Examples of the kinds of finds made by the marine aggregate industry, which were reported prior to formal introduction of the Protocol, are shown on the pages linked on the right.
In July 1999 a roughly spherical stone with a hole through it was recovered from the reject stone pile at CEMEX’s Leamouth Wharf in Southampton. The wharf is used for processing aggregate from off the Isle of Wight, but it was not possible to establish its position on the seabed more precisely.
The stone was reported to, and later delivered to Wessex Archaeology, where it was described and photographed.
The stone is Greensand, which outcrops at the coast at Swanage in Dorset, Eastbourne in Sussex, Folkestone in Kent, and on the Isle of Wight. Upper Greensand outcrops at Culver Cliff and around Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.
The stone is about 170mm by 230mm, and the hole is about 15mm in diameter and extends right through the centre of the stone. Although the surface of the stone is abraded, there are no obvious toolmarks. Both the spherical shape and the hole could be the result of human handiwork, though it is conceivable that the stone is entirely natural in origin.
On balance, the stone seems to have been fashioned from a block, possibly to serve as a weight for a fishing net, line or lobster pot. Alternatively, it may have been a naturally shaped stone selected opportunistically for such a purpose. A third alternative is that the stone is both natural in origin, and came to be on the seabed through natural processes.
Even if the object was fashioned, selected and/or deposited by people, there is no way of gauging when this might have happened.
The attentiveness of the staff at Leamouth Wharf, and the willingness of CEMEX to seek archaeological advice, helped to show that a voluntary, industry-based reporting protocol could be effective.
In 2002, UMA reported a collection of animal remains found off East Anglia. Wessex Archaeology sought advice from the Natural History Museum, initially on the basis of photographs and then by sending the remains to be examined. The remains were identified as follows:
an upper molar from a small woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius);
a fragment of mammoth tusk;
a fragment of scapula (shoulder bone), also probably from a mammoth;
a tine (point) from a red deer (Cervus elaphus) antler;
part of a whale vertebra.
The red deer antler was from quite a large individual, but the mammoth remains are all from quite small individuals. The mammoth molar is most typical of Middle Devensian populations, and mammoth and red deer occur together in some stages of the Middle Devensian, when individual red deer can be extremely large.
A mid Devensian date would fit with the suspected date of the aggregates being dredged, but the whale vertebra is a puzzle as the area would have been dry land at the time the aggregates were laid down.
Photographs © Wessex Archaeology.
In February 2003, UMA reported an animal jaw fragment found on the rejects pile at its Erith wharf and thought to have come from aggregates dredged off the east coast. The fragment was sent to the Natural History Museum, where it was identified as belonging to an extinct giant deer, most likely Megaloceros giganteus or one of its immediate ancestors. The fragment was of the bottom left jaw. The teeth were considered to be small for later Pleistocene examples of the species, but matched specimens from several Middle Pleistocene contexts.
It looked as though the fragment was originally buried in fine grained sediment but had been eroded and deposited into coarser sediment. The fragment had been quite heavily mineralised before being abraded and marked in the course of reworking.
Although giant deer remains are known from dredging in the North Sea, they are less commonly found than other large mammal fossils.
In December 2004, UMA recovered four cannonballs and two pins from aggregates dredged to the west of the Isle of Wight.
Two sizes of shot were apparent, interpreted from photographs as being from a 6-8 pounder and from a much smaller gun (such as a swivel gun) respectively. The ‘pins’ appeared to be relatively small iron fastenings, probably from a ship’s structure or fittings. As they had been found together, it was thought likely that they indicated the presence of a wreck in the vicinity. Only a broad date range, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, could be offered.
UMA and Hanson (who were engaged in joint dredging of the area) reviewed recent sidescan data from the area where the aggregate had been dredged, but did not see any obvious trace of a wreck. Nevertheless, they established a 1km by 250m exclusion zone and commissioned a high resolution geophysical survey.
The results of the geophysical survey, which included both sidescan and magnetometer data, were passed to WA for review. The review confirmed that there was no clear trace of a wreck in the survey area. The only features of any note were a series of areas of what appear to be boulders. These seemed most likely to be natural in origin (rather than ballast from a wreck), but might have served to trap items of wreckage that would otherwise have been dispersed. The large exclusion zone was removed, but a smaller one put in place over the boulders, as a precautionary measure.
In May 2005, Hanson Aggregates Marine reported a metal object found on a dredger off Great Yarmouth. The best interpretation that WA were able to offer for the object was that it was the remains of an explosive harpoon, as used for whaling from the mid-nineteenth century. The object looks like part of the ‘knuckle’ of such a harpoon, which lies behind the explosive tip and houses the harpoon’s barbs. It is not clear why such a find would be made off Great Yarmouth.
In 2005 two pieces of aircraft wreckage were spotted on board the Hanson Aggregates Marine dredger ‘Arco Dart’ within sand and gravel dredged off the coast of Worthing, Sussex. The parts were kept on board the vessel for over a year before being passed to WA staff during a site visit as part of the Awareness Programme.
The RAF museum at Duxford was able to match a serial number identified on one of the two parts to a rear wing spar from a plane developed by Supermarine at the end of the Second World War, the Spiteful, an intended replacement for the Spitfire. However, very few of this type of plane were manufactured after the design was rejected by the RAF in favour of the new jet powered Gloster Meteor and de Havilland Vampire.
Supermarine’s first attempt at a jet powered fighter, the Attacker, kept the same wing as the Spiteful and, although the design was rejected by the RAF, 143 were built for the Royal Navy. The Attacker entered service as the first jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm and several were lost at sea.
The most likely match for the parts found on the Arco Dart is the Attacker WP275 which crashed into the sea on the 6th July 1956 after taking off from Royal Naval Air Station Ford, in Sussex when the wing tip folded and the pilot ejected. The pilot, Sub-Lieutenant J. F. Yeates of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, survived unharmed.
Crashed aircraft are important to archaeologists because in many cases they offer a unique form of evidence for the historic development of flight. If surviving examples of a particular type of craft do exist they are often only the later models of a particular type or they have been heavily refurbished. Moreover, all crashed military aircraft are protected by law under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. The discovery of aircraft remains is thus incredibly important, particularly as aircraft crash sites may contain human remains.