Latest News


AL:PS Fieldschool Website Launched

We’ve launched a website to support the new
The fieldschool, on Upper Loch Torridon in the north-west Highlands, provides a unique opportunity for people to get first-hand experience of the history and archaeology of one of Scotland’s most beautiful regions. As the project develops the website will be a key resource for people wanting to keep up-to-date with our work in the area.
The fieldschool is open to anyone with a passion for the past and for the landscapes which people have created. By attending the fieldschool, which supports the Archaeology Skills Passport, you will be able develop your professional skills, and enhance your CV if you are a student. 
We are taking applications for the fieldschool now, with a deposit deadline of the 27 March 2015.
For more information, and to apply for the fieldschool, please visit the AL:PS website.
2203 Shieldaig Peninsula

International Best Practice


Earlier this month Director of Coastal & MarineEuan McNeill set off to Belgium where he presented ‘Dredging and port construction: interactions with features of archaeological or heritage interest’ at the 42nd meeting of the PIANC EnviCom (Environmental Commission).
The document, which Wessex Archaeology prepared on behalf of PIANC, outlines best practice with regards to protecting heritage during port and harbour development.
Our Coastal & Marine team are well versed in producing best practice guidance for a variety of clients and schemes, having worked with various industries over the last three decades to do just that.
Euan says, ‘It was a pleasure to present this important document, and the lessons learned during its production, to an international audience. The protection of heritage during development is an ongoing concern. Organisations like PIANC, which fund and then promote documents like this, are leading the way to responsible and sustainable development across the port and maritime infrastructure sector, both in Europe and further afield.
By Gemma Ingason, Coastal & Marine

Hadrian’s Wall Monuments – 3D Scan No.4

Happy Terminalia!

Today’s blog on the 3D scans of Roman monuments associated with Hadrian’s Wall, products of our recent collaboration with University of Newcastle as part the NU Digital Heritage project ( One of the planned uses of these digital models will be for use as a teaching resource for initiatives such as their free online Massive Online Open Course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. Follow the links to see part one, part two and part three of our blog series. 
Today’s blog is a little bit early as we wanted to put something out on Terminalia, which was celebrated by the Ancient Romans on the 23rd of February in honour of the god Terminus. Terminus was the god of boundaries and Hadrian’s Wall is certainly one of the most significant boundaries in the whole of the Roman Empire! Terminus’ statue was merely a stone or post stuck in the ground to distinguish between properties. To celebrate Terminali the two owners of adjacent properties would crown the ‘statue’ with garlands and raise an altar, on which they offered up some corn, honeycombs, and wine, and sacrificed a lamb or a sucking pig. 
This week’s monument was discovered in 1887 within the ruins of a Roman temple outside the south-east angle of Condercum (Benwell Fort) the third fort along Hadrian’s Wall, three kilometres to the west of the Newcastle. Although it is dedicated to Antenociticus, a local Celtic god rather than Terminus, it is a sacrificial altar and its inscription reads ‘To the god Antenociticus and to the Deities of the Emperors Aelius Vibius, centurion of the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow’. The ‘Victorious Valerian Twentieth Legion’ was probably founded shortly after 31 BC participated in the invasion of Britannia in 43 AD. It remained active in the province until at least the beginning of the 4th century.
The altar is highly decorated in the classical style, with roundels on each side of the capital and bolsters modelled to imitate bundles of incense secured by buckled straps. The style of the focus implies that it was designed with the purpose to hold offerings in mind. The moulding to the top of the altar is decorated with carvings of stylised plants, whilst the shaft itself is carved with a depiction a beribboned garland and a sacrificial knife on the left side and a similar garland with a jug on the right. A depiction of a large wreath decorates the back panel. This image is a good demonstration of how modern 3D scanning techniques can be used to produce orthographic images very similar to drawing by hand.
For more information see:
The inscription on the Roman Inscriptions of Britain website  
Concordum (Benwell Fort) 
By John McCarthy - Project Manager

