The application of scientific techniques, such as radiocarbon dating or the analyses of stable isotopes and ancient DNA – amongst many others – to the study of archaeological sites and recovered remains is now relatively commonplace on commercial projects. In some cases, these are now requirements of planning conditions. At the same time, scientific techniques have undergone significant developments (especially in the last 10 years), the fast rate of which has meant that it can be difficult to keep up to date and understand the relevance of these changes to current practice. Thus, selecting the most appropriate type of scientific application and determining the size and type of sample (and understanding the results) can often be challenging. This is made harder by the fact that the techniques are destructive, so decisions must be balanced against safeguarding material for future research. Arguably, these issues are magnified in a commercial context, where timing and delivery are crucial and value for money is at the forefront of all developer-funded archaeological work.
This course will update delegates on the latest developments in scientific applications in archaeology. It will consider the latest techniques, current national guidance on destructive sampling, how techniques are being applied within developer-funded contexts, principles in the use of ‘hard science’ in relation to traditional archaeological practice, and the limitations of the techniques. The course is aimed at all archaeologists and historic environment professionals responsible for commissioning, specifying and/or delivering archaeological work programmes.