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Generous divers help the “We die like brothers…” project
The South African National War Memorial’s forthcoming permanent exhibition on the loss of the First World War transport ship Mendi reached another milestone last Friday. UK museum director and exhibition lead Susan Hayward (far right), together with Wessex Archaeology’s Graham Scott, were at the Memorial’s museum at Delville Wood on the Somme to hand over a number of artefacts from the wreck of the Mendi to the South African Ambassador to France, His Excellency M. Rapulane Sidney Molekane (second from right).
The Mendi was lost off the Isle of Wight in 1917 whilst carrying men of the South African Native Labour Corps to the Western Front. Hundreds drowned and the loss of the ship has since become an iconic event in South African history, standing for equality and the sacrifices made in the world wars of the 20th century by all of the South African people.
Some of the artefacts, including a bridge window and porthole, are being loaned by UK archaeologist John Buglass. As well as working on the Mary Rose, John dived many of the wrecks off the Isle of Wight in the 1980s, including the Mendi. The Ambassador expressed his gratitude on behalf of the South African people for the generosity of John and the other divers who have loaned or donated artefacts.
The exhibition is due to open at Delville Wood in July and is supported by English Heritage (soon to become Historic England), by the UK Government and by Wessex Archaeology. The project team, consisting of UK and South African heritage and creative professionals, are all volunteers.
By Graham Scott, Archaeologist/Dive Superintendent
We are always up for a challenge, and new ways of interpreting archaeology in the community. One of our recent projects has brought together archaeological expertise and artistic endeavour. Lorraine Mepham has been collaborating with established artist Syann van Niftrik and Dorset potter Jonathan Garratt. Jonathan is one of the last potters in Europe to fire pots made of hand-dug clay in a wood-fired kiln; he built his own kiln at Hare Lane in Dorset in 1986, and recently moved to Shaftesbury.
Syann is primarily an experimental jeweller, but said that “the idea and shape of this project came from my own thoughts on the changing meaning of objects in time. The plan was to have a potter make a vessel and while doing so, tell me what is going on in his mind. And then have an archaeologist talk about the thoughts that come up while piecing together sherds in order to ascertain what they were a part of. I thought it might be interesting to see what connections there may be in the two processes.”
The project featured a pot made by Jonathan, which was deliberately broken, and then reassembled by Lorraine. Syann inscribed some of Jonathan’s comments on making the pot on the inside surface before it was fired, and wrote some of Lorraine’s thoughts on the outside after it had been reassembled. The whole process has been documented by film-maker Zan Barberton.
Both pot and film feature in the exhibition ‘Re-Making the Past’, along with other artists who have been inspired by the ancient past. The exhibition runs at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey until 10 May 2015, touring to the Craft Study Centre at Farnham from 9 - 18 July 2015.
By Lorraine Mepham, Senior Post-excavation Manager
A team from Wessex Archaeology has entered the Trailwalker 2015 to raise money for Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
From our South Office David Norcott, Patrick Dresch, and Susan Clelland have signed up to walk 100 km of the South Downs Way in one continuous no-sleep push over 30 hours, setting off early on Saturday 25 July and not stopping until the afternoon of Sunday 26.
Sad news from our London & South East Office is that event organiser Kent Jones has suffered an injury preventing him from taking part. All is not lost though as Mark Williams has agreed to step in and Kent Jones has agreed to take on the daunting task of getting Mark into shape for the event!
Please consider sponsoring us in this gruelling challenge! By following this link https://www.justgiving.com/Wessex-Archaeology
Tyneside 114 British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) recently held a very successful event to hear about past investigations on the Gun Rocks wreck, and to encourage future work on the site which is in the Farne Islands. Coastal & Marine archaeologist Peta Knott was invited to share the adventures and discoveries from the fieldwork undertaken on the wreck in 2013.
It was standing room only in the function room of a pub outside of Newcastle upon Tyne as past and present members of Tyneside BSAC, along with interested locals, waited hear old and new tales about the Gun Rocks wreck. The evening commenced with reminiscences by Harry Harvey, one of the original survey team members. He outlined the fieldwork and archival research that was completed in the summer of 1970 and spoke about how the divers had been very keen to learn the history of the wreck, and prevent unscrupulous divers from destroying the site.
Then the packed audience heard from former Tyneside Diving Officer, Andy Hunt, who talked about the work done in 2010 to commemorate 40 years of the club being associated with the wreck.
The official part of the evening finished with Peta Knott describing the fieldwork that was completed in the summer of 2013 by Wessex Archaeology with Tyneside BSAC and English Heritage divers. Peta outlined the geophysical and diving investigations undertaken that revealed 19 cannon in two separate areas near Gun Rocks. The audience was particularly interested in the identification of the wreck as an early 18th century Dutch merchant ship that was carrying a cargo or ballast of Swedish cannon, as previously the wreck was erroneously believed to be a Spanish Armada wreck. Another highlight of the talk was the explanation of the partnership that was developed between English Heritage, Tyneside and Wessex Archaeology during this fieldwork. This three-way partnership is the new favoured model for English Heritage wreck investigations and aims to maximise the skills of the professional archaeologists by making the most of the local knowledge, enthusiasm and continuity of the local divers.
