The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) has approved an advice note which sets out the objectives and tasks necessary to achieve an effective post-excavation assessment (PXA), and the successful completion of archaeological projects generated by development controlled through the National Planning Policy Framework.
We hope that this will guide and inform all those involved in PXA and promote constructive discussion and liaison between planning advisors, the producers of PXAs and other stakeholders — the academic community, special interest groups and local communities.
After archaeological fieldwork, the potential of a site archive to contribute significantly to archaeological knowledge is assessed. The statement of significance and the proposal for further analysis largely determine the nature of the final report, how it will be disseminated and, very importantly, the resources required for this. Post-excavation assessment (PXA) is therefore a vital stage in the archaeological process.
While there is some common ground regarding the objectives of PXAs, there is considerable disparity in how they are produced, the level of detail included, and their accuracy — particularly in scoping and resourcing the extent and type of analyses to meet the publication objectives. This is because post-excavation assessment is often a highly complex process reflecting the nature of the archaeological evidence itself and can be open to a range of interpretations.
Although existing guidance by Historic England and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists provides an essential framework for PXA, further advice may help to provide a more ‘level playing field’ for contractors, to make the process of PXA easier and, crucially, less resource-intensive for both producers and users.