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...for helping our forthcoming investigation of the American Civil War blockade runner Lelia in Liverpool Bay.
Earlier this year Wessex Archaeology was asked by Historic England to undertake a survey of the wreck of this well-known vessel, lost on its maiden voyage in 1865 and subsequently found by diver Chris Michael in the 1990s. The Lelia, named after the wife of the Confederate officer on board who was to take over command when the ship arrived in Bermuda, Commander Arthur Sinclair, proved unequal to the weather it encountered as it sailed out of Liverpool, heavily laden with coal and stores for the voyage. Built and financed in Liverpool, the Lelia was part of a not so clandestine and highly risky trade between the supposedly neutral Britain and the southern states. They depended upon acquiring the latest British-built steamships to evade a Union Navy that was attempting to strangle the Confederate war machine by blockading its ports. Whilst small, fast ships such as the Lelia were ideal for the shallow approaches of the southern ports, taking them across the rough waters of the Atlantic and the Irish Sea wasn’t easy and a number were lost before they had even left British waters.
The first stage in our investigation has involved working out what data is already available for the wreck. We have extensive contacts in the survey industry, so we were pleased to learn that Bibby HydroMap had recently trialled one of their latest bathymetry equipment and setups, which consisted of a Teledyne Reson SeaBat 7125 multibeam echo sounder in each hull (Dual head configuration with an 8 m separation), on the wreck and their Survey Manager, Gustav Pettersson, agreed to process this data for us. The result can be seen below – a highly detailed three dimensional representation of the current state of the wreck. Although much of the hull and superstructure of the partly buried wreck have disappeared, the outline of the four rectangular boilers can be seen in yellow and the flues that connected them to the funnels in red. Between each pair of boilers can be seen the engines, one of which is still connected to a paddle wheel. The other wheel is missing and the large dent that is visible in the part of the hull where it should be suggests that Chris Michael’s theory that the Lelia may have been hit by the anchor of one of the very large ships that use the anchorage that it lies in could be correct.
The data that Bibby HydroMap has provided will now be used as a basic site plan of the wreck. This will enable our diving investigation to target key areas rather than having to survey the whole wreck site, saving time. Watch out for a future news report on what that investigation reveals.
Over the past four weeks I have had the amazing opportunity to carry out a work placement with the Geoarchaeology & Environmental Archaeology department. Previously knowing little about this area of archaeology, I have learnt an incredible amount about the work that is carried out here and I hope to keep learning more now that my placement is over.
In my first week I had the chance to do some processing with Tony; samples from around the head area (of an inhumation) produced fragments from a human skull on my first day! It was really interesting to learn about how samples with charcoal, seeds, and molluscs, amongst other things, can help to unlock the past.
Before I started my main project I had a fantastic day down in the Finds department. I was able to get out a toothbrush and clean human bone, which was surprisingly relaxing!
For the rest of my placement I was involved with the Geoarchaeology department, with Holly, who was incredibly supportive and taught me a lot of cool stuff. My project involved producing deposit models for the Battersea Channel Project, which is a collaboration between Historic England, Wessex and other archaeological units working in the Nine Elms area. I also had the chance to interpret borehole cores; getting my hands muddy was really fun! We found some cool items within the cores, including a hazelnut shell.
I used Rockworks to log boreholes from BGS, before I created the deposit models. Creating these and interpreting the data made the hard work of entering all the borehole data into Rockworks worthwhile.
I have had the most amazing summer here; I feel as though I have contributed to important work, and I have learnt a lot of new information which I can’t stop sharing with my family and friends! Thank you to Wessex Archaeology, especially the Geoarchaeology and Environmental Archaeology department, for welcoming me, and to everybody who helped me throughout my project and provided support. I am going to miss being here.
By Corrina Begley
In July, an aircraft wing was reported through Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD) in the mud of Chichester Harbour. In order to identify it, permission was recently granted by the Ministry of Defence for a photographic and recording survey.
Due to the hazardous nature of the harbour mud, Adrian Karn (Deputy Harbour Master) with the assistance of Lawrence Smaller (Patrol Assistant), took Maddy Fowler and myself out to the site on one of Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s boats. They kindly supplied and assisted with a small pressure washer and mud boards. We were met at the site by the finder, Chris Berners-Price, who provided us with much appreciated tea and biscuits from his boat whilst we worked.
Using the pressure washer and brushes, Adrian and I made short work of cleaning off the wing while Maddy recorded the details. Meanwhile, Lawrence photographed another possible aircraft related feature further out on the mud for us. The wing was then photographed and recorded with the tide fast turning and the site gradually getting wetter.
