A day in the life… disappointing Neolithic enclosures but excellent gooseberries in Teesdale

Heavy rain as we drive up the A1 makes my daughter Iris (just 6), who is in tow for the day, much less enthusiastic. But fortunately it almost stops as we reach Upper Teesdale. Paul Frodsham and Stewart Ainsworth, waiting by the side of the lane, are here to do paid work for the North Pennines AONB’s LiDAR Landscapes project, following up the labours of volunteers, who have been systematically examining LiDAR imagery. I’ve been invited because they suspect that both the unusual enclosures we’re examining might be early Neolithic, but my involvement is unpaid, purely for interest. Retired aerial photographer Tim Gates is along for a nice day out, although his experience of the uplands, which rivals even Stewart’s, is always valuable.

We struggle into full waterproofs and set off up the valley side, hopping across a beck that’s almost dry, despite the recent rain, and zig-zagging up through the impressive basalt cliffs of Holwick Scar. Nestling in a valley by another beck, I spot the stone footings of a tiny post-medieval sheiling. Tim kindly keeps Iris moving forward by pointing out wild flowers.

After 30 minutes we reach the first site, on a plateau in the bleak moorland, and within seconds we’ve concluded that it’s not a Neolithic enclosure, but a typical Bronze Age field, defined by low banks of stone, laboriously cleared from the surface. Even today, 3,000 years later, the pasture within the plot is richer and greener than the surrounding rough grassland. Iris finds a disarticulated sheep skeleton to play with. A burial cairn, incorporated into the field boundary, is of interest because excavation in the 1980s (we note that the trench was never backfilled!) produced a Neolithic stone axe. But there’s no other indication that the cairn’s any earlier than the Bronze Age, so the axe might be a curated ‘antique’. The monument’s position in the landscape also prompts debate: although there’s a more conspicuous knoll nearby, the cairn was placed lower down, next to a tiny beck – a deliberate link with water. Paul asks whether it might actually be a ‘burnt mound’, ie the residue of a Bronze Age sauna, since these are invariably found next to small watercourses. But we’re all happy that it’s a bona fide burial monument. Did a little clearing in the woodland here first attract the builders of the monument, and later the occupants of the tiny farmstead? We look for the site of the large roundhouse that would typically sit at the edge of a Bronze Age field and soon find it, half concealed beneath the drystone walls of a post-medieval sheep-shelter, shaped like a Mercedes badge. There’s a welcome opportunity to joke about the sheep-shelter being a Bronze Age “tri-radial cairn”, a form of monument that briefly attracted national attention a few years ago when Paul was Archaeologist for Northumberland National Park, and which we think is a fiction. We discuss the potential diameter of the roundhouse and whether it might actually be a dismantled burial cairn, since there’s an unusually pronounced ‘kerb’ on one side (and where has all the stone for the sheep-shelter come from?). After 10 minutes, we’ve failed to reach a conclusion, but the primary question has been answered and Iris is bored, so we head back down for lunch, eaten standing by the cars in the drizzle, before driving into the next valley to look at the next site.

