The North Sea Prehistory Research Management Framework (NSPRMF) provides a framework and agenda for the management of submerged prehistoric archaeological sites, features and landscapes in the North Sea and eastern English Channel. Originally published in 2009 (NSPRMF 2009), the NSPRMF was a collaborative publication between Historic England (formerly English Heritage) and The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. In 2019, the NSPRMF was updated for the Dutch sector of the North Sea building upon the results and experiences of the preceding ten years (Peeters et al. 2019).

Considering the vast amount of development that has been undertaken in the North Sea since the original NSPRMF was published in 2009, and the scope of proposed offshore developments in the coming years, there was a need to revise the NSPRMF for the English sector of the North Sea, including the eastern English Channel. The revised NSPRMF was produced through sector-wide consultation and comprises:

(i) a region and period-specific resource assessment of all published and grey literature alongside other relevant data and information that considers progress and advances in understanding since publication of the NSPRMF 2009.

This resource assessment forms one part of the revised NSPRMF, providing an overview of all development-led and research-driven projects that have been undertaken since publication of the NSPRMF in 2009, which is used to identify progress and gaps in understanding in relation to the themes, topics and priorities identified in the NSPRMF 2009. The resource assessment is organised into four sections:

  • Section 1 defines the geographical and chronological scope of the revised NSPRMF;
  • Section 2 provides an overview of the NSPRMF 2009 and context for the framework;
  • Section 3 assesses general advances in research in relation to the NSPRMF 2009 resource assessment topics, and;
  • Section 4 presents an updated resource assessment for each geographic region.

The resulting resource assessment based on geographical region provides a basis by which to assess progress and identify new or existing gaps that should be incorporated into the second part of the NSPRMF, the updated research agenda.

(ii) an updated research agenda and management framework.

The North Sea Prehistory Research Agenda, presented as a series of questions and strategies to identify and prioritise research for both academic and development-led work.

This Agenda sits within a broader Research Framework Platform that allows links between and across a wide range of geographical – primarily terrestrial – and period-based Research Frameworks to be established and maintained.

The Research Agenda has been updated through a process of sectoral consultation involving identification of new questions and strategies via stakeholder workshops and engagement and by reference to the Resource Assessment. Existing questions and strategies from the previous NSPRMF (2009) have been reviewed and adapted to fit the new Research Framework Agenda format.

The Management Framework sets expectations for the use of the Research Agenda, showing how it can be applied to ensure all relevant archaeological work contributes to better understanding and protection of North Sea Prehistory, whether this work is being undertaken for academic or for development-led purposes.

Data Sources

A wide variety of resources have been accessed in order to outline advances or knowledge gained from development-led and research-driven projects that have been undertaken since 2009, including work that was ongoing while the NSPRMF 2009 was being prepared in 2008 (e.g. Aggregate Levy Sustainability projects). The resulting resource assessment based on geographical region will provide a firm basis to assess progress and identify new or existing gaps that should be incorporated into the updated research agenda.

The resource assessment considered the following sources and datasets:

  • Published sources (journals, books, edited volumes etc.);
  • Grey-literature reports that are currently available in the public domain, accessed through the planning portal, The Crown Estate Marine Data Exchange, OASIS and Archaeological Data Service (ADS) archive;
  • National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) datasets;
  • British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) protocol datasets;
  • Offshore Renewables Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (ORPAD) datasets;
  • Data recorded during wharf monitoring associated with aggregate extraction in the PalaeoYare catchment;
  • European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)[1].

Compatibility with NSPRMF 2009

The principal aim of this resource is to provide an updated resource assessment, identifying key achievements and knowledge gain through development-led and research-driven works that have been undertaken since publication of the NSPRMF 2009. To ensure this updated resources can be used alongside, and cross-referenced with the NSPRMF 2009, the structure of the resource assessment has been mapped alongside the NSPRMF 2009 as outlined in Table 3.

The resource assessment for each geographic region comprises an assessment of key projects and research undertaken since 2009 which is used to define the current state of knowledge in relation to stratigraphy, chronology, palaeolandscape and palaeogeography. These topics are considered collectively as they focus on knowledge gain that is often difficult to disentangle without significant repetition. The review of palaeoenvironmental records, and faunal and archaeological assemblages is data driven outlining the current state of knowledge in relation to ‘find spots’.

Table 3 Structure of NSPRMF 2009 resource assessment in relation to this updated NSPRMF

NSPRMF 2009Updated NSPRMF Resource Assessment
Stratigraphic and chronological frameworksStratigraphy, chronology, landscape and palaeogeography
Landscape surfaces
Palaeontological and palaeobotanical assemblagesFaunal assemblages
Palaeoenvironmental assemblagesPalaeoenvironmental records
Archaeological assemblagesArchaeological assemblages

Project Team

This project has been undertaken by Landward Research Ltd and Wessex Archaeology.

From Landward Research: Doug Rocks-Macqueen, Kenneth Aitchison and Mark Spanjer

From Wessex Archaeology:
Project management by Louise Tizzard
Resource Assessment compiled by Claire Mellett and Andrew Shaw
Contributions from Andrea Hamel, Ines Doriga Lopez and Andrew Bicket
Graphics by Kitty Foster

Image Credit: Marine Survey Equipment, Wessex Archaeology CC BY-NC 2.0


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