Response of Archaeological Sediments and Artefacts to Imposed Stress Regimes as a Consequence of Past Present and Future Anthropogenic Activity


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This project will link field archaeological site investigation with advanced laboratory techniques and theoretical models in soil mechanics, to examine how the stresses imposed as a consequence of loading and consolidation in urban environments affect the in situ preservation of archaeological remains. The work aims to:

  • Identify important locations for archaeological site preservation within Greater London where detailed work is in progress to establish recent site palaeo-history and associated stratigraphic architecture
  • Collect data and samples from sites with a good chronological and stratigraphic record.
  • Test site samples in the laboratory to generate the required geotechnical information, collect associated field data to quantify past consequences of overburden for a range of materials.
  • Use the data collected to quantify the future consequences of loading by construction activity for a range on anthropogenic and natural earth materials.
  • Synthesise field and laboratory data, and carry out laboratory testing on extracted artefacts
  • Determine the stress regime on artefacts by analysis of laboratory results, and provide quantitative information for the future preservation of remains at key sites.
  • Develop and disseminate recommendations relating site development strategies to potential impact on archaeological heritage in support of Government guideline PPG16.


Greater London


Existing sites will be identified in collaboration with Museum of London archaeologists, W.S. Atkins consultants and English Heritage. Detailed archaeological characteristics and a three dimensional stratigraphy will be established for each site. Samples will be collected from sections representative of the sedimentary materials present at each site and the physical properties of each of the materials sampled will be established. The consolidation and volume change characteristics will be established for each sediment. Sites will then be revisited and samples with in situ artefacts collected for stress testing. The artefacts will be submitted to laboratory measured loading and relaxation regimes to establish the consequences of varying stress regimes through time.

Start date/duration

October 1999 - Three Years

Lead Organisations

University of Durham

Museum of London


  • Provision of a data set and information on the effects of various site-related loading scenarios on in situ artefacts that will be of use to planning authorities, consultancy companies, civil engineers and developers.
  • Provision of a rigorous and quantifiable framework for future excavations, complementing and supporting PPG16(DoE, 1990) in identifying criteria for the preservation in situ of archaeological remains.



English Nature

Further details

Further information is available from the following contacts:

Lead Researcher: Dr R. Allison

Tel: 0191 374 2462, Fax: 0191 374 2456, email:

URGENT Programme Manager: Graham Leeks

Tel: 01491 692203, Fax: 01491 692313, e-mail: