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New Research Manager

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Hi, my name is Bob Clarke and I’ve just joined the team as a Research Manager in Post-excavation. I originate from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, although I’ve been ‘down south’ for the last 34 years.
 
I have been involved in archaeology for over 20 years − primarily in Wiltshire but more recently across the South-West. In that time, I’ve filled a number of professional, educational and voluntary roles, a key one being site archaeologist at MoD Boscombe Down. The position encompassed a wide range of inputs; from consultation through to mitigation via watching briefs and full excavation. This ran alongside my other job, the Aviation Curriculum Managers post for the training centre on site. Working with military and aviation archaeology assisted my Doctoral thesis which investigated the role of secrecy in the landscape and introduced a new theoretical approach to the material culture encountered on once-secret sites. My first degree, in Education, focused on curriculum and course design in adult education − utilising archaeology courses delivered in the FE sector. Between 2000-2008 I was Lead Tutor for Archaeology at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Bath, designing and delivering first-year undergraduate courses. 
 
On top of that I am a member of the editorial team for the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, currently covering reviews and excavation and fieldwork reports, and was, until 2016, subject matter expert for Ex Historia, the in-house journal of the University of Exeter. I have received commissions to author for Tempus Publishing, The History Press and Amberley Publishing – recently exceeding 1 million words in print. The subjects are eclectic, but focus mainly on aspects of the archaeology of the 20th century. My research interests are 20th century landscapes of order and power; the material culture of conflict; aviation archaeology (I was an aircraft maintenance specialist for 30 years); the Wiltshire Landscape and making archaeology as accessible as possible to as many members of the population as possible. Beyond archaeology I spend time with my granddaughter, Martha (2.5 years old), and collect original Punk and New Wave vinyl – something of an obsession if I’m honest. I am a great believer in staff development and the promotion of heritage to all areas of the community and look forward to helping with both during my time at Wessex. 
 
By Bob Clarke, Research Manager
 
 

Crowdhill Axe

3659 Crowdhill axe with working drawing

This axe from Crowdhill near Eastleigh, Hampshire is 6000 years old (4000 BC),
a time when the Neolithic (New Stone Age) developed from the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age).
 
It is made in a style that is more characteristic of the Mesolithic period,
so may have been one of the last of this design before the Neolithic models were fully adopted. 
 
 
 
 

Introducing SESARF!

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The South East Scotland Archaeological Research Framework (SESARF) is now under development covering Edinburgh City, Midlothian, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders. The Research Framework, being led by the South East Scotland Archaeology Partnership and project managed by Wessex Archaeology, will be designed to tie in with and complement the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) which was established in 2012. 
 

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SESARF is being developed in acknowledgement that regional research frameworks will make a useful contribution to archaeology across Scotland for anyone interested in obtaining a current overview of each region. As such SESARF will reflect the current state of knowledge in South East Scotland encompassing all time periods and specialised areas of interest and will also consider where there are gaps in the knowledge how we can move forward to fill these gaps and establish research agendas. 
 
To include as many viewpoints and stakeholders with an interest in the archaeology of South East Scotland as possible, a series of workshops will run throughout the course of the project, targeted at different sectors of the archaeological community. These workshops will be an opportunity to establish key themes and discuss the future direction of SESARF. The first workshops are being run at the end of October 2017 in Edinburgh.
 
You can find out more about the project, workshops and all things SESARF here.
 
 

Mystery Chesil Beach Shipwreck Designated Following Wessex Archaeology Fieldwork

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We recently blogged about the German First World War submarine UC-70 and about how our survey work and advice helped Historic England to legally protect the wreck. However, this submarine is not the only nationally important shipwreck site to have been recently protected as a result of our work for Historic England.
 
In 2015 we undertook a survey of a much older and more mysterious wreck site off the infamous Chesil Beach in Dorset. The Shipwreck project, a Weymouth based community interest company that investigated the maritime heritage of the Dorset coast had found two groups of iron cannon just off the beach, about 200 m apart. We were tasked by Historic England to work with them to survey these sites and advise.
 
