The City of York Council has been pursuing a strict policy of in situ preservation of archaeological deposits since April 1990. Planning consent will normally be granted in the historic core of York for a new development so long as it destroys less than 5% of the archaeological deposits preserved on a site (York City Council Archaeology Policy 1992; Arup Study 1991; City of York Local Plan 1998). The concept of preservation of archaeological deposits in situ is now deeply embedded both in Codes of Professional Conduct (IFA Code of Conduct) and in national policy guidance (PPG 16). However, this emphasis on preservation in situ has been criticised. Does conservation archaeology in general and the City of York policy in particular achieve the preservation of the remaining 95% of the archaeology? Or are these deposits condemned to unseen, unrecorded destruction, sealed below new buildings? And if this is the case, shouldn't these deposits be excavated now while they are still viable? The York Development and Archaeology Study (Arup Study 1991) sets out the case for conservation archaeology; Biddle (Biddle 1994) has set out the case for excavation. There is, however, no clear scientific evidence to support either argument.

The initial archaeological work at 44-45 Parliament Street started as a response to the proposed extension of the existing Marks & Spencer store into an adjacent property. The original archaeological intervention consisted of a single evaluation trench excavated through the shop floor of the adjacent property. The deposit monitoring project developed as a response to observations made during this routine archaeological evaluation.

This article publishes the background to the archaeological deposit-monitoring project at Marks & Spencer, 44-45 Parliament Street, York. It also presents the first four year's monitoring data from the project and presents a number of preliminary conclusions.


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Last updated: Wed Mar 6 2002