Aerial investigation and mapping can be used to identify areas in need of protection on a massive scale, providing data on entire regions that can inform land-management strategies, the local planning process and further investigations.
Techniques such as Lidar have helped to identify thousands of previously unknown sites which can now be monitored, researched and protected. Increasingly, archaeologists have recognised the value of identifying and protecting sites of historical importance without the need for excavation, which is a destructive, labour-intensive practice only suitable for specifically identified sites and on a limited scale.
Breckland has proven to be an area of particular interest, as poor soil quality has protected many archaeological features from the damage caused by agriculture. Lidar has revealed a wealth of information that would otherwise be inaccessible using traditional methods, as it is able to penetrate forest cover. The National Mapping Programme (NMP) has undertaken an archaeological survey of Breckland, running alongside two other major projects, ‘Brecks from Above’ and ‘Revealing the Landscape’.
Historic England are responsible for maintaining a national standard for aerial mapping. They provide a detailed overview of the applications of aerial investigation and mapping, as well as guidance on how to use archaeological mapping and the locations of major data repositories.