The Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS) mapping project, part of the National Mapping Programme (NMP), was undertaken with the aim of providing English Heritage and other organisations with detailed information on which to base plans for the proposed changes to the area, and to assist in identifying future research priorities.
Stonehenge World Heritage Site NMP
The landscape around Stonehenge has been thoroughly explored on the ground over the last couple of centuries. Parts of the project area had also been surveyed from aerial photographs on several previous occasions. However, the NMP project still resulted in considerable detail being added to our knowledge of the archaeology of the area.
Prior to the NMP project, the NMR database contained records for 2,062 sites of all periods and types within the survey area. NMP added a further 539. Around a third of the new sites were of prehistoric or Roman date – mainly ring ditches (plough-levelled round barrows), enclosures of various forms, and field systems. These additions confirmed that the Stonehenge landscape was an extremely busy one during prehistory.
An even greater number – more than half – belonged to the medieval, post-medieval and modern periods. This is partly a reflection of the fact that previous investigation in this landscape has been heavily focused on the prehistoric remains. The bulk of the new sites for these periods were either agricultural – strip lynchets, ridge and furrow, water meadows – or military – aside from the First World War aerodrome and the sizeable camps on the southern edge of Salisbury Plain, there were assorted trenches, rifle butts, barrage balloon sites and much more.
The military presence in the landscape has provided us with some of the best of the historic photography of the area. Not only did RAF and USAAF training flights incidentally record a wealth of archaeological detail, sometimes photographing as earthworks sites that today can be seen only as cropmarks or soilmarks, they have also captured the changing face of the landscape over the course of the 20th century.
Continued survey and exploration
As with other NMP project areas, reconnaissance photography continues to add new detail, while other organisations continue to undertake ground-based fieldwork, both utilising the NMP data and allowing renewed analysis of it in the light of their results.
One interesting site mapped in the course of NMP was not new, but the project added significant new detail. Located just outside the WHS boundary, but close enough to the A303 to be affected by planned alterations to the road, the enclosure known as Scotland Lodge turned out on excavation to be an Iron Age enclosed settlement.
Currently, historic and new aerial photographs are being studied again in order to support ongoing investigations on the ground in the Stonehenge area by English Heritage’s Archaeological Survey and Investigation team. Already, important new detail is beginning to emerge from this renewed exploration of the landscape.
The images used on this page are copyright English Heritage unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project please contact the English Heritage Archive.
For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Aerial Survey team please contact us by email via the link above.