West Wiltshire: National Archaeological Identification Survey Lowland Pilot Project Report
Author(s): Jonathan Last, E Carpentar, Sally Evans
This report describes the results of the National Archaeological Identification Survey Pilot Project: West Wiltshire (A350 corridor), which comprised interpretation and mapping of air photographs and lidar, analytical field survey, geophysical survey, excavation and palaeoenvironmental study. The project (Fig 1) covered an area of 199 sq km in west Wiltshire between Chippenham and Trowbridge, centred on the Avon valley and the A350 road corridor. Wiltshire is often regarded as a county of chalk downland but the project area has a varied geology typical of the Avon Vales and Cotswolds National Character Areas. The relative lack of previous investigation compared to the adjacent North Wessex Downs and Cotswolds, combined with potential development around the major towns and the impact of arable agriculture, were factors in the selection of the project area. The project created 783 new monument records in the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) and amended a further 123. Equally significantly, it has greatly improved our knowledge of the character and condition of archaeological sites and landscape features in the area, with particular contributions to understanding rural settlement and land use in the Iron Age/Roman and medieval/post-medieval periods. Recommendations for scheduling assessment may also lead to statutory protection outcomes. Archaeological mapping from air photographs and lidar identified, in particular, a number of previously unknown ring-ditches, most of which probably represent round barrows; numerous later prehistoric and Roman enclosures, revealed as cropmarks, some with associated field systems; large areas of ridge and furrow; and several examples of medieval or post-medieval settlement earthworks. Ground-based analytical earthwork survey focussed on the last of these, while geophysical survey and excavation mainly targeted the cropmark enclosures. At one site, however, all these techniques were productively combined, along with a survey of standing buildings, to investigate change in the post-medieval landscape. The report provides a summary of the nature and distribution of archaeological remains seen on air photographs and lidar, and of the subsequent investigations using ground-based techniques. It describes the methodology, scope and sources of the project, assesses how the results have contributed to the aims, objectives and research questions set out in the Project Design, and sets them in the context of development-led work within the project area. Recommendations for further work are put forward and issues relating to heritage protection are discussed. The rationale of the project is that research and heritage protection are closely linked because improved understanding of the archaeology of an area will lead to better informed planning decisions and a greater likelihood that assets will be protected through schemes like countryside stewardship. A clear and compelling narrative is also more likely to engage a wider audience and raise local communities' awareness of their heritage.
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