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Canterbury Christ Church University Partnership

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Over the past year Wessex Archaeology has been working with Canterbury Christ Church University to develop a series of work placements and projects for their second-year students. These form part of their new module for 2016/2017 – Applied Humanities Employability in Practice – for students in the Humanities Department. The aim of the module is to complement the theoretical elements of their undergraduate studies with practical, work-based experience. This will give them the opportunity to develop a valuable understanding of a business and work environment.
 
Mark Williams, Regional Manager London & South East at Wessex Archaeology, said ‘This is an excellent opportunity for a professional organisation like Wessex Archaeology to work with a respected teaching establishment, to help students prepare themselves for the workplace. We have had a very positive response from the students and look forward to our continuing work with them’. 
 
Watch this space in the coming weeks for updates from the students themselves.  
 

New Discoveries at Chisenbury Midden

In 2016, following earlier English Heritage investigations, additional excavation and a geophysical survey were undertaken at this remarkable Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age midden site by Wessex Archaeology working with Operation Nightingale and Breaking Ground Heritage, supported by Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Landmarc.

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A substantial ditch and bank which enclosed the midden were confirmed – a proto hillfort? – along with clear evidence for contemporary settlement represented by a complex of postholes associated with timber structures. Large numbers of finds were recovered including pottery, animal bone, some disarticulated human bone, spinning/weaving equipment and a possibly unique copper alloy ‘pendant’.

The report made available here presents the results of the two-week excavation, with further investigation proposed this year, specifically to open a larger area and identify roundhouses and other structures amongst the plethora of postholes recorded in a narrow trench in 2016.
 
 
 

European Award Win for Wessex Archaeology's SAMPHIRE Project

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Wessex Archaeology is delighted to announce that SAMPHIRE, our marine heritage project, which used a unique crowd-sourcing method to map archaeological sites along the west coast of Scotland, has won the prestigious European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards 2017. SAMPHIRE, which was funded by The Crown Estate, was devised and run by Wessex Archaeology, using the expertise of Dr Jonathan Benjamin, and former Wessex Archaeology Manager John McCarthy who is now based with Dr Benjamin at Flinders University in South Australia. 
 
Our award win comes in the Education, Training and Awareness-raising category, since the project team worked with local communities along Scotland’s west coast to help find previously unknown archaeological sites in the marine environment. This was done through face-to-face meetings with harbour masters, scallop divers, recreational divers, fishermen and others, as well as with local residents in the coastal towns and villages. Once the identified locations had been recorded, the most promising were visited by teams of professional and volunteer archaeological divers to verify the information received.
 

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The European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards was launched by the European Commission in 2002, and has since been run by Europa Nostra. It celebrates and promotes best practices related to heritage conservation, research, management, voluntarism, education and communication. In this way, it contributes to a stronger public recognition of cultural heritage as a strategic resource for Europe’s economy and society. The Prize is supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. Independent expert juries examined a total of 202 applications from 39 countries across Europe, and chose just 29 winners in a number of different categories.
 
Chris Brayne, Chief Executive of Wessex Archaeology, said:
 
"We are delighted to have been announced as a winner of this prestigious European prize which celebrates best practice in heritage conservation, research, management, education and communication. This was an innovative, collaborative, project which involved over 100 members of the local community along the coast of West Scotland. We were very fortunate in being able to partner with a great many local and national organisations including community dive clubs and scientific partners such as the Scottish Association of Marine Science"
 
Wreck sites recorded by the SAMPHIRE project include:
 
The Yemassee (an American cargo ship lost in 1859) 
The schooner Medora (lost in 1860)
The Falcon, a previously unlocated paddle steamer built in 1860 and lost in 1867 with great loss of life
The Lady Middleton (a schooner lost in 1868)
The Iris (a brig lost in 1874)
The Lord Bangor (a wooden ship lost in 1894)
The Cathcartpark (a steamship lost in 1912 near the island of Iona)
The Hersilla (an armed iron naval yacht lost in 1916)
The SS Viscount (lost in 1924)
The Sheila (an early MacBrayne ferry built in 1904 and sunk in 1927)
The Mafeking (a salvage vessel lost in attempts to recover the Sheila)
The SS George A. West (a wooden steam trawler lost in 1927)
The Thalia (a steam yacht lost in 1942)
The Carrigart (a steam drifter lost in 1933).
 
