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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Publication details

Caple, C. (2008), Preservation in Situ: The Future for Archaeological Conservators?, in Saunders, D., Townsend, J.H. & Woodcock, S. eds, International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, London, 214-217.

Author(s) from Durham


Archaeological conservators have traditionally worked at the single object level; investigating, cleaning and stabilizing artefacts retrieved from archaeological excavations (remedial or interventive conservation) and at a collection level providing their subsequent care (preventive conservation). However, heritage agencies throughout Europe are increasingly seeking to preserve archaeological sites and their associated artefacts in situ through legal protection and minimising excavation. The term ‘preservation in situ’ has been questioned by Fjaestad and others, whose work has suggested that the corrosion rates of buried metal artefacts are increasing. Recent research in Durham has calculated an annual loss rate of 19 million metal artefacts per year between 1945 and 1995 from ancient monuments (surface visible archaeological sites) in England. It appears likely that preservation in situ represents a significant area of future activity for archaeological conservation. If so, this will require significant changes in the education and training of archaeological conservation students.

Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China