What is Archaeology? Why does it matter?

Archaeology is the study of past human cultures through the analysis of material remains (landscapes, sites, monuments / buildings and artefacts) that people have left behind. In some countries this may include the earliest evidence of human activity to the present day, in others there may be a cut-off date after which remains are not considered to be archaeology. Archaeological remains can include upstanding and ruined buildings, earthworks, buried sites, extant and buried landscapes, artefacts and palaeo-environmental remains, on land and underwater. Archaeological remains may be encountered almost anywhere and may have implications for most types of development site.

Archaeological remains are part of our shared cultural heritage. Their study helps us to understand the world around us at a local, national and international level through developing our understanding of how that world has developed. Understanding the archaeological remains and landscapes around us, often referred to as the historic environment, contributes to our sense of identity and place and helps us engage and interact with our communities. Archaeological remains are environmental assets and should be considered as part of sustainable development policies. They are also non-renewable; once damaged or removed they cannot be replaced and their potential to enhance our understanding of past human cultures is lost.

By developing a better understanding of archaeology, its terminology and the way it is carried out, construction engineers will be able to understand the archaeological process better and integrate archaeological considerations more effectively into the development programme. Better integration of archaeological considerations into the development process has the potential to save both time and money but may also have other, public relations benefits for the developer such as generating favourable publicity for the development, showing a commitment to sustainable development and generation of community support .