Archaeological Research Services Ltd wins a King’s Award for Enterprise

Undertaking geochemical survey and magnetic susceptibility in the field © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
The King's Awards for Enterprise 2023 - ARS Ltd winners in Innovation
Showcasing our innovative techniques at Hillhead Minerals Exhibition © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

We are thrilled to reveal that ARS Ltd has been awarded a King’s Award for Enterprise!

Formerly known as the ‘Queen’s Award for Enterprise’, we have received this prestigious and internationally recognised award for our sector-leading innovation.

Clive Waddington, our Managing Director, said:

“I was incredibly thrilled to hear we had won this award. We’ve strived to embed a culture of innovation in the Company from its beginnings and to lead our sector by example. So getting this highest level of recognition for our enterprise and innovation is a huge honour for all of our team who have worked hard together to build truly innovative techniques that deliver commercial, environmental and safety benefits. It really is a privilege to lead our team, and also to fly the flag for Britain’s world-leading archaeological profession which contributes so much to our national life, but rarely gets much recognition.”

Champions of innovation in archaeology

ARS Ltd is a champion in the sector for innovative approaches to archaeology, especially when it comes to non-intrusive landscape prospection services. These have been designed to improve site detection and locate “hard to find” archaeology, while improving safety, reducing carbon emissions and costs, and speeding up delivery.

The grant of this Award, the first time it has ever been achieved by a commercial archaeological company, comes off the back of many years work undertaken in the development of these approaches, including geoarchaeological, remote sensing and most recently landscape-scale geochemical survey, all of which improve archaeological prospection and evaluation in advance of large-scale commercial development.

UAV remote sensing underway on Yeavering Bell, Northumberland © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

Sector-leading, non-intrusive geochemical survey

It has long been acknowledged that some ancient human activities resulted in chemically modified soils. By using a rapid, high-frequency soil chemistry survey we’re now able to better identify and characterise archaeological deposits to inform archaeological decision making while in the field – rather than later in a laboratory.

We do this through the deployment of state-of-the-art, in-field analysis using portable equipment to rapidly survey and report on the potential for large parcels of land to contain evidence for past human activity. It both reduces the need for unnecessary excavation and helps us better target excavation works. We can now more easily locate “hard to find” archaeology and demonstrate the absence of archaeology in other areas (removing or reducing the need to break ground to demonstrate its absence, which is costly and time consuming). This innovative approach to commercial archaeology is not only more efficient, but also significantly improves safety and reduces a project’s carbon footprint by limiting the requirement for heavy plant on site and the excavation of soil.

“The successful commercialisation of this innovation means we gain the wider public benefit of knowing more about our past while assisting developers to mitigate the risks of their sites, while also reducing the carbon footprint of the archaeological process. The King’s Award is an honour to receive and a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team. Innovation is really important to us at ARS Ltd and this award inspires us all.”

Dr Roger Doonan, Head of Specialist Services

Early field trials explored the use of in-field chemical analyses that were previously undertaken in a laboratory © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Swapping the laboratory bench for the field to give archaeologists and engineers instant scientific data in the field © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Survey underway at Yeavering, Northumberland © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

Our other innovative archaeological techniques

Alongside the geochemical survey, we’ve also developed other innovations.

Geoarchaeological mapping and assessment

We are pioneering the use of geoarchaeological mapping on site. This involves the partition of large development areas into a patchwork of respective landforms of different ages, with varying potential for archaeology, and varied responses to different archaeological techniques.

“These digital ‘landform element’ maps with associated data tables create a rapid, accurate, evidence-based approach for driving the entire archaeological evaluation and mitigation strategies for large development sites. We have successfully deployed this technique across many sectors, including our stunning discoveries of rare archaeology at Killerby Quarry, North Yorkshire. The approach achieves a more comprehensive understanding of what archaeological and paleoenvironmental remains survive on a site using an evidence-based approach. This saves time and money whilst also generating better archaeological outcomes.”

Dr Clive Waddington, Managing Director.