The enthusiasm for the Gun Rocks wreck was clearly present that evening and discussions went on well after the pub was supposed to close. The original survey team members were keen to share their experiences and many audience members wanted to ask questions about the recent fieldwork, and make further suggestions about the identity of the wreck.
There is now increased interest in the Tyneside club completing more work on the wreck in the future as there are still many anomalies on the site to be investigated, which may reveal more archaeological remains. The durable nature of the cannon on site and the presence of interesting remains within a compact area, in conjunction with the substantial diving industry in the Farne Islands, would also make a dive trail on this site viable and an underwater guidebook would assist divers in locating the cannon underneath the prevalent kelp.
While Wessex Archaeology’s involvement with the Gun Rocks wreck ostensibly finished with the submission of an archaeological report to English Heritage in 2013, Wessex Archaeology is pleased to support Tyneside’s interest in the wreck. As this recent event demonstrates, Tyneside have become devoted wreck custodians and are likely to continue their association with the Gun Rocks wreck in the future, which is surely of benefit to our precious maritime heritage.
By Peta Knott, Archaeologist Coastal & Marine
Now that we are moving into spring and the fieldwork season is getting closer, don't forget to sign up to the AL:PS field school which will take place in Upper Loch Torridon, in September. This spectacular region has wonderful archaeology to match and we are really looking forward to introducing it to you. This is a region that has been little investigated and while you learn to 'read' the landscape, with any luck you might even find your very own Mesolithic site!
To find out more or sign up follow this link.
An archaeologist from our Wales office in Aberystwyth has recently undertaken a watching brief on the lifting of an early medieval carved stone prior in advance of a programme of conservation. The work was undertaken on behalf of Treftadaeth Llandre Heritage who obtained funding for the lifting, conservation and display of three carved stones at Llantrisant Church near Pontarfynach (Devil’s Bridge) in Ceredigion as part of their Peaceful Places trail.
Llantrisant church now sits in glorious isolation on an exposed hilltop to the south east of the modern hamlet of Trisant and Llyn Frongoch, but clearly served a nearby settlement in the early medieval and medieval period. The medieval church served as the upland chapelry of Llafihangel-y-Creuddyn parish, and belonged to the Deanery of Ultra-Aeron. The medieval church appears to have been abandoned early in the 19th century, with the construction of a new church at nearby Eglwys Newydd. It was clearly ruined by 1834, when it was mapped as a ruin by the Ordnance Survey. The current church, probably the third on the site, was built in the late 19th century to serve the nearby Frongoch lead mines.
The original locations of the three stones are uncertain. The two smaller stones appear to have been found during grave digging close to the current south wall of the nave in 1970. All three are recorded in Nancy Edwards’ 2007 A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculptures in Wales. All three stones are derived from local sources carved with crosses, and probably originally intended for use as grave markers. The two smaller stones, which probably date to between the 7th and 9th centuries AD, were lifted and conserved in late 2014. The largest stone, however, required an archaeological watching brief in order to monitor the lifting of the stone and to ensure that there were no buried archaeological remains associated with it. This stone is inscribed with a large outline Latin cross, thought to date to the 9th to 11th century AD.
The lifting of the stone was undertaken by expert staff from Elliott Ryder Conservation. Careful cleaning of the void left once the stone had been removed revealed no associated archaeological features or deposits. The sides and rear of the stone were examined carefully for further carvings. There were none. The stone was then moved into the shelter of the nearby bier house where it will undergo a programme of investigative cleaning and conservation. Ultimately, all three stones will be put on display in the bier house accompanied by two interpretative panels.
We hope to bring you further news on this site shortly.
By Nicholas Cooke, Business Manager, Wales
Wessex Archaeology is celebrating
its achievement of the international
ISO 9001 quality mark
The award of the ISO 9001 certificate, independently audited by the British Standards Institution (BSI), demonstrates Wessex Archaeology’s commitment to providing quality heritage services to our clients. ISO (the International Organisation for Standardisation) is the most recognised standards body in the world, helping to drive excellence and continuous improvement within businesses.
Chris Brayne, Wessex Archaeology’s Chief Executive said,
"The quality of what we do has always been a significant priority of our business. ISO 9001 accreditation demonstrates our commitment to the ongoing improvement of our work in the heritage sector and our focus on the needs of our clients.
We have invested a lot of time and effort into securing the ISO 9001 accreditation and we hope it gives confidence to our clients that we can add real value to their projects.
