Rob Goller's blog

TECNOARQUA conference Spain

3781 Coastal & Marine’s diving archaeologists Graham Scott, and Isger Vico Sommer will be presenting at the first TECNOARQUA at the National Museum for Underwater Archaeology – the ARQUA in Cartagena, Spain.

They will be co presenting on the topic: A review of the practical application of technology to maritime archaeology in the UK. Graham Scott and Isger Vico Sommer will use case studies (Such as the London Gateway project, Drumbeg and Area 240) to examine how existing and new technologies have been applied to marine archaeology in the UK during the last 15 years and consider what has worked and what hasn’t. The paper will approach this from the perspective of archaeology carried out in the highly cost-controlled environments of offshore and port development and of inshore heritage management.

 
So if you are attending the conference please come say hello to both Graham and Isger! We are looking forward to attending a great conference and making some new contacts.
 

Digging the dirt

 

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Wessex Archaeology was recently represented at the 7th Developing International Geoarchaeology (DIG) Conference, held this year in Newcastle from the 4−7 September. DIG brings together a wide variety of researchers, practitioners and students to discuss and stimulate research and promote international scholarship in geoarchaeology. 
Alex Brown represented Wessex Archaeology and gave a talk on ‘Late-Glacial/Early Holocene palaeoenvironments and evidence for the 8.2 ka event in the Southern North Sea Basin: new Data from the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm’. The results from Dudgeon add to an increasing body of data that reveal the impact of climate change and sea-level rise on the former habitable landscapes of the North Sea.
 
At the end of the last ice age this landscape was characterised by open grassland with occasional dwarf birch trees. As temperatures rose the cold tundra-like landscape was transformed into a vast wooded plain. But with the warming climate came rapidly rising sea-levels, the woodland began to retreat, replaced instead by saltmarsh, tidal flats and a shallow marine environment.
 
The sediments also record potential links to a major geological event (called the 8.2 ka event) that occurred between 8500−8200 years ago. The collapse of the North American Laurentide ice sheet resulted in the drainage of two huge proglacial lakes (located in the area of the current Great Lakes), releasing huge volumes of fresh water into the North Atlantic, raising sea-levels by as much as an additional 2 m, and resulting in the accelerated inundation of coastal landscapes. At Dudgeon, peat deposits – representing semi-terrestrial plant communities are overlain by marine sediments, with radiocarbon dating indicating a date for inundation around 8400−8300 years ago, broadly comparable with the timing of the 8.2 ka event. Alex considered how past human communities may have perceived and reacted the rising sea-levels.
 
The paper was filmed along with all the other presentations and can be viewed here:
 
If you are unable to see the video please follow this link
 
Dr Alexander Brown, Senior Geoarchaeologist
 
 

Work Experience with our Sheffield Office

 

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During the Summer of 2017 I worked with Wessex Archaeology as part of a work placement opportunity. I am currently studying for an Archaeology BA at the University of Sheffield as a mature student, and decided to apply to WA as I knew it would both standout on my CV and help me to better understand the content of my lectures whilst at university.
 
At the start of my placement, I was given the task of helping to excavate an industrial site within Sheffield city centre, which was once home to factories, terraced housing, and allotments. This was a great opportunity for me to firstly, improve upon the few skills that I had already developed whilst on university digs, and secondly, to try my hand at tasks that were new to me.  I found that I was very comfortable with this work, and I took great pride in carefully excavating structures and then precisely recording the results of my excavation on context sheets and illustrations.
 
On the final week of my placement I moved on to working within the finds department of the Sheffield office. This involved assisting in the processing of finds from some of the many sites that WA are currently undertaking. I found this to be surprisingly enjoyable, as it gave me the chance to learn how to quickly identify many different archaeological materials and how best to clean the material that I may come across in the future while on excavations.
 
Ultimately, I have really enjoyed my time with WA and it has truly helped me to better understand the subject that I’m studying at university. Furthermore, once I have finally completed my degree, I would love to work within a company such as Wessex Archaeology…... 
 
 
By Ben Langhorne
 
 

Titanic Works: stoking the furnace of Sheffield steel making

 

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Wessex Archaeology recently undertook another open day at the former Titanic Works in Sheffield as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days, providing the chance to explore a once commonplace and important part of Sheffield’s industrial past. This was a great day, where again, the tours were fully booked, and the public’s enthusiasm really shone through.
 
The site is located in an area of Sheffield established as a steel manufacturing centre prior to 1850, with the principal surviving buildings of the former Titanic Works dating to that period. The extant building includes a nationally rare crucible furnace with two end stacks. The former works is a Grade II listed building and during the redevelopment of the site in 2008, two previously unknown crucible cellars were unearthed, adding to the known cellar beneath the listed structure.
 
The works was occupied by a series of steel and file manufacturers in the 19th and 20th centuries. By 1876, the works was occupied by William Mickelthwaite and Co, steel manufacturers, and was listed as the ‘Titanic Works ’.
 
The next tours of the former works will now be next year, kicking off in April/May 2018 – details to follow in 2018.
 
 
Lucy Dawson, Project manager
 

Nuffield Research Student Placement

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Over the last four weeks I have had the incredible experience of working in the Geomatics department at Wessex Archaeology. I have been consistently amazed at the huge number of academic disciplines archeology draws from. Indeed, I have greatly enjoyed taking ideas from disparate areas of materials science and biology to answer a seemingly unrelated question.     
 
The purpose of my project was to give a comparison between the use of lidar (light detection and ranging) derived datasets and the use of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) derived datasets in the application of discovering archaeological features. This was with the aim of better understanding the limitations of using UAVs.
 
There are two main ways of generating elevation models from the earth’s surface. The first involves reflecting laser pulses from an aircraft off the ground to measure how far the aircraft is from the ground at every point. The second uses multiple aerial photographs to generate a 3D model of the ground. 
 
Data of both kinds was available from 6 different locations across the country.  I numerically compared them to show how similar UAV is to lidar. This was done by subtracting one dataset from the other to show how much they differ. Statistical formulae are also applied to the same end. 
 
I suggested several factors as the cause of these differences including:   
 
The time of year the datasets were collected;
The amount of vegetation present;
The general roughness of the surface; 
The resolution of the lidar and UAV data.
 
I quantified these factors, using a range of techniques, to work out which have the greatest effect on the difference between the two datasets. 
 
My investigation has revealed that differences in elevation datasets are independent of all the factors listed above. This is a surprising conclusion. The differences are too large to be random, so, either the data sample was too small to show any correlation or there is another factor that determines the location consistency. Both possibilities provide exciting opportunities for future investigation, and if this project has done nothing else it has laid out the methodology for doing that. 
 
I would like to thank Wessex Archaeology for this opportunity, in particular Rachel Brown for her organisation and kindness, Richard Milwain for providing the project and supporting me throughout and the Wessex Archaeology Geomatics department for being friendly and accommodating. I would also like to thank Ken Lymer for his assistance in producing a poster. In addition, I would like to thank Sue Diamond, Gillian O’ Carrol and Sam Wenman for coordinating my placement. Lastly, I would like to thank the Nuffield foundation for their financial assistance. 
 
By James Thorn
 

Diving on a newly discovered wreck in the Thames Estuary

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WA archaeologist Isger Vico Sommer about to dive on a new wreck in the Thames Estuary discovered by Port of London geophysicists during a routine survey. We are doing this work as part of a wider contract to provide marine archaeological services for Historic England. Isger is using surface supplied diving equipment, identical to that used by civil engineering divers.
 
In the very poor underwater visibility of the estuary, the ability of our divers to locate and map wrecks on the seabed is greatly assisted by our use of USBL acoustic tracking. We pioneered the use in UK archaeology of this offshore technology and have used it regularly since to improve the speed and efficiency of our work.
 
 
Graham Scott Senior Maritime Technical Specialist and Dive Superintendent

Tilda’s work experience − ‘much more than digging up bones and pottery’

 
During my week at Wessex Archaeology (17−21 July 2017) I was given the opportunity to spend time in each of the departments and in doing so I discovered that archaeology is much more than digging up bones and pottery. It was great to learn how each of the departments linked together in order to piece together a part of time history.
 
Monday 
 
On Monday I was greeted by Linda who gave me a tour of Wessex Archaeology and a brief introduction to the different departments found there. It was surprising to see the variety and standard of equipment they had, and I was intrigued to find out how all of the different departments operated during my week.
I spent the morning with Erica and the team in the Finds department. I was shown the final part of the finds process by Rob and Sophie where they are packaged up and referenced before they are put into museums or storage. 
Later, I was taken to Roberta and Vi in the Geomatics department where I got an insight on processes including photogrammetry, surveying and using software such as CAD. Roberta showed me the work she had done using photogrammetry on a grave − it was amazing to see how the program pieced together hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of photos to create an accurate, detailed image. After this, Vi took me to the carpark where I had a go at GPS mapping and marking a stake-out.
 
Tuesday
 

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On Tuesday, I started off the day working in the Environmental department with Sam where I was shown how soil samples were sieved and sorted once they had been washed. I got to work with a sample taken from a burial site where I used a graded sieve to separate the sample into different grain sizes, then, working with the coarsest bits I picked out anything that was of archaeological interest. For example, I found bits of pottery, struck flint and human bone.
I was then introduced to Inés and I had a go at looking at the flot (anything that floated during the washing stage) under a microscope. The charred seeds and snail shells that were present would help to deduce the type of environment the soil came from.
In the afternoon, I was back in the Finds department, but this time I was helping with the first part of the process: cleaning. With just a toothbrush and a bowl of water I began cleaning bits of pottery, piece by piece.  
 
Wednesday
 
Wednesday was the day of my site visit; I was taken to a dig at Chisenbury midden by Phil. The site focused on the excavation of postholes, one of which I was able to dig myself. I discovered a lot of horse bones and a few pieces of pottery. Visiting Chisenbury gave me an insight of the range of skills needed in order for a dig to run smoothly.
When I got back to the office, I was taken to the Environmental department to see Sam again. This time I was shown how the soil samples are washed when they first arrive. After the sample had been washed, the clean sediment was placed into a kiln to remove any water before it was then sieved. 
 
Thursday
 
On Thursday morning I was given a tour and quick introduction to the Coastal & Marine department by Lowri, where she showed me some artefacts which had been discovered by dredgers and how important it is that they are reported if found. The finds included a mammoth tooth, a cannonball and machine gun parts.I was then given a tour of Unit 2 by Joaquín, where many of the finds and their diving equipment are kept. Many of the finds are kept in water to preserve them and to slowly decrease their salinity. It was overwhelming to see the vast amount of equipment needed for diving and how well organised it needed to be.
After lunch, I was introduced to Kirsten, the senior Osteoarchaeologist. First, she showed me a couple of skulls and told me how you can identify the gender from looking at the shape of facial features such as the chin and eye sockets. We then pieced together a full skeleton and explained how you can identify if they had any diseases and wounds. The person we looked at had gum disease and also, because the bone had an odd porous texture in places, syphilis. 
 
Friday
 
I spent Friday morning with Holly in the Geoarchaeology department. I was really looking forward to this as I study geology at school and am hoping to continue studying it at university; so I was interested to see how much crossover there would be. First, Holly showed me how she would analyse and interpret a borehole sample by looking at the colour, consistency and anything else of interest such as snail shells. 
We then went to her computer where I wrote up my description and interpretation of the borehole. Holly then introduced me to a software called Rock Works, where I input the lithology and stratigraphy of the borehole, which can then be used to produce a stratigraphy diagram.
 
I have thoroughly enjoyed my week with everyone at Wessex Archaeology, it has opened my eyes to the variety of expertise involved in archaeology and it was great to be able to spend time in each department.
 
I would like to thank Rachel Brown for organising my week of work experience and everyone I got to work with for making my time at Wessex Archaeology so fascinating.
 
 
Tilda Julien

Festival of Archaeology open day at Hollis Croft and former Titanic Works: It was a great success!

 
 
‘It belongs in a museum!’  − these words, said by Indiana Jones often ring out from members of the public when we get a chance to talk about what we have found in our careers as commercial archaeologists. But rather than merely hear tales of treasure, Wessex Archaeology was able to welcome 40 members of the public onto our hotly anticipated site tours of Hollis Croft, and 24 members of the public at the former Titanic Works, Sheffield as part of the Festival of Archaeology on Friday 20 July 2017. 
 
 

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Sheffield wears its identity as the ‘Steel City’ with pride, and the opportunity to explore the industrial past that gives our seven hills its namesake was taken up with avid enthusiasm by the media and public alike. At Hollis Croft, we started off with in-house filming from Wessex Archaeology's film crew of one, Rob Goller, (pic. 1) who began our visual archive of the cementation furnaces and interviews with our very own women of steel, Mili Rajic, Project Manager and Emma Carter, Site Supervisor. The complex industrial landscape at Hollis Croft was artfully unpicked and explained into Rob’s camera which gave both Mili and Emma a chance to warm up before ITV, BBC Look North, BBC Radio Sheffield and The Sheffield Star came to do interviews later that day! (pic. 2). 
 
 
Further down the hill, Lucy Dawson, Built Heritage Project Manager, and Chris Breeden, Spatial Data and Digital Innovation Manager, were carrying out the important gas safety checks donning full breathing apparatus and setting up temporary lighting within the preserved and Grade II listed crucible furnace cellars at the former Titanic Works  in preparation of the media heading to them after being wowed at Hollis Croft (pic. 3). The confined spaces of the cellars meant that only a small number of people were allowed within them at any one time (pic. 4). 
 
 
The level of preservation at Hollis Croft and the former Titanic Works makes both sites very special, expressed at Titanic Works by its listing and preservation in situ, and to have the passion and interest shared by the media was a wonderful experience. What we didn't anticipate, however, was the sheer number of members of the public who also shared our enthusiasm for the archaeology (pic. 5). After Mili’s two radio interviews on Friday morning (BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Sheffield) the Hollis Croft site began to receive a steady stream of visitors keen to explore their curiosity for the site. Our places on the organised four tours across both sites had already been filled and yet more and more people with interests and even family connections to the sites wished and queued to have a place on the tours. Thanks to thinking on our feet and the extra supply of PPE we were able to offer additional places on our tours at Hollis Croft throughout the day (pic. 6). Unfortunately, this was not possible at Titanic Works due to the confined spaces. Rob headed to the Titanic Works site on the Friday morning to continue the in-house filming of the site and one of the tours. 
 
 
We often look at archaeology from the removed position of the present, but Hollis Croft and the former Titanic Works brought out some very real, poignant memories from our visitors, not least the two ladies who had worked in Sheffield’s cutlery factory and also a member of the public whose family owned business Foot Print Tools which stood on the site at Hollis Croft prior to its demolition and development. It is these first-hand accounts and connections that bring the past alive and we are very grateful for the vast interest and kind words from the public for our sites and our work. 
 
 
Some things indeed ‘belong in a museum’, but we are very fortunate to be given the chance to store those relics through memory and experience of the people of Sheffield.
 
We have been inundated with further requests for tours and we were able to offer a second opportunity to see the Hollis Croft site with two guided tours on Friday 28 July. 
 
