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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Regional Archaeological Surveys --
Part 1 - A Guide to Procedure.
by Mike Ocock.


Probably the two most important activities which a local Group can undertake are:
  1. the surveillance of its own locality and,
  2. emergency operations
i.e. the investigation, recording and, where necessary, excavation of archaeological remains and buildings which are under an immediate threat of destruction or damage. Little need be said about emergency operations as most people already accept the need for such action and give the work the necessary priority. However, other research carried out by local societies appears often to be entirely haphazard and to conform only to the barest outline of a plan, if indeed a plan exists at all. Obviously this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs and the purpose of this article is to suggest that a methodical investigation of the district should be given the utmost priority and also to provide a guide on how the investigation might best be done.


The more time available for emergency operations the better the results and because an excavation is carried out six months in advance of the anticipated destruction of a site it is no less of an emergency than work undertaken a matter of hours before a bulldozer starts its operations. In order to anticipate emergencies and plan ahead the location of archaeological remains, historic buildings, their relative importance in local archaeology and future development plans for the area, all need to be known and checked one against the other. The results of a comprehensive regional archaeological survey should provide all this information and also prove an excellent basis for the planning of other future research. The work of the survey can be divided into three parts:
  1. Review of past researches and discoveries.
  2. Further investigations and a detailed survey of the entire area.
  3. Surveillance of all building and civil engineering projects, etc.

'C' would of course be a never-ending task whereas 'B' might only take a few years and 'A' should be completed in a few months if possible! The following notes provide an outline procedure and a guide to some of the more important aspects of the work.

Procedure for a Review of Past Researches and Discoveries.

  1. Decide on the aims of the survey (see above).
  2. Define the total area to be examined.
  3. Prepare a map of the area for use in plotting data.
  4. List all known sources of information on past researches and discoveries.

    They might include:

    1. National and local archaeological publications.
    2. Ordnance Survey maps and plans.
    3. Local histories and guide books.
    4. Local museum records.
    5. Local historical and archaeological society records.
    6. The quickest way to find out about all known sites and discoveries and the published references to them is to use the Ordnance Survey index which includes references to much unpublished information.

    Enquiries should be addressed to:

    The Superintendent,
    Archaeology Division,
    Ordnance Survey,
    Romsey Road,
    S09 4DH.

    It is unlikely that they can supply copies of all their records for a district but they will otherwise be most helpful.

  5. Examine each source of information, list all sites, discoveries and buildings of historical and archaeological interest mentioned.
  6. Note particularly all unfinished research and excavations and all work which requires publication. Be sure to obtain the exact location of earlier discoveries. This can at times be most difficult due to changes in the landscape, etc. but much confusion can be avoided if locations are established before any further work takes place.
  7. Prepare a record card for each item. Each card should contain at least the following data:
    1. District or parish, etc.
    2. Brief description of feature or other relevant data.
    3. National Grid Reference.
    4. Note of location.
    5. References.
    6. Period e.g. Late-medieval.
  8. Plot features on map of area.
  9. Prepare a summary of past researches and discoveries. Refer especially to items of unfinished work (see note 6).
  10. All this material would make an excellent interim local archaeology which could be produced for new members of the society and perhaps also sold to members of the public. Maps, diagrams and pictures could be added to make an attractive booklet.

(This important article on field surveys is divided into two parts for reason of space. The second part, dealing with further investigation and detailed survey, will appear in the next issue).

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