Latest News

News

New Staff in Coastal & Marine

My name is Joaquin and I started work with Wessex Archaeology, in the Salisbury office, at the beginning of May. 

3448

I am a Marine Archaeologist with experience of commercial diving. I graduated in History from the University of Cantabria and have a Masters in Prehistory and Archaeology from the same university. Since then, I have been working freelance on different underwater and terrestrial projects in Spain and Sweden. I got my first commercial diving certificate in 2002 and I have continued to improve my diving skills by working as a marine archaeologist and as a commercial diver. I am ROV Pilot Technician Grade II by IMCA as well. Being an ROV pilot allows me to explore underwater sites in new ways.

These first weeks at Wessex Archaeology I have been trained in terms of work methodology and safety in order to offer better services to our clients. I have also participated in a training day at Vobster Quay where I met the rest of the Coastal & Marine diving team and tested the diving equipment. It was a great day to get familiar with equipment and get to know my new colleagues. 
 
Wessex Archaeology is one of the biggest archaeology companies in UK and in Europe, with a great impact on social media. WA believes in the importance of making our heritage accessible to the public. I am very enthusiastic about this, so now I look forward to being involved with this as well. 
 
To sum up, the position with Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team is a great opportunity to be involved in some of the most important marine archaeology projects in the UK. I am sure it will be fascinating, and I am ready to do my best!
 
 

A Tale of St Christopher

 
Back in 2011 Wessex Archaeology undertook work on the site of the proposed Outwood Academy in Adwick-le-Street, Doncaster. This involved evaluation trenching and open area mitigation excavation which uncovered the well-preserved archaeological remains of an Iron Age/Romano-British ditched field system. Between the 1920s and 1960s the land was used as allotments, which left behind evidence such as the foundations of greenhouses and pet burials.
 

3442

Wessex was contacted by local historian Gerald Sables, whose father had lost a St Christopher pendant on the site back in 1957. The medal had been given to Gerald’s father by his grandmother as a good luck talisman for his car, which he parked in a garage on the site alongside his allotment. St Christopher is said to have carried the infant Christ across a river and for this reason. St Christopher is widely identified as a protector of travellers and drivers. The placement of such a medal in a car is moderately common for this reason.

 
Despite the passage of over 50 years, an excavator was successful in recovering the pendant. Now that work on the archive is completed we have been in contact with Gerald about returning his father’s medal. Unfortunately, Gerald is unwell at present so we’d like to wish him a speedy recovery; hopefully this St Christopher medal may be some inspiration for his journey back to health.
 
Jess Tibber, Finds and Archives Officer (Sheffield Office)
 
 
 

The Meridian Pull Challenge – Taking on the Thames

3439

Wessex Archaeology will be taking part in a charity rowing event organised by the Thames Estuary Partnership June 2017, competing against teams from the maritime industry, engineering firms, urban developers, regulators, local government and academia. 
 
Our team, composed of staff from both our London & South-East and Salisbury offices – none of whom have any significant rowing experience – will row 8.5 miles down the Thames through central London, past the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and under Tower Bridge.
 
3438
The intrepid crew – Dave Norcott, Mark Williams, Paul Baggaley, Becky Hall, Paolo Croce and Guillermo Santamaria – aim to raise at least £1,800, which will go directly to the AHOY Centre, a London-based charity which changes lives through sailing and rowing. 
 
The AHOY centre works with disadvantaged children, young vulnerable people and those with disabilities, running courses and training programmes to help them gain the qualifications and life skills needed for employment.
 
 
The Challenge itself is on 28th June, with a training session on the Thames on the 22nd – please sponsor us if you can, and keep posted to our sponsor page below to follow our training progress and inevitable mishaps!
 
 
Many thanks are already due to SUERC (the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre), who have made a very generous donation – should any other corporate sponsors feel so inclined, we still have space on our team shirts for a few more logos! Contact Dave Norcott for details.
 
