BU’s Tim Darvill speaks to National Geographic

Timothy Darvill, Professor of Archaeology at Bournemouth University, gave his comment in a recent article for the National Geographic.

The article talks about Stonehenge and tries to uncover the mystery of how early Britons managed to move the monument’s enormous stones into place.

Professor Darvill said, “The Sarsens were moved about 40 to 50 kilometres from essentially local sources”.

They were most likely moved over land routes mounted on sleds, which then slid across rollers or rails, he explained. “Plenty of experiments have been done to show this is possible.”

“Some of the bigger sarsens weigh about 40 tons (36 metric tonnes) and would need about 150 people to pull them along,” Darvill added.

Michael Parker Pearson, an archaeologist at University College London and a National Geographic grantee notes that the roller method of transport can be problematic.

Many ancient monuments that we admire today were built without the conveniences of modern technology and with no definite answers, the mystery surrounding their construction continues.

You can read the article in full on the National Geographic website.

Archaeology lecturer John Gale in The Independent

BU archaeology lecturer John Gale appeared during an article about the modern profession of archaeology in The Independent.

“Being an archaeologist in 2013 is no longer about tweed jackets, beards and bohemian lifestyles” said Gale.

John Gale is programme leader for the MSc in archaeological practice at Bournemouth University.

While traditional skills remain essential, today’s archaeologists need more. The Institute for Archaeologists, suggests that postgraduate qualification could be helpful for those looking to move into practice, particularly those interested in heritage management and conservation.

As a postgraduate subject, archaeology appeals to students from a range of backgrounds such as history of art, English, music and sciences.

“Archaeology, while looking into the past, is rewarding as it provides great insight into the present,” says Gale.

“Why human beings do what they do, when and where are universal questions that transcend time and space. For the enquiring mind of whatever persuasion, archaeology offers a base from which you develop both intellectually and professionally”.

By Peter Blackhall
2nd Year Student at Bournemouth University, BA Public Relations

Dr Miles Russell mystery guest on BBC Radio Solent

BU archaeology lecturer Dr Miles Russell was the mystery guest on BBC Radio Solent’s Nick Girdler show.

The regular feature involves Nick having to guess who his studio guest is, having only been told one clue about why they are in the news.

Miles, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology, has recently helped to identify the Bosham Head, which was discovered in a flowerbed in Chicester in around 1800, as a statue of Roman Emperor Trajan.

The only clue Nick was given as to Mile’s identity was that he ‘helped solve a 200 year old mystery.’

With a little help from Miles, Nick worked out who he was and the pair discussed the importance of the Bosham Head and where the statue came from.

“The problem is that the face has been so badly battered that no-one thought we would ever be able to identify who it was, and some people doubted whether it was even Roman,” said Miles.

“What we did was a 3D laser scan of it, which picks up all the finer detail of the eyes and the hair and from that you can see things that aren’t normally visible to the human eye.

“Thankfully, most emperors have a highly realistic image of themselves created so as soon as you get the position of the eyes and the hair, you’ve got your man.”

Miles added that he now planned to work with colleagues to use the technology to try and identify other statue heads at museums around the country.

The pair also discussed Bournemouth University’s reputation for archaeology.

Miles said: “We are renowned for doing practical archaeology and training people up to do that. We’re in a fantastic landscape around Bournemouth with Cranborne Chase and Dorset, up onto Salisbury plain. There’s so much archaeology around us so there’s a lot to do.”

You can listen to the feature at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p003d430/clips

Archaeology project nominated for Dorset Archaeological Awards


Bournemouth University’s M.A.D. About the Wreck project has been nominated for the Dorset Archaeological Awards.

The Maritime Archaeological Days (M.A.D.) About the Wreck project, promotes maritime archaeology to a wider audience through the Swash Channel Wreck, a 17th Century wreckage at the bottom of Poole Harbour.

