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What is an Archaeological Excavation?

Archaeology and heritage can often appear to be a bit of a minefield for developers, especially when there's a requirement for archaeological or heritage related works as part of the planning process on the project or development. To help guide you through this process, we're starting a series of posts explaining some of the technical terms you might hear and why they are required – This article focuses on Archaeological Excavation.



Excavation is required where significant remains, likely to be impacted by development, are known or evidentially indicated to be present within the site. The decision to move to full excavation is based upon the evidence revealed by initial work such as a Desk Based Assessment, Geophysical Survey and subsequently an Archaeological Evaluation, generally by trial trenching, and is determined by the relevant Local Planning Authority or County Archaeology Service.


Excavation usually takes one of two forms, these being either Strip, Map and Record/ Sample or Full Excavation. The physical work dimensions are agreed with the Local Planning Authority or County Archaeology Service.


Strip Map and Record/ Sample involves archaeologically controlled machine excavation down to the first significant archaeological level/horizon, which is then recorded prior to detailed investigation of a specified sample of features such as ditches, pits or structures.


Full Excavation is likely to be required where the archaeological evidence is thought to be of such significance that only a programme of detailed investigation and recording of buried deposits and features, will be preserved by record, or in exceptional cases, in-situ, against any loss of archaeological information due to development. In this way, a detailed record of the site will be enabled. Conclusion of this work (and subsequent reporting) will then lead to discharge of a developers planning condition, allowing development to proceed.


We work on behalf of clients across the UK, in both a rural and urban setting and work closely with our clients, national bodies and local authorities, facilitating the progression of their development, offering guidance and advice and ultimately enabling their developments to proceed.


Please do get in touch if we can be of assistance with any of your development projects - we're here to help.

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