HUNDREDS of archaeological sites across Oxfordshire may have been identified thanks to special aerial technology.

LiDAR – Light Distance and Ranging – equipment has been used as part of the largest high-resolution archaeological survey ever flown in the UK to help detect archaeological sites.

The Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) survey is part of a project called Beacons of the Past – a National Lottery-funded project to discover more about Iron Age hill forts in the Chilterns.

It involved a plane equipped with the laser scanner covering 1,400 km2 of the Chilterns, in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

The scanner created visualisations by stripping away vegetation, buildings and the ground surface and revealing a ‘digital terrain model’ of just bare earth, allowing surveyors to detect archaeology dating back 3,000 years.

Now, the project team–- based in Chinnor – are asking for the public’s help to view and interpret the results.

Project manager, Dr Wendy Morrison, said: “This will enable anyone in the world to discover new archaeological features in the Chilterns from their computer.

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“Encouraging people from all walks of life to engage with a resource that is usually accessible to a handful of researchers will open up the landscape for greater understanding and appreciation, and when we appreciate and understand a place, we begin to take more active roles in caring for it.”

The Oxford Times:

The team specifically want people who may have spent decades exploring the Chiltern landscape, or those who live in it, and who will bring a unique perspective to the project.

Training and tutorials will be offered to teach LiDAR interpretative skills, allowing users to decipher the results of the data themselves and enter their finding on an online portal.

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Funded by a £695,600 grant by The National Lottery Fund and a number of other partners such as the National Trust, the project hopes to provide a real focus for community and public involvement through new techniques.

These include: remote sensing and survey, practical excavation, and research, as well as a programme of events and educational activities. Results will be used to further engage communities with their heritage, through work in schools, youth groups, public talks and workshops.

The Oxford Times:

Heritage Environment Record officers in Oxfordshire will also help heritage managers, archaeologists, and policy makers to consider how they look after the Chilterns landscape.

Dr Ed Peveler, landscape heritage officer for the project, said “This is a fantastically exciting project, and I can’t wait to see how people interact with the LiDAR data.

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“This is a dataset which unveils so much history in our landscape, and frankly is just huge fun to play with. People are going to be finding things hidden in plain sight across their usual stomping grounds.”

Stuart Hobley, area director for London and South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, this project is an incredible opportunity to get involved in making new discoveries and to potentially rewrite the history of this beautiful landscape.”