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1. What is an archaeological project?#

Throughout the Guide the term ‘archaeological project’ or ‘project’ will be used to describe any piece of archaeological activity that results in an archive.

A project is understood generally to be a temporary piece of work undertaken to meet stated goals and objectives which will operate to a timetable and an end date, deliver a product, and have defined scope and resources. It will usually have a project manager and be undertaken by one or more persons brought together for that particular activity. The term project therefore, is used in the Guide as it fits the practice of archaeology, where it is aimed at completing defined pieces of targeted work.

For the definition of an archaeological project see the Standard - Definitions

2. The stages of an archaeological project#

The main stages of an archaeological project will be used to describe the archiving process throughout this Guide. They are defined as:


The start up or initiation stage, a time when: documents such as project outlines and/or designs, tenders, work specifications and methodologies, will be written; research aims and objectives identified; project scope, stages, products and tasks described; a project team identified, specialists consulted and resources allocated; temporary care and long term curation procedures and repositories identified; project review schedules agreed and communication, disaster management and health and safety plans devised. This is the stage where archive creation and compilation begins.

Data Gathering

In archaeology this stage is often applied to fieldwork but for the purposes of the Guide, data gathering means the execution stage of a project, when archaeological data and/or materials (finds) are collected. Whether the archaeologist is undertaking original research in the field, the office, laboratories or stores, this is the stage where factual data is recorded with minimal interpretation.

Analysis, Reporting and Archive Transfer

This stage is commonly called post-excavation, however not all archaeological projects will involve excavation, as for example in building recording, survey or finds analysis and this stage has been renamed to reflect modern archaeological practice. Analysis involves fuller, targeted recording and interpretation, whether that is of the field records, a finds assemblage or the results of a geophysical survey. The resulting records, such as data and images, will be included in the archive.

This stage will normally end with a final report. Different types of analysis may result in the creation of several reports, some of which will be included in the final project report. The acceptance of those reports into the project archive is an important element of creating an accessible resource.

Once analysis and reporting have been completed, it is expected that the project will no longer generate new records, materials (finds) or samples and the project archive will be compiled and prepared for transfer to a repository for long term curation.

Care and Curation

Curation is the process of ensuring that archive materials remain stable, secure and accessible in the long term. It is an ongoing process that ensures the integrity of an archaeological archive after the project has been completed but the care of all archive components is a process that should start at the beginning of a project, from the point any documentation is created or material objects (finds) are collected. Any archaeological materials or documentation created or collected from the planning stage onwards will require temporary care until transferral to a repository for long term curation. Care of the components selected for archiving is an activity which forms a thread running throughout an archaeological project and will involve both temporary care and long term curation of the documentary and material (finds) archive.