This second earthwork has been interpreted previously as an Iron Age palisaded enclosure. Even before we leave the cars, Tim puts money on it being medieval or later, based on a glance at the lidar print-out. It takes us a while to pin-point the start of the footpath up the valley side, because the signs have apparently been removed. Walking back and forth along the lane, we notice some heavily-fruiting gooseberry bushes in the hedgerow – Iris wants us to stop there. But eventually we’re sufficiently confident in our map-reading to set off boldly through a sea of cow manure, studded with islands of abandoned farm machinery, oddments of scrap and barking, wildly straining sheepdogs (a typical upland farmyard). Using the lidar imagery, we find the enclosure quickly. It is immediately clear that there are actually two separate earthworks. The later one, an enclosure defined by a low bank and ditch, has a very irregular plan that bizarrely surrounds a dry valley and parts of two knolls. Tim and I conclude that it’s a medieval or later wood-bank, made to protect a rare – and now vanished – surviving scrap of woodland in this largely treeless landscape. If it was spring, I’d be looking for the tell-tale species of plants that indicate ancient woodland, because they often outlive the trees. The earlier earthwork is what has attracted Stewart’s attention: an arc of low, stony bank, almost completely grassed over. It predates the ?wood-bank, which clearly cuts through it. But what appear to be artificial earthworks on the lidar imagery prove to be natural scarps reflecting the underlying geology (that’s why it’s important to ‘ground truth’ LiDAR), so, despite prolonged scrutiny, we can’t convince ourselves that the arc of stony bank ever formed a complete enclosure. Nor can we date it, except that it’s earlier than the ?medieval enclosure. Tim, keen to win his bet, claims that it’s just an earlier version of the wood-bank. The rest of us are more circumspect, but we can’t get much further without excavation, and that would be an expensive shot in the dark. So we head back down to the cars, Iris clutching a trio of bleached rabbit bones. On the way, Paul and I discuss a publication on the Neolithic in northern England which he’s co-editing, and to which I’m contributing – probably the day’s most useful outcome for me. I promise to email him things when I get back to York. He and Stewart drive off to inspect a newly-discovered Romano-British enclosure further down the lane, but Iris insists that Tim and I stay to pick gooseberries. Well, payment in kind is always welcome! And as soon as Paul is out of earshot, Tim grumbles that anyway he’d rather pick gooseberries than look at “yet another bloody R-B enclosure”.


I’m looking for any artefacts that might have been excavated from the Bronze Age house by rabbits. Iris is looking for the bones of the excavators.

Cobham Landscape Detectives and a Cottage Dig in Kent

To my great amusement both my wife, Sophie Adams and I have been working in cellars today…I have been digging a Georgian cellar out, while Sophie had been researching in Maidstone Museum’s cellar…do read her dayofarch post!


For the last week the Shorne Woods Archaeology Group and the North Downs YACs have been assisting me in the excavation of an old cottage in Cobham Woods, Kent.

This work is taking place as part of a new 3 year Lottery funded project, Cobham Landscape Detectives. Beginning this Spring, the project will aim to tell the story of the varied and fascinating landscape, centred on Cobham Parish, Kent.

We have already spent many hours walking through Cobham Woods, with LiDAR printout in one hand and GPS receiver in the other! The LiDAR results have guided us to old trackways through the woods and many a mysterious lump and bump…not to mention the most amazing trees!


Medieval trackway running through Cobham Woods

We have participated in the annual Park open day at Shorne Woods to spread awareness of the project…


Our work in Cobham Woods led us to one site that seemed very suitable for the first community excavation of the new project…a demolished cottage that once stood in the SE corner of the old Cobham Hall estate…


Volunteer with window frame from the Cottage

With permissions in place from Natural England and support from the National Trust who own and manage the land, we set aside 2 weeks to examine the layout of the cottage site and recover dating evidence….


First day on site with the amazing North Downs YACs

I am writing this at the end of week one, after seven brilliant days on site, with the hardest working and most dedicated volunteers I have ever met (and in some cases now worked with for over 10 years!)…

We have identified the layout of 2 buildings on the site, the first is a Georgian building dating to the 1780’s:


The second is an additional building added in the later 19th century:


This second building survives much better than the first, with intact internal and external surfaces, full of finds!

The first building has suffered from the full force of the demolition crew that tore apart both buildings in the 1950’s, leaving a gaping hole in the north wall.

Betty B6

Newspaper article showing the cottage pre-war

Amongst the many interesting finds from the site is one rather special mug fragment:

cricket mug 001a

It appears to depict a kangaroo holding a cricket bat! This is an incredible link to the wider Cobham Hall estate, as one of the owners captained the first Ashes winning cricket team in the 1880’s…could this be a piece of memorabilia depicting this event…celebrated on the estate by the estate workers?

