What is archaeology?

Hadrian's wall from Hotbank Crags © Paul Wakefield

Hadrian's wall from Hotbank Crags

Our team of archaeologists work to preserve our historic landscapes and ancient monuments, from ritual sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury through to the Roman Housesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall.

What do archaeologists do?
Archaeologists record, interpret and conserve the historic environment, and are experts in ‘reading’ the landscape using:

  • field surveys
  • documentary research
  • excavations
  • geophysical surveys
  • building analysis
  • palaeo-environmental sampling
  • landscape characterisation
  • mapping

At the National Trust all this detective work comes under the banner of our archaeological and historic landscape survey programme. Through the programme, we make exciting new discoveries about our landscapes and ancient monuments, continually developing our understanding of them and ensuring we present them to you in a sympathetic and authentic way.

In short, we’re documenting history and preserving it for future generations.

Our archaeology team

  • Central advisers and regional archaeologists work on property or site-based projects.
  • On a wider scale, our archaeologists work with a range of other organisations to create regional strategies and national policies.
  • Consultant archaeologists are dedicated to specific large projects on a dedicated but temporary basis.
  • Our Archaeology Panel is made up of senior archaeologists who volunteer their time and advice to debate and resolve issues and to form policy.

Working with others
Our archaeologists do a lot of work with partners and other professional bodies on properties that have been designated as having particular archaeological significance.

Many of our sites have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, including Fountains Abbey and Studeley Royal Water Garden, Stonehenge, Avebury, Hadrian’s Wall & Housesteads Fort, Cornish Mines & Engines, and Levant Mine & Bean Engine - these sites are managed through consultation and partnership with UNESCO.

Other sites are in Guardianship or are designated as Scheduled Monuments, and we manage these places in consultation with English Heritage, CADW or the Environment & Heritage Service (Northern Ireland).

We also work with other organisations on Partnership Projects, where work, funding and benefits are shared by different partners. Examples of Partnership Projects are a proposed survey of the English coastline, an archaeological assessment of the medieval town of Winchelsea, a survey of the Malvern Hills, and specialist surveys of industrial sites in the Lake District.