5. Site evaluation

An archaeological site (or field) evaluation will determine, as far as is reasonably possible, the nature of the archaeological resource within a specified area using appropriate methods and practices. It is a limited, usually low-cost and quick, programme of fieldwork which determines the presence or the absence of archaeological features, structures, buildings, deposits, artefacts or ecofacts, within a specified area or site. The area or site being evaluated can be on land, inter-tidal zone or underwater. If remains of archaeological interest are present, site evaluation defines their character, extent, quality and preservation, and allows an assessment to be made of their worth. A site or field evaluation usually leads to one of the following:

* planning to ensure the recording, preservation or management of the archaeological resource
* planning to mitigate a threat to the archaeological resource
* proposing further archaeological investigation within a programme of research

Field techniques used for site evaluation may include:
Students train in site mapping, Sharpe

1. Non-destructive
* Geophysical survey
* Remote sensing
* Geochemical survey
* Earthwork survey
* Field scanning (observation and mapping of artefact and other distributions, but not collection of artefacts)
* Standard building survey

2. Destructive (of varying degrees)
* Augering
* Hand-excavated test pits
* Hand-excavated trenches
* Machine-stripped and manually excavated test pits
* Machine-stripped and manually excavated trenches
* Probing (frequently used underwater)
* Surface artefact collection: metal detecting; fieldwalking for collection as opposed to scanning. NB fieldwalking is classed as ‘destructive’ since it removes all or part of the archaeological resource even though this may already have moved from its depositional context (e.g. due to ploughing). For fieldwalking, we do not recommend selective collection (only collecting some of the found artefacts and ecofacts) as this biases information from both artefacts left on the ground and those collected.

## Checklist

* Prepare a project design ahead of starting any archaeological investigation, including site evaluation
* Show your project design to, and consult with, your local authority archaeologist and/or national curator.
* Make sure all equipment and methods are Health and Safety Executive compliant and consider use of risk assessments for any planned activities.
* Obtain all relevant permissions and, where needed, licences before doing any fieldwork.
* Clarify ownership of any objects before excavation begins, and familiarise yourself with the Treasure legislation for the country or province in which you are working.
* Make sure you are aware of what to do in the event of encountering human remains.
* Keep thorough records during and after the excavation including using appropriate pro forma.
* Only carry out finds recovery if this is absolutely essential – in situ preservation is usually preferable.
* Follow appropriate guidance for creation and deposition of digital records.
* Carefully assess what post-excavation work is required before going ahead with this, and be prepared to alter your research design by assessing your results as you go along.
* Consider from the outset how your project results, documentation and objects will be archived
* Deposit both the archive and report with the appropriate local and national bodies.
* Produce an appropriate report of your work and consider other possible outlets for dissemination.
* Consider potential confidentiality issues and seek specialist advice.
* Arrange a mentoring procedure within your group or involving another organisation if this is possible.
* If appropriate, wider publicity of your project could be achieved through arranging a special event for the Festival of British Archaeology and/or Scottish Archaeology Month.

1. Before beginning your site evaluation, you should write a specification or project design to help direct your research methods and think through what work will be needed. See [Project Design and Project Report Checklists and definitions](/docs/17) (Module 17) for a checklist of what should be included in a site evaluation project design. This could also be informed by a desk-based assessment already carried out.
Site plan
2. As with any form of archaeological research, you should contact your local authority archaeologist or equivalent to inform them of your planned site evaluation. As well as keeping them informed of your project, hence contributing to the archaeological record for the local area, this will also help your project as the local authority archaeologist or equivalent*** will be able to provide feedback about your project design and planned work. If your work is to do with maritime archaeology, it will be appropriate to contact the relevant national curator, for example English Heritage, Cadw or Historic Scotland. Make sure too that all the members of your team that will be involved with the project are also aware of the overall project design or specification, and of their roles on the project.
*** (County or local authority Archaeologist in England; Trust Archaeologist in Wales; local authority archaeological advisor in Scotland; Northern Ireland Environment Agency: Built Heritage Directorate in Northern Ireland, the Archaeological Officer, Guernsey Museum, for Bailiwick of Guernsey, Jersey Heritage for Jersey or Manx National Heritage on the Isle of Man.)

