Highways England awards £195m archaeology framework

Dominic Browne

Highways England has announced the organisations that have won places on its new £195m archaeology framework, helping to unearth discoveries at schemes across the country.

The four-year framework offers the successful suppliers the opportunity to work with the government-owned company in protecting and enhancing the environment, including the country’s unique cultural heritage and buried archaeology.

The work has been awarded over three lots to the following companies:

Lot 1: <£2m

  • Connect Archaeology LLP
  • Infra
  • AMS (Archaeology Management Solutions)

Lot 2: £2m - £5m  

  • Headland
  • Oxford-Cotswold Archaeology (OCA)
  • Aecom
  • MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology

Lot 3: >£5m

  • Headland
  • Oxford-Cotswold Archaeology (OCA)
  • Aecom
  • MOLA

Highways England said that by having the framework in place, archaeology contractors, working directly with Highways England, will support the initial design stage of road schemes in the road investment strategy.

This work supports how projects proceed through the planning stages, including what mitigation work is needed.

The framework also aims to improve cost efficiency, delivery of improvements and safety on site. The contract is available to all Highways England schemes, and can also be used by the Regional Delivery Partnership (RDP), Delivery Integration Partners.

Catherine McGrath, category manager for ground investigation and archaeology at Highways England said: 'We’re delighted to announce the new framework; it’s the first of its kind in the archaeological sector for Highways England and enables us to develop direct relationships with archaeology contractors, developing greater efficiencies. We look forward to working with the successful suppliers.'


A14 archaeology works

Under separate, previous arrangements, the Museum of London Archaeology worked with Highways England on its flagship A14 project.

MOLA dug 537 trenches, across 800ha of archaeology, with 80 archaeological sites and 130 staff involved.

The project unearthed:

  • 11 old woolly mammoth tusks and three complete woolly rhino skulls, dating back to nearly 100,000 years ago,
  • three Neolithic henges between four and five thousand years old,
  • seven prehistoric burial grounds, most from the Bronze Age
  • 15 Iron Age and Roman settlements,
  • three Anglo-Saxon settlements
  • one deserted medieval village
  • around 15,000 objects such as coins, brooches and ironwork, over 500 human burials and cremations, more than six tonnes of pottery and almost five tonnes of animal bone.

Highways England said: 'The team is now to using their findings from the excavations, which includes over 250,000 artefacts, to develop a more detailed picture of the last 6,000 years of human occupation.

'This will help archaeologists understand how people lived, how their societies worked, their spiritual lives and the impact of major events such as the Roman conquest and collapse of Roman rule.'

MOLA said: 'The numerous archaeological surveys we have carried out on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme have revealed a huge range of archaeology, dating from the earliest hunter-gatherers to the Second World War. Most recently, excavations by MOLA Headland Infrastructure have revealed new insights into the Roman Ceramic Revolution in southern Britain.'

Pottery Specialist Adam Sutton added: 'More than 40 Roman pottery kilns were found during the A14 excavations, most of these being in a small area to the west of the modern village of Brampton. Two things are significant about pottery production on the A14: firstly, the sheer scale of the industry and, secondly, its early date. Pottery being made in the A14 kilns dates to around AD 60 onwards – less than twenty years after the invasion – and several radiocarbon dates back this up. The number of kilns as well as associated structures (possibly workshops, drying sheds, etc.) shows that this was a significant industry. The potters of Roman Cambridgeshire were evidently quick off the mark in taking on the opportunities presented by new technology.

'Though the emergence of this industry will have been part of longer-term processes of technological change beginning well before the Roman annexation, the A14 evidence shows that economic shifts were taking place in the aftermath of the invasion which led some craftspeople to intensify their operations and experiment with new ideas.'

Correction: This article has been updated after a couple of suppliers were left off Lot 2. This has been updated and Highways apologises for the mistake.

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