The professional body for archaeologists

This may seem a million miles away from what you’d expect an archaeologist to be doing, but it is essential to ensure that the profession continues to develop and can provide a (yet) better service to the public and developers. And that’s the job of the Institute for Archaeologists (www.archaeologists.net).

So far today I have prepared a short statement welcoming the release of a planning advice note from Scottish Government. This is an update of a 17-year old document setting out the roles and responsibilities of developers and local authorities when it comes to archaeology. I was involved on behalf of the Institute for Archaeologists in an advisory/drafting panel convened by Scottish Government, and it’s very reassuring to see that nearly all of our recommendations have been included. It’s a big improvement over the earlier draft because it now makes clear that the work developers pay for should be done to quality standards, and there’s the biggest steer possible short of actually saying it (governments are always cautious about this) that work should be done by IfA Registered Organisations. So we’re moving away from simple compliance to a concern about quality.

Meanwhile, in England, I have been preparing comments on the consultation draft of the new National Planning Policy Framework, released with a fanfare (and an IfA soundbite in media release) on Monday. This document replaces all the existing government documentation about developer archaeology is secured. Again we have had lots of official and unofficial input into the process, but you can never be quite sure if the document to be released looks like the last official draft, the last official leaked draft, the last unofficially leaked draft or nothing you’ve seen before. In fact, it’s got most of the good bits in that we wanted, but with colleagues I’ve spotted some areas that need to be strengthened. And we’ll need other documents to explain how it’s to be interpreted – we’ve started already – in order to ensure, once again, that archaeological work is undertaken whenever its necessary (and never when it isn’t), as is of good quality every time.

And I’ve attended a meeting of our specialist group responsible for illustration and survey. They’ll be making sure that we provide all the services that are needed for these critically important parts of our discipline, and that we continue the good work of the Association of Archaeological Illustrators and Surveyors, which voted to merge with IfA last month.

And this evening I shall be doing what so many paid archaeologists do – no, not downing beers in the pub (though I might), but preparing to be a volunteer archaeologist at the weekend, guiding visitors to the archaeological excavation at Woking Palace, on behalf of the Friends of Woking Palace (www.woking-palace.org/index.htm), as part of the Festival of British Archaeology. Why not visit?

Peter Hinton, Chief Executive, IfA

RCAHMS – Susan Dibdin IfA Bursary in Building Recording

My name is Susan Dibdin and I am on the IfA bursary in Building Recording at RCAHMS for 12 months. I’m actually about 9 months through my placement now.

For the first 6 months of my placement I was working on the Threatened Building programme and through that I visited a lot of different threatened buildings throughout Scotland. We do desk-based research before visiting a site, and during field work make a decision on what should be recorded and which way if best to do to – whether it’s by photographic survey or a graphical survey.

I’ve moved onto the Urban Survey program, and I’m currently working on an urban characterisation study of Bo’ness. This involves sorting the town into different character areas based on historical development and topography as well as current day characteristics.

As part of the Urban Survey we’ll also update the Canmore record with new photography of Bo’ness – streetscapes as well as individual buildings. That’s actually what I’ve been doing today – I’ve put through 25 requisitions for individual building photography and I’ve also requisitioned general street views of the 18 character areas. That means that our professional photographers will know where to take the photographs!

Once the photographs have been taken and processed they’ll go into Canmore and I’ll work on captioning these. Today I also received a batch of aerial photographs from the photographers, which help to illustrate the street patterns etc. These will also form part of the characterisation study report to explain the character of the different areas of Bo’ness and how the towns developed over the centuries.

Busy day!

It’s been a busy day so far. The meeting with AAI&S has now finished, and was very successful. Look out for a press release about the merger. We’ve also been making some exciting plans for next year’s Conference (which will be in Oxford 18 – 20 April).

I’ve organised an inspection panel for a organisation that’s applied to become Registered with us, and we’re continuing to write up the benchmarking reports for those of our current Registered Organisations who need to reregister this year (they do so every two years, to make sure they’re still operating as we expect them to). I’m also getting some last minute nomination forms in from people eager to be on the Buildings Archaeology Group’s committee, and rounded up what training courses our groups have done this year for Alex, who’s writing the Annual Report at the moment. I’m currently typing up the last edits on the text of The Archaeologist for our designer, as that will go to press next month. This issue is the conference round-up. A copy of the new ‘Londinium’ map has just arrived on my desk for review (in the following edition I suspect). It’s very good, Kirsten’s just showed me the iphone app. I like the one-finger excavation technique!

Earlier today we released an exciting statement about the new Scottish government planning advice note. We are particularly pleased with the stipulation that archaeological work required through the planning process should conform to the relevant IfA Standards and guidance, and the emphasis that work should be done by ‘a professionally competent organisation or consultant’, with IfA is identified as having a Register of professionally accredited organisations.

The phone’s been busier than it has been all week, which is unusual for a Friday. I might need some more coffee….


RCAHMS – Hannah Smith IfA Bursary in Information Management

Well it’s a bit of a cheat as ‘technically’ on the 29th I’ll be blogging all of the RCAHMS contributions for Day of Archaeology, so I’ve made my own contribution early!

I’ve been at RCAHMS for 5 months working with the Data and Recording section. I’m lucky enough to be here on a funded IfA/HLF bursary which allows me to get involved in a number of different projects to provide training and workplace learning. However at the moment I’ve been working on the Defining Scotland’s Places project (when I’m not blogging for Day of Archaeology that is!) which aims to create site area polygons for existing records. These polygons will effectively create an intelligent map containing attributes and information about the site itself. To create the extent polygons, a number of sources are consulted such as aerial photography, Ordnance Survey mapping both current and historic, RCAHMS 1:10,000 record sheets as well as information created from field surveys. All of these sources are taken into account to determine the most accurate site extent.

I’ve been working on polygonising the Western Isles and I’m currently focussing on Harris. The map shows the areas which have been polygonised already as part of the project (seen in pink).

Both RCAHMS and Western Isles local authority records are available so the project provides an opportunity for concordance between the two sets of records as well.

In essence the project creates a new intelligent map which has been digitised from a combination of other sources including the record summaries which give details of the site.

Polygons are a closed shape which define an area. They provide far more information about the site than a simple dot on a map. The polygons are also flexible enough to be created for any type of site. Even at a glance polygons allow for a much more understandable map of the sites already recorded in Scotland and can be further interrogated for more detail and information.

This new data provides a much more visual understanding of the sites and their surrounding landscape. I’ve been learning a lot about the landscape of the Western Isles during this project which will no doubt come in handy when I visit the area in a few weeks to give a download of the data created so far to the Western Isles archaeologist.

For more information on the specific details of this project see the RCAHMS website.

More examples of the work being produced by the project:

Defining Scotland’s Places Heritage Asset Map

Defining Scotland’s Places Heritage Asset Map 2

Defining Scotland’s Places Heritage Asset Map 3