In addition, please keep an eye out for further information about future open days at the former Titanic Works. Watch this space!
 
 
A very big thank you goes to everyone at Wessex Archaeology Sheffield office and especially to people who over the last four months worked hard at Hollis Croft: Emma, Amy, Gwen, Justina, Otis, Owen, Ifi, Max, Ciaran, James, Chris, Andrea, Caroline, Alvaro, Ash, Dan, Phil, Nick, Heather, Jonathan, Jamal, Sam, Matt, Mike, Adam and Stu.
 
A big thank you also to SYAS Principal Archaeologist Dinah Saich, to Katy Taylor from TT Communications and to our clients Jonson Associates and Watkins Jones. 
 
 
Emma Carter (Archaeologist), Lucy Dawson (Project Manager, Built Heritage) and Mili Rajic (Senior Archaeologist)

Palaeolithic Flints From Submerged Landscapes

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The Marine Aggregate Industry Archaeological Protocol encourages the reporting and recording of maritime archaeological finds discovered by the aggregate industry during dredging works. The discoveries that come to light form a database of maritime archaeological finds that otherwise may have been discarded. The scheme boasts the reporting of 1600 finds since its launch in 2005 ranging from metal artefacts to timber and flints.
 
Arguably the most important collection of flint finds reported through the Protocol were recorded on 13 February 2008 as Hanson_0133. The finds were reported by Hanson Aggregates Marine Ltd, (the licensee) and described as ‘28 x hand axes, mammoth molars, tusk fragments and antlers’, and they were recovered from Area 240, a dredging area situated approximately 11 km east of the Norfolk coast. On further analysis, it was established that 88 flint artefacts were present in the assemblage, classified as 33 hand axes, eight cores, and 47 complete and fragmentary flakes. 
In 2014, this important discovery was published in the Journal of Quaternary Science and in 2015 Seabed Prehistory Investigating the Palaeogeography and Early Middle Palaeolithic Archaeology in the Southern North Sea, which discusses the finds in detail, was published. The analysis of the assemblage found that the Area 240 lithic material could be considered typologically heterogeneous. The finds were characterized by the occurrence of cordiform or sub-cordiform hand axes, and included a substantial proportion of well-made Levallois products. Around 20% of the identified finds were of Levallois technique and just over 25% of the flakes were diagnostically Levallois manufacture. Both cordiform and sub-cordiform hand axe types could represent Late Middle Palaeolithic, Mousterian or Acheulean Tradition (MTA) products. Alternatively, the hand axes may be older, of Lower Palaeolithic or Early Middle Palaeolithic (EMP) origin and be broadly contemporary with the Levallois material. It was found that on 13 of the flakes, retouch was evident. 

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The majority of the artefacts indicated that rolled raw flint nodules were likely to have been sourced from river deposits. Area 240 is situated in the lower reaches of the Palaeo-Yare river system. For most of the last one million years the area has been part of a coastal or inland environment because of lowered sea levels. The assessment of the palaeolandscape (using geophysical and geotechnical data), palaeoenviromental material and sediment dating indicate an EMP age for the assemblage.
The identification of the initial ‘chance’ finds of flint led to a regional study being conducted on Area 240. The results of the wider regional study demonstrated that submerged landscapes can preserve in situ artefacts. The investigations confirmed that the artefacts found after the initial encounter were not ‘chance’ finds, but indicated clear relationships to submerged and buried geomorphological features. Palaeolandscapes, although complex, can be examined in detail using a variety of existing field and analytical methods. Through close collaboration between archaeologists, regulators and industry it has been possible to go beyond an assessment of potential submerged prehistory and identification of buried geomorphological features, and investigate the archaeology and its wider palaeogeographical context.
 
By Andrea Hamel Senior Archaeologist
 
 
 

Week Two of Euan O’Neill's Work Experience

 

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The timetable for my second week was Monday to Thursday digging at Rossington and Friday back at the Wessex Archaeology Sheffield office. At the office, I needed to return my PPE, do some environmental sample processing and write this blog.
 
