About the project

Integrating an evidence based decision support system for in situ preservation of waterlogged organic archaeological remains

Fading Star - Shining Light is a project based at the University of York aimed at ensuring that scientific advances in the knowledge of how organic archaeological materials deteriorate in waterlogged contexts are effectively incorporated into working practices.  

Across the UK and Europe, a policy of leaving an archaeological site in situ (un-excavated) is widely pursued. However, a number of recent research projects, including a NERC funded project at the Mesolithic site of Star Carr, indicates that this policy is not always advisable, as changing environmental conditions may in fact accelerate the decay of organic remains such as bone and wood.  

These case studies have shown us that before a site is left in situ we need to have a thorough understanding of: 
  • The state of preservation of any buried organic materials
  • The nature of the burial environment and how it may change 
Fading Star - Shining light aims to bring together this knowledge, and use it to ensure that better informed decisions are made regarding the preservation of archaeological sites in situ. Working alongside Historic England and York Archaeological Trust, the project aims to:
  • Standardise the evaluation process
  • Communicate scientific advances to end users (heritage management bodies)
  • Ensure this knowledge is incorporated into working practices
Artefacts recently excavated from Star Carr (right) were alarmingly deteriorated when compared to those excavated in during the first excavations at the site in 1948 (left). Research has shown that this is due to loss of waterlogging at the site

A schematic showing the standard decision-making process for the management of an archaeological site