The Historic England provides a national facility for the study of human-environment interactions over time, including how people procured their livelihoods and their social relationships with animals, plants and the world around them. The strength of the laboratory lies in the range of disciplines brought together under one roof at Fort Cumberland. This provides conjoined insights into the understanding of the historic environment. The laboratory holds unique biological collections, an array of instrumentation and facilities, and a nationally respected scientific staff. The laboratory provides high quality, consistent, individually tailored advice to the sector and produces best practice guidance of international repute. It convenes a number of SIGs and carries out teaching and supervision of students and manages on-the job learning placements. HE-FC retains five archaeological reference/research collections of national and international importance, as they are designed specifically to support archaeological research. These are: zooarchaeological collection, archaeobotanical collection; human skeletal collection; the dendrochronological collection; and the archaeotechnology collection. Archaeological archives consist of the records and finds made during an archaeological project. The documentary archive includes written records, drawings, photographs and digital data. The material archive includes artefacts such as pottery and metalwork, or environmental remains such as animal bone. The dendrochronological collection is unique and, given its timespan and geographical range, is a fundamentally important collection. For the others, a small number of similar collections exist elsewhere (eg Zooarchaeology: British Museum; human skeletal: Museum of London; archaeobotanical: Kew), but only the London human skeletal collection has been assembled specifically with archaeological research in mind. The collections are used for post-graduate research, commercial archaeology research and collaborative research projects. The laboratory facilities at Fort Cumberland provide excellent staffed access to the collections and space for research. There are 14 full-time scientists supporting or working with these collections. The Zooarchaeology reference collection contains c 3.300 accessions, representing 390 different taxa. The collection includes large research collections, for example 356 sheep, of a single breed, with known life histories. We are included in Annex B of the Natural England Class License WML-CL01 which allows possession of specimens of wild animals listed in Annex IV of the EC Habitats Directive. The Archaeobotanical collection currently includes around 5000 specimens of seeds and fruits of mainly British and European species. Most are dried, with some experimentally charred items. We also hold collections of wood and charcoal, pollen, charred tubers, mosses and animal and plant fibres. We hold reference sediment collections and a thin section reference collection consisting of known materials. We are responsible for collections of archaeological human skeletal remains, representing about 5.000 individuals. They mainly date to the Roman and medieval periods. The dendrochronological core collection numbers over 15.000, drawn from both archaeological and historic building samples. The archaeotechnology collection holds several thousand samples taken from archaeological artefacts, tools and production waste from metal and glass manufacture. Our collections also include a range of slags and other production waste, which are used for teaching and training.
Cultural & natural heritage
archaeological object and site, faunal remains, mineral preserved organics, plant remains, sediments, soils, wood
animal product, botanic collection, mineral, other, Shell, Skeleton
ceramic (clay/mud brick/terracotta/earthenware/stoneware/porcelain), charcoal, charred tubers, glass, metal and metallurgical By-Products, mosses, pollen, stone
animal fibres, animal parts, bones, plant fibres, textiles, wood