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Archaeological Science Services

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We provide a hassle-free solution for all your archaeological science needs, at competitive prices. With over 100 clients worldwide, spanning a range of disciplines and sectors. We pride ourselves on our strong client relationships and the individual care we show each project, big or small.

Over the last 20 years members of QUEST have been involved in a wide range of urban and rural projects, both in the UK and abroad. Quest has a sound record of delivering high quality results efficiently, on budget and on time.

Many sediments contain a wealth of environmental archaeological information. These are vital to the understanding of the past environment (palaeoenvironment), diet, living conditions, and agricultural or industrial economy (palaeoeconomy). Archaeological science is divided into different disciplines:


Geoarchaeology is concerned with understanding the sedimentary and soil formation history of a site and the processes that led to its development. It enables us to ask important questions such as:

  • What was the nature of the depositional environment and how did it vary across the site?
  • Were there any changes in the depositional environment over time?
  • Does the site have good potential for recovering archaeological remains, and if so where?
  • Is there evidence for human exploitation of stone, mineral, soil and sediment, resources?

Field-based geoarchaeological techniques

We carry out ground investigations using our in house field equipment. For conventional sampling we have peat corers, column, bulk and Kubiena sampling, all suitable for subsequent laboratory assessment and analysis. To retrieve deeply buried sediments and soils our highly skilled team use portable deep drilling equipment, an Atlas Copco 2-stroke percussion engine and Eijkelkamp window/windowless sampler. This collects continuous quality core samples up to 15m in depth. We also monitor geotechnical-drilling units, from which in the right circumstances we can retrieve samples suitable for laboratory-based investigation.

Laboratory-based geoarchaeological techniques

Our sedimentology and soil science laboratories enable us to undertake detailed sediment description, soil micromorphology, particle size analysis, peat humification and organic matter determinations. Description of the physical and chemical properties of the sub surface soils and sediments allow us to reconstruct past landscapes and environments. With this information we can create deposit models using Rockworks and/or ArcView GIS, which can be fully integrated with archaeological, palaeoenvironmental and palaeoeconomic records.

Deposit modelling

Deposit modelling is a term used for the production of 2-Dimensional and 3-Dimensional maps of the surface and thickness of stratigraphic units beneath a site. Such maps can be used as a tool to aid to in the reconstruct of former landscapes and/or to determine the best locations for archaeological/environmental archaeological investigation. Geoarchaeological investigation in the Lower Thames Valley since 1996 for example, has enabled us to develop a high resolution model of the floodplain landscape which aids in the detection of thick sedimentary sequences and evidence for human activity. This information is shared with our clients to provide the best possible outcome for their work.

Our specialists can utilise newly obtained geoarchaeological records and historic geological, sedimentological, pedological and hydrological data derived from BGS records, geotechnical reports, and archives held by public and private organisations to create these models. As such, it is a tool that can be used prior and/or post fieldwork, assuming sufficient data exists.


In order to maximise our understanding of a site, it is vital to have dated deposits. This enables us to pinpoint when important identified events occur, such as changes in the landscape, vegetation and evidence of human activity.

In the absence of archaeologically dated finds, we have geochronology laboratories offering Tephrochronology and Dendrochronology facilities, and strong links with external Radiocarbon, Lead (210Pb), Uranium series (U-series), Optical Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) and Thermo Luminescence (TL) dating.

Where appropriate, single or multi-method dated sedimentary sequences are created to compile age-depth and time sliced models, enabling age related visualisation of long-term processes and single events, and assisting in the determination of targeted dating programs to address specific age related archaeological problems.

Archaeobotany/Palaeobotany & Zooarchaeology/Palaeozoology

The fields of archaeobotany / palaeobotany and zooarchaeology / palaeozoology involves the analysis of fossil plant and animal remains from geological / archaeological features to reconstruct the vegetation history (palaeoenvironment), and human diet/economy (palaeoeconomy). It enables us to ask important questions such as:

  • What plants grew in the nearby environment?
  • How did the vegetation change over time?
  • Was arable / pastoral farming taking place in the local environment?
  • How large was the impact of human activity on the vegetation cover?
  • Was woodland management being practiced?
  • What plants were used by the site's inhabitants for construction, food, textiles, medicine diet and fuel?
  • What animals existed naturally in the local environment?
  • What animals were farmed in the local environment?
  • Were there fish in the river and were they being farmed?

We have a fantastic suite of Palaeoecological laboratories for the extraction, assessment and analysis of pollen, diatoms, insects, waterlogged wood and seeds, charcoal and charred seeds, insects, animal bone, Ostracoda and Foraminifera, Mollusca, phytoliths, fungal spores and testate amoebae.

Geochemistry (see also Environmental Science Services)

Geochemical techniques can provide invaluable information, which cannot be retrieved by conventional archaeological or archaeological science techniques. Such techniques have the potential to provide information in the following areas:

  • Identifying potential areas of human activity on site
  • Identifying the function of unknown features on/off site
  • Identifying the function of artefacts

We can carry out a wide range of organic and inorganic geochemical techniques, offered through the environmental science wing of the business (see link). If you have an archaeological quandary that you think might be solved by geochemical analysis, please contact us to discuss possible solutions.

Interested in a career in archaeology?

Have a look at our range of MSc programmes

Contact us

Archaeological Science:

Rob Batchelor

+44 (0) 118 378 8941;

+44 (0) 7734 530 438 

Hester Crothers

Mike Simmonds  

+44 (0) 118 378 8853

Rhys Timms


Postal Address:

Quaternary Scientific, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science (SAGES),
The University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 227, Reading, RG6 6AB, UK