The project gives those who would not normally being involved in the appreciation of marine heritage the chance to get close to being actively involved and learn about the heritage, the artefacts and life in the past and understand more about our history with the sea. A number of innovative and highly creative activities are designed to be accessible to all – where age, skills and geographical distance are not considered as barriers. In fact, part of the outreach approach is the work that the team is doing with Prisons, Care Homes and some minority groups. Amongst other activities, the project include a ‘human fish tank’, hands-on and interactive public participation.

M.A.D. About the Wreck is in collaboration with Poole Museum and was made possible thanks to a £140,200 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Dorset Archaeological Awards ceremony will be held on Friday 11th October 2013 and the awards will be presented by celebrated archaeologist Prof Sir Barry Cunliffe.

Project leader Paola Palma, Programme Leader MSc Maritime Archaeology at Bournemouth University, said, “‘I am thrilled that MAD About the Wreck is nominated for this prestigious award! Hopefully this will attract even more enthusiasm and community involvement around our heritage. It is a real pleasure to be able to manage this project and work with such a variety of different and amazing people.  I can see my passion for this work reflected in their interest. I believe that, given a chance and the right tools, everybody could become as passionate as me about the past”.

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BU Archaeologists solve 200 year old mystery of Roman statue


The identity of a huge stone object that has remained a mystery since it was discovered in Chichester over 200 years ago has been revealed by archaeologists at Bournemouth University (BU).

Dr Miles Russell, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at BU and Harry Manley, from the School of Applied Sciences, have used the latest in 3D laser scanning technology to examine the object, known as the Bosham Head.

Little had previously been known about the 170 kg (26 stone), twice life-size stone head – including who it was meant to represent or how it ended up in a flower bed in the vicarage garden in Bosham, where it was discovered in around 1800.

But the BU investigations of the Bosham Head, which is part of the collection at Novium Museum in Chicester, have revealed that it is a statue of Roman Emperor Trajan, and dates from around AD 122.

“The statue is one of the most important finds from Roman Britain and would certainly have been the most impressive,” Dr Russell said, adding that it was the largest Roman statue to have been discovered in Britain so far.

“The problem is because the face has been so battered by weathering – possibly because it was in the sea at one point – people have felt for the last 200 years that there’s not enough left of the face to be that precise on its identification.

“It is a shame that it has been ignored and overlooked for so long, but now that laser scanning has helped resolve its identity, hopefully it will now take pride of place.”

They were able to use 3D laser scans to pick out facial features and a distinctive hairstyle, which led them to conclude that the statue was of Emperor Trajan.

Dr Russell believes the statue, made of Italian marble, was set up by Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, on a visit to Britain in AD 121-122 and would have greeted visitors as they entered Chichester Harbour.

A similar statue of Emperor Trajan was also erected by Hadrian at Ostia Harbour, in Rome.

“The fact that it was on the harbour and mirrors what’s happening in Ostia suggests that this would have been a real monumental greeting not just to Sussex but to the whole of Southern England,” Dr Russell said.

“There would have been this immense statue of the Emperor facing you as you came in to the harbour, so it’s a real Welcome to Britain statue but reminding you that Britain is part of the Roman Empire.”

Dr Russell has been researching the head as part of his work on monumental sculpture and will give a talk on his findings at The Novium museum.

Councillor Eileen Lintill, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Wellbeing and Community Services at Chichester District Council, says: “It is really exciting that more information about the Bosham Head is being uncovered, including new speculation as to who it may depict.

“It has always been a bit of a mystery to museum staff as to who it was meant to represent. It is fascinating that we can learn more about items in The Novium’s collection using new technology such as 3D digital scanning.”

Dr Russell’s lecture – Finding Nero (and other Roman Emperors) – is on Thursday 24 October from 6.30-8pm.

To book tickets or for further information contact The Novium, Tower Street, Chichester on email at thenovium@chichester.gov.uk or call 01243 775888.

BU archaeologists and the mystery of the Roman statue

Archaeologists from BU gained international news coverage after a breakthrough in identifying a Roman statue that had remained a mystery since it was discovered in the 1800s.

