Identification of Terrestrial Assets by Non-Intrusive Survey NHPP Activity 3A4
Research carried out 2011-2015, focused on detection and interpretation of archaeological remains. We mainly used non-intrusive survey techniques over large areas, recording thousands of new archaeological sites. This formed part of the National Heritage Protection Plan.
Scope of the activity
A key stage in heritage protection is the discovery and understanding of the significance of archaeological sites and landscapes. The projects under NHPP Activity 3A4 achieved this by three main methods:
- A national programme of aerial reconnaissance: discovering and recording archaeological sites visible as cropmarks, earthworks and structures.
- A national programme of mapping and recording from aerial photographs and lidar (airborne laser scanning) and other remote sensing data.
- Multidisciplinary surveys of selected historic landscapes and sites.
This Activity aimed to ensure that sites and landscapes were properly recorded and understood in terms of their significance.
The protection of archaeological remains or “assets” relies first and foremost on knowing about them, either individually or as components of broader historic landscapes. The programmes outlined below have mapped an area equivalent to 4705 square kilometres, resulting in the creation of 16,720 new monument records and significant updates to 4,853 records. These findings are made available to all those with an interest in understanding and conserving the historic environment. Direct protection results include the supply of information for designation, the planning process, and land management agreements.
Identification of assets from aerial reconnaissance
Aerial reconnaissance is a cost effective method of identifying archaeological sites, carried out over large areas. We operate two reconnaissance centres, one from Swindon and one from York.
Four teams of locally based fliers funded by the National Heritage Protection Commissions Programme further enhanced this. Local flier projects were based in Cornwall, Essex, Herefordshire and Shropshire: areas that are not always easy for our teams to cover. In addition, in Essex a survey of online sources, such as Google Earth, was used to add to the information on sites in the Uttlesford and Epping areas to the Historic Environment Record (HER).
To make flying time as efficient as possible, a variety of photographs were taken to support a number of NHPP measures at the same time, including: discovering new sites, monitoring the condition of monuments and designed landscapes, architectural recording and landscape characterisation (NHPP Measure 3, 4 and 6).
The key results of this activity were new discoveries and records of nationally and locally significant heritage assets and landscapes and an archive of aerial photographs for use in a number of NHPP and other initiatives. Records for the sites are available on the PastScape website).
Identification and contextual understanding from aerial photographs/lidar mapping to provide base level protection
Much of the archaeological information on aerial photographs was not previously been systematically included in local or national records. Through NHPP, archaeologists made information available by interpreting and synthesising information on lidar data (airborne laser scanning) and thousands of aerial photographs.
Our project teams mapped the extent and form of archaeological remains to build up a picture of extensive landscapes and so provided a deeper understanding, aiding better protection, of the historic environment.
Projects normally used National Mapping Programme (NMP) methods. Staff based in Swindon and York offices and commissioned bodies worked on projects from all around England.
We completed the following national mapping programme projects during the NHPP plan period 2011-2015:
- North Cotswolds. (Completed 2012).
- Hull Valley and Chalk Lowlands. (Completed 2012).
- South Downs Beachy Head-Lewes. (Project completed 2013).
- Hampshire Downland. (Project completed 2013).
- North York Moors Phase 2. (Project completed 2013).
- Marden Environs, Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire. (Mapping completed).
- North Devon AONB. (Project completed 2013).
- Cumbrian Terrestrial Minerals Resource Assessment- see also Activity 2D4 on mineral extraction impacts. (Project completed 2013).
- Norwich-Thetford-A11 Growth Area. (Mapping completed).
- New Forest Remembers (in conjunction with a project to record Second World War sites).
- Yorkshire Henges. (Project completed 2013).
- South East Warwickshire and Cotswolds Higher Level Stewardship Target Areas. (Mapping completed).
- South West Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment for Dorset NMP and Devon NMP Components- see also activity 3A2. (Mapping completed).
The main products of NMP are archaeological maps, monument records and reports available from Historic England or the relevant local Historic Environment Record. Find out about the projects or download the reports from the Historic England website.
Integrated survey of target historic landscapes and assets
Within the NHPP plan period, up to 2015, there were surveys within significant but poorly understood or threatened landscapes. These National Archaeological Identification Surveys (NAIS) used mapping from aerial photographs and appropriate targeted ground techniques such as geophysical survey, analytical earthwork survey, architectural survey, field-walking, cartographic and documentary research, excavation, scientific dating, and environmental sampling.
Choice of techniques and sites for groundwork depended on the specific issues and research questions for the chosen area, and were informed by the initial aerial mapping stages.
The main aim of the initial NAIS projects is to develop methods and produce guidance on best practice for recognising and identifying archaeological assets on a landscape scale, leading directly to heritage protection. Protection results will be measured in terms of the knowledge fed into archives, databases and publications suited to those engaged in future planning and management initiatives, but may also include recommendations for statutory designation.
- NAIS Pilot 1 Upland – Lakes, Dales and Arnside. Stage 1 (air photo mapping and analysis) completed. Work began on targeted ground-based work using the aerial evidence as a starting point.
- NAIS Pilot 1 Lowland – West Wiltshire. Work completed on Stage 1 air photo mapping and analysis.
Earlier projects such as the ‘Mendip Hills’, ‘Miner-Farmers of the North Pennines’ and ‘Hoo Peninsula’ provided examples for the further development of integrated survey approaches. Experience gained from these projects will be incorporated in the NAIS methodology and inform resulting guidance.
Other multidisciplinary surveys completed as part of the Plan are:
- The Lake District National Park Survey, which in 2012 resulted in a book Cairns, Fields and Cultivation: Archaeological Landscapes of the Lake District Uplands, published though Oxbow.
- Stiperstones Hills Survey, Shropshire. The report, a revision of an earlier study from 2006, is concerned with management of the monuments in the area. It has been archived with Historic England, the Archaeology Data Service and with Shropshire Historic Environment Record.
- Marden National Mapping Programme Enhancement. The report of the Geophysical Survey is available online through the Historic England website.
Links to other activities
The key protection results of this activity included support for the work of local authorities but also for national issues included in the NHPP such as:
- Mineral extraction (Activity 2D4)
- Coastal erosion (Activity 3A2)
- The projects in 3A4 also identify sites and landscapes for further investigation, possibly leading to national designation (NHPP Measures 4 to 6)
It also supported initiatives of other bodies such as the Selected Heritage Inventory for Natural England (SHINE).