Chesil is a very dangerous and steep shingle beach miles long that is exposed to the full force of huge waves sweeping in from the Atlantic. These waves constantly alter the shape of the beach by churning up the shingle. Wooden ships caught in Lyme Bay in a storm and blown onto the beach are reputed to have disintegrated and been absorbed without trace into the top of the beach before the storm abated, only to be spat out again at the bottom of the beach during a storm years later. Ships are also reputed to have split in two as they hit the beach, with part of the vessel then drifting out and sinking a little further out.
 

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The exposed nature of the beach and the fierce tides that run along it, also mean that conditions are rarely good enough for archaeologists to dive there and that these dives are very short, often no more than 30 minutes. As we rarely get more than two or three days to work on any site, this means that we have to use recording techniques that are very quick and efficient, without losing the accuracy and reliability that Historic England and the public expects. As the ‘project lead’, I decided that using traditional measured survey would be too slow and would not produce enough information in the time available. I therefore decided to use photogrammetry, 3D modelling using photographs, a technique that Wessex Archaeology has been at the forefront of pioneering in UK marine archaeology. I tasked my archaeologist colleague and underwater photographer Paolo Croce to photograph both sites using a camera mounted on a frame held at a constant distance from the seabed by suspending it beneath a buoy floating on the surface. This enabled him to take several hundred photographs during a single dive on each site. A second diver took sample measurements to ensure that the models were scaled correctly. I then processed these photographs overnight using photogrammetry software. When satisfied that the resulting models were accurate, I transferred them to a digital drawing app on my tablet and the resulting site plans to traditional waterproof permatrace drawing sheets. As a result, for both sites I was able to send an archaeological diver into the water the next day with a complete and accurate site plan. All that was left for this diver to do on each site was to examine objects in the models that we had identified as being key to the interpretation of the sites.
 

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Both sites remain unidentified and somewhat mysterious. Although there are many recorded losses off Chesil, we are not convinced that these two sites are related to any of them. It may therefore be that the sites are the remains of ships whose losses there are unrecorded or for which records have disappeared. However, with the help of ordnance expert Charles Trollope, we can say certain things about them. One of the sites, the closest inshore, has very large and probably English cannon manufactured between 1675 and 1715. These would only have been carried as the armament of a large warship. As no unaccounted large warship losses can be associated with the site and the guns are of different lengths, the likelihood is that these guns were not armament and were instead being transported as land or naval guns to an English colony or naval base. This was by no means unusual. For example, more than 400 cannon were sent to Barbados alone between 1660 and 1815.  As well as the guns, we found large masses of cannonballs rusted together and the broken pieces of at least one gun. The latter led us to briefly consider the possibility that the site was a cargo of scrap iron that was inbound to England. However, the presence of the cannonballs suggested that this was not particularly likely. Furthermore, local rumour suggested that divers investigating at least one site with similar characteristics in the late 20th century had used explosives to break open large concretions which contained cannon. Unfortunately, the lack of records for these early investigations means that we are not able to positively link them with this site.
 

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Thanks are very much due to Richard Bright-Paul and Grahame Knott of the Shipwreck Project, without whose work the investigations would not have been successful. Grahame has now moved on to found Deeper Dorset. We are also grateful to volunteer Royal Navy diver Oliver Penney and to archaeology student volunteers Lowri Roberts and Tom Harrison, both of whom have gone on to successfully work for Wessex Archaeology as marine archaeologists. 
 
 
 

 

 

Automotive Archaeology at Larkhill

Recently we talked about the compelling WWI history of our Larkhill site with its practice trenches, tunnels and personal stories of the men that trained there. Excavations here have been undertaken by Wessex Archaeology, on behalf of WYG, for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. This week we have another interesting find from the same site, but from its more recent history. 
 
Within a WWII artillery position, we found the remains of an MG car, not an everyday find on an archaeological site! Because of the unusual nature of the find we felt that it needed to be recorded in some detail, but standard photography and a plan really wouldn’t have done it justice. Instead, we decided to record the car in 3D using photogrammetry.
 
