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Thanks to the fantastic support of our social media followers, we are pleased to announce that the winner of the inaugural Wessex Archaeology Inter-Office Christmas Tree challenge for 2016 is our WA Scotland office in Edinburgh, with their inspired idiosyncratic offering.
Our congratulations go to the WA Scotland team (who win the cake prize), and indeed to all of the designers throughout our regions for their creative and inventive contributions to the competition.
Chief Executive, Chris Brayne in Edinburgh trying out that Christmas tree hat and cake.
We have been working on and off at Sherford since early 2015, but this year has been a little different. A team from Wessex Archaeology has been present on the site from 4 January to 14 December 2016. A whole calendar year of excavation and investigation in a beautiful spot in Devon. And what a year it has been for the archaeology!
Throughout the year the team, which has normally consisted of around eight archaeologists, has been ably led by Senior Project Officer Matt Kendall. Several of the team have been on site for the entire year which is a feat in itself. The result was a close knit team working at capacity for the duration of the fieldwork, learning the intricacies of the archaeology and natural geology and building some wonderful camaraderie in the process.
The field team has been assisted by a dedicated post-excavation team of specialists back at our main office in Salisbury. Their role is to begin to process the artefacts and environmental samples which were recovered on site. It is here we can begin to fully understand the excavation by dating the pottery, reconstruct some of the vessels and analyse and assess the evidence further.
Throughout the year the team have worked on six excavation areas which were identified following the completion of a site wide geophysical survey. Some of the areas allowed for the rare opportunity to excavate two extant Bronze Age round barrows which were still visible in the landscape. It was a privilege to excavate the monuments and they didn’t disappoint. Both contained central cremation burials of a single individual, both of whom must have been extremely important within their communities. The excavation of the barrows is already providing unique evidence for Devon and will no doubt create more headlines once the analysis and radiocarbon dating is undertaken.
We have been able to identify a large amount of funerary activity in the immediate vicinity of the barrows, including a cremation cemetery consisting of around 15 upturned pottery urns containing cremated remains. Such a collection of urns is very rare for this part of the country, so these burials provide an important opportunity to learn how our ancestors here treated their dead several millennia ago.
One of the excavation areas also revealed a Romano-British settlement of a size that could have supported a small group of people farming the surrounding landscape. The discovery is very exciting and once all of the evidence has been analysed and assessed, we may be able to say much more about the people who lived here, farming and trading across the western boundary of the Roman Empire. Maybe our excavations will even lead to a redrawing of that boundary.
This year also saw our second open day which was well attended and well received. Visitors were able to see the remains of one of the round barrows under excavation as well as see some of the artefacts we have found during the excavations so far. It was a great day and we would like to thank all those who made it such a success.
More to come
Excavations are set to continue into 2017 as the development makes progress. We will continue to provide a team of archaeologists on site to be on hand to monitor all aspects of the development so that we can continue to learn more about this exciting historical landscape. Matt will continue reporting throughout the winter and we will begin to tease out information and the secrets which the site has. Towards the end of the year we made some truly spectacular discoveries which we will release information about as and when we can. Watch this space!
At the end of February, the Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD) was relaunched in Sussex with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA). Following a busy summer and autumn of outreach events, visits to the ports of Sussex, meetings with local contacts and supporters, some fantastic finds have been reported! These include a lead ingot, an airplane wing and other aircraft fragments, bottles, earthenware pots, anchors, shell cases and a cannonball to name but a few.
The new FIPAD newsletter, as part of the ongoing promotion of the project, provides feedback to the fishing and wider community, and includes information on the current success of the project as well as some useful hints and tips on recording finds and dating glass bottles. Future issues will showcase items reported through the protocol and provide assistance in recognising and identifying other common finds.
Currently Rye and Hastings have been the most prolific reporters of finds with Chichester and Eastbourne following up behind. Hopefully Brighton, Shoreham and Selsey are just slow starters and will have much to report in the future.
With talks on the project and maritime archaeology already planned for the New Year and some new developments on the reporting of finds on the way, 2017 is looking to be an exciting year for the project.
