Latest News


Nuffield Research Student Placement


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


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.

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


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

Automated External Defibrillator (AED) installed at Portway House


We are pleased to report that we have had an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) installed in the porch at the side entrance to Portway House.
The AED is registered with the ambulance service for public use. This means that anyone within 200m of Portway House who dials 999 for an ambulance (and where there may be a benefit from the use of a defibrillator) will be directed to the AED and given a code to open the lockable safe that houses it. All local business have been informed that the AED is available for emergency use at Portway House.


Evidence suggests that where AEDs have been used, the outcomes for an individual who has had a heart attack are far more favourable than when treatment is delayed until the arrival of the emergency services. 
We also have an AED training module, so that our trained First Aiders will have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the AED if they so wish. The training module can also be taken on First Aider/refresher courses for training purposes.
We would like to thank the South Portway Management Committee for part funding the AED.
By Alan Spooner, Facilities Officer

Working with Historic England to Recognise and Protect our First World War Maritime Heritage

Wessex Archaeology is proud of its role in helping Historic England to protect two new nationally important historic wrecks.

3622 Diver exploring the wreck © Crown copyright

The first of these, UC-70, was a First World War German mine laying submarine built in 1916 in Hamburg. Carrying their mines in tubes forward of the conning tower, German mine laying submarines operated around the UK throughout the war. The minefields they laid were a particular menace to coastal shipping and regularly closed off both British and French ports. Large numbers of British and allied merchant ships also fell victim to them, threatening the British war effort. The presence of German submarine bases in parts of Flanders that the Royal Navy was unable to attack effectively from the sea was one of the reasons why the British Army and its allies fought the notorious and unsuccessful Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele as it became known. However, it was only by the adoption of the convoy system and a massive effort to bolster anti-submarine defences in the seas around Britain that the U-boat menace was ultimately defeated.
Until August 1918, very late in the war, UC-70 was a successful ‘boat’ (submarines are always boats, not ships). Operating from Flanders as far afield as the Bay of Biscay, it sank 33 Allied ships of all sizes with its mines, torpedoes and deck gun. At one point it was sunk by a British shell whilst alongside in the captured port of Ostend, but it was quickly salvaged and patched up.
On the 21st August, UC-70 left Zeebrugge for a war patrol off the English east coast. What happened next is unclear, but seven days later a patrolling British bomber followed an oil slick off Whitby. Reaching the end of the slick, the pilot, Lieutenant Arthur Waring, saw the tell-tale shadow of a damaged submarine just below the surface. Waring dropped a bomb close to it. Shortly afterwards the British destroyer Ouse arrived and dropped depth charges through a patch of oil that had come to the surface after the bomb had exploded. More oil and debris came to the surface. Believing the U-boat to have been sunk, British divers were quickly on the scene. These brave men, known as the ‘Tin Openers’, squeezed or cut their way into German submarine wrecks in the hope of finding code books or other intelligence material. They found the sunken submarine on the seabed. There appeared to have been no survivors.
3624 The UC-70’s control room, taken using a camera lowered in through the open conning tower hatch © Crown copyright
Like many submarine wrecks around the UK coast, the UC-70 drew the attention of late 20th century salvors. By 1991 both bronze propellers had been taken for the valuable metal, even though the wreck is not reported to have been sold for salvage and despite the concern of locals who regarded the wreck as a war grave. Recreational divers also started to visit and the wreck became quite a popular dive site.
3627 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0
The wreck of the UC-70 was identified as being of possible historical and archaeological importance in a desk-based study of submarine wrecks around the English coast commissioned by Historic England. Then, in 2016, an opportunity arose for Historic England to send a Wessex Archaeology dive team to survey it, part of a wider programme of submarine wreck investigations carried out by us off the North-East coast. Arriving during a rare period of good visibility and using CEFAS geophysical survey data provided through the UKHO, our dive team was able to locate and inspect the submarine over the course of a couple of dives in August 2016. UC-70 was observed to be partially intact and lying upright at 25m depth. Considering how close it was to the coast, it was obviously fairly well preserved and its pressure hull resisting the corrosion that is now causing many First World War shipwrecks to rapidly collapse. However, evidence of what may have been late 20th century salvage was quickly spotted. Much of the bow was missing and a large hole in the stern section of the pressure hull (the part of the submarine that does not flood when it dives and within which the crew live) suggested the violent removal of the stern torpedo tube, probably to obtain its valuable non-ferrous metal.

3625 One of the UC-70’s open hatches © Crown copyright

In 1918 the Royal Navy divers had found evidence – open hatches – that some of the crew had managed to get out of the submarine. However, they also found the bodies of some of the crew within. The divers, whose work was both arduous and hazardous, were concerned only with identifying the submarine and finding material valuable to the British war effort against the submarine menace, so many bodies would have been left. In 2016 we saw how salvage can disturb human remains in submarines, as a human skull was seen through the hole in the stern of the submarine. Although we have a crew list, we do not know who this was. Our best guess is that as it was found in the aft torpedo room, it may have been one of the ‘torpedo men’ who operated the stern tube.
Following receipt of our report, Historic England decided to recognise the historical and archaeological significance of the UC-70 and its vulnerability by designating it under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. Whilst ultimately we cannot hope to protect the submarine from the depredations of time and tide, we are proud of our role in helping Historic England recognising the importance of this small part of our First World War heritage.
Working with local volunteers and experts is a key feature of our work for organisations such as Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland, and Wessex Archaeology is grateful to local divers and researchers John Adams, Mike Radley, Anthony Green and Chris Robinson for their help during and after the fieldwork, and also to the Holderness Coast Fishing Industry Group for the use of their research vessel Huntress for diving.
Watch out for a news article on the second, rather older wreck coming soon.