Dr Miles Russell and Harry Manley, from the School of Applied Sciences, used the latest in 3D scanning technology to reveal that the mystery stone head – which was discovered in a flowerbed in Bosham, Chicester, in around 1800 – is from a statue of the Roman Emperor Trajan.

The story was featured on the Daily Mail website, the BBC news website, and the Huffington Post, as well as in the Portsmouth News and on various BBC local radio stations, BBC Five Live and regional radio station Wave 105.

It was also covered by specialist new organisations, including Archaeology magazine and Heritage Daily.

Miles, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at BU, said: “The key thing is that this is certainly the largest Roman statue found so far in Britain and it’s a major piece of archaeology which has been ignored and overlooked for so long.”

The statue, which is made of Italian marble, would have been erected by Emperor Trajan’s successor Hadrian when he visited Britain in around AD 122.

Miles has been researching the head as part of his work on monumental sculpture and will give a talk on his findings at The Novium museum in Chichester.

His lecture – Finding Nero (and other Roman Emperors) – is on Thursday 24 October from 6.30-8pm. To book tickets or for further information contact The Novium, Tower Street, Chichester on email at thenovium@chichester.gov.uk or call 01243 775888.

Major success with Swash Channel Wreck coverage

The rudder from the Swash Channel Wreck was finally recovered from the sea bed after residing in Poole Harbour for four hundred years, provoking a wide range of media coverage.

What the ship was and how it came to be on the seabed in Poole Harbour remains a mystery and the 27 foot rudder that was uncovered yesterday could uncover the mysteries of the Swash Channel Wreck. Some say the ship was part of the Spanish Armada, but on closer inspection, the timber frame, found by a dredger in 1990, dates back to the 1600’s; after the Spanish Armada. The ship is most likely of Dutch or German origin.

Bournemouth University received sixty one pieces of coverage, ranging all across print and broadcast media. The list included:

  • South Today
  • BBC TV South
  • BBC Somerset, Solent, Stoke, Surry, Ulster, Shropshire, Scotland, Nottingham, Newcastle, Merseyside, Manchester, Leicester, Leeds, Kent, Humberside, Gloucestershire, Devon, Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Bristol, Oxford, Lincolnshire and Jersey
  • BBC Radio 5 Live
  • The Times
  • This is Dorset
  • Daily Express
  • Scottish Daily Express
  • The Independent
  • The Independent Online
  • The Guardian
  • The Daily Echo
  • Bournemouth Daily Echo

Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth University and Project Leader of the Swash Channel Wreck Project, Dave Parham, featured in a number of the papers, giving quotes and information with the on-going project.

“The wreck is important because so much of it survives. It is the ship itself that is significant – there are only a few wrecks like this in the world, and it tells is more about the beginnings of large scale international trade”, Parham said to The Independent.

“It would have been a very big vessel for its day and the whole vessel would have been a spectacular work if art. It was making a statement, showing how great and wonderful the owners were. They would have needed a large Dutch conglomerate, similar to the East India Company”, he said in The Times.

“To see it in daylight in all its glory is quite spectacular, it is very large and impressive so you can imagine how spectacular this merchant vessel would have looked. It is an extremely find and has led to one of the largest ship wreck investigations in Britain. We this it was a Dutch trading ship and would have taken high quality European goods such as tweed to the Far East and traded them for things like exotic spices” explained Parham in the Daily Express.

“What would be nice would be to have a historical reference papers saying it was sailing from here to there. You don’t need that; from an archaeological perspective the really interesting thing is the study of the whole…” Dave added in the Bournemouth Daily Echo.

By Dean Eastmond

Dean is a student at Budmouth College in Weymouth, who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. He joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from his college with essential work experience for four weeks over the summer.

Swash Channel Wreck and BU featured in The Telegraph

Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth University and Project Leader of the Swash Channel Wreck Project, Dave Parham, featured in the Telegraph, talking about what the wreck is in build up to the surfacing.

