Archaeological Field Evaluation

Specification for Archaeological Field Evaluation

  1. Introduction and Archaeological Background

    1. This specification, prepared by the Devon County Historic Environment Team (HET) sets out the scope of the archaeological works required to either (i) inform the submission of a planning application or (ii) as the first stage of archaeological work required by an archaeological condition that has been applied to a planning consent.
    2. Based on the results of the archaeological field evaluation further works may be required, these will be undertaken in accordance with the relevant HET specification for the next stage of works. These can be accessed on the Devon County Historic Environment webpage – Environment and Planning.
    3. If required by a condition, the usual wording of such a condition is: “No development shall take place until the applicant has secured the implementation of a programme of archaeological work in accordance with a written scheme of investigation which has been submitted by the applicant and approved by the Local Planning Authority. The development shall be carried out at all times in strict accordance with the approved scheme, or such other details as may be subsequently agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority”.
    4. The principal objective of the programme shall be to evaluate the survival of below-ground archaeological deposits across the proposed development site. The results will allow the nature, extent, and date of any surviving archaeological deposits within the application area to be understood and used to either:
      1. enable an appropriate planning decision made by the Planning Authority (LPA) – if being undertaken in support of a planning application, or
      2. allow the requirement and scope of any further archaeological mitigation to be understood and implemented either in advance of or during construction works for the consented development.
    5. The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists defines field evaluation as “a limited programme of non-intrusive and/or intrusive fieldwork which determines the presence or absence of archaeological features, structures, deposits, artefacts or ecofacts and their research potential, within a specified area or site on land, inter-tidal zone or underwater. If such archaeological remains are present field evaluation defines their character, extent, quality and preservation, reports on them and enables an assessment of their significance in a local, regional, national or international context as appropriate.” CIfA Standard and Universal Guidance for Field Evaluation.
  2. Written Scheme of Investigation

    1. This specification sets out the scope of the works required to enable the extent, character and significance of any surviving archaeological deposits within the application area to be understood.
    2. If work is being undertaken as a condition of consent granted it will form the basis of the Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI) to be prepared by the archaeological consultant. That document will set out the detail and extent of the archaeological works to be undertaken. This will include pre-fieldwork elements (desk-based research), fieldwork, post-excavation specialist analysis and the production of an appropriately detailed and illustrated report.
    3. The WSI must be submitted by the applicant or, on their behalf, by their agent or archaeological consultant and approved by the HET prior to any archaeological works commencing.
    4. If this work is being undertaken to discharge an archaeological condition then the WSI must also be submitted to the Planning Authority and formally approved prior to any development commencing.
    5. The Written Scheme of Investigation must include the collecting museum’s accession number and the OASIS (Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS) identification number.
  3. Programme of Archaeological Works

    1. Desk-based research

      1. An element of desk-based research will be required to inform the archaeological fieldwork and enable finds and features identified to be understood in their context. This work will need to be undertaken in advance of any fieldwork commencing.
      2. Guidance will be provided by the HET on a site by site basis on the appropriate level of desk-based work that is required for a particular scheme.
      3. As a minimum the desk-based research must take the form of an archaeological appraisal of the site to place the development area into its historic and archaeological context. This work will consist of map regression based on the Ordnance Survey maps and the Tithe Map(s) and Apportionments. An examination will also be made of records and aerial photographs held by the HER, as well as of archaeological reports on investigations undertaken in the vicinity.
      4. Please note that the Historic Environment Record (HER) information that the Historic Environment Team (HET) make available online via Heritage Gateway and Devon County Council’s Environmental Viewer are not ‘live’ datasets and so do not contain the most up-to-date HER information. Use of these for commercial purposes is not a substitute for requesting HER information from the HET.  The HER contains the most up-to-date record of Devon’s historic environment. The HET are also aware of information that has yet to be accessioned to the HER or is not otherwise publicly available. The HET can assist in accessing this material, which may be held at the HER or in the Devon Heritage Centre.
      5. If reports are submitted without this reference number and no request for HER data from the Historic Environment Team has been made then acceptance of the report by the Historic Environment Team and/or the relevant Local Planning Authority is likely to be delayed or possibly refused.
    2. Evaluation

