Dr Phil Harding’s talk – based on questions from the public – broadcast yesterday as part of Salisbury’s Big Weekend and available on ‘catch up’, is everything you would hope it would be. Highly enjoyable and informative.
If you are having trouble finding SBW’s ‘catch up’, you can access Phil on YouTube
On Monday (25 November) I was delighted to be able to attend a ‘Collections in Focus’ talk given by Simon Cleggett, Project Manager at Wessex Archaeology.
Entitled ’Echoes of the Voices from WW1: The Larkhill 300’, this concerned the exciting and varied discoveries made at Larkhill, Bulford and Tidworth for the Army Basing Programme, whereby some 30,000 troops and their families will need to be accommodated following their return to the UK. The archaeological investigation has entailed stripping some 33 hectares of land back to the bare chalk, revealing artefacts dating from the Early Neolithic to modern ‘conflict archaeology’ pertaining to World War 1.
Click here to read more about Wessex Archaeology’s excavations
Among the early Neolithic finds was a causewayed enclosure which is, in fact, the closest causewayed enclosure to Stonehenge yet found, and dates to about 900 years pre-Stonehenge Phase 1. Thus it’s not too fanciful to consider that the people involved in its construction may have been involved in the conceptualisation of the future Stonehenge. There are just over 80 causewayed enclosures in the UK and they are thus fairly rare.
As a scientist (albeit a chemist, but I did once study ‘A’Level zoology) I was intrigued to learn that (being Caprinae) sheep and goats are anatomically uncannily very similar – almost identical. Hence distinguishing between the two requires outstanding observational skills and extensive practice. This has been quite problematic archaeologically, and archaeologists refer to such skeletons as sheep-goats. (This reminded me of how embarrassed I once was when having a lift home from work with a colleague. Noticing a large number of animals in a field, I exclaimed, “Blimey, look at all those goats!” He fell about laughing and said, ”Those are not goats, they’re sheep that have recently been shorn”!). I now don’t feel quite so foolish.
In terms of ‘Conflict
Archaeology’, Larkhill turns out to be the largest WW1 practice battlefield
ever excavated. It was very poignant that, occurring during 2016-2017, the
excavations occurred during the centenary of WW1 itself. This did not go
unnoticed by the archaeologists on site. The excavations revealed WW1 practice
trenches and tunnels, the entrances of which had graphitic graffiti of soldiers
(rank, name and number) who were training there, and whose families may
therefore be traceable. There were 400 pieces of graffiti pertaining to 300
names, this inspiring the title of Simon’s talk.
It is anticipated that the many artefacts found during these excavations will eventually be housed in Salisbury Museum.
Cleggett, from Wessex Archaeology, will be giving a fascinating talk entitled ‘Wonderful
things: the army basing programme and the Stonehenge Landscape’. This is a
repeat of the wonderful talk that Simon gave at this year’s Festival of
Archaeology. For five years, Wessex Archaeology has
excavated Bulford, Larkhill and Tidworth in preparation for the Army Basing
Programme. International media has followed the discovery of henges, a
causewayed enclosure, Neolithic pits, prehistoric burials, Anglo Saxon burial
grounds, a WWI practice battlefield and WWII anti-tank devices. Simon’s talk
details the revelation of some truly wonderful things.
There is no need to RSVP for either the above talk. Please just turn up on the day.
I recall the excited reaction of those who attended this talk at ArchFest in July. A brilliant speaker and thoughtful and sensitive archaeologist… If you didn’t hear Simon speak then, grab this opportunity next month.
Phil Harding and finds specialist Lorraine Mepham, both of Wessex Archaeology, have been at the museum this week – in a hole! An excavation in the grounds of the museum attracted over six hundred on Bank Holiday Monday and huge numbers of school parties today.
Wil Partridge, Finds Liaison Officer, was on call today, together with Megan Gard, student, showing school parties some of the objects from the museum collection.
Thank you, as always, to all concerned, especially the Volunteers!
Wiltshire’s FLO (Finds Liaison Officer), Wil Partridge, his assistant Sophie Hawke and eight Volunteers gathered at Wessex Archaeology last weekend to be trained by Lorraine Mepham, nationally recognised pottery specialist, on the identification of Roman pottery.
Wessex Archaeology have a huge archive of pots and pottery sherds and it was good to be able to handle and familiarise ourselves with so many. Lorraine unsparingly shared her knowledge and expertise and we were taken through the importance of recognising the fabric of a pot (ie not just the clay, of course, but the inclusions, the slip, the glaze and other finishes). Inclusions (small particles of materials other than the clay, eg flint, sand, shell) may occur naturally but were also introduced by potters to strengthen the clay. They also used grog – crumbs of fired pot – as inclusion. We can learn a lot from being able to identify these, and because some may be geologically distinctive, it is now possible, with modern science and technology, to match pottery finds with individual kiln sites.
Even before the Roman invasion of AD 43 pottery from the Empire was being imported, even moreso, of course, after that date. But local pottery was still made (particularly coarseware – for the kitchen, etc), and eventually British potteries began to copy Roman types.
Mortaria were Roman vessels – wide, shallow pots with a gritty substance lining the base to be used for grinding fruits, nuts, garlic, etc. This is a sherd from a British version, showing the archaeologist how and when diet began to change with Roman settlement.
