Technical Discussion

On land across England, Scotland and Wales, there is no general system of licensing the process of archaeological excavation – all that is required is the landowner’s permission (with the exception of work on the small number of nationally designated Scheduled Ancient Monuments). The overwhelming majority of archaeological projects are instigated through the spatial planning process when permission is sought to change land use. This process does not place any quality control requirements upon the individuals carrying out the archaeological work, although it does have de facto post-excavation quality control requirements when the reports on their work are then submitted by the developers seeking redevelopment permission. As noted above, the existence of this system has meant that the UK Government (and national Governments in Scotland and Wales) has treated this as being sufficient to accommodate the requirements of the Convention.

In Northern Ireland, through the 1937 Ancient Monuments Act (Northern Ireland) excavations for archaeological purposes are restricted except under licence issued on behalf of the State (Foley 2006, 177) under the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order 1995. Because of this licence-granting system, Northern Ireland complies better with Article 3 of the Valletta Convention than any of the other constituent parts of the UK.