What is Trowel & Error?

Logo of a trowel and shovel crossed over one another

‘Trowel & Error: Figuring out the past together through archaeology’ is a survey which explores people’s experiences and understanding of archaeological content and outputs, with the aim of helping us and the archaeological community to better understand what varying audiences hope to gain from archaeology.

We encourage you to take part by following the link provided, or scanning the QR code, and having your say!

You do not need any background in, or knowledge of, archaeology to take part and there are no wrong answers.


Why is it called Trowel & Error?


Our amazing young associate network assisted us in finding a new identity for the Public User Needs Survey 2 (PUNS2) that we are running in collaboration with MOLA, and with funding support from Historic England, as part of the 21st Century Challenges in Archaeology Project. PUNS2 builds upon the previous Publication User Needs Survey from 2001, that explored the archaeological community’s attitudes towards archaeological reports and publications. This time, we want to hear from everyone! Therefore, we’re proud to introduce the ‘Trowel & Error: Figuring out the past together through archaeology’.


What is PUNS2?


The Public User Needs Survey (PUNS2) builds on a survey first undertaken in 2001 and titled ‘Publication of Archaeological Projects: A user needs survey (PUNS)’. This CBA-led project examined the use of archaeological fieldwork publications by the archaeological community in the UK and was initiated partly in response to a perceived under-use of archaeological project publications and archives, and partly because of uncertainty about what information archaeologists and wider audiences wished to learn from them. Ultimately, the original report produced a series of recommendations which helped shape the production and dissemination of fieldwork publications in the following years. The report was undertaken at a significant moment in archaeological history, in tandem with the development of the Archaeology Data Service and recognised the important role digital data collection and dissemination would play in shaping how we share and access archaeological information today. 

This time, however, the scope of the project will be much broader, encompassing all of the different ways we access and share information today – including social media, open access publications, films and blogs – and targeting a broader range of audiences from professionals, grassroots groups and the wider public.


Young woman with blonde hair stood in front of a PowerPoint with the title 'Survey Live' and an audience in front of her.


We will gather feedback from a diversified audience through a range of digital and non-digital methods with the aim of understanding how audiences currently engage, and want to engage, with archaeological outputs. Consequently, we will arrive at a set of recommendations to use as guidance for those who commission and/or generate archaeological outputs.

A summary of the original PUNS project can be found here: Jones, S., MacSween, A., Jeffrey, S., Morris, R. and Heyworth, M. 2003 From the Ground Up The Publication of Archaeological Projects: a user needs survey. A summary, Internet Archaeology 14. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.14.4.


How can I find out more?


We will post project updates on this webpage, but you can also keep up to date by signing up to our CBA newsletter!


Our Collaborators 

Trowel and Error (PUNS2) has been established in collaboration with the following partners.