Archaeological Impact Assessment
Impact assessments are commonly requested within the planning process either as independent reports or as part of an overall environmental impact assessment (EIA). Archaeological impact assessments are used to determine what effect (positive, negative or visual) a given development might have on archaeological remains.
The zone of archaeological potential is usually informed by known archaeological monuments have been recorded. Where development projects are of a significant scale, an AIA may be required as a necessary stage.
The impact assessment will always include a desktop survey (full examination of documentary sources, maps etc.) and a site survey but may also consist of licensed test trenching and/or geophysical survey. Where other types of investigation are required these are normally outlined in the request for such an assessment.
Where archaeology has been identified and all measures have been taken to avoid and protect the remains, Archaeological Excavation may become necessary. This is the aspect with which people are generally most familiar and involves the meticulous recording of archaeological features through mapping, drawing, sampling, photography and a detailed written account of the soils and procedures undertaken. In the Republic of Ireland, all Archaeological Excavation is licensed through the Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the National Museum of Ireland.
Munster Archaeology has achieved a high standard of archaeological excavation and its director has been licensed to do so since 2005. Large scale projects often require significant levels of staff and we have shown flexibility in forming the best team for a given job. The successful and efficient excavation of an archaeological site prevents undue delays, avoids unnecessary costs and protects from legal objections to the project in the future.
The archaeological excavation does not end with field-work however. After the actual excavation there is always some level of post-excavation analysis and reporting. Often this stage is not outlined clearly to potential clients (who are subsequently legally obliged to cover these costs). This work covers everything from radiocarbon-dating to artefacts specialists and illustrators, as well as the team who compile the final report. At Munster Archaeology, the cost of post-excavation analysis is always estimated to clients, prior to actual excavation.
Monument Survey & Landscape Assessment
Landscape archaeology is a fundamental aspect of almost every archaeological project. It is always best to place a site or monument within its landscape context. To this end, landscape and monument surveys are a major strength of Munster Archaeology and Aidan Harte is certified in Landscape Assessment by the Heritage Council of Ireland (2010).
The landscape component is usually surveyed using a differential GPS in conjunction with aerial photography, while more specific monuments are surveyed using Total Station. Munster Archaeology has an in-house GPS specialist with experience on a range of projects. Hand-drawn scaled plans and profiles of specific monuments are also a primary tool in archaeology generally. We also supply low-cost, professional solutions for aerial photography (both oblique and vertical) through our colleagues at Aerialphoto. We also frequently work alongside Landmark surveyors and illustrators to meet whatever requirements are necessary.
Landscape is increasingly considered a legal entity within European law, which necessitates such work prior to or during development.
GIS mapping & analysis
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are now a common means of archaeological management and analysis. It primarily consists of maps which are dynamically linked to databases. Therefore the information recorded within a database can be accurately displayed on maps (and visa versa).
Munster Archaeology has extensive experience in the use of GIS and has created systems for cross-governmental bodies, independent research and academic institutions. The surveys used to build the GIS, consists of desktop surveys and GPS-based landscape surveys.
The analysis of data is dependant on the use to which the GIS are put, but this method is invaluable to archaeological research and heritage management. A. Harte has completed a Landscape Assessment certificate through the Heritage Council of Ireland. Furthermore, we have successfully implemented Historic Landscape Characterisations (HLC) on two projects in Ireland and the UK.
Heritage Project Design
Heritage projects are increasingly more common in post- Celtic-tiger Ireland. Their origin can be from community-led projects with backing from local authorise or part EU funded schemes or directly from local authorities and government departments. Munster Archaeology has been involved as a consultant in a number of such projects from exhibitions, to feasibility studies and management plans.
As a heritage consultant, Munster Archaeology offers a range of specialism including historical research, route selection processing, risk assessment, conservation, tourism potential and heritage signage. Heritage signage and other text (e.g. web-sites) can be in both English and Irish, and design templates for signage or brochures are delivered in the highest standard.
As most heritage projects have very specific requirements, a unique methodology would be produced in each instance. For more information or details on such a methodology please do not hesitate to contact us.
A range of specialist archaeological services can be conducted by, or arranged by, Munster Archaeology. These include a number of disciplines and are conducted by qualified sub-contractors who are considered leaders in their respective fields. Most of this specialist analysis is only required subsequent to excavation or testing, but sometimes they are needed prior to the main archaeological work. Specialist archaeologists available include Archaeo-Osteologists (human remains), Forensic Archaeologists (search/recovery), Archaeological Illustrators (artefacts and site drawings), Underwater Archaeologists and Geophysicists (geophysical surveys). We also have an excellent aerial photography service supplied at competitive rates from Aerialphoto.
Archaeological Testing & Monitoring
Both testing and monitoring for archaeological remains can be requested by Local Authorities within the planning process, as either stand-alone investigations or part of a wider archaeological impact assessment.
Archaeological Testing (or test-trenches) is required where a development site is placed within, or near, an area of known archaeological importance (or is of substantial extent). Such a requirement is usual where the exact nature and extent of archaeological features are unknown, but there is a registered monument nearby. The procedure for testing basically consists of excavating trenches (by machine) across areas where the development will have substantial impact on the ground or where archaeological features are most likely to be found. The process identifies areas where archaeology is present or not present and this is reported to the relevant authorities. Where archaeology is encountered, the licensed Archaeologist will advise on a mitigation strategy to the relevant authorities. Archaeological Testing is always licensed under the National Monuments Service of the Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Archaeological Monitoring, sometimes called a ‘watching-brief’, essentially means that a suitably qualified Archaeologist is on-site during any initial ground disturbance. Where a development is sufficiently large or within an archaeologically sensitive area, archaeological monitoring can often be required. It may also be recommended after an archaeological impact assessment or testing report. The process in its simplest form is the removal of topsoil until sub-soil is reached. Any deposits/soils between these two layers are deemed archaeological in nature, at which point the work must stop pending a decision from the National Monuments Service. The only stipulation is that the excavator machine be equipped with a grading bucket rather that a toothed one. Also, an archaeological license is usually required from the Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht before any ground disturbance takes place. The purpose of monitoring topsoil removal is to identify any potential archaeological sites and report the results to the relevant authorities. Should archaeology be encountered, then the licensed Archaeologist will advise the Developer and the relevant authorities on potential mitigation strategies. Munster Archaeology has successfully completed numerous monitoring and testing projects nationwide and has a proven track-record in protecting the archaeological heritage of each site while advancing the development project. A full register of recorded monuments can be consulted at