A screen shot of a GIS system displaying archaeological features around Hadrian's Wall mapped by aerial survey methods.
A sample of mapped features around Hadrian's Wall. © Historic England
A sample of mapped features around Hadrian's Wall. © Historic England

Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer

The Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer is a tool that displays archaeology that has been identified, mapped and recorded using aerial photographs and other aerial sources across England.

For the first time ever, Historic England has made the results of over 30 years of aerial photograph mapping projects freely available online. Use it to explore heritage from ancient settlements to secret Cold War military installations, or to see the complex archaeological landscapes of Hadrian’s Wall, Stonehenge and so much in between.

Getting Started

The Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer lets you explore the layers of archaeology in and around your local place. You can browse the map and zoom in to the location you’re interested in or search by postcode, address or place name.

What you can see

  • When you first open the map you will see the project areas (in red) which highlight where mapping data exists. You can click on a project area to download a free publication highlighting the archaeological discoveries of the area
  • Zoom in and you will see monument extents (grey) appear – these reveal the extents of the archaeological features recorded. Click on any one and the pop-up will take you to the Heritage Gateway where you can review the complete archaeological monument record
  • Zoom in once more and the detailed mapping will appear. View the legend to see the form of the features. Click on any feature and the pop-up will reveal what it represents.

Would you like more advice on using the map? The help button allows you to discover more about how to use the Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer.

Explore the map

How has the map been created?

  • The map brings together the results of numerous projects undertaken by specialists at Historic England and its predecessor organisations since the late 1980s, as well as many partner organisations. 
  • Hundreds of thousands of aerial photographs, ranging in date from the 1920s to the present, have been studied.
  • More recently, innovative technologies such as lidar – airborne laser scanning – and web-based sources, such as Google Earth, have been added to the sources used. 
  • Every site has a simple description with links to the full Historic Environment records held online. For most of the areas there is also a free report detailing the highlights and new discoveries encountered in each project.

Inspired?

The Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer, alongside complementary resources such as Historic Environment Records available via Heritage Gateway, offers a springboard to further investigation, whether for research purposes or simply curiosity about the area where you live.

New areas will be added to the map as soon as they are completed. New features are being discovered every year in areas that have already been studied. These may be from our reconnaissance programme as it takes advantage of weather and ground conditions for targeting new flights, or as more historic photos become available. Newer technologies such as lidar complement the evidence of the photographs by allowing us to view things difficult if not impossible to see on the photographs. If you are inspired to search for new archaeological sites then Google Earth is a great starting point, with fantastic discoveries being revealed each year.

The mapping work continues – not only are there areas which we and our partners haven’t analysed in detail yet, new discoveries continue to be made in places previously studied. It is an ongoing process, with the development of new technologies and the proliferation of aerial images all adding to the challenge.

This project marks an important milestone in improving access to historic environment information. For other initiatives please visit the Heritage Information Access Simplified web pages.

Archaeological Investigation

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