Tag Archives: Aerial-Cam

Durrington Dig 2016 – Sunday 7 August

Hi Tech & Low Tech Lowdown

A few days ago we posted a feature on how Aerial Cam’s Adam Stanford is using photogrammetry to record the site. But its not the only method we’re using to record our discoveries.

Something Old Something New

Record keeping has always been fundamental to making sense of what we unearth as archaeologists. Its something of a truism in archaeology that excavation is destruction and so we must record what we’ve found so that others can see what was once there.

Of course excavation is also discovery but many of the discoveries  we make come after the end of the dig in post-excavation. And its only by meticulous recording of everything we find that we – and future generations – can make sense of it all.

Our aim is to be able to recreate the position and composition of every feature, layer and find in three dimensions long after the dig has finished. Producing a visual record of the different features that we excavate is an important part of this. The traditional way of doing this is by hand drawing plans (you can see what these look like and how its done in the photos above).

Laser Scanning

Recording the 21st century way: laser scanning our easternmost pit and its ramp

But in addition to the traditional plans and sections and Adam’s photogrammetric record we’re using another decidedly 21st century technique – laser scanning.

This is a technique that’s becoming familiar to archaeologists in the recording of buildings but here we’re using it in an innovative and radically different way. Our colleagues from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute  are laser scanning every individual feature and layer that we excavate.

They’ll then virtually stitch these scans back together providing a 3-D record of every part of every feature on site. This will enable them to create virtual sections (cake slices) through  any part of the site at any angle we want. They’ll also be able to mesh this with the Ground Penetrating Radar data from the survey that brought us to the site in the first place to help develop our understanding of what the individual components of the GPR responses are caused by in this particular landscape. And this in turn will feed into the interpretation of the data from the wider Stonehenge landscape.

So we’ll  be able to interrogate the physical relationships between all of the contexts on site in a way that has never previously been possible. Simples!

Durrington Dig 2016 – Wednesday 3 August

In yesterday’s blog post we mentioned that the site team had uncovered what appeared to be two pits. These pits were originally dug before the construction of the bank and ditch of Durrington Walls henge; therefore the material of the bank overlies these pits. The site team battled with the wind today with the goal of removing the remainder of the original Neolithic bank material.

The chalk band in the photo below shows one of the as yet unexcavated pits, which appears to be a pit with a ramp. This has shown the accuracy of the electrical resistivity tomography image from the Hidden Landscapes Team where the ‘saucepan-like’ image illustrates a pit and ramp very nicely.


The white band across the bottom of the photo shows the top of the pit/ramp feature with the ramp meeting the pit at the top right

You may also have noticed a small mound just at the top of the pit in the photograph. This has been interpreted as the original spoil from when the pit was first dug. As usual, we will need to excavate both the pit/ramp feature and the spoil heap to discover the real connection between the two.

Hi-tech Lowdown

21st century archaeological excavations in the Stonehenge Landscape bring with them a large amount of technology. Throughout the blog we will introduce a few different technological components that are important to the work being carried out at Durrington Walls henge over the next 2 weeks.


Adam Stanford of Aerial Cam (photo below) has been taking a whole sequence of photographs of the trench at Durrington. All of these images overlap creating a series of points within the trench. His software can then map these points across the entire trench and everything in it.

But it goes further – the software can then increase the number of points, the results of which can rival the accuracy of laser scanning. These points are then joined together to form a solid model, all without the colour and texture of a photograph (which can sometimes be a distraction).

The photographs can then be incorporated in order to see the different colours of the archaeological features and different soil types. The result in Adam’s words is “a photorealistic, textured, very accurate model of the whole thing”.


Adam with his camera positioned atop a pole for excellent aerial views

Avebury Dig 2015 Day 17

Well, here it is, our final day of digging on the West Kennet Avenue Occupation Site. I can barely believe its less than three weeks since we started digging.

There’s an air of focused freneticism (the spell check tells me that’s not a word but it seems to describe what’s happening) on site. In Trench 6 the tree-throw hole that is right next to our giant posthole has turned out to be simply enormous; so big in fact that we have more than a sneaking suspicion that the post may have been erected to in some way commemorate (or  replace) the giant of a tree that had once stood there.

Dr Pollard (Josh) and Professor Pike (Alistair) ponder on the subject of the enormous tree throw hole. The part  Shannon is standing in is about a third of the whole thing,

Dr Pollard (Josh) and Professor Pike (Alistair) ponder on the subject of the enormous tree throw hole. The part Shannon is standing in is about a third of the whole thing,

We were joined by Prof. Mike Parker Pearson who returned to give us a hand with his favourite pursuit of seeking out stakeholes in the bedrock of Trench 6. When we join the dots and analyse the finds and samples we’ve taken this may help us to work out whether a structure once stood here.

The team have been cleaning down (for the last time) and recording in both trenches.Without recording archaeology is (literally) just a pile of (very) old rubbish!

Trench 4 was a hive of recording activity. Planning, surveying in levels and ensuring we have all the necessary points on our site grid (courtesy of  Digital GPS).

Trench 4 was a hive of recording activity. Planning (Mark in the red t-shirt), surveying in levels and ensuring we have all the necessary points on our site grid (courtesy of Digital GPS).

And to complete our recording we had Adam Stanford of Aerial Cam who it would be an understatement to say is a bit of a whizz with airborne archaeo-photography.

Adam Stanford of Aerial Cam setting up to take our aerial shots of the trenches

Adam Stanford of Aerial Cam (head in the back of the Land Rover) setting up to take our aerial shots of the trenches. While George and Josh enjoy their break from the mega-posthole.

And that was that. Or nearly. Tomorrow we backfill the trenches.