We have another week to further puzzle out the mysteries of the cottage. Does the Georgian building’s cellar have an intact floor? What will other finds tell us about the owners of the cottage and the wider estate? What is the function of the enigmatic brick structure in building 2?

In a finale fitting to the day of archaeology, a spot of further research on-site today produced a lovely drawing of the cottage, presumed to show it in the first half of the 20th century….


Image from the Cobham and Ashenbank Management Scheme Report

To keep up to date with the dig and the Cobham Landscape Detectives Project, follow @ArchaeologyKent on Twitter and ArchaeologyinKent on facebook, as well as our dedicated, volunteer-run website!

I always end my day of archaeology posts by thanking the volunteers, both local and further afield, who make every project we put together possible through their dedication and hardwork…thank you 🙂


Volunteers hard at work on the Cottage Dig

Prospección desde el sillón

Instituto de Ciencias del Patrimonio (Incipit), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), España.

Introducción técnica (con palabras raras y eso)

El uso de tecnologías geoespaciales tanto para investigación como para gestión y protección del patrimonio arqueológico es algo bastante consolidado ya en esta nuestra disciplina. Dada la buena disposición del estado, en España disponemos desde hace años de una ingente cantidad de datos geográficos de libre acceso a nuestro alcance cuyo número no deja de crecer y que permiten que cualquiera persona pueda trastear en el espacio cuanto y como crea conveniente.

Una de las grandes posibilidades ofrecidas por estas tecnologías que en la última década ha ido ganando fuerza es el uso de datos LiDAR, nubes de puntos obtenidas con láser que permiten modelar superficies con bastante precisión y clasificarlas en categorías (Para más información, La precisión obtenida con algunos sensores permite reconstruir la superficie del terreno con resoluciones altísimas aportando, entre otras muchas cosas, una visión diferente de los sitios arqueológicos a la que estamos acostumbrados.

Una de las grandes posibilidades que ofrece el uso de LiDAR en arqueología es la de realizar desde tu silla (o sillón, todo depende del estatus) prospecciones sobre grandes áreas de terreno en las que detectar cualquier anomalía superficial susceptible de ser un sitio arqueológico.

El resumen del trabajo

Hoy, 29 de Julio de 2016, en el Día de la Arqueología, estoy dedicando la jornada a aplicar estas técnicas no invasivas para comprobar su eficacia a la hora de identificar y delimitar yacimientos, tanto ya conocidos como nuevos. En concreto, como parte de un proyecto, estamos revisando zonas del Concello de Friol, en Lugo, un territorio bien conocido y prospectado hace años a través, básicamente, de trabajo de campo.

La cobertura de datos LiDAR de España es también de libre acceso e incluye todo el territorio estatal, si bien la calidad de los mismos muchas veces no permite obtener de forma precisa una resolución mejor a 1 m (hay que pensar que estos datos se tomaron con otros fines que no requieren tanto detalle como planeamiento urbano, forestal y demás). No obstante, trabajar con modelos de 1 m de resolución está resultando suficiente por lo general en este caso y, de forma constante, estamos identificando túmulos (tanto nuevos como conocidos) y estructuras como fosos y terrazas asociadas a castros.

Para visualizar todos estos elementos nos estamos ayudando de filtros que nos ayuden a resaltar características del terreno tales como la pendiente, la concavidad/convexidad o su exposición al sol. La posibilidad para identificar elementos arqueológicos en estas superficies frente a métodos tradicionales como la fotointerpretación se hace bastante evidente:

00_PNOA2 00_SLOPE2

Figura 1: Comparativa. La misma superficie vista desde el aire vs vista con datos LiDAR. Los puntos rojos representan túmulos, la mayoría de ellos no visibles con fotointerpretación. La rugosidad de la imagen de LiDAR quiere decir que la calidad de los datos no es muy alta. Sin embargo, es suficiente para identificar los túmulos más grandes.

