Featured

A Prehistoric Settlement at Southend Airport: a summary of a paper delivered to Essex Society for Archaeology & History by Barry Cosham

We were pleased to be asked by Essex Society for Archaeology and History (ESAH) to give a talk on our findings from a project adjacent to Southend Airport. This took place on the second of November 2019 and was well received by all present.

The talk was put together following the completion of the initial phase of post excavation work so could only provide preliminary findings. However even at this early stage we can trace occupation of the site back 13000 years.

The focus was the Bronze Age settlement found in the south of the development area. This comprised a sub square multi-phase enclosing ditch system within which were a multitude of pits and postholes. Some structures were present, but more work is needed to clarify how many.

A large quantity of finds were retrieved during the excavation, mostly ceramics and lithics although there were a few special finds indicating domestic activity including saddle quern fragments, spindle whorls and probable loom weights. The most unexpected find was a middle bronze age dagger or dirk which was found in the base of the large enclosure ditch.

Another unexpected discovery was a complete bovine inhumation where the cranium had been removed and placed between the legs. This was accompanied by a further cow skull and ceramic vessel… intriguing evidence for religious/cultural practices. 

The talk concluded with a summary of further work required to better understand the site, it’s chronology and changing use over time and to fit it into the regional, national and international context.

Many thanks to ESAH for inviting us to speak, we hope to return when the post excavation is complete.

Featured

Three Coins in a Fountain (or one coin in a well!)

Well under excavation

Wishing well or lucky find!

Nummus of Caesar Crispus recovered from the well

Recent excavations by Red River Archaeology in the environs of a Roman villa in Wiltshire, England discovered an amazing Roman well which contained a wonderful collection of artefacts and ecofacts. Amongst this assemblage was a well preserved Roman coin dating from the early 4th century. This was identified as a nummus of Crispus Caesar (Flavius Julius Crispus). Coins turn up from a huge variety of contexts on archaeological sites. The majority are lost in antiquity and a lucky archaeological outcome of a past misfortune! As archaeologists, however, we always look hard at the evidence and see if it is possible to understand past intentions through the material remains left in the ground.

The origins of wishing wells!

A tradition of making votive offerings into watery places has been a European tradition since at least the Bronze Age. This tradition is likely to have developed as a means of making offerings to deities believed to be associated with water. It was hoped that an offering would result in the granting of a ‘wish’ such as healing of illness or good fortune to the person making the offering. Extensive remains of votive offerings have been recovered throughout Britain from pre-Roman indigenous peoples such as the extensive Bronze Age remains at Flag Fen. This native tradition appears to have been adopted by the Roman army following the invasion and a ritual well associated with the Romano-British Goddess Coventina is located near Brocolitia Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. The natural hot springs at Bath were also a native British ritual site associated with the goddess Sulis which was taken on by the Roman incomers who built a bath and temple complex as part of the Roman town.

Lost or Offered?

Selection of coins recovered from the site

Although no evidence has been recovered to confirm whether the coin was lost or deliberately deposited into the well the fact that it was not worn / eroded would indicate that it was probably deposited in the well while relatively new. It is nice to think that someone back in the 4th century AD deliberately tossed it in the well and made a wish for some positive outcome in their life. Alas, we will never know!

Flavius Julius Crispus

Image used from an article on Roman Naval Warfare by Mark Cartwright https://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Naval_Warfare/

Crispus served as a Caesar from AD 317 to 326. Crispus was the son of Constantine I and raised by his father in Gaul. Crispus had the respect of the legions due to a number of victories against the Franks and the Alamanni which secured the provinces of Gaul and Germania. He also served as the commander of the Roman fleet in the Battle of the Hellespont where he commanded a fleet of 200 ships to successfully defeat his enemy. Due to his pivotal role in helping his father defeat the armies of Licinius, Constantine honoured his son Crispus by adding his face to imperial coins, statues, mosaics and cameos etc. His high standing didn’t last long and Constantine had Crispus hanged in AD326 under mysterious circumstances.

The well

Red River Archaeology Ltd awarded silver badge for environmental awareness and sustainability

At Red River we are keen to minimise any impact on the environment that could result from our activities. Therefore we have joined the Supply Chain Sustainability School and been assessed for environmental awareness. We have initially been awarded a ‘Silver Badge’ and will be working to achieve a ‘Gold Badge’ in due course.

More information on the activities of the Supply Chain Sustainability School can be found here: https://www.supplychainschool.co.uk/uk/sustainability/construction/about/about.aspx

Quality Guaranteed!

CIfA’s Registered Organisation scheme is a unique quality assurance scheme. It is a badge of commitment to professional standards and competence. When you employ a Registered Organisation you can be confident that it has been assessed and found to be professional and accountable.

Red River Archaeology Group Ltd comprising Red River Archaeology Ltd and Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd has been included in the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIFA) Register of Organisations for 2019 to 2020. The ‘RO’ status is the kite mark of quality within the commercial archaeology sector.

Why use a CIFA Registered Organisation?

