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Surveys to Identify Archaeology

Current work uses a landscape-based approach to identify and characterise archaeological features.  Our projects combine aerial mapping, to National Mapping Programme (NMP) standards, with the application of other techniques, including analytical earthwork survey, geophysical survey and small-scale excavation.

This allows us to identify sites over large areas and then focus on key elements of the landscape. This knowledge can be used to identify appropriate heritage protection measures at local, regional and national levels.

All the results of the projects are fed into historic environment records to assist strategic planning and management initiatives.

National Archaeological Identification Survey (NAIS) projects

National Archaeological Identification Survey (NAIS) methods were devised to explore how combined techniques can be used to address heritage protection across large areas. Three projects cover different types of landscape with different challenges for archaeological survey and different heritage management issues.

NAIS in the uplands: Lakes, Dales and Arnside

The uplands project covers contrasting landscapes with very different archaeological results. It includes part of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB and the fringes of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.

Results included well preserved prehistoric and medieval earthworks of settlements and land division, especially in the eastern parts of the project area.  Targeted ground based work has used innovative and established techniques to help us understand key sites.

Colour photograph showing a man wandering over a grassy mound under an overcast sky
One of the sites assessed on the ground for the Upland National Archaeological Identification Surveys.  A robbed out cairn at Castle Hill. © Historic England: Photo R Pullen

NAIS in the lowlands: West Wiltshire

The lowlands project covers part of the Avon Vale in West Wiltshire, which is sandwiched  between the better known historic landscapes of the Cotswolds and the Wiltshire Downs.  

Work so far has identified a complex story of past land use ranging from the Neolithic through to the modern era.  Different survey techniques revealed changing patterns and visibility of settlement and land division from the prehistoric period to the present.

Aerial view of an arable field where colour differences indicate the form and extent of buried features
Cropmarks of a possible Iron Age or Roman enclosure and an early modern manure works identified and recorded during the Lowland National Archaeological Identification Survey in West Wiltshire (NMR 27265/030) © Historic England

NAIS in developer funded contexts: South West Cambridgeshire

The Cambridgeshire project covers an area south and west of Cambridge and will look at how remote sensing data can be used alongside the results of developer-funded archaeology to inform heritage protection and planning.

Results so far are very promising and include buried later prehistoric and Roman settlements seen as cropmarks and extensive remains of fields.  The dating of these fields has raised a lot of questions. Find out more about the project here.

Survey of Rendlesham

Outside of the main NAIS programme, Historic England has also funded reports drawing together the results of an important survey of the Rendlesham area, Suffolk. Between 2008 and 2014 this place was the subject of extensive field survey and targeted small scale excavation.

The survey has identified a complex and nationally-important sequence of settlement and activity from late Prehistory to the present day. This includes a rich and extensive settlement complex of the 5th-8th centuries AD (the early-middle Anglo-Saxon period) which is of national and international significance.

Historic England commissioned Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service, with Consulting Archaeologist Professor Christopher Scull to write an assessment report for the Rendlesham surveys and a methodological review of the techniques used there.

Archaeological features mapped in red, green and orange covering most of an Ordnance Survey map
Archaeological features mapped from aerial photographs and lidar as part of the National Archaeological Identification Survey in South West Cambridgeshire.  Base map OS Licence 100024900. 2015. NMP data © Historic England

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project please contact the Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

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Group of people standing on a stony mound
Historic Places Investigation

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