• Michael Heaton

    Heritage Consultants

  • Project Management

  • Comprehensive site investigation to reduce uncertainty
  • rigorous 'post-excavation' assessment

Project Management


Archaeological projects and development projects have a great deal in common. In fact, leaving aside the massive differences in cost, they are mirror images of each other. A development project starts with a concept that is translated into detailed specifications and given material form through the site operations of contractors: an archaeological project commences (to all intents and purposes) with site operations, the results of which are detailed records and recovered materials that are translated into the concepts of narrative history and archaeological theory.  Both require a constant 'cutting of cloth'  - or 'value management' -to match expectations with resources and both grapple with the unexpected.  The two overlap on site: the time taken in designing and specifying a construction project is equivalent to the time taken analysing and publishing archaeological results. 

A competent construction project manager with experience of dealing with specialist contractors and a passing interest in archaeology or Time Team, could manage an archaeological project. The skills are the same and most of the issues would be familiar. But what he or she would find inexplicable is the almost complete dearth of academic and professional literature on the practice of archaeological project management.

Apart from English Heritage's Management of Archaeological Projects, which is explicitly intended for use on EH-funded 'backlog' post-excavation projects, and a few short articles, there is nothing.  There is no journal of archaeological practice. This is a symptom of the 'profession's' youth - the Institute for Archaeologists is barely 21 years old - and also of our inward-looking reluctance to learn from other professions and the market we operate in.

However, as a result of three years' involvement in the drafting of the ICE's 'Conditions of Contract for Archaeological Investigations' and studies in Building Surveying and Construction Project Management at the University of the West of England, we are able to bring the benefits of other peoples' experience in construction management to archaeological project management. The tenets of our approach are: Comprehensive site investigation to reduce uncertainty; the use of  the ICE Conditions of Contract to create an equitable balance of risk between Employer and Contractor; rigorous 'post-excavation' assessment to challenge the assumption that all archaeological data warrants formal analysis and publication; and the use of appropriate valuation methods to ensure predictability and transparency of cost for the Employer and reasonable return on investment for the Contractor.  Our thoughts on these subjects have been developed more fully in an ongoing series of articles published in The Archaeologist, the unexpurgated versions of the first of which are presented below. The third is the un-published script of an oral presentation delivered as coursework at UWE Bristol, the illustrations for which will be posted in due course, which will be of interest to non-archaeologists:

  • 'Costing the earth.....:the application of measured contract practices to archaeological excavation'. DOWNLOAD
  • 'Show me yours: cost comparison methods and archaeology' DOWNLOAD
  • 'Application of measured contract practices to archaeological contracting: Client needs.' DOWNLOAD