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Archaeological Services logo with a backdrop of cereal grains

Palaeoenvironmental Archaeology Service 

Our palaeoenvironmental archaeology service has been established for over 25 years and incorporates the full range of palaeoenvironmental studies, from the recovery and identification of carbonised seeds from archaeological excavations and evaluations, to the assessment and analysis of ancient environments uncovered by schemes such as quarrying or drainage. We have analysed samples from numerous sites throughout Britain and Ireland and projects abroad including those from Sardinia, Spain, Iceland, the Channel Islands, the Faroe Islands and Syria. 

The palaeoenvironmental team comprises leading specialists for northern England, and offers a wealth of experience and expertise across a range of environmental techniques. Our work is supported by state of the art laboratory facilities and extensive reference collections. Having an in-house team of specialists covering a wide range of fields enables us to control service quality and budgets, and ensures all work is completed to deadline. 

Our services include: 

  • The processing and assessment of samples from archaeological sites
  • Full analysis of assemblages and the preparation of reports and publications
  • Advice on sampling strategies
  • Coring through peat and geoarchaeological deposits
  • The selection and identification of remains suitable for radiocarbon dating

Our expertise covers the following range of material: 

  • Plant macrofossils (charred and waterlogged)
  • Pollen
  • Wood and charcoal
  • Animal, bird and fish bones
  • Human remains
  • Diatoms
  • Insects
  • Foraminifera
  • Molluscs
  • Industrial residues
  • Textiles (plant fibres)

We have an extensive range of percussion and manual coring equipment for conducting geoarchaeological investigations, used for example where deeply buried deposits may be disturbed by piling in river valleys, or where upland peat deposits are disturbed by wind farm development. Our team includes specialists with a background in palaeoecology, providing the expertise to identify and interpret evidence for past landscape changes from the cores that we recover. 

In addition, we can facilitate the following services: 

  • Scientific dating - radiocarbon, tephrochronology, dendrochronology and luminescence
  • Soil micromorphology / soil chemistry
Two archaeologists using a handheld concussion borer to drill for palaeoenvironmental cores

Environmental coring provides information on past landscape change

Palaeoenvironmental assessments of soil samples can produce a variety of data including seeds, pollen, charcoal and insects which provide information on past environmental changes 

Image of a chironomid (midge) taken through a microscope

Chironomid midges are very sensitive to environmental conditions and can be a useful indicator of past habitats on a local level

a photograph of a microscope image of ancient hemp seeds from an archaeological deposit

Ancient hemp seeds seen through a microscope; plant remains from archaeological deposits provide information about the historic environment and landscape, telling us how ancient populations lived, farmed and ate

Contact Archaeological Services

Archaeological Services

Durham University
Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels & Gardens

near Durham



Tel: +44 (0)191 334 1121