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What is rescue archaeology?

Investigating and recording archaeology in advance of its unavoidable destruction by natural processes or by human agencies not regarded as “developers” – for example the ploughing of farmed land - is called rescue archaeology, sometimes salvage archaeology.


The resources to undertake rescue archaeology may come in the form of funds from Historic Scotland’s Archaeology programme, or in the form of the work of voluntary groups.

Current threats

Key current threats which may lead to rescue excavations in Scotland include:
  • Coastal change
  • Erosion by wind
  • Riverbank erosion
  • Agricultural damage, especially through deep ploughing
  • Damage by burrowing animals

In deciding how to spend the available Archaeology programme funds, Historic Scotland takes account of both public and expert opinion.  A review of our spending priorities is currently in progress.