Archaeological test excavation is a pre-development investigative strategy employed to ascertain the potential of sub-surface archaeology. It is frequently a requirement of planning authorities and is employed where a site scheduled for development is either in a known or recorded zone of archaeological potential, is close to known archaeology or if the development is of such a large size that there is an real possibility of archaeological presence. Large developments such as quarries, road schemes or large housing developments often require this strategy. This is one of the most effective ways to clarify the archaeological potential of a site.
This cost-effective approach ensures that should archaeology be present, a mitigation strategy is incorporated in the development so that the client is not subject to inordinate costs and delays to construction from what would have been an otherwise unexpected intervention. Use of large mechanical excavators to strip targeted locations under the careful supervision of a suitably qualified archaeologist, ensures that the best archaeological practices are employed. Any archaeological discovered features are then surveyed and recorded.
A sample of the archaeological features are then hand-excavated, enough to allow the clear identification of the phases of human occupation on the site. The sampling level is agreed in consultation with the National Monuments Service through the issuing of a legally required archaeological license for the site. This usually involves a lower level of sampling than that required in full excavation with lower cost implications.