What we found was the badly damaged and truncated outer 3 m of a wing, with an aileron (French for ‘little wing’) and trim tab (these are the hinged flaps on the back edge of the wing, used to change direction) attached, and an Airborne-Surface-Vessel (ASV) radar aerial. These were identified as coming from a Lockheed Hudson, which possibly had been previously salvaged for an engine in the early 1970s. Research is ongoing into the identity of the plane as there are four or possibly five Hudsons reported as crashed in the area. What we do know from the wing remains, is that this Hudson was probably part of a Coastal Command squadron whose aircraft had been fitted with ASV for detecting surface vessels, in particular submarines; no other military service having ASV equipped Hudsons. The submarines would have been detected while running on the surface charging their batteries, or attempting to transit the narrow coastal waters of the Channel and North Sea, in the shortest possible time, under cover of darkness.
Recent renovation work at Holy Trinity Church, Bradford on Avon, has led to the discovery of some of the town’s Anglo-Saxon inhabitants and the possible location of a lost church.
While monitoring a £2million renovation and refurbishment of Holy Trinity Church in Bradford on Avon we have been making some surprising discoveries. The 12th-century church, located on the northern bank of the River Avon close to the famous ‘Saxon Church’ of St Laurence, has had major flood-protection work carried out and is being transformed into a versatile community space. Our archaeologists have carefully recorded and excavated graves affected by the planned works. The burials, which have been predominately Georgian or Victorian in date, are to be reinterred elsewhere in the churchyard. Despite the land being substantially worked over by previous generations, there was always the possibility for medieval burials surviving, and when the floor of the old boiler house was removed it revealed a sequence of burials which appeared to date to the earliest phase of the medieval church. We were intrigued to find that the remains of one of the burials were cut by the foundations of the 12th-century nave.
‘Our team instantly knew that this individual pre-dated Holy Trinity and must be associated with an earlier church building on this site’, said Bruce Eaton, Project Manager.
‘The question was how much earlier the burial was? Might this be evidence for the site of Aldhelm’s minster church, around which the town developed? The Church agreed to send two samples for radiocarbon dating from two of the lowest burials to the SUERC laboratory in Scotland, but we knew we would have to wait over a month for the results.’
St Aldhelm, a bishop, scholar and contemporary of Bede (who praised Aldhelm’s treatise on the correct observance of Easter), is credited with establishing a monasterium at Bradford on Avon in c. 705 AD on land granted to him by King Ine of Wessex. Known as mynsters in Old English, these were missionary churches on the frontline of converting the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. The minster churches held sway over large jurisdictions and, as Christianity developed into the state religion, became wealthy institutions, receiving the tithe payments of all the surrounding parish churches.
The location of Bradford’s minster has remained a mystery. The site of Holy Trinity has often been put forward as a likely candidate. In the 1860s a finely carved stone slab dating to the late 7th or early 8th century was discovered in the church grounds, hinting at a high status building in the immediate vicinity. The stonework has since been reused as part of an altar in the Saxon Church of St Laurence. The Saxon Church itself has often been cited as another possible candidate for the minster, but it was almost certainly constructed after 1001 AD, during the reign of King Ethelred II ‘the Unready’, to shelter the relics of his murdered half-brother Edward the Martyr.
Two radiocarbon samples taken from the lowest burials confirmed that the burials were indeed Anglo-Saxons, broadly 9th century and 10th century respectively. To put this in to context, Alfred the Great was on the throne of Wessex during the latter half of the 9th century and his grandson Athelstan ruled as the first ‘King of the English’ during the first half of the 10th century. The burials probably relate to an earlier church on this site from at least the 9th century and strongly suggest that Holy Trinity occupies the same space as the original Anglo-Saxon minster.
All remains from the excavation are being analysed before being reburied. Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, the osteoarchaeologist for the project, said, ‘The earliest burial remains include those of men, women and children. Most appear to have been well-nourished, and led physically active and healthy lives. Though quite a few individuals were relatively tall for the period, one man would have stood out at around 6’3” – some seven inches taller than average - and one woman was almost 5’8” - five inches above average for the period.’
Volunteers from the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group and Bradford on Avon Museum have been assisting cleaning the remains prior to them being studied. We have been delighted to be able to offer this opportunity for volunteers to get involved with this project and I would like to thank them for all their hard work. Wessex Archaeology is committed to engaging with local communities and sharing our discoveries with the wider public.
