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archaeologyexile Wrote:good point...however, given that HER's are in general maintained by council's their primary aim is to inform planning decisions, can we really continue to say that despite the presence of no evidence we should keep doing groundbreaking evaluations?


Yes! There's no real pattern to the location of archaeological remains. You can equally do an evaluation on an area that the local HER records would suggest could come up trumps and find nothing, and you can do an evaluation on an area that looks like will be blank, to find it's full of roundhouses and timber halls.

There's no great way to pre-planning archaeology. Geophysics isn't always suitable/doesn't work, invasive evaluation can depend on where you put the trenches. I've been on evals where if the trench had been 1m to the east, we would have missed the archaeology.

But, we have to work with what we've got, and arguably a negative evaluation result is as important as a positive one.
Sorry but that's nonsense, try telling that to a Planning officer, they look at you like your mad! when I was running sits I generally estimated that you got one decent site a year, the rest were not worth doing and never even proceeded to excavation, ie a tiny percentage. We need to collate figures and figure out just how much were doing and then figure out how much we should do and accept that some archaeology will be lost!
Why? Is there a shortage of workers? Or a new cap on total annual spend by developers for Planning Conditions? Why ration investigation of a finite resource if there is commercial money to fund it? Or is this really about the "one decent site a year" part... Sure, negative evals are a bit dull, and we cannot excite the public with them, but they are the only part of the picture for which we can pretty much guarantee funding! And each one helps us get a better picture of the past, so we can home in on the better sites.

If my knees were younger I'd love to see archaeology get back to the good old days when the only sites being touched were big juicy high-profile ones full of goodies, dug by dozens of eager folks and stretching over multiple seasons, but back then there weren't many full-time archaeologists trying to make a living - just a few well-off boffins and lots of volunteers! And loads of evidence never got a look-in, but we were happy in our ignorance. We can't have it all ways - either we have less info from fewer interesting digs, or more info with a higher proportion of boring "duds".

The real issue isn'yt how we ration the evaluation cash, but rather how we ensure the good sites get done properly. Cutting back on evals won't improve the "juicy" digs - it'll just save the developers some cash and put more archaeologists out of jobs. As I said before, the two issues are not directly related.
Here is an interesting twist to the thread. The UN have ruled that the UK is in breach of the Aarhus Convention in making available to the public data liable to affect planning decisions. I was not aware that this convention cover decisions likely to affect cultural heritage and the landscape, i.e archaeology. The convention states that this data must be made available for general public perusal and, if a charge is levied, that the charge is fair and proportionate. One wonders if £500 a day is either of those

[URL="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-un-ruling-puts-future-of-wind-farms-in-britain-in-jeopardy-8786831.html"]http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-un-ruling-puts-future-of-wind-farms-in-britain-in-jeopardy-8786831.htm
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The full text of the convention can be found here......http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/p...cep43e.pdf
Here is an interesting twist to the thread. The UN have ruled that the UK is in breach of the Aarhus Convention in making available to the public, data liable to affect planning decisions. I was not aware that this convention covered decisions likely to affect cultural heritage and the landscape, i.e archaeology, but it does!! The convention states that this data must be made available for general public perusal and, if a charge is levied, that the charge is fair and proportionate. One wonders if £500 a day is either of those

[URL="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-un-ruling-puts-future-of-wind-farms-in-britain-in-jeopardy-8786831.html"]http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-un-ruling-puts-future-of-wind-farms-in-britain-in-jeopardy-8786831.htm
[/URL]
The full text of the convention can be found here......http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/p...cep43e.pdf
barkingdigger Wrote:Why? Is there a shortage of workers? Or a new cap on total annual spend by developers for Planning Conditions? Why ration investigation of a finite resource if there is commercial money to fund it? Or is this really about the "one decent site a year" part... Sure, negative evals are a bit dull, and we cannot excite the public with them, but they are the only part of the picture for which we can pretty much guarantee funding! And each one helps us get a better picture of the past, so we can home in on the better sites.

