The Wessex Archaeological Committee (WAC), forerunner of the Trust for Wessex Archaeology and its archaeological unit, came into existence on the 1st May 1979. The committee's Chairman was Bill Putnam, who continued in that role until 1999.
WAC had in fact existed since 1974, although in a different form. Its earlier role was to devise and implement policies for archaeological research and investigation in Wessex and to advise the Department of the Environment (DoE), by whom it was funded, on matters archaeological. As development began increasingly to threaten archaeological sites, the DoE set up regional units to carry out research and excavation. The transformation of the Wessex Archaeological Committee made it the last such Government-funded field unit to be created.
The Committee employed no staff at all until a Field Officer was appointed in 1976. In preparation for the unit becoming active, others were gradually recruited during 1979. The first who took up appointments at the Committee's new offices in the Blackmore Museum in St. Ann Street, Salisbury were Dr. Ann Ellison (Director), John Eyles (Administrative Director), Rob Read (Illustrations and Records Officer) and Sue Davies (Senior Post-excavation Assistant).
Early work, although not a WAC project, involved helping Mike Pitts investigate a telephone cable trench at Stonehenge. The Prince of Wales had noticed the trenching during a visit to the monument, and, worried that no archaeologists were taking an interest, expressed his concern. The trench was soon examined and found to contain a previously unrecognised stonehole near the Heel Stone.