Registered Organisations have demonstrated the requisite skills to:

  • Provide informed and reliable advice
  • Execution of work appropriate to the circumstances, minimising uncertainty, delay and cost
  • Subscribe to codes of professional conduct and practice

Assessed – Registration is for a finite period, after which organisations must re-apply. They undergo rigorous peer review, and are subject to an inspection (which includes a site visit for organisations that undertake intrusive works).

Professional – Registered Organisations are strictly bound to the CIfA Code of conduct (PDF file) and other regulations, they must work in accordance with defined policies and procedures, and comply with current best practice. They will fully document their work, findings and advice, carry adequate professional insurance, and be committed to providing their staff with a fair employment package and the CIfA’s minimum salaries.

Accountable – Registered Organisations are subject to sanctions if they fail to comply with the scheme and can ultimately be removed from the Register. A complaints procedure also exists formally to address allegations of professional misconduct.

Where you see the Registered Organisation logo, you can be confident that the organisation has demonstrated they have the skills to provide informed and reliable advice and execute appropriate schemes of work while minimising uncertainty, delays and cost.

In search of the Redhall, Edinburghs lost castle!

In July 2016, we joined forces with John Lawson, Edinburgh City Council Archaeologist, to assist with searching for the site of Redhall Castle, a castle which was taken by force by Cromwell’s forces in 1650. As no above ground trace of the castle was known we used documentary research to provide a target location and, with the help of students from Middle Tennessee State University, carried out geophysical survey and trial pitting to test our hypothesis. This blog has been written and compiled by Rachel Moloney Baker, a student from James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh while on work placement at Red River Archaeology Ltd in our office in Edinburgh.

Redhall is first recorded during the reign of Alexander III (1249-86) as Rubea Aula, as Redehalle in 1298 and as Redhalle in 1337, likely referring to a red-coloured hall house. The first recorded owner was William le Grant, an Anglo-Norman immigrant from Lincoln in the 1250s. The castle was the centre of the Barony of Redhall. In 1375 the barony was conveyed to Robert, Earl of Fife and Monteith, son of King Robert II. He in turn passed it to his son Murdoch, who disposed of it to William Cunningham of the Kilmaurs family. In the 16th century the lands of Redhall were owned by Sir Adam Otterburn, who had served as Provost of Edinburgh and King’s Advocate and whose arms survive in a later dovecot near the castle site. In 1572 it was reportedly garrisoned “by the Regent Marr, and the King’s favourers”. In 1616 Anne Otterburn married Sir James Hamilton of Hoperig, to whom Redhall next passed.

The most dramatic event in the castle’s history occurred in the 17th century, when it played a key role in the campaign that culminated in the Battle of Dunbar on 3 September 1650. In July 1650 Oliver Cromwell arrived in Scotland to combat Covenanter forces. By 24 August, he and his army were near Redhall, seeking to capture the strategic location overlooking the Water of Leith. The site dominated the Slate Ford and was therefore a threat to any force seeking passage of the river. The Parliamentarians had first identified that the castle was held against them on August 13 or 14, when it was garrisoned by some twenty men, but had chosen not to take it. Now reinforced, and held by perhaps as many as 80 men, the fortress represented a formidable obstacle to the passage of the English. Ultimately, it would obstruct their forward movement for some 48 hours. In order to force Redhall’s capitulation Cromwell had to bring forward his field-guns from his camp at Stonyhill in an effort to effect a breach, but with little success. It was only when the defender’s ammunition ran short and New Model Army petardiers and axemen surged forward to breach the main gate that the garrison hung out white sheets to surrender.

Following its role in 1650 Redhall passed into the possession of John Chiesly of Dalry, who had charge of it in 1672, and may have been the same man hanged in 1689 for the assassination of President Lockhart in the Old Bank Close in Edinburgh. By 1681 Redhall was owned by James Brand of Baberton, before in 1749 John Davidson bought it.  In 1755 George Inglis of Auchendinny purchased Redhall and commissioned James Robertson to design a new house in 1758. It may have been around this date that the remains of the medieval castle were demolished, and the site incorporated into the landscape and garden features of the new house. This new house forms part of the building known as Redhall House that survives on the site today. The Inglis family remained at Redhall until the 20th century, and the castle site is now in possession the City of Edinburgh Council.

Documentary and map research indicated to us that the site is located near Redhall House Avenue in Edinburgh, specifically on a spur of high ground surrounded on the southwest, west and north by the valley of the Water of Leith. The site is covered with grass, nettles and briars. One hundred yards north west of the site is Redhall House, and 250 yards north east of Redhall House is the Redhall Dovecote, the only surviving above ground feature contemporary with the original castle. An excavation around the turn of the 20th Century revealed the footing of a semi-circular structure some seven feet in diameter which was interpreted by the excavator as a ‘turret’ and part of the castle.

As we had limited time (and budget!) for our field investigations we determined that the most appropriate way forward was a rapid geophysical survey followed by small hand dug test pits targeted on anomalies identified in the geophysical survey.

Magnetometry survey in progress

The project aimed to involve local interest groups and individuals to learn about the archaeology of the site and the archaeological techniques used to investigate the site. In order to achieve this, links were made with the Middle Tennessee State University, and students were given the opportunity to partake in fieldwork on the site. The excavations (comprising of test pits) took place in July 2016.