El caso de la imagen anterior es de túmulos cuya existencia ya era conocida pero, no obstante, en ocasiones también estamos localizando posibles túmulos no documentados que, obviamente, tendrán que ser confirmados en el campo. El trabajo no resulta excesivamente complicado, pero sí requiere un buen ojo, muchas horas de dedicación buscando en la pantalla y, sobre todo, mucha paciencia para no entrar en desesperación cuando revisas hectáreas y hectáreas en un solo día buscando bultos sospechosos.


Figura 2: Excederse con el LiDAR en una misma jornada y no tener resultados positivos puede llevar a la desesperación, así que paciencia.

En definitiva, y como consejo/resumen, idos preparando, compañeros de profesión, pues como la calidad de los datos LiDAR vaya en alza y se sigan desarrollando nuevas técnicas es posible que la prospección convencional pierda importancia… ¡Así que ya podéis ir afinando el ojo!

Por Jorge Canosa-Betés

A Digital Day of Archaeology

Wooston Castle Local Relief Model draped over a 3D Digital Terrain Model, all based on LiDAR data and available on Sketchfab

Wooston Castle Local Relief Model draped over a 3D Digital Terrain Model, all based on LiDAR data and available on Sketchfab

As is usual for me, my day comprises working on digital heritage projects, as in my previous Days of Archaeology (2011a, 2011b, 2012, 2013 and 2014). So no archaeological features were harmed in the making of this post!

Although on one current project, my GSTAR doctoral research, I am indeed working with archaeological excavation data from the archives of Wessex Archaeology combined with museums collections data from Wiltshire Museum and also heritage inventory data from the Wiltshire Historic Environment Record. This project is nearing completion (thesis due for submission April-ish next year!) and having already shown that geospatial information can be published and used in Semantic Web / Linked Data contexts through the integration of ontologies, I’m currently building demonstrators to show how data can then be used to undertake archaeological research through framing fairly complex archaeological research questions as spatial queries asked across the range of resources I’ve included.

Today however, I’m working mainly on Archaeogeomancy commercial projects as I do one day a week. And thanks to the wonders of digital technologies, I’m working out of Bristol for a change; my first Day of Archaeology away from Salisbury. It’s been a busy week this week, clocking up quite a few miles, as Monday and Tuesday were spent at the Pelagios Linked Pasts event held at Kings College London where a diverse group from across the world spent a very productive couple of days talking about Linked Data with particular emphasis on people, places, space and time.

This morning’s tasks focussed on an automation project involving planning applications. I’m building a system which consumes planning data collated by Glenigan, classifies it according to type of project (as defined by the client) and then pushes out regional and property specific maps and summaries on a weekly/monthly basis for a list of properties which may be affected by these planning applications. This allows specialists in each region to assess each planning application and make recommendations regarding any responses needed. So whilst not the shiniest and most academically interesting of projects, it is the kind of GIS based systems development and automation that can really make a difference by freeing up staff time from the mundane production of such maps and reports.

This afternoon’s tasks will focus on another system I’m developing, this time to assist with the analysis and interpretation of LiDAR data. I’m building a toolkit which incorporates a select range of visualisation techniques requested by the client including Local Relief Maps, Principal Components Analysis and the usual hillshades, slope, etc. The toolkit is to be deployed to users who are not necessarily experts in the analysis and interpretation of LiDAR data or GIS so needs to be simple to use with many variables preset and also needs to be integrated within their corporate GIS solution rather than be a standalone application. The first batch of tools mentioned above are all complete and working nicely; this afternoon’s mission is to wrap up the Openness and Sky View Factor visualisations.

Indeed, it’s been great working with LiDAR data again lately. When thinking of a suitable image for this year’s Day of Archaeology post, the one shown above immediately leapt to mind. It shows a screenshot of the output of the Local Relief Model (LRM) tool I built draped over the Digital Terrain Model (DTM) for a rather lovely hillfort as viewed on Sketchfab. I mention this because disseminating informative views of LiDAR data has long been problematic, but platforms such as Sketchfab allow us to composite 3D and 2D products and then share them in an interactive way with anyone who has a web browser and an internet connection without the need for any specialist software at all. Nice.

