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Evaluating urban sites
SAD S & G DBA Section 3 was created in the ppg16 paradigm by development control and it’s a mess. The fact that ppg is now superseded just shows up the fact that S&G DBA is not an archaeological standard and guidance but a standard and guidance for development control and reliant on their political dirctions. It really shows up how the ifa was not set up for field archaeologists but for a civil service establishment to maintain their situations. The latest Report for the Institute for Archaeologists and the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers shows how NOT field archaeologists they are.


The first line has a big MAY clause.

Quote:A brief/project outline or a specification MAY form the basis for a project design.

MAY we ignore it then or turn it into a justification for curators. This section 3 MAY like to imagine a county without any archaeological curation-could happen very soon at a place near you

And the justification for the curators wonderful help is that

Quote:For desk-based assessment within the planning framework, the brief/project outline or specification will usually be prepared by the planning archaeologist or curator and issued by the commissioning body, the developers or their agents to selected tenderers.

the example thats being suggested is that the archaeologist got to the client first. What business is it of yours what they pay. You don’t tell the client which architect to employ. You get to say if you like the development or not. You get to say if you like my dba and evaluation or not. If its true that 40% of the time you find the dba unsatisfactory great. I would use that to bump the price up

Quote:If we've learnt one thing from the introduction of competitive tendering into archaeology it's that it opens it up to unscrupulous practices like any other activity and it’s therefore important to ensure LPAs have proper advice.

we never had competitive tendering particulqarly for predetermination work, we never will unless curators make those briefs public documents=[SIZE=4]
Quote:[SIZE=4]selected tenderers
-whats that?[/SIZE].[/SIZE]

Hi Steven

A lot of developers would regard it as none of your business (as a curator) that they're planning to build something until they start the official planning procedure (particularly if its something controversial), but very often by that stage they've already spent 10s or 100s of thousands on design etc, so they want to know in advance of all that, often in detail, what potential archaeological/heritage implications there are, so they can avoid expensive re-designs, re-siting or even pulling the plug on the whole thing and looking for another site without having unneccessarily stirred up any s**t from the locals or the local planning authority. Also, if they're going ahead they often need some reasonably detailed idea of what mitigation might be involved, redesigning founds for large structures, the siting of balancing ponds etc can be very expensive and sometimes hopelessly impractical.

On the other hand, I'm aware of the location of a major site which you won't find in any HER/SMR since the knowledge was bought and paid for by the client, it's his and I'd get sued if I told you where it was, and having seen the gobsmacking geophys he went 'Oh s**t' and left it as a green field (although full marks, I drive past it occasionally and it hasn't been ploughed since, has become a retirement home for some scrawny-looking sheep). Bet there are hundreds like that up and down the country, so yes, your approach would be better, although of course by now the poor s*d would have had his field scheduled making it valueless.....although now of course it looks like he may be able to stick up to 10 houses on it (plus 'bolt-ons') without ever having to worry about the little archaeology issue.....
Dinosaur, the whole point of early consultation as advised in both PPG16 and now PPS5 was to avoid such conflicts / problems. Developers have little to gain from being entirely secretive and run the risk of applications being refused on lack of information if they under-evaluate sites.
Quote:that's what we try and steer our regular clients towards and very often it's waived through...

So, to paraphrase, you advise developers to pay you to tell them how much you will charge to carry out works that you've defined the extent of and the need for. And they actually pay you and come back for more? Blimey. Nice work if you can get it.
If you'd actually read my last post you'd have noticed that, in an ideal world, I was agreeing with Steven, unfortunately that really isn't how it works in reality :face-crying:

And yes, it is nice work, even though 9 times out of ten the recommendation is that no further mitigation is required (as with any other DBAs/evaluations etc, unless your lot are ripping clients off?), if you start wasting the client's money or they think they can get better/cheaper elsewhere they don't come back, ditto if curators think they're being hoodwinked they give you grief, so only works if played totally straight by all parties :face-approve:
Dinosaur Wrote:On the other hand, I'm aware of the location of a major site which you won't find in any HER/SMR since the knowledge was bought and paid for by the client, it's his and I'd get sued if I told you where it was, and having seen the gobsmacking geophys he went 'Oh s**t' and left it as a green field

I don't quite understand. The developer knows there is an archaeological potential for this land, but has decided not to develop. Fair enough...but why does this need to be kept a secret? Surely he should be congratulated for his alturism....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
This is a really interesting debate. I originally asked about methodologies for evaluating urban sites and the thread has expanded, quite rightly, to take in wider issues. In some ways it paints a disheartening picture though - I get a sense that we don't really know what we are doing as a profession. Is this fair? To return to my orginal question, shouldn't there be a standardised approach to the evaluation of complex, deeply stratified sites by now? I accept the arguments that 1) every site is different, 2) research aims vary from site to site and that 3) the planning system may only require the basics (presence/absence of significant archaeology, depth of that archaeology etc), all of which may affect the methodology used. But is there really no general professional opinion on the most valid, informative and accurate way of evaluating an urban site, given the depth and complexity of the deposits?

Also, (returning to the reality of commercial transactions in archaeology), can anyone clarify the following for me?

Say a curator issues a brief for an urban evaluation but does not specify an excavation methodology (leaving it up to the contractors to decide). Company X looks into the site and determines that the stratigraphy is likely to be complex and the archaeology signifcant - and so puts in a tender based on lengthy single context recording with several staff. Company Y notes the the complexity and significance but decides to go for the much cheaper option of slot excavation. Company Y wins the contract and then struggles to make sense of the site from discrete, isolated slots within trenches. They produce a report full of equivocation (it maybe this, its possible that this has happened, these features may be prehistoric or they may be medieval....).

First, does this happen and how frequently do curators get inadequate urban eval reports as a result?

Second, if this happens with frequency, doesn't it mean there is an in-built, commercially driven bias against thorough, sequential excavation for urban evals, even if the site is crying out for such an approach? That is, are our methodologies are dictated by commerce, not by archaeological priorities?

Sorry if I am repeating myself by asking this. It seems an important issue though. Does anyone take a clear stance on the approach to evaluating urban sites, based on a rational assessment of the evidence (IfA? EH/HS/CADW?? Curators' Association?? Big commerical units?). If not, why not? Is there literature on this? If so, where? Are we all just working in the dark, hoping we'll hit the right balance (and perhaps rarely doing so?)? Is this how a profession should be working?

you and me are archaeologists, I will fight for your right to call yourself an archaeologist- (edited again for AUP issues) (why again mepole?) Some where along the line you must understand that a hole in the ground is a once only event. If somebody got to it before you-dont spend any part of the rest of your life saying that they did not do it to somebody elses standard (pension grabbers) there are too many other holes out there that need looking at, there is not enough of us to go round, do the best that you can do, I will not hold it against you if you make a killing (earn more than a curator) and leave no archive what so ever

Quote:If you'd actually read my last post you'd have noticed that, in an ideal world, I was agreeing with Steven, unfortunately that really isn't how it works in reality

fair point, but not quite what those posts seemed to say, so apologies if I overstated. I'd be less cynical if I hadn't seen it done quite as often before. And indeed, have seen a couple of people get severely singed fingers when they got found out. B)

Quote:if you make a killing (earn more than a curator)

either your aspirations are very low or the curators your way are paid in body parts...
In London all archaeological briefs carry quite explicit instructions as to the recording system to be used on all archaeological works. I have noticed the same in all UK counties and towns outside of London where I have worked. I am someone will provide an example of a curator who is non-specific as to what form the recording of archaeological sites should take, but I am pretty certain that those are in the minority.....
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...

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