Shifting ground: geologists, soil scientists and archaeologists

Authors and Affiliations: 

Cath Neal, University of York

Simon J. Price,  British Geological Survey


Monitoring and protecting the heritage landscape requires us to characterise a subsurface that represents, in some cases, thousands of years of settlement, industrialisation and urbanisation.  This is built upon geological foundations which influence the modes of settlement and landuse, and also impact significantly on the preservation potential and visibility of this buried resource. An interdisciplinary approach is the only way to successfully develop models which manage to tap the potential of the heritage landscape but many challenges still lie ahead. We would like to consider some of the challenges fundamental to working together robustly and creatively in the future which relate to conceptual, technical and visualisation issues.

An Anthropocene time period has recently been proposed, thus demonstrating the impetus for more holistic deposit and land use models (Zalasiewicz et al 2011, Price et al 2011). The categories different disciplines use to define types of deposits will need more careful and nuanced definition (and terminology) if they are to be usefully integrated and critically inform curatorial decision making. Moving from ubiquitous ‘made ground’, towards Carver’s (2003) categories of ‘preservation potential, spacing and deposit status’ and towards something that is equally valid for geological mapping and functional categories for public historic environment data requires sophisticated understanding. Incorporating different spatial scales can be achieved but this requires a consideration of the varied levels of data resolution and an appreciation of the differing agendas and drivers for the various disciplines involved.






Carver, M. 2003 Archaeological Value and Evaluation  Societā Archeologica Padana

Price, S. Ford, J. Cooper, A. and Neal, C. 2011 ‘Humans as major geological and geomorphological agents in the Anthropocene: the significance of artificial ground in Great Britain’ Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 13 A 13 vol. 369 no. 1938 1056-1084

Zalasiewicz, J. Williams, M. Haywood, I. and Ellis, M.  2011 ‘The Anthropocene: a new epoch of geological time?’ Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 13 vol. 369 no. 1938 835-841