Deposit Modelling and Archaeology

Guidance for Mapping Buried Deposits

This guidance is written to help archaeologists working within the context of development-led projects to understand what deposit models are and the benefits that can be gained by using them. It is also relevant to any archaeological work where the intention is to characterise deep sequences of deposits.

Deposit models use existing information to map the distribution of buried deposits of archaeological interest across a site or landscape. By interpreting when the deposits accumulated and what they represent, areas of greater and lesser archaeological potential can be identified. This enables subsequent fieldwork to be focused and the context of archaeological remains to be better understood.

A deposit model can:

  • avoid blanket coverage in evaluation trenching
  • identify areas of low archaeological potential
  • identify areas of high archaeological potential
  • guide the selection of appropriate evaluation and mitigation techniques
  • aid communication with construction professionals
  • facilitate the reconstruction of the palaeoenvironment

Using a deposit model as a desk-based technique early in the planning process can reduce risks, as well as inform mitigation by design.

For best value, a model will be constructed at the start of a project and will subsequently be refined and updated as additional data are collected during the project lifespan.


  • Introduction
  • Deposit models: what, why and where?
  • Deposit models and planning
  • Collecting the data
  • Building the model
  • Modelling outputs
  • Using the model
  • Future use and archiving
  • Bibliography
  • Glossary
  • Appendix 1: Deposit models in the planning process
  • Appendix 2: Scoping a deposit
  • Appendix 3: Guide specification for deposit modelling
  • Where to get advice

Additional details are set out in an accompanying technical monograph Deposit Modelling and Archaeology (Carey et al 2018) (pdf file size 192 MB), which provides a series of in-depth case studies written by deposit modelling practitioners.

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 74
  • Product Code: HEAG272


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