3. All equipment used should be fit for purpose, complying with Health and Safety Executive regulations. In addition, health and safety considerations must always take precedence over archaeological ones. Model risk assessments to help you decide on appropriate actions to increase on-site safety can be found in the [IfA risk assessment documents](http://www.archaeologists.net/codes/ifa).

4. Permission for archaeological excavation, even if only on a small scale, must be obtained from the landowner, who must be in agreement with the overall aims of the project as well as the logistics, methodology and timing of the work. The local authority archaeologist and, where appropriate, the national agency curator, should be kept informed throughout. In Northern Ireland, archaeological excavation may only be conducted with a licence obtained from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. In other countries, no specific licence is required unless the excavation is to be carried out on a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Listed Building, Registered/Inventory Battlefield, or a Registered/Inventory Park or Garden. In these situations, consent must be obtained from the national heritage agency***.
*** (In the cases of Inventory Battlefields, Inventory Parks and Gardens, and designed landscapes, such consent is not obligatory in Scotland.)

5. It is important to bear in mind that in England, Northern Ireland and Wales ownership of any objects found (for example through excavation or fieldwalking) normally rests with the landowner (unless the object is deemed to be Treasure under the [Treasure Act 1996 – England or Wales](http://finds.org.uk/treasure); [Treasure Act 1996 – Northern Ireland](http://www.doeni.gov.uk/niea/built-home/information/treasure-2.htm). However, in Scotland any archaeological finds count as [treasure trove](http://www.treasuretrovescotland.co.uk), and must be reported to the Crown. In the UK Crown Dependencies there are other regulations, including Treasure Trove law on the Isle of Man. You should obtain the written consent of the landowner for the donation of any archaeological finds if at all possible. At the very least, there should be an agreement with the landowner about what will happen to the finds including clarifying where ownership lies, put in place prior to the survey or excavation.

6. In the event that human remains are encountered, you should contact the police in the first instance. There are guidelines from the Ministry of Justice (see http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/burials.htm), and an exhumation licence should be applied for in most instances (but not in Scotland) before excavation of the human remains can proceed. You should also seek the assistance of an archaeological human remains specialist if possible. For further information, including an email for seeking assistance, please visit the [British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarcheaology (BABAO)](http://www.babao.org.uk).
 Student evaluation trench,Tidemills
7. It is crucial that any fieldwork carried out leads to at least one published account, and an ordered, accessible archive that others can make use of in the future. Full and proper records (written, graphic, electronic, digital and photographic as appropriate) should be made for all work, using durable pro forma record forms and sheets as applicable (for example if any small-scale excavation has been carried out). Written registers of all site plans, drawings, photographs, special finds and samples should be kept. The area(s) being excavated should be related to the National Grid and the Ordnance Survey datum so that others can locate them accurately in the future. Careful recording of the archaeological deposits is important, but this should be accompanied by attempts to _interpret_ what is found also, both during the work itself and in the report writing phase. For more information about this, see [Deposition & archiving (including data standards advice)](/docs/3) (Module 3).

8. Before embarking on finds recovery of any sort, whether through excavation, nautical recording, field walking or other means, consider carefully whether recovery is an essential part of the research project. It may be more appropriate to follow the principles of preservation in situ, so obtain specialist advice beforehand.

9. For digital records, check that you are using the appropriate techniques, file types and formats by consulting the ADS general [Guide to Good Practice series](http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/goodguides/g2gp.html). All records, whether digital, paper or photographic, should be stored in a secure and appropriate environment, and be regularly copied or backed up.

