Often the first phase of an archaeological project involves the assessment of previously-recorded data which provide information on the archaeological sensitivity of a site and its setting.
This ‘desk-based assessment’ would normally include a review of the information stored by the National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS), or its equivalent in England (NMR), and the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) or Historic Environment Record (HER) of the local Council. Study of historic and recent maps and aerial photographs is also required where these are available. Occasionally relevant historical documents may also be studied.
The data is collated into a stand-alone report, or the work may sometimes be incorporated into a single phase which includes an evaluation and subsequent report.
CFA’s in-house consultants have extensive experience of producing desk-based assessments and are available to provide advice and guidance to the client throughout the process. We also carry out desk-based assessments as part of Environmental Statements.
The first stage of excavation is a small-scale sampling or trial-trenching of the site. This can involve non-invasive fieldwork such as fieldwalking (collection of finds from the ploughsoil or topsoil using a grid which is laid out across the site) or geophysical survey. Generally, however, an evaluation would require some form of sample excavation to determine the depth and nature of any remains. The percentage of the site to be evaluated would normally be decided in consultation with the local council’s planning archaeologist. Often the results are negative and no further work is required.
Typically CFA conducts some 50-60 evaluations per year. These projects are directed on site by one of our Field Officers, assisted by suitably qualified members of our core staff or professional contract staff.
Depending on the results of the desk-based assessment and/or evaluation, the planning archaeologist may require further large-scale excavations to be carried out in advance of development. The excavation process is used to ‘clean’ development sites of archaeological remains where preservation in situ is not possible or preferable. The excavation is therefore regarded as ‘preservation by record’ and results in detailed written descriptions, plans, sections and assemblages of artefacts. These are then processed during the post-excavation assessment and analysis of a site, and a report is produced.
CFA carries out several excavations a year, ranging from small trenches to large-scale open area excavations of sites in excess of one hectare. Recent projects have ranged from urban redevelopment schemes and rural green field developments to major infrastructure projects such as roads and pipelines.
Our team uses all the up-to-date archaeological excavation techniques ensuring a speedy and comprehensive examination is undertaken keeping you on schedule. Excavations are directed by a CFA Field Officer and assisted by a team of suitably qualified staff. An office-based Project Manager oversees the project and is available for consultation throughout the project to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible. Our in-house finds and palaeoenvironmental specialists record and analyse any finds to the highest standards.
Where archaeological remains identified in a desk-based assessment or evaluation are considered to be of limited value or extent, the local planning archaeologist may recommend a watching brief rather than a full excavation. Watching briefs may also be recommended in place of evaluations, particularly if the potential for a development to disturb archaeological remains is limited.
CFA is able to carry out watching briefs which take into account the client’s needs as well as those of the archaeological record, by recording any discovered remains quickly and efficiently. We pride ourselves in not causing undue delay to the construction programme.