Geochemical survey and evaluation excavations at Alderley Edge: recognising anthropogenic signatures within a mining site-scape

Christopher Carey, N.R. Moles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaeological science and archaeological field investigations are making greater use of multi-element geochemical survey as a tool for site prospection and intra-excavation analysis. This increasing use of geochemical survey is allowing a new field of geoprospection to develop, a technique that has specific relevance to the investigation of sites containing archaeometallurgical evidence, due to the high geochemical loadings within archaeological contexts produced from past metalworking activities. Correspondingly, there have been relatively few published examples that compare the results of these geochemical surveys against excavation data. This study reports the use of geochemical data to investigate a multi-period mining site-scape at Alderley Edge, Cheshire, UK. The geochemical data is analysed using Principle Components Analysis, which facilitates the identification of a number of geochemical anomalies. The site taphonomy and stratigraphic evolution of this mining site-cape is complex, with naturally occurring areas of lead and copper mineralisation’s that have been previously been mined. The geochemical anomalies were compared to the results of excavation within the survey area and this combination of excavation and prospection data allowed the reasons for the different geochemical anomalies to be explained. The paper highlights the potential of using multi-element geochemical survey to investigate sites containing archaeometallurgical remains and provides a discussion of why context specificity is essential to correctly interpret multi-element geochemical data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-244
Number of pages20
JournalArchaeological Prospection
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Carey, C. J., and Moles, N. R. (2017) Geochemical Survey and Evaluation Excavations at Alderley Edge: Recognizing Anthropogenic Signatures within a Mining Site-scape. Archaeol. Prospect., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


  • Geochemical survey
  • archaeometallurgy
  • GIS
  • context specificity
  • Alderley Edge
  • mining


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