Aerial Archaeology Research Group

Worldwide Aerial Archaeology

This section should give examples of worldwide applications of aerial archaeology.
If you wish to see examples of applied aerial archaeology, follow these links:

Wings over Armenia – aerial archaeology in Armenia.

Aerial Archaeology in Perth and Kinross

Aerial Archaeology in the area of Leszno, Poland by Rog Palmer

Aerial Photographs of New Zealand Archaeology by Kevin Jones

Aerial Archaeology in Wales

Penallta Horse

The Royal Commission's flying programme has three main aspects: exploratory work, the photography of sites and landscapes of national importance, and recording of industrial or architectural subjects. Exploratory reconnaissance is used to discover and record 'new' sites, some of which may only be seen from the air. In late spring or summer the buried ditches of plough-levelled sites may cause patterns of lush growth or 'cropmarks' in ripening arable fields or pasture; at the same time, buried stonework of walls and roads can cause crops to whither and parch out leaving lighter lines. In both these ways, cropmarks can show the position and layout of otherwise invisible archaeological sites. Very faint earthwork remains, often found in upland regions, can be equally difficult to see on the ground. When these sites are photographed in low winter or spring sunlight the effects of light and shadow, at times combined with a dusting of frost or wind-blown snow, can help to pick out indistinct outlines with striking clarity. In very dry summers, when conditions are exceptional, many hundreds of 'new' cropmark sites can be discovered in the space of just a few months, showing the fundamental contribution aerial photography can make to our understanding of the archaeology of Wales.

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The Stour Valley Project, England: a cropmark landscape in three dimensions

The river Stour forms the boundary between counties of Essex and Suffolk in south-east England (Fig. 1). It flows along a band of alluvium, terraced valley gravels and glacial sands and gravels, in an area that is predominately Boulder Clay with pockets of underlying London Clay. The dense concentration of cropmark sites along the river valley was regularly flown from the 1950's on by the Cambridge University Committee for Aerial Photography (CUCAP); the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME); and the Archaeology Section of Essex County Council. The latter included survey carried out in the exceptional conditions in 1995-6, which not only discovered new sites, but also afforded important additional detail at a number of important sites (Strachan 1996 and 1997).

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Aerial Archaeology in Poland

P.M. Barford

Following the success of the 1998 aerial archaeology school in Leszno (AARG News 17), it seems that if adequate funding can be secured, aerial photography will find an increasingly more secure place among the field techniques routinely used by Polish archaeologists. It would be wrong however to see the recent events in complete isolation from the previous development of this type of work. The Polish traditions of aerial archaeology seem to have had their beginnings in the Poznan school more than 50 years ago, despite this they developed in slightly different ways from the English. The present bibliography is a preliminary attempt to order the available literature in a way which may make the information a little more available to those whose Polish has become rusty. It is arranged in chronological order. This list is intended as an aid to anyone attempting in the future compilation of a history of aerial archaeology in Europe. A first version of this list was prepared for the Leszno school, and I would like to thank Wlodek Raczkowski for his help in tracking-down some of these refences.

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Aerial Photographs of New Zealand Archaeology

Kohukete: one of the largest pa in Hawkes Bay. Measured along the curved ridge, the pa is about 300 m long.

New Zealand has some 6,000 earthwork fortifications, the product of widespread warfare in the pre-European period from about A.D. 1500 to A.D. 1800. In addition, Maori quickly adopted and developed aspects of gun warfare in the nineteenth century: as many as 600 fortified sites were built or adapted from pre-European types. The Maori word for these fortifications is "pa" (pronounced as in "Ma and Pa"). A typical fortification consists of an elevated section of a ridge with ditches at either end. Ditches may extend around the sides, and there may be more than one ditch. Another form is a headland or end of a ridge with a ditch or ditches across the narrowest access point. There are also many sites with storage pits, terraced housefloors and horticultural plot boundaries that show well from the air. The aerial photographs in this compendium are low oblique (near vertical) or vertical images taken by Kevin L. Jones. Copyright©1997 Kevin L. Jones/New Zealand Department of Conservation is asserted.

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