Isle of Arran -  June 2005  The SCAPE Trust
Information about archaeology

Much information has been gathered about the archaeological and historical sites of Scotland over the years. The collection of this information would have been pointless if it wasn’t made available to researchers, planners and the public. In order to make use of the data, it has been collected by several organisations. The information is used to help manage the historic environment, and by those wishing to undertake research. Researchers include students writing essays, academics preparing books or members of the public wishing to learn more about their neighbourhood.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) was formed in 1908. It is sponsored by Historic Scotland and funded directly from the Scottish Executive. One of the main objectives of the Commission is to record and interpret the sites, monuments and buildings of Scotland's past, and to curate this record as a national database for a wide variety of users. The database is called the National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS). The database contains details of many thousands of archaeological sites, monuments, buildings and maritime sites in Scotland, together with an index to the drawings, manuscripts and photographs in its collection.
The national database is accessible on the internet through CANMORE (Computer Application for National MOnuments Record Enquiries). CANMORE enables data to be searched by location (place name, area or map sheet); by type (the function of a site, monument or building); or by keyword. Also available on-line is a map-based version of CANMORE, called PASTMAP. To search PASTMAP, you click on a series of maps, zooming into the area of interest. All sites recorded in the NMRS show up as blue dots on the map. By clicking a dot, you access the database to retrieve information about the site. The NMRS is based in John Sinclair House, Bernard Terrace, Edinburgh. As well as the national database, it holds a variety of other information on archaeological sites and historical buildings in Scotland. It has a library where members of the public can consult records, view maps and look at photographs of a site or area. It also holds a large collection of aerial photographs.

Anyone undertaking work in Scotland that uses Historic Scotland money has an obligation to send a copy of their records to the RCAHMS. These will be added to the NMRS, but as so much work takes place, there is sometimes a small delay between receiving the records and updating the NMRS.
Local Authority archaeologists and Sites and Monuments Records
Advice to Local Authorities about the affects of proposed development on archaeology was published in Scotland in 1994. National Planning Policy Guidance No. 5 (NPPG5) stated that the ‘preservation of ancient monuments and their setting is a material consideration in determining planning applications and appeals, whether a monument is scheduled or not.’ Many Local Authorities use archaeologists to do this work on behalf of their Planning Departments. The archaeologists are either employed directly by the council, or are contracted in from other organisations, such as Archaeological Trusts. They give advice on planning applications, saying whether a proposed development will affect archaeological sites.

If they have reason to believe that a proposed development will damage archaeological remains, they will recommend that action be taken to minimise the damage and will usually ask that a record of the site be made before it is destroyed. They may ask for an archaeological evaluation to take place to determine the extent of the archaeology, or they may demand that a survey or excavation is undertaken as a condition of obtaining planning consent. It is usual for the developer to pay for the excavation, and for a contracting archaeological unit to undertake the work.

In order to determine whether an application will affect an archaeological site, the archaeologists need access to information about the sites and monuments within their region. This record is often known as the Sites and Monuments Record or SMR. The SMR is a list of all the known sites and monuments within an area. Each SMR is slightly different, depending upon the region. This is because each SMR has evolved over time, some coming from old museum records, others being set up from records held by the RCAHMS. Some organisations use paper maps and records to store the information contained in their SMR, others use computerised databases linked to digital maps. There is, however, some basic information that is similar to all SMRs. This includes a site name, a grid reference, a site location and a site description.

Public access to SMRs varies according to the region. Some are not accessible to the public, others have restricted access. If you require information from an SMR, contact them to see if they will be able to help you with your inquiry.

Local Authority archaeologists also do other work, depending upon the area. Many are active in promoting archaeology within their local communities, and participate in open days and other events. Some archaeologists also organise or contribute to research excavations within their areas. These research excavations are often done by teams from universities. The Local Authority archaeologists often keep records of all excavations that have taken place within their area, and have a library of archaeological reports.

Archaeology Scotland (formerly the council for scottish archaeology)
Archaeology Scotland is a national charitable organisation whose key objectives include educating about, promoting and supporting archaeology within Scotland. The AS is based in Edinburgh, and it runs several projects. It oversees the Young Archaeologists Club and runs the Adopt-a-Monument Project. Membership of AS is open to all individuals, local societies and organisations with an interest in Scottish archaeology.

The AS publishes Discovery & Excavation in Scotland (D&ES), a journal which contains a summary of all fieldwork discoveries from the previous year. This annual publication is unique in Europe and is a key way to let people know about recent archaeological discoveries.

The gazetteer is organised alphabetically, first by Local Authority Area, then by Parish. It includes the results of excavations, survey projects, chance finds and other projects. D&ES is given free to all members of the AS, and back issues can be consulted at the NMRS, in certain libraries, or online via the Archaeology Data Service. Click here to read an article from the Editor and to download FAQs about Discovery and Excavation.

Everyone undertaking archaeological projects is encouraged to contribute to D&ES.
Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Executive. It safeguards and promotes understanding and enjoyment of ancient monuments, archaeological sites, historic buildings, parks, gardens and landscapes. It also cares for and opens over 300 monuments to the public. It supports the National Monuments Record for Scotland and grant-aids local authority Sites and Monuments Records. It also protects sites and monuments by adding them to the Register of Scheduled Ancient Monuments or by making them Listed Buildings.

The Register of Scheduled Ancient Monuments
Historic Scotland has the power to protect monuments of national importance by adding them to the Schedule of Ancient Monuments. This gives legal protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Ancient monuments must be considered of national importance before they can be added to the schedule, and it is the Scottish Ministers that decide upon which monuments to add. They act upon scheduling proposals drawn up by Historic Scotland’s Inspectors of Ancient Monuments. These are specialists in archaeology, architectural history or history, who use approved standards in deciding whether to nominate a monument.

Scheduling is usually applied to monuments that are unlikely to be used again in anything like their original form.

Listed Buildings
A structure in use as a dwelling house cannot be scheduled as an ancient monument, nor can a building in ecclesiastical use. Buildings which fall into these categories can be listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. Indeed most listed buildings are either in use or might conceivably be brought back into use. The term ‘building’ is very broad, and can include structures such as walls, fountains, statues, bridges and war memorials.

Historic Scotland administers the legislation on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, although it is the Local Authority Archaeologists who are normally involved in the day-to-day administration of proposals affecting a Listed Building.

There were more than 6,500 Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) and 45,000 Listed Buildings in Scotland in 1999, but new sites and buildings are being added each year. Information about SAMs and Listed Buildings are rapidly added to the NMRS and SMR records, and details of protected sites and buildings are held by the Local Authority archaeologists, RCAHMS and Historic Scotland.

Applications for work on a Listed Building are normally looked at by the Local Authorities in the first instance. All matters affecting Scheduled Monuments are dealt with directly by Historic Scotland.

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