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Swash Channel Wreck

The Swash Channel wreck was discovered in 2004 during a geophysical survey by Wessex Archaeology in advance of dredging to deepen the approach to Poole Harbour. The wreck lies in approximately 6-9 metres of water with its long axis orientated north-east to south-west.
The site is part of the side of an unknown vessel, with frames, ceiling and outer planking, possible knees and a fragment of decking, together with other miscellaneous features. It appears that a substantial section of the top timbers, including circular ports and railings, survives in very good condition.

Swash Channel Designated Wreck 7Swash Channel Designated Wreck 5Swash Channel Designated Wreck 3

The site was designated as a protected historic wreck site in 2004. English Heritage now administers the wreck and Bournemouth University are actively investigating the site.

Wessex Archaeology's Diving Investigations

Following the site's discovery it was subject to an initial diving assessment on behalf of Poole Harbour Commissioners.
Swash Channel Designated Wreck 1Subsequently Wessex Archaeology was asked by English Heritage to investigate the wreck as part of our work under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) in 2005. The divers produced a photographic survey of the exposed site, prepared a georeferenced plan of the main exposed archaeological features, and made detailed measurements of the features on the site.
Swash Channel Designated Wreck 8Wessex Archaeology was then commissioned to carry out sandbagging of the areas of the wreck deemed under threat and to remove various vulnerable finds from the existing channel slope, in advance of dredging. An ambiguous dendrochronological date was obtained, following the sampling of two pieces of wood from within the ship's structure, which indicated that the timber had been felled in or after 1585 and that the tree grew in Germany or Holland.
From the study of the structure it is thought that the vessel may be longer than 40 metres in length, the large size of the guns supports this view. Pottery from the site implies a date later than 1630 while the limited number of guns suggests it may have been a merchant ship.
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Unknown wreck off Hastings (Site 5003)

Sidescan sonar - metal wreckIn August 2002, Wessex Archaeology carried out a sidescan sonar and magnetometer survey of this unnamed site, south of Hastings, East Sussex. The site was located using data obtained from the UKHO. There was no dive survey due to adverse weather conditions.
The wreck has a significant magnetic signature, suggesting it is constructed from a ferrous material. Sidescan data shows it to be 75m long and 15m wide, standing 4.8m proud of the seabed.
Two masts are evident protruding from the wreck, about 25m in length.
No further work has been carried out to identify the site.
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National Archaeology Week: Stonehenge Spectacular

National Archaeology Week 2008 is almost upon us and this year it comprises a whole nine days of events beginning on the 12th July.

This annual event is organised nationally by the Council for British Archaeology and aims to give everyone the opportunity to learn about the heritage that is all around us by becoming involved in archaeology. Come and join Wessex Archaeology as we celebrate National Archaeology Day at Salisbury Museum and explore our prehistoric past.

Entrance to the museum is free on the 12th July and there are a host of family friendly activities to get involved in.

You can watch displays of flint knapping and bronze casting; build ‘Stonehenge’ on the back lawn with Julian Richards or recreate the face of a Bronze Age person. Why not try your hand at metal detecting or visit Wessex Archaeology’s Time Travelling by Water stand to explore some submerged finds using diving equipment. In the lecture hall we will be exploring the methods archaeologists use to explore our past and inviting you to have a go at becoming an archaeologist yourself!

You can bring your mystery artefacts along to be examined by Wiltshire’s Finds Liaison Officer and see if you can guess what some of her mystery objects are. Whilst you’re visiting, why not view the museum’s displays including the newly opened Inspired by Stonehenge exhibition.

This event is brought to you by Salisbury Museum, Wessex Archaeology, The National Trust, Salisbury Cathedral and Wiltshire County Council’s Conservation Lab who have joined forces to create this Stonehenge Spectacular!

Entrance to the museum on National Archaeology Day is free and the museum is located opposite the cathedral cloisters, in the Cathedral Close. The museum will be open from 10am till 4pm and we look forward to seeing you on what promises to be a spectacular day.

For more information on National Archaeology Week and other activities that will be happening across the country this July, visit the CBA’s National Archaeology Week website.

Follow our news with Twitter

Wessex Archaeology on TwitterWessex Archaeology on TwitterTwitter, the social 'micro-blogging' service that allows users to post short, 140 character updates (or "tweets"), has been very popular amongst members of our IT department. It allows users to 'follow' each other to stay up to date with what they are up to. Updates from your friends can be delivered via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, or via desktop software. It tends to be a very rapid form of communication, with most people seeing updates within minutes of them being published.

I have set up a Twitter account for Wessex Archaeology.  All of our blogs are configured to send a quick 'tweet' whenever new content is posted, so that followers of WA on Twitter can be alerted of new announcements within minutes.

