PPS 6: Planning, Archaeology and The Built Heritage
Archaeological Sites and Monuments: The Importance of Archaeological Evidence
3.1 The modern landscape of Northern Ireland is also an historic landscape which is almost entirely man-made or man-modified, as each generation has chosen to keep, use, change or destroy the resources it has inherited. Much of the value of this historic landscape lies in its complexity, regional diversity and local distinctiveness. Archaeological sites and monuments are those distinctively dateable features in this multi-period historic landscape which have been identified through research and field observation or through fortuitous discovery. Such archaeological remains can provide evidence, sometimes the only evidence, of thousands of years of human activity and settlement in Northern Ireland. Each site or monument has a unique contribution to make. Some are distinctive landmarks, others are scarcely visible except to the trained eye or are no longer visible above ground but survive beneath modern fields and settlements. They include dwellings, defences, workplaces and sites for ritual, worship and burial. The siting of such places was important to the people who built them and was closely related to their landscape. Natural features, hills, valleys and sources of water form part of the wider setting of these sites, i.e. the area of historic landscape within which they functioned, and can help us to understand them. The presence of archaeological sites and monuments in the landscape today therefore adds meaning to our natural environment.
3.2 Archaeological remains are a limited, finite and non-renewable resource, in many cases highly fragile and vulnerable to damage and destruction. Appropriate management is therefore essential to ensure that they survive in good condition. In particular, care must be taken to ensure that archaeological remains are not needlessly or thoughtlessly damaged or destroyed. They can contain irreplaceable information about our past and the potential for an increase in future knowledge, which, once destroyed, cannot be replaced. They are part of our sense of place and are valuable both for their own sake and for their role in education, leisure and tourism. The surroundings of any site or monument can provide further evidence about why that particular location was chosen for use and how it was used. Such information can come from below-ground remains or other sites or monuments. Protecting sites and monuments and their settings is therefore the means of maximising survival of information about our past.