      1. A series of trenches will be excavated across the proposed development area. The location of these excavations will be determined in consideration of the results of any desk-based assessment, the below-ground impact of the proposed development and the site topography.   These excavations should adequately investigate the area affected by the proposed development. It is usually anticipated that these investigations would sample 5% of the area affected by the proposed development. This percentage may be varied in the light of the results of any geophysical survey that is undertaken of the site. Any variation will need to be discussed and agreed with the HET.
      2. Details of the strategy for positioning trenches must be agreed with the HET. Trenches should be excavated by a 360o tracked or JCB-type machine – fitted with a toothless grading bucket – to the surface of archaeological deposits or in situ natural ground – whichever is highest in the stratigraphic sequence. Exposed archaeological features and deposits will be cleaned and excavated by hand and fully recorded by context as per the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists’ Standard and Universal Guidance for Field Evaluation. All features shall be recorded in plan and section at scales of 1:10, 1:20 or 1:50. All scale drawings shall be undertaken at a scale appropriate to the complexity of the deposit/feature and to allow accurate depiction and interpretation.
    3. The WSI must include a plan showing areas affected by the proposed development and the location of proposed evaluative trenches.
    4. If a large number of trenches are to be excavated then these should be undertaken in a staged manner to prevent over-weathering of the exposed trench faces before they can be cleaned by hand by the site archaeologist(s) and facilitate hand-cleaning of freshly exposed surfaces. The detail of the staging of the excavation of the investigative trenches should be set out in the WSI.
    5. All exposed archaeological features must be investigated and as a minimum:
      1. small discrete features will be fully excavated;
      2. larger discrete features will be half-sectioned (50% excavated); and
      3. long linear features will be sample excavated along their length – with investigative excavations distributed along the exposed length of any such feature and to investigate terminals, junctions and relationships with other features.
      4. one long face of each trench will be cleaned by hand to allow the site stratigraphy to be understood and for the identification of archaeological features.
      5. the investigation of features at the edge of excavations should include hand cleaning of the trench sides either side of the feature, for a distance of at least 1m from the feature edge, for the identification and recording of remnant bank deposits or other associated deposits and to record and gain an understanding of the overlying stratigraphy.
    6. Should the above percentage excavation not yield sufficient information to allow the form and function of archaeological features/deposits to be determined full excavation of such features/deposits will be required. Additional excavation may also be required for the taking of palaeoenvironmental samples and recovery of artefacts.
    7. If excavations reveal a substantial number of repetitive discrete features, such as stake-holes, the HET would require that these should be adequately sampled by excavation to understand their character rather than the complete excavation of all such features.
    8. Any variation of the above will be undertaken only in agreement with the HET.
    9. The full depth of archaeological deposits must be assessed. This need not require excavation to natural deposits if it is clear that complex and deep stratigraphy will be encountered.
    10. Should deposits be exposed that contain palaeoenvironmental or datable elements appropriate sampling and post-excavation analysis strategies will be initiated. The project will be organised so that specialist consultants who might be required to conserve or report on finds or advise or report on other aspects of the investigation (e.g. palaeoenvironmental analysis) can be called upon and undertake assessment and analysis of such deposits – if required. On-site sampling and post-excavation assessment and analysis will be undertaken in accordance with English Heritage’s guidance in Environmental Archaeology: a guide to the theory and practice of methods, from sampling and recovery to post-excavation.
    11. There should be provision within the project organisation for the site attendance of specialists who can advise on sampling strategies for the recovery of palaeoenvironmental information and with regard to specialist dating techniques, such as archaeomagnetic and OSL dating.
    12. Should the development not proceed, and field evaluation represent the only archaeological fieldwork undertaken, the HET requires that appropriate assessment and full analysis/dating be undertaken of samples taken during the field evaluation to ensure that this information is not lost.
    13. An adequate photographic record of the excavation will be prepared. This will include photographs illustrating the principal features and finds discovered, in detail and in context. The photographic record will also include working shots to illustrate more generally the nature of the archaeological operation mounted. All photographs of archaeological detail will feature an appropriately-sized scale. Laser or inkjet prints of digital images, while acceptable for inclusion in the report, are not an acceptable medium for archives. Digital images taken during the course of the fieldwork will form part of the digital archive to be submitted and curated by the ADS – see archive section below.   The drawn and written record must be on an appropriately archivable medium.
    14. Where human remains are encountered, their excavation and removal will only be undertaken on receipt of the appropriate licence from the Ministry of Justice. Any consents or licences required will be obtained on behalf of the client by the archaeological contractor. The District Coroner will be informed immediately.
    15. Should any finds identified as treasure or potential treasure, including precious metals, groups of coins or prehistoric metalwork, be exposed, these will be removed to a safe place and reported to the local coroner according to the procedures relating to the Treasure Act 1996 Code of Practice (2nd Revision). Where removal cannot be effected on the same working day as the discovery suitable security measures will be taken to protect the finds from theft.
    16. The results of the desk-based work and a copy of the agreed WSI must be made available to the site director/supervisor to enable the adequate interpretation of exposed features/deposits during fieldwork and so that the agreed programme of works is understood and undertaken.
    17. Requirement for further archaeological works