University of Padova working on historical maps, aerial photography and LIDAR

University of Padova team, partner of MEMOLA project, working on historical maps, aerial photography and LIDAR to rebuild the historical landscape of the Colli Euganei hills (Italy) in a GIS platform.

In this GIS platform they upload the information from different archaeological fieldwork like the Hydraulic survey back in February, that allowed them to locate numerous water mills and analyse their architectural features. All this information is used to understand the evolution of the Colli Euganei Cultural Landscape.

University of Padova team working on historical maps, aerial photography and LIDAR

University of Padova team working on historical maps, aerial photography and LIDAR

Water mill of Colli Euganei (Italy)

Water mill of Colli Euganei (Italy)

Non-invasive surveying of the archaeological resource potential in the Bobolice region, West Pomeranian Voivodeship

Working as an archaeologists at University can have many faces. The current need to combine different areas of interests can result in fascinating working in grants that touch vide and detailed areas of knowledge and a joy to work with a lot of specialists .The one I am coordinated and I would like to report shortly is actually conducted by Institute of Prehistory of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland (2014-2015).

The problem of archaeological site identification is a significant issue in the development of research in both archaeology and the field of conservation where the goal is to protect and manage archaeological heritage. The Non-invasive surveying of the archaeological resource potential in the Bobolice region, West Pomeranian Voivodeship project concerns research involving comprehensive use of the latest non-invasive technologies in archaeology in order to identify, verify and conduct an inventory of archaeological sites in the Bobolice region (West Pomeranian Voivodeship), Poland.

The project integrates several field prospection methods in order to create a comprehensive inventory of the area under investigation. Data on archaeological sites are gathered using five basic methods: (1) airborne laser scanning measurements (LIDAR) based on data from ISOK (IT System of the Country’s Protection against extreme hazards); (2) analysis of satellite images of selected areas; (3) aerial survey; (4) verifying field-walking prospection; (5) geophysical survey of selected archaeological sites.

Archaeological survey encounters a major problem in the Bobolice region as a lot of the surface area forested. The application of other prospection methods which allow better detection of the archaeological resources is particularly useful in the case of forested areas. Airborne laser scanning (ALS) within the ISOK framework,  makes it possible to penetrate wooded zones systematically. Thanks to this method it will be possible to identify and mark the precise location of archaeological sites and features in a given area, to determine the context in which they have been found, the state of preservation and any possible threats.

The research conducted so far led to a positive confirmation of existing and already known archaeological sites and structures – mainly settlements of the early Middle Ages (including Górawino, Kurowo, Bobrowo, Głodowa). In addition, it allowed us to identify a number of unknown archaeological sites, located in the forests , including several extensive clusters of stone and earthen mounds – burial barrows, often destroyed, and different stone constructions and pavements.

This project is innovative in its methodological  (scientific-technological) and analytical approach. Analysis of the data acquired via the various prospection methods applied will lead to consideration of how effective these methods are whilst taking both their potential and limitations into account. It will also focus attention on the fact that these methods must be integrated in order to gain a comprehensive interpretation of the area and help create appropriate conditions for the promotion of this type of practice within archaeological milieux. It seems the effectiveness of the proposed methods and the benefits emerging from their integration is significant in shaping conservation policies (conservation aims), knowledge about the past (educational aims) and in disseminating information on archaeological resources. It is also a fundamental point in raising awareness of the need to protect archaeological heritage and  of its economic value regarding regional tourism development (promotional aims).

The project is financed by Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland and coordinated by National Heritage Board of Poland.

See more at:


Adventures in Digital Archaeology & Open Access Antiquarianism

Ashley M. Richter in front of one of the UCSD Calit2 visualization walls and my layered realities conceptual graphic for digital archaeological technology development and use.

Ashley M. Richter in front of one of the UCSD Calit2 visualization walls and my layered realities conceptual graphic for digital archaeological technology development and use.

