Operation Nightingale/Project Florence

Phil's Round-Up: Week 4

A rare Saxon bucket and an unusual Bronze Age find

Once again Phil Andrews, Site Director at Barrow Clump, has summed up the archaeological highlights of the week for the blog readers:

The wettest period on site so far, but an excellent week for new discoveries and good progress was made in all of the trenches. The Anglo-Saxon grave count now stands at 20 and there is still potential for finding a few more – however, we are hoping not too many more with just two weeks to go!

The copper alloy rim exposed at the end of last week proved to be the top of a small Saxon bucket, bound with bronze and with traces of the wood surviving. Lynn, our conservator, was called in to undertake the lifting and ensure that no accidents befell this rare and very delicate object. It is now safely boxed and awaiting X-raying and conservation.

566 The Saxon bucket during excavation

A much earlier and unusual object was discovered in a Bronze Age cremation burial, found while removing the mound of the Early Bronze Age barrow. This was part of a stone wristguard used by an archer, similar to the two found with the Amesbury Archer Beaker burial not far away. However, our object had been broken and fashioned into a pendant or whetstone, and was probably an heirloom as it is certainly older than the burial with which it was found.

Next week we open up a new trench in an area not previously investigated … and await further exciting and interesting discoveries!

Digging with Op Nightingale

Angus Forshaw, a Community Archaeologist with Wessex Archaeology, has been working with Op Nightingale on site. In today’s blog he shares his experiences so far:

As the Community Archaeology Trainee at Wessex Archaeology I am lucky to have the opportunity to work along side soldiers as part of Operation Nightingale.

This is my second excavation with the Award Winning Operation Nightingale project, having joined one of their previous projects excavating a Roman site in Caerwent.

561 Angus (on right) working with Operation Nightingale particpant

The excavations have been a brilliant experience for me in many ways. It has been a really satisfying experience to see the soldiers relaxing and beginning to enjoy archaeology, with many finding that they already have the skills needed for accurate excavation and recording.  Another highlight has definitely been hearing first hand how the experience has helped with soldiers’ recovery, showing the importance and success of the project.

The excavations at Barrow Clump have been similarly successful, we have been lucky to get the opportunity to excavate such a fantastic site, so a small thanks to the badgers for the damage they caused allowing us access.  All involved seem to be learning about and enjoying the archaeology on site, and hopefully we’ll have plenty more exciting discoveries to come!

Find out more about what Angus gets up to by following him on Twitter @WACommunityArch

To return to the main blog, www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/blog, click here.

Artefact Analysis: Bronze Age Wrist-Guard

Today’s blog is a close-up on one of our star finds from Barrow Clump, a probable Bronze Age wrist-guard. Adam and Harry, the Op Nightingale soldiers who uncovered the artefact, describe how it was found:

Taking the chalk capping off the north end of trench 2, we were not expecting to find anything of any archaeological significance, until Harry unearthed what later turned out to be an uncontained cremation. Whilst examining loose earth amongst the bone and ash I found an oblong stone at almost the same time as Harry unearthed the cremation. I was quite surprised to discover anything as this was my first day of my first archaeological dig. Once the significance of the find was realised it was taken away for cleaning and storage.

As it was very late in the day the rest of the work of taking back the chalk capping and unearthing the cremation started the next day. We are now gathering up all the loose earth and remaining fragments of bone around the cremation in order to try and work out the size of the cremation and any other finds that are waiting to be discovered.

557 Adam and Harry excavating the cremation

The wrist-guard was cleaned and processed by Katie, one of our finds volunteers, who has described the artefact for our blog:

The object that Adam and Harry discovered appears to be a wrist guard similar to one of two found with the Amesbury Archer. With Amesbury being less than 3 miles away, this comparison may prove to be very exciting. The guard is 59mm in length and 21mm in width and made from a fine grained stone, possibly blue lias which is found in the South West. There is one circular perforation in one end. The opposite end has been broken and the end is smoothed with use. Unusually however, the long edges have been bevelled whilst the top and bottom faces are flat. The edges suggest it has been re-used as a whetstone for sharpening knives, probably due to the break in the middle.

