Archaeology: a quick introduction

Our physical environment is transforming, faster than at any time in human history. Environmental change is affecting where and how we live: our cities are growing and the way we travel and produce energy is being revolutionised through major infrastructure projects. We need our economy to grow, and we also face pressure for space, global competition, technological, cultural and social change.

Archaeologists understand how these kinds of challenges have been met in the near and distant past, how our modern society has evolved, how we built the places we live in, why they succeed and why they fail. Archaeologists investigate the evidence of the past and produce crucial data to inform new development, to enhance the design of new and old places, to educate us and to help provide sustainable and desirable places for us to live in, work in and enjoy.

Archaeological evidence is uniquely able to illuminate the impact of human interaction with our environment through time. This ‘historic’ environment is made up of buildings, monuments, settlements, buried sites or landscapes. They can be on land or underwater, and can range from the extraordinary to the everyday. Archaeologists have a clear identity among the many other disciplines that work in the historic environment in that it is their job to unravel this evidence: to characterise it, to explore its meaning, and to assess its value for society.

You may be seeking archaeological expertise as

  • a national or international government department or agency
  • a private developer or contractor
  • a land owner
  • a local authority
  • a public sector body
  • a local community or
  • another private organisation

You need a professional archaeologist if

  • you are carrying out investigations prior to purchasing a development site
  • you are working within the planning process and you need someone to help you meet a planning condition
  • you are developing a project within your local community
  • you own a historic site or visitor attraction
  • you are developing a programme of research or education

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