It’s funny how quickly time passes while studying time.

Two years ago, this weekend was spent with a laser scanner at the beach.

I’d finagled a mini-grant from the National Science Foundation for a project I like to call Sandcastles for Science, but whose full un-pronouncable name identified it as a project to test out laser scanning capabilities for handling the imaging resolutions of stratigraphic sediment on archaeological sites (see– even that was a mouthful).

As a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, the beach was the nearest easy access place to play in the dirt and provided a perfect venue to open up the experiment to local kids and un-suspecting beach-goers who accidentally volunteered themselves for mini-science bootcamp. Willing audiences who would build me data castles, while my research assistant and I exposed them to archaeology, beach physics, the history of castles, laser scanning, sea-shell collecting, and all the other educational topics we could cram into our construction schpeals and posterboards. I like archaeological education outreach, so sue me. It gets written into almost every one of my projects somehow.

Sandcastles for Science was ultimately prep-work for a two month field season in Jordan, laser scanning sites in Faynan (and yes, even scanning Petra for one glorious day), as well as for a lovely bit of software development on visualizing temporal sequences in point clouds with one of my fabulous computer science colleagues.

The Leica Scanstation looming over its sandcastle victim at the beach.

The Leica Scanstation looming over its sandcastle victim at the beach.

Last year, this weekend was spent in a frenzy of data digging and labwork

My team needed to pull together presentations for Italian officials to approve the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology’s upcoming field season at Palazzo Vecchio and the Baptistery of St. John in Florence, and a bevy of lovely sites in southern Italy with a team from the University of Calabria.

So it was a weekend slogging through back-data of point clouds from the Hall of the 500 in Palazzo Vecchio, emphasizing the layered multi-spectral imaging into the model, and how it definitely showed the cracks conservators needed to track to create preservation solutions, and how it maybe had a hidden Da Vinci lurking behind one of its walls. It was a weekend of lists for the upcoming season, of site logistics, and Italian language lessons (team lessons with an instructor +  DuoLingo = a surprising amount of success once we hit Italy for the two month madcap field season that was my fall of 2013).

And if you’d like to check out more pics and details of my wonderful and ridiculous work for a once-promising academic something, scope out my scrapbook blog Adventures in Digital Archaeology.

The CISA3 diagnostics team at Palazzo Vecchio after successful conservation imaging.

The CISA3 diagnostics team at Palazzo Vecchio after successful conservation imaging.

The Faro Focus and I about to image the exterior of the Baptistery. Note that I literally only seem capable of this one jaunty pose with a laser scanner. I desperately need to start doing something different in field propaganda photos.

The Faro Focus and I about to image the exterior of the Baptistery. Note that I literally only seem capable of this one jaunty pose with a laser scanner. I desperately need to start doing something different in field propaganda photos.

But this year, this year was spent online- in a flurry of creative archaeological energy

This summer, I find myself graduated and out on my own, free to pursue my own projects, safely away from the boundary lines of academia and the rather unhealthy environment I had found myself in for a big chunk of this year.

Pulling ourselves back together, my favorite research colleague Vid and I cooked up a delightful dish that brings together all the digital archaeology flavors we’d been prepping before, but as part of a much grander and more colorful feast.

And so this weekend was spent running down the final lists of photographs, video media, and writing that needed to coalesce together into the FIRST archaeological technology driven Kickstarter.

Mushing together the laser scanning, point clouds, 3D models, and 3D printing,our project, Open Access Antiquarianism, proposes the construction of art exhibit built from re-purposed cultural heritage data using the digital visualization pipelines my colleague and I have been building to handle archaeological data.

A blend of 3D printed archaeological artifacts, furniture upholstered in fabric printed with archaeological LiDAR (literal armchair archaeology), interactive point cloud visualizations and other such extravagant re-workings of scientific data from open archives, the Cabinet of Curiosities Open Access Antiquarianism proposes offers an excellent opportunity to continue streamlining the point cloud and 3D modelling methodologies we’d been playing with for so long, while reaching a much much larger audience.