A large number of photographs were taken by our field team, covering every surface of the car that was accessible with a camera. By ensuring that there is sufficient overlap between these photos we are able to then use photogrammetric software to create a 3D model. This functions by identifying common points within different photographs, working out where each of the photographs was taken from, based on this information, and then using the photographs to create a three-dimensional mesh, based on these two data sets. This mesh is then overlain with a texture generated by combining the colour information from all of the photos used in the creation of the model. 
 
The results of all this hard work can be seen in the Sketchfab model below. To share online the mesh and texture quality has been reduced, keeping file size and loading times to a minimum. The original file is of an even higher quality, allowing you to pick out finer details.
 
 
Once created the model can be scaled, positioned and used for a range of purposes, including creating images, taking measurements, creating orthophotos (images without distortion or perspective) for draw up, detailed off site analysis, public engagement and more.
 
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Having recorded the car and the numbers stamped on its chassis we set out to discover, with the help of historic car expert Jeremy Hawke, which model car it was and how it might have ended up where it was. The car is a 1932 MG J2 with the serial number J2192. We only know of one owner Mr J. H. Howard of Retford, from July 1934, though it likely had other owners. We can tell from the tyre pattern that the car was probably in use until the early 1960s at which point it seems to have been placed in the artillery position. Many cars were patched up during the 1950s to keep them running and this MG J2 is no different. The engine next to the car is not from an MG and was fitted by welding extra brackets to the chassis, and there are lots of common bodged repairs.
 

3649 Image © Jaimie Wilson

The car had been dismantled, presumably for repair by a local soldier, but was then seemingly abandoned. Exactly why this happened we cannot be sure of, but the introduction of the MOT test in 1960 was the end for many cars that had been kept going in this way. It may be that the introduction of the MOT also sentenced this MG J2 to the grave. This car was one of only 2083 of this model made. When it was new in 1932 the MG J2 had a top speed of 65mph and would have cost £199 (in the 1930s, the average annual salary was £200, a 3-bedroom house cost on average £350, and a pint of beer was a tuppence!). 
 
Wessex Archaeology would like to thank Jeremy Hawke for his help in uncovering the story of this unique find. If you know anything about the history of this particular MG J2, or would like to discuss using our photogrammetric recording services, please get in touch. 
 
 
 
 
 

Nuffield Research Student Placement

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Over the last four weeks I have had the incredible experience of working in the Geomatics department at Wessex Archaeology. I have been consistently amazed at the huge number of academic disciplines archeology draws from. Indeed, I have greatly enjoyed taking ideas from disparate areas of materials science and biology to answer a seemingly unrelated question.     
 
The purpose of my project was to give a comparison between the use of lidar (light detection and ranging) derived datasets and the use of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) derived datasets in the application of discovering archaeological features. This was with the aim of better understanding the limitations of using UAVs.
 
There are two main ways of generating elevation models from the earth’s surface. The first involves reflecting laser pulses from an aircraft off the ground to measure how far the aircraft is from the ground at every point. The second uses multiple aerial photographs to generate a 3D model of the ground. 
 
Data of both kinds was available from 6 different locations across the country.  I numerically compared them to show how similar UAV is to lidar. This was done by subtracting one dataset from the other to show how much they differ. Statistical formulae are also applied to the same end. 
 
I suggested several factors as the cause of these differences including:   
 
The time of year the datasets were collected;
The amount of vegetation present;
The general roughness of the surface; 
The resolution of the lidar and UAV data.
 
I quantified these factors, using a range of techniques, to work out which have the greatest effect on the difference between the two datasets. 
 
My investigation has revealed that differences in elevation datasets are independent of all the factors listed above. This is a surprising conclusion. The differences are too large to be random, so, either the data sample was too small to show any correlation or there is another factor that determines the location consistency. Both possibilities provide exciting opportunities for future investigation, and if this project has done nothing else it has laid out the methodology for doing that. 
 
I would like to thank Wessex Archaeology for this opportunity, in particular Rachel Brown for her organisation and kindness, Richard Milwain for providing the project and supporting me throughout and the Wessex Archaeology Geomatics department for being friendly and accommodating. I would also like to thank Ken Lymer for his assistance in producing a poster. In addition, I would like to thank Sue Diamond, Gillian O’ Carrol and Sam Wenman for coordinating my placement. Lastly, I would like to thank the Nuffield foundation for their financial assistance. 
 
