Oxford Archaeology

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Oxford Archaeology Limited
Charity, Private company limited by guarantee
Industry Archaeology
Cultural Heritage
Founded 1973 (1973)
Headquarters Oxford, UK
Number of locations
Oxford, Lancaster, Cambridge (As of June 2011)
Number of employees
250 (2014)[1]
Website www.oxfordarchaeology.com

Oxford Archaeology (OA, trading name of Oxford Archaeology Limited) is one of the largest and longest-established independent archaeology and heritage practices in Europe, operating from three permanent offices in Oxford, Lancaster and Cambridge, and working across the UK. OA is a Registered Organisation with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), and carries out commercial archaeological fieldwork in advance of development, as well as a range of other heritage related services. Oxford Archaeology primarily operates in the UK, but has also carried out contracts around the world, including Sudan, Qatar, Central Asia, China and the Caribbean. Numbers of employees vary owing to the project-based nature of the work, but in 2014 OA employed over 220 people.

The registered head office is in Osney Mead, Oxford, southern England; this address is also the base for OA South. Other offices are OA North in Lancaster, northern England, OA East in Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire, eastern England. For a short time, OA had offices in Mauguio (OA Méditerranée), southern France and Caen (OA Grand Ouest), northern France.

Oxford Archaeology South (OAS)[edit]

In the late 1960s, the recently created Oxford City and County Museum led the archaeological response to a development boom in Oxfordshire. However, the museum lacked the resources to tackle the rescue crisis alone. The museum's answer was to form independent excavation committees in response to specific development threats, starting in Oxford in 1967. These committees were registered charities with public benefit at the heart of their purpose. They employed short-term contract staff, supplemented by volunteer diggers.

Soon a number of committees were operating, which tended to have the same governing members drawn from Central and Local Government, Oxford University and local archaeological societies. They also competed for the same funds. A consensus rapidly emerged that this duplication was wasteful and that all the committees should pool their resources to provide a county-wide service for archaeological research, using the opportunities presented by development. Thus the Oxfordshire Archaeological Committee and its executive arm, the Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit, came into existence in 1973.[2]

In the following years, the company adjusted flexibly to changing conditions, and expanded outside the county (hence the change in name to the Oxford Archaeological Unit). It also became a limited liability company, adjusted to new funding streams, and it embraced new methods and technologies. The company began trading as Oxford Archaeology in 2001.

Recent notable excavations include the excavation of prehistoric flint scatters and a Roman bloomery at the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road,[3] and a WWI mass grave of Australian soldiers at Fromelles.[4]

Oxford Archaeology North (OAN)[edit]

The Lancaster University Archaeological Unit (LUAU), together with its staff, became the northern office of Oxford Archaeology on 1 November 2001. This followed a decision that the needs of a professional archaeological unit could no longer be best served by its continuance within the university. OAN continued the wide range of work undertaken in the past, from desk-based assessments, through evaluation and rapid surveys of both the landscape and the built and industrial environments, to major excavations. Particular specialisations are upland survey and the excavation and recording of standing industrial remains.

Since the merger, OAN has worked on a great number of important sites across northern England, and brought most of them to publication. These include the infrastructure projects on the A1(M), and the Carlisle North Development Route (CNDR) [5] with its amazing waterlogged prehistoric remains and lithic assemblage. Other important sites include the Viking cemetery at Cumwhitton [6] and excavations at Furness Abbey [7] where a high-ranking clergyman was identified. Since the North was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, the unit investigates everything from factories and mills to miner's houses.

Oxford Archaeology East (OAE)[edit]

In 2008, Cambridgeshire County Council's Field Unit, CAMARC, joined Oxford Archaeology as its third regional centre. CAMARC itself was a recently revised name for an organisation that had been given a variety of titles over more than 20 years of existence. Its lineage started in the early 1980s with Manpower Services Commission-funded community programme projects, and it continued to carry out developer-funded work in the mid-80s as the 'Archaeological Field Unit'.

