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Marden Environs Geophysical Survey

Geophysical survey was undertaken to enhance an earlier National Mapping Programme (NMP) aerial survey project focused on the important earthwork remains of a major Neolithic henge at Marden, Wiltshire. The aerial photography had identified numerous ploughed out Bronze Age barrows, a small henge monument and a Roman villa settlement near the villages of Charlton St Peter and Wilsford.

Black and white vertical aerial photograph
Charlton Barrows photographed by the RAF on 14-JUL-1959 (RAF/58/T3021 162) Historic England RAF Photography

Geophysical survey

Caesium magnetometer survey was undertaken in two areas near the villages of Marden, Wilsford and Charlton St Peter and targeted the ploughed out barrow cemeteries at both sites, the plough-levelled Wilsford henge and the Charlton Roman villa site.

The purpose of the geophysical investigation was to assess the aerial photography, as some of the enclosures appear infrequently as crop marks, and enhance a previous geophysical survey at Charlton St Peter.

A towed array of 4 high-sensitivity caesium magnetometers was used together with a GPS receiver to simultaneously record positional data to provide rapid and clear definition of a range of buried occupation remains, such as in-filled ditches, pits, burnt features and larger post-holes – over a total area of over 20Ha.

Colour image showing two men in a buggy pulling a large wheeled sled across a ploughed field
Vehicle-towed non-magnetic sledge system with array of 4 specially modified Scintrex SM4 caesium vapour magnetometer sensors and GPS for simultaneous positional recording. Wilsford near Marden, Wiltshire, September 2012. © Historic England

Geophysical interpretation

The surveys provided detailed evidence for activity within the wider setting of the Marden henge, potentially spanning the Neolithic to Roman periods. Much of this was previously recorded by the aerial survey but the geophysics provided several enhancements.

Greyscale image showing various archaeological features in shades of grey against a red and grey background
Greyscale image of the caesium magnetometer data from the Charlton St Peter barrow cemetery and villa site © Historic England

Archaeological activity detected by the geophysical surveys included:

  • The Wilsford Neolithic henge monument recorded as a broad irregular circular ditch interrupted by an entrance causeway facing north-east towards the River Avon and new evidence for an interior circle of possible post-hole pits.
  • Confirmation of the ploughed out Bronze Age round barrows, visible as ring-ditch anomalies in the magnetometer data-sets from both the Marden and the Charlton barrow cemeteries.
  • Evidence of later Romano-British settlement activity at both sites, represented by an enclosed villa complex including stone buildings set within ditched enclosures at Charlton, and a previously unrecognised enclosed farmstead at Marden that had not appeared in the aerial photographic record before.

The combined remote sensing data demonstrates that the Marden Environs are rich in multi-period archaeological remains and the survey results will help us to support local landowners in protecting and managing these vulnerable sites.

Colour image showing archaeological features in various colours against a grey map background
Graphical summary of significant magnetic anomalies detected at Marden barrows and Wilsford henge © Historic England

The key findings from the project are published in research reports available through the Research Department's Reports database.

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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