Archaeologists are specialists who study and work in the field of past human activity. This is done primarily through the recovery and analysis of material and environmental features, such as artifacts, architecture and cultural landscapes. The main aim of archaeologists is to facilitate long-term conservation and enhance understanding of historic environments.
Archaeological consultants often work for engineering companies, providing services such as environmental impact assessments, impact mitigation and design services. Construction developers may seek their advice on how to proceed with issues relating to the archaeological and heritage aspects of a project. Local authorities, national agencies or the private sector may engage them for specialist research purposes.
The practice of archaeology is not regulated by Government. The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), is the leading professional body representing archaeologists working in the UK and overseas, and it regulates the members and promotes professional standards.
Becoming an archaeologist usually requires a university degree, and it is increasingly common to study for a post-graduate degree. There are a wide range of postgraduate degrees in archaeology; some offer courses of study (taught courses), while others are based largely on independent research.
Unlike other professions such as surveying or architecture, there are no formal steps to chartered status for archaeologists. However, the CIfA has announced its intention to begin consulting its members and the sector on the desirability of conferring chartered status on suitabl;y qualified members.
 The role of the archaeologist
The typical role of an archaeologist may include:
- Archaeological surveys.
- Understanding geographical – both physical and human – considerations.
- Report writing and publication of findings.
- Provision of management considerations to relevant authorities.
- Public consultation and community liaison.
- Facilitating the preservation of heritage sites.
- Working with a broad range of other specialists from other subject areas, such as; history, geography, biology, chemistry, sociology, and so on.
- Research in order to understand historical contexts, accurately assess sites of heritage significance, and advise developers and other stakeholders.
 Planning and development
Legislation and policy relating to archaeology and the built environment is constantly evolving. Archaeological consultants are often sought by clients to understand the legal context for the archaeological work. UK legislation, planning policy, European legislation and guidance from government and non-governmental organisations, provide the framework for the historic environment.
Protection of archaeological remains, including historic buildings, has been a part of the British planning systems since the early 1990s and is now addressed by Section 12 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). All designers of refurbishment or extension projects affecting 'historic' buildings, and all designers of new buildings within areas that the local planning authority (LPA) believes to be archaeologically sensitive, should be aware of the requirements of the NPPF and the preceding planning guidance statutory instruments it is based on - in particular; PPG16 (1990), PPG14 (1994) and PPS5 (2010).
The NPPF makes clear that '...there will be archaeological interest in a heritage asset if it holds, or potentially may hold, evidence of past human activity worthy of expert investigation at some point. Heritage assets with archaeological interest are the primary source of evidence about the substance and evolution of places, and of the people and cultures that made them.'
- Communication with planning authorities and agencies.
- Desk-based resource assessment.
- Field investigations.
- Reporting to the local authority on the results of investigations.
- Seeking planning permission.
- In the case of significant remains, recording or conserving them in advance of, or during, development.
- Analysis and interpretation of the results, with publication of findings.
- Community or public engagement.
- Archiving documentation, research material, and so on.
Under the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015, archaeology is no longer considered to be ‘construction work’, despite much of the pre-construction work being of a similar nature. However, archaeological works are covered by legislation such as The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the PRovision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, and so on.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Archaeological officer
- Conservation area
- Designated areas
- English Heritage
- Historic England
- Listed buildings
- National Planning Policy Framework
- Planning permission
- Scheduled monuments
- Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings