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BAA looks to halve T5 archaeological costs through trial excavations

AIRPORT OPERATOR BAA said last week that it aims to halve the archaeological investigation costs on Heathrow's Terminal 5 project. It also hopes to achieve 50% greater certainty over the time it takes compared to other major construction projects.

BAA's archaeologists will use information from trial excavations to indicate the likely presence of significant finds, to help them decide whether they will discover anything new about the site's past. This is instead of digging out major portions of the site to uncover everything there, and should give greater certainty about how disruptive excavations could be.

Investigations on part of the T5 site - formerly occupied by Thames Water's Perry Oaks sludge works - were carried out last year. Trial digs have also taken place across the rest of the 68ha site.

Information from the trial investigations carried out by consultant archaeologist Gill Andrews and BAA's framework archaeological contractor Wessex Archaeology and Oxford Archaeology will be combined with a new approach to interpreting the finds. This is to increase understanding of the site's history and habitation.

Archaeologists will use initial site investigations to indicate the presence of artefacts or structures. Research suggests that the site, which has been occupied since at least 4000BC, will not yield much in the way of implements or artefacts. But it does contain a wealth of walls, causeways, foundations, wells and pits.

Archaeologists will concentrate on learning about changing patterns of habitation in the area, said Andrews.

Once they believe they have learned as much as possible from structures found, they will hand the area over to contractors, even though further digging may technically be possible.

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