Institute of Archaeology



Power over Practice in the Contracting Sector | Tue Dec 17 14:00:00 | Room 790

This session will examine how modern practice has been shaped by the environments within which archaeological work is undertaken. Papers are largely drawn from contributors at MOLA, a large archaeology and built heritage practice which has methodological development at its heart but has to function within the conservative construction sector. The professionalisation of archaeology has occurred in tandem with changes in planning guidance, construction sector legislation and on-site management. But have these been reflected in our fieldwork methodologies? Are we adapting to suit these new conditions, or are we merely working harder to fit with increased pressures? Do the new systems in use on infrastructure projects add to the value of our practice, or reduce it? Do we have examples of successful modifications of project designs to suit these new conditions or are we still trying to maintain existing methodologies? Can we improve or adapt our input into development projects to enhance the experience for the practitioners themselves? What can archaeology offer developments and do we have the power to embed it into projects? This is a wide-ranging theme that should be considered from both theoretical and practical viewpoints so papers are sought from across the contracting sector and are particularly encouraged from those who wouldn’t usually participate at TAG.

Session timetable
14:00 | Sadie Watson, MOLA


Introduction to session, which will focus on participants from our corner of sector (and why us?); giving outline of structure : Issues, Challenges, Participation, Opportunities, Discussion

14:15 | Alison Telfer, MOLA

View from the trench edge: reflections on working conditions in commercial archaeology, borrowing the main objective categories used in the National Planning Policy Framework – economic, social and environmental

The principal aim of the National Planning Policy Framework is to achieve sustainable development across the country, meeting ‘the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’, through a series of economic, social and environmental objectives. How do those same categories shape up when considering the sustainable development of the professional field archaeologist affected directly by those planning regulations? This paper presents a number of elements from each category, covering aspects such as wages, project budgets, public interaction, camaraderie, shift-working and health and safety.

14:35 | Daniel Phillips, DRP Archaeology

The Rise and Rise of Viability in Planning: An Archaeological Perspective

Since the publication of the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), viability has taken an elevated role in the planning process, both at the plan making and planning decision stages. Essentially, development viability, in which the economic viability of a development became an important consideration in the planning system, both in terms of plan-making and when determining planning applications, can now be used to determine planning applications, and is now formalised and largely determined by profits and costs. The presentation explores questions of viability for whom and viable for which domain, addresses Viability Assessment (VA) as a relatively new assessment procedure, and explores ways in which it may impact provisions in place to protect the historic environment. The presentation will also discuss the challenges faced by archaeologists drawing on personal experience, exploring existing power dynamics at play when consulting on projects amongst other development-led professions.

The paper will address existing legislation in place for the protection of the historic environment and viability through its explicit introduction within the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework, including 2019 revisions, set against the concept of sustainable development. It will then proceed to outline the Viability Assessment process and provide examples where this process has been used successfully to reduce planning obligations. It will conclude by suggesting that the use of Viability Assessment to mitigate planning obligations could potentially be used directly against archaeology and will call for further research to substantiate whether this is a realistic threat.

14:55 | Catherine Gibbs, MOLA

An archaeologist’s view of consortiums

Archaeological consortiums, or joint ventures, are nothing new but in recent years with the increase in large infrastructure projects they seem to have become more common. The idea behind them is a good one – bringing together archaeological companies with complementary skill sets and expertise, to provide large teams with local knowledge able to fulfil project requirements. A big selling point of these consortiums is that they can deliver projects smoothly, on time and on budget. They use all the right buzz words like pragmatic and innovative solutions, sustainability and delivering excellence, setting the standard… But what does this actually mean for the field staff working on these projects? The Digger’s Forum undertook a survey to ask just this question, which in turn led to many other questions, some of which will be addressed here.

The field staff working on these projects are employed by the different companies of which the consortium is made up, so how does this look with regard to pay/conditions/contracts of people working side by side for a period of potentially many months if not years? Different companies have different excavation and recording methodologies, how has this been addressed on these projects? Are there differences in training and development between the companies? Are these consortiums looking at the issues encountered on these projects and learning from them going forward?

15:15 | Claudia Tommasino, MOLA

Training adults: is it a processual and post-processual endeavour?

Currently, the increased need for commercial archaeologists is calling for a greater number of training programmes that can provide non-archaeologists the tools to perform on site to high standards as field archaeologists. This approach, if not new to us, defies the academic vision of archaeology and calls for a new way of thinking how we teach, especially how theory is learnt and utilised as a tool during excavation.

As a result, the session will try to analyse the current relationship between archaeological theory and the fieldwork stage and how this rapport might change once andragogy (adult learning) is added to the mix. In order to do this we will explore questions such as how processual and post-processual archaeology connects to andragogy? How can we encourage andragogy by bridging the gap between theory and practice? And how we can, as trainers in the commercial world, promote a closer relationship between theory and practice while teaching adult trainees.

15:35 | BREAK
16:05 | Jessica Bryan, MOLA

Type III fun: archaeology and infrastructure

Whether you love it or loathe it, infrastructure work across the UK has had wide-ranging effects on the archaeological industry. This is true for larger units partaking in the large scale projects; smaller units mopping up the smaller non-infrastructure projects; or for the individual archaeologist who has managed a number of years continuous employment. For all of the positive outcomes of this work though, there have undoubtedly been some compromises made.

This paper will focus on the people involved in infrastructure projects, and how the day-to-day working of contract archaeology has changed. Drawing on examples from past and present infrastructure projects we will explore the challenges faced by those in the archaeological community who try to fit within the wider world of infrastructure projects; and how infrastructure work has adapted to the archaeological community. The aim will be to showcase how archaeologists, clients and contractors have all adopted new approaches to the work they undertake; how these new approaches have changed the knowledge gain, value and treatment of archaeology; and how this can all be taken forward in the future.

16:25 | Heather Knight, MOLA

‘A Deep Sense of Voicefulness’

The sites of two of London’s earliest Elizabethan playhouses are commercial developments that are currently under construction. About 200m apart from each other, both sites are different in terms of the scale but both have clients that have truly embraced their archaeology and have designed buildings that encourage a social and community-based conversation between performance, art and history and building a community’s sense of place.

In 1849, John Ruskin wrote “the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, nor in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity.”

This final paper will look at the positives that archaeology can bring to commercial developments when those developments celebrate their “walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity” and make those walls, and their authenticity, the development's USP.

16:45 | Sadie Watson, MOLA


17:30 | END