 
 

Reflections from Finland

3435

Collecting our award for Project SAMPHIRE
 
We were delighted to announce recently that one of our flagship marine heritage projects, Project SAMPHIRE had been awarded the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards 2017 in the category of Education, Training and Awareness building. 
 
Wessex Archaeology’s Chris Brayne (Chief Executive) and Dan Atkinson (Director) have just returned from the European Heritage Congress 2017 in Turku, Finland where, alongside John McCarthy (former Manager for SAMPHIRE) from Flinders University in Australia, they together received the highly prestigious award. 
 
3436
Here are their experiences of their weekend in Turku
 
Finland rolled out under the wing of our small aeroplane as a patchwork of closely packed islets, shining lakes and endless forest – more like its map than any other country in the world. In early May, winter was just about over and the sky was a clear pale blue but spring was still waiting to be sure of its footing. 
 
The first day of the Congress, held in a converted ropeworks by the river, consisted of project presentations from all thirty Laureates, and we talked to Europa Nostra representatives about the work of their organisation. We learned more about the individual project achievements and started to understand how such remarkable initiatives are developed, how they are funded and how the teams work to deliver real social impact. 
 
John McCarthy presented SAMPHIRE at the end of a very long, but very rewarding day. The presentation highlighted the project’s innovative approach to community engagement and applauded the hard work of the project team and the individuals and communities on the west coast of Scotland who gave their time and knowledge so freely to the project. 
 
John commented:
It was a great honour to be considered alongside such fantastic projects, and the success of our project is due to the participation of maritime communities and the flexibility of the Crown Estate funding that allowed the project to develop in such an effective way. It is also great that a maritime project such as SAMPHIRE has helped to raise the awareness for this important cultural heritage resource among coastal communities, and to encourage the stewardship of their heritage.
 
The evening of the second day was crowned by the awards ceremony at the beautiful St Michael’s Church in Turku where Chris was honoured to receive the award on behalf of the project team. Guests were also treated to some amazing operatic performances and an address by the President of Europa Nostra, Maestro Placido Domingo. 
3434 Europa Nostra / Felix Quaedvlieg https://www.flickr.com/photos/europanostra/34019068954/
 
As part of Chris’s acceptance speech, he commented:
The SAMPHIRE team struck a deal with the communities they visited. They traded technical expertise and professional capabilities for local knowledge and traditional skills. Together they built a resource which will continue to provide value for the community and for academics on into the future. To find ourselves selected to receive this award is humbling but wonderful and will be a source of encouragement to maintain the momentum on this and other projects. It has been genuinely inspirational to experience the level of recognition and value placed on cultural heritage by our colleges across the European Union
 
The evening finished with a gala dinner at the Castle of Turku where surprised guests were met with flaming torches and trumpet fanfares from the tower windows. Champagne and a dinner of reindeer, potatoes and lingonberries was accompanied by a string quartet and a thousand-year-old vocal lament in old Finnish – enhanced (as these things should always be) with an interpretation in contemporary dance. It was quite a night.
 
Full acknowledgement for the achievement must go to the SAMPHIRE team and to those individuals and communities from the west coast of Scotland; and to the Crown Estate for funding the project. Congratulations must also be extended to all the prize winners, and to Europa Nostra for putting together such an engaging and successful event. A local award ceremony will also be held in Edinburgh in the near future to celebrate this achievement. The standard has been set.
 
What the jury said about SAMPHIRE
 
In awarding the prize to project SAMPHIRE the jury stated:
This project was not just a survey but also contributed to identity building in these West Scottish communities and encouraged the participants to act as stewards of their heritage. It has had a far reaching and long lasting effect in inspiring consciousness of heritage sites and, impressively, informing fishing practices where known drowned heritage assets are located. SAMPHIRE’s methodology has a great degree of transferability and is an excellent model for similar sites throughout Europe.
 
