This day conference took place on Wednesday 24 September at University of Leicester. The conference aimed to draw together a variety of experiences of working on some of the most exciting current collaborative projects and discussed how to maximise the outputs and impact of such projects. There were two themed sessions, each with presentations from invited speakers, followed by a practical discussion session drawing out issues identified in the preceding papers and suggested ways forward. The intention was to open up debate and to involve as many commercial archaeologists, consultants, students and academics in this discussion as possible. The discussion sessions will also provide an opportunity to meet individuals in the different archaeological sectors and hopefully foster new partnerships for collaboration.
Abstracts for all the papers can be found below. Where we have recorded the presentations, links can be found below the title.
The English Landscape and Identities project: interpreting characterful data on an unprecedented scale
The English Landscape and Identities project, based at the Institute of Archaeology, Oxford, is seeking to produce a history of the English landscape over a c. 2600-year time period from the Middle Bronze Age (1500 BC) to the date of the Domesday Survey (AD 1086). For this purpose, the project is drawing together datasets produced across all of the different sectors of English archaeology (Historic Environment Records, the National Record of the Historic Environment, the Portable Antiquity Scheme, the Archaeological Investigations Project and so on), and in variable periods (the oldest record dates to 1201). This paper explores the methods we have developed to make these understandably ‘characterful’ datasets work together for research purposes. In doing so, and in finding new ways to visualise archaeological data on an unprecedented scale, we hope to highlight and enhance the value of the various bodies that curate these data, to promote the data’s collective interpretative potential, and thus to encourage people to use them more widely.
Rural settlement in Roman Britain and the impact of developer-funded archaeology
It has often been stated that Roman Britain was quintessentially a rural society, with the vast majority of the population living and working in farmsteads and villages. Yet there existed considerable regional variation in settlement patterns and morphology, farming practices, material culture, matters of ritual expression and burial rites, across the country. With the great quantity of information generated from developer-funded excavations over the past 25 years, this incredible diversity is only now beginning to be demonstrated. The Rural Settlement in Roman Britain project is synthesising data collected from both published sources and unpublished ‘grey literature’ to shed new light on the Romano-British countryside, focussing upon macro-scale chronological and regional trends. This talk will provide an overview of the current state of our research, emphasising the value and problems of utilising ‘grey literature’ resources and the integration of commercial work into academic research at regional and national scales.
Finding Richard III: the Ultimate (but not the last) Collaboration
Whilst the search for Richard III was not a developer-funded project, and therefore not typical of the kind of work ULAS does on a day to day basis, it does illustrate the potential for collaboration within and across academic institutions and the big advantage of having a commercial unit embedded in a university. Of course, with a high profile project, everyone wants a piece of the action and quite apart from collaboration with three genetics departments that clinched the identification, partnership with History, Forensic Pathology and Engineering at Leicester together with dating labs, the Royal Armouries and facial reconstruction at Dundee was crucial to telling the story. The project has generated many potential spin-off projects including educational and community outreach opportunities and you’ll be buying the book before you leave today!
Both sides of the trench: commercial archaeology in an academic environment - the Durham perspective
Durham University, has one of the few remaining commercial contracting archaeology units attached to an academic body. This paper looks at how this works in practice and explores the pros and cons of this kind of commercial/academic relationship.
Reading, writing and arithmetic: A starters guide to aligning archaeological research goals
The main challenges to successful collaborations between commercial archaeologists and archaeologists who work in the university sector are threefold. The first is a problem of mutual misunderstandings: not enough is understood of each other’s interests and goals. We need to read more. The second challenge is language: we have developed mutually incompatible jargon. We need to explain ourselves more clearly. The third is arithmetic: we don’t understand each other’s financial world, and both the costs of large commercial excavations and the day rates for academic research staff seem astronomical. We need to understand each other’s financial worlds.