The 130ft ship, bigger than the Mary Rose, will have its 27ft, 2.4 tonne rudder surfaced today and is considered a “highly anticipated event”.

So far there are several clues to what the ship was and why it sank and with over 1000 artefacts recovered, people are starting to piece together the true identity of the Swash Channel Wreck. Some believe that the ship was a Spanish Armada vessel (San Salvador), which was lost in 1588. But on further inspection the vessel’s timber frame was felled in 1628 from forests in the coastal region of the Netherlands-Germany Border.

From this, the ship is most likely a Dutch owned artefact.

“I’m surprised we haven’t found any reference to a sinking.” Parham added.  “There is usually some sort of argument or claim that gives you your starting point. It doesn’t appear to have survived in the popular memory, as others have. We have been working on names, but there is no smoking gun, which is surprising, because it is a big ship and its sinking would have been a big event.”

Dave Parham goes on to explain that the facial carving that appears on the uncovered rudder could “provide a breakthrough” and that the carving is similar to one found on a Swedish ship wreck.

“It is an artistic object, which may give information about its origins”.

The Swash Channel Wreck is a project funded by Bournemouth University, English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Poole Harbour Commissioners.

Dean Eastmond

Dean is a student at Budmouth College in Weymouth, who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. He joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from his college with essential work experience for four weeks over the summer.

Dr Eileen Wilkes featured on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today

By Dean Eastmond

Bournemouth University’s Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Dr Eileen Wilkes, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 programme Farming Today this weekend on how archaeology affects farming and the effects farming has on archaeology.

The show looks at modern day farming and was located in a Devon farm for this week’s episode, which Dr Wilkes has been excavating for over a decade looking at Iron Age and prehistoric settlements.

So far enclosures where animals stayed and settlements where people lived have been found – dating back to over 2000 years ago. The project that was originally supposed to be only two weeks long, is still giving results ten years on!

Wilkes explains that archaeological excavations sites and farmland coincide together: “I had fallen in love with the place, the farmer and his family were very happy to have us”.

“Over the winter when we’re not here, his sheep come and graze around the excavation site”.

It was reported that over 150 British Heritage site of prehistoric date and under threat by farming methods such as deep ploughing and building.

Listen to the Farming Today interview in full

Dean is a student at Budmouth College in Weymouth, who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. He joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from his college with essential work experience for four weeks over the summer.

BU’s Big Dig a Big success


A team of archaeologists from Bournemouth University (BU) has uncovered the history that lies beneath rural farmland in Dorset.

Delicate glass leaves, a Roman tea strainer and the remains of ritually deposited animals were just some of the finds unearthed by staff and students as part of the Durotriges Project.

The project, otherwise known as The Big Dig, is an archaeological investigation studying the transition from the late Iron Age to the early Roman period in Winterbourne Kingston, near Bere Regis.

The Big Dig is now in its fifth and final year, and this summer’s excavations discovered a prehistoric settlement, Roman villa and two late Roman longhouses, as well as countless finds from the period, including jewellery and pottery.

Dr Miles Russell, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at BU, said: “The key thing this year is that much of the evidence is showing what happens after Roman Britain comes to an end.

“We can see how people came to this land, how they cannibalised the villa, ripped everything out of it and made their own life here before the Saxons arrived.”

As well as staff and students from the university, volunteers and schoolchildren visited the site to help out and experience archaeological excavation first hand.

A public open day attracted more than 620 visitors, and around 50 young archaeologists, aged between 8 and 16, visited the site from as far afield as Poole, Salisbury, Southampton and Taunton.

The youngsters, who are members of Young Archaeologists’ Clubs from across the region, took part in the examination of Roman buildings, geophysical survey and finds processing.

Sarah MacNaughton, of the Poole branch of Young Archaeologists’ Club said: “It was brilliant. The youngsters really enjoyed getting their hands dirty and finding things.”

Find out more about The Big Dig