For those who wish to learn more about Twitter, Wikipedia has an excellent article about the service, or of course, head over to Twitter and sign up for a free account to explore it for yourself.


Stone Age House Found

Excavation of a Neolithic House at HortonExcavation of a Neolithic House at Horton

This page was posted in 2008. For the latest information about work on this site please visit the Horton Project Pages.

Archaeologists have found the site of one of England’s oldest houses. The Stone Age house at Horton, close to Windsor Castle, is thought by experts to be well over 5,000 years old.

The single story house at Horton was rectangular, some 10 metres long by 5 metres wide. Dr Alistair Barclay of Wessex Archaeology said ‘this house is not big by today’s standards. But it was a dramatically different from the tents that people had been living in before.’

The walls of the house were probably made of split logs and the pitched roof would have been of reeds or grass. Two partition walls either side of a central passage divided the house into two. These walls could have supported an upper story or attic in parts of the house.

Reconstruction of the Neolithic house at Horton, by Will Foster and Tom GoskarReconstruction of the Neolithic house at Horton, by Will Foster and Tom Goskar

There would not have been a chimney. Smoke would have seeped out through the roof which was high enough to avoid catching fire from sparks flying from the fire.

Other finds of Neolithic date near to Horton include a burial site and a ritual processional way known as a cursus that stretched for 2.5 miles. Because of their size, these burial and ritual sites have been easier for archaeologists to find.

In contrast only about a dozen Neolithic or Stone Age houses are known from England and the Horton house is one of the most complete examples yet found. Pending radiocarbon dating, the house is thought to date to about the 37th century BC. Pieces of pottery and flint tools from the house and some nearby pits are consistent with this dating.

Aerial view of the Neolithic house during excavationAerial view of the Neolithic house during excavation

Dr Barclay added ‘we used to think of the Neolithic as the time when people started to farm. The evidence we now have, shows that hunting and gathering wild foods was still important. Crops were grown, but on a small scale. We can also see that cattle, pig and sheep were herded. It may be that in the river valleys, clearings for grazing came to be used for growing crops.’

Andy Spencer of CEMEX, who are paying for the dig, said ‘we have just installed a high-tech ready mix concrete plant and overhead there are planes taking off and landing at Heathrow. But what these Stone Age people built all that time ago using just stone tools and natural materials is really impressive. They were innovators too.’

Find out about our other discoveries at Horton.

Devon Coast (Site 5006)


Multibeam sonar image - Devon Coast This is the wreck of the Devon Coast, an early 20th century three-masted steamer that sank in 1908 after a collision with another steamer, Jeanie. Locally the site is known as the "Stone Boat" due to the cargo of cement it was transporting. However it has now been identified as the Devon Coast after a diver discovered a builders plate that was inscribed with 'Harkess and Sons Ltd No. 163'.
The wreck lies in 16m of water (CD) south of Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex. It consists of two separate sections; the full extents of which measure 80m x 18m. A large mound between the two sections is thought to be the remains of the cement cargo. A mast measuring 4.8m still protrudes vertically from the wreck.
In August and October 2002 Wessex Archaeology completed a sidescan sonar survey and two dive surveys in order to test the methodology of rapid survey and assessment, and obtain details about the Devon Coast's construction and appearance.
In June the following year, WA returned to the site and completed further surveys, including multibeam, sub-bottom profiler and magnetometer. The main aim was to confirm the identification of the vessel as that of the Devon Coast and to complete a reconstruction of the vessel, since no plans survive. The magnetometer results indicated the site is one large metal anomaly; presumably from the metal hull. The multibeam data provided much more evidence of the surviving structural elements of the vessel including the engine, boiler and frames. Diving fieldwork was carried out in August 2003 and comprised cleaning the site, removing anchor tackle, and identifying and recording the wreck remains.
Underwater photos can be viewed by clicking the red spots on the multibeam image here, together with a link to further information about the vessel's specifications.
Although the dive results showed there was no noticeable change of the condition of the wreck, this site is much more vulnerable to seabed processes due to its close proximity to the shoreline. It is also greatly affected by fishing trawlers - as evidenced by tackle and gear found entwined around the structural elements of the wreck during the diving surveys.
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Our Website

Screenshot of the Wessex Archaeology website in May 2002Screenshot of the Wessex Archaeology website in May 2002A lot has happened on the Wessex Archaeology website since I began looking after it in early May 2002. Before then we had a small brochure-style site listing our services, created using an ageing copy of Serif Page Plus by our Drawing Office. Thanks to the Internet Archive, a copy of our website from those days can still be seen (minus the graphics). We were not publishing any archaeological information online at the time.

Keen to improve it, I was tasked with creating a new version of the website using Dreamweaver. This was just in time to coincide with a major discovery made by Wessex Archaeology staff: The Amesbury Archer. Interest in the story of the Archer was huge, and I was able to use our website to help distribute as much information as we had to satisfy global demand for copies of the press release and print-ready photographs. Newspapers and TV stations linked to our website, and very quickly our website went from being under the search engine radar, to being very much in the limelight.