Because the larger global community needs to be engaged in the increasingly complicated discussions regarding ethical implementations of digitization and open access of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The public (and archaeologists themselves) need to understand the desperate desperate need for interdisciplinary and collaborative work and move away from the academic politics and needless power-plays that constantly bog such wonderful creative enterprises down. Archaeologists need to work more closely with technologists and engineers to develop useful and adaptable systems that preserve the past for the future (and often simultaneously end up building the surveying systems needed for the space-age future we all envision).

And the public needs to be aware of the wealth of data that is available to them in the increasingly larger and more wonderful online archives of museums and government institutions all over the world. The past has the potential to become increasingly and excitingly ubiquitous and something that plays a much stronger role in one’s everyday conception of time and space. It’s getting all wibbly wobbly timey wimey and the doctors of archaeology ought to be actively on the hunt for more and more Companions. Studying the past is no longer something that need be done by experts alone. In fact, we are drowning under such an avalanche of data, that it is imperative that more crowd-sourced archaeological ventures be launched to bear the brunt of analyzing everything that is already stacked up in the university basements of the world, let alone the incoming finds. Archaeologists can stay experts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to talk to the public and engage them more actively in what we’re up to. Enthusiasm should count more than correct use of erudite jargon. Even to those hipster archaeologists out there.

In some small artistic way, the Open Access Antiquarianism project would like to address all of these things, while expanding the research and technological collaborative possibilities to continue refining the much needed digital pipeline that takes things from the field through processing, archiving, studying, and out to engagement.

My collaborative and interdisciplinary digital archaeology and outreach isn’t the traditional archaeology. But its my archaeology. And more than that, its an archaeological practice of hope. Hope that archaeology will fully embrace the increasingly digitized and interdisciplinary future. Hope that archaeology will not fall prey to over-specialization and tenure. Hope that archaeologists will continue to try to document and in some small way understand the past, so that we can help make vital statistically based decisions for the future. Archaeology has such potential to aid technology development and global ecological policy, if only us archaeologists would reach out and grasp it instead of assuming it will fall into our laps.

If you’re intrigued/dismayed/excited/furious/amused or any one of the wonderful and ridiculous emotions human beings are capable of, please check out Open Access Antiquarianism on kickstarter and on Facebook.  We’d love your support, and if you love our concepts about tech development, archaeology, and art as a research and outreach driver, perhaps your collaboration as well. Get in touch!

To the erudite young men and women a-sitting on a-tell: may your trowels be ever muddy and your point clouds free of shadows.

Acres and acres of happy wishes to all the archaeologists of the world,

Ashley M. Richter

One of the Open Access Antiquarianism Medaillions we've designed as part of the Kickstarter reward campaign.

One of the Open Access Antiquarianism Medaillions we’ve designed as part of the Kickstarter reward campaign.

ArchaeoLandscapes Europe

Increasing Public Appreciation, Understanding and Conservation of the Landscape and the Archaeological Heritage of Europe

Archaeology can be so fascinating – digs in nice and exotic places, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, teaching students and learning from students, telling stories about the past to the public.

But I am sitting in my office in Frankfurt/Main (Germany) today and trying to cope with our new website. The old one was hacked a while ago to be used for DoS attacks on another server so we had to take it offline. We used that opportunity to refresh the old page so now I am working on tinkering the new site a bit, adding content here and there, trying to find mistakes and replacing some placeholder images with pictures from the project before the site will go live again as soon as the provider has managed the domain transfer.

