The snow failed to dampen our spirits – or reduce the attendance – at the Sheffield office’s seminar last week. Despite difficult travelling conditions we welcomed 21 visitors to Sheaf Bank for a full day of presentations and discussions led by Regional Manager Andy Norton and Post-Excavation Manager Andrea Burgess.
After removing wellies and waterproofs we began with a fascinating presentation by Dr Paul Baggaley about the use of UAVs (or ‘drones’) in archaeological survey. With standard and near Infra-Red cameras, and a lot of know-how, Paul’s team can produce digital images of whole landscapes from a single day’s survey.
Then Jackie McKinley took over to talk about cremation burials. She described how the specialist excavation of these graves can reveal so much about the process of cremation and the way that people were buried. With radiocarbon analysis of cremated bone now possible, the dates of these burials and the grave goods can be refined considerably.
After a break Dr Alistair Barclay gave a presentation on radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling. Over the last couple of decades, the precision of radiocarbon analysis and the use of Bayesian analysis combine to be able to give us dates to within 100 years, or less in many cases. It is real progress that, even in prehistory, we can begin to understand the duration of settlements in terms of generations. By the end of the session, several people (including Wessex staff) were heard muttering ‘I think I understand Bayesian modelling now…’
Sarah Wyles then led a short but informative discussion about environmental sampling. She described how the inclusion of multiple, small, soil samples in our sampling strategies allow her to look at past environments in much more detail.
During an excellent lunch – supplied by Carol’s Catering Service who deserve a special mention for making it through the snow – there were displays and information posters about a range of projects.
The afternoon session began with a talk by Laura Joyner about Wessex Archaeology’s Outreach and Education projects. Laura’s presentation included Operation Nightingale and Project Florence, in which heritage and community archaeology were part of a military recovery initiative for injured soldiers. There was great interest in this aspect of Wessex’s work which the audience described as ‘inspiring’.
Lorraine Mepham closed the day with a discussion about archiving the results of our excavations and surveys. With Wessex carrying out projects across England, Scotland and Wales, meeting the requirements of so many different museums is no mean feat. Museum storage space is limited and the main challenges for the future will be dealing with digital data and considering the need to select the material that we store.
Our aim was to offer informative presentations to fellow heritage professionals and to promote Wessex’s charitable status and outreach projects. We hope that the participants were inspired to consider partnering with us to deliver outreach and education projects across the north.
The feedback from the event was very positive. So much so that we are considering running a similar event next year – watch this space.
Andrea Burgess – Project Manager, PX Analysis and Reporting
As part of our continuing investment in staff and Health & Safety, a number of people have attended the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Site Supervisors Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS) – an interactive course with case studies, classroom discussion, group work and individual/group presentations.
The two-day course educates our fieldwork teams in their legal responsibilities regarding health, safety, welfare and environmental issues, and adds to their skills set. The SSSTS course is endorsed by the United Kingdom Contractors Group (UKCG) as the standard training for all supervisors working on UKCG sites, enabling WA to continue to work with Tier 1 level contractors.
Ian Phillips - Company Secretary
Earlier this month the Annual Discussion Meeting of the Quaternary Research Association was held in Edinburgh, at the wonderful venue Our Dynamic Earth. The theme of the meeting was the North Sea and adjacent areas and covered a range of discussions including the Quaternary evolution of the North Sea basin on a variety of time scales, its glacial and interglacial successions, its archaeological record of human occupation, and the recent advances in the mapping of marine habitats and their conservation. Much of the recent submerged prehistory work undertaken by Wessex Archaeology was showcased in a number of sessions.
The archaeology session included Dr Louise Tizzard of the Geoservices team discussing the history of research into the Early Middle Palaeolithic archaeology and geology from the lower reaches of the Palaeo-Yare valley in the southern North Sea.
Dr Andrew Bicket of Coastal & Marine was presenting the preliminary results from recent assessments of submerged palaeolandscapes off the Northumberland coast, a collaborative project with the Dr Claire Mellett of the BGS. Models of possible former coastlines in the vicinity of key coastal sites at Howick and Low Hauxley indicated some exciting possibilities for understanding how early prehistoric people may have interacted with their coastlines which are now underwater.
By Louise Tizzard
Coastal & Marine’s Director Euan McNeill will be in London this Wednesday for the Coastal Futures 2015 Conference, run by CMS.
Offshore development involves a complex network of industries working together to offer innovative solutions to environmental problems whilst promoting sustainability and responsible development.
Every offshore scheme has an array of specialists behind it – from engineers to ecologists, and architects to archaeologists. Working together is crucial to the development of integrated approaches to meet our needs as a nation.
