It's like a carpet and a chair, only with vegetation and buildings
July 9, 2018 6:54 AM   Subscribe

As temperature rises in Wales, archaeologists are able to use aerial photography to discover the location of ancient settlements.

How this happens is illustrated in the article and explained here by the BBC - as iron age and roman settlements build moats, drainage ditches and fortifications, they change how deep the topsoil is after they are abandoned and filled in for agriculture, allowing the grass and vegetation on the deeper parts to hold on to more moisture and nutrients during dry spells.
posted by lmfsilva (12 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Langstone, Magor, Caerwent... all in my neck of the woods: fascinating stuff - thanks, lmfsilva. I wonder what weird shapes will the outlines of our long-abandoned settlements make in the hot, dry summers two thousand years hence?
posted by misteraitch at 7:23 AM on July 9, 2018

Beautiful layered complex landscapes. When I was a kid I used to collect 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps, and jump on my 5-speed bike and go looking for remains like this. Diolch yn fawr!
posted by carter at 7:54 AM on July 9, 2018 [8 favorites]

It's amazing the soil remains changed after 2000 years of more farming.
posted by Nelson at 8:27 AM on July 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

It being Britain I am predicting the discovery of ancient drought buildings shaped like knobs.
posted by srboisvert at 9:57 AM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

If it's not been ploughed since the industrial revolution, because it was turned to pasture during the enclosure movements or been parkland for centuries, it won't have been distributed as much. Modern ploughs go deeper.
posted by Helga-woo at 12:18 PM on July 9, 2018

Prof. Carenