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Thomas Passam’s Work Experience Diary

 

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Monday 19 June
I was met at Reception by Rachel Brown, the Senior Community and Education Officer. From there I was given a talk about Health and Safety and was shown the Fire Assembly Point outside. After that I went on a tour of the building. I was really surprised by how many different departments there were in the company.
 
Next I was taken to meet Roberta Marziani from the Geomatics Department. She spoke to me about 3D imaging and showed me examples of parts of buildings where 3D mapping had been done. I then took photographs of a Saxon pot from every angle using special software and then created it on the computer as a 3D object.
 
After that we went out outside to plot an area using GPS. This accurate method of measuring is used a great deal to map out the archaeological sites on a dig.
 
In the afternoon, I was in the Finds Department and I was cleaning the skeleton of a Saxon male. What was interesting was that he had broken his leg badly at some point during his life. The bones had never reset properly and stuck out at an odd angle; he must have carried on with his life in great discomfort. 
 
Tuesday 20 June
I was doing sample processing in the Environmental Department with Tony Scothern. When I first arrived, I was given an overall and gloves as I was going to be filtering through the soil samples that had been brought in. The soil was in large plastic tubs that were labelled with dates of collection, sample number and site number.
 
A small amount of peroxide plus water had been added to each of the buckets and these were left overnight to help the break-down of the soil so it could be analysed. I washed the soil through a large filter first then it flowed on through to be caught by another filter. Here any solid materials that had previously been missed, were caught in with the solution. Then what was left was put back into a sieve and put into a low-temperature kiln. After that we took out two sieves containing dried-out materials and recorded what was in the sieves and separated the different materials into different bags. There were several pieces of pottery and some burnt flint, as well as some charcoal.
 
After lunch I was working with Jacqueline McKinley, Principal Osteoarchaeologist, where I was taken through the entire skeletal structure of a Saxon male that I had been cleaning the previous day. She taught me about the bone structure, how the male and female skeleton differs and how to calculate the age of a person by looking at how the bones of their skeleton have fused.
 
Wednesday 21 June
On Wednesday I went out with Rachel and Andy Crockett to a site at Bulford. The site has lots of archaeology from different periods and previous excavations revealed many Saxon graves. The remains of about 150 people have been discovered, as well as different artefacts. I met Phil Harding and he gave me a tour of the site which was really interesting. Mechanical diggers and other modern machinery and equipment are used at the site to help to clear the area and remove soil and rubble more quickly.
 
This area was also used to test out anti-tank weapons during World War II to help the Allied Forces to defend themselves against the German tanks.  
 
In the afternoon, I went back to the Finds Department and washed some pieces of Roman pottery with some of the volunteers. 
 
Thursday 22 June
Morning: Marine & Coastal Department
I spoke to the Marine and Coastal Staff working in the offices upstairs and they showed me how the finds are tagged and identified as well as how they analyse their location. Afterwards, I was shown around the large warehouse where many of the large finds are stored. I was shown by diver Joaquin Callejo Gomez the different equipment that was used on a dive. This ranged from oxygen tanks all the way up to different photograph devices. I was shown how the large finds are recovered: a balloon is used to lift the weight of the object up to the surface of the sea. From there it can be lifted by a pulley or crane onto a boat and transported back to be analysed.
 
Afternoon: Heritage
The Heritage Department uses various techniques to see if any famous historic events took place and to identify landmarks and places of importance.I was working with Naomi Brennan using software that had been pre-programmed to allow me to see what historical activity had occurred in my home area over the last few centuries. I found out that several battles had taken place within a mile or two of my house, which was very exciting. I then did some work updating old maps to make sure that the data was correct.
 
Friday 23 June
Photogrammetry
This Department manages to create a clever image by using roughly 70 photos with different flash to enable you to see very fine detail. I collected all the necessary equipment from Bob Davis and then set up the tripod. I was photographing an ancient axe-head and I was also doing the same for a very good quality copy of the axe-head which had been made in recent years. I worked in a systematic manner photographing the pieces in an umbrella-shape. I took over 70 photos of each piece which took a long time. I had to make sure that every photo was precise.  
 
In the afternoon, I used software to make the final image. I was very impressed with the image and the way that the light could be altered in various ways to enable me to see different details. 
 
I really enjoyed my week with Wessex Archaeology and learnt a lot about archaeology and the history in this area, as well as about office life and working in a team. I would like to thank Rachel very much for organising and coordinating my work placement and to everyone at Wessex Archaeology for their help in making my week so interesting.  
 
By Thomas Passam 
 
 
 

Work Experience

 

3488 This was me cleaning the edge of a ditch

My name is Euan O’Neill and I decided to do my work experience at Wessex Archaeology in Sheffield. I am 15 and I have had an interest in the study of Archaeology for some time now because both my parents were involved in the subject and my dad and brother work in archaeology.
 
I didn’t know quite what I would expect in a working environment for the first time so I was eager to try it out. I contacted the company and was put in touch with Lucy Dawson, a project manager. She told me what I would be doing and all the requirements. We went through all the Health and Safety measures and I was given a basic two-week calendar with my working times on it. I was going to be out on site at Rossington for much of my period of work. I was interested to see what I would find waiting for me.
 
On my first day, I was taught how to clean, process and sort finds in the basement floor of the building. These finds consisted mainly of different types of bone and pottery. It was a slow process at first but I soon got better at it over the course of the day. At lunch time, I was fitted with my PPE gear so that I would be ready to go out on site the next day.
 
My first day on site. I woke up and had to get to the office for 7 am to get on a bus taking us to the site. The drive took about an hour but when I got there I got a general introduction, I learnt about what a cut, fill, and feature is, what I would be doing and how to do it. The other people on site were very helpful, giving me tips and highlighting confusing information but I got the gist of it after a short amount of time. Rossington is a Romano-British site but we were unsure on what date it was from and when it was active/used. I was asked to dig a marked posthole before moving onto a terminal. The posthole was easy enough because it was filled with soft clay, but the area where the terminal was located had been hardened because it was baked by the sun and was very difficult to mattock considering I had just started. I was taught how to fill out context forms as well as sketch my feature and record drawings and photographs. On my second day out on site, I got to watch a drone survey the area for a small amount of time but it was still really cool. I enjoyed this work however, I found it interesting and fun in some ways. I went out onto site for a third day and I also dug a ditch filled with some bones and the most pottery I had seen yet! I had to spend Friday in the office because one of my school teachers was sent to see how I was doing (every school student doing work experience is visited by a teacher).
 
We talked about the past week’s work and how later that afternoon I would be doing some environmental processing. At this point, I was happy with everything I had done so far and I couldn’t wait for my second week. I think that the best part of my first week was just being out on site; it was different than a usual day.
 
 By Euan O’Neill
 
 

Hollis Croft, Sheffield – the Cock Public House and the Mystery of a Medieval Coin

 
On 20 April 2017, an Edward I long cross silver penny was found during the excavation of the former site of the Cock, a 19th-century public house, just off Hollis Croft, Sheffield. The penny is remarkable, not just with regards to its age and relative scarcity but also to the context in which it was found. 
 
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Wessex Archaeology Sheffield has been carrying out excavations at the Hollis Croft site ahead of a major urban residential development. This work has targeted several potentially interesting areas; these include examples of back-to-back housing typical of 18th-century urban development in Sheffield and two public houses, the Cock and the Orange Branch, which can both be seen clearly on several 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps. Sheffield has been inhabited since at least the mid-11th century, and is recorded in Domesday in 1086. The Hollis Croft area was, for much of the medieval period, left open and known as Town Field and by the early modern period had been enclosed and subsequently comprised several closes and crofts. It is from these enclosures that many of the current streets, first laid out in the early 18th century, take their names. Over the course of the following two centuries ‘The Crofts’, as the area would come to be known, was to become a centre for manufacture and trade, particularly that of the metal trades such as cutlery. The scale of this industry would continue to increase until the widespread decline of manufacturing in Sheffield during the late 20th century. The Hollis Croft area came to be largely the property of one company, Footprint Works, which was established in 1944.
 
During the 1960s the site was developed, with the construction of a Footprint Tools building. It was considered likely that this development would have destroyed any archaeological remains, however the excavations carried out by Wessex have demonstrated that this was not the case. The site has so far produced a variety of finds, although the lack of any obvious residential occupation of Town Field during the medieval period means that medieval artefacts have proved few and far between; the majority of the archaeological material identified dates from the site’s industrial occupation. Amongst this material there were a large number of leather shoes and a substantial deposit of decorated but unfinished bone handles, reflecting the high density of craftsmen and manufacturers listed as having been resident in Hollis Croft in the late 19th-century Trade Directories.
 
The first reference to the Cock Public House, where the coin was discovered, is in the Henry & Thomas Rodgers Sheffield & Rotherham Directory from 1841. The pub is also shown on an 1853 Ordnance Survey map and its name – the Cock – probably comes from the stop-cock used on contemporary beer casks. 
The aim of the archaeological investigation was to enhance the understanding of the early phases of the construction of this part of the city to compliment the extensive late 18th- and 19th-century archival evidence. An awareness of earlier phases is central to Wessex’s methodology so the coin clearly holds significance. But why was a medieval coin found in such a late context? The rarity of the find and the location raised immediate questions of authenticity and some of us thought the coin was a fake. Visualisations of cheeky Yorkshire pub locals with tricks up their sleeves and fakes in their pockets are enticing for a born and bred Sheffielder such as myself. However, when inspected by experts, the authenticity of the coin was confirmed. To further determine the coin was the real thing, its composition was tested. It was found to be 93% percent silver with small traces of iron, gold and magnesium. It has therefore been identified as a silver penny from the reign of Edward I, with a bold long cross embossed on its reverse and the face of the king on the obverse.
 
The obverse face of the penny showed a more realistic portrait of the monarch than had be previously been usual and also depicted him facing forward as opposed to in profile. The reverse showed a long cross, equal armed and stretching from one edge to the other. We know that any silver penny with these attributes must have been minted within the 39-year reign of Edward I, more than five centuries prior to the establishment of the Cock Public House. 
 
Edwardian coins are important when studying the economic history of later medieval England. Monetary denominations had changed very little in the five hundred years prior to the coronation of Edward I in 1272AD but he would soon make some sizable reforms. The long cross was originally introduced as a device to make more difficult the clipping and splitting which had previously been used to divide the penny into the literal half penny or farthing.  Edward I also introduced other new coins, the groat, halfpenny and farthing, further reducing the need to physically divide larger denomination coinage. The new coins strengthened England’s foreign trade power and the penny proved especially successful because of its high silver content and uniform weight.
 
The coin found at Hollis croft has a chip on the lower side slightly to the left when examining the obverse. The face of Edward I is badly worn, however the reverse long cross and accompanying pattern is clear. The only link the site has with the medieval period is that this area of Sheffield followed the old field boundaries laid out following the enclosure of Town Field. Hollis Croft’s layout is the only clue to the continuity of the inhabited area from the reign of Edward I and the minting of the penny, to the establishment of the Cock public house in the 19th-century.
 
It remains unlikely that the coin’s context will be further illuminated by the planned excavation. The coin could have been dropped by an absent mind in the medieval period, churned up by ploughing, finding its way into material which was reused when the pub was erected. However, firmer conclusions remain out of reach. Although the coin confirms to a degree that the site was being used in some form during the medieval period, the nature of this link is unknown and any more definitive historiography would be speculation.
 
By Oisin Mercer Archaeological Technician
 
 
 
 

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

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)
 
 
 

Working for Wessex

 
Well what can I say, my first few months at Wessex Archaeology have passed by in a blissful blur filled with mud, ditches, cremations and great colleagues!
 

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My Name is Martha Page; I am a field technician at the Wessex Archaeology Maidstone office. Before starting my Wessex adventure, I studied BA Archaeology at Cardiff specifically looking at public engagement, social media outreach, British prehistory and my obsession-experimental archaeology and the working of lithics (aka flint knapping!).  I caught the archaeology bug early − as a seven year old − not difficult when you live in Wiltshire and spend your days exploring long barrows and causewayed enclosures.
 
Since graduating I worked for a year with another commercial company, here in the south-east doing largely urban archaeology and environmental processing. But when the time came to move on Wessex was the place to be and I definitely don’t regret it.
 
I have received not only a warm welcome to the team but have also received a variety of training from survey and artefact identification, as well as driving company vehicles and taking on watching briefs. In comparison to my previous experience, my work with Wessex has been largely rural meaning ditches, ditches and (you guessed it) yet more ditches with a few cremation burials, pits and roundhouses thrown in for good measure. I love it, never have I looked forward to getting up and going to work as I do here, and it’s wonderful to fall into bed at the end of the day very tired but very satisfied by a productive day’s digging.
 
Being one of the regional offices, Maidstone has a great team dynamic which I have had the opportunity to be part of and enjoy, especially with all the recent away work we have been doing. Definitely something I would recommend a new archaeologist to try when you are starting your career. 
 
So what next? For me the current goal is to keep working, improving and learning − developing my career and being part of this fantastic company, hope to be able to keep you all up dated again soon! 
 
Martha Page, Field Technician
 
 

New translator for the Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for the Reporting of Finds of Archaeological Interest

 
Français

3351 Je m’appelle Yohann Paci et j’ai traduit la Procédure de déclaration des découvertes pour Wessex Archaeology. Je suis engagé dans la compagnie depuis septembre 2015 en tant que technicien de fouille sur les fouilles terrestres. 

