The offshore dredging industry provides around 20% of the aggregate needed for construction projects across the UK. Though all dredging areas are assessed for archaeological potential prior to the granting of the licence, industry staff are still highly likely to encounter archaeological finds during their day to day work.
BMAPA and English Heritage (now Historic England), put in place the Protocol, developed by Wessex Archaeology, in 2005 which advises industry staff on how to protect our submerged heritage. The Protocol states that all finds of archaeological interest should be reported using the Implementation Service run by Wessex Archaeology. The Crown Estate joined the scheme as a funding partner in 2009.
Follow the links on the right hand side to learn more about the Protocol, the associated Awareness Programme and the wealth of discoveries that have been reported because of its implementation.
The Protocol was produced in response to a Guidance Note written by BMAPA and Historic England, in 2003. The Guidance Note provides practical advice on assessing, evaluating, mitigating and monitoring the impact of marine aggregate dredging on submerged archaeology. It can be downloaded here.
Guidance Note April 2003 (PDF)
The Guidance Note was informed by previous studies into the impact of offshore dredging, most notably Wenban-Smith’s 2002 ‘Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Archaeology on the Seabed’ report. This included a series of maps characterising the known archaeological resource. The maps, and the original report, can be downloaded here.
Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Archaeology on the Seabed (PDF, 6.64MB)
In 2008 An additional annex was also produced for reporting finds related to aircraft crash site at sea.
- Annex to the Protocol Guidance on the use of the Protocol for Reporting Finds of Archaeological Interest in Relation to Aircraft Crash Sites at Sea
Protocol Implementation Service
The Protocol recommends that every find discovered during aggregate dredging is reported through an Implementation Service run by Wessex Archaeology.
Wessex Archaeology investigate every find that has been reported with the support and advice of a wealth of specialists, both within Wessex Archaeology and across the country. This information is collated into a series of reports – one for the wharf or vessel that made the discovery, one for Historic England, BMAPA, The Crown Estate, Local Historic Environment Records and Sites and Monuments Records, and a third report is generated for the Receiver of Wreck when necessary. Any other agency that may have an interest in dredged remains, for example the Ministry of Defence, will also be informed and all finds are uploaded onto this website as an RSS feed.
Wessex Archaeology staff will advise directly on finds that are obviously isolated and uncontentious. Discoveries that may indicate the presence of a larger site of archaeological interest or importance are referred directly to Historic England which has the power to implement temporary or permanent exclusion zones around archaeological remains in order to protect them.
The way in which finds are reported allows our submerged heritage to be understood and this information, gained because of the diligence of the staff of BMAPA member companies, has become an important resource for informing other offshore projects.
The annual reports from the Implementation Service are available to download or view online below.
Awareness document downloads
The documents for the Protocol Awareness Programme are available to download in three languages below. The training video is also available on Youtube in three languages here.
Aggregate industry staff should be able to find the name and contact details of their Site Champion on a poster which is being displayed on every BMAPA wharf and vessel. A copy of the Poster can also be downloaded below.
DownloadsEnglish - Protocol English - poster English - form English - site induction English - handouts English - wharf champions notes English - vessel champions notes English - Flint identification English - Palaeolithic and Mesolithic seabed archaeology Nederlands - poster Nederlands - inductie pack Nederlands - handouts Nederlands - meldinge for mulier Français - poster Français - découvertes form Français - induction paquet Français - handouts
Wessex Archaeology produces the popular bi-annual Dredged Up newsletter as part of the Awareness Programme which supports the Protocol. Dredged Up explores the Protocol and the discoveries reported through the implementation service, and is widely distributed to BMAPA staff, heritage professionals and the general public.
Read the latest Newsletter below or download the pdfs below.
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Protocol archaeological dscoveries
The latest discoveries reported through the Protocol are now available on the Marine Aggregate Industry Archaeological Protocol Facebook page, follow this link
A report is produced once a year for this Protocol. To find out more read the latest review or download the pdfs below.
Downloads2016-2017 Review 2015-2016 Review 2014-2015 Review 2013-2014 Review 2012-2013 Review 2011-2012 Review 2010-2011 Review 2009-2010 Review 2008-2009 Review 2007-2008 Review 2006-2007 Review 2005-2006 Review
Pre Protocol discoveries
Examples of the kinds of finds made by the marine aggregate industry, which were reported prior to formal introduction of the Protocol.
The stone with the hole (1999)
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.
Tusks and teeth (2002)
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.
Animal jaw (2003)
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.
Supermarine Attacker (2006)
Fleet Air Arm Jet Fighter
Aircraft wreckage dredged up by the ‘Arco Dart’ has been identified as the remains of a Supermarine Attacker, the first jet fighter deployed by the Royal Navy.
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.
The Awareness Programme which supports the Protocol Implementation Service was launched in 2006. Since its inception the Awareness Programme has visited wharves and vessels, here and on the Continent, hosted regional seminars and produced the popular Dredged Up newsletter.Protocol awareness programme
As part of the Awareness Programme, the Implementation Team conduct Awareness Visits in which we offer advice about marine archaeology and the Protocol to wharves and vessels and give you a chance to handle artefacts previously dredged from the seafloor and reported through the Protocol. These Awareness Visits are free, informative and fun! To book your Protocol Awareness Visit, you can e-mail us at email@example.com or call us on 01722 326867.
The Awareness Programme is also supported by a series of awareness materials which can be downloaded here (in English, Dutch and French). The Implementation Team have recently redesigned the Protocol Awareness materials and are proud to introduce a new poster and handouts. The new materials also include a remote learning pack, which enables members of staff who have been unable to attend Awareness Visits to learn about the Protocol and how it works. The remote learning pack can also be used at any time to refresh training. A short video created for the Awareness Programme is currently under construction and will also be available to view and download in the near future.
The Protocol Awareness materials provide a summary of the archaeology of the seabed and the types of archaeological finds that could be encountered, as well as including advice on the reporting process, concretions, prehistoric finds and ordnance*.
* Company Health and Safety policies and established operational procedures should always take priority over archaeological reporting.