      1. If the evaluation is being undertaken as part of a programme of archaeological mitigation that is being implemented through a condition on a planning consent that has been already granted by the Planning Authority – i.e. to discharge a condition – the WSI should set out the types of archaeological mitigation that may be required.
      2. The scope of any further work will be determined by the results of the initial evaluation of the site and should reflect the excavation specifications as set out above. Mitigation may take the form of area excavation of areas of archaeological sensitivity, strip, map and recording of all or part of the development site or a programme of archaeological monitoring and recording during construction works.
      3. The archaeological consultant shall provide the HET with sufficient information on the results of the evaluation within three weeks of the completion of the fieldwork to enable the requirement and scope of any archaeological or design mitigation to be determined and agreed with the HET, and implemented either in advance of or during any construction works.
  4. Monitoring by the Historic Environment Team

    1. The archaeological consultant shall agree monitoring arrangements with the County Historic Environment Team and give two weeks’ notice, unless a shorter period is agreed with the HET, of commencement of the fieldwork. Details will be agreed of any monitoring points where decisions on options within the programme are to be made.
    2. Monitoring will continue until the deposition of the site archive and finds, and the satisfactory completion of an OASIS report – see below.
    3. The archaeological contractor undertaking the fieldwork will notify the HET upon completion of the fieldwork stage of these works.
  5. Reporting