Since May 2002, the website has steadily grown, and we have tried to be innovative in our approach to web publishing. We were one of the first archaeological organisations to start a blog in December 2004. We started podcasting and using Flickr in 2005, began posting videos to YouTube in 2006, and posting selected reports and other documents to Scribd in 2007.

The use of social media websites like these allows us to reach out to new audiences.  Our aim is to help people learn about their past through archaeology, and to make it as easy as possible for the information that we are able to put online to be found. 

In June this year (2008) we migrated our website into Drupal, an open source content management system. This introduced many new features to help us communicate our archaeological work more effectively.

The Website Blog will keep visitors to our site up-to-date with the latest features and content, and in the spirit of open source software, share some of our experiences too. Comments will be enabled when I have time to set up and test the user roles. Comments are now open!

The Portland Stone Wreck (Site 5011)

This unidentified vessel is known as the "Portland Stone Wreck" and is most likely the remains of a sailing barge or barge-like vessel that sank in the second half of the 19th century. Little of the vessel is visible above the seabed, however the lower sections of the hull are likely to be preserved under the cargo of Portland stone, which is stacked to a height of four metres above the seabed.
From the available evidence, the "Portland Stone Wreck" was a carvel built, single masted sailing vessel with a fairly flat bottom, approximately 15-16m long and 5.5m wide. The wreck lies in 7.7m of water (CD), east of Selsey Bill in an area called "The Park".
Multibeam sonar image in 3DIn August 2002 Wessex Archaeology surveyed the site using a number of geophysical methods, including sidescan sonar, magnetometer and multibeam sonar. Several dive assessments were also carried out on the site, recording the visible remains of the wreck and noting their condition.
In June 2003, the site was revisited for further geophysical surveying, which included multibeam sonar, sub-bottom profiler and magnetometer. There was also ten dives to the site during the fieldwork, and involved completing a plan of the wreck site using offset and triangulation measurements, sketches and dimensions of vessel features together with underwater photography and video footage (which can be viewed by clicking the red spots on the multibeam image here).
Comparison of the geophysical and dive data from both years showed that the site was not deteriorating markedly and that no major changes were evident.
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The true name of the Tal-Y-Bont wreck is unknown, but it was probably a 700-ton Genoese merchant ship lost in 1709 while carrying a cargo that included carrara marble blocks and paper. The wreck takes its name from the Tal-Y-Bont beach area in Cardigan Bay where it was found in 1978 by a group of local divers, later known as the "Cae Nest Group".
As well as a large mound of marble blocks, the site is made up of 26 iron guns, including 25 muzzle loading guns of various sizes and a probable breech loading iron swivel gun.

Marble blocks on the Tal-Y-Bont wreck site

The site was designated as a protected historic wreck site in 1979. Cadw now administers the wreck and the site licensee, monitors the site.

Wessex Archaeology's Diving Investigations

Wessex Archaeology was asked by Cadw to investigate the wreck as a "designated site assessment" as part of our work under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) in 2004.
Wessex Archaeology divers made a detailed photographic survey of the wreck site, prepared a georeferenced plan of the main exposed archaeological features of the site and made detailed measurements of the features on the site.
An anchor on the Tal-Y-Bont wreck siteWessex Archaeology obtained a large amount of photographic data of the wreck site and produced a georeferenced site plan that can now be used to monitor the condition of the site.
Based on existing knowledge of the wreck site, the exact circumstances of its loss cannot be established with any confidence based on the present remains. The vessel certainly ran aground in the bay, but it is not clear whether this was an accident caused by the crews' unfamiliarity with this coastline or done deliberately to prevent an already damaged vessel sinking in deeper open water.
A copy of the full report of Wessex Archaeology's investigations can be downloaded as a PDF: Tal-Y-Bont, Designated Site Assessment, Full report.
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Unknown wreck off Hastings (Site 5007)

Sidescan Sonar - metal vessel 2This site contains the remains of an unidentified and very broken up vessel, lying in two sections. The identification of the boiler and the construction method of the riveted plate implies that the wreck was built pre-World War II, and probably sank either during the war or shortly after.
The wreck is situated SE of Hastings, East Sussex and lies at a depth of 16m. The dimensions of the vessel are 85 metres in length and 15 metres in width.
In August 2002 the wreck site was surveyed using sidescan sonar and magnetometer. The magnetometer data indicates that the vessel was made of a ferrous metal. When the site was dived a month later, it became apparent that the vessel had been disturbed after it sank. The UKHO (United Kingdom Hydrographic Office) report for the wreck site noted that the vessel had been swept and dispersed in 1956, confirming the dive results.
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