7. Watching briefs

Barmouth cottage as diggers move in It is more likely for a paid archaeological organisation, such as an archaeological contractor or consultant, to carry out a watching brief, than for a voluntary group to be involved. However, some groups do, from time to time, receive requests to carry out watching briefs, for example where a contractor is unavailable, and it is useful to know what procedures are recommended.

An archaeological watching brief records the archaeological resource during development work. It is a formal programme of observation and investigation conducted during any operation carried out for non-archaeological reasons, in other words, an opportunity to monitor from an archaeological perspective, during site works. This will be within a specified area, building or site, where there is a possibility that archaeological deposits may be disturbed or destroyed by the site works taking place. A watching brief will result in the preparation of a report and an ordered archive. It is different to ‘chance’ observations, which should lead to an appropriate archaeological project being designed and implemented if needed. It is also different to the monitoring of sites, buildings or areas for preservation of remains _in situ_.

## Checklist

* Watching briefs may occur as stand-alone projects, but more often than not are a means of informing subsequent archaeological investigation.
* Prepare a project design ahead of starting your watching brief.
* Show your project design to, and consult with your local authority archaeologist.
* Make sure that whoever is carrying out the watching brief has conferred with other contractors on site beforehand and is aware of and compliant with overarching safety procedures, rules and requirements. Use risk assessments for any planned activities.
* Be aware of Treasure or Treasure Trove legislation for where you are working.
* Make sure that you are aware of what to do in the event of encountering human remains
* Plan your archive deposition strategy from the outset of the project, including noting any costs this may incur.
* If you decide to suspend development work until more detailed archaeological work has been carried out, be sure that this decision is justifiable from an archaeological perspective.
* Be prepared to modify your project design and to develop project designs or recommendations for further archaeological investigation or research, if this is needed.
* Publication and dissemination of your work is very important, and be sure to share your project report with the local authority archaeologist or equivalent at the very least.
* Consider whether organising an event for the Festival of British Archaeology and/or Scottish Archaeology Month to publicise your work would be possible.
* Arrange a mentoring procedure within your group or involving another organisation if this is possible.

1. Since preservation of archaeological remains is a material consideration in the planning process for anywhere in the UK or UK Crown Dependencies, it is reasonable for local authorities and others to request that a watching brief be included as part of a development activity. However, carrying out a watching brief does not necessarily replace the need for excavation or other investigative archaeological work, but should rather guide any decisions as to whether further work is needed in light of what has been discovered about the site through the watching brief.

2. As with most archaeological work, a watching brief should only be carried out if a project design or specification has been written beforehand and agreed by all those involved (including the developer and the local authority). In Scotland this will take the form of a project outline. See [Project Design and Project Report Checklists and definitions](/docs/17) (Module 17) for a checklist of what should be included in watching brief project design.

3. Be sure to keep your local authority archaeologist (or equivalent) informed if you wish to carry out a watching brief or have been approached to do so. As well as making them aware 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. In Northern Ireland contact the Northern Ireland Environment Agency: Built Heritage Directorate.

4. All equipment used should be fit for purpose, complying with Health and Safety Executive regulations. In the case of watching briefs, where other work (such as landscaping) will be taking place at the same time, it is vital to make sure that you are aware of, and complying with, the Health and Safety requirements, rules and procedures that are in operation across the whole site, and that you have discussed these issues clearly with the developer beforehand. 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).

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), whereas in Scotland any archaeological finds count as treasure trove 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).

7. It is important to start thinking about your archive at the planning stage of the project. The archive consists not just of any artefacts and ecofacts recovered, but also 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 Museum 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 accompanied by 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.
Archaeology and development
8. In some cases, the archaeologist carrying out the watching brief will have been granted the right to suspend development work in the event of a significant discovery that warrants further archaeological investigation. Where this is the case, it is the responsibility of the archaeologist to follow the procedures previously agreed with the other contractors on site. Care should be taken not to cause unreasonable disruption to the work of the other contractors on site, so while work is suspended at the archaeologist’s discretion, be sure that there is reasonable archaeological evidence to justify any delays to the development work on site.

9. Watching briefs sometimes lead to further archaeological investigation in light of observations made. Be prepared to modify your project design accordingly, and also to make recommendations or develop a project design for further work if this is needed. This may be further appropriate archaeological fieldwork, such as recording of architectural features uncovered, or excavation, or may even be the recommendation for preservation _in situ_ where this is possible and appropriate.

10. All archaeological projects, regardless of how extensive, 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. See the checklist in [Project Design and Project Report Checklists and definitions](/docs/17) (Module 17) for all the sections that should be included in a project report of a watching brief.

11. 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.

12. 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 an archaeological watching brief](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

All CBA Practical Handbooks are available online at: 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

* 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).
* Historic Scotland, (1996) _Archaeology Procedure Paper 2. Project design, implementation and archiving_. Edinburgh.

### Other Guidance Sources

* English Heritage (2009) Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service: Standards for Archaeological Work. Available from: www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/glaas-standards-for-archaeologi....
* 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.