Curating the Palaeolithic

This guidance explains the importance of the English Palaeolithic record (about 1 million to 11,700 years ago) in its Pleistocene context and best practices for protecting it through the planning process, illustrated by case studies from across the country. The terms Palaeolithic and Pleistocene are used to distinguish between evidence of human activity (Palaeolithic) and of environments (Pleistocene).

The guidance is accompanied by a number of case studies, which are intended to be concise rather than exhaustive. The methodologies outlined in them illustrate the range of options that is available rather than providing a comprehensive list of all available approaches. It is essential therefore for contractors involved in preparing schemes for site investigation (WSIs) to consult Palaeolithic/Pleistocene specialists.

It will often be helpful to use this document alongside other key guidance produced by Historic England, in particular: Sites of Early Human Activity: Scheduling Selection Guide, Managing Lithic Scatters and Sites (currently in revision after consultation), Geoarchaeology, Environmental Archaeology, Scientific Dating of Pleistocene Sites (currently in revision after consultation), Deposit Modelling and Archaeology and Mineral Extraction and Archaeology.

This guidance acknowledges the primacy of relevant legislation, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the related Planning Policy Guidance (PPG), and is intended to support their implementation. It is not a statement of Government policy, nor does it seek to prescribe a single methodology.

The guidance is particularly intended for curators (i.e. local authority archaeologists, those working as advisors to local planning authorities, and HER officers). Its focus is the issues they encounter in discharging their responsibilities for Palaeolithic archaeology. It will also be of interest to consultants, archaeological units, developers, historic environment advisors in government agencies and public bodies, and Palaeolithic and Pleistocene specialists.


  • Introduction
  • Why are Palaeolithic and Pleistocene remains important?
  • Part A: Curating the Palaeolithic
    1. Palaeolithic archaeology and planning
    2. Sources of information on Palaeolithic and Pleistocene remains
    3. Requirements and procedures for Desk-Based Assessments and field evaluations
    4. Assessing the findings and further work
  • Part B: Understanding the Palaeolithic
    5. The Palaeolithic occupation of Britain
    6. The Pleistocene record
    7. Pleistocene deposits: origin, archaeological and palaeoenvironmental potential
  • 8. Case Studies
  • 9. References
  • 10. Glossary
  • 11. Where to get advice

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 88
  • Product Code: HEAG313


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