National Museums Liverpool's Field Archaeology Unit is one of the longest established of its type working in the north west of England. We provide a specialist service to a range of businesses and heritage organisations in Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and South Lancashire. The unit, which began in 1977 as part of Merseyside County Museums, has an excellent record of research and excavation in the region. We have a number of long-term staff with long experience of and dedication to the archaeology of the region. The research reputation that we have built up over this time ensures that we are trusted by the curators of the region's archaeology to provide an accurate and efficient service.
We are a non-profit making organisation specialising in the archaeology of the north west. Our work has contributed significantly to the understanding of the region's past whilst providing a cost effective service to our clients. We offer a range of services from preliminary advice to post-excavation reporting. We are committed to offering a tailored service to achieve the best result for each client, from small house extensions to large multi-million pound developments.
The Field Archaeology Unit is based in the Martin Luther King Jr Building (previously known as the Dock Traffic Office), situated at the entrance to the historic Albert Dock complex. This is the centre for all documentary and post-fieldwork studies. In-house facilities are available for CAD and digital image rectification.
The Field Archaeology Unit offers a variety of archaeological services to developers and other clients. We undertake a range of archaeological services, from desk-based assessments, evaluations, small-scale watching briefs and full-scale excavations within the north west. Recent projects include
- major road schemes
- wind farms
- housing developments
- church yards
- major industrial developments
The unit has undertaken aerial reconnaissance in the lowland north west region since 1987. This programme, run jointly with Cheshire County Council's Environmental Planning, has revealed many new sites in a poorly understood region. We have a built up a substantial collection of archaeological aerial photographs.
Our staff includes specialists in prehistoric lithics, Roman finds, post-medieval pottery, ancient metalworking and the scientific analysis of glass and metals.
The unit can also draw on the expertise of other departments within National Museums Liverpool, including port and maritime history, conservation and natural sciences (geology, natural history).
We adopt a phased approach to archaeological projects whereby the results of the early stages of investigation are fed into the strategy for subsequent stages.
Heritage issues can have a major impact upon any development. We can advise on the archaeological sensitivity of any proposed development at an early stage. This can avoid unnecessary costs at a later stage. If archaeology is unavoidable we can produce an appropriate mitigation strategy to satisfy your needs and the requirements of the relevant planning authority. All of this work is undertaken on your behalf with the relevant local or national bodies.
Archaeological desk-based assessments and environmental impact assessments
We use existing records such as historic documents, maps, photographs and previous archaeological investigations to assess the potential of a site and requirements for further work. It may be possible to prove that there are no archaeological deposits on a development, for example if it was the site of an earlier quarry. Alternatively it may appear that archaeological deposits survive and that a programme of fieldwork is required. Properly programmed, archaeological studies of this type can be integrated with geotechnical studies. This avoids costly duplication of effort and allows any further archaeological work to be efficiently targeted.
Although documentary surveys can provide an indication of a site's potential, an accurate picture can often only be provided by fieldwork. On agricultural land trial trenching may be preceded by fieldwalking which involves the recovery of artefacts from ploughsoil. The distribution of surface finds can provide a more detailed picture of the nature, date and location of any archaeological deposits present. Our fieldwalking data is plotted using a GPS, enabling surveys to be undertaken very rapidly and accurately. Geophysical survey may also be used. However, trial trenching provides the best indication of the survival of archaeological deposits. Integrating this phase with test-pits excavated for geo-technical surveys can prove a cost effective methodology.
Dependant upon the results of the first phases of investigation, a programme of mitigation may be required by the planning authorities. If preservation in situ of archaeological remains is not required by the Planning Authority, then the archaeology may have to be recorded in advance of construction. This generally falls under two categories:
Deep and/or extensive remains may require a programme of excavation. We have undertaken numerous such projects which require extensive specialist knowledge. All of our excavations are undertaken by experienced, full-time professionals.
Less important or extensive remains may be recorded as a watching brief during construction. This normally involves the presence of an archaeologist on site during groundworks. We always use our most experienced staff for these projects.
Recording historic buildings
Alterations to standing historic buildings may require specialist recording of the structure prior to the start of works. We can supply reports to all specifications and are able to produce accurate elevations, plans and sections of buildings using specialist software (Penmap). This allows drawings to produced and checked on site, eliminating costly delays.
For further information about the work we do have a look at some of our past projects on this website.