Archaeology

Archaeology is the investigation of the physical remains of the past. Today's archaeological landscape is the product of human activity over thousands of years. It ranges from settlements and remains of every historic period, from the camps of the early hunter gatherers hundreds of thousands of years ago to the remains of 20th century military sites.

It includes places of worship, defence installations, burial grounds, farms and fields, and sites of manufacture.

These remains vary enormously in their state of preservation and in the extent of their significance. Visible remains such as prehistoric stone circles, or castles and abbey ruins from the medieval era can be very familiar, but less obvious archaeological remains, such as ancient settlements and field systems are also to be found across large parts of the region.

Some prehistoric sites in wetland areas contain important wood and organic remains. Many buildings in older towns lie on top of Roman, Anglo-Saxon or medieval structures.

The archaeological record might contain irreplaceable information about our past and the potential for an increase in future knowledge. Archaeological remains should therefore be seen as a finite and non-renewable resource, in many cases highly fragile and vulnerable to damage and destruction.

Appropriate management is therefore essential to ensure that they survive in good condition. In particular, care must be taken to ensure that archaeological remains are not needlessly lost without consideration of mitigation and recording.

Archaeological sites of national importance are Scheduled and protected. Although archaeology is all around us, Scheduled sites form a carefully chosen sample of them, which are closely managed by Historic England in accordance with the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979. While some change may be possible, there is a presumption that they will be handed on to future generations in much the same state that we have found them.

Sites and monuments with archaeological interest which are otherwise not Scheduled may still be regarded as non-designated heritage assets and therefore a material consideration in the planning process.

How do we know whether there is any archaeological interest within a proposed development site?

Many development sites have the potential for archaeological interest, ranging from complex urban sites to land within the vicinity of medieval churches and those affecting ancient settlement patterns at the fringes of villages. Applicants are therefore encouraged to search the Historic Environment Record (HER) to determine whether archaeological interest is already identified.

If the proposed development is not of archaeological interest then there will be no requirement for any further archaeological input. Sometimes, however, not enough will be known about a site and the local planning authority could ask for assessment work to be carried out before planning permission is granted. This is called pre-determination evaluation. This work will typically be undertaken by professional archaeologists working on behalf of the developer and might include small-scale excavations, geophysical survey and documentary research.

Nevertheless, when a planning application is submitted to the local planning authority, our archaeological expert will undertake a preliminary assessment of the proposal site and consider any archaeological implications using information held on the HER, along with historic map regression and settlement pattern analysis.

What happens if archaeological interest has been identified?

In accordance with paragraph 189 of the National Planning Policy Framework, where a site on which development is proposed includes, or has the potential to include, heritage assets with archaeological interest, local planning authorities require developers to submit an appropriate desk-based assessment and, where necessary, a field evaluation.

Desk-based archaeological assessments should accord with standards and guidance set out by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. The local planning authority also recognises the Lincolnshire Archaeological Handbook which sets out practical guidelines for a consistent approach to the historic environment (Lincolnshire County Council currently assist us in our provision of archaeological expertise in the planning process).

On occasion, the understanding of a site may change following assessment and evaluation prior to a planning decision. Sites deemed to have nationally significant archaeological remains might be treated in the same way that Scheduled monuments are. Nevertheless, decision-making regarding such assets requires a proportionate response by local planning authorities.

How do I find a suitably qualified archaeologist?

Although the local planning is unable to make recommendations, there are a number of suitably qualified archaeological professionals within the region. They will typically possess suitable degrees in archaeology and accreditation from a professional body such as the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA).

CIfA provides a database for registered organisations. You may also seek additional advice from our archaeological partners at Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire County Councils.

Discover community archaeology

There are a number of local archaeology groups within the district.

Southwell Community Archaeology, for example, offer the chance to take part in practical and varied activities for anyone wishing to know more about the history of the Southwell area.

The group undertakes regular fieldwork, collects and looks after local artefacts, organises talks and carries out archaeological digs.

See what is happening locally and find out how you can get involved                 

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