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Iona I

In March 2009, at the request of Historic Scotland, Wessex Archaeology's dive team investigated the wreck of the Iona I, a paddle steamer lost in 1862 in the Inner Clyde Estuary near Greenock. The Iona I was built on the Clyde in 1855 by Glaswegian shipbuilders J. & G. Thomson. Dubbed, the ‘Queen of the Clyde' the Iona I achieved considerable fame as a fast and well appointed passenger steamer operating in the Firth of Clyde for David Hutcheson & Company. During the American Civil War the vessel was bought by a businessman, probably Mr D. McNutt, to run goods to the Confederate States through the Union naval blockade. After having been converted for this purpose, and whilst leaving the Clyde on the start of its first transatlantic crossing, the Iona I was involved in a collision with another vessel. Contemporary accounts suggest that the Iona I sank rapidly by the stern, but that the vessel was probably intact as it left the surface.
Pipe on the wreck of the Iona I
The wreck currently lies on a silty seabed in almost 30m of water, about 100m south-east of the Whiteforeland Buoy in the Firth of Clyde Channel, off Greenock and Gourock. The vessel survives partly intact on a roughly south-west to north-east orientation. The central 25m of the wreck is the best preserved part of the site as here the vessel survives up to upper deck height, with boilers, crankshafts and what appear to be engines surviving in situ. Elsewhere the vessel is less well preserved and does not survive to deck height. Listen to a podcast recorded by our dive team whilst exploring the wreck of Iona l. Wessex Archaeology have also investigated the wreck of the Iona I's sister ship, the Iona II. Read more about the Iona II.


The site is situated in the Upper Clyde Estuary, off Greenock and Gaurock. It lies within the Firth of Clyde Channel, approximately 100m south east of the Whiteforeland Buoy. The following position for funnel base 2013 has been obtained from the multibeam swath bathymetry data supplied by Clydeport and has been confirmed by tracked diver survey.
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We Are 30!

Wessex Archaeology's 30th birthday badgeMay 1st 2009 marks our 30th anniversary.

Wessex Archaeology was founded as the Wessex Archaeological Committee on 1st May 1979 - the last of the regional units to be created by the Department of Environment (the DoE, now English Heritage). This brought together individual archaeologists in Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Wiltshire, plus some strays in need of a home. In 1983 the name changed to the Trust for Wessex Archaeology, and it became the not-for-profit charitable company which it remains today.

Wessex Archaeology's archivists will be chronicling our beginnings and evolution in our new history section, where you can currently read about our first five years.

Phil Harding at the opening of our new Time Team at Salisbury Cathedral exhibition on the day of Wessex Archaeology's 30th birthday in 2009.Phil Harding at the opening of our new Time Team at Salisbury Cathedral exhibition on the day of Wessex Archaeology's 30th birthday in 2009.

Time Team Exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral

Time Team at Salisbury CathedralTime Team at Salisbury CathedralSalisbury Cathedral was recently the subject of an exciting Time Team investigation. Over three days the site of the original 13th century cathedral bell tower and the long-demolished 15th century Beauchamp Chapel were excavated.
The team uncovered new information about the construction of the cathedral, and learned more about those buried within the chapel.
The exhibition, which was created by Wessex Archaeology, will be opened by Phil Harding and runs from 1 May to 31 October 2009 in Salisbury Cathedral’s atmospheric medieval cloisters. It features artefacts, text and audio-visual material from the programme, which was first aired in February. Visitors will learn about what happens behind the scenes of Time Team, how they work with experts from Wessex Archaeology, and learn about Bishop Beauchamp, one of Salisbury’s most colourful bishops.
Phil, whose day job is with Wessex Archaeology, said: “To do a dig here was a once in a lifetime experience. What we found underlines what incredible engineers and geologists those original builders were.”

EPPIC Placement in Marine Geophysics

IFA logo resizeWessex Archaeology's coastal and marine section is hosting a one-year professional work placement in Marine Geophysics in 2009-10, administered by IfA and funded by English Heritage. During the placement the post-holder will participate in marine geophysical surveys and develop skills in archaeological interpretation of sidescan, magnetometer, sub-bottom and bathymetric data. The post-holder will be involved in relating geophysical results to geological, geotechnical, palaeo-environmental, documentary, diver-based and other archaeological sources, and in contributing to reports and other deliverables. The training will be delivered on a mentoring/tutoring basis whilst working with teams working on a range of strategic and development-led projects. The placement may contribute towards an appropriate vocational qualification. Details of the placement can be found on the IfA website. Applications for the placements should be made to the IfA. The closing date for applications is 20 April 2009.

