of nearly 500 Roman nails recovered from a site in the south-east of England. The 104 mm long tool, which had closely set teeth and a tapered end, would have been used for detailed metalworking. Its short tang (visible on the left side of the X-ray) would have been set in a handle made of wood or bone. The design and use of such tools has changed little since the Iron Age; much earlier examples have been found in Egypt and Greece.
Wessex Archaeology benefits from in-house X-raying facilities and the services of experienced Conservator Lynn Wootten.
By Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, Osteoarchaeologist

Fun in the Sun for our Volunteer Team



Wessex Archaeology staff and volunteers mingled in the sun at this year’s Volunteer Summer Picnic. 
Hosting the picnic is just one of the ways we are able to say thank you to our fantastic volunteer team for all their hard work. Recent volunteer projects have included processing the Bronze Age and Saxon artefacts from Barrow Clump 2014, as well as a range of Roman material from Chedworth Roman Villa on behalf of the National Trust. 
We were joined at the picnic by a team of Operation Nightingale participants, who are currently excavating an Iron Age site on Salisbury Plain. They popped into Wessex Archaeology HQ for a tour of the building and to find out what happens once the digging is done. 
To find out more about our volunteering opportunities contact our Community & Education Officer
By Laura Joyner, Community & Education Officer

Summer Travels


The Northern office’s Gabrielle Kinney is taking a short sabbatical to work on an exciting project in Western Panama. The Chiriqui Archaeological Project is a multi-year research project centred between the Upper Chiriqui Viejo region of highland western Panama and the Upper Terraba region of southern Costa Rica. The project aims to evaluate the effects of long-term social changes in both regions between 2000 BC and AD 1500.
Gabrielle will be working as Crew Chief undertaking pedestrian survey, excavation, mapping and documentation of previously un-surveyed highland lakes. She will also be working on a report with the aim of keeping an area of the Barilles site on the Historic Register in Panama – we wish her all the best and look forward to welcoming her back to Sheffield in July 2015.
By Andrew Norton - Regional Manager, North

JETting Around the Plain


Wessex Archaeology (WA) has been supporting the Jon Egging Trust’s (JET) Blue Skies Programme once again this year, providing exciting learning experiences to inspire young people to achieve their full potential.
Level one students kicked off their archaeological education with an interactive tour of the WA head office in Salisbury. The day started with an introduction to archaeology and an impressive whiz through the last 900,000 years by Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, one of our Osteoarchaeologists. The young people then split into groups to explore our environmental archaeology department and artefact processing lab as specialists gave talks and demonstrations on sample sieving, fieldwork, human skeletal remains and coastal & marine archaeology. The highlight of the day was getting hands on with flint tools and learning how to use them under the tuition of Phil Harding. 
The following week, the level one students put their knowledge into practice on a visit to Chisenbury Midden, a mound of Iron Age feasting waste on Salisbury Plain, organised by WA and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). Working in groups, the young people had a chance to try excavation techniques and archaeological recording processes. Finds included animal bones, examples of worked and burnt flint, and several pieces of Iron Age pottery. Students were then able to wash their own artefacts and compare them to previous finds from the site. 
Students taking part in level two of the Blue Skies Programme took part in a geophysical survey day on Salisbury Plain, organised by WA and DIO and supported by members of Operation Nightingale. The day was themed on WWI and focused on using geophysical survey techniques to reveal information about a complex system of WWI practice trenches, designed to be a replica of the German trench system at the Somme. The young people were trained to use geophysical survey equipment and took part in both magnetometry and resistivity surveys, led by experts from WA and Winchester University. Other activities included comparing rations and kit from WWI to modern equivalents, hearing a soldier’s perspective of frontline warfare, and exploring the extant remains of the practice trenches nearby.
The students will celebrate the achievements they have made through the Blue Skies Programme at a presentation ceremony in June, and we look forward to congratulating them then. 
By Laura Joyner, Community & Education Officer

Dorchester Romans Go Global!


A recent edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology featured an article that made use of Wessex Archaeology (WA) data from a number of Roman sites situated in and around Dorchester, Dorset. The paper, by Dr Rebecca Redfern (Museum of London) and colleagues, focuses on the differences in the health and ‘life-ways’ of urban and rural inhabitants of Roman Dorchester. 
The WA sites include Alington Avenue, Greyhound Yard, Dorchester By-Pass, and Dorchester Hospital, the skeletal remains from some of which were analysed by Jacqueline McKinley (WA Senior Osteoarchaeologist). More recently Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy (WA Osteoarchaeologist) examined the human bone from Little Keep and Poundbury Farm – both used in the study. The Little Keep cemetery population included probable veterans and a large proportion of so-called ‘deviant’ burials (prone, decapitated). At Poundbury Farm Roman burials (including one made in a stone coffin) were found in association with a sequence of large field enclosures and a rural settlement. 
Dr Redfern and colleagues found that, in Roman Dorset, urban dwellers were more likely to reach old age than their rural counterparts. However, childhood mortality and conditions such as rickets (vitamin D deficiency) and tuberculosis were higher in those buried in the town cemeteries. Rural inhabitants also displayed better oral health than those from the town which probably reflects differences in diet and access to more expensive, but potentially more damaging foods. 
The article was the basis of further articles in the New Scientist, Archaeology Magazine (USA) and Daily Mail (Online). 
by Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, Osteoarchaeologist

