Report number: 99/2008

Title The Aggregate Landscape of Somerset: Predicting the Archaeological Resource (3994) - Archaeological Aerial Photograph Interpretation in the Central Mendip Hills
Summary The Aggregate Landscape of Somerset: Predicting the Archaeological Resource project was commissioned by English Heritage in 2005. It was financed by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF), which is managed by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The project as a whole comprised two components: a largely HER based assessment of the archaeological resource within areas of past and present aggregate extraction in the county of Somerset and archaeological aerial surveys and analysis of two aggregate producing areas, which were carried out to the National Mapping Programme (NMP) standards developed by English Heritage. The initial phase of the aerial survey was targeted at two trial areas chosen from the aggregate character areas identified in the assessment: the eastern Mendip Hills (Carboniferous Limestone) and the Somerset Levels (Burtle Beds). This report covers the continuation of the survey in the central part of the Mendip Hills character area. This phase of the aerial survey concentrated on the part of the character area lying within the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and was carried out between April 2006 and January 2008. The full extent of the AONB that lies within the Somerset county boundary was covered. Two strands of funding were available: ten months from the AONB and eleven months funded by the ALSF. Several main themes were apparent from the results of the aerial survey: a pattern in settlement that possibly follows through from the later prehistoric periods to the medieval period; the significance of the landscape in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, when a concentration of field monuments are constructed; an increase in use of the upland pasture for grazing of sheep in the medieval period; the effects of agricultural intensification in the post medieval period, leading to enclosure of the common land and the advent of permanent settlement on the central plateau; the effects of the post medieval lead mining industry on the landscape; and the growth of aggregate extraction in the modern period, with massive post-Second World War expansion of the limestone quarries in the southern part of the survey area. There was an increase in sites recorded on the Somerset HER for the east Mendip Hills project area of 52% as compared to an increase of 58% for the central Mendip area. Both figures demonstrate the potential for recording new archaeological sites in the Mendip Hills using the NMP methodology. The aerial survey has resulted in both an increase in knowledge of the central Mendip Hills and a dataset which will be useful for future archaeological work. In particular, mapping the lead mining remains in detail has enabled comparison of areas of areas which followed different patterns of extraction. Information of this kind has already contributed to an English Heritage multi-disciplinary study in the Mendip AONB and should be useful for future analysis of both the lead mining and the archaeology of the Mendip Hills in general.
Series Other
Pages 105
  • Truscoe, K
Keywords Aerial Photograph Interpretation ,  Aerial Photography ,  National Mapping Programme