A46 Newark to Widmerpool

Wessex Archaeology continue to build on their road projects portfolio and are pleased to report the following.

Balfour Beatty and Scott Wilson have announced the appointment of Cotswold Wessex Archaeology (CWA) as the joint venture Archaeological Contractor for the A46 Newark to Widmerpool Improvement Scheme.

Scott Wilson (the Designer) and Balfour Beatty (the Contractor) will be working very closely with CWA to ensure the highest standards of archaeological works, delivered within the project's tight time-scales and budgets. CWA intend to start immediately on a number of fronts with trial trenching, strip, map and sample excavation and detailed excavation (at Margidunum).

We are delighted to have been appointed and very much look forward to working with Balfour Beatty, Scott Wilson and Cotswold Archaeology.

Wessex Archaeology Metric Archive Project

In the summer of 2007, Jessica Grimm of Wessex Archaeology approached the Animal Bone Metrical Archive Project (ABMAP) to discuss the possibility of depositing Wessex Archaeology metric animal bone data onto the ABMAP database. This led to the formation of the Wessex Archaeology Metric Archive Project (WAMAP), with data from WAMAP datasets, structured to be compatible, added to the ABMAP database. The data transferred contains a selection of all measurements commonly taken during Wessex Archaeology zooarchaeological analysis; complete WAMAP datasets can be downloaded from the following pages, as well as a list of measurement definitions.

The datasets are derived from Wessex Archaeology developer-funder projects (primarily in the United Kingdom), and as such, will provide information from a wide range of archaeological sites in terms of location, period and type. The database is hosted by the Archaeology Data Service (ADS).

Animal and bird bones are examined by archaeozoologists to help us understand the environment of a site.

Find of Iron Age Treasure Wins Award

Excavating the Chiseldon cauldrons

The team that joined together to recover the remains of unique find, a hoard of 2,000 year old cauldrons found at Chiseldon, near Swindon, Wiltshire, has been awarded a top archaeological prize.
The ‘Rescue Dig of the Year' award went to the team that recovered the Iron Age cauldrons at the "Archaeology Festival '09." The festival was organised by the leading archaeology magazine ‘Current Archaeology' and held at the National Museum and Galleries of Wales and the University of Cardiff, February 6-8th, 2009. The awards were decided by on-line voting by the magazine's readers.
Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology who led the excavation team said ‘this award recognises not just the importance of the find but also the way so many people with an interest in our past have worked together.'
When metal detector user Peter Hyams discovered a metal bowl at Chiseldon, he did not dig it up. He left it the ground and reported the find to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). But this left Peter and everyone else with a puzzle. How old was the buried find?
Peter was convinced that further work was needed and local archaeologist John Winterburn and the Local History Society came forward to do a small excavation. This showed that the bowl was actually a cauldron, apparently of iron, and that there might be a second one. But the objects were too big to get out of the ground and their date remained a puzzle. There was not enough information for experts to be able to identify and date the cauldrons. Then scientific analysis of some of the metal at Oxford University suggested that the cauldrons were prehistoric, much earlier than had been thought. This would make them Treasure under the Treasure Act.


Excavating the Chiseldon cauldrons and wrapping them in plaster of paris for protection

Realising the significance of this, Katie Hinds the local PAS Finds Liaison Officer then asked Wessex Archaeology, the largest archaeological organisation in the region, and who had already helped the PAS with a number of other discoveries, if they could help. The PAS had limited funds available but it was clear that this would not be enough so Wessex took on the excavation and donated their time. The British Museum sent a conservator, Alex Baldwin, to help with the difficult task of removing the cauldrons intact. With the help of Peter Hyams, the farmer - who lent a JCB digger, members of the Chiseldon Local History Society, the Wiltshire Archaeological Society, archaeologists from Cambridge University and the PAS, the cauldrons were excavated.