A major part of this project’s success was the community’s choice of their own ‘local champion’, giving ownership of the heritage to these local communities. The project gave these participants the skills and confidence to participate in a major archaeological project which may otherwise have been viewed as being in the inaccessible domain of specialists
 
Other award categories included Conservation, Research, and Dedicated Service which recognised excellence in heritage projects from throughout Europe.
 
 

Laurence's Week at Wessex Archaeology

3431

My name is Laurence Whiting; I am a student at Canterbury Christ Church University studying for a degree in Archaeology and American Studies. During my degree I chose a module which has led me to a placement with Wessex Archaeology.

It may be cliché, my work placement in Wessex Archaeology’s Maidstone office has been valuable in a way I would not have previously thought. Even though I have barely scratched the surface of what it is like working in an office within the archaeological field, I truly feel it has helped me and will continue to help me discover what I want to pursue as a career after university.
 
My time here at the office has been spent looking at social media within the archaeological field, and making comparisons between archaeological organisations and then presenting my research. While my tasks here may not have been indicative of what it is really like to work within the field; being around the other members of the team, I have had a great chance to see what their work is like. Everybody has been friendly to me during my time here and I haven’t been made to feel that I’m out of place; considering the type of work I was doing and being a student, rather than an employee. 
 
I am very grateful for the opportunity, so a big thanks to everybody at Wessex Archaeology Maidstone and to those who guided me through the project.
 
By Laurence Whiting
 
 

Pits, Pots and Animal Burials

3429

Excavations at Queen Mary’s Hospital Carshalton

Excavations between 2008 and 2010 at Queen Mary’s Hospital Carshalton revealed a fascinating Iron Age and early Romano-British site dominated by enclosures and numerous pits. The site began as an open settlement in the Early Iron Age but was enclosed by the Late Iron Age, and was subsequently modified a number of times. Pits and pit deposits are one notable feature of the site – some contained the debris of domestic life reflecting activities in a small settlement (farming, craft/industry including metalworking in the Romano-British period). However, many of the deposits were more complex and included materials (metal objects, pottery and other objects) that had been carefully selected for deposition in pits. Other pits contained partial or complete animal carcasses, sometimes in large numbers, for example one layer in one pit contained the remains of between 25 and 30 animals (mainly sheep/goat but also including two dogs, a perinatal horse, two domestic fowl and a raven). Dog burials were also quite common and included a rare example of a ‘lapdog’, which was buried at the time of the Roman Conquest. 
 
You can read more about this remarkable site in our latest Occasional PaperQueen Mary’s Hospital Carshalton. An Iron Age and early Romano-British Settlement by Andrew B. Powell
 
 

New Starters in the Edinburgh Office

Hello our names are Stephanie and Lesley and this is our blog to introduce ourselves to the Wessex Archaeology family!
 

3432

Hello everyone, my name is Stephanie; I am a marine archaeologist at the Wessex Archaeology Edinburgh office. Before starting my Scottish adventure, I worked as a freelance commercial archaeologist in Malta, mostly dealing with terrestrial salvage archaeology during development works and a handful of maritime related EIAs. I graduated from the University of Southern Denmark in 2016 in Maritime Archaeology, where I gained my commercial diving qualifications and focused my research on traditional boat building techniques. Since starting, I have been provided with induction training and asked to help with the technical report for the Norfolk Vanguard project. 
 

3433

My name is Lesley and I started work with Wessex Archaeology’s Edinburgh office at the end of April as part of the Coastal & Marine team. Before coming home to Scotland in February I was studying for my Masters in Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southern Denmark during which I gained my diving qualification and had the opportunity to help on several exciting projects including assisting Dr Innes McCartney in the geophysical survey of the scuppered German High Seas Fleet of WWI in Scapa Flow. Prior to my foray into the world of maritime archaeology I spent a couple of years working in terrestrial archaeology, mostly in the north of England and on the Northern Isles. 
 
Being accepted to join the Wessex team is a brilliant opportunity for both of us and we are super excited to begin our maritime careers with Wessex Archaeology.
 
