The snow failed to dampen our spirits – or reduce the attendance – at the Sheffield office’s seminar last week. Despite difficult travelling conditions we welcomed 21 visitors to Sheaf Bank for a full day of presentations and discussions led by Regional Manager Andy Norton and Post-Excavation Manager Andrea Burgess.
After removing wellies and waterproofs we began with a fascinating presentation by Dr Paul Baggaley about the use of UAVs (or ‘drones’) in archaeological survey. With standard and near Infra-Red cameras, and a lot of know-how, Paul’s team can produce digital images of whole landscapes from a single day’s survey.
Then Jackie McKinley took over to talk about cremation burials. She described how the specialist excavation of these graves can reveal so much about the process of cremation and the way that people were buried. With radiocarbon analysis of cremated bone now possible, the dates of these burials and the grave goods can be refined considerably.
After a break Dr Alistair Barclay gave a presentation on radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling. Over the last couple of decades, the precision of radiocarbon analysis and the use of Bayesian analysis combine to be able to give us dates to within 100 years, or less in many cases. It is real progress that, even in prehistory, we can begin to understand the duration of settlements in terms of generations. By the end of the session, several people (including Wessex staff) were heard muttering ‘I think I understand Bayesian modelling now…’
Sarah Wyles then led a short but informative discussion about environmental sampling. She described how the inclusion of multiple, small, soil samples in our sampling strategies allow her to look at past environments in much more detail.
During an excellent lunch – supplied by Carol’s Catering Service who deserve a special mention for making it through the snow – there were displays and information posters about a range of projects.
The afternoon session began with a talk by Laura Joyner about Wessex Archaeology’s Outreach and Education projects. Laura’s presentation included Operation Nightingale and Project Florence, in which heritage and community archaeology were part of a military recovery initiative for injured soldiers. There was great interest in this aspect of Wessex’s work which the audience described as ‘inspiring’.
Lorraine Mepham closed the day with a discussion about archiving the results of our excavations and surveys. With Wessex carrying out projects across England, Scotland and Wales, meeting the requirements of so many different museums is no mean feat. Museum storage space is limited and the main challenges for the future will be dealing with digital data and considering the need to select the material that we store.
Our aim was to offer informative presentations to fellow heritage professionals and to promote Wessex’s charitable status and outreach projects. We hope that the participants were inspired to consider partnering with us to deliver outreach and education projects across the north.
The feedback from the event was very positive. So much so that we are considering running a similar event next year – watch this space.
Andrea Burgess – Project Manager, PX Analysis and Reporting