To everyone's astonishment there was not just one or even two cauldrons, but a dozen, all made from wafer thin metal. It was the largest hoard of Iron Age cauldrons found, not just in Britain, but in Europe. The Chiseldon cauldrons are a unique find, the remains of a great feast.
Wrapped in bandages stiffened with plaster of paris, and still full of soil, the cauldrons were carefully removed from the pit in which they had been buried and then taken to the British Museum. At a Coroner's Inquest the cauldrons were declared Treasure and an independent valuation committee determined the reward payable to Peter Hyams for reporting the find. This allowed the British Museum to acquire the hoard and in the autumn of 2008 Alex Baldwin started the next stage of work, micro-excavating one cauldron in the Research Laboratory as part of an exhibition ‘Conservation in Focus' while visitors asked questions. This work was also aimed at establishing how well-preserved the cauldrons were. It would also allow an accurate estimate for how long it would take to excavate and conserve all of the cauldrons. The scale of the work needed is beyond the Museums' normal resources.

British Museum conservator Alex Baldwin micro-excavating the cauldrons

Soon it was possible to see for the first time what one of the cauldrons looked like and it proved to be much better preserved than anyone had hoped. The date of the great feast can now be narrowed down to the second or first century BC. Reacting to the news of the prize, Alex said ‘it's great to see the collaborative work acknowledged by an award, especially when it was decided by the readers of the magazine.'
Dr Roger Bland, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, added ‘the Chiseldon cauldrons show both the strength and weakness of the current arrangements for reporting archaeological finds. The find, which is of international significance, was properly reported through the PAS. This shows how effective the scheme is but it has no funds available for follow up excavations. The significance of the find only became clear because Wessex Archaeology stepped into the breach and everyone donated their time. We are very grateful for this. And this still leaves the British Museum with the challenge of raising significant funds to be able to do the essential conservation that will unlock further secrets and allow the full story of this unique find to be told.'

East of England Historic Landscape Characterisation

Wessex Archaeology has been commissioned to prepare a regional Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC) for the East of England Integrated Regional Landscape Forum.

The Forum facilitates a joined-up approach to landscape issues in the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, ensuring their integration into regional strategies. As well as the six counties, the Forum is supported by Natural England, the Environment Agency, English Heritage and the Regional Assembly.

The existing data that underpins the Forum's policy and advice contains only limited information on the historic environment. The development of a regional HLC was identified as a way to address this.

HLC data exists for all the counties in the region but was created on a county basis. The project will be the first unification of county HLCs to allow assessment at a regional level. It is predicted that this approach will become widely adopted to assist with regional spatial planning, for example, with housing growth.

The project requires the evaluation of the county datasets to establish common themes that are meaningful at a regional level. There is significant variation between the six HLCs technically, and in their interpretation of the landscape.

Wessex was selected because of our breadth of experience in creating and using HLCs across England and our innovative use of GIS.

Historic Landscape Characterisation uses modern and historic maps, aerial photographs, and data about archaeology and buildings to show how the landscape has developed over time. The information gained from this process is mapped as GIS data to allow it to be used for land management and research.

The method has been evolving under the aegis of English Heritage since the early 1990s. Work was on a county basis and most now have an HLC. However, technological and methodological developments over the last decade mean there are significant differences between HLC datasets created at different times. This means there are significant differences in the way neighbouring counties have been characterised.

New Time Team section

Wessex Archaeology has had an involvement with Time Team from the very beginning, through one of the programme's best known characters, Phil Harding. In recent years, however, we have taken over much of the archaeological ‘technical support' for the team. 

To coincide with the recent broadcast of the episode "Buried bishops and belfries" filmed in Salisbury in 2008, we are launching a new Time Team section on our website where you can find out about our involvement with Time Team, read post-excavation reports, and see regular updates from our staff that work on the programme.

Time Team at Binchester


Two Coastal and Marine Placements in 2009-10

IFA logo resizeWessex Archaeology's coastal and marine section is hosting two one-year work placements in 2009-10, administered by IfA and funded by English Heritage. One placement is for an archaeologist, who will be involved in a wide range of desk- and field-based investigations; the second placement is for a geophysicist, focusing on marine geophysical survey and interpretation. Details of the two placements can be found on the IfA website. Applications for the placements should be made to the IfA. The closing date for applications is 27 February 2009.
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