How does archaeology work?

The majority of archaeological work is carried out as part of the planning process. Planning Policy Guidance Note 16 (PPG16) is an important document in archaeology. It was published in 1990 and advised planning authorities to take archaeology into account when considering giving planning permission for new developments.


Your local planning authority checks each application against an archaeological notification area map, which can be seen on the Buckinghamshire County Council website. If it falls into one of these zones, the planning application is referred to the County Archaeological Service for advice. This is usually done in advance of a planning application decision.


If the application is thought to affect an area of archaeological potential, the archaeologist can suggest further evaluation before the planning application is approved. This can take the form of a desk-based assessment, field-walking, a topographical or geophysical survey, test-pitting or trial trenching or a combination. PPG16 recommends that archaeology is a finite resource that excavation destroys. Excavation is an unrepeatable experiment. This means two things. Firstly, excavation is the last resort and secondly, excavation should be accompanied by the most complete record possible.


Click here to follow the steps of archaeological investigation, starting with a desk-based assessment.


Go back to find out how you can get involved in archaeology.