The wrist-guard / whetstone probably dates to the Bronze Age period. There are few examples of finds like this one and even fewer that have been found with cremations rather than inhumations. The re-use and the rarity of the find made this a very exciting object which will hopefully provide clues to the site.


Learn about the finds from previous Op Nightingale digs at www.dmasuk.org.

To return to the main blog www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/blog, click here.

Volunteer Experience: Ben

Today’s blog has been written by Ben, a student volunteering on Op Nightingale, about his experiences on site:

As a student working my way through 6th form, History has always been one of my favourite subjects. The fact that I can learn about the exploits of our ancestors and the events that have built up to create the world we live in has always sparked my curiosity.

Being given the chance to volunteer with Operation Nightingale and assist in the rehabilitation of injured soldiers; whilst gaining first hand experience of the archaeological excavations of Anglo-Saxon burials and Neolithic contexts has been fantastic.

The site, much larger than I anticipated, has already borne multiple burial sites with incredibly intact skeletons (aside from the occasional bit of badger damage) and a variety of other items.

Having no prior experience in the field of Archaeology (other than the occasional sweep through fields with my metal detector) and having little knowledge of Neolithic history; I was a tad apprehensive about the work I would be doing. But after a warm welcome from the crew here I found myself working through soil and chalk contexts. Even finding a well preserved flint flake and a possible Neolithic cutting tool. Its hard work but the feeling earned after a discovery is priceless.

556 Ben (centre) excavating at Barrow Clump

Want to volunteer? Check out our volunteer opportunities at www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/volunteer.

To return to the main blog www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/blog, click here.

Video Blog: Meet Rifleman Michael

Today’s blog is a video interview with Michael, one of the soldiers involved in Op Nightingale recorded by Honor, a Project Florence volunteer. In this video Michael explains what he has been working on and what we can learn from the archaeology at Barrow Clump.

Find out how you can volunteer for Project Florence at www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/volunteer

To return to the main blog www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/blog, click here.

Phil's Round-Up: Week 3

The finds appear as forecast – along with a little rain!

As week 3 draws to a close, Phil Andrews, Site Director, sums up the progress made on site this week:

A damp start to week 3 failed to dampen spirits on site as the grave count reached 14. No sooner had last week’s blog been completed than a group of glass and amber beads was found in one grave. Shortly after this the discovery of an iron shield boss in another grave caused considerable excitement, adding to the one found in 2003/4. This grave is currently under excavation and we expect at least a spearhead to be found in the next few days.

Another grave nearby produced our first brooch – a copper alloy disc brooch, which requires some cleaning to reveal the decoration. However, as this is being written a further grave has revealed a spearhead and immediately below this a copper alloy rim, possibly from a bucket or drinking vessel. If so this would be an unusual and important find – all will be revealed shortly!

526 Al, an Op Nightingale officer, teaches his son the correct way to lift human remains

You can find out about Operation Nightingale and Barrow Clump on our webpages.

To return to main blog and project website www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk, click here.

Expert Guide: Flint at Barrow Clump

Operation Nightingale soldiers were lucky yesterday to have a chance to learn about the worked flints found at Barrow Clump with Dr Phil Harding from Wessex Archaeology.
Honor, a Project Florence volunteer, interviewed Phil about the significance of these flints and his experiences of the archaeology of Salisbury Plain, and recorded the whole thing for our blog readers.

Learn more about flints and flint knapping from Dr Phil Harding at our Family Fun Day for the Festival of British Archaeology. Find out more at www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/BFoA

To return to the main blog www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/blog, click here.

Op Nightingale's Metal Detectorists

It takes a whole team of people to make Operation Nightingale possible, from the archaeologists to the chef, and today I’m going to introduce you to the role of our metal detectorists.

We have been working with three experienced detectors on site; Geoff and Lesley from West Kent Archaeological Society and West Kent Detector Club, and Lieutenant Colonel Paul Marks who detected our first real find, the Anglo-Saxon disc brooch. The detector users perform the important job of scanning the trenches for signals before and during excavation, to give the archaeologists an idea of where metal finds will be buried. They also scan the spoil heaps to make sure that nothing has been missed by the diggers.

