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Building the future, transforming our past Celebrating development-led archaeology in England, 1990–2015

Historic England is celebrating some of the fascinating finds that have been unearthed in the last 25 years, thanks to developer-led archaeology. Their new report, ‘Building the Future, Transforming our Past’, also catalogues how these archaeological discoveries have shed new light on our ancient and recent past.

During post-war renewal and regeneration in the 1950s and 60s many precious archaeological remains were lost without being recorded. To prevent this loss, in November 1990, the Government issued a new policy which allowed for archaeological surveys to be carried out before planning permission was granted. This policy, now integrated into the National Planning Policy Framework has been a great success, ensuring that spectacular finds have been saved and recorded. Archaeologists are excavating in places not previously known to be historically important and the discoveries that have come from them have changed the way we see the past.

Unusual finds include: * The remains of an extinct elephant butchered with flint knives 420,000 years ago by pre-Neanderthals, discovered during the works for HS1. * The only Roman Circus found so far in England, unearthed in Colchester during the building of a housing development. * A fine statue of an eagle holding a serpent in its mouth discovered on the site of a new hotel in London. It is one of the first pieces of sculpture from Roman Britain.

The full report can be downloaded from the Historic England website. The organisation has also produced a blog, giving a snapshot of some of the fascinating finds that have been uncovered thanks to development led-archaeology over the past 25 years.