10. If any excavation is carried out, you should try to evaluate the results as you go along, which will help you decide the scope for post-excavation work, further analysis and publication. New research questions may be asked of the project on the basis of the evidence found during excavation, and it may be necessary to complete a revised project design as a result. The analysis of artefacts, samples and stratigraphic records should be carefully documented, and any data which is generated should be included in the project archive.

11. It is important to start thinking about your excavation archive (if excavation is being carried out) at the planning stage of the project. The archive consists not just of the artefacts and ecofacts from the excavation, but the documentation, whether in hard copy or digital form. Your local or regional museum will be the first place to discuss the deposition of artefacts and ecofacts with, unless you are in Scotland where you should contact the National Museums of Scotland Treasure Trove Unit. There will be specific packaging and documentation requirements for your archive which the museum can inform you of. Consideration of these requirements should be made in your project design and budget. Any archive should be equipped with a site summary or data structure report (the latter is a requirement if in Scotland) so that future researchers can find their way around the archive easily.

12. All archaeological projects should be published and disseminated. At the very least, a description of the project and its conclusions should be submitted to your local Historic Environment Record (HER – formerly called the Sites and Monuments Record, and the relevant National Monuments Record or equivalent. This description should take the form of a report which contains enough information for your conclusions to be scrutinised. The best way to submit this report if your site is in England, Scotland or Wales is online, via the [OASIS system](http://www.oasis.ac.uk). In Scotland, a site summary should be prepared for _Discovery and Excavation in Scotland_ (DES), published by Archaeology Scotland. If you have submitted your report through OASIS, DES will be notified automatically. By using the OASIS system you will also be given the opportunity to have your report included in the ADS ‘grey literature library’ of unpublished fieldwork reports, which will be available online. In Northern Ireland reports should be submitted to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency: Built Heritage Directorate. For the Bailiwick of Guernsey, including Alderney and Sark, reports should be submitted to the HER at Guernsey Museum.

13. For a site evaluation, a report should be produced. See [Project Design and Project Report Checklists and definitions](/docs/17) (Module 17) for a checklist of what should be included in a site evaluation reportComparing notes on site: Image courtesy of Wessex Archaeology14. Beyond the technical report and site summary, consider publishing your project through a wide range of outlets so that it reaches a diverse audience. For example, journal articles, pamphlets, books and websites are all good formats, and interpretation panels, radio and television programmes, videos and popular publications can also be worthwhile. As mentioned above, OASIS is another useful outlet for dissemination. It is easy to underestimate how useful others will find your project results, so don’t hold back from disseminating your work as widely as possible.

15. If you are engaged in evaluation of maritime archaeology and a significant discovery is made, you may need to keep this confidential until advice from the appropriate national curator (e.g. English Heritage or Historic Scotland) has been sought.

16. Arrange a mentoring system for the project if you can. This may be done through your own group (by assigning an experienced group member to monitoring duties), or may involve an archaeologist from your local authority, archaeological trust, university, or a national conservation agency acting as a mentor to your project.

17. You could also consider publicising your work through public events, such as organising an event for the [Festival of British Archaeology](http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk) or [Scottish Archaeology Month](http://www.scottisharchaeology.org.uk/?q=node/33). Other options include:
* [Heritage Open Days](http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk) in England
* [Doors Open Days](http://www.doorsopendays.org.uk) in Scotland
* [Open Doors Days](http://www.civictrustwales.org) in Wales
* [European Heritage Open Days](http://www.ehsni.gov.uk) in Northern Ireland.