Young Archaeologists’ Club Relaunch


Wessex Archaeology would like to congratulate the Young Archaeologists’ Club on their relaunched website We have close links with the YAC with several of our staff involved with the club: Salisbury team members Gemma Ingason and Phoebe Olsen are a branch leader and assistant team leader at Southampton YAC, where Phoebe was formerly the Treasurer; Laura Joyner, Community and Education Officer, is branch assistant at the Salisbury YAC; Heritage Consultant Naomi Brennan is assistant branch leader with the South Wiltshire YAC; and Senior Heritage Consultant Alexandra Grassam based in Sheffield, is branch leader with the Pontefract group.
The YAC leaders all give their time voluntarily and help provide educational sessions on an archaeological theme for 8 to 16 year olds once a month. We wish the YAC and their groups well in all their new ventures.
Gemma, Phoebe, Laura, Naomi and Alexandra
by Andrew Norton - Regional Manager, North

Launch of New Ebook Series


Wessex Archaeology and Oxbow Books are delighted to announce the launch of our new ebook series. We have been working with Oxbow since the late 1990s and this exciting new venture is the latest development in our long partnership.
We are launching the new series with the Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen Bell Beaker Burials at Boscombe Down, Amesbury, Wiltshire by A.P. Fitzpatrick, which has been very popular with two reprints of the paperback edition. The ebooks is available in a two formats that we hope will appeal to a wide audience.
Other titles in our ebook series are Cliffs End and Seabed Prehistory, a full list of the proposed ebooks will appear on our websites and in the Oxbow catalogue later this year. In addition to our more recent titles we hope to include some of our out of print titles – watch this space for updates.
Pippa Bradley, Publications Manager Wessex Archaeology and Curtis Key, Digital Publishing Director Casemate Group.

Archaeology Open Day - Rochester


Wessex Archaeology London & South East will be holding an Open Day on 
Saturday 4 July 2015, 
between 11am and 3pm.
Come along and experience what it is like to be a real archaeologist and see what goes on behind the scenes! There is no need to book and the open day is free of charge. Follow the link to our flyer for more information or contact Marie Kelleher at
By Marie Kelleher

Seabed Prehistory - Now Published


Our latest book Seabed Prehistory: Investigating the Palaeogeography and Early Middle Palaeolithic Archaeology in the Southern North Sea by Louise Tizzard, Andrew Bicket and Dimitri De Loecker is available now from Oxbow Books.
This volume explores the results from intensive investigation within Area 240, a marine aggregate licence area situated in the North Sea, 11 km off the coast of Norfolk, England, which had been instigated by the fortuitous discovery of bifacial hand axes, and Levallois flakes and cores in 2008.
Geophysical, geoarchaeological, palaeoenvironmental and archaeological datasets have been integrated producing a comprehensive understanding of the seabed and wider Pleistocene palaeogeography. Our knowledge of the early prehistoric archaeological material has been enhanced significantly; confirming that the artefacts are not a ‘chance’ find, but indicate clear, although complex, relationships to submerged and buried landscapes.
The Early Middle Palaeolithic artefacts, particularly the Levallois elements, indicate Neanderthal activity around 200,000 to 250,000 years ago apparently constrained to cold, estuarine environment of the now-submerged lower reaches of the Palaeo-Yare Valley. The exploitation of this landscape has left an archaeological record of international significance.

On this Day in History


On 7 May 1765, 250 years ago today, HMS Victory was launched at Chatham Dockyard. Victory was a 1st Rate vessel and carried 104 guns making it one of the most formidable ships of the day. Best known as Lord Nelson’s Flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Victory was active for over 40 years and served in several engagements. Victory’s career ended on 7 November 1812 when it was moored in Portsmouth and used as a depot ship.
Today Victory is the only remaining example of a Royal Navy 1st Rate man-of-war from the age of sail. Though heavily repaired and restored over the years, the vessel is still one of the best examples of naval architecture from this period.
By Dan Atkinson , Regional Manager Wessex Archaeology Scotland 
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