On Saturday 27th April 2013 we held an open day for the public and local residents to learn more about the exciting discoveries made at the CEMEX UK run Kingsmead Quarry, Horton near Wraysbury.
The exhibition contained a selection of the most fascinating finds with experts on hand to answer questions and explain the significance of the artefacts. This was an opportunity for local people to see some of the brilliant discoveries that have been made over the 10 years of excavation at Horton.
Of course Phil Harding’s demonstration of flint knapping and Jackie McKinley’s skeleton stand proved extremely popular.
Children had the chance to have a go at several different activities including making their own ‘prehistoric’ pots. These were inspired by the amazing Beaker burial that was discovered at the site.
We are delighted that over 500 people took the opportunity to visit the event on Saturday and we received extremely positive feedback.
‘One of the most interesting things I have seen in my 50 years in Wraysbury’
‘Fascinating exhibition. Well worth the trip’
The exhibition was formally opened on the Friday morning by Jesus Gonzalez, President CEMEX UK, who gave a welcome address, followed by Cllr Colin Rayner, the Worshipful Mayor of Royal Windsor and Maidenhead and Fiona Macdonald, Principal Archaeologists, Berkshire Archaeology.
Classes from three local schools: The Hythe School, Staines, Datchet St Mary’s and Wraysbury Primary took the opportunity to learn about the discoveries, do the activity trail, make a pot and watch Phil knap flint. Later in the afternoon the exhibition was opened to the staff from CEMEX UK and in the evening over 50 people attended a public lecture by Gareth Chaffey and Alistair Barclay.
Further talks to community groups will be taking place over the coming months, and school visits and workshops are planned.
For more information about our work at Kingsmead Horton click here
The latest edition of the Scottish Diver Magazine includes an article on Project SAMPHIRE, a Coastal & Marine archaeology project for the west coast of Scotland. The project brings together local communities, divers and professional underwater archaeologists to support the identification, investigation and understanding of Scotland’s marine heritage.
Paul Baggaley has just returned from Bremerhaven, Germany, where he spent the week giving a practical course in marine geophysics to staff of the National Maritime Museum of Germany and students from the MA in Maritime Archaeology course from the University of Southern Denmark.
The course used equipment owned by the German National Shipping Museum to demonstrate the application of sidescan sonar and magnetometer surveys to investigating wreck sites. Following a couple of days fieldwork, the course was completed by a day of lectures and practical sessions discussing the interpretation and processing of geophysical data.
Have you been reading about rare Neolithic houses and a Beaker burial containing a ‘prehistoric princess’ recently? These discoveries were made during our excavations at Kingsmead Quarry, Horton.
Saturday 27th April 2013, we are holding a FREE open day to showcase some of the amazing finds from these excavations. The event will be held in Wraysbury Village Hall, Berkshire (TW19 5NA) 10.30 am to 3.30 pm.
The exhibition is open to all and explores the discoveries from the site as we present the hidden past beneath Horton’s landscape and uncover the imprints left by farming and ritual activity.
• Learn about the interesting and unique evidence
• Meet the archaeologists
• View the artefacts
• Examine a skeleton
There will also be a number of activities for children including pot making and example excavations.
Practical demonstrations will be given by two of Time Team’s regular presenters – Phil Harding will be flint knapping and Jackie McKinley will be examining the human skeleton.
To explore the Kingsmead Quarry excavations further click here.
The two artist’s reconstructions are an impression of how the person may have looked during their life, and when placed in the grave. We know that the skeleton was that of an adult aged 35 or over and that they were placed in a crouched position, resting on their right side, facing east with their head towards the south – a rite that tends to be reserved for females at this time. Although the skull could be lifted in a soil block the bone was too degraded to attempt any form of accurate facial reconstruction – the face is that of the female artist!
We have made the decision that the beads, along with an absence of more typical male grave goods, indicate a probable female burial. However, this assumption could be wrong as a number of beads have been found with men. This issue is further complicated as such items could represent gender and/or could be gifts from female mourners.
Beads of gold and lignite found near the neck possibly belong to a single necklace. The Beaker pot was near the hips and, although we cannot be certain, it could have been placed in or near the hands. Other lignite beads were found in this area and could, as we have suggested, come from a bracelet. The large amber beads have a different distribution to the lignite and gold, and here we have made the suggestion that they could have been used as buttons or fasteners for a garment such as a cloak. Beads and buttons have interchangeable functions as both can be sown on to clothing. Unfortunately, organic textile rarely survives and out artist’s impression serves to remind us what could be missing from the archaeological record. We know that they had textile at this time from impressions left in pottery found on other archaeological sites. Archaeologists have speculated that the geometric motifs impressed into Beaker pottery with bone combs and twisted cord could be inspired by patterns used in textile. On this basis we have repeated the pot’s herringbone motif within the weave of the fabric.
Why there are no images of the skeleton
The acid nature of the clay-rich brickearth, frequent flooding from the adjacent Colne Brook and the high water table at Kingsmead Quarry, Horton are not ideal conditions for the preservation of bone and collagen. Such conditions result in excessive physical breakdown of bone , and human bone recovered from graves - cut through and backfilled with the same material - is often found in various states of decay and is extremely fragile when exposed during excavation. In the case of the Beaker period skeleton some bones were so degraded that they survived as little more than a stain and others, such as the skull and the long bones, comprised degraded bone fragments and comminuted splinters rendering it almost impossible to lift them. Due to the poor bone preservation, the burial remains were recorded during excavation by osteoarchaeologist Jacqueline McKinley. The surviving fragments of the skull and other parts of the skeleton were lifted within soil blocks so that they could be more carefully excavated under laboratory conditions. All of the lower grave fill, ie, the soil that surrounded the burial remains, was collected and carefully processed to ensure full recovery of bone/tooth fragments and small objects such as beads.
Unfortunately, when the feature was first found it did not look like a grave and, consequently, some information and very small objects from one part of the grave (not that containing the skeletal remains themselves) could have been lost. The heavy, clayey, redeposited brickearth fill of such features is difficult to excavate by hand and is generally a challenge even for experienced excavators. Despite their small size, the gold beads were easily visible against the darker brown colour of the brickearth. Similarly, the larger amber beads, even with their oxidised and decayed surfaces, could be recognised by their shape. However, the smaller amber bead fragments and all of the black lignite beads were near invisible to the human eye during excavation. Here, our decision to lift parts of the skeletal remains in soil blocks was rewarded as we discovered many tiny black lignite beads adjacent to the neck area and from the torso region close to both the Beaker pot and close to where it appears the hands had rested.
Preliminary examination of the skeletal remains indicates that they are those of an adult of over 35 years of age. There is less confidence regarding the sex of the individual, with insufficient osteological evidence to say whether they were male or female. Sexing the remains has been based on contextual evidence and prior archaeological knowledge regarding such burials: the position of the body with the head towards the south, the presence of so many beads, and an absence of ‘male’ objects associated with hunting and warfare.
On Saturday 20 April, 13 members of the Damerham Archaeology project took part in a pottery and animal bone identification workshop at the Wessex Archaeology offices in Salisbury. The Damerham Project, led by Martyn Barber of English Heritage and Helen Wickstead of Kingston University, is looking at cropmark sites mapped from aerial photographs around the village of Damerham on the Hampshire/Dorset border. Last year’s fieldwork, on a long barrow, dug through a post-medieval quarry, as well as part of the barrow ditch.
The pottery and bone workshop was aimed at volunteers working on the project, who would like to be able to develop their recognition skills to use on site. The volunteers were able to handle examples of pottery spanning six millennia, and a wide range of animal bones. Each session included a short ‘test’ at the end to see how much the participants had learned during the day! Feedback was enthusiastic, and we hope that the workshop will enhance the participants’ enjoyment of their next fieldwork exercise.
Archaeological excavations at CEMEX’s Kingsmead Quarry in Berkshire not far from Windsor have revealed a rare 'Beaker' burial of 'Copper Age' date (2500-2200 BC). Found within the grave were some of Britain’s earliest gold ornaments (five tubular beads), along with 29 bead fragments of amber and 30 beads of black lignite.
The burial contained the possible remains of a woman who was at least 35 years old. At the time of her burial, she wore a necklace containing small tubular sheet gold beads and black disc beads of lignite - a material similar to jet. A number of larger perforated amber buttons/fasteners were also found in a row along her body, which may indicate that she was wearing clothing, perhaps of patterned woven wool, at the time of her burial. Further lignite beads from near her hands suggest that she wore a bracelet.
The woman’s burial represents an unusual and important find as only a small number of Beaker burials from Britain contain gold ornaments, and most are associated with male skeletons. It would appear that their religious beliefs dictate that most men were buried in a crouched position with the head resting to the north and facing east. With women the body position is often reversed with the head to the south.
The woman was found with a large drinking vessel, unusually placed on her hip rather than by her feet or shoulder. The fine pottery vessel had been decorated with a comb-like stamp.
Beaker using communities lived across Europe around 2,500 BC around about the time of Stonehenge. In more Western regions, such as Britain, they were the first people to use copper and gold (giving rise to the term Copper Age or Chalcolithic). They buried their people in special ways, characteristically with a distinctive type of pot, known to archaeologist as a Beaker. They were also buried with other fine objects such as metal, stone and bone.
Site Director Gareth Chaffey, of Wessex Archaeology, who has been excavating the site for the last seven years, said: “It is interesting to think who this woman was within her community. She was probably an important person in her society, perhaps holding some standing which gave her access to prestigious, rare and exotic items. She could have been a leader, a person with power and authority, or possibly part of an elite family - perhaps a princess or queen.”
Osteologist Jacqueline McKinley (Wessex Archaeology) has examined the skeletal remains, which appear to be those of an adult aged 35 or over, possibly a female. Unfortunately the acid nature of the 'brickearth' soil is far from ideal for the preservation of bone and a lack of surviving collagen limits the possibility of scientific research, such as radiocarbon dating and DNA.
Dr Stuart Needham (an expert in Copper Age metalwork) who is presently studying the gold beads said: “Beaker graves of this date are almost unknown in South East England and only a small number of them, and indeed continental Europe, contain gold ornaments. The tubular beads that were found at Kingsmead Quarry are certainly rare in Britain, and this gives the grave tremendous research importance”.
It is possible that the beads have been fashioned by cutting up other objects made from sheet gold.
The gold beads have been examined by scientists at the University of Bristol and at the University of Reading.
Dr Chris Standish (University of Bristol) who is currently investigating the sources of gold exploited during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age, has used lead isotope analysis to characterise a number of British and Irish gold deposits. This technique has been performed on the five gold beads from the Horton burial.
Dr Standish concludes that “their isotopic signatures are consistent with natural gold deposits located in south-east Ireland and southern Britain”.
Further compositional analyses will shed light on where this gold originated from, and will provide important information relating to the patterns of gold procurement and the extent of trading networks that were in existence prior to the interment of the Kingsmead Quarry burial.
Dr Stuart Black, an archaeological scientist at the University of Reading, has examined the beads using the cutting edge technology at the University’s Centre for Advanced Microscopy (CfAM) to reveal signs of decoration and details of how the beads were made and attached. This includes fine stitching holes on at least three of the beads and scored lines.
The ornaments found within the grave are all the more interesting when you consider where they came from. The gold may have originated from Southern England or Ireland, the lignite beads from Eastern England and the amber buttons/fasteners from as far away as the Baltic or made from amber collected from the east coast of England.
Beaker burials of this type are rare in this region of England and, it was an unexpected find. However, as Dr Alistair Barclay of Wessex Archaeology notes “we know from recent research that an extensive prehistoric landscape is buried beneath the edge of West London and East Berkshire. The Kingsmead Quarry project is currently adding much new and significant information to this unfolding story and challenging our perception and understanding of prehistory.”
The beads will go on display at the end of April at a special two day event organised by CEMEX UK and Wessex Archaeology. And later in the year it is hoped to display the grave finds at a local museum.
The excavations are part of CEMEX’s £4 million archaeological programme on the site, which has been in operation since 2003. Andy Spencer Sustainability Director, CEMEX UK, said : “Kingsmead Quarry has given us some wonderful finds, rare and interesting ones like this Beaker burial and the Neolithic houses. Today, as well as an insight into the lives of our ancestors, the site is providing valuable building materials for construction.”
Wessex Archaeology were invited to the United Kingdom Archaeological Science 2013 held at Cardiff University. The event was well attended with presentations ranging from the investigation of the DNA of extinct lesser Antillean rice rats to the problems in radiocarbon dating sabre tooth cats from the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles.
Several posters were presented including:
David Norcott presented a poster entitled Kingsmead Quarry, Horton: an approach to understanding persistent use of place, habitation and landscape dynamics.
Jack Russell gave a presentation: Geoarchaeological Investigations on the Dogger Bank summarising some of the work that Wessex Archaeology have been undertaking in advance of one of the world’s largest proposed offshore windfarms. After giving a summary of the historical research in the area, Jack presented some of the new methodological solutions to undertaking marine geoarchaeology in offshore areas and some of geoarchaeological highlights including the oldest and youngest radiocarbon dated peat deposits in the area.
Wessex Archaeology is delighted to announce a partnership with the Jon Egging Trust, a charity set up in honour of Flt. Lt. Jon Egging (‘Red 4’) who sadly lost his life whilst participating in an air display with the Red Arrows at the Bournemouth Air Festival in 2011.
Working with Wessex Archaeology, the Jon Egging Trust are expanding their Blue Skies programme through which young students are provided with a unique opportunity to build confidence and self-esteem, foster ambition and achieve accredited training in work and life skills.
Teamwork and leadership are at the heart of our Blue Skies programme. I am really excited that the Jon Egging Trust will be working with such established teams as Wessex Archaeology and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to develop these skills in our young people. They will get an insight into a unique team environment, which will complement the opportunities for personal development provided by our other inspirational partners, including MoD Boscombe Down and Salisbury Plain.
Dr Emma Egging (Jon Egging Trust)
With significant input from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and Operation Nightingale, Wessex Archaeology will host two ‘inspiration days’ in early May 2013, with a view to repeating them annually.
The first of these ‘inspiration days’ will be based at the Wessex Archaeology head office in Salisbury and will provide the students with an introduction to archaeology. The young people will have the unique opportunity to engage with the WA archaeologists, handle an array of artefacts, take part in practical activities and enjoy a flint-knapping demonstration by Time Team’s Phil Harding.
The second ‘inspiration day’, organised by DIO Senior Historic Advisor Richard Osgood, will offer the Blue Skies students the chance to get involved in an exciting excavation on Salisbury Plain. The Iron Age midden site at East Chisenbury is an extraordinary 2700 year old mound of finds-rich feasting waste. The students will locate the site in the landscape, excavate, record and plan the archaeology, and process their finds. Guidance throughout will be provided by some truly inspirational Op Nightingale participants and veteran ex-Rifles. The valuable results of the students’ efforts will be added to the archaeological archive and will ultimately contribute to the site interpretation.
Find out more about the Blue Skies programme at www.joneggingtrust.com.