Understanding the significance of site archaeology

Conservation of the ruin is not confined to the preservation of the ruin or site as a whole, but also includes the conservation of its detail. During the course ofthe condition survey it is important to identify and understand the subtleties of detail and their contribution to the special interest of the site. Buildings' archaeology is an intrinsic part of condition survey of ruins and frequently condition survey will add to the archaeological understanding of the site.

Recommendations for conservation and repair should aim to preserve and enhance an understanding of a buildings' archaeology. At times difficult issues arise. Do you cover up or conceal detail from earlier phases or should you leave it exposed? Where restoration of detail is required, for example reinstatement of protective wall plasters, possibly essential for the long-term sustainable conservation of the site, what do you cover and what do you leave exposed? A balance must be struck based on a developed understanding of the site, its archaeology, architectural history, its significance and long-term conservation needs. In some cases it is preferable to cover up or protect vulnerable detail to ensure its long-term survival, where ongoing or new exposure to the environment will limit its future survival. The difficult question is how long will something survive if it is left exposed and will there be an unsustainable maintenance burden?

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