Environmental Archaeology


Environmental archaeologists analyse preserved organic material recovered from samples taken from archaeological investigations.
Biological remains are a rich source of archaeological information. By studying the minute, preserved remains of plants (such as charcoal, seeds and pollen) and animals (such as snails and microfossils), and buried soils and sediments, our environmental specialists reveal how people’s lives were influenced by and, in turn, altered the environments in which they lived and worked. Environmental remains provide evidence of a site’s ecology and hydrology, of its occupants’ subsistence activities from foraging to farming, of their craft and industrial activities and of their waste disposal.  
The environmental archaeologists who are part of our Geoservices Team, have specific areas of expertise which provide input at all stages in the archaeological process. They have access to fully equipped laboratory and processing facilities at our Salisbury Head Office which houses reference collections for all types of environmental evidence, an on-site flotation system and drying ovens. We can prepare pollen and micromorphology slides, and have ready access to university-based Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and palynology facilities. 
We can record and interpret soils and sediments on land and from the seabed, providing expert advice at the time of discovery. We also undertake surveys on land using techniques like augering, boreholes, magnetic susceptibility, and at sea using vibrocoring.
Land snails and microfossils such as foraminfera are key indicators for micro-environments and climate change. Having the expertise in-house means that the on-site sampling is directly correlated with sediments and stratigraphy.
Having in-house botantists and palynologists means that we also provide a complete service for identifying and reporting on all types of plant remains; from pollen to charcoal, from charred to mineralised plant remains.

Key Capabilities

  • Developing excavation sampling strategies
  • On-site environmental sampling
  • Post-excavation sample processing
  • Advice & selection of materials for radiocarbon & other dating
  • Report writing & publication
Assessment & Analysis:
  • Charred, waterlogged & mineralised plant remains
  • Wood charcoal & waterlogged wood
  • Marine shell
  • Land and fresh & brackish water snails
  • Ostracods & foraminfera
  • Pollen