Briefing 1249: Soil management and archaeological sites

This paper was prepared for RASE by Klara Spandl and Professor Dick Godwin. It reports research by Oxford Archaeology and Cranfield University funded by Defra and English Heritage looking at the identification of soil cultivation practices to minimise the impact on archaeological sites. The results and recommendations of this project are of interest not only to archaeologists and land managers, but also to soil conservationists.

Year of Publication2011

This article explains the different ways in which arable farming can damage below-ground archaeological sites and artefacts. Damage can result from running heavy loads across an archaeological site, especially in wet weather, from inverting the soil even to a consistent depth above where the archaeological deposits may lie, through gradual downward erosion over time. Subsoiling, deep ploughing, de-stoning and the growing of root and tuber crops are also very damaging. The work has come up with a number of soil management changes which could be made which would allow continued cultivation of the archaeological site but would also provide better protection to the archaeological resource.

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