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A History of Aerial Photography and Archaeology

Front cover for A History of Aerial Photography and Archaeology

Mata Hari's glass eye and other stories

Hardback by Martyn Barber


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  • Details the beginnings of aerial photography from early balloonist adventurers through to military usage in both world wars
  • Examines how aerial photography came to be such an important tool for archaeologists
  • Contains a fascinating range of photographs from images of early balloon exploits to modern aerial shots of archaeological sites

In England, more archaeological sites are discovered every year through the study of aerial photographs than by any other method. New reconnaissance flights continue to discover previously unknown traces of the past, while the study of historic photographs held in archives records even more.

This book begins by telling the story of the first aerial photographs of an archaeological monument to be taken in this country. However, when a military balloon rose above Stonehenge in September 1906, aerial photography was already almost half a century old, and people had been flying since the late 18th century.

The first half of the book tells the story of the balloonist-adventurers who first experienced the landscape from above and who pioneered the use of the airborne camera.  The second half begins with the First World War, explaining the development of aerial survey on the Western Front and the subsequent adoption of these survey techniques by archaeologists.

The book describes some of the key individuals and discoveries of the inter-war years, and outlines the role that many well-known archaeologists played as military air-photo interpreters during the Second World War. The book includes nearly 200 colour and black-and-white photographs and other images, ranging from the earliest known painted representation of the view from a balloon, some of the earliest images taken with cameras from balloons, and intriguing photographs from the Boer War as well as the First World War, in addition to a wide range of shots of archaeological sites from 1906 to the 21st century.


  1. '…summer scenes of fairy-land…': Archaeology and the aerial view
  2. '…interesting as curiosities…': The Stonehenge photographs and the Royal Engineers 
  3.  'Quick! The Kodak!': Victorian and Edwardian aeronauts and aerial photographers
  4. '…a diary of German doings': Aerial photography and the First World War
  5. '…the rough edges disappear': The first archaeological discoveries from the air
  6. '…the allurement of strangeness': Aerial archaeology takes off
  7. 'an easy … war of "women's work"': Air photo intelligence and the Second World War
  8. 'The endless variety of objects': Aerial photography into the 21st century

Additional Information

  • Printed Price: £25.00
  • Series: Archaeology
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Format: Hardback
  • Physical Size: 246 x 189 mm
  • Pages: 304
  • Illustration: 190, Colour and b&w
  • Product Code: 51250
  • ISBN: 9781848020368


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History of Aerial Photography and Archaeology

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • Old Burrow Roman fortlet, Countisbury, Devon, constructed in the mid-1st century AD and build to overlook the Bristol Channel [NMR24932/039]
  • The basket of Nadar's Le Geant [NMR SC/00710/38A/01]
  • Parchmarks visible in the grass of Salisbury's Cathedral Close showing the locations of grave slabs and the former bell tower [NMR 15182/27]
  • Whitesheet Hill hillfort [NMR 15620/27]
  • Danebury Hillfort and associated earthworks and cropmarks [NMR 21964/01]
  • Flower's Barrow, Dorset, an Iron Age hillfort [NMR 23144/22]
  • Burton Lazars, Leicestershire, once the chief leper hospital in England [NMR 21855/00]
  • Royal Engineers balloon, Sapper IV, at Stonehenge [DP022268]
  • Newbury, 1899.  Filling a 56,000-cubic-foot balloon [Bacon 1900a]

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