Inspirational Archaeology

Archaeology can inspire people in all sorts of different ways. Here at Wessex Archaeology, we love to hear from people who have been inspired by the discoveries we have made and the knowledge we have shared.
2192 Miriam's quilt depicting 'the boy with the amber necklace'For example, we were recently contacted by an American artist, Miriam Byroade, who had been inspired by the burial of a Bronze Age teenager, believed to be male and known as ‘the boy with the amber necklace’. The skeleton was found during excavations at, Amesbury Down and was of particular interest due to the associated amber beads and the isotopic analysis results. Atthe time the original isotope work was done, the results hinted that he may have come from a warmer climate such as the Mediterranean,although new work suggests that he may equally have grown up in Southern England.
The mystery of this story caught Miriam’s imagination and she was inspired to create a quilt depicting the boy and his amber necklace. She said:
I'm fascinated by archaeology and often find pictures of archaeological digs so inspiring for work. The Boy with the Amber Necklace is such a great story, so I made a quilt based on him – he is on the front and his beads are on the back. I wanted to thank Wessex Archaeology for their work and for sharing it online for the whole world!
2193 Close up detail of the amber beads
View more of Miriam’s creations on her Tumblr page.
By Laura Joyner – Community & Education Officer

Where on Earth is Kent!


Are you following our youngest recruit Kent Jones? 

Catch up with what he has been learning and find out how he locates archaeology in his latest post.

Hadrian’s Wall Monuments – 3D Scan No.3


Our third blog entry on the 3D scans of Roman monuments associated with Hadrian’s Wall, products of our recent collaboration with University of Newcastle as part the NU Digital Heritage project ( One of the planned uses of these digital models will be for use as a teaching resource for initiatives such as their free online Massive Online Open Course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. Follow the links to see part one and part two of our blog series.
As it is pancake day we have chosen to show our scan of the Flavinus tombstone, which depicts a barbarian getting battered and flattened! Interestingly the Romans were big fans of pancakes. A Roman cookbook of the late 4th or early 5th century AD included a recipe for Ova spongia ex lacte (Pancakes with milk) and this dish was served with honey and black pepper.
As for the poor battered barbarian he appears on the bottom of the tombstone under the hooves of Flavinus a cavalryman of the ala Petriana. This tombstone was discovered built into the porch of the south transept of Hexham Abbey in 1881, but is believed to have come originally from the Roman Fort at Corbridge, Northumberland. The tombstone was placed on display inside the abbey and is still there to this day.
Flavinus was the standard-bearer of the ala Petriana, and his tombstone follows a typical cavalry memorial formula. The deceased is depicted, upon his horse, riding down a crouched barbarian clutching a club in a relief above the inscription. He wears a cavalryman's helmet and a torc around his neck. He also holds a shield and his standard, in his role as the standard-bearer, upon which a depiction of the sun-god, or an emperor imitating him, is clearly visible. An eagle is shown perched on the top of the standard. The details about Flavinus’ service indicate that he joined the army aged 18, which was the average age of recruits. The ala Petriana was a quingenary unit (i.e had around 480 men) when stationed at Corbridge.
For more information see:
Flavinus inscription on the Roman Inscriptions of Britain website   

SAMPHIRE Annual Report 2014


The Project SAMPHIRE team have just published their report for 2014 on the project website.The project is run by WA Coastal & Marine from our Edinburgh office and this year’s report includes data on over 50 exciting new maritime archaeological discoveries on the west coast of Scotland. 
Over the last year the SAMPHIRE team have visited coastal communities in the SW Highlands and Argyll, collected reports of marine archaeological sites and undertaken diver investigation from a local converted trawler. They have also conducted a series of local talks and spoken at conferences in Scotland and abroad about the project. The 2014 report focusses on the area around Skye and the Firth of Lorn and includes a smorgasbord of newly discovered and identified shipwrecks, Mesolithic flints, stone anchors and WWII flying boats. All of these discoveries have been made by working together with local divers, fishermen and other local experts on the maritime environment. 
You can see and download the new report here and also grab a copy of the report for 2013 and other resources.
By John McCarthy - Manager (Scotland)

