The Monuments at Risk Survey: An Introduction

By Darvill, Timothy; Wainwright, Geoffrey | Antiquity, December 1994 | Go to article overview

The Monuments at Risk Survey: An Introduction

Darvill, Timothy, Wainwright, Geoffrey, Antiquity

Another step has started in trying to figure out just what the collected archaeology of England amounts to -- this time, with its change in mind.


England's archaeological resource is becoming increasingly well documented and recorded through the creation, curation and enhancement of local sites and monuments records and the RCHME's National Monuments Record. Upwards of half-a-million sites and monuments are catalogued (RCHME 1993: 34), and initiatives such as the Monuments Protection Programme have already gone a long way towards identifying and preserving the most important sites (Startin 1988). But as archaeological resource management moves into a more mature phase, information about the resource itself and the way it is changing needs to be gathered so that policies and approaches to conservation, curation, recording, analysis, research and investigation can be built upon the best current information. Yardsticks are also required to monitor the progress and efficiency of current and future conservation initiatives over the long term.

A number of recent studies have underlined the need for quantified, nationwide information (e.g. IAM 1984; Darvill 1987; English Heritage 1991; RCHME 1993), particularly as archaeological considerations become increasingly important in environmental assessment, land-use planning, development control and estate management.

MARS, the Monuments At Risk Survey, is the programme intended to fill the present gap in knowledge. The project has been commissioned by English Heritage from the Department of Conservation Sciences at Bournemouth University and is being undertaken in association with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.

MARS aims and coverage

The specific aims of the MARS Project are:

1 A systematic quantification by sample of England's archaeological resource in terms of:

* The changing state of knowledge about the scale and nature of the archaeological resource including: levels of archaeological recording for single monuments, archaeologically defined landscapes and historic urban areas;

* The scale and rate of physical impact on monuments since 1940, and the reasons and causes for this;

* The present condition and survival of the recorded archaeological resource and future projections of it; and

* The effect of measures introduced to improve management of individual monuments, especially the role of site-and area-specific designations.

2 An investigation into the implications of monument decay for different classes of monument, in terms of the information preserved at different states of survival.

3 The preparation of publications and presentational materials to convey information to a range of audiences.

Within these aims, MARS is concerned with all archaeological monuments in England, Scheduled or not, currently recorded in a national or local archaeological record. For ease of study, they will be sub-divided into five main groups -- small single monuments, large monuments, extensive monuments, linear monuments and standing structures -- further sub-divided by monument class. Historic buildings will be included where they have been incorporated on existing records, but not domestic dwellings constructed after 1700.

Approaches and methodology

For the estimated 600,000 records of archaeological sites and monuments in England, a national sampling strategy has been developed from a pilot study undertaken in Wiltshire. All the recognized monuments occurring within approximately 1300 sample units, each covering an area 1 km by 5 km, will be studied in detail. This will give a 5% sample of the land area of England, the individual sample units being selected as a gridded random sample to allow statistical comparison.

Data collection and analysis will proceed along three main, roughly parallel, lines of enquiry.

First, the accumulated records in the National Monuments Record and the local Sites and Monuments Records will be examined for records relating to the sample units.

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