    1. Upon completion of the fieldwork and required post-excavation analysis an illustrated report will be prepared. The report will collate the written, graphic, visible and recorded information outlined above.
    2. The report will include:
      1. a summary of the project’s background;
      2. description and illustration of the site location;
      3. a methodology of the works undertaken;
      4. plans and reports of all documentary and other research undertaken;
      5. a description of the project’s results;
      6. an interpretation of the results in the appropriate context;
      7. a summary of the contents of the project archive and its location (including summary catalogues of finds and samples)
      8. a site location plan at an appropriate scale on an Ordnance Survey, or equivalent, base-map;
      9. a plan showing the location of the trenches and exposed archaeological features and deposits in relation to the site boundaries;
      10. plans of each trench, or part of trench, in which archaeological features are recognised along with adequate OD spot height information. These should be at an appropriate scale to allow the nature of the features exposed to be shown and understood. Plans must show the orientation of trenches in relation to north. Section drawing locations will be shown on these plans.  Archaeologically sterile areas need not be illustrated unless this can provide information on the development of the site stratigraphy or show palaeoenvironmental deposits that have influenced the site stratigraphy;
      11. plans of all trenches must show the GPS co-ordinates for the ends of the trenches.  Alternatively, the GPS co-ordinates for trench ends must be presented tabulated within an appendix to the report;
      12. section drawings of trenches and features, with OD heights, at scales appropriate to the stratigraphic detail to be shown and must show the orientation of the drawing in relation to north/south/east/west. Section drawings should also illustrate the stratigraphy adjacent to the feature for distance of at least 1m.
      13. section drawings through features should be undertaken wherever possible at the edge of the trench to illustrate the overlying stratigraphy and depth below topsoil. If this is not possible then the depth of topsoil and over burden will need to be projected onto the section drawing.
      14. archaeologically sterile trenches need not be illustrated unless they can provide information on the development of the site stratigraphy or show palaeoenvironmental deposits that have influenced the site stratigraphy;
      15. detailed plans of areas in which archaeological features are recognised along with adequate OD spot height information. These should be at an appropriate scale to allow the nature of the features exposed to be shown and understood. Plans must show the orientation of north. Section drawing locations must be shown on these plans;
      16. site matrices where appropriate;
      17. photographs showing the general site layout and exposed significant features and deposits that are referred to in the text. All photographs should contain appropriate scales, the size of which will be noted in the illustration’s caption;
      18. a consideration of evidence within its wider context;
      19. a summary table and descriptive text showing the features, classes and numbers of artefacts recovered and soil profiles with interpretation;
      20. specialist assessment or analysis reports were undertaken;
      21. an evaluation of the methodology employed and the results obtained (i.e. a confidence rating).
    3. The timetable for the production of the report must be set out in the Written Scheme of Investigation. The HET would expect to receive the report within three months of completion of fieldwork – dependent upon the provision of specialist reports, radiocarbon dating results etc. the production of which may exceed this period. If a substantial delay is anticipated then the HES must be informed of this and a revised date for the production of the full report agreed between the HET and the archaeological contractor.   If a substantial delay is anticipated then an interim report will be produced within three months of the completion of the fieldwork.
    4. It is recommended that a draft report is submitted to the HET for comment prior to its formal submission to the Planning Authority.
    5. Should the development proceed in a staged manner, with each stage requiring archaeological fieldwork, and where a period of more than three months between each stage is anticipated or occurs, then the archaeological contractor shall prepare an interim illustrated summary report at the end of each stage. The report will set out the results of that phase of archaeological works, including the results of any specialist assessment or analysis undertaken. The report will be produced within three months of completion of each phase of fieldwork. At the completion of the final stage of the fieldwork an overarching report setting out the results of all stages of work will be prepared. HET would normally expect to receive the report within three months of completion of fieldwork – dependent upon the provision of specialist reports, radiocarbon dating results etc. the production of which may exceed this period. If a substantial delay is anticipated then the HET must be informed of this, an interim report will be produced within three months of the completion of the final stage of fieldwork, and a revised date for the production of the full report agreed between the HET and the archaeological contractor.
    6. On completion of the final report, in addition to copies required by the Client, a digital copy of the report – in a format agreed in advance with the HET – will be submitted to the HET on the understanding that it will be deposited for public reference in the HER, and that it will be made available to researchers via a web-based version of the HER.
    7. If the programme of field evaluation is being undertaken to inform the preparation of a planning application the archaeological consultant/contractor should ensure that sufficient contingency funds are available at the start of the project to guarantee adequate specialist assessment and analysis of any environmental or dating samples taken during the fieldwork phase of the project.
    8. The results of any such specialist assessment and analysis will be presented in the final report, or – should there be a time constraint within the planning process in relation to the production of the final report – within an appendix to the previously produced report.
    9. The archaeological consultant shall complete an online OASIS (Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS) form in respect of the archaeological work. This will include the uploading of a digital version of the report. The report will also include the OASIS ID number.
  6. Publication

    1. Where the exposure of archaeological, artefactual or palaeoenvironmental remains is limited or of little significance the production of a summary report will follow on directly from the field work – see above.
    2. However, should particularly significant archaeological or palaeoenvironmental remains, finds and/or deposits be encountered, then these, because of their importance, are likely to merit wider publication in line with government planning guidance (paragraph 205 of the National Planning Policy Framework (2023). If such remains are encountered, the publication requirements – including any further analysis that may be necessary – will be confirmed with the HET.
    3. Post Excavation Assessment, Analysis and Project Designs for further work
    4. Where excavations reveal archaeological, artefactual or palaeoenvironmental deposits that have potential for yielding important information about the site or its environs, through specialist assessment and analysis, this assessment work will be undertaken and reported on in a separate formal Post-Excavation Assessment and Project Design. This document may also fulfil the role of an interim report if a substantial publication delay is expected.
    5. This document will be produced by the archaeological contractor within three months of completion of the fieldwork – specialist input allowing – and agreed with the HET. It will include:
      1. A summary of the project and its background
      2. A plan showing the location of the site and plans of the site showing the location of archaeological features, artefactual or palaeoenvironmental deposits exposed
      3. Research aims and objectives
      4. Method statements setting out how these aims and objectives are to be achieved
      5. Details of the tasks to be undertaken
      6. The results of any specialist assessment work undertaken as part of the production of the formal Assessment and Project Design
      7. Proposed project team
      8. Overall timetable for undertaking the tasks as well as setting out monitoring points with the HET
      9. Details of the journal in which the material is to be published
    6. If further archaeological work is undertaken then, in agreement with the HET, publication may be delayed to allow the incorporation of the results of the next stage of archaeological works provided this further work is undertaken within a reasonable time after the initial evaluative works have been completed.
  7. Personnel