Full details of the project’s discoveries are available online, and reports for each year contain detailed accounts of the discoveries made. These can be seen on the SAMPHIRE website here. Data gathered during the project will be archived with Historic Environment Scotland, and also be made available through their Canmore website, ensuring that the knowledge passed on is permanently stored and accessible for future generations. 
 
Chris and the SAMPHIRE team will be presented with their award by EU Commissioner Navracsics and Maestro Placido Domingo at an event in Finland on 15 May 2017.
 
 

Working for Wessex

 
Well what can I say, my first few months at Wessex Archaeology have passed by in a blissful blur filled with mud, ditches, cremations and great colleagues!
 

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My Name is Martha Page; I am a field technician at the Wessex Archaeology Maidstone office. Before starting my Wessex adventure, I studied BA Archaeology at Cardiff specifically looking at public engagement, social media outreach, British prehistory and my obsession-experimental archaeology and the working of lithics (aka flint knapping!).  I caught the archaeology bug early − as a seven year old − not difficult when you live in Wiltshire and spend your days exploring long barrows and causewayed enclosures.
 
Since graduating I worked for a year with another commercial company, here in the south-east doing largely urban archaeology and environmental processing. But when the time came to move on Wessex was the place to be and I definitely don’t regret it.
 
I have received not only a warm welcome to the team but have also received a variety of training from survey and artefact identification, as well as driving company vehicles and taking on watching briefs. In comparison to my previous experience, my work with Wessex has been largely rural meaning ditches, ditches and (you guessed it) yet more ditches with a few cremation burials, pits and roundhouses thrown in for good measure. I love it, never have I looked forward to getting up and going to work as I do here, and it’s wonderful to fall into bed at the end of the day very tired but very satisfied by a productive day’s digging.
 
Being one of the regional offices, Maidstone has a great team dynamic which I have had the opportunity to be part of and enjoy, especially with all the recent away work we have been doing. Definitely something I would recommend a new archaeologist to try when you are starting your career. 
 
So what next? For me the current goal is to keep working, improving and learning − developing my career and being part of this fantastic company, hope to be able to keep you all up dated again soon! 
 
Martha Page, Field Technician
 
 

Organic Residue Analysis and Pottery Production Sites Training Session in York

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On Thursday 23 March Ashley Tuck and Jess Tibber from the Sheffield Office attended a Historic England Heritage Practice programme addressing Organic Residue Analysis (ORA) and Pottery Production Sites. It was a full day of talks and interactive sessions, chaired by the local Science Advisor Andy Hammon.

Introducing the principles and potential applications of organic residue analysis, it was very exciting to hear how the field has been developing, and the possibilities, including the prospect for radiocarbon dating pottery in the near future. Absorbed residues were shown by Evershed in ‘Organic residue analysis in archaeology: the archaeological biomarker revolution’ (2008) to survive in >80% of domestic cooking pottery assemblages worldwide. Although this can vary, it shows just how much potential additional information is waiting to be discovered! Dairy fats, carcass fats, plant waxes, beeswax and resins can all be separately identified and help us to better characterise pottery uses across sites and regions. The training session also covered the importance of targeted questions when considering the use of this technique, and the best practice for onsite retrieval, and post-excavation treatment of pottery samples.
 
The afternoon session was about anticipating and locating pottery production sites, and understanding the available methods and strategies for examining and recording these types of site. Local ceramic specialist Chris Cumberpatch gave a talk about the existing production sites which we are currently aware of in South Yorkshire, and the crucial importance of how we deal with any future sites in the area. 
 
The day was very thought-provoking, and it also provided a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow heritage professionals and discuss the potential for applying these techniques to past and future Wessex projects.
 
