Avebury World Heritage Site National Mapping Programme project
Avebury and the surrounding area is known for its remarkable prehistoric remains. The best known of these are Avebury Henge, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues, the West Kennet long barrow, the causewayed enclosure at Windmill Hill, and Silbury Hill. The extensive, and often hidden, heritage of the area was mapped through analysis of aerial photographs and lidar during the Avebury World Heritage Site National Mapping Programme (NMP) project.
Layers of information
Photographs taken from the 1940s onwards recorded earthworks that are now ploughed level or almost flat. For example, extensive prehistoric or Roman fields once stretched from Horton Down eastwards to West Overton and the ridgeway.
Particularly well-preserved examples can still be seen on Fyfield and Overton Down.
Reconnaissance over nearly a hundred years revealed buried aspects of past land use in the Avebury landscape. An excellent example of this process is the Late Neolithic palisade enclosure site at West Kennet. Though first photographed in the 1950s by J K St Joseph, the significance of the cropmarks was not recognised until 1987. Excavations by Alasdair Whittle of Cardiff University between 1987 and 1992 uncovered an extensive and previously unsuspected complex of Late Neolithic date.
Whittle’s site plan, published in 1997, was largely based on mapping from aerial photographs by RCHME in 1992. The NMP survey added further detail from historic and new photographs, while further cropmarks were recorded following reconnaissance in 2001. Since the most recent published plan (2003), even more detail has been photographed.
New discoveries in well-explored areas
Aerial reconnaissance continues in the Avebury area, and can add not just additional detail to known sites, but can reveal completely unexpected monuments in even the best explored area.
A relatively recent example of this is a probable Neolithic long barrow, photographed by Damian Grady of English Heritage in the early summer of 2009. Lying just a few hundred yards south of the Avebury henge, it was photographed as a soilmark. There appears to be no earthwork survival – no trace of the monument can be seen on available lidar, for example.
You can read more in the project report:
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.
Historic Places Investigation
Also of interest...
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