British Amateur Archaeologists Find Dozens of Hidden Structures

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A probable Iron Age or Roman enclosed settlement (red arrows) and associated field system (blue arrows), as revealed by LiDAR data (University of Exeter)

Amateur Archaeologists Studying Aerial Maps of the U.K. Spot Dozens of Hidden Historical Structures

by Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com

With archaeology digs on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cooped-up history buffs are making their mark. As Steven Morris reports for the Guardian, volunteers tasked with scouring aerial surveys of England for signs of human habitation have discovered dozens of previously unknown structures after studying just a tenth of the data available. Dating from the prehistoric period to the medieval era, the sites are scattered between Cornwall and Devon in southwest England.

Per a statement from the University of Exeter—which organized search efforts through its Understanding Landscapes initiative—the finds include remnants of more than 20 miles of Roman road, 30 prehistoric or Roman settlements, and 20 prehistoric burial mounds, as well as hundreds of medieval farms, field systems and quarries.

If some of the southwesternmost sites are definitively identified as Roman, they will lend additional support to the notion that the empire’s influence stretched beyond the city of Exeter—long considered the endpoint of Roman territory in the British Isles, according to the Ipplepen Archaeological Project. Previously unearthed evidence for this theory includes traces of a Roman butcher business and a crafts center discovered in Ipplepen, Devon, last fall, reported Morris for the Guardian at the time.

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