Joanna Abecassis, Rector of Holy Trinity, commented, ‘These finds which the Wessex team have been uncovering have been the cause of great excitement at Holy Trinity – not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of the whole town! It fills you with a real sense of wonder – and also humility – to think that Christians may have been worshipping on this site for over 1300 years... and, what’s more, only 700 years after the life and death of Christ. And it is quite extraordinary how we have come full circle, in that one of the major aims of our regeneration project is to be able to play our full part as a Parish Church at the heart of our community. The Wessex team have done a great and very professional job – thank you!’
Monday 15 August
In the morning I was given a tour around Wessex Archaeology where I discovered all the various departments to the place, I was surprised by the size of the company. It was interesting to learn about how the modern technology is used to help the people working here. For example, in the afternoon I spent time learning how images were made using GPR, photogrammetry and laser technology to 5 cm accuracy. Roberta and I went around the Wessex car park mapping the place via its coordinates which later showed up on the computer in a professional format. Furthermore, I was made aware of 3D photography being used here in order to depict a realistic 3D image of what objects are seen as they would by the human eye. I really enjoyed learning about this in particular.
Tuesday 16 August
I started work on Tuesday in the Heritage department. I typed my post code into maps of different historical periods (in chronological order since the 18th century) to see how my area had changed over time in terms of its land use, which was very interesting as I hadn’t known it before. Using a programme I was able to see the historical structures or whereabouts of any area – each had a grade (1, 2 or 3) depending on their age or of their archaeological importance. Furthermore, I was taught that you could use satellites to help detect changes to the surface of the landscape, which could tell you if there was a possibility that something was lying underneath the ground. In the afternoon, I spent time in the Coastal & Marine department. Peta showed me around Unit 2, a place where all the diving equipment and finds are kept. I used 3D photography to recreate a mine detonator on a software programme, which came out really well! I learnt how the marine archaeologists do their work to help conserve the finds underwater, and do not actually bring up many of their finds because of disturbance or purposes of respect. Many of the finds they were studying were very interesting – including sunken U-boats from WW1.
Wednesday 17 August
First of all, on Wednesday morning, Andy gave me a quick debrief of the prehistoric history on all of the sites around Boscombe Down, where I was to be later visiting. When I got there, I was fascinated to see the team of archaeologists digging and cleaning various parts of the land which had been used by Iron Age peoples. Susan helped me to pick a place to dig. It was a tree-throw hole which turned out to be a natural feature. Nevertheless, it was great to get out on site to see what an archaeological dig was really like up close. Later in the afternoon, I was back at Wessex, listening to a talk given to the volunteers by Lynn. It was very interesting! The section on the Bronze Age Capri Shield was particularly intriguing.
Thursday 18 August
On Thursday morning, I went to the Graphics department where Kitty showed me how to construct a drawing of some pieces of Roman pottery. Although I am not great at art, I was very surprised to see how well my drawings had come out after a long process that led it to be scanned onto the computer. I had to take measurements and do lots of drawings, to make sure it was to scale and that it looked professional. Later on, I was doing finds processing. I cleaned bits of pottery and bone that had come in from a site in Winchester. I was later shown some fossilised poo! How it had been preserved so well I do not know!
Friday 19 August
On my last day I spent the morning in the finds department again. Yet this time I was labelling the cleaned finds so that they could be referred to in future purposes. In addition, I was also taught how to store finds in boxes or cases so that they were protected; so that they didn’t decay or deteriorate in any way. Silica gel was put in there as well as the artefact so that no or very little moisture was trapped inside the container. Just before I was to leave, I got a chance to meet Phil Harding! Growing up watching Time Team, you can understand that he is a role model for me. To meet him was great, and he offered lots of useful advice on how to make a successful career, particularly on how to become an archaeologist.
By Edward Timperley
Wessex Archaeology’s Graham Scott will be ‘in conversation’ with Jerwood Prize winning artist Adam Dant on the theme of Shipwrecks of the Estuary at the Shorelines Literature Festival at Tilbury on 17th September 2016, part of the Estuary 2016 Festival. Graham’s involvement arises out of the work undertaken by Wessex Archaeology for the new London Gateway Port.
2016 will see the third season of the Wiltshire Museum Archaeological Field Group (AFG) excavations near Devizes, supported by Wessex Archaeology (WA) and Archaeological Surveys Limited (AS). Phil Andrews of WA co-directs the excavation with Jan Dando of the AFG, whilst David Sabin and Kerry Donaldson (AS) undertake geophysical investigation.
