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ABINGDON ARCHAEOLOGICAL GEOPHYSICS

 

 

 

SAMPLE 2

Accurately locating features from air photographs has its difficulties.

Here is an example of a site where archaeologists conducting an evaluation concluded that they could not find a barrow ditch and reported that the local archaeological society was wrong and that it did not exist. These may be the same excavators who, according to South Midlands Archaeology 2017, p 58, didn't recognise a Roman temple and an Iron Age shrine when excavating Abingdon Old Gaol.

Fortunately we were able to locate both the barrow and the evaluation trench to reveal why the barrow had not been detected by the evaluation.

magnetometry survey of barrow ditch

Magnetometry survey showing barrow ditch and archaeological evaluation trench.

Although the barrow ditch is visible on Google Earth the magnetometry survey enabled its exact location to be determined.

For some reason, (possibly related to an apparent restriction on their use of Google Earth), both English Heritage and the County Archaeology service approved the excavation report which claimed that the barrow was not there.

It gets worse. This was part of an Agri- Environment scheme where landowners are paid to restrict their cultivation to protect archaeology and wildlife. Once in the Scheme the land was used as sheep pasture as this was protective. After 5 years the landowner withdrew from the Scheme and resumed arable farming - planting potatoes rather than the usual wheat over a large part of the Scheme area. No archaeological investigations were carried out on the area during that 5 year period. A large amount of money has therefore been paid for no long term preservation of archaeological remains. Perhaps the money would have been better spent on compulsorily purchasing the land and then leasing it to a farmer on terms which controlled the type of agriculture to be carried out.

Private Eye (19 April 2019 p 17) says that many payments under this scheme are long overdue. It may be that this was just a way of giving landowners money and the UK preferred to have an environmental justification for it. Being agricultural, there could be a European Union angle to this.