Newcastle 2017

Extending across three days, the annual Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) conference provides an opportunity for those involved in all areas of the industry (commercial, academic, curatorial and statutory) to come together to explore aspects of the discipline. This year, the conference was held in Newcastle and the theme was Archaeology – A Global Profession
Staff from Wessex Archaeology provided a strong contribution to this years’ programme. On the Thursday, Angela Batt and Alexandra Grassam delivered a talk entitled ‘From equality and diversity to fairness and respect’ as part of a session for the CIfA Equality and Diversity group called ‘How are we making archaeology accessible for all and are we doing it well enough?’. The presentation provided a summary of the diversity survey recently undertaken by WA, and outlined the approach to the survey, the issues encountered and the actions initiated so far. 

The talk also included information on guidance prepared with a view to supporting staff with autism, which has been drawn up in conjunction with a member of staff with the condition. The talk concluded by outlining the route Wessex Archaeology intends to take to make a transition from the concept of ‘Equality and Diversity’ towards ‘Fairness, Inclusion and Respect’.  
On the Friday two members of Wessex Archaeology Scotland gave presentations at a session ‘Maximising the research potential from infrastructure projects’. The two talks given demonstrated Wessex’s leading role in marine archaeology and the range of backgrounds our staff have. Dr Dan Atkinson ran through a marine perspective on the topic, giving the audience a summary of work completed around the British Isles and the research potential that has come from that. This included a look at large-scale wind farm developments, marine dredging and ports/harbour development. All of these have allowed Wessex Archaeology’s Coastal & Marine team to conduct funded research into topics such as the palaeogeography of the North Sea (Area 240 − marine aggregate dredging), wrecks, WWI aircraft (Junkers 88 engine found during the London Gateway development) and the sinking of the SS Mendi. It also gave Dan an opportunity to promote the successful Marine Antiquities Scheme, launched by Wessex last year.
Ben Saunders then gave a presentation on the rescue excavations on prehistoric tombs along the route of the centre sections of the Batinah Expressway, in northern Oman. This stretch of roadway cut through the Batinah Plain, an area of Oman that, until very recently, had seen little archaeological investigation, despite every ridge and hill having a rash of stone burial cairns across their slopes and crests. While our initial responsibility was to purely record the archaeology that was on the ground, we also made contact with researchers at Durham University and Sultan Qaboos University who were working slightly further south on the Rustaq-Batinah Archaeological Survey, allowing them to use our data in return for contextualisation of our findings. The result was an important step in learning more about the prehistory of northern Oman, particularly looking at the poorly understood Iron Age period, and has resulted in a publication through the British Foundation for the Study of Arabia.
All who attended the conference enjoyed the opportunity to share best practice and discuss issues related to the archaeological sector.
By Alexandra Grassam and Ben Saunders