Under the Microscope: Scientific Applications in Developer-Funded Archaeology


The application of scientific techniques, such as radiocarbon dating or the analyses of stable isotopes and ancient DNA – amongst many others – to the study of archaeological sites and recovered remains is now relatively commonplace on commercial projects. In some cases, these are now requirements of planning conditions. At the same time, scientific techniques have undergone significant developments (especially in the last 10 years), the fast rate of which has meant that it can be difficult to keep up to date and understand the relevance of these changes to current practice. Thus, selecting the most appropriate type of scientific application and determining the size and type of sample (and understanding the results) can often be challenging. This is made harder by the fact that the techniques are destructive, so decisions must be balanced against safeguarding material for future research. Arguably, these issues are magnified in a commercial context, where timing and delivery are crucial and value for money is at the forefront of all developer-funded archaeological work.

This course will update delegates on the latest developments in scientific applications in archaeology. It will consider the latest techniques, current national guidance on destructive sampling, how techniques are being applied within developer-funded contexts, principles in the use of ‘hard science’ in relation to traditional archaeological practice, and the limitations of the techniques. The course is aimed at all archaeologists and historic environment professionals responsible for commissioning, specifying and/or delivering archaeological work programmes.

Programme details

08.45 Registration

09.15 Welcome and introduction

09.30 Dr Simon Mays (Historic England)

          Scientific applications in archaeology: guidance, ethics and potential

10.30 Coffee/Tea break

11.00 Dr Seren Griffiths (Manchester Metropolitan University)

         Scientific dating in archaeology

11.45 Dr Tom Booth (The Francis Crick Institute)

         People, their bones and their DNA

12.30 Lunch

13.30 Prof Janet Montgomery (Durham University)

         Isotope analysis: a cautionary tale

14.15 Andrea Bradley/John Halsted (HS2)

         Scientific applications from the consultant’s perspective

15.00 Coffee/Tea break

15.30 Nick Shepherd (NSP) and David Radford (Oxford City Council)

         Panel-led discussion

16:30 Course concludes


Description Costs
Tuition: in-person attendance £260.00
Baguette Lunch £6.10
Hot Lunch (3 courses) £16.50


Payment of fees must be made in full at the time of booking.

Please note that businesses and organisations can be invoiced on provision of a Purchase Order and completed application form. These can be emailed to the CWHE Programme Administrator, email: cwhe@conted.ox.ac.uk.


Dr Martyn Allen

Course Director

Senior Project Manager, Oxford Archaeology

Dr Louise Loe

Course Director

Head of Heritage Burials, Oxford Archaeology