The test pits dug had a number of aims – to establish the location, character and likely extent and nature of archaeological remains of Redhall Castle, and to establish the profile of surviving archaeology. This information was used to devise plans for further archaeological works and allowed for knowledge of the area and archaeological techniques to be shared with local populations and further afield.

The results of the geophysical survey identified a number of anomalies consistent with buried stone structures. We targeted these anomalies with our test pits. The vegetation and topsoil were removed until the first archaeologically significant level of subsoil was encountered. All the identified archaeology was then recorded and investigated.

We were very excited by the results! There was evidence of levelling found around the site, as well as finds such as window glass and worked masonry that are likely from Redhall Castle. Other finds, such as the pottery shards, glass onions bottle fragment and oyster shell which provide insights into the lives of inhabitants of the castle and its surrounding area. It is also possible that further structural remains exist at a lower level than the limit of excavations. Further excavations would provide even further insight into the life of the inhabitants and would yield a great amount of information about the site.

All in all we proved that people were living at the site in the late medieval and early post-medieval periods and that a lot of effort had been made to level the ground at this time. The presence of  window glass and carved stone dating from this period indicates a high status building which would be consistent with a castle. Our feeling was that we were on the periphery of the actual castle site and that the castle was located immediately to the west of our investigation in an area of dense vegetation that was inaccessible to us. If possible, we would love to return to Redhall and carry out furthering investigations to uncover the foundations of the actual castle!

Tailored Staff Development Pays Dividends

Red River Archaeology Group has an ongoing commitment to tailored staff development and continuing career support. The company values the benefits that motivated, well trained staff bring to both our operations and our clients. We currently have several sponsored training programmes, two of which have recently come to fruition.

In May 2018 we reported on our long-term commitment to expanding our project management capacity within our Cardiff office. The company sponsored Rachel Morgan to undertake a Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership, by enrolling in the Leadership and Management programme run by Cardiff Metropolitan University. With the completion of this course in February 2019 we are delighted to see Rachel take up a new role as Project Manager, bringing the knowledge and skills learnt to supplement our experienced management team. With training specifically tailored for the construction industry our clients can be confident that Rachel is well placed to understand their exact needs and tailor our services accordingly.

Red River Archaeology is also pleased to see Victoria Rees take a new appointment as Finds and Archive Manager. This follows on from Victoria successfully completing her sponsored MSc modules in Environmental Archaeology with the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. These new skills build on her broad wealth of experience within post-excavation and her commercial awareness. Victoria will be taking the lead of our Cardiff based post-excavation team to ensure the timely production of post-excavation reports and archives. These reports are critical to our clients planning requirements, and the delivery of archives can be the deciding factor to allow the discharge of planning conditions.

As part of her course Rachel produced a 3-year growth strategy for Red River Archaeology. With the uncertainties of a post-Brexit economy looming this document will be invaluable as the company seeks not only to maintain our excellent track record of service, but expand our market share across the UK. This is an aim that both of these appointments will help to see fulfilled, as our capacity to deliver quality projects is increased.

Red River Archaeology sponsor IARSS 2019

Red River Archaeology are proud to sponsor the 22nd annual Iron Age Research Student Symposium hosted at Cardiff University.

The Iron Age Research Student Symposium (IARSS) is an annual event for researchers studying the Iron Age. This year’s event is organised and hosted by postgraduate students from Cardiff University’s Archaeology department from the 29th of May to the 1st of June.

Red River Archaeology have a regional office in Cardiff and have fostered close links with the Unviersity. We are proud to sponsor this event and are the only commercial archaeological company to do so. We believe this symposium provides an excellent opportunity for the next generation of archaeologists to highlight their talents and gain valuable experience.

Red River Archaeology! A new chapter for Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd in the UK

As with the majority of pro-active businesses operating in the shared market of Britain and Ireland, Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd has been monitoring the on-going Brexit negotiations and has determined that significant changes are required in order to de-risk the sustained development and growth of the company within the new emerging economic environment. We have restructured our business to create two distinct operating companies which will operate within the restructured political and economic jurisdictions which will emerge later this year. This strategy will protect the fantastic track record we have built in Britain and Ireland and allow us to develop and strengthen the services we offer to our clients on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Red River Archaeology Ltd, a new UK registered company commenced operations in March. Where possible, existing contracts will be novated or sub-contracted from Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd to Red River Archaeology Ltd. The new company will be under the directorship of Mark Collard, Dave Gilbert and Claire Shepherd and our UK based staff will move over to the new UK company. So business as usual with a new name and logo!

Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd will continue to trade in Ireland but will no longer procure new projects outside of the EU. Existing contracts in Britain will be honoured and completed. Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd will be served by a board of Patricia Long, Ross Macleod and Bernie Carney.

ADSC010491[1]

Both companies are wholly owned subsidiaries of Red River Archaeology Group Ltd which is an Irish Registered Company. Red River Archaeology Group Ltd will provide overall strategic direction and other core services to the operating companies in the UK and Ireland. The board of the Group Company will continue to be Chaired by John Bowen with Colm Moloney acting as the Group CEO.