I managed to corner Geoff and Lesley today to ask them how they got involved and what they think of the project:

We were asked to help out with Op Nightingale by Diarmaid Walshe, one of the organisers of the project, who we know through the West Kent Archaeological Society. We were keen to take part as we enjoy working on archaeological digs, where we get the chance to detect many more historical finds at greater depth and in better condition than usual and to work on protected sites like this one.

Barrow Clump is our second Op Nightingale dig; we took part in the Caerwent excavation in March and found no less than 18 Roman coins and a number of artefacts including two parts of a Roman lock. We enjoy working with the soldiers and it’s a real privilege to be part of a project that is doing so much good.

Our finds at Barrow Clump have mainly been modern so far, including tin cans and a range of ordnance. We are confident that we will detect some more exciting finds before the end of the dig, and even help discover and excavate one of the skeletons.

525 Geoff and Lesley scanning one of the spoil heaps for finds

To read more about the role of the metal detectors on the dig, follow Lesley’s reports on the West Kent Detector Club website (www.wkdc.co.uk).

To return to the main blog www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/blog, click here.

Project Florence's 'Day of Archaeology'

On Friday, Project Florence took part in the Day of Archaeology 2012.

The Day of Archaeology project aims to provide a window into the lives of archaeologists all over the world. On one day, Friday 29th June, hundreds of people working or volunteering in archaeology kept a diary of what they did. These diaries were then collected on the Day of Archaeology website to provide a glimpse into the world of archaeology.

For Project Florence, the Day of Archaeology coincided with the first day of filming for the Make a Movie project on site. This followed on from the training sessions at Salisbury Arts Centre last week, and we were all eager to start catching the action.

We started our after-school training session with the basics, running over the things we learnt last week like how to frame the shot and how to find the best angle. Our ever-patient instructors, Jamie and Simon, explained that we need to take a mixture of interviews and ‘pretty pictures’ to stick together in the edit. So, we set about filming wide shots of trench activity, interviews with the archaeologists and soldiers, and close ups of interesting finds, so far including an Anglo-Saxon brooch and some amber beads. Our highlight of the day was getting to film one of the soldiers, Al, and his son Ben, lifting the most complete skeleton on site so far.

At the end of a busy two hours, I asked the group what they thought of the session:

I found the archaeology interesting and liked learning about excavation and watching the skeleton being lifted.

Matt, 17


I really enjoyed learning to use the sound equipment today, especially the boom. I can’t wait to put all our shots together to make the DVD!

Jess, 15  



Find out more about the Day of Archaeology and read other entries at www.dayofarchaeology.com

To return to the main blog www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk/blog, click here.


Armed Forces Day

Today, is Armed Forces Day.  It is an opportunity to remember the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces.  Therefore we thought this was a good time to remind people why Project Florence is happening.
Project Florence aims to highlight to the local community the excavation at Barrow Clump on Salisbury Plain Training Area.  This excavation is being run as part of Operation Nightingale, a rehabilitation programme for soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.
Operation Nightingale resulted from a conversation between Richard Osgood, Senior Historic Advisor within the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) of the Ministry of Defence and Sergeant Diarmaid Walshe of the 1st Battalion The Rifles. 

315 Phil Harding with participants of Operation Nightingale

Sergeant Diarmaid Walshe is responsible for the medical care and treatment of soldiers, including injured personnel returned from operations overseas.  He identified a growing need for some form of occupational therapy and rehabilitation. As an archaeologist, he recognised that archaeology has many elements that could help address some of the complex needs of these soldiers and their ailments.
In summer 2011, they jointly developed a project to utilise both the technical and social aspects of field archaeology to help rehabilitation of soldiers injured in Afghanistan.  In a nod to one of the most famous figures in military medicine, it was codenamed “Operation Nightingale”.
Several organisations and universities have worked with Operation Nightingale to provide fieldwork opportunities. Since autumn 2011, Wessex Archaeology has collaborated with Operation Nightingale on several projects, including work placements within our organisation. 
Return to main blog and project website www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk, click here.
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