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Inspiring Careers in Science

3462 Holly (top) and Rachel (below centre)

Wessex Archaeology staff members Holly Rodgers and Rachel Brown visited South Wilts Grammar school as part of their roles as STEM Ambassadors. The STEM Ambassador programme encourages organisations and individuals to ‘volunteer their time, enthusiasm and experiences to encourage and inspire young people to achieve more and progress further in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)’, Wessex Archaeology supports the programme and Holly and Rachel are representatives for Wessex.

South Wilts Grammar school hosted a ‘Meet the Scientists’ day which provided the students with the opportunity to speak to people working in science and gain insight into the various roles and areas of work. There were professionals from a wide range of organisations and industries who attended the event, there were science sessions being run by people who work in science and careers talks. Holly and Rachel participated in the careers talks where small groups of students spoke to professionals about their careers, the students rotated around the different professionals so that they got a chance to speak to everyone. The lab the event was held in was a buzz of conversation and you could hear the excitement from many of the students as they realised the vast possibility of roles and professions they could go into. Holly and Rachel promoted the broad range of roles linked to STEM within the archaeological sector and provided valuable insight into how they had progressed their own careers.
 
We hope that many of the students have been inspired to pursue a career in a STEM area and that we have inspired some future archaeologists.
 
 
 

Jon Egging Trust Students Visit the Salisbury Office

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In May, we were pleased to welcome back the Jon Egging Trust to our Salisbury office, with a new group of students (12–13 years old) on the first year of their Blue Skies Programme. The programme aims to inspire young people to reach their full potential by engaging in exciting activities and experiences. 
 
Although some of the students thought that archaeology would be a bit dull, our enthusiastic staff opened their eyes to the diverse and interesting nature of our work. All of them participated fully in the sessions and thoroughly enjoyed the day. 
 
Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy set the scene by explaining what archaeology is – both how we do it and why we do it. Later in the day she also provided the students with a fascinating insight into what we can find out from the study of human remains.
 
The theme for the first year of the Blue Skies Programme is ‘teamwork’, a key element of Wessex Archaeology’s working practices that was highlighted throughout the day, and manager Si Cleggett held an inspiring session based solely around the issue. Activities were designed to get the students to work together, demonstrating their collaborative skills and assessing how each member contributed to the group. A lot of productive discussion and team-bonding ensued.
 
Vicki Lambert and Tom Harrison of the Coastal & Marine department devised a fascinating activity where the students learned about underwater archaeology, and completed a dive simulation exercise that demonstrated how vital working together is when diving. 
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The students relished the opportunity to get wet and muddy washing soil samples in our Environmental department, under instruction from Tony Scothern. While showing examples of materials recovered from samples, Tony explained how the Environmental department, and the evidence they find, contributes towards our archaeological projects.  
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Finds team members Sue Nelson and Erica Macey-Bracken provided a finds-handling session featuring artefacts of different materials and dates. They encouraged discussions about how different people may have contributed towards making an artefact, and how they would have worked as a team using the objects to achieve a common goal. 
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Any initial doubts about archaeology soon disappeared, and by the end of the day Phil Harding’s flint knapping demonstration earned him, and Time Team, a new generation of fans. He even let them have a go at using a flint axe to sharpen wooden stakes. The experience was met with such enthusiasm that people felt the need for Phil to sign their shirts!
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We would like to thank Jon Egging Trust Youth Liaison Officer, Kaye Jackson, the staff from St Aldhelm’s Academy, and Drew Tallentire from the Southampton University Air Squadron for supporting the visit. As always, it is a pleasure to be able to contribute towards such a fantastic programme.
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Aurochsen

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Aurochs (pr. or-ocks; pl. aurochsen)

An aurochs is a type of wild cattle that lived throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia and became extinct in Britain by the Late Bronze Age. They roamed and grazed in small herds across plains and in open woodland (T O’Connor and N Sykes 2010 Extinctions and Invasions; A social history of British fauna, Oxford).
 

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Aurochs were much larger than modern domesticated cattle, and one of the largest herbivores in Europe post-Ice Age. They had huge curved horns, each horn almost 1 m long, and when standing, bulls could reach 1.8 m shoulder height; taller than many people. The appearance of aurochs has been determined through the study of their bones found on archaeological sites, historical descriptions, and even images of aurochs seen in cave paintings.
 
Aurochs began to be domesticated in South West Asia, and through selective breeding, eventually became the domesticated cattle we know today. Domesticated cattle appear in Britain by the Neolithic period (4000—2400 BC). 
 
Wessex Archaeology has recovered a number of aurochs bones, including their enormous horns, from several archaeological sites across Britain, in particular on Salisbury Plain, as well as in other locations further afield such as Horton (Berkshire). The bones are found on prehistoric sites, frequently in Neolithic contexts such as pits. These pits are often filled with many finds such as flint tools and arrowheads, pottery and animal bone. Some objects within these pits are domestic refuse, whilst other more unusual items appear to have been carefully placed. 
 
By Natalia Hunt

A Month in Bristol

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One month ago, I headed down from the East Midlands to join Wessex Archaeology in their Bristol Office as their Senior Heritage Consultant. My arrival coincided with the office’s third birthday, which was duly celebrated with cake and photographs! 

 
It has been a whirlwind few weeks, getting to know a completely new city, new colleagues and new job. Bristol is a lovely city and, luckily, its residents seem very willing to provide directions and advice to a lost and confused new resident! In terms of first impressions, it has outdone itself. I’ve been spoiled for choice for things to do, see and eat; the latter being reflected in an expanded waistline since my move!
 
The WA Bristol and Heritage teams have been similarly accommodating to their lost and confused new colleague and have obligingly fielded my endless questions! A trip over to Salisbury during my second week enabled me to meet another part of the team, and I look forward to meeting the rest of my heritage colleagues as part of staff training next month. 
 
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Whilst work within the office has predictably been that ‘first month’ mix of training, induction and getting to grips with new templates, procedures and protocols for tenders and reports, I’ve been lucky enough to join my colleagues for a couple local heritage events. An evening out at the M-Shed in Bristol to attend a lecture by Professor Steve Poole (University of Western England) proved an interesting and slightly gruesome experience, exploring the history of ‘gibbetting’ in the Bristol area. An engaging speaker, he took us on a journey around the local area, with a brief detour up to Sheffield, explaining the practice itself and its place in shaping local identities and collective memory in later periods. 
 

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Last week, I joined Project Managers Kirsty Nichol and Bruce Eaton on another evening trip to explore the University of Bristol’s excavations at Berkeley Castle for their end of dig open evening. Professor Mark Horton took us on a tour of the site, explaining the results of this season’s work and identifying archaeology from the Roman through to the Post-medieval period in the immediate environs of the Castle and Parish Church. The picturesque setting of the site, combined with great archaeology and excellent weather (not to mention, delicious catering) made for an informative and enjoyable evening. 
 
As I move into my second month at Wessex, I am looking forward to expanding my portfolio of projects. I am learning lots about the local history of the area, am excited about broadening my knowledge and helping to develop Wessex’s presence across the south-west. 
 
 
 
 

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. 

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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.
 

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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

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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.
 
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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

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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. 
 
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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

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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

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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
 
 
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