Coastal Futures is the leading UK event bringing people from a range of industries in offshore innovation in contact, to promote new networks and approaches.
Euan will be joining our partners Thomson Ecology at the event in London on the 21 January 2015 to champion the position of archaeology within sustainable development, something which Wessex Archaeology has been pioneering offshore for over 20 years.
Preparations for the Northern office’s fifth birthday seminar are now well underway and have sparked an interesting project for our two placement students, Emma Hook and Sam Bromage, from the University of Sheffield.
Visitors to the Northern office, in Sheffield, often ask about the history of the Sheaf Bank Business Park, so the students are acquiring new research skills whilst tracking down some answers. So far we have discovered that the original ‘Sheafbank Works’ complex was built in 1855 and manufactured shovels, forks, picks and garden tools through until the late 1970s.
The students have been to the Local Studies Library to gather further information and images and have photographed the buildings as they are now. The images and information uncovered will form the basis of an informative poster, due to be unveiled at the seminar.
By Andrea Burgess
CEMEX Kingsmead Quarry
We are delighted to announce that Kingsmead Quarry, Horton, Berkshire, has been nominated for Rescue Dig of the Year 2015 as part of the 7th annual Current Archaeology Awards. These awards are decided entirely by public vote. You can vote for the project Neolithic houses: exploring a prehistoric landscape at Kingsmead Quarry, and other award categories on the Current Archaeology website.
The excavations have been nominated based on the discovery of a nationally important Early Neolithic settlement consisting of at least four timber-built houses (Current Archaeology issue 292). The houses were discovered over a five year period. The project has been generously funded by CEMEX UK who extract sand and gravel from the site.
Find out more about our work at Kingsmead Quarry, Horton by clicking here. To discover more about the Neolithic houses, click here.
by Garreth Chaffey
In collaboration with Professor Karen Hardy of ICREA, Wessex Archaeology is launching a week long field school around Upper Loch Torridon, Wester Ross. The programme integrates landscape survey covering all periods of human activity in the area, especially the rich Mesolithic and early prehistoric record. The course focuses on understanding the archaeology, geomorphology and landscape history and how professional archaeologists research and develop these varied datasets into detailed, accurate and valuable cultural heritage products. The aim of the field school is to provide real experience of research processes and professional workflows to underpin future skills development for attendees.
The course is a mixture of fieldwork, lectures, workshops and enjoying the beauty and archaeology of this stunning landscape.
For more info and contact details see the project at Past Horizons.
By Dr Andrew Bicket
On 8 January 2015 Bas Coolen of ADEDE visited WA HQ to talk to Euan McNeill, Director of Coastal & Marine, about collaborating on archaeological projects.
Bas travelled from the Netherlands where ADEDE, who specialise in archaeology, marine work and neutralising unexploded ordnance, have offices – their head office is in Ghent in Belgium. Wessex Archaeology recently worked with them on WW1 sites relating to a gas pipeline being installed near Ypres in Belgium.
Our Coastal & Marine team are well aware of the dangers of ordnance in UK waters. An estimated 10% of all munitions dropped during recent conflicts failed to detonate and still pose a risk to safety today. Undetonated ordnance is also present in military wrecks and, as some of our most recent projects have focussed on military losses, all of our team are trained to recognise ordnance.
We look forward to a continued relationship with ADEDE and to future international collaboration on offshore archaeological projects.
By Euan McNeill and Gemma Ingason
Wessex Archaeology is celebrating the fifth birthday of its Northern office, based in Sheffield, by holding a seminar this January. This event will kick-start 2015, a year that will see the Northern office working hard to expand our education and outreach projects across the region. We are eager to spread the word about Wessex Archaeology’s heritage learning and public engagement projects and build partnerships for future community endeavours.
This invitation-only seminar for professional archaeologists has received a very positive response and is now fully booked. The day will include presentations by our leading specialists on geophysical surveys and remote sensing – including the use of ‘drones’, human skeletal remains, radiocarbon dating and the benefits of community heritage projects. Archaeologists from local authorities and museums, English Heritage and the National Trust will be in attendance, so we are hoping for some lively and informative discussions.
By Andrea Burgess
Graham Scott of Wessex Archaeology will talk about recent English Heritage investigations of First World War U-boat wrecks, carried out with members of Canterbury Divers and Folkestone 501
Wednesday 14 January 2014 8pm
Folkestone Yacht & Motor Club
North Street, Folkestone, CT19 6AF
Image crown copyright, courtesy of Swath Services