3426
We both experienced a taste of what may lie ahead, yesterday when we travelled to Bristol to undertake a day of dive familiarisation at Vobster Quay. We met the diving team and had the opportunity to see how they work first hand. Despite not being able to dive we still managed to get wet due to the constant downpour! But we kept our spirits up with plenty of coffee and tea. The day provided us with a great opportunity to examine the equipment first hand; this was particularly useful for both of us as it is very different from what we have previously used and we can’t wait to try it out ourselves!
 

Recording Experiment at Bulford

A comparison between geo-rectified photography and photogrammetry to record human remains.

In late 2015 Wessex Archaeology started the excavation of a large Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Bulford which presented the opportunity to carry out some tests to investigate the best, most cost-effective and efficient way to record burials. We wanted to understand the differences and economic viability of some of the most popular techniques on the market: geo-rectified photography and photogrammetry. 
 

3422

After permission was granted by site manager Simon Cleggett, in December 2015 the WA Geomatics team, Damien Campbell Bell and myself gathered at Bulford to carry out this field experiment. 
 
For the work, we used a Leica Netrover Viva GPS and a Pentax K50 digital SLR camera for the photogrammetry and the geo-rectified photography. Additional accessories included a ladder and lots of targets. 
 
The type of camera we used (a Pentax K50) is a weather-resistant digital SLR camera with approximately 16.49 Mega pixels and mounting 18-55 mm lens. We normally use this type of camera in the field. A Leica Viva GPS was also employed to record the position of the targets used in the photos. 
 
For the success of both the photogrammetry and the geo-rectified photography, targets were placed both on the base of the graves and on top at ground level.
 
With photogrammetry, we can produce a 3D model using a set of photos taken from every angle of the subject. With the Pentax K50 we took approximately 23 photos for each grave; the shots were taken all around the grave cut, on top and at the sides aiming to get complete coverage. These photos were later post-processed to obtain a photogrammetry 3D model. We tried to keep the number of photos below 50 so that the processing would be faster.

 

As for the geo-rectified photography, each burial was photographed from the top in one single shot. Geo-rectified photography only requires one image, but for it to work it needs to be taken on the same plane as the subject, with the camera in a horizontal position. If these two important conditions are not met, the photo can be distorted and would be unusable. This operation required the photographer to climb on a ladder as to make sure that the whole grave was in the photo frame, this also contributed to the photo being less detailed because of the distance. Afterwards, the middle point of each target was recorded with a Leica Netrover Viva GPS with accuracy settings set below 0.02 m. 
 
For both photogrammetry and geo-rectified photography, to measure the position of the targets with a GPS or Total station is essential as this will provide the constrains for the 3D model and will also accurately locate the burials within the national coordinate system.  
 
Back in the office, the data from these various sources were post-processed and compared to each other using the photogrammetry models and the metric surveys as references. These different methodologies were analysed according to level of accuracy achieved, time of execution, least potential damage/disruption caused to the archaeology, time of post-processing and cost for the project. 
 
The results of these techniques were very good but photogrammetry was most successful, the 3D models produced were highly accurate. Unfortunately, some of the photos taken for geo-rectification had to be discarded, highlighting one of the problems with the geo-rectified photography: the shot must be on point and horizontal to minimise any distortion; if the shot is taken too far away many small details will not be clear. In addition to this, another problem that we encountered was the lack of space inside the grave to place the targets. Still, despite some problems in post-processing, the geo-rectified photography gave good accurate results, the photos were rectified and geo-located to be then digitised in the office. The records obtained with geo-rectified photography worked out to be the fastest technique while photogrammetry requires powerful computers and can take a long time to process.

 

For both of these methods used there are pros and cons so that one might be better than the other, depending on what level of accuracy is required and how much time is available on site. 
 
It was really instructive and fun to experiment with these methods on site and to compare them; the results obtained are going to be very useful to plan future archaeological works, allowing us to consider different methodologies according to specific site conditions and project budgets. 
 

