SLR preserving history

SLR Consulting, one of the UK's leading environmental consultancies, is carrying out pioneering scientific studies to advance understanding for preserving archaeological remains in situ.

Working with York Archaeological Trust and Cambridge Archaeological Unit at Must Farm, a clay pit operated by Hanson Building Products Ltd near Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire, SLR has been assessing the physical and chemical properties of the sediments that have preserved a Bronze Age timber platform and settlement to devise a strategy to protect them.

English Heritage and national policy presume that developers will prevent significant archaeological remains being destroyed by their development. With masonry structures this can mean avoidance of the remains, but with waterlogged organic remains, such as those found at Must Farm, the situation is complicated by the need to prevent them drying out, and prevent any change to the physical and chemical ground conditions in which the remains have survived.

Hanson’s land and planning manager Tim Darling said: “Although Must Farm is an active quarry, as soon as the remains were unearthed we agreed to leave the site out of the mineral extraction area, and to build a protecting bund between the works and the timber platform. This acted as a barrier to water flow, so that the ancient site could remain wet.

“Hanson also funded a detailed archaeological and scientific study of the site so that a management strategy in keeping with national guidelines could be formulated.”

SLR put together a management plan to safeguard the future of the 3,000 year old remains. The plan included a rigorous baseline testing programme of the soil and water levels and a monitoring scheme that is designed to alert the Hanson on-site team to any changes in the burial environment.

In addition to the Bronze Age timber platform built into a river, discoveries at Must Farm include whole pots with the residue of meals still inside as well as textiles and glass beads not previously found in Britain from such an early period.

SLR’s archaeology and heritage discipline manager Tim Malim said, “National planning guidance places a duty on developers to make sure they preserve important archaeological sites but it can be a daunting task as this is such a specialised area. Our approach is to devise realistic and pragmatic strategies and negotiate with national agencies so that our clients can be confident that they are compliant.”

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