Etant français, c’est avec plaisir que j’ai accepté cette mission de traduction anglais-français que m’a proposé Andrea Hamel pour le département d’archéologie sous-marine. 
 
Cela permettra d’aider les équipages francophone à mieux comprendre le processus de déclaration et les enjeux des découvertes archéologiques sous-marine réalisées lors des opérations de dragage.  
 
English
 
My name is Yohann Paci and I translated the various documents and video for Wessex Archaeology’s Marine Aggregate Industry Protocol for the Reporting of Finds of Archaeological Interest. I have worked in the company since September 2015 as a field technician on the land excavations. 
 
As a French citizen, it’s with a great pleasure that I accepted this mission given to me by Andrea Hamel to translate from English to French for the Coastal & Marine department. 
 
This will help French-speaking crews and wharf staff to better understand the Protocol and the issues of reporting underwater archaeological discoveries made during dredging operations.
 
 
Yohann Paci, Field Technician
 
 
 

Forensic Archaeology Workshop at Sheffield General Cemetery

This week Wessex Archaeology’s Alix Sperr made a visit to the newly renovated Nonconformist chapel in Sheffield General Cemetery, for a workshop with pupils from Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School.
 
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The Nonconformist Chapel exists in the heart of the Sheffield General Cemetery in the district of Sharrow, Sheffield. Commissioned by the General Cemetery Company and designed by Samuel Worth in the 1830s, the Chapel served as a place for friends and family to remember their loved ones before burial. Dormant since the 1950s, the Chapel has been recently renovated to provide a unique venue for public events.
 
Wessex Archaeology was very excited to be one of the first organisations to be invited to use the space to present a workshop as part of Sheffield Festival of Science & Engineering 2017. 
 
After an introduction to how science is used in archaeology, the pupils were tasked with analysing the clues given from archaeological remains discovered during excavations of a burial by Wessex Archaeology. Working in teams they had to decide which pieces of evidence may give clues about the identity of the individual buried. Some clues offered more information that they bargained for, and some were just red herrings. 
 
As well as evidence cards, grave plan and burial photographs, the pupils were shown a reconstruction of the burial using beautifully handcrafted replica artefacts and a life-size plastic skeleton. Seeing the skeleton laid out surrounded by some of belongings offered a new insight into the practice of burying the dead and got the pupils thinking about how the individual was laid to rest and why they were buried with so many belongings. 
 
After a great discussion on who the burial belonged to, the pupils were given a guided tour around the cemetery by local historian and heritage interpreter Janet Ridler from Sheffield General Cemetery Trust. 
 
For more information about Wessex Archaeology's Community, Education and Outreach projects and the services we can offer, please click here or email education@wessexarch.co.uk
 
(photos courtesy of Janet Ridler from Sheffield General Cemetery)
 
 
 

Geoservices Welcomes New Marine Geophysicists

Geoservices are pleased to welcome Alex Jacob and Sam Strutton to the Marine Geophysics team in our Salisbury office. Both will be working as marine geophysicists, processing and reporting on geophysical data to help investigate sites of potential archaeological interest below the waves.
 

3342 Alex (front) and Sam (back)

Alex graduated from the University of Southampton in 2014 with an Msci in Geophysics where she gained experience in both terrestrial and marine geophysical survey, completing fieldwork over Basing House and Portchester Castle sites. During her studies, Alex completed numerous summer placements processing and interpreting geophysical data for a range of projects for commercial companies. She completed her dissertation on the ‘Archaeological potential of WWI wrecks of the English Channel and Dover Strait: A geophysical perspective’ before working with the UKHO on updating their nautical charts and suite of admiralty products around the world. Alex is excited to return to geophysics, applying her knowledge from the UKHO in her new role!
 
Sam has been working in the marine survey sector for eight years with Fugro, previously EMU Limited. She worked regularly with Wessex Archaeology over the years, on many projects, comprising archaeological reviews of the data for baseline and monitoring purposes.
 
Sam gained experience at university in underwater archaeology, palaeoclimatology and seafloor surveying before deciding to undertake offshore survey commercially. After time working offshore acquiring data, Sam focused on processing, interpreting, and reporting for various projects. This lead on to project managing the surveys, data interpretation and reporting for renewables, oil and gas, and aggregate projects around the UK. Sam is excited to bring her experience of geophysical surveys and passion for data, and delve back in to archaeology and palaeoclimatology in her new role in the Marine Geophysics team.
 
The Marine Geophysics team are looking forward to working with them over what looks to be a busy and exciting year ahead! 
 
By Sam Strutton and Alex Jacob
 
 
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