A view looking down into the interior of the tower, showing two archaeologists discussing and recording the trench in front of them.
Excavation in the West Lobe of Clifford's Tower Courtyard, York © Historic England
Excavation in the West Lobe of Clifford's Tower Courtyard, York © Historic England

Excavation

Archaeological excavation is the controlled examination of the buried deposits and features that make up archaeological sites and monuments. These are carefully dug and recorded along with the finds they contain, to build up a picture of a site and its people. Archaeology can help us to understand past society and how it influences us today.

Archaeological Projects

Archaeological Projects is a team of expert archaeologists who undertake nationally significant research aligned with Historic England priorities, to protect, champion and preserve our heritage.

Our team includes wide-ranging expertise, and has a close working relationship with an unparalleled network of multi disciplinary specialists. Together, we carry out archaeological intervention and analysis, and contribute to the understanding, preservation and enjoyment of our historic environment and cultural heritage.

We share our extensive archaeological experience through advice, training, lectures, public engagement, and publications aimed at reaching the widest audiences.

Follow our work

Methods

We develop and lead archaeological excavations, to improve understanding, protection, and presentation of sites and landscapes.

These investigations inform research, such as at English Heritage properties Chester Roman Amphitheatre, which we excavated in collaboration with Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Universities of Liverpool and Chester, and Whitby Abbey, where we discovered a small early medieval chapel.

We’re working on the material from excavations of the extensive Iron Age and Romano-British settlement at Stanwick (Northamptonshire), to present the results and create a valuable research archive.

We also carry out excavations to inform advice and protection, such as at Low Ham, Somerset, where we excavated the Roman villa landscape, and developed our training provision.

We make emergency responses to preserve by record sites at risk from threats outside the planning process, such as threats from erosion processes, as at Birdoswald on Hadrian’s Wall. We took part in the National Archaeological Identification Survey (NAIS) lowland and upland pilot projects, excavating sites to test air photograph interpretations and geophysical survey results.

Our excavation and sampling programmes are tailored to meet our project objectives, through targeted excavation and analyses of material culture, technology and plant and animal remains. Specialists from many disciplines are involved from the planning stage, and are present during fieldwork to enable early and detailed understanding of a place and the people who spent time there.

Innovative recording and archiving

We made an early investment in digital recording, using databases from the late 1970s, and developing the Delilah database for on-site recording in the late 1980s.

In the early 1990s we introduced site planning directly into CAD from the survey instruments (using TheoLT), and 3D modelling of excavated features.

Having adopted the Intrasis database and GIS system in 2009, we have developed an innovative template for digital excavation recording to enhance the capabilities and efficiency of our established archaeological recording methods.

This approach allows us to create a comprehensive database of spatial data, photographs and interpretation of archaeology, environment and material culture whilst still trench-side, and to use it throughout the project’s lifecycle. We are collaborating on guidance for digital site recording and archive creation, and our Excavation Recording Manual is freely available.

We archive our project data and finds following national Archaeological Archiving guidance and international standards, with datasets available through the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) and the Historic England Archive. Finds are archived with local museums or with English Heritage's Collections Curators.

Learn about our research

We publish our results in a variety of ways: through journals and monographs, as well as through public presentation in our Historic England Research digital magazine and our free to download Research Reports.

Working with our partners

We use our expertise to provide advice and quality assurance to projects commissioned by Historic England, including research into the effectiveness of archaeological techniques and methodologies to support the sector, such as this case study on the effectiveness of trial trenching and evaluation methods in the planning process.

We are proud to work in close collaboration with other Historic England teams, the English Heritage Trust, academic and commercial partners, and local groups and communities.

We are committed to sharing our skills with the sector, and are currently developing Historic England Archaeological Training programme (HEAT), through the implementation of field schools and training modules for apprenticeships.

Who we are

Nicola Hembrey

Head of Archaeological Projects (Acting)

Nicola leads the Archaeological Projects Team, providing advice, and contributing to the operation of Archaeological Investigation. She is an expert in Artefact Analysis, with a specialism in Roman small finds and objects as markers of identity, and a research interest in contemporary engagement with ‘things’. Having led field and finds projects, key works include Later Silbury and Low Ham, and Historic England’s Archaeological Training Programme. Nicola is committed to collaborative working, providing support, and making archaeology accessible. She is an advocate for inclusion, diversity and equality in archaeology. You can read some of Nicola’s work on her Academia profile. Nicola is an accredited Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Contact Nicola Hembrey

 

 

Tony Wilmott

Senior Archaeologist

Tony's role is in planning and leading programmes of excavation and post excavation. His specialisms are the archaeology of Hadrian’s Wall and Roman frontiers, the Roman military, the archaeology of the amphitheatre, and the late Roman/early medieval transition. He has published widely on these subjects, notably monographs on Birdoswald, many excavations on Hadrian’s Wall, and the amphitheatre at Chester. Recent key works include the Roman site of Richborough, the cemetery of Birdoswald and Whitby Abbey. You can read some of Tony’s work on his Academia profile. Tony is an accredited Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

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Vicky Crosby

Archaeologist

Vicky is currently leading post-excavation research on the large and complex Iron Age and Romano-British rural settlement at Stanwick, Northamptonshire, part of the Raunds Iron Age & Romano-British project. Her main research interest is later prehistoric and Romano-British rural economies, especially in integrating a wide range of evidence to build our understanding. Other key work includes the Romano-British period around Silbury Hill, and excavation as part of the ‘Lakes and Dales’ National Archaeological Identification Survey Upland Pilot. Vicky’s expertise in digital recording and site survey has contributed to most of the team’s recent fieldwork projects. You can read some of Vicky’s work on her Academia profile.

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Tom Cromwell

Archaeologist

Tom's role is in developing and running field excavations. Tom’s research interests cover medieval and post-medieval archaeology and buildings - especially medieval Church/ Monastic development, fortresses, and post-medieval gardens. Having provided expertise in metric survey and CAD skills for the team for over two decades, he is also heavily involved in the development of digital recording techniques for excavations. You can read some of Tom’s work on his Academia profile.

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David Roberts

Archaeologist (On Sabbatical)

David is a researcher into later prehistoric and Romano-British archaeology, human interaction with the landscape and archaeological theories of practice. Key work include leading the Low Ham Roman villa project, the Historic England Archaeological Training Programme, and the Southern Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Survey Project excavations. David has particular expertise in designing and managing archaeological field schools and working with the university sector. He has published widely on later prehistoric and Romano-British archaeology. You can read some of David’s work on his ResearchGate profile. David is an accredited Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

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Lucy Parker

Archaeologist (Fixed term contract)

Lucy supports the team during David’s sabbatical. She brings extensive project management and survey experience to the team. Research interests include standards and guidance, digital archaeology and non-intrusive techniques. Lucy is Chair of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists’ Geophysics Special Interest Group, a member of the Institute’s Advisory Council and an active member of the Mentoring Women in Archaeology and Heritage group. You can read some of Lucy’s work on her Academia profile. Lucy is an accredited Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.

Contact Lucy Parker

 

 

Richard Henry

Finds Supervisor (Fixed term contract)

Richard is an expert in artefactual and numismatic (coins) analysis, with a specialism in Roman small finds and coins. Richard has a wide range of research interests including Late Roman Britain, artefact biographies and placing metal detected finds within their wider landscape context. Published extensively on the archaeology of Wiltshire and the south west, as well as leading on collaborative work including methodological approaches to finds analysis and metal detecting surveys. Key works include Richborough and an extensive holistic study of Late Roman coins and material culture. You can read some of Richard’s work on his Academia profile. Richard is an accredited Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.

Contact Richard Henry

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