For further information please see: 
 
 

New translator for the Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for the Reporting of Finds of Archaeological Interest

 
Français

3351 Je m’appelle Yohann Paci et j’ai traduit la Procédure de déclaration des découvertes pour Wessex Archaeology. Je suis engagé dans la compagnie depuis septembre 2015 en tant que technicien de fouille sur les fouilles terrestres. 

Etant français, c’est avec plaisir que j’ai accepté cette mission de traduction anglais-français que m’a proposé Andrea Hamel pour le département d’archéologie sous-marine. 
 
Cela permettra d’aider les équipages francophone à mieux comprendre le processus de déclaration et les enjeux des découvertes archéologiques sous-marine réalisées lors des opérations de dragage.  
 
English
 
My name is Yohann Paci and I translated the various documents and video for Wessex Archaeology’s Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for the Reporting of Finds of Archaeological Interest. I have worked in the company since September 2015 as a field technician on the land excavations. 
 
As a French citizen, it’s with a great pleasure that I accepted this mission given to me by Andrea Hamel to translate from English to French for the Coastal & Marine department. 
 
This will help French-speaking crews and wharf staff to better understand the Protocol and the issues of reporting underwater archaeological discoveries made during dredging operations.
 
 
Yohann Paci, Field Technician
 
 
 

Forensic Archaeology Workshop at Sheffield General Cemetery

This week Wessex Archaeology’s Alix Sperr made a visit to the newly renovated Nonconformist chapel in Sheffield General Cemetery, for a workshop with pupils from Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School.
 
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The Nonconformist Chapel exists in the heart of the Sheffield General Cemetery in the district of Sharrow, Sheffield. Commissioned by the General Cemetery Company and designed by Samuel Worth in the 1830s, the Chapel served as a place for friends and family to remember their loved ones before burial. Dormant since the 1950s, the Chapel has been recently renovated to provide a unique venue for public events.
 
Wessex Archaeology was very excited to be one of the first organisations to be invited to use the space to present a workshop as part of Sheffield Festival of Science & Engineering 2017. 
 
After an introduction to how science is used in archaeology, the pupils were tasked with analysing the clues given from archaeological remains discovered during excavations of a burial by Wessex Archaeology. Working in teams they had to decide which pieces of evidence may give clues about the identity of the individual buried. Some clues offered more information that they bargained for, and some were just red herrings. 
 
As well as evidence cards, grave plan and burial photographs, the pupils were shown a reconstruction of the burial using beautifully handcrafted replica artefacts and a life-size plastic skeleton. Seeing the skeleton laid out surrounded by some of belongings offered a new insight into the practice of burying the dead and got the pupils thinking about how the individual was laid to rest and why they were buried with so many belongings. 
 
After a great discussion on who the burial belonged to, the pupils were given a guided tour around the cemetery by local historian and heritage interpreter Janet Ridler from Sheffield General Cemetery Trust. 
 
For more information about Wessex Archaeology's Community, Education and Outreach projects and the services we can offer, please click here or email education@wessexarch.co.uk
 
(photos courtesy of Janet Ridler from Sheffield General Cemetery)
 
 
 

Living on the Edge – Excavations at Steart Point

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Our latest report on excavations at Steart Point peninsula, near Bridgwater is now available (Living on the Edge: Archaeological Investigations at Steart Point, Somerset by Lorrain Higbee and Lorraine Mepham). The results of the excavations, undertaken in some very poor weather conditions, have shown how local communities in this marginal environment exploited and battled the dynamic coastal landscape from the Iron Age to the 17th century. The peninsula is located in the coastal lowlands of the Somerset Levels, an area that has been exploited for its rich natural resources since prehistoric times, but one that has been prone to marine inundation and flooding for thousands of years.

