Assessment of archaeological resource in aggregate areas in Bath and North East Somerset

Museum of London Archaeology, 2014

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Museum of London Archaeology (2014) Assessment of archaeological resource in aggregate areas in Bath and North East Somerset [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


Report front cover

The project comprised an archaeological resource assessment of the aggregate producing areas of Bath and North-East Somerset (BANES). It was undertaken by Museum of London Archaeology in partnership with BANES District Council in 2010 and 2012, with funding from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, as administered by English Heritage. The aim of the project is to improve knowledge of the archaeological resource within all past, present and potential future aggregate producing areas in BANES, through the enhancement and analysis of the BANES Historic Environment Record (HER). The study will assist in strategic planning decisions regarding future aggregate extraction, the management of buried heritage assets, and the setting out of research agenda aims and appropriate archaeological mitigation strategies where archaeological assets are under threat of removal by quarrying. The project is also intended to increase public, industry and other stakeholders’ awareness of archaeological remains within aggregate geology areas.

The aggregates resource was identified from the British Geological Survey and extraction areas shown on historic Ordnance Survey maps and the British Pits database and current minerals permissions. Two study areas were defined in consultation with the BANES HER and the BANES Development Planning Teams. Study Area 1 comprises all drift geology (river gravels, sand, and alluvium) along river valleys, including the Chew Valley Lake. Study Area 2 comprises past and present extraction sites on hard geology. Historically, aggregate extraction in BANES has been extensive, with just under 300 historic quarries across the District, although aggregate is currently extracted at just two active quarries (Upper Lawn Quarry and Hayes Wood).

The project includes a Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis of archaeological data, as contained within the HER and enhanced by National Mapping Programme survey of the Mendip Hills (a digital plot of archaeological features visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs) along with assets contained within the National Record for the Historic Environment, managed by English Heritage. The report analyses the known resource by chronological period and by asset type (eg domestic, ritual, agriculture), and attempts to identify patterns in human activity. This has allowed an invaluable overview of the archaeological resource within BANES and the nature of activity over time, which has not previously been possible.

Clear patterns associated with asset density, geology, topography and asset distribution were revealed. The report identified a greater concentration of assets on hard geologies (Study Area 2). In both study areas, the early prehistoric period (from the Palaeolithic to the Neolithic) have the lowest asset density, while there was an increase in known assets from the Bronze Age onwards. The report showed a drop in known assets in the early medieval (Saxon) period, and the highest density in the post-medieval period. The low density of assets dated to the Modern period probably reflects selective recording based on whether the asset is considered to hold heritage interest. The report highlighted some irregularities in the general trend of increased asset density which may indicate anomalies within the data as a result of genuine aspects of past occupation and activity or possibly investigation practices. Visibility and attraction for investigators played an important role in the recording of assets. Whilst cropmarks and earthworks, for example, were more obvious to investigators, other assets were likely to be underrepresented because they remain buried and were therefore harder to identify.

The study has demonstrated that the aggregate areas are very important archaeologically and this needs to be a key consideration for both minerals planners and minerals extraction companies, in any future extraction programme. Early planning and consultation with heritage curators and consultants is recommended. The study will be useful for archaeological curators, contractors, and researchers, but is also aimed at minerals planners and minerals contractors.

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