Managing Lithic Sites

Archaeological guidance for commercial and research projects, planning authorities, land management agencies and developers

This guidance is intended for everyone working with lithic material, from developers to those involved in community projects. As such, it covers key themes relating to the definition and significance of lithic sites; their identification, assessment, evaluation and excavation; and their mitigation and management. Therefore, it encompasses a broad range of advice on approaches and techniques that can be applied to a wide variety of project types and budgets.

Lithic sites are an important archaeological resource that can provide valuable insights into prehistoric occupation. Most commonly they are found as scatters of worked stone, usually suspended in modern ploughsoil deposits, which have been disturbed from their original archaeological context. However, undisturbed lithic sites can also be found where assemblages have been sealed by cover deposits or preserved in sub-surface features or horizons. For much of prehistory these two types of lithic site provide most or all of the evidence for human activity and subsistence strategies. By studying their formation, spatial distribution and technological attributes we can get closer to understanding the activities of the people who created these artefacts.

The information contained in this guidance is supplemented by a selection of case studies. These provide examples of prospection, recording, excavation, analysis, interpretation and management of the lithic resource, in order to explain and amplify the themes addressed in the guidance.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with other relevant Historic England guidance documents such as the scheduling selection guide on Sites of Early Human Activity (Historic England 2018), advice on geoarchaeological deposit mapping and modelling (Historic England 2015a; 2020), advice notes on good practice in planning (Historic England 2015b), and guidance on Palaeolithic sites (Historic England 2023).


  1. Introduction
  2. Research frameworks
  3. Field evaluation and excavation techniques
  4. Analytical methodologies and post-excavation techniques
  5. Management of lithic sites
  6. Glossary of terms
  7. References
  8. Appendices
    Appendix 1: Summaries of project case studies
    Appendix 2: Archaeological periods and their diagnostic stone tool typology
    Appendix 3: Summary of lithic analytical techniques

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Product Code: HEAG318


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