The National Mapping Programme (NMP) is a standard for mapping and recording archaeological sites and landscapes from aerial photographs and other airborne remote sensed data such as lidar. The National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP) provides the framework for NMP projects, in particular NHPP Activity 3A4.
Transforming Our Understanding
NMP is a key component of English Heritage's capacity to investigate and understand the historic environment at the landscape scale, and underpins other priority projects and programmes.
Through a series of linked projects, NMP delivers high-quality baseline information for the management of change in the historic environment through the planning and other statutory systems, and as a basis for further research.
NMP projects that have already been completed have transformed our knowledge of past land-use by mapping whole archaeological landscapes for the first time, with more than 50% of the sites not having been previously recorded.
The programme is undertaken through external projects funded from English Heritage's Historic Environment Enabling Programme supported by a core team within English Heritage's Aerial Survey and Investigation Team that set standards, provide training and quality control and also undertake key projects.
The map above shows those areas of the country for which mapping has been carried out under the NMP (open squares), or where work is currently under way (solid blocks).
Background to the National Mapping Programme
Millions of aerial photographs of England, mainly taken since 1945, are available for study. Teams of experienced archaeological air-photo interpreters working on NMP unlock the information held in these images for a wider audience, producing a synthesis of archaeological data in the form of maps, records and reports.
Projects undertaken by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) in the 1980s in the Yorkshire Wolds (cropmarks) and on Dartmoor (earthworks) showed the great potential of archaeological survey from aerial photographs.
NMP pilot projects in Kent, Hertfordshire, Thames Valley and the Yorkshire Dales followed and helped to define a standard methodology and working practices.
Full NMP projects began in the 1990s being carried out both by internal staff at the RCHME and by staff in county councils around the country. The programme has since gone from strength to strength and by April 2009 more than 40 projects had been completed covering more than 40% of England.
NMP projects continue to provide information and synthesis for archaeological sites and landscapes of all periods from the Neolithic to the 20th century. Priority is given to those areas that are under the greatest threat or are poorly understood.