On the Monday, I had to finish filling out my context forms and registering a few pieces of information about a ditch I dug the previous week (at this point we had moved to a different site sub division). I had forgotten most of this information but because we had to cross reference everything, all of it was recorded in different ways making it easy for me to finish what I had already started. Once I had finished that I was asked to dig a ditch slot similar to the previous one, however, it was part of a different ditch. I was getting a good idea of a professional working environment while learning new things.
 
I had to finish digging the section and cleaning it for photographs. When this was complete, I moved onto preparing my slot for photographs. I had to clear out the crumbling material with a trowel so that the difference between the natural and archaeological material could be seen. I also had to clear out loose material within one metre of the feature for the same reason. Once that was finished I then set up the camera to take some photos. I noticed that I was remembering everything I had to do and that hopefully I was improving. The pictures were taken and a register kept of the photos. After all the necessary tasks had been completed, I started digging another slot for another ditch that I would finish the next day.
 
It had rained for most of Tuesday night and it had begun raining again before I had set off to work. I met the other fieldworkers at the usual point around seven but we were waiting in the pouring rain desperate to get going, however despite starting on our journey to site the rain was too bad and we came back to the office. Back at the office we found other jobs to do such as the processing and quantifying of finds.
 
On Thursday I headed out to the Rossington site for the last time. I had enjoyed going out on site for many reasons. I had learned new skills and terms as well as a good idea of how I would do this in the future. We arrived on site only to find that pretty much all of the features had been filled with muddy water and that the material was very delicate now. This made it difficult to excavate but not impossible. I began finishing my ditch slot after first break. It had just started to rain during our break meaning some tasks such as the clearing of loose material had to be repeated. I was done with the feature just before our lunch break leaving me the remaining afternoon to finish my written tasks. During our break, we had a good long chat about my time on site and whether I had enjoyed it. In the afternoon all I had to do was draw my feature, fill out my context forms and record any remaining information. The others helped me where I had made mistakes, but there were much fewer than when I had first started and I was very pleased to hear positive comments from other staff. I had completed my work and proceeded to help the others in simple ways. The day then ended and I shook the hands of everyone there back in Sheffield saying goodbye before going home.
 
Friday was my last day of work experience and so I was a bit sad because I had really loved my time at Wessex Archaeology. I did like having a different timetable, two weeks without school specifically. I got to the office at around 9:15 and returned my PPE which included the hard hat, high visibility jacket, gloves and steel toe cap boots. I then spoke to Lucy who took me to the compound where the samples were stored and where they were processed. I had been there on Wednesday when we were rained off site. I was shown the floatation tanks and how they separate and analyse material from the samples. I learned how the light material such as seeds and charcoal floats, and how the heavy material such as stones, bone fragments and even debitage sinks. It was really interesting that they could tell about the environment years ago from the samples. I stopped for lunch thinking about how I would write this blog and what exactly I would put in. When Lucy sat me down at a computer, I was typing it out almost immediately. Work experience gave me a lot of things to think about. How important is archaeology? Might I think about a potential future career in the subject? What does it mean to be a professional archaeologist? Two weeks allowed me to think about these things and I learnt a new skill set that I might call upon in the future. I learnt not just about archaeology, but the importance of being able to communicate with others and present myself in a positive way to my colleagues, as well as getting along with them. I really enjoyed my time at Wessex Archaeology and I think that it has had an impact on how I think about myself. In the future when I chose my occupation, I will be confident in my own work.
 
I would like to thank Lucy, Ivan, Tom, John, Jess, Lizzie, Ciaran, Nick, Chris, Liz, Mike, Phil, Jamal, Alvaro, Richard and Sam for helping me when I was at Wessex Archaeology and for a great work experience.
 
By Euan O’Neill.
 
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