If my knees were younger I'd love to see archaeology get back to the good old days when the only sites being touched were big juicy high-profile ones full of goodies, dug by dozens of eager folks and stretching over multiple seasons, but back then there weren't many full-time archaeologists trying to make a living - just a few well-off boffins and lots of volunteers! And loads of evidence never got a look-in, but we were happy in our ignorance. We can't have it all ways - either we have less info from fewer interesting digs, or more info with a higher proportion of boring "duds".

The real issue isn'yt how we ration the evaluation cash, but rather how we ensure the good sites get done properly. Cutting back on evals won't improve the "juicy" digs - it'll just save the developers some cash and put more archaeologists out of jobs. As I said before, the two issues are not directly related.

Yes there is definitely a shortage of competent diggers, but my point is that negative results bring the profession into disrepute and allow us to be characterised as red tape and thus more likely to be cut!
archaeologyexile Wrote:but my point is that negative results bring the profession into disrepute and allow us to be characterised as red tape and thus more likely to be cut!

There is no such thing as a negative result. Go and ask any competent scientist. There is only a 'result'. If it looks like I'll not be finding anything I always make an effort to explain to the client why we had to look, or tell them at least its fairly cheap (the saving on a small 'found nothing of note' report over a few thousand quid on finds processing, C14, research and publication) and point out a few other sites where we didn't know if anything was there/didn't expect much but then found something very worthwhile. If you dont explain to your client why you're doing it, I can see how they might think you were a waste of their time.
Antipesto Wrote:Surely thats more of a case of misunderstanding what an HER is though, isnt it? It is not, and cannot be, a record of where the archaeology is - it is however, a record of where archaeology has, and has not, been found. Anything more than that, and frequent parts of that, comes down to opinion and 'experience' (often equalling guesswork)

Much HER data should be treated with a level of scepticism, depending on its source - overworked HER staff rarely have time to 'vet' submissions. Some data is entirely fictional, I recently had occasion to point out to a local HER that the finds reported by one metal-detectorist have a distribution suggesting that the given grid coords for a load of coins had been picked off a map and it looked suuspiciously like he'd just been using them to provide 'legit' individual provenances for a a hoard he'd found elsewhere which would otherwise have been Treasure - doubtless he's been selling them to Americans over the internet for double the money cos they've now got 'official' provenance backed by a governmental database they can check online. HERs, as with everything else, are there to be misused... Sad

...and of course a lot of the stuff is just plain wrong...
Antipesto Wrote:There is no such thing as a negative result. Go and ask any competent scientist. There is only a 'result'. If it looks like I'll not be finding anything I always make an effort to explain to the client why we had to look, or tell them at least its fairly cheap (the saving on a small 'found nothing of note' report over a few thousand quid on finds processing, C14, research and publication) and point out a few other sites where we didn't know if anything was there/didn't expect much but then found something very worthwhile. If you dont explain to your client why you're doing it, I can see how they might think you were a waste of their time.

I think that your missing my point, I'm not talking about clients and contractors, I'm talking about planning officers and explaining to them why they should back the archaeologist's request that a condition be put on. The negative result angle gets you only so far. In addition, to date I'm the only one that has advanced anything other than anecdotal observations, can I pose a simple question is the annual figure from across the whole of Scotland, 70% of interventions producing negative results worth it? My own opinion is that is too high, but do you think that its a reasonable number?
I'm not getting it. Sure, negative results make future Conditions a hard sell, but simply not bothering can't be the answer. Somebody needs to assess the likelihood of archaeology, and if the area has enough evals to be happy without a condition then the developer needs to know the risk being taken, and I'd expect a watcing brief as a condition that could easily trigger a work stoppage and rescue dig.

I appreciate that there can be trends, but they are always just educated guesses. Even the best "negative" eval can only confirm that there was nothing within the footprint of the eval trenches - the surrounding field can still be hoaching with features.

What you need is creative selling. After all, the other construction-related surveys of the site (contamination, bats, etc) don't get dropped from the running just because other properties in the area had negative results! But if you really think that cutting back on Conditions is the way to go, please do explain how it would work.
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