## Suggested further reading

### IfA Standards and Guidance

* [IfA Standards and Guidance for archaeological field evaluation](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/ifa_standar...) (pdf file)
* [IfA Introduction to Standards and Guidance](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/ifa_standar...) (pdf file)
* [IfA Appendices to Standards and Guidance](http://www.archaeologists.net/sites/default/files/node-files/ifa_standar...) (pdf file)

### CBA Practical Handbooks

* Currie, C. (2005) _Garden Archaeology: A Handbook_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 17
* Rippon, S. (2004) _Historic Landscape Analysis: Deciphering the countryside_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 16
* Roberts, C. (2009) _Human Remains in Archaeology: A Handbook_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 19
* Steiner, M. (2006) _Approaches to Archaeological Illustration: A Handbook_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 18
* Dellino-Musgrave, V. (forthcoming) _Marine Archaeology: A Handbook_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 20
* Palmer, M., Nevell, M. and Sissons, M. (eds) (forthcoming) _Handbook on Industrial Archaeology_. York, Council for British Archaeology, Practical Handbook Series no. 21

All CBA Practical Handbooks are available online at: http://www.britarch.ac.uk/books/handbooks or at CBA bookstalls at events across the country (see http://www.britarch.ac.uk/books/events)

### Other References

* Bowens, A. (ed) (2008) _Underwater Archaeology: the NAS Guide to Principles and Practice_. Nautical Archaeology Society/Blackwell.
* Brown, D. (2007) _Archaeological Archives. A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation_. Institute for Archaeologists on behalf of the Archaeological Archives Forum. Available as free of charge hard copy on request from the IfA (http://www.archaeologists.net) or [downloadable PDF document](http://www.britarch.ac.uk/archives/Archives_Best_Practice.pdf).
* Buckley, L., Murphy, E., and O’Donnabhain B. (2004) _Treatment of human remains: a technical paper for archaeologists_. 2nd ed. Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland. [Download PDF document](http://iai/publications/treatmentofhumanremains.pdf)
* Church of England and English Heritage (2005) _Guidance for Best Practice for Treatment of Human Remains Excavated from Christian Burial Grounds in England_. [Visit website](http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/human-remains-excavated-...)
* English Heritage (2006) _Understanding Historic Buildings: A guide to good practice_. Swindon, English Heritage Publishing. [Visit website](http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/understanding-historic-b...)
* English Heritage (2007) _Understanding the Archaeology of Landscapes: A guide to good practice_. Swindon, English Heritage Publishing. [Visit website](http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/understanding-archaeolog...)
* Historic Scotland, (1996) _Archaeology Procedure Paper 2. Project design, implementation and archiving_. Edinburgh.
* Historic Scotland (2006) _The treatment of human remains in archaeology_. HS Operational Policy paper 5, Edinburgh.
* Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland (2006) _Code of conduct for the treatment of human remains in the context of an archaeological excavation_. Dublin: IA. [Download PDF document](http://iai.ie/publications/codehuman1-0.pdf)
* Ministry of Justice (undated) _Exhuming Human Remains: Frequently Asked Questions_. [Download PDF document](http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/docs/exhuming-human-remains-faq.pdf)
* Ministry of Justice (2008) _Statement on burial law and archaeology_. [Download PDF document](http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/docs/burial-law-archaeology-statement...)
* O’Sullivan, J., and Killgore, J. (2003) _Human remains in Irish archaeology_. Dublin, The Heritage Council [Visit website](http://www.heritagecouncil.ie/publications/human_remains/index.html)

### Other Guidance Sources

* English Heritage also provide a database of guidelines and standards for different elements of archaeological practice. Most can be downloaded as free .pdf documents. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications
* For more detailed advice on digital archiving, see the advice pages offered by the Archaeology Data Service: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/goodguides/g2gp.html and http://guides.archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/.
* For information on human remains issues, including ways of contacting specialists, visit [British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarcheaology (BABAO)](http://www.babao.org.uk).
* [Scotland’s Rural Past](www.scotlandsruralpast.org.uk) is a five-year HLF-funded project working across Scotland which provides local communities with an opportunity to get involved with surveying and recording settlement sites in their local areas. SRP have provided a [set of guidance for their groups](http://www.scotlandsruralpast.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=a...), much of which deals with different archaeological methods.