SYN-CHRONOUS METHODS FOR ARCHAOLOGIA (3)-remote sensing for archeology


Aerial archaeology at the Leuven University(Belgium)

For many years now, Leuven University (KU Leuven) has been  carrying out traditional aerial archaeology. This has led to the discovery of many new archaeological sites, especially in the fertile loess belt in central Belgium.
In the last decade, a prevalent growth of interest in archaeological heritage management has prompted the discussion of how to improve insights into the processes that
have formed the natural and cultural ecosystem of which these archaeological sites are a part. Aerial archaeology has also proved to be very effective for the updating of inventories
of archaeological sites, for the appraisal of the archaeological potential of wide areas, for the search for specific marks on previously detected sites, for the identification of features on
older aerial photographs and for the periodic assessment of sites, monuments and historic landscapes.

Although aerial archaeology in Belgium is still most commonly used as a survey
instrument, its role is becoming increasingly more significant and its application more
versatile, especially within the framework of heritage management. In mainly rural
environments, aerial archaeology can be a highly effective tool, not only for making a
synopsis of archaeological sites and off-site features along with their complex spatial
and chronological associations, but also for identifying a number of problems raised
in the framework of a good preservation and efficient management of sites. The
archaeological remains survive in delicate environments which are under constant
pressure because of the competing claims made by the many other actors requiring
more land and space for various activities and new functions.

Archaeology in rural areas
Although conditions for the proper management of the heritage in a rural environment
need to be improved in future, we are happy to note that the management of archaeological sites is now being given priority and that a variety of new measures and tasks are being devised to prevent information from classified sites and as yet undiscovered sites from being lost.

In the past, the main interest was focused on buildings’ heritage but we are pleased to see
that nowadays more attention is paid to the management of larger areas, not only for the
benefit of the individual remains but to make a link between the various interests of economic activities, the enlargement of residential areas and the preservation of biologically important areas and historical landscapes.

Partnership with local services


With this poster, we want to illustrate a few of our more recent discoveries in the eastern
parts of Flanders and especially the positive results of our cooperation with the Inter-Municipal Archaeological Service PORTIVA, which is active in a vast region in the heart of the Hesbaye loess area. Large scale agricultural activities in this highly fertile county cause vast erosion processes on the tops and slopes of the undulating landscape,
and archaeological sites are in extreme danger of rapidly disappearing.
The enhanced exchange of information about archaeological sites between both our services has proved to be very fruitful and is an example of a more effective management of Belgium’s archaeological heritage.



Aerial archaeology in Denmark

Lis Helles Olesen1
1. Holstebro Museum, Denmark

In 2008 Holstebro Museum secured funding for a research project aimed at examining the potential for aerial archaeology in Denmark: An aerial view of the past – Aerial archaeology in Denmark. The project ran until the middle of 2013, but further funding was secured, enabling it to continue until 2018. Total funding is around €1.33 million. The timing of the project proved fortunate in that, in 2009, it could become integrated into the ArchaeoLandscapes Europe project.

(1) Cap of the North
A brief presentation of the project:
An aerial view of the past –Aerial archaeology in Denmark

The aim of the project is to draw attention to and to investigate the unique potential inherent in aerial archaeology with respect to research, communication and education and the planning process. It focuses on several different aspects:
• Aerial surveys
• Studies of existing vertical photos
• Modern technology, e.g. Airborne Laser Scanning
• An overview of aerial photos covering Denmark
• National and international collaboration with institutions
such as the International Aerial Archaeology Training School
• Monitoring of scheduled ancient monuments from the air
• Communication and education
The first five of these will be briefly outlined below.

Aerial survey
The aspects that have received greatest emphasis are aerial surveys and studies of vertical photos. A very brief account of the results of these is given here. Between 2008 and 2012,
745 sites showing marks of prehistoric and historic features were recorded (Fig. 1). The localities span the period from the Mesolithic to recent times, with the majority being from
the Iron Age/Viking Age. 84% of the recorded localities were previously unknown. On average, 3.5 localities were detected per hour of flying time, i.e. 2.9 previously unknown localities per hour of flying time. The total flying time was 220 hours.
The traces recorded comprise 90% vegetation marks, 6% soil marks and 4% shadow marks. Of these, 91% are on sandy soil,only 6% on clay soils and the remainder in wetlands.
For example we found lots of settlements with traces of around 670 longhouses at 192 localities and 109 localities with pithouses (Figs. 2 and 3). House sites are often a good way of dating the localities.