Five years of fieldwork are planned, with publication of the results in 2020. WA’s involvement follows the conclusion of the very successful Truckle Hill community excavation (2007−12) in NW Wiltshire, which saw investigation of the area around the North Wraxall Roman villa, including a well-preserved bath-house and two earlier shrines.
Further details of the Bromham – Rowdefield Project can be found by following this link to the AFG website, but our challenge here is to make sense of this complex site which has been subject to several cursory investigations and a variety of interpretations in the past.
Already we have identified a pair of adjacent oval enclosures of probable Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date, a possible Middle Bronze Age D-shaped enclosure and two Early Iron Age oval enclosures. Overlying most of these prehistoric features is a sequence of Romano-British remains including a variety of enclosures, a very clearly defined trackway, a midden, possible structural remains and a pair of crop dryers.
So, thanks to the goodwill and very considerable support from the farmer, we are about to embark on a further 10 days of investigations at the beginning of September. Again, we would like to answer more questions than we ask, but there is plenty on this intriguing site to whet the appetite!
A Wessex Archaeology diving team helped by local divers and historians, including John Adams of the local Filey Underwater Research Unit, are currently investigating First World War German U-boats off the Yorkshire coast for Historic England. Pictured here is the control room of the UC-70, whose wreck lies in about 25 m depth of water in the North Sea, close to Whitby. The photograph was taken by Tom Harrison, a Bournemouth University archaeology graduate and SCUBA instructor who recently joined the Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine team.
Project Officer Paolo Croce, a graduate of Southampton University’s maritime archaeology programme, explained how this photograph was taken:
‘Tom took this photograph whilst conducting a video survey of the submarine using a GoPro set to take both HD video and automatic stills. To overcome the lack of light and the silty water, the camera was mounted on an extremely powerful Seawolf Orca video light. Tom simply lowered the camera and light through holes in the pressure hull. The conning tower of the submarine is no longer in place, so Tom was able to gain access through the hatch that provided access to the crew between the control room and the tower. We did not go into the submarine ourselves, as this can be a very risky procedure and is likely to disturb the interior. We must remember that the UC-70 is a grave.’
The submarine has been the subject of a ‘dive tour’ published in Diver magazine. Therefore, as well as producing a report on the condition of the submarine for Historic England, we hope to produce a more detailed plan for use by future diving visitors.
The investigation of this and other sites off Whitby and Bridlington will be completed on Friday 16 August 2016.
By Graham Scott, Senior Archaeologist and Dive Superintendent
Pots come in all shapes and sizes, but this one is larger than most! This large Roman storage jar, which originally stood about 60 centimetres high, comes from a site at Frithend in Hampshire, and was one of four similar jars found in one part of the site, where they seem to have been deliberately placed (probably as complete pots) in purpose-dug pits. At least two of the jars had been buried with deposits of burnt material, one also contained two smaller pots, and an iron axe had been placed in another. The site had been used for pottery production in the Roman period, as part of the Alice Holt industry of the Hampshire/Surrey border, and these four large jars are typical of the late Roman phase of the industry, featuring horizontal bands of white slip and combed decoration. Two of them show fairly severe firing cracks on the inside, but would still have been functional. It is possible that they served some practical purpose, such as the storage of dry goods. Alternatively, they may have been intended as a ‘closing’ deposit, marking the end of pottery production on the site. Coins and radiocarbon dates suggest that activity on the site was confined to the later 4th century AD, right at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain.
The pots will shortly be deposited, with the rest of the site archive, with Hampshire Cultural Trust’s archive store in Winchester.
For more information about the site and to read the full report click here.
Two weeks ago Wessex Archaeology (Scotland) ventured out to the Isle of Skye for a two-day training session on deploying GPS survey in remote locations. Many of the places we work in are remote, coastal or offshore, and resources like mobile signals and especially mobile internet cannot be relied upon. Modern survey-grade GPS systems require a mobile internet signal to produce high-precision positions in real-time.
In preparation for this, Damien, our Geomatics Officer from Salisbury, introduced the team – in a local park in Edinburgh – to the functionality and use of the Leica GNSS/GPS system for post-processed kinematic surveying. When the team felt up to the task at hand, they headed off to the south of Skye to put their training into action! Apart from GPS points, they encountered some very beautiful coastal scenery, lots of midges and some very inquisitive Shetland ponies!
Back at the office the GPS the points were processed and mapped out. Despite the challenges of working off-grid, the mixture of topographic, geomorphological and archaeological survey produced very high-precision results. Overall a very successful training session!