Sounds all rather boring but in the end it’s exactly part of the things I like so much in archaeology: teaching and telling stories! And the background of the webpage of course is the project ArchaeoLandscapes Europe (ArcLand), funded by the EU culture programme for 5 years (sept 2010 – sept 2015) to foster all kinds of remote sensing and surveying techniques, to spread the knowledge all over Europe within the archaeological community and of course also to the broader public. It’s about telling the public that archaeology is more than a dig in a temple in the jungle or an investigation of a pyramid. It’s also – and mainly (?) – about understanding the history of a landscape and the people that lived in it, it’s about trying to find out how people could cope with their environs and which traces they left – and it’s about finding these traces. From the air (aerial archaeology, LiDAR, satellite imagery) and from the ground (geophysics, field walking) and in all cases non-invasive.

From left to right: near infrared aerial image - rob aerial image - LiDAR scan - geomagnetic survey

From left to right: near infrared aerial image – rob aerial image – LiDAR scan – geomagnetic survey

And yes, this is absolutely fascinating – and it brings me to many nice (though not always exotic) places where I meet new people and old friends, where I experience new and well known cultures and where I have the opportunity to tell the stories that are relevant within the framework of the project. It is talking to archaeologists who know a lot about the remote sensing and surveying techniques and learning a lot from them, it is talking to students to make them aware of the fantastic options of these techniques and it is talking to the public to share the fascination that I still feel when I look at a newly discovered site on an aerial image, on a landscape palimpsest on a LiDAR scan or on the hidden subsoil feature visible in the geophysical data.

I really feel very happy when I can see that the grants that our project provided helped students and young researchers to experience new techniques, to exchange knowledge and expertise with other people and to meet people from different areas of Europe to widen their (cultural) perspective. And I am happy to see that all these activities have always been a lot of fun for all those that have been involved.


ArcLand partners meeting in Amersfoort (NL) in 2013

Sure, it’s a EU project which means that there is a lot of administrational work to do. The EU is supporting us with a lot of money and I can understand that they want to make sure that this money is well spend. Still, I am swearing a lot over time sheets and lists of invoices and all that. But that is a very fair price for all the options this support offers to many people all over Europe and abroad! And it shows that Europe is more than a bunch of bureaucrats that only care about the bend of bananas to be imported into the EU! Seeing all these people from the Baltic to the Iberian Peninsula, from Ireland to the Balkan getting together, learning from each other , exchanging ideas and enjoying themselves at our workshops, at our conferences or when visiting our travelling exhibition really makes me feel the the idea of a joint and peaceful Europe is worth all that money.

So all in all, working on a webpage is not that bad, it’s raining outside anyway, so I am sitting in my dry office and I know that the work that I am doing is one tessera in the large archaeological mosaic. Watch out for our webpage to go live again hopefully soon!

A day of archaeological geomatics

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in flight.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in flight.
Image © Callen Lenz

Well, firstly, I can’t believe it’s been a year since last time! Doesn’t time fly? What’s happened since then I hear you cry? I’m still the Geomatics Manager for Wessex Archaeology, responsible for GIS and Survey. The big news is my desk is now paper free and I’m trying to keep to a paperless work regime, essential seeing as most of my workspace is taken up with computer equipment, leaving no room for unnecessary clutter. In the photo you can see not only my laptop but the recently rebuilt GISBEAST machine with it’s quad cores, 64-bit OS and 12Gb RAM, tooled up with all the software I need to do what I do. (more…)

LiDAR survey of the Medway Valley

In 2011, the Valley of Visions Landscape Partnership Project in conjunction with Lottery funding from the Shorne Woods Archaeology Project, commissioned a high-res LiDAR survey of the Medway Valley in Kent.

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging and is a process where an aerial laser survey produces a highly accurate topographic map of the target area.

The results have been spectacular and are now being used to better understand the archaeology of the Valley.

In 2012, as Kent County Council’s Community Archaeologist, I have been working with local people and groups to investigate some of the LiDAR results.

This work is ongoing and will continue into 2013.  The results have been particularly impressive around Shorne Woods Country Park, Cobham Hall and the Ranscombe Reserve, run by Plantlife.

Findings range from medieval field systems and trackways to world war two military camps, all lost in the woods!

See for further images and information and

Do get in touch for more information!