Copies of the famous Roman Samian fineware, eventually made all over the Empire, began to be imitated here after about AD 250. The British potteries never quite made the best. Lorraine (perhaps diplomatically) suggested this was because we didn’t have the right clays here.
Samian bowl (probably from Gaul (France)
A perhaps particularly poor British copy of Samian. The covering slip is nearly worn off, but this may, in part be due to the conditions it has endured in the last 1 800 years!
From top left clockwise: an indented beaker made in the New Forest; a strainer (spot the holes) made on the Hants/Surrey border; a flagon also made there; grey ware; Black Burnished ware made around Poole harbour and distributed all over the country.
Last weekend, The Salisbury Museum was pleased to host the special 30th Anniversary Conference of the Roman Finds Group. Eighty attended and in addition to the Conference itself there was a special Reception at Sarum College and an evening social. There was also a private tour of the Wessex Gallery and of the Terry Pratchett exhibition, guided by curator of the latter, Richard Henry.
Salisbury Museum Volunteers were involved, attending as members of the Roman Finds Group, giving talks, or providing refreshments.
Alyson Tanner, Portable Antiquities Scheme Volunteer working each week with the Finds Liaison Officer within the museum, made a presentation on finds from three sites which are in the Pitt Rivers Collection at the museum.
Other speakers included a legendary figure from the world of Roman brooches – Dr Justine Bayley – academics including Dr Bruce Eagles and Dr Miles Russell – curators and advisors and scientists from the British Museum, University College London and English Heritage – Dr Eleanor Ghey, Sally Worrall, Dr Ruth Pelling and Dr David Roberts, and many more. Local speakers included Rachael Seager-Smith of Wessex Archaeology, Dr Michael Grant from Southampton University and Dr Mike Bishop from Pewsey who started quite a discussion Roman lances, javelins and spears – and how you tell the difference!
Our own Richard Henry gave a presentation on the Pewsey hoard of Roman vessels and Louise Tunnard (Communications Officer at the museum) spoke on ‘How the Wessex Gallery was Won’. There were also speakers from Newcastle and Reading Universities and Bradford on Avon Museum.
Find out more at http://www.romanfindsgroup.org.uk/
For my finial post I have been looking into the Shared Learning Project that Salisbury Museum has been developing with Salisbury and Sarum U3A as part of an initiative to improve intellectual and physical access to the collections in the new HLF archaeology galley. The initial project began in 2011 to develop content for the gallery and finished in June 2013, ready for the building work to begin in October. Salisbury Museum is looking to continue working with the U3A on future projects, and are hoping that some of those who have been involved in developing content will want to get involved with the HLF gallery when it opens in Spring 2014.
“Part of the aim of this project is to develop a longer term relationship with the local U3A – some of the people involved will develop specialist knowledge about the collections so will hopefully go on to steward the gallery once it is open, or undertake guided tours and object handling with visitors. Some of them took part in the decant of the old galleries and will be taking part in other collections projects such as documenting the Pitt-Rivers collection and photographing the collections in preparation for an online database.” – Jane Ellis-Schön, Project Curator.
The Shared Learning project involved 13 U3A Shared Learning volunteers working with Director Adrian Green and Project Curator Jane Ellis-Schön to select and research objects for open storage drawers that will go below the interactive desk stations in the new gallery. The drawers will contain artefacts that cannot be handled because they are too precious, but will provide visitors with greater access to more of the collection. The volunteers were divided into smaller subject study groups based on their interests and given training on object identification and research so that they were able to choose interesting objects to go on display. The topics for the drawers were chosen in consultation with the Project Curator and the U3A Shared Learning volunteers and include Palaeolithic handaxes, Neolithic tool kit, Bronze Age metalwork, Pitt-Rivers, Roman Jewellery, Anglo-Saxon textiles, and Pottery through the ages.
Jean McFarane, who is a member of Sarum U3A, volunteered for the Shared Learning Project because of a long time interest in archaeology. She has said about the project:
“Our U3A was interested in supporting Salisbury Museum and for 18 months we have been working in pairs on aspects of the new gallery. I’m working on the proposed Pitt Rivers Hub. My partner and I have been exploring the collections and store cupboards in order to put together items that will demonstrate Pitt Rivers’ contribution to the world of archaeology as an excavator, scientist, collector and inspector of Ancient Monuments.”– Jean McFarlane, Volunteer.
In July 2014, during the Festival of British Archaeology, the museum will have a weekend event to celebrate the opening of the new gallery. In the new gallery visitors will be able to truly explore the archaeology collection, making their own discoveries as they search through the themed drawers and interactive elements.
As part of the event there will be various activities such as a living history demonstrations (including flint knapping and bronze casting), spot light talks in the gallery, and a series of U3A ‘Tea and Talk’ events to showcase the Shared Learning Project. There will also be stalls and activities led by partner organisations such as the National Trust, Salisbury Cathedral, Young Archaeologist Club and Wessex Archaeology. The celebrations will also be taken out into the community so that people who are unable to access the museum can get involved, with activities taking place in areas such as Bemerton Heath and Amesbury.
With so much going on a Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum next year, be sure to check the website or contact the museum to find out what’s on. And if you would like to get involved in volunteering please get in touch with Bridget Telfer, the Volunteer Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org; 01722332151.