The Archaeology of Buildings: A Practical Introduction


Course description

Drawing upon the expertise of the historian, the architect, the architectural historian and the archaeologist, the discipline of “Buildings Archaeology” has grown from relatively obscure beginnings in the 1990s to become one of the leading specialist disciplines in the conservation of historic buildings and sites.   

This course introduces students to the history and practice of buildings archaeology as a professional discipline though a 3-day site-based practical workshop. Subjects covered will include:

  • background documentary research

  • historic construction technology

  • principles and practices of structural archaeology

  • measured survey techniques

The archaeology of buildings plays a critical role in the development of successful planning tools such as Conservation Plans and Implementation Plans. Our ability to 'read' and interpret the physical evidence presented by a building or at a historic place, and to make sense of this within the context of documentary evidence, and historic craft traditions, is what enables us to create appropriate specifications. A key focus of buildings archaeology is learning to distinguish fact from fiction, and how to capture information objectively. This course is ideal for conservators and planners who want to develop their sleuthing skills, and learn how to end speculation and 'storytelling', in favour of evidence-based interpretations of historic places.


The course is held on site at Cole Island in Esquimalt Harbour and is focused on the detailed survey and analysis of the historic naval structures dating from between 1850 and 1940. Two of these structures are currently undergoing conservation, and the course will use this opportunity to consider the formal and informal role of buildings archaeology in the conservation process. Emphasis will be placed on group exercises, and will encourage the multidisciplinary nature of the subject. Students from all backgrounds are encouraged to attend. 


On-site course

This 3-day course takes place on site at Cole Island, so please come prepared to spend each day outdoors in all weather.

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