AIP – Archaeological investigations Project

The Archaeological Investigations Project (AIP), funded by English Heritage, systematically collected information about the nature and outcomes of more than 80,000 archaeological projects undertaken between 1990 and 2010. 

The aim was to document and study archaeological activity in England following the publication by the UK Government in 1990 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning which fundamentally changed the way archaeology was done.

Numerous archaeological investigations were examined, many of which would otherwise have remained invisible to the archaeological community and the wider public, through accessing limited availability Grey Literature reports held by archaeological contractors and curators. Whilst the AIP did not collate a library of such reports, it signposted their locations. Data was gathered directly from those who undertook the work, either from their reports or by visiting organisations across England.The aim of this project was to document and study archaeological activity in England following the publication by the UK Government in 1990 of Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning which fundamentally changed the way archaeology was done.

Records of investigations and events created by AIP have been incorporated, indexed, and cross-referenced within a range of on-line resources including: the English Heritage Excavations Index (formerly the RCHME Excavation Index) which itself shared data with other on-line resources such as PastScape, Archsearch, and the Heritage Gateway; the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography; and the Archaeology Data Service

The results of the project have been published as: T. Darvill, K. Barrass, V. Constant, E. Milner & B. Russell, 2019, Archaeology in the PPG16 Era: Investigations in England 1990-2010. Oxford: Oxbow Books 

The report looks at the long-term trends in archaeological investigation and reporting, places this work within wider social, political, and professional contexts, and reviews its achievements. Information was collected through visits to public and private organisations undertaking archaeological work. Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning (known as PPG16), published in 1990, saw the formal integration of archaeological considerations with the UK town and country planning system. It set out processes for informed decision-making and the implementation of post-determination mitigation strategies, defining a formative era in archaeological practice and establishing principles that underpin today’s planning policy framework.

The scale of activity represented – more than 1,000 excavations per year for most of the PPG16 Era – is more than double the level of work undertaken at peak periods during the previous three decades. This comprehensive review of the project presents a wealth of data. A series of case studies illustrate different types of development project, revealing many ways in which projects develop, how archaeology is integrated with planning and execution, and the range of outputs documenting the process. It then identifies a series of ten important lessons that can be learned from these investigations.

Looking into the post-PPG16 Era, the volume considers anticipated developments in the changing worlds of planning, property development, and archaeological practice and proposes the monitoring of archaeological investigations in England using a two-pronged approach that involves self-reporting and periodic strategic overviews.

A full open access copy can be downloaded for free as a pdf (254mb) or printed copies can be purchased through Oxbow Books.

Archaeology in the PPG16 Era: Investigations in England 1990-2010


In a truly heroic tabulation of fieldwork, the book uses tables and around 350 charts to show how the character of investigations has changed from one year to the next." 
Mike Pitts  
British Archaeology 166 (May/June 2019): 56.

Online at:  

"Congratulations are due to Darvill and the team of authors, as well as the huge number of people who have assisted and contributed to this volume. It is a worthy achievement and, regarding the UK, provides a very useful insight into the archaeological profession, its practice and development and where we are heading over the next few years." 
Clive Waddington  
Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 21.2 (2019): 135-136.  

Online at:

“The substantial report reviewed here is a retrospective view of the results of the AIP, which analyses how the profession developed into its current state and investigates booth planning led and more traditional approaches. As we have come to expect with reports prepared by teams led by Timothy Darvill FSA, it is detailed, thorough, logically structured and well-written: a commendable textbook on an important period in the development of archaeology.”  

Andrew Lawson 

Antiquaries Journal 100 (2020): 458-9. 

Online at: Doi: 10.1017/S0003581520000062 

The project archive and database were deposited with the Archaeology Data Service and are available online.

Map showing the distribution of recorded field investigations in England 1990-2010
Map showing the distribution of recorded field investigations in England 1990-2010

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