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Research Methods

This page introduces the range of methods we use to research, investigate and analyse the historic environment. These include:

  • Landscape-scale approaches involving, for example, aerial photography and mapping, and Historic Landscape Characterisation
  • Place-based non-intrusive methods including analytical landscape survey, geophysical survey, and historic area assessment
  • Site-based methods including building investigation, earthwork survey, geospatial survey, imaging and visualisation, scientific dating, and targeted archaeological excavation
  • Post-excavation conservation and scientific analysis

We also commission research employing these and other methods, and produce technical advice notes that explain our approaches.

  • Colour aerial photograph showing a small high-winged aircraft flying over arable fields. To the left is a small plantation

    Airborne Remote Sensing

    Historic England experts use airborne remote sensing methods to identify, record and monitor the condition of heritage assets

  • Photograph of archaeological excavation


    This section describes archaeological excavation methods and the techniques used to study artefacts and ecofacts, including scientific dating.

  • Colour photograph showing a buggy towing a small yellow

    Terrestrial Remote Sensing

    Historic England experts investigate how geophysics and specialist survey methods can be used to learn about heritage assets

  • Investigator standing in the street in Ely, Cambridgshire

    Architectural Investigation

    Investigation methods and techniques used by Historic England to assess the character and significance of England’s built environment.

  • Landscape surveyor on Tennyson Down

    Landscape Survey

    Landscape Survey: the recording and analytical methods we use when investigating sites and areas on the ground.

  • Detail of an Historic Landscape Characterisation of west Cornwall commissioned by EH/HE

    Historic Characterisation

    We characterise in order to attain a certain level of understanding of large parts of England’s historic environment with the aim of supporting those who manage, protect, and design or guide change within it.

  • A technical reconstruction drawing of Apethorpe Palace

    Visualising Heritage

    Techniques like reconstructions, archaeological or analytical site illustration, infographics and film help people to understand and enjoy heritage.

  • Rectified photographic image of the parterre at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire.

    Garden History

    Find out how Historic England researches garden history