An archaeologist excavating a testpit with a stone handaxe in the section

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Francis Wenban-Smith excavating a test pit at Cuxton Palaeolithic site, Medway © M. Bates, University of Wales

Curating the Palaeolithic: approaches to desk-based assessment and field evaluation Birmingham 28 June 2019

Learn to consistently make decisions about desk-based assessment and field evaluation for sites with the potential for Palaeolithic remains.

Who should attend?

This course is aimed at heritage professionals, in particular planning authority curators, consultants and contractors, and those who aspire to become involved in this sector. It would also be of benefit to anyone with an interest in the Palaeolithic who wants to learn better how to recognise, assess and investigate potentially important sites.

Why should you join this course?

  • The course will introduce a deposit-centred approach to understanding the Palaeolithic, reviewing the range of site formation processes and their effect on Palaeolithic remains
  • We will introduce participants to general curatorial principles in relation to managing the impact of development upon the historic environment, with specific reference to their implementation for Palaeolithic remains
  • The course will include introductory presentations followed by practical, real-world case studies involving desk-based assessment and field evaluation of Palaeolithic sites
  • There will be ample opportunity for discussion throughout the day, and participants are encouraged to bring real-world questions and examples for group discussion


At the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  1. Consider from desk-based information whether there may be important Palaeolithic remains at a proposed development location
  2. Understand the characteristics of Pleistocene (Ice Age) geology, sufficient to implement a "deposit-centred" approach for considering the likely nature and potential of any Palaeolithic remains
  3. Know when a Palaeolithic field evaluation is required, the range of methods to investigate for Palaeolithic remains, and when different methods would be most appropriate
  4. Understand how to justify the requirement for Palaeolithic evaluation, when appropriate
  5. Recognise the importance of palaeo-environmental remains and Pleistocene deposit sequences as important aspects of the Palaeolithic heritage

Course outline*

  • 0930 Registration
  • 0945 Session 1, Introduction: The Palaeolithic, Quaternary deposits, and approaches to curating the Palaeolithic resource
  • 1125 Session 2, Identifying Palaeolithic potential in desk-based assessments: Worked-through examples
  • 1335 Session 3, Identifying Palaeolithic potential: Group work case study
  • 1510 Session 4, Palaeolithic evaluation: Field methods and application

*The outline is subject to change, but start and end time will not.

Meet the course tutors

Dr Francis Wenban-Smith is a Principal Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Southampton. His work involves developing/leading major research projects and carrying out commercial archaeological investigations in advance of development, as a specialist in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods, Quaternary geoarchaeology and lithic analysis.

As Historic England’s Science Advisor for the South East, Jane Corcoran provides advice to Local Authority curators and archaeologists on scientific aspects of developer-funded projects. She previously worked for 15 years as a geoarchaeologist and specialist in Quaternary Science for a commercial archaeology unit, where her focus was on interpreting soils and sediments, in order to better understand archaeological evidence. A key part of this work involved developing deposit modelling techniques, in order to predict where archaeology might be found within deep sequences of natural deposits. She is currently working with an external team on Historic England’s Deposit Modelling Guidelines, as well as advising on the updating of the Palaeolithic Guidance.

Lis Dyson has worked for Kent County Council providing archaeological planning advice for more than 20 years, and for the last ten years has been County Archaeologist and Heritage Conservation Manager. Prior to that Lis worked for the Museum of London Archaeology Service mainly on excavations in the City of London. She has also worked on Palaeolithic excavations in West Sussex, Kent and France. Lis has a BSc in Anthropology and a MSc in Quaternary Science, and has been involved with several Palaeolithic resource assessment projects in Kent, including a joint project with Essex County Council.

Archaeologists excavating a flint knapping scatter.
MOLA reveal a 10,000 year-old flint knapping scatter in the Ebbsfleet valley © Photo by F. Wenban-Smith, reproduced by kind permission of MOLA

Course fee

The course fee for one day is £160, to include all tuition, lunch and daily refreshments.


How to book

This course is now fully booked.


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