Application of landscape survey techniques

Posted on December 21, 2016


Wednesday- so more archaeology conference videos that I have filmed.

Session Abstract:

This session aims to address the question of why traditional and technical landscape investigation techniques of observation, measurement and analysis (survey) are not more regularly deployed – and deployed in a timely fashion – in British archaeology. This has implications within curatorial, commercial and academic branches of archaeology. The session will comprise a keynote presentation and some case studies, with ample time for discussion, focussing on the need for and provision of training in these skills. The session will aim to demonstrate that these approaches have value and impact when applied in real world situations, adding context to the sometimes narrow view provided by the evaluation trench.

Pete Herring and Mark Bowden, Historic England

Landscape archaeology in the recent past, present and near future

While their methods are rigorous and transparent and their outputs clear, all inquisitive, theoretical, empirical and phenomenological approaches to landscape archaeology can contribute to helping society understand its past and design a sustainable future. More immediately, in established heritage practice, the understanding gained from non-invasive techniques of observation, survey and analysis can support decision-making regarding protection, managing and designing change and composing schemes of further, more invasive investigation.
Mapping from aerial photographs, lidar and geophysical survey, all invaluable, depend for maximum utility on applying the logic and language of relative chronology and functional interpretation cultivated in the many ebbings and flowings of the British tradition of analytical earthwork survey. Its use ebbed again in the last couple of decades, but this session will show it now reemerging as a cost-effective tool for rapidly getting to grips in a range of practical situations with a place’s past and potential.

The value of ‘informed’ rapid identification surveys in the assessment of the heritage impact

A recent investigation into the likely impacts of the construction of a new water pipeline in West Cumbria, as part of the compilation of an Environmental Impact Assessment, utilised a variety of investigative techniques including a rapid walkover survey, geophysics and targeted evaluation through trial trenching. The walkover proved to be very cost effective and highly instructive in comparison to the other techniques deployed. It was particularly useful in the identification of the site of a previously unrecorded monastic grange. Its success was only enabled, however, by a thorough pre-existing knowledge of the landscape being investigated and by integration with a suite of other techniques primarily documentary research and the analysis of aerial survey data. Only by appropriate training in historic landscape predictive techniques and historic landscape characterisation combined with archaeological earthwork recognition can such success be assured in future.

Towards a narrative-based analysis of landscape development

One often hears ‘archaeology’ said where ‘excavation’ is meant. There is an understanding that non-invasive approaches, including landscape approaches, exist. Where they involve whizzy technology – GPR, lidar, SfM – they are even enthusiastically embraced, but still there is an emphasis on excavation as the technique of first choice in almost all circumstances. The emphasis on technology itself privileges levelled sites at the expense of well-preserved upstanding remains. The results of excavation are privileged over those of other methods, which are often characterised as ‘prospection’ and nothing more. This paper will put forward the view that non-invasive techniques have more to offer and that while they can never replace excavation they should be more thoughtfully included in research projects and developer funded work in order to develop a convincing narrative of
landscape development.

Mark Bowden, Historic England

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