Kent Jones Interviews - Guillermo Santamaria

Welcome to the first of our Kent Jones interviews. As with many people Kent is fascinated by world archaeology but loves the archaeology of the UK. He has been interested in how different countries do archaeology and how skills and expertise are shared between countries to better understand archaeology.
 
Here at Wessex Archaeology we are fortunate to have archaeologists working for us who have worked and trained internationally, which provides Kent the opportunity to speak to archaeologists about their experiences within the UK and abroad. The first of Kent’s interviews is with Guillermo (Will) Santamaria, a field archaeologist from Spain.
 

3421

Why do you prefer being called Will? Is it because some British people can’t pronounce Guillermo?
I know it is a bit tricky so I decided to ask people to call me William, which in fact I like more than my Spanish name. It also reminds me when I was a child. My grandparents always wanted to give me an English education so they sent me to a British school where everyone called me Will. 
 
Tell us a little about yourself and the training have you had?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about me and my professional career. I was born in Madrid but I used to live in Galicia, a region in north-west Spain. Living there was like being in a small England as the weather, landscape and the archaeology are very similar. 
 
I don’t know why but I have always been interested in archaeology so when I turned 16 I went to my first excavation with a university research group that was carrying out an investigation on a Bronze Age settlement. Since then, every summer I spent part of the time digging around Spain. I once had the opportunity to travel to Israel where I spent a couple of months digging a Tell (a mound made of the accumulated remains from settlements). I must say that some of the experienced archaeologists I came across tried hard to dissuade me from doing archaeology, as the future was uncertain at that time. However, I finally ended up studying archaeology at the Uni in Madrid and Santiago de Compostela. At that time (I think nowadays things have changed) we didn’t receive much training as every course was theoretical so it was quite common that students tried to gain experience and money working for commercial units while they were studying.  After finishing my degree, I started working − I wouldn´t say intensely as jobs were limited − for different commercial units until I decided to start up my own small business. Nothing really big as I was just self-employed but sometimes I had my own clients on small projects or collaborated with large archaeological units. Things went from worse to worst when the financial crisis hit Spain. The lack of public and private investment on new developments and consequently archaeological interventions, wiped off the map most of the units and of course me. So, I had to pack everything and come to the only place that could offer good opportunities to continue archaeology...  
 
How does archaeology in Spain differ from archaeology in the UK?
As in the UK the earlier limited protection was extended, in the 90s, when each county implemented new laws that should be included in the local planning application, tending to protect and include new sites. 
 
According with these new laws, depending on the impact of development and proximity to archaeological sites different type of interventions would be required. These types of interventions differ slightly from the ones we do in the UK. To begin with, watching briefs are basically the same. When further investigations are required, to assess potential archaeology on site, we usually do a number of sondages (commonly 2 x 2 m) by hand depending on how big the area is. I think evaluations trenches done by machine are not a common practice in Spain − definitely not where I used to work in Galicia. If archaeology was found in the sondages, the next phase of work would be an open area excavation. In the same way as evaluation trench project could result in an excavation at the end. Although the strategy is different as everything should be 100% dug and the methodology followed single context recording used by MOLA. 
 
Will also went on to praise the UK’s approach to H&S, career development and the professional standards that are employed in the heritage sector.
 
Is there anything you miss about working in archaeology in Spain?
I miss being more in touch with the research part of archaeological intervention. Most of the time as part of the field team we just go to site, strip it, retrieve all the information we can and move to the next project. I would like to have more time to do some research and analyse the artefacts as I used to do in Spain.
 
What challenges have you faced working in the UK?
Working here there are many challenges. Not only the language barrier but each project is different and that keeps you interested.  
 
Interventions are different to the type of interventions I used to carry out in Spain. They are much larger, with more people involve, machinery, H&S issues, etc... so the pressure is higher and the level of responsibility too. 
 
