The Trials project was funded by both Defra and English Heritage (OA and Cranfield University 2010)

The scientific objectives of this project were to:

  • Assess the effectiveness and viability of minimal cultivation, and differing soil management techniques, in preserving the archaeological resource and to compare these techniques with conventional arable/soil management systems.
  • Combine the results of the above assessment with existing studies on related issues to understand the full implications of adopting these techniques both in terms of their effect on the archaeological resource and farm based agronomics.
  • Recommend a series of agricultural and soil management options suitable for protecting archaeological sites covering a range of differing soils, topography and arable regimes.
  • Develop cost-effective methods for monitoring the effectiveness of such techniques.

In order to address the research questions and objectives, a series of experimental studies was established. Studies were undertaken to look at sub-soil pressures resulting from tillage implement and vehicle loads and the effects that these could have on archaeological artefacts. A series of experiments was carried out both in the soil bin laboratory at Cranfield and in the field to study the sub-surface pressures exerted at depth by a range of arable farming operations. These included, for example, cultivation, harvesting and spraying, transmitted via both tyres and rubber tracks. Replica historical ceramics and human bone were tested to destruction to determine a range of breakage thresholds which could then be directly related to the recorded pressures exerted at depth by the arable procedures tested. A series of earthworks was also constructed in the form of a ridge, four round barrows and a stretch of ridge and furrow to assess the effects of different cultivation systems on the earthworks.