Kent Archaeological Review Issue 18, Winter 1969 – Regional Archaeological Surveys (2): Further Investigation and Detailed Survey by Mike Ocock

Procedure for further investigations and a detailed survey of the area

  1. Divide the area into sub-areas e.g. parishes or 1 kilometre squares on OS maps or even fields.
  2. Examine the local authority’s development plan and other sources of informa tion on new building projects. 
  3. Decide which sub-areas should be given priority. Consider development plans, the number of known sites threatened with destruction, known sites and buildings not fully investigated, areas of particular archaeological importance and the summary of past research prepared for the area. (The following notes apply to each sub-area in turn.)
  4. Check all known documentary sources for relevant information. This will save a great deal of time in the field. The data that such a search reveals can often suggest useful lines of enquiry. Sources might include: a.Local histories and guides, especially early ones. b.Archives of all kinds, including title deeds, estate plans, title apportionment maps, etc. c.Unpublished records of local societies. d.Old prints, pamphlets and early photographs. e.Early maps, including early editions of the Ordnance Survey maps. f.Geological maps and guides. g.Air-photographs. h.Publications of the Kent Archaeological Society’s Records Committee. Where to find documentary sources of information: a.Museums. b.Libraries, including the Kent Archaeological Society’s library in Maidstone Museum. The Kent County library has a large and varried collection of books on the archaeology and history of Kent in its central library at Springfield, Sandling Road, Maidstone. c.Local societies’ records and libraries. d.Kent County Archives Office (County Hall, Maidstone. Telephone 54371 — ‘Archives enquiries’) is open to searchers during normal office hours. Searchers are requested to give notice of their intending visit and to state the nature of their request. Members of the staff will give help and advice especially if the purpose for which the information is required is explained. e.Other documents are available in the Library of the School of Military Engineering, Chatham, Lambeth Palace Library, Cathedral Library, Canterbury, Chapter Library, Rochester, Bridge Chapel, Rochester (archives of the Bridge Wardens and of Cobham College). f.Usually only large-scale air-photographs are of any use but small-scale photographs taken by the RAF at regular intervals are available for purchase by archaeologists under a scheme organised by the (CBA). Applications for prints stating the name of the area, map reference, approximate requirements concerning time of day and time of year, etc. and reasons for wanting the photographs (i.e. archaeological research), should be addressed to the Air Photographs Officer, Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Whitehall, London, SW1
  5. Prepare a sketch map for use by field-workers. This would include details of anything of interest which has been discovered during the search of documentary sources. 
  6. Carry out an initial field survey. Follow-up previous discoveries. Search every piece of ground, examine holes and cuttings, and record everything that may possibly prove interesting. Features to look for include: ◦Pieces of pottery, brick, tiles, etc. lying on the surface. ◦Concentration of building debris in a field. ◦Large numbers of oystershells. ◦Burnt earth and charcoal deposits. ◦Banks, mounds and other earthworks. ◦Sunken lanes or paths. ◦Lynchets on field boundaries and in open fields. ◦Crop marks (best seen from a height). ◦Unusual depressions. ◦Terrace ways. ◦Deneholes. ◦Boundary stones. ◦Old timber framed buildings. ◦Ruined churches and chapels. Other old buildings and ruins. For a comprehensive list of Field Antiquities see Collins Field Guide to Archaeology. Make notes on all interesting features and discoveries, try and determine their exact positions and mark them on the prepared sketch maps; include sketch plans if necessary. The finders should also include their names and the date. It is also very necessary to enlist the help and co-operation of local inhabitants especially farmers and other landowners and a great deal of valuable information can be obtained in this way besides the inevitable gossip which fortunately is often just as interesting. Remember that there is usually some fact behind local folk-lore. Ask about interesting finds which may have been made locally. A small exhibition at the local church fete would not only give publicity to the Group but would also provide an easy way to meet would-be helpers and informants.
  7. Examine all initial field survey reports and completed sketch maps and arrange to make a detailed survey of both the new features noted and the sites of previous discoveries. 
  8. Carry out detailed field surveys of all known sites and discoveries as well as new features discovered and prepare notes on each. The notes will initially be for the Group’s use but can later form the basis of a published report. Notes should be prepared on: a.Description of the site, feature or discovery. (Give plan and sketch map or prepare accurate plans and maps if necessary.) b.Location i.e. town or parish and National Grid Reference (must be as accurate as possible). c.Description of field-work carried out together with a full account of the results. The account of the results should include notes on any structures or features uncovered, stratification, description of finds, account of dating., evidence (if any) and an interpretation (if possible). d.Notes on the geology and topography including type of sub-soil, height above Ordnance Datum, description of surrounding area, description of present cultivation (if any). e.Place-names and field names and any folk-lore associated with the area. f.References to other sources of information such as photographs and early maps. g.Brief account of previous research (if any). Give exact location of previous discoveries. h.Known or possible threats to the site.
  9. 9.Excavations. Part of the detailed survey and investigation work will probably include geophysical and other surveys and inevitably some form of excavation will be required if definite evidence is to be produced and published. The excavations should be strictly limited and confined only to discovering the nature and approximate extent of the remains and probably the period to which the site belongs. The situation may, of course, call for emergency operations if destruction is a possibility but I suspect that often the temptation to extend the work is too strong and on the weakest of excuses the excavation is declared an emergency! There is too much to do in discovering new sites, recorded buildings and dealing with real emergencies without creating artificial ones. 
  10. Publish a report in the County archaeological journal. This is important not only because it is essential to use a publication which is relatively permanent but because even though further investigations may be planned some record should be published as soon as possible after a new discovery is made. No doubt the usual excuses can be found, “… the landowner doesn’t want the location published” “we can’t take the risk of other people disturbing the site before we have made further investigations and excavations …” I would suggest that the need to contribute to archaeological research overrides all the objections. It may be some considerable time before further work can be done by the local Group and there is no guarantee that they will necessarily be able to come back to the site at all. In the meantime, to ensure that a record is made and that an addition can be made to the archaeological picture, a brief note giving details of the location, must be published as any other research would be. We should, after all, have left behind us the days of the treasure seekers.

The Future

What do you do when you have completed a survey of your entire area? If you can be sure that you have left no stone unturned the answer is continual surveillance. New building projects, new plough land, woods grubbed up and buildings pulled down; all need watching, for new facts and discoveries will almost certainly come to light. And as well as those watching from the ground if someone can get into the air, continually changing conditions of soil and crops produce previously unseen cropmarks year after year which can be photographed.

Additional Reading