Fife possesses a rich variety of archaeological remains, which are a physical record of thousands of years of human development and activity. These archaeological remains are a fragile and non-renewable resource that our Council is committed to preserving and enhancing.

The Archaeological Unit offers information and advice on the sites and monuments of Fife to assist in achieving this goal.

Continuing development is essential for Fife, but at the same time the greatest care must be taken to ensure that our heritage is preserved and protected. The preservation and study of Fife’s archaeology is important to our understanding of our predecessors and will be our legacy to future generations.

What is an archaeological site or monument?
A Monument is the physical remains of structures or sediments of archaeological significance while a Site comprises sediments and occasionally structures that present no evidence for their existence at ground level. The archaeological interest of a Monument extends beyond its visible remains, sometimes for a considerable distance. Thus, every Monument sites within a Site but not every Site has an associated Monument.

Archaeological Finds and Treasure Trove
All newly discovered ancient objects in Scotland, whether precious metal or not, belong to the Crown, because the heirs of the previous owner can never be known. The law is the same whether such objects were hidden or lost, in natural ground or in buildings. It is important that new archaeological finds should be reported to your local Museum, local Police or the Archaeological Unit. The find be held until a decision is made by the Crown as to whether the Crown wishes to retain the object and if so to which Museum it will be entrusted. Where an object is retained the finder will be paid a reward based on the market value of the object.

For more information contact:
Treasure Trove Advisory Panel Secretariat
c/o National Museums of Scotland
Chambers Street

As different laws cover skeletons or other human remains, graves should always be reported to the police, who will contact a museum or us. Discoveries found in or on the shores of the sea or tidal water are covered by different law and should be reported to:

The Receiver of Wreck
The Coastguard Agency
Spring Place
105 Commercial Road
SO15 1EG

For information on any of the above please contact Douglas Speirs on the details provided.

Planning and Archaeology
Since the publication of National Planning Policy Guideline 5 and Planning Advice Note 42 in January 1994, archaeological issues have become a material consideration in the planning process. This guidance makes it the responsibility of the developer to ensure that archaeological remains are dealt with in an appropriate manner.

Where a development is expected to have an adverse impact on archaeology this may be dealt with in one of three ways:

  • Planning permission may be granted subject to a condition requiring a scheme of archaeological work to be carried out
  • The planning decision may be deferred pending the results of an archaeological evaluation
  • In exceptional cases, permission may be refused on archaeological grounds

If you are planning a development it pays to seek advice from the Archaeological Unit as early as possible before submitting a planning application. This can save time, money and avoid problems later.

Where a condition is applied the scheme of archaeological work will typically commence with a programme of investigative works to determine the nature, form and extent of the archaeology present on the development site.

Where an adverse impact on significant archaeology is confirmed the first priority is for the preservation of archaeological remains in situ. Sympathetic foundation design or amendments to the layout can achieve this, for example. If such an approach is not feasible, then detailed excavation, recording, analysis and publication is the second best option.

Archaeological Briefs
It is the responsibility of the developer to employ a professional archaeological contractor to carry out necessary archaeological work. On request, the Archaeological Unit can issue an Archaeological Brief which sets out in detail what is required for fulfilment of the condition. The developer can send copies of the specification to archaeological contractors who will use it as a basis for providing a quote. There is a charge for this service.

A list of archaeological contractors can supplied by the Archaeological Unit without comment as to the competence or availability of any of the firms, companies or individuals listed. The list is not exhaustive and there may be other contractors active in the area and any party seeking such contractors should bear this fact in mind.

Agri-Environment Schemes and Forestry
The Archaeological Unit offers advice and audits to applicants into the Rural Stewardship Scheme and Woodlands Grant Scheme. There are charges for audits as per any commercial consultation of the FSMR.

Conservation of archaeological features in all cases is best arranged as part of an overall management plan for the farm, estate or forest. Often a policy of minimum intervention is proposed with the aim of retarding natural decay and retaining the site or area in the condition in which it was found.

In other cases more positive management is appropriate to benefit the site. For instance taking land out of cultivation to protect from plough damage or clearing trees and scrub to halt root damage. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made when the vegetation that gives a ruin its romantic appeal is destroying the structure, or when nature conservation interests conflict with those of archaeology.
In other cases, wildlife and historic conservation can support each other, for example where grass-covered settlement remains develop a good diversity of species, or where old buildings or ruins provide homes for owls or bats.

Scheduled Ancient Monuments
Some 280 sites and monuments in Fife have been designated as being of National Importance and are protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 by the Scottish Ministers. It is a serious offence to interfere with these sites.

The link below takes you to an external websites which allows you to search a national database of ancient sites and monuments:

Any enquiries concerning Scheduled Ancient Monuments should be addressed to:

Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
tel: 0131 668 8600
website: (this link takes you to an external website.)


Wemyss Caves Management: a working group, made up of representatives from a number of organisations, has developed a management plan for the Wemyss Caves. The plan, which can be downloaded from the publications section of this page, will be considered by Fife Council’s Executive Committee on 24 January 2017. You will also be able to read the Executive Committee papers and minutes from the meeting here.



Douglas Speirs, Archaeologist 
Tel: 03451 55 55 55 + Ext 47 37 48 Fax: 01592 583638 Contact Douglas Speirs online
By Post: Fife House North Street Glenrothes Fife KY7 5LT
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