Poll: Is an emphasis on research rather than recording in PPS 5 a good thing ?
This poll is closed.
71 79.78%
14 15.73%
Not sure it matters
4 4.49%
No I love digging percentages of ditches
0 0%
Total 89 vote(s) 100%
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Research be seen as integral to development excavation.
BUT......if significant archaeological remains are going to be destroyed by a development they should be recorded in as much detail as possible......as its your only chance to do so before they are lost and future archaeological research agendas may differ from current ones.

However it always comes down to money.
all true - but how is it that we identify significance? - a 'significant' site must be identified through research, and yes while it may have to be mostly rescued rather than analysed, that initial determination of significance is major hook (to catch further funding for example)
A key point is that the research elements in PPS 5 is in addition to the recording. The degree to which all archaeological remains are excavated and recorded is a complex debate – is it worth excavating and recording 100% of 100% of 1960s post holes with the remains of the posts still in – clearly it is not. The question we are posing which was hastily worded is based upon the fact in PPS 5 it makes it clear that there should be research as well as excavation and recording. In many respects this is simply codifying best professional practice that already happens in some areas and on some projects. Surely this is a good thing

yeah, Peter's right. And even recording for recordings sake if done properly can lead to future research and synthesis, pace Richard Bradley's book which was built on PPG16 work. Probably more I could say on this and other threads, but got an open day to run tomorrow so will get back to ya Smile Have a good weekend you rotters Wink
This is indeed the angle I take, with recording - that is what we in the field should be doing anyway, recording, recording as much as we can, and done to the best level possible. The recording is the task of the field archaeologist, and lthough the interpretation as you go is important, the end result should be a structured and standard archive of images, plans, samples, context sheets etc. from which research can be carried out. The trouble kicks in, with archive location, storage, percentage etc
The premise of recording everything as acurately and as thoroughly as possible in the field is indeed the field archaologist's task. Perhpas if more time were spent excavating and properly recording and NOT pontificating too early on the why and wherefores of a not fully excavated site there would not be the - dare I say it - increasing habit of pre-judging the excavation and then recording to make it fit the theory!!:face-stir:

Record what you see as you see it because it is going to be removed. THEN take the time to think about it ...which, if need be, can be the research element under discussion.

As for storage and archive...trouble indeed.:0
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
i sense a 'subject/object' or 'can science be truly objective' theme developing.....the issue is not so much about the Practices of archaeologists excavating sites, but rather the point at which commercial projects can be said to have sufficiently met their necessary conditions.

Practically it seems possible to record without much interpretation - but philosophically this indeed an impossibility...for example, how do choose what to record, using what criteria, and to what detail?

I think requiring that a site be Understood is categorically higher than a requirement to Record....our commonly accepted paradigms necessitate that a site must be Well-Recorded before it can be Understood..

This may open new problems (e.g. incentive to create interpretation on shaky evidence), but ONLY if quality of data,evidence and method is insufficiently monitored

On the other hand, rigid belief that our records are sufficiently objective in-themselves to stand for the material itself can stunt new ideas, and create unrefelexive work patterns why paradigms are not questioned (e.g. what/how much to record). This is of significance because each site is unrepeatable, and can be dug only once.

If the first situation truly pertained, the we might expect to see competition over interpretive rigour, and ability to draw/disseminate meaning from the evidence.

If the second, then we might expect to see competition over ability to create detailed technical data, and over methodological sophistication.

Unfortunately, neither is truly the case, and competition is instead about price.

A preference for sites to be understood not just recorded is necessary when its hard to check standards of data collection and field methods nationally....requirements for understanding provide a check on commercial operators because it forces some level of 'deep' data analysis for conclusions to stand inspection.....this is better tahn no checks!

'Understanding' a site might indeed be the conclusion that the site is Not Understood, and is (for example) of such significance/potential that every effort must be made to excavate and record for posterity as much as possible before it is immanently destroyed.....
kevin wooldridge Wrote:I think I see where you are going David but the 'poll question' is not worded very well.


To be honest it makes perfect sense to me, and the incomprehension it seems to have provoked, to be the most disturbing thing. Of course, site reports should be based on post-ex analysis and be syntheses of the site that was discovered. If they're not, then please tell me what is actually happening?

However, having just re-read the question - perhaps I agree: recording should simply be a given, it should not be a choice between the one and the other. Equally, recording without time for the production of proper, analytical/synthetical post ex reports, is unacceptable. Perhaps someone could fill me in, or direct me to the main points of the new planning guidance to see what the problem is?
The point is that PPG 16 never made it clear what the scope of the developers responsibilities were. There was always an ambiguity about publication in particular. Best practice has meant using MPA 2 and working to research designs. PPS 6 in fact codifies best practice and thus should be welcomed as a good thing.

Good recording is a given – the issue is to what level. Building recording is done on this basis is below ground any different. This has led to some pretty strange situations with the below grounds remains being recorded but the above ground building not being recorded.

Clearly this is something that is debatable and in due course I/David will start a thread about this.

Gnome King
I think I disagree with much of what you said apart from your main point. Yes the point at where archaeological recording stops on a commercial job is the key issue.

However, it is possible to record without interpretation as
1)most excavations follow a pretty much standard project design.
2) The important analysis and interpretation happens in post-ex
3) Not all commercial sites can be understood - think a hole in a road for a water pipe directional drilling launch pit where bits of archaeology are recorded

Questions of objectivity are a moot point if a site is written up properly.

Also why should a client pay for a 'site' to be understood? Surely they should only pay to mitigate the damage they will cause. Also in this day and age of landscape archaeology, where does one site end and another start?

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