Aggregates Extraction and Archaeology Backlogs: North-West Region

ArcHeritage, 2011

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Dr Glyn Davies
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ArcHeritage (2011) Aggregates Extraction and Archaeology Backlogs: North-West Region [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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The extraction of aggregates has impacted on many archaeological sites and landscapes. Aggregates extraction has therefore led to a significant number of the rural archaeological projects undertaken over the last century. These projects have ranged from watching briefs to large-scale excavations of multi-period landscapes taking place over several years. They have had a range of funding sources, including the public purse, local and nationalarchaeological societies, and the aggregates industry itself.

It has been recognised that, although considerable sums of money have been invested in aggregates related archaeological fieldwork, there has often been inadequate provision for analysis and dissemination. The production of 'grey literature' has often been the end publication even for sites of regional or national significance. Quarry sites have often developed significant publication backlogs and this problem has often been complicated by factors related to the operation of quarries; quarries are often worked in several stages with a similar number of archaeological stages, there are often long gaps between different stages of archaeological work and more than one archaeological company may have worked on the same quarry at different phases of the project. There are consequently many unfinished archaeological projects related to aggregate extraction, the results of which may range from local interest to international significance. It is likely that the information from some of these projects could contain significant unpublished data that could aid our understanding of past human landscapes and activities, and assist in the protection of the historic environment, particularly within aggregate search areas or areas with activeaggregate quarries.

As part of a number of initiatives to assess the state of the historic environment, English Heritage funded a pilot study to quantify the current situation regarding archaeological rescue projects with incomplete or inadequate dissemination within three counties with a long history of aggregates extraction. The pilot study was undertaken with a view to assessing an effective methodology for extending the project to the entire country. The pilot study covered the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire, and identified 258 archaeological projects related to aggregates extraction, of which 105 (41%) were considered to have incomplete or inappropriate levels of dissemination. Of these 105 sites, 79% were of regional or national significance.

During the pilot study, the methodologies for collection and recording were refined, and the results were recorded in a database. Following the pilot study, the project has been extended to cover additional aggregate-producing areas of the country. This project is concerned with the north-west region.

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