You need to understand
the key threats to our archaeological heritage
the nature and effectiveness of current protection for archaeological remains
the roles of the key agencies involved in archaeology and managing heritage
the key debates about the preservation and ownership of archaeological remains.
Natural processes (▶see Chapter 5) account for the decay of most archaeological remains once in the soil but the overwhelming threat to surviving monuments, from field systems to buildings, comes from human activity. The rapid growth of towns and road networks since 1945 combined with more declining pasture land and more intensive forms of agriculture are largely responsible.
Since the 1960s most excavation has been of sites which were about to be destroyed through development. Despite the efforts of some government agencies, many volunteer groups and the charity Rescue, only a small proportion were recorded. This was the key factor behind the introduction of the government policy and planning guide PPG 16 (▶see p. 111).
In Britain recent debates about the destruction of archaeology have focused on peat extraction, the Channel Tunnel rail link and various road schemes. One of the most controversial is at Stonehenge and all sides of the debate can be researched at the websites below.