Studies of vertical photos
Nine areas, each of about 155 km2, were selected with the aim of investigating and demonstrating the amount of cultural historical/heritage environment data that can be obtained through studies of aerial photos. All the areas were examined on four different aerial photo series and on the hillshade model from the Danish Elevation Model. Three of the series are in black and white and were photographed in spring, while the fourth is in colour and was photographed in summer.

Airborne Laser Scanning
The Danish Digital Elevation Model is freely available on the Internet.
It has considerable research potential, but with only 0.45 points recorded per m2, also has certain limitations, for example with respect to dense conifer plantations. We wanted to investigate whether better results could be achieved with a more detailed laser scan and in October 2010 an area of 65 km2, which included both open land and forest, was surveyed. On open land, no better results were obtained with respect to ploughed-down features. In the woodland, on the other hand, a wealth of new cultural-historical traces was revealed, which were not visible on the Danish Digital Elevation Model. In particular, these included small burial mounds,details of larger burial mounds, sunken roads, Celtic fields and
WWII structures. This excellent scan still has much unexploited potential and we are happy to make available to others who wish to continue work on it.

Overview of aerial photos in Denmark
The registration of aerial photos in the archives has a high priority in the ArchaeoLandscapes project. In our project we produced an overview of aerial photos covering Denmark. It was published in book form in 2011, together with a history of aerial archaeology and its applications.1 A large body of material is available for
Denmark: most of it is kept in the Royal Library in Copenhagen.
In 2010, it contained around 5.5 million aerial photos; 2 million verticals and 3.5 million obliques. A remarkable number of series providing national coverage of Denmark is available on the Internet:
Luftwaffe 1944, RAF 1945, US Air Force 1954, COWI 1995, 1999, 2002,2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and the Danish Digital Elevation Model.2

Aerial Archaeology Training School
We organised an Aerial Archaeology Training School, running from 2nd-8th July 2011, in partnership with ArchaeoLandscapes and LAND Aerial Archaeological Network Denmark. It brought together nine tutors and 16 students from 11 different countries across
Europe in an intensive programme of ground-based instruction and in-air experience above the archaeologically-rich landscapes of western Jutland (Fig. 5).
Over five days the students were introduced to the general principles of archaeological aerial survey, as well as the basic procedures of photo interpretation and mapping for communication with the general public, researchers and planners. All students also took
part in supervised flights from Stauning Airport, seeking out and photographing some of Western Jutland’s distinctive prehistoric,Viking and later archaeological sites. Throughout the training school emphasis was laid on the ways in which aerial evidence can broaden
professional and academic understanding of past societies and capture the imagination of the general public, helping them appreciate the value of the often fragile traces of the past that lie half-hidden in the landscape around them.

Conclusions and future perspectives
All our results indicate that the use of aerial photography in archaeology has great potential in Denmark. The project will carry out further aerial surveys and studies of vertical photos, national and  international collaboration, communication and education initiatives,geophysical investigations and the production of an exhibition.

Fig. 1: All 745 sites located in our aerial surveys in the period 2008- 2012 are marked with a red dot. Drawing Esben Schlosser Mauritsen.


Fig. 2. Pithouses with surrounding fence and entrance. Hyllerslev,southwest Jutland. Photo 5957, 22.07.13, Lis Helles Olesen.

Fig. 3: An Early Iron Age linear village which presumably was built on either side of a road. Ørre Gårde, western Jutland. Photo 0471,01.07.10, Lis Helles Olesen.


Fig. 4: Observed traces from studies of verticals organised by feature/structure type.


A total of 2746 localities have been recorded of which 61% were previously unknown (Fig. 4). As an example the ploughed-down burial mounds will be mentioned here.
They comprise 86% of the localities and represent an increase of 34% relative to existing records. The increase is of approximately the same magnitude on clay and sandy
soils, with an average of just less than one new burial mound per km2. If these data are representative, this situation corresponds to the detection of around 33,600 new
ploughed-down burial mounds in Denmark


1. Olesen, L.H., H. Dupont & C. Dam. 2011. Luftfotos over Danmark – luftfotoserier i
private og offentlige arkiver.
2. See for example:;;;;
3. Olesen, Lis Helles and Henrik Dupont and Claus Dam. 2011. Luftfotos over Danmark –
luftfotoserier i private og offentlige arkiver. Holstebro: Holstebro Museum Publishers


About sooteris kyritsis

Job title: (f)PHELLOW OF SOPHIA Profession: RESEARCHER Company: ANTHROOPISMOS Favorite quote: "ITS TIME FOR KOSMOPOLITANS(=HELLINES) TO FLY IN SPACE." Interested in: Activity Partners, Friends Fashion: Classic Humor: Friendly Places lived: EN THE HIGHLANDS OF KOSMOS THROUGH THE DARKNESS OF AMENTHE
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