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Coastal and Offshore Archaeological Research Services (COARS)News

COARS and Historic England producing guidance on Pleistocene Dating techniques

Published: 20 February 2015

COARS have been selected to help develop guidelines on the use of different dating techniques for Pleistocene sites and deposits, and produce a document for publication and web dissemination in the Historic England (English Heritage) guidelines series.

Dating methods currently available for the Pleistocene are applicably to different time frames within this period, vary considerably in precision and accuracy, and in addition are also subject to rapid development and improvement. The guidelines will cover a range of techniques useful for dating deposits, sites and artefacts of Palaeolithic or Pleistocene age, to cover the period from c. 1 million years ago to c. 9,700 cal. BC.

The guidelines will provide practical advice on the application of different dating methods available for Pleistocene archaeological projects in England. They will include summaries and case studies for individual techniques but are not intended to replace existing English Heritage Guidance documents such as Archaeomagnetic and Luminescence dating, or planned guidelines on individual techniques such as radiocarbon dating, but supplement them by presenting information of specific relevance to non-Pleistocene specialists.

Many archaeological projects will be undertaken as a requirement of the planning process. For these projects, the National Planning Policy Framework (Department for Communities and Local Government 2012) sets out planning policies on the conservation of the historic environment in England. This document clarifies, for all those involved with the planning process, how dating methods can be used to assess the significance of Palaeolithic heritage assets and mitigate impacts of development on them. It is a material consideration for local authorities when preparing development plans and determining planning applications.

These guidelines are intended to provide guidance for non-Pleistocene specialists tasked with managing or curating the Palaeolithic and in particular:

  • curators who advise local planning authorities and issue briefs;
  • project managers writing specifications or written schemes of investigation;
  • those working on development-led or research projects (in particular post-excavation project managers); and
  • other practitioners

The Pleistocene Dating Guidance should be available in 2016.

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