Heritage asset management – and why sometimes archaeology has to be a bit secret!

As the Planning Archaeologist for Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service I work as part of a team providing heritage asset management advice to local planning authorities, developers, consultants and archaeological contractors. This can take the form of advice on the possible impact of proposed developments on the historic environment and the requirements for archaeological work to be carried out through the planning process both ahead of, and during, developments.

Another aspect of my job involves monitoring the work being carried out by archaeological contractors in Norfolk – making sure that archaeological projects are carried out to the appropriate standards from the design stage, through the fieldwork and reporting, right through to the archiving and publication.

This morning a colleague and I were out of the office at a site meeting to discuss a current excavation of an important archaeological discovery ‘somewhere in Norfolk’. The meeting involved the archaeological and construction contractors and representatives from the organisations funding the construction work. Discussions focussed on the significance of the discovery, the progress of the excavation and the requirements for post-excavation analysis and conservation of the archaeological remains.

All very well, but you are probably wondering what these archaeological remains are and where in Norfolk they are being excavated? That unfortunately is where this part of my post has to fall silent for now and here’s why. It may seem strange on Day of Archaeology to talk of archaeological fieldwork needing to be carried out in relative secrecy but this is sometimes the case. During the process of excavation archaeological sites can be vulnerable to accidental damage by interested visitors, deliberate vandalism by disinterested visitors or the removal of artefacts – most likely through illegal metal detecting. Consequently it is sometimes necessary for details of archaeological discoveries to be kept quiet until after the fieldwork has been completed. In this particular case not only does the fragility of the archaeological remains place them at risk of damage but the archaeological work is taking place within an active construction site where unaccompanied public access would present a serious health and safety issue.

It is likely that the current phase of archaeological fieldwork will be completed within the next week after which there will be a press release with full details of the archaeological remains. If you want to find out more about this exciting discovery keep an eye on our Twitter feed @NorfolkHES or Facebook page www.facebook.com/NorfolkHES and we will share the news item as soon as it’s available!

James Albone, Planning Archaeologist, Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service