Achieving ISO 9001 accreditation is testament to the hard work and dedication of our team. We started working towards it in earnest just over a year ago, during a very busy period, and it has required a high level of commitment from all our staff.
Thank you and well done to everyone involved.”
I chose to do my work experience at Wessex Archaeology as I have always been interested in archaeology. Before my placement started I didn’t realise how many different fields there are within archaeology.
I tried lots of different activities during my week at Wessex. On my first day I worked in archives and on my second day I went into the field with the Geophysics team and used a magnetometer to do a survey. I worked with Naomi from the Heritage team to complete a desk-based assessment of an area of land, and then went to the local archives to research it.
On the penultimate day of my placement I worked with the social media team, learning how to Tweet different pieces of information. I was able to send a Tweet about a talk that one of the managers was doing. In the afternoon I worked with Graham from the Coastal & Marine team, taking pictures of pots and turning them into 3D models on the computer. On my last day I worked in the finds room washing and marking artefacts from different sites. The highlights of my week was being able to use a magnetometer and getting to create my own 3D models.
Rebecca Robertson: Work Experience Student
The Council for British Archaeology raised important questions about the future of community archaeology at its Winter Forum last week.
This year’s Winter Forum was a celebration of the Community Archaeology Training Placement scheme that came to a close in 2014. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this scheme provided on-the-job training placements for 51 budding community archaeologists – myself included!
Talks from several ex-placement holders featured case studies of good practice and highlighted the successes of the scheme. Whereas the discussion section of the day focused on the future of community archaeology and the challenges we face. Discussions were kicked off by short talks from myself, Kate Geary (Chartered Institute for Archaeologists), Adam Thompson (Centre for Applied Archaeology, University of Salford) and Rob Hedge (Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service) and a lively debate ensued. Issues identified included the need to appropriately value our skills and the benefits of community archaeology, the difficulties in recording the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of our work and the need for community engagement to be built into developer-funded work from the very start of a project. Positive suggestions were made about how to tackle these issues, before the conference came to a close with the chance to mingle over a glass of wine or two at the drinks reception.
Find out more about the work of the Council for British Archaeology and how you can get involved by clicking here.
Laura Joyner – Community & Education Officer
A new resource for researchers and designated wreck licensees has just been made available through English Heritage Archives. The Archaeological Diving Unit’s collection regarding British shipwrecks has been catalogued and can now be searched through the English Heritage Archives online catalogue and viewed no charge at the Archive Services in Swindon. The large collection of paper records, digital data, videos and slides have been researched and carefully catalogued allowing researchers to identify the records that they are interested in before either ordering a copy or viewing for free at the Swindon Archives Facility. In addition to the catalogue that has been created another important aspect of this project was to digitise the hundreds of dive videos that were in outdated formats. These can now also be searched via the catalogue and either copies ordered or they can be viewed at no cost in person at Swindon.
In 1986, the Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, was awarded the government contract to investigate shipwrecks in need of legal protection within the 12-nautical mile limit of the United Kingdom coastline. For the next 17 years the dive team surveyed, excavated and monitored wrecks designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 and undesignated wrecks to determine if they needed legal protection.
During this process, a large archive of paper documents, video and cassette tapes, slides and photographs was created relating to the archaeological investigation of British shipwrecks. Not only is there material relating to the ADU’s diving activities in this collection, there are also licensees’ reports, site data and photographs which were used as research tools for the group themselves. Examples of archive material include: original site plans, behind the scenes footage of Time Team on the HMS Colossus, ADU diver log books, Hanover Cove wreck correspondence, all ADU reports, HMS Eagle designation application, newspaper clippings and Goodwin Sands geophysics survey data.
For the last six months Peta Knott from Wessex Archaeology has been organising, researching and cataloguing the ADU collection for English Heritage. Part of this task was also having the ADU’s Hi8, DV and VHS tapes converted to digital format and then checking the content and quality of hundreds of these tapes… in fast forward! While this footage records the regular monitoring dives and occasional site excavations completed by the ADU they also show how sites have changed over time. More than 3800 slides in the collection record the earlier state of preservation of these wrecks allowing comparison with their current condition. These audio visual components of the archive could be used to monitor changes to various wreck sites over the years or to compile a history of investigations on certain wrecks.
While skimming through the correspondence, sorting through the slides and watching discoveries being made on the underwater videos, Peta gained an insight into the ADU staff, licensees and other personalities involved with investigating shipwrecks during the 1980s and 1990s. As a whole, the ADU collection is really a snapshot into the early days of marine archaeology in England and is a glimpse into the characters that developed this burgeoning discipline.
Search it for yourself at http://www.englishheritagearchives.org.uk/
A Quick Search for ‘Archaeological Diving Unit’ will bring up all 1076 records and can be used in conjunction with a specific shipwreck name.
By Peta Knott, Archaeologist - Coastal & Marine