Case Study

The site that was to become Terminal 5 was at Perry Oaks, a sludge works immediately west of Heathrow Airport, located between runways one and two. This was a very large, open-area investigation - “21 hectares were exposed in a single phase in 1999, making it one of the largest open area excavations at the time.” (Framework Archaeology, 2006: 2).

Organisationally and intellectually, this archaeological project was different from any predecessor. The client wanted to set new benchmarks for construction standards inspired by Rethinking Construction (Egan, 1998), and designed an approach to all aspects of the project that minimised and shared risk by encouraging teams to be formed from different companies to work on subprojects.

The ‘T5 Agreement’ (BAA, n.d.) was the result, a legally binding contract between BAA and its key suppliers. Through the agreement BAA accepted that it carried all of the risk for the construction project, thus allowing the contractors to concentrate on the project and solving problems rather than avoiding possible litigation for problems arising and time delays.

The archaeological contractors used this as an opportunity to work together and to develop an entirely new approach to fieldwork recording and interpretation.

Previously, the accepted guide for archaeological project management, MAP2 (EH, 1991) sought to defer historical interpretation by separating post-excavation analysis from excavation. The Framework system sought to reintegrate interpretation ‘at the trowel’s edge’. Gill Andrews, as the project consultant, and John Barrett, who had previously considered that to regard the point of data characterisation “… as the end point of our labours or as material which can await interpretation by others, is an abdication of our responsibility” (1995: 8-9), together defined a new methodology of investigation. This aimed to empower “… members of the excavation team to undertake historical research, rather than to require them simply to record archaeological deposits prior to their destruction” (Andrews, Barrett and Lewis, 2000: 526).

The work carried out at Heathrow was chronologically deep and led to the interpretation of a landscape, rather than just a site. This extended from the Palaeolithic through to the construction of a monumental cursus in the Neolithic, changing use of the land in late prehistory and Roman periods, and extending into the medieval and then post-medieval.