To read the newsletter follow this link
To find out more about this project visit the FIPAD site
Presented to Netheravon Barrow Rescue Project
Last Thursday the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) on behalf of the Ministry of Defence awarded their prestigious Heritage Award to the Netheravon Barrow Rescue project. The Heritage Award is one of the Sanctuary Awards, which are presented annually to recognise sustainability work on the defence estate.
The Netheravon Barrow Rescue project saved an important Early Bronze Age site on Salisbury Plain. Tom Theed of Landmarc and his team discovered an unusually large Early Bronze Age cremation urn in many pieces on a burial mound at Netheravon, 'excavated' by badgers. From their discovery the rescue project was launched; controlled excavation of the find spot was subsequently undertaken by Wessex Archaeology in conjunction with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Operation Nightingale. Through the excavation a range of remarkable artefacts were discovered including a bronze saw, a beautiful stone archer's wrist guard, a bronze chisel still with its antler handle and almost 1 kg of cremated human remains.
The Early Bronze Age cremation urn was put back together by Gabby Flexer at the Wiltshire County Conservation lab in Chippenham and will eventually be displayed with other finds from the site at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes.
It is excellent that the Netheravon Barrow Rescue project won the Heritage Award, as it highlights the superb work of all involved in the project and the importance of the site.
Wessex Archaeology’s own Thomas Harrison and Isger Vico Sommer have undertaken and successfully passed the commercial diver training course for the HSE Surface Supplied Ticket at the Commercial Diver Training in Fowey and Plymouth.
Over the four weeks of training, both have been trained by a great group of instructors in all the different aspects of surface supplied diving. This includes the use of Kirby Morgan bandmasks, hardhats, use of different hydraulic and pneumatic tools underwater, underwater welding and Broco burning! Further both are now certified decompression chamber operators, oxygen providers and well trained in the use of a diving cage!
During their time with the Commercial Diver Training they stayed on two ex-Admiralty Fleet Tenders, Hambledon and Loyal Watcher, which both have been converted to excellent dive platforms! While Loyal Watcher was more SCUBA orientated Hambledon was fitted with a L.A.R.S, cage, wet-bell system, recompression chamber and comes complete with a full surface supplied diving spread!
Both Tom and Isger are ready and excited to undertake archaeological diving projects using surface supplied methods and equipment!
It’s been over a dozen years since a team from Wessex Archaeology was lucky enough to discover and excavate the grave of the Amesbury Archer, which still represents one of the most important prehistoric burials ever recorded in the Stonehenge landscape, or indeed from the UK as a whole.
At around 2300 BC, the Archer dates from the Beaker period, which spans the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Oxygen Isotope analysis of his tooth enamel suggests that he originated from a considerable distance away, most probably in the Alpine region of central Europe.
His burial was not only the most richly furnished example of its type (containing five Beakers, several caches of struck flint, 17 barbed and tanged arrowheads, two stone bracers, three copper knives/daggers, a pair of gold basket ornaments, boar's tusks, and a cushion stone used for metalworking), but the gold and copper objects found are amongst the earliest examples of metal artefacts from the UK. The presence of the cushion stone suggests that the ‘Archer’ may in fact have been a metalworker himself.
To many of the team involved this still represents one of the absolute highlights of their careers. This includes Dave Norcott (who was lucky enough to also catch the excavation of the Boscombe Bowmen grave two years after the Archer), who is pictured here giving a talk at his local school, where the children of Key Stage 2 have been learning about prehistory and the introduction of metal technology into Britain.
Dave said: ‘It’s always fantastic to be able to do a talk like this, and to have an excuse to revisit the Archer excavation – the kids are absolutely fascinated by prehistory and archaeology, and often come up with rather insightful and difficult questions. They were particularly excited by the new comic-strip adventure version of the Archer’s story, which the author had kindly donated copies of for the school library’.
The comic-strip adventure story for children has been written by Jane Brayne, a well-known archaeological illustrator who produced the original reconstruction drawings of the Archer. Her book Archer – Journey to Stonehenge is out this week on Amazon.
The academic publication The Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen – Bell Beaker burials at Boscombe Down, Amesbury, Wiltshire is still available through Oxbow Books.