OAE continues to deliver major programmes for infrastructure projects and for smaller-scale developments in both rural and urban areas. Its large rural landscape projects include complex Middle Bronze Age field systems, enclosures and settlements at Clay Farm, Trumpington. Recent urban schemes include the Itter Crescent Roman villa excavation in Peterborough [8] and excavations of Victorian and Medieval settlement relating to Stourbridge Fair at Harvest Way, Newmarket Road, Cambridge.[9]


Having published some 200 monographs, reports and booklets, Oxford Archaeology has established itself as a major publisher of archaeological reports with the production of monograph series,[10] such as Thames Valley Landscapes and Lancaster Imprints, and contributions to other major series, including East Anglian Archaeology Reports.[11] OA has also produced many ‘popular’ publications, pamphlets and booklets written in a less technical style.[12]

Publications include Yarnton: Iron Age and Romano-British Settlement and Landscape,[13] which describes the Iron Age and Roman occupation of a multi-period landscape on the floodplain and gravel terrace of the River Thames, Archaeology at the Waterfront: 1: Investigating Liverpool's Historic Docks,[14] which presents the findings of the largest campaign of archaeological investigation yet undertaken along Liverpool’s historic waterfront by Oxford Archaeology North and the National Museums Liverpool Field Archaeology Unit, ‘Remember me to all’: The archaeological recovery and identification of soldiers who fought and died in the Battle of Fromelles, 1916,[15] which describes Oxford Archaeology's contribution to a joint Australian and British government mission, under the management of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to recover the soldiers and re-bury them with full military honours in a new Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Fromelles, and Broughton, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire: The evolution of a South Midlands landscape,[16] which reports on extensive excavations near the village of Broughton on the outskirts of Milton Keynes that revealed the fluctuating fortunes of neighbouring settlements from the Iron Age to the medieval period.

Oxford Archaeology has contributed many archaeology reports and research papers to county, national and period archaeological journals.[17]

In addition, as part of its commitment to open access for archaeological data, Oxford Archaeology has developed the OA Library, an online resource used to disseminate digital material, including ‘grey literature’ client reports grey literature online,[18] selected monographs, and supporting archives produced by Oxford Archaeology. It also makes available internally developed software on the Launchpad site under the umbrella project Open Archaeology.[19]

Charitable aims and outreach[edit]

A registered charitable trust[20] with educational aims, OA has various outreach and community archaeology projects running alongside its commercial work. All three offices engage in outreach and public engagement, with a particular focus at OAE. Recent highlights include the volunteer dig at Maryport Roman settlement [21] and the Jigsaw Cambridgeshire project which trains and supports local archaeology societies across Cambridgeshire [22]

OA Digital[edit]

In 2008 OA started to offer services in the digital arena, using internally developed skills to provide material and resources, particularly GIS- and web-based, under the brand name OA Digital.


  1. ^ Charity Commission. Oxford Archaeology, registered charity no. 287786. 
  2. ^ "The Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit | Cambridge Core". Journals.cambridge.org. 2015-01-01. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00054338. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  3. ^ "Flint scatters and other prehistoric discoveries beneath Bexhill-Hastings link road". Oxford Archaeology. 2014-03-15. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  4. ^ Bhattacharya, Shaoni (2014-11-05). "Mass grave tells tales of life on the Forgotten Front". New Scientist. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12361. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  5. ^ "Carlisle Northern Development Route | Archaeological Post-Excavation Project". Cndr.thehumanjourney.net. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  6. ^ "Norse Burials at Cumwhitton - in depth". Thehumanjourney.net. 2004-04-23. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  7. ^ "Furness Abbey, Cumbria". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  8. ^ "Roman villa 'rare and important for Peterborough' says archaeologist". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  9. ^ "oaeast news". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  10. ^ "Monographs and books". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  11. ^ "East Anglian Archaeology". Eaareports.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  12. ^ "Popular publications". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  13. ^ "Yarnton: Iron Age and Romano-British Settlement and Landscape". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 2015-02-19. 
  15. ^ "Remember me to all". Oxford Archaeology. 1916-07-20. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  16. ^ "Broughton, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire: The evolution of a South Midlands landscape". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  17. ^ "Journal articles". Oxford Archaeology. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  18. ^ "Welcome to the OA Library". Library.thehumanjourney.net. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  19. ^ "The Open Archaeology Software Suite in Launchpad". Launchpad.net. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  20. ^ Registered charity 285627
  21. ^ "Maryport Roman settlement: Dig unearths 'lost harbour'". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  22. ^ "Home". Jigsawcambs.org. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 51°44′51″N 1°16′35″W / 51.7476°N 1.2764°W / 51.7476; -1.2764