Published on: 10 June 2021
UK archaeologists are gearing up to campaign for UK archaeology, which faces multiple threats, in a movement initiated by a Newcastle University archaeologist.
“We want to send a clear message to the Government that archaeology matters,” said Dr Duckworth. “By making cuts and undervaluing the contribution of archaeology to business and society, we risk serious long-term consequences. Once destroyed, archaeological evidence can never be recovered and if we also lose the skills and infrastructure, archaeology in the UK will take decades to recover.”
One of the main aims of the campaign is to highlight that the legal requirement for an archaeological survey to be carried out ahead of any major housing or infrastructure project does not create costly delays and actually adds to local communities’ sense of place, as well as ensuring the protection of the historic environment for the public’s benefit.
“Archaeology is not red tape,” added Dr Duckworth. “Professional archaeological intervention at an early stage prevents delays and saves up to £1.3 billion for construction companies. Dozens of significant discoveries in recent years would not have been made without archaeological involvement in the early stages of a development.”
The Dig4Archaeology website has examples of recent finds that were discovered due to developer-funded archaeology include the remains of a ‘high-status’ Roman villa and bath-house never seen before in Britain discovered beneath a building site in Scarborough and the world’s oldest known seagoing boat, dating from about 1500BC and which was discovered as part of archaeological work for the A20 road building project in Kent. The remains of Coleshill Manor, Warwickshire, were discovered during excavations undertaken as part of HS2 and revealed one of the best preserved late 16th century gardens ever discovered in this country. Entirely unknown before, experts say the site has parallels to the impressive ornamental gardens at Kenilworth Castle and Hampton Court Palace.
Steve Wynne, CEO, Strawberry Blond TV, the company which makes the Great British Dig, said: “Archaeology is literally everywhere. It’s woven into our day to day lives in a way I never realised until making our series The Great British Dig. It informs, enlightens, and teaches so much about our history and really isn’t about just digging holes. Without it, we’d be a poorer nation and worse off society. It’s absolutely crucial to support the work archaeologists do.”
Dan Snow MBE said: “As we respond to issues like tech transformation, climate change and migration it is essential to learn how previous generations engaged with similar challenges and opportunities. There is no better training than archaeology.”