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Burial Environments & Preservation in Situ

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


Research by Dr Chris Caple in the 1990’s on the waterlogged anoxic environments which preserve archaeological remains, produced the first data on the water chemistry of these environments. The ability to monitor these environments and produce reliable estimates of the rate and causes of decay is essential if we are to successfully preserve artefacts in situ. In recent years the results of this earlier research have been incorporated into teaching on preservation in situ (Level III undergraduate and postgraduate modules).

In 2016 a textbook to go with this course ‘Preservation of Archaeological Remains In Situ’ was written by Dr Caple and published by Routledge. This book provides the first holistic appreciation of the subject, exploring why people seek to preserve archaeological sites and the methods used for preserving terrestrial sites from rock art and masonry buildings to caves and waterlogged deposits. Techniques such as shelters, reburial and visitor management are discussed and key papers in the development of the subject from Darwin on earthworms to Ashurst on ruins is included.

Research in this area has included work with Melanie Rimmer producing the first reliable estimate of the rate of loss of metal artefacts, through corrosion and site loss, from scheduled ancient monuments (19 million objects per annum) (Rimmer & Caple 2008).

Book cover titled Preservation of Archaeological Remains in situ