    1. The work shall be carried out by a recognised archaeological consultant, agreed with the HET. Staff must be suitably qualified and experienced for their project roles. All work should be carried out under the control of a specified Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (MCIfA), or by a specified person of equivalent standing and expertise. The WSI will contain details of key project staff and specialists who may contribute during the course of the works – excavation and post-excavation.
    2. All staff, including subcontractors, must be fully briefed and aware of the archaeological work required under the specification and written scheme of investigation, and must understand the aims and methodologies of the project.
    3. Health and Safety matters, including site security, are matters for the consultant. However, adherence to all relevant regulations will be required.
    4. The work shall be carried out in accordance with CIfA Standard and Guidance for Field Evaluation.
    5. The archaeological consultant shall give the HET two weeks’ notice of commencement of works and shall be responsible for agreeing monitoring arrangements. Details will be agreed of any monitoring points where decisions on options within the programme are to be made.
  8. Conflict with Other Conditions and Statutorily Protected Species

    1. If topsoil stripping or groundworks are being undertaken under the direct control and supervision of the archaeological consultant then it is the consultant’s responsibility – in consultation with the applicant or agent – to ensure that the required archaeological works do not conflict with any other conditions that have been imposed upon the consent granted, and they should also consider any biodiversity issues as covered by the NERC Act 2006. In particular, such conflicts may arise where archaeological investigations/excavations have the potential to have an impact upon protected species and/or natural habitats e.g. SSSIs, National Nature Reserves, Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, Ramsar sites, County Wildlife Sites etc.
  9. Deposition of Archive and Finds

