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“vintage year” for archaeology, says English Heritage

[Monday 06 September 2010]

Aerial view of Newton Kyme Roman fort

The presence of long past civilisations is being uncovered in amazing detail thanks to the exceptionally dry early summer weather.

Many known sites were photographed revealing impressive new detail, including Newton Kyme, near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. Dating back nearly 2,000 years the rectangular Roman fort is known to have an earth and timber bastion, but aerial survey this summer revealed a stronger defence built in 290 AD covering seven hectares, with stone walls up to three metres thick and a ditch 15 metres wide. An image, taken from a Cessna light aircraft, clearly shows the massive ditches of the defences with many signs of buildings, roads and other activity within the fort. More details about the earlier fort enclosed within the later one were also exposed.

English Heritage says that this has been a vintage year for the appearance of cropmarks in the landscape - the ghostly outline of vanished structures and settlements, some many thousands of years old, which still survive under the soil.

Dave MacLeod, English Heritage Senior Investigator based in York, said: “It’s hard to remember a better year. Cropmarks are always at their best in dry weather, but the last few summers have been a disappointment. This year we have taken full advantage of the conditions. We try to concentrate on areas that in an average year don’t produce much archaeology. Sorties to the West Midlands and Cumbria, together with more local areas such as the Yorkshire Wolds and Vale of York, have all been very rewarding.”

Flights over Holderness in the East Riding have proved especially productive with around 60 new sites being found in just one day. Mainly prehistoric, they included livestock and settlement enclosures, field systems and trackways. Aerial survey flights from airfields at Sherburn-in-Elmet (near York) have also revealed a wealth of information. Some sites not visible since the drought year of 1976 have appeared again, well studied sites have revealed surprising new details, and many new sites have been discovered.

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