New Graphics Officer in Sheffield


Hello, I'm Ian Atkins. I am an Illustrator based in Wessex Archaeology’s Sheffield office. I trained as an archaeologist, graduating from the University of Bradford in 2006 and since then I have spent my time digging, surveying and illustrating archaeological sites all over the country. I have always been interested in utilising new technologies to record and represent what we discover, therefore I undertook an MSc in Archaeological Computing at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2011. This enabled me to develop some useful skills in areas such as 3D modelling and polynomial texture mapping that I hope to be able to utilise at Wessex.
It is great to be working in Sheffield as it is a fantastic city that I have lived in for several years, but it is also reassuring to know that there is a large illustration team with a huge depth of knowledge down in the Salisbury office that I can rely on for help!
By Ian Atkins, Graphics Officer

New Consultancy Director


Hello! My name is Abby and I joined Wessex at the end of June as the new Consultancy Director based in the Salisbury office. This is a return to Wessex for me after an absence of a few years, so its lovely to be back and to see so many old faces and meet all the new ones!
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an archaeologist by training, graduating from my Masters in Landscape Archaeology at the University of Bristol in 2004. I joined Wessex shortly after and soon focused on the research and report writing side of things tackling the dreaded DBAs!  Wessex created a Heritage Consultancy section in 2005 and I worked in that team until I left in 2011 to explore other opportunities. I then went on to work as a freelance heritage consultant for a number of years based where I live in Frome, Somerset.  
It’s really lovely to be back working with a team again and having the opportunity to get involved in some really interesting projects. 
By Abby Bryant, Consultancy Director

Tilda’s work experience − ‘much more than digging up bones and pottery’

During my week at Wessex Archaeology (17−21 July 2017) I was given the opportunity to spend time in each of the departments and in doing so I discovered that archaeology is much more than digging up bones and pottery. It was great to learn how each of the departments linked together in order to piece together a part of time history.
On Monday I was greeted by Linda who gave me a tour of Wessex Archaeology and a brief introduction to the different departments found there. It was surprising to see the variety and standard of equipment they had, and I was intrigued to find out how all of the different departments operated during my week.
I spent the morning with Erica and the team in the Finds department. I was shown the final part of the finds process by Rob and Sophie where they are packaged up and referenced before they are put into museums or storage. 
Later, I was taken to Roberta and Vi in the Geomatics department where I got an insight on processes including photogrammetry, surveying and using software such as CAD. Roberta showed me the work she had done using photogrammetry on a grave − it was amazing to see how the program pieced together hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of photos to create an accurate, detailed image. After this, Vi took me to the carpark where I had a go at GPS mapping and marking a stake-out.


On Tuesday, I started off the day working in the Environmental department with Sam where I was shown how soil samples were sieved and sorted once they had been washed. I got to work with a sample taken from a burial site where I used a graded sieve to separate the sample into different grain sizes, then, working with the coarsest bits I picked out anything that was of archaeological interest. For example, I found bits of pottery, struck flint and human bone.
I was then introduced to Inés and I had a go at looking at the flot (anything that floated during the washing stage) under a microscope. The charred seeds and snail shells that were present would help to deduce the type of environment the soil came from.
In the afternoon, I was back in the Finds department, but this time I was helping with the first part of the process: cleaning. With just a toothbrush and a bowl of water I began cleaning bits of pottery, piece by piece.  
Wednesday was the day of my site visit; I was taken to a dig at Chisenbury midden by Phil. The site focused on the excavation of postholes, one of which I was able to dig myself. I discovered a lot of horse bones and a few pieces of pottery. Visiting Chisenbury gave me an insight of the range of skills needed in order for a dig to run smoothly.
When I got back to the office, I was taken to the Environmental department to see Sam again. This time I was shown how the soil samples are washed when they first arrive. After the sample had been washed, the clean sediment was placed into a kiln to remove any water before it was then sieved. 
On Thursday morning I was given a tour and quick introduction to the Coastal & Marine department by Lowri, where she showed me some artefacts which had been discovered by dredgers and how important it is that they are reported if found. The finds included a mammoth tooth, a cannonball and machine gun parts.I was then given a tour of Unit 2 by Joaquín, where many of the finds and their diving equipment are kept. Many of the finds are kept in water to preserve them and to slowly decrease their salinity. It was overwhelming to see the vast amount of equipment needed for diving and how well organised it needed to be.
After lunch, I was introduced to Kirsten, the senior Osteoarchaeologist. First, she showed me a couple of skulls and told me how you can identify the gender from looking at the shape of facial features such as the chin and eye sockets. We then pieced together a full skeleton and explained how you can identify if they had any diseases and wounds. The person we looked at had gum disease and also, because the bone had an odd porous texture in places, syphilis. 
I spent Friday morning with Holly in the Geoarchaeology department. I was really looking forward to this as I study geology at school and am hoping to continue studying it at university; so I was interested to see how much crossover there would be. First, Holly showed me how she would analyse and interpret a borehole sample by looking at the colour, consistency and anything else of interest such as snail shells. 
We then went to her computer where I wrote up my description and interpretation of the borehole. Holly then introduced me to a software called Rock Works, where I input the lithology and stratigraphy of the borehole, which can then be used to produce a stratigraphy diagram.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my week with everyone at Wessex Archaeology, it has opened my eyes to the variety of expertise involved in archaeology and it was great to be able to spend time in each department.
I would like to thank Rachel Brown for organising my week of work experience and everyone I got to work with for making my time at Wessex Archaeology so fascinating.
Tilda Julien
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