An example of a geoarchaeological ‘landform element’ map produced to guide archaeological approaches to archaeological detection © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Archaeologists testing and recording an ancient post-glacial pond that was found to contain well-preserved timber remains of a Mesolithic (hunter-gatherer) platform for processing animal skins, as well as evidence for Neolithic (first farmers) and Bronze Age activity © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

High resolution UAV (drone) surveys and remote sensing

ARS Ltd also leads the sector in airborne, drone-based survey. This employs the latest multispectral and lidar imaging sensors for quicker, more efficient archaeological prospection, while also allowing for remote access to hard to reach or dangerous environments. Our specialist aerial image interpreters then identify and visualise both the buried and the above-ground archaeology discovered by these methods.

“By integrating a range of imaging techniques, we are able to increase the detection rates of even the most ephemeral archaeological features with improved safety and greater efficiency than terrestrial prospection methods. We’re currently working collaboratively with national heritage agencies, especially Historic England and their Aerial Investigation and Mapping team to further test and quantify the application of our techniques.”

Joel Goodchild, Senior Scientific Investigator.

The drone survey underway over the excavation at Yeavering, Northumberland © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023
Using multispectral and lidar imaging as part of the drone survey we undertook at Yeavering (Ad Gefrin) in a joint project with the University of Durham and The Gefrin Trust © Copyright ARS Ltd 2023

Cutting-edge site recording

We have developed an in-house app, Plumb Bob®, to champion cutting-edge archaeological recording. Use of this app allows us to remove paper records from the field and enables better, more efficient data management from the field where it’s recorded all the way through to post-excavation. (Development, implementation and roll out has been supported with grants from D2N2 Growth Hub and East Midlands Accelerator led by East Midlands Chamber.)

“Starting in 2019, the aim was to speed up field work recording and data processing by developing a comprehensive digital “Archaeological Field Work Recording” app with the intention of replacing the current paper-based method of field work recording. The goal of Plumb Bob® is to speed up our recording, make it more consistent, reduce error and record on site using less equipment. Additionally, the creation of the app generates efficiencies and speeds up data processing in the office and facilitates the production of more consistent, accurate and accessible archaeological reports. Technical reports are the key method of capturing the knowledge and information gained through archaeology and are critical for dissemination. Therefore, it is essential that reports are effective as a means of communication for a technical and a non-technical reader. We have great ambitions for Plumb Bob® with new functionality on the horizon.”

Will Throssel, Chief Operating Officer

Carbon calculation

As a company committed to innovative approaches to ensure a more sustainable world, we’ve also created tools to measure the carbon footprint while undertaking archaeological fieldwork. The core part of this approach is ‘Carbon Calculator’, a system allowing the quantification and undertaking of comparative analysis of the carbon footprints associated with various archaeological methods. Using this calculator, it’s now possible to accurately measure the impact of these activities, along with that of heavy plant diesel, workforce travel, and the degradation of organic soil carbon that happens through excavation.

“The development of the ARS Carbon Calculator is a significant milestone for the archaeological community. This tool will allow us to better understand the environmental impact of our work and will help us make more sustainable choices in the future. Our Carbon Calculator allows commercial developers and archaeological regulators to select combinations of fieldwork techniques that are more sustainable and better for the environment.”

Dr Roger Doonan, Head of Specialist Services.

A thank you

The team at ARS Ltd would like to acknowledge the vision and support of various clients and regulators that believed in these innovative approaches and supported or commissioned the pioneering work to get these techniques into the commercial sector. This includes, among others, HS2, Tarmac, Breedon Group, ARUP, National Highways and Historic England. Thank you to all.

The King's Awards for Enterprise 2023 - ARS Ltd winners in Innovation

About The King’s Awards for Enterprise

The King’s Awards for Enterprise was previously known as The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, and the new name reflects His Majesty The King’s desire to continue the legacy of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s by recognising outstanding UK businesses. The Award programme, now in its 57th year, is the most prestigious business award in the country, with successful businesses able to use the esteemed King’s Awards Emblem for the next five years.

Applications for King’s Awards for Enterprise 2024 open on His Majesty The King’s Coronation, 6th May 2023. For more information, visit:

For more press information about our Award win, contact:

Archaeological Research Services Ltd