    1. Completion of the project is dependent on the compilation of an ordered and integrated project archive by the archaeological contractor in accordance with this Specification, the CIfA Standard and guidance for the creation, compilation, transfer and deposition of archaeological archives and with Management of Research Projects in the Historic Environment (MoRPHE). The archive must also be transferred for long-term curation to a recognised, accredited or trusted repository. An archive is defined as “all records and materials recovered during an archaeological project and identified for long term preservation, including artefacts, ecofacts and other environmental remains, waste products, scientific samples and also written and visual documentation in paper, film and digital form” (ARCHES).
    2. The Archaeology Data Service advises that “Good data management from the very beginning of a project can be key to its success and makes preserving data and preparing it for deposit with ADS much easier”.  The Written Scheme of Investigation must include reference to the archaeological contractor’s Data Management Plan.
    3. The archive will consist of two elements, the artefactual (The ‘Material (Finds) Archive’) and digital – the latter comprising all born-digital data and digital copies made of the primary site records and images. See section 9.7 below with regard to disposal of the primary hardcopy records.
    4. The Written Scheme of Investigation must set out a timetable for the deposition of the site archive. The HET would normally expect this to be completed within six months of completion of the fieldwork element of the project.
    5. Deposition of the archive
      1. As part of the production of the Written Scheme of Investigation or Project Design the archaeological consultant shall contact the relevant collecting museum to obtain a reference number and agree conditions for deposition of the material (finds) archive. The reference number must be quoted in the WSI and within the final report to the Historic Environment Record.  If a museum accession or reference number cannot be quoted in the WSI, for whatever reason, the WSI should state the date on which the collecting museum was contacted to obtain the accession or reference number.
      2. The collecting museums in Devon (Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter, Museum of Barnstaple & North Devon and Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery) require that the digital archive (consisting of born-digital and digital copies of relevant written and drawn data produced during fieldwork) must be transferred into the care of a Trusted Digital Repository (see ‘Deposition of the digital archive’ – below), rather than to the museum.
      3. The archaeological contractor will therefore need to make appropriate digital copies of all hardcopy elements of the site record – see below.
      4. There is no requirement for the archaeological consultant to prepare an archive for fieldwork projects that do not expose deposits of archaeological interest and yield little or no artefactual material. The planning condition in these cases will be considered as discharged upon receipt of the report and completion of the OASIS entry.
    6. The Material (Finds) Archive
      1. Items in the material archive must be cleaned (or otherwise appropriately treated) ordered, recorded, packed and boxed in accordance with the deposition standards of the relevant museum. It is advised that early consultation with the museum will facilitate transfer of the material archive.
      2. Archaeological finds resulting from the investigation (which are the property of the landowner), should be deposited with the appropriate museum – in a manner to be agreed with the museum – and within a timetable to be agreed with the HET. The composition of the archive shall conform to the collecting museum’s accession guidelines for depositing archaeological material. The acceptance of an archive by the museum will be in accordance with the museum’s accession/collection policies and early consultation with the relevant collecting museum is advised. The museum accession number must be quoted in the Written Scheme of Investigation.
      3. The archaeological contractor must, on behalf of the museum, obtain a written agreement from the landowner to transfer title to all items in the material archive to the receiving museum. It is preferable for this agreement to be made at the earliest possible stage following assessment after data-collection. It is not advisable to wait until the archive has been compiled before obtaining transfer of title.
      4. If ownership of all or any of the finds is to remain with the landowner, provision and agreement must be made for the time-limited retention of the material and its full analysis and recording, by appropriate specialists.
    7. Deposition of the digital archive
      1. The digital archive will consist of:
        1. all born-digital data (images, survey data, digital correspondence, site data collected digitally etc.) and
        2. digital copies made of all other relevant written and drawn data produced and/or collected during fieldwork – i.e. the primary record comprising context records and indices, sample sheets and indices, finds records and indices, site drawings – earthwork surveys, sections and plans, as well as relevant sketches or notes that aid the interpretation and understanding of the site and its recording, any relevant information undertaken as part of the post-excavation assessment or analysis, etc.
      2. The digital archive must be deposited with a Trusted Digital Repository and thus made publicly accessible, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (2023). It is understood that the only suitable repository for digital archaeological archive is the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) –. Digital archive must be compiled in accordance with the standards and requirements of the ADS, which may be accessed through the ADS website.
      3. Guidance on selection for the archive is also provided on the ADS website.
      4. Further guidance can be found at Work Digital/Think Archive: A guide to managing digital data generated from archaeological investigations (Digventures, 2019).
      5. It is expected that a licence to copyright for documentary material, in both physical and digital forms, will be given to the receiving repository. This must be stated within the Written Scheme of Investigation, which should also identify the recipients of each element of the documentary archive.
    8. Disposal of the primary hardcopy records
      1. The collecting museum may wish to retain the hardcopy archive to accompany the artefactual material. (For example: where the programme of archaeological works involves the investigation and analysis of regionally/nationally significant archaeological and/or artefactual deposits). In all cases the archaeological contractor must first offer the primary paper record archive to the museum prior to its disposal.
      2. Once the digital archive has been transferred to the appropriate Trusted Digital Repository, and the museum has confirmed that this has occurred satisfactorily and that they do not require the hardcopy archive, the archaeological contractor may retain, disperse or dispose of the primary hardcopy items as they see fit. Items may be retained for curation by the contractor, developer or applicant, or offered to a third party organisation for public use or as a teaching resource. The WSI should state how primary hardcopy items will be treated.
      3. Where the collecting museum does not require the hardcopy element, disposal may mean physical destruction of the primary record. The WSI should state the proposed disposal method to be employed.
    9. The archaeological contractor must notify the HET upon the completion of:
      1. the deposition of the digital archive with the ADS, and
      2. the deposition of the material (finds) archive with the museum.
    10. The archaeological condition will be discharged by the planning authority upon receipt of an appropriate Written Scheme of Investigation – as advised by the Historic Environment Team.
    11. Should the approved programme of archaeological work not be implemented the Planning Authority may take enforcement action to ensure the appropriate implementation of the programme of works

Revised: 11th December 2023