Do you think working in archaeology in Spain and the UK has given you a better understanding of how people lived in the past?
What I come to realise is that people since the beginning of time have been doing the same things here and there. There are some variations on how society was organised and how it reflects on the archaeological remains but at the end the purpose is the same. It´s amazing discovering that same cultural patterns are repeated through the time in places as distant as Spain and UK. I would say that the north and north-west of Spain basically experienced the same cultural evolution as UK and Ireland. The south and south-east is a different world and had a lot of influences from Mediterranean cultures.
 
Despite the peculiarities of each region the prehistory and protohistory from an artefactual, occupational and social point of view are very similar. You can find the same artefacts, similar settlements and social organisation on each period here and north-west Spain. The way the Roman occupation changed the culture in England doesn´t differ at all with the way it did in Spain. The Iron Age is well represented in this country by hill forts as it is in the Spain and Portugal and during the Bronze Age henges, cromlechs, roundhouses, were erected, and although they are less monumental they are essentially the same as the 'British' ones. Similar archaeology can be seen across the Atlantic Area − starting from Portugal, through France and arriving in Ireland − when different cultures developed similar ways of life.
 
 
 

Chartered Institute for Archaeologists Conference

Newcastle 2017

Extending across three days, the annual Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) conference provides an opportunity for those involved in all areas of the industry (commercial, academic, curatorial and statutory) to come together to explore aspects of the discipline. This year, the conference was held in Newcastle and the theme was Archaeology – A Global Profession
 
Staff from Wessex Archaeology provided a strong contribution to this years’ programme. On the Thursday, Angela Batt and Alexandra Grassam delivered a talk entitled ‘From equality and diversity to fairness and respect’ as part of a session for the CIfA Equality and Diversity group called ‘How are we making archaeology accessible for all and are we doing it well enough?’. The presentation provided a summary of the diversity survey recently undertaken by WA, and outlined the approach to the survey, the issues encountered and the actions initiated so far. 

3419

The talk also included information on guidance prepared with a view to supporting staff with autism, which has been drawn up in conjunction with a member of staff with the condition. The talk concluded by outlining the route Wessex Archaeology intends to take to make a transition from the concept of ‘Equality and Diversity’ towards ‘Fairness, Inclusion and Respect’.  
 
On the Friday two members of Wessex Archaeology Scotland gave presentations at a session ‘Maximising the research potential from infrastructure projects’. The two talks given demonstrated Wessex’s leading role in marine archaeology and the range of backgrounds our staff have. Dr Dan Atkinson ran through a marine perspective on the topic, giving the audience a summary of work completed around the British Isles and the research potential that has come from that. This included a look at large-scale wind farm developments, marine dredging and ports/harbour development. All of these have allowed Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team to conduct funded research into topics such as the palaeogeography of the North Sea (Area 240 − marine aggregate dredging), wrecks, WWI aircraft (Junkers 88 engine found during the London Gateway development) and the sinking of the SS Mendi. It also gave Dan an opportunity to promote the successful Marine Antiquities Scheme, launched by Wessex last year.
 
Ben Saunders then gave a presentation on the rescue excavations on prehistoric tombs along the route of the centre sections of the Batinah Expressway, in northern Oman. This stretch of roadway cut through the Batinah Plain, an area of Oman that, until very recently, had seen little archaeological investigation, despite every ridge and hill having a rash of stone burial cairns across their slopes and crests. While our initial responsibility was to purely record the archaeology that was on the ground, we also made contact with researchers at Durham University and Sultan Qaboos University who were working slightly further south on the Rustaq-Batinah Archaeological Survey, allowing them to use our data in return for contextualisation of our findings. The result was an important step in learning more about the prehistory of northern Oman, particularly looking at the poorly understood Iron Age period, and has resulted in a publication through the British Foundation for the Study of Arabia.
 
All who attended the conference enjoyed the opportunity to share best practice and discuss issues related to the archaeological sector.
 
By Alexandra Grassam and Ben Saunders
 
Syndicate content