Kent cleans up

2178 Monitoring the machine

This week Kent Jones from our Rochester office has been helping out with an excavation. Most commonly archaeological excavations start with mechanical removal of recent overburden, in rural areas this will usually mean topsoil and subsoil, in urban areas this can often mean large deposits of ‘made-ground’ the accumulation of rubble and rubbish in recent times. This work is monitored by an archaeologist to ensure that no archaeological finds or features are damaged during the process and that anything which may have been disturbed from its original context can be recovered and recorded. 
2181 Cleaning with trowel
Once the overburden has been removed down to natural levels, mechanical excavation stops. Cleaning of the area is carried out by hand tools, often with a trowel, so that any sensitive archaeological remains can be identified. 
This can be slow and painstaking work and requires a keen eye, to identify often very subtle changes in the soil colour or composition, which may indicate that activity has taken place at the site; perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
2177 Impatient Kent tries his hand at mechanical excavation
Once finds or features have been identified, a site plan is created so that the archaeologists can decide how best to investigate the features and recover the finds in as accurate and careful a way as possible. See Kent’s next post on Survey for more information on this aspect of the work.
By Lisa McCaig - Archaeologist (London & SE)
To find out more about Kent's activities follow this link



33rd International Shipwreck Conference


The 33rd International Shipwreck Conference sold out months before the event last Saturday, which shows the enthusiasm amongst the wreck diving community for sharing information about their endeavours.
Wessex Archaeology had a display which was perused by more than 200 attendees during the breaks in the presentations that really showed the breadth and diversity of shipwreck investigations taking place in the UK and by British divers.
The Wessex Archaeology display showed the range of work that the Coastal & Marine team have been completing of late. It included a short video of Wessex Archaeology’s staff working with local divers on sites such as Gun Rocks wreck in Northumberland, and numerous U-boats in the Thames Estuary and English Channel. Many conference attendees were impressed with the advanced 3D imagery created by photogrammetry work undertaken on cannon at Drumbeg and stone anchors at Siccar Rock by our Edinburgh office.
Conference attendees were particularly attracted to the Iona II Dive Trail materials, funded by English Heritage, wanting to know how they could have this interactive experience for themselves. They were impressed by the range of information that was clearly displayed in the underwater guides and the more detailed information booklets for reading during the boat trip out to site. The flyers giving details of the dive trail proved very popular!
Many designated wreck licensees were in attendance at the conference and were interested in the Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) Archive that Wessex Archaeology has just catalogued for English Heritage. This collection contains over 1000 items created and accumulated by the ADU while investigating English wrecks between 1986 and 2002. Licensees can now access wreck investigation videos, correspondence, 35mm slides, log books, site plans, reports, documentaries and raw geophysical data. This resource is now available to search online at English Heritage Archives and to view at Archive Services in Swindon.
By Peta Knott - Archaeologist, Coastal & Marine

Hadrian’s Wall Monuments – 3D Scan No.2


Where the River Meets the Sea – welcome to our second blog entry showcasing some examples of 3D scans of Roman monuments associated with Hadrian’s Wall, products of our recent collaboration with University of Newcastle as part the NU Digital Heritage project ( One of the planned uses of these digital models will be for use as a teaching resource for initiatives such as their free online Massive Online Open Course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier. See part one of our blog series here
This week’s image shows two scans of related monuments, the Neptune and Oceanus Altars, both currently on display in the Great North Museum in Newcastle. They were found in the Tyne in 1875 and 1903 respectively and may have been dumped there deliberately. The front of the Neptune shaft is decorated with a depiction of a dolphin entwined with a trident, the two symbols of the god Neptune. He was the deity associated with rivers and fresh water by the Romans. The altar to Oceanus, also found in the River Tyne is decorated with his symbol, a ship’s anchor. 
These two altars are thought to have been paired and to have formed part of a shrine on the Pons Aelius bridge across the Tyne at Newcastle, at the point where the two deities, Neptune of the river and Oceanus of the tidal waves of the sea, met. The bridge, and thereby the shrine, were thought to have been constructed on the order of the Emperor Hadrian when he visited Britain in AD 122. Both stones bear a dedication to their respective god and the inscription “"the Sixth Victorious Legion Loyal and Faithful (made this)". The 6th Legion was active in Britain from 122 AD to the end of the Roman occupation.
For more information see:
By John McCarthy - Project Manager
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