Once again Wessex Archaeology is wishing clients and colleagues seasonal greetings with our own festive e-card. Our card this year was produced by Nancy Dixon and Rob Goller from our Graphics Team. Click on the arrow to run the animation, we hope you enjoy it.
Sending e-cards instead of traditional Christmas cards has enabled us to make donations to several charities. The charities supported by our six regional offices for 2016 are:
To get everyone in the festive spirit, our regional offices (Salisbury, Bristol, Welshpool, Sheffield, Maidstone and Edinburgh) are taking part in an inter-office Christmas Tree Decorating Challenge, to be judged by you, our Social Media followers. Photos of the trees in all their creative glory will go live on Monday 12th December, and the tree with the most combined likes on Facebook and Twitter by the morning of Monday 19th December will be declared the winner…
…and for the successful office, there will be cake!
Archaeology, despite our best efforts, does not seem to take any notice of the seasons and therefore, as field archaeologists we are required to be out in all weathers all year round. Sometimes we are sweltering in the dust of a quarry site in August, other times we find ourselves wading through calf-deep clay mud in soggy Somerset in February. Battling with the elements as we do, having good warm and waterproof clothing is essential and is provided by Wessex. Recently Wessex has been trialling a new range of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), one that is specifically designed for female staff as, many of us realise, there is no such thing as ‘unisex sizes’. Historically there have been a number of issues for female staff regarding the clothing we use on sites; trousers, too narrow in the hip or two long in the leg; jackets that fit width-ways but come down to your knees. Besides making some of us look like we have borrowed some clothes from an older sibling, ill-fitting PPE also impedes movement and reduces its effectiveness, so we look ridiculous and get damp anyway. No more! After six months of assessing the effectiveness of the new PPE Wessex will now be offering it as an alternative to the unisex brand it currently uses. Staff who trialled the PPE have said that it affords a greater range of movement without compromising on size and that the fit is far more comfortable. In some cases, there was little difference noticed between the unisex and the female specific PPE but, as we are all different shapes and sizes this is to be expected. Hopefully more companies, not only working in heritage but in other sectors to, will recognise this need for a wider range of PPE sizes and fits and make them available to their staff in the near future.
Following on from the highly successful three-year HLF Community Heritage project ‘Exploring Tinsley Manor’ with Heeley City Farm and Tinsley Junior School (now Tinsley Meadows), and the University of Sheffield History Department’s Unravelling Tinsley’s Court Rolls project, Wessex Archaeology Sheffield staff recently helped Heeley City Farm with an ongoing graveyard survey of St Lawrence Church in Tinsley, Sheffield. The survey is being carried out by Heeley City Farm Heritage with the help of student volunteers from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield as part of their Archaeology in the City programme.
The current church was built in 1879 on the site of an earlier (17th/18th century) church, which itself was thought to incorporate elements of a Norman chapel, the Chapel of St Leonard. In the 18th century, the renowned Sheffield antiquarian Joseph Hunter (1783–1861) described the Norman elements of the church in his South Yorkshire (a history of the Deanery of Doncaster). Michael Wood also discusses the church and chapel at length in the Tinsley Wood chapter of his 1999 book In Search of England: Journeys into the English Past. Sadly all traces of the Norman church were lost in the Victorian rebuilding.
The earliest known date for one of the graves is 1714, whilst a parish book has records of baptisms, marriages and burials dating from 1711. The earliest graves are thought to lie around the current church and are predominantly aligned east to west, with a more formal north-east to south-west layout for burial plots beyond it.
The volunteers have been carrying out a condition survey of the graveyard, including transcribing inscriptions for the first time, and tying this in with the burial records, index cards, and information from a churchyard plan. The records of the known burials are being digitised to provide a single database which can be easily accessed by members of the church and public. The aim of our work was to help in producing an accurate plan of the graveyard, tied into the Ordnance Survey grid, and to assist with the digital recording and database. Over 400 graves and plots were recorded over three days, including the earliest graves around the church.
From 2017 Sheffield staff from Wessex Archaeology will be assisting Heeley Farm and Tinsley Meadows school with a new two-year HLF Community Heritage Project entitled ‘Tinsley: Time and Travel’.