By James Thorn
 

Long Blade from Crowdhill

3637 Crowdhill Long Blade with working drawing

This beautiful 'Long Blade' from Crowdhill near Eastleigh in Hampshire was probably made by a member of a small band of hunters who lived about 10,000 years ago.

These people were relatively mobile and their stop-overs short, leaving few traces of their presence. Therefore discoveries of this type are incredibly important.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

New Archives Officer

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It is good to be back! Previously, I was at Wessex for seven years as a Project Officer and was involved in site excavations, desk-based assessments, archive preparation and finds analysis. I left in 2002 to be a Finds Manager.
 
Before Wessex I graduated from Bradford University a very long time ago and worked mainly with the then Scottish Urban Archaeological Trust and English Heritage specialising in finds particularly ceramics.
 
Later I had a break from archaeology and worked within the library service thinking it would be just for a few months but ended up being there for 10 years. I thought I had left it too late to try and return to archaeology, thankfully I had some new transferable skills and luckily for me there was still a backlog of archives to work on.
 
I feel that the disciplines of librarianship and archaeology are similar as they both seek to inform and make use of knowledge. Archiving aims to provide a resource that can be revisited and reinterpreted whilst promoting the advancement of education and heritage. It is an exciting time to be a part of the archives team as new countrywide initiatives are taking place. 
 
 
 

Titanic Works: Stoking the Furnace of Sheffield Steel Making

Following on from the success of open days last year with Sheffield Design Week, and this year with the Festival of Archaeology, two further open days are planned for 2017. The first is part of this year’s Heritage Open Days on Friday 8th September, and the second as part of this year’s Sheffield Design week between 21-29th October (date TBC). Wessex Archaeology is offering these rare opportunities to visit the crucible cellars of the former Titanic Works, Malinda Street/Hoyle Street, providing the chance to explore a once commonplace and important part of Sheffield’s industrial past.

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The tours set for Heritage Open Days next week are already fully booked, however, information about forthcoming tours as part of Sheffield Design Week will follow shortly. 
 
The site is located in an area of Sheffield established as a steel manufacturing centre prior to 1850, with the principal surviving buildings of the former Titanic Works dating to that period. The extant building includes a nationally rare crucible furnace with two end stacks. The former works is a Grade II listed building and during the redevelopment of the site in 2008, two previously unknown crucible cellars were unearthed, adding to the known cellar beneath the listed structure.
 
The works was occupied by a series of steel and file manufacturers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By 1876, the works was occupied by William Mickelthwaite and Co, steel manufacturers, and was listed as the ‘Titanic Works’. If you would like to read more about the Titanic Works look at our publications page for details.
 
Wessex Archaeology will be conducting four 1 hour tours of the crucible cellars at Hoyle Street, all free of charge, on each of the open days. Each tour will accommodate up to six members of the public. The tours will include exploring all three cellars with information about the steel making process, the history and development of the site and its significance within Sheffield.
 
Tours will need to be booked in advance due to limited space within the cellars. Details of how and where to book the next tour date will be publicised shortly.
 
Please be aware that the tours are not suitable for those with impaired mobility or children under the age of 8 years. Suitable footwear (walking boots) is recommended. Any other protective clothing required will be provided. 
 
Come along and delve into Sheffield’s rich industrial past. 
 
 
 
 
 

Diving on a newly discovered wreck in the Thames Estuary

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WA archaeologist Isger Vico Sommer about to dive on a new wreck in the Thames Estuary discovered by Port of London geophysicists during a routine survey. We are doing this work as part of a wider contract to provide marine archaeological services for Historic England. Isger is using surface supplied diving equipment, identical to that used by civil engineering divers.
 
In the very poor underwater visibility of the estuary, the ability of our divers to locate and map wrecks on the seabed is greatly assisted by our use of USBL acoustic tracking. We pioneered the use in UK archaeology of this offshore technology and have used it regularly since to improve the speed and efficiency of our work.
 
 
Graham Scott Senior Maritime Technical Specialist and Dive Superintendent
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