Large area surveys: hidden heritage and landscapes
We identify and record archaeological features over large areas, through a combination of aerial reconnaissance and investigation of photographs and airborne laser scanning (lidar) data held in national and local archives.
Large area mapping and assessment collates the information from numerous aerial sources and depicts the form and extent of archaeological information from different periods and with differing levels of visibility on the ground. We have recently reviewed our technical standard for how we go about this.
The composite map encourages a layered view of the landscape, where the aerial evidence, and information from other sources and survey techniques, provides glimpses of the changing use of an area over thousands of years.
This is an important viewpoint in terms of heritage protection which considers all known aspects of past land use in the context of managing future change.
Information from large area projects can be used for research and further work using different techniques. When incorporated into historic environment records, the aerial photograph and lidar mapping provides essential information on the extent and nature of archaeological sites to inform management and the planning process.
It also allows us to identify sites over large areas and then focus on key elements of the landscape. These can then be targeted for the application of other techniques, including analytical earthwork survey, geophysical survey and small-scale excavation.
The knowledge gained from this can then be used to identify appropriate heritage protection measures at local, regional and national levels. All the results of the projects are fed into historic environment records to assist strategic planning and management initiatives.
A range of strategic large area projects identify, record and improve understanding of sites and landscapes across England, using National Mapping Programme (NMP) standards. Historic England staff work closely with Local Authorities, and other partners to ensure projects are focused on key areas potentially under threat from agriculture, strategic development, or where there is simply a lack of knowledge.