Avon Archaeological Unit was established in 1992 after the demise of Avon County Council, since when it has been undertaking archaeological projects of all kinds in South Gloucestershire and neighbouring counties under the leadership of Principal Archaeologist, Andrew Young. Andrew has wide ranging local knowledge of the history and archaeology of the county, having grown up and been educated in Charfield. In addition, he attributes his long standing interest and concern for South Gloucestershire’s heritage to his father, who inadvertently ploughed an Iron Age fort to plant potatoes.
The unit is based at offices in Kingswood, Bristol, and has a permanent team of experienced archaeologists whose main work involves the investigation of sites as part of planning permission and development control. This work can involve a variety of different types of research, ranging from preliminary documentary research looking at old maps, plans and aerial photographs, to geophysical surveys or trial trenching through to watching brief monitoring of development works, for example pipelines, and ultimately full detailed archaeological area excavations.
The AAU team have experience in working on a wide variety of different types of site of very different date: these range from the investigation of Ice Age gravels and early human remains along the Avon valley to excavation and recording at the internationally important Warmley Brassworks site, established by William Champion in the 18th century.
Most recently the team have been involved in the excavation and recording of several new sites discovered as part of the Bristol & Bath Science Park development at Emersons Green. The work has recorded the remains of a 17th century timber framed farmhouse and yard, as well as a group of iron smelting furnaces and large amounts of ironworking residues. The remains of the ironworking industry are extensive and very well preserved although their date, expected to be medieval, will not be known until scientific tests including radiocarbon and archaeomagnetic dating are completed.
A large part of the work at the unit is involved with the post excavation analysis of finds and data and preparation of reports, a part of the process that rarely receives as much attention as the fieldwork and digging. Finds such as pottery, animal bones along with small finds, such as coins and metalwork, are all recorded and collated at the unit for conservation and analysis a part of the reporting work.
The team also undertake archaeological research of sites in the county that are either protected or not directly affected by development. In recent years this aspect of our work has led to the identification of a number of important new sites in the county, most notably the nationally important Roman small town discovered at Hall End, Wickwar.