Four area excavations were undertaken, as well as geoarchaeological assessment, a survey of the lidar data for the peninsula, and a documentary search. Evidence for occupation was recovered, probably temporary or seasonal during the Iron Age, and later in small, isolated farmsteads during the Romano-British and medieval/post-medieval periods. The inhabitants practised a mixed arable and pastoral economy and, despite their isolated location, demonstrated trading links with Devon and Dorset, later with the Bristol area and even the Continent, probably through local markets such as Bridgwater. The threat of flooding, however, remained constant, and probably caused the abandonment of the Romano-British settlement in around 350 AD, and the post-medieval settlements in the early 17th century, both events which reflected wider patterns of settlement retreat around the Severn Estuary. A study of the historic maps has shown just how dynamic the coastal landscape was, with islands in Bridgwater Bay appearing, changing shape and disappearing in rapid succession.
 
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The landscape is still evolving and the economy changing. After centuries of the construction of successive coastal defences, the current development by the Environment Agency (EA) in conjunction with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) has led to the reversion of a large part of the peninsula to managed saltmarsh and freshwater wetlands, providing an extensive wildlife habitat as well as vital flood defences.
 
Read more about the project here.
To purchase the book click here.
 
 
 
 

Geoservices Welcomes New Marine Geophysicists

Geoservices are pleased to welcome Alex Jacob and Sam Strutton to the Marine Geophysics team in our Salisbury office. Both will be working as marine geophysicists, processing and reporting on geophysical data to help investigate sites of potential archaeological interest below the waves.
 

3342 Alex (front) and Sam (back)

Alex graduated from the University of Southampton in 2014 with an Msci in Geophysics where she gained experience in both terrestrial and marine geophysical survey, completing fieldwork over Basing House and Portchester Castle sites. During her studies, Alex completed numerous summer placements processing and interpreting geophysical data for a range of projects for commercial companies. She completed her dissertation on the ‘Archaeological potential of WWI wrecks of the English Channel and Dover Strait: A geophysical perspective’ before working with the UKHO on updating their nautical charts and suite of admiralty products around the world. Alex is excited to return to geophysics, applying her knowledge from the UKHO in her new role!
 
Sam has been working in the marine survey sector for eight years with Fugro, previously EMU Limited. She worked regularly with Wessex Archaeology over the years, on many projects, comprising archaeological reviews of the data for baseline and monitoring purposes.
 
Sam gained experience at university in underwater archaeology, palaeoclimatology and seafloor surveying before deciding to undertake offshore survey commercially. After time working offshore acquiring data, Sam focused on processing, interpreting, and reporting for various projects. This lead on to project managing the surveys, data interpretation and reporting for renewables, oil and gas, and aggregate projects around the UK. Sam is excited to bring her experience of geophysical surveys and passion for data, and delve back in to archaeology and palaeoclimatology in her new role in the Marine Geophysics team.
 
The Marine Geophysics team are looking forward to working with them over what looks to be a busy and exciting year ahead! 
 
By Sam Strutton and Alex Jacob
 
 

Archaeology Visiting the Classroom

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On 27 February Wessex Archaeology’s Senior Community & Education Officer Rachel Brown travelled to Plympton, Devon to run some sessions in a local school based upon the archaeological findings from the nearby Sherford site, funded by the Sherford Consortium. We have previously run a number of outreach events to share the discoveries at the site with the local community on behalf of the developers and the school visit was a part of this on-going work.
 
Rachel worked with Year 6 and Year 3 students at Goosewell Academy. The Year 6 students investigated artefacts that had been found at Sherford, to discover what can be learnt from the finds about the people who had inhabited the land over the last c. 8000 years. They also looked into the Bronze Age round barrows discovered on site, which deepened their understanding of prehistoric activity at Sherford. The lesson allowed the students to learn about their local environment, how landscapes change over time, and also supported the National Curriculum work they will be doing in the summer term based around prehistory. The Year 3 students also learnt about finds from the site and discovered how the archaeologists at Sherford conducted the excavation, this linked to earlier work the Years 3 students had been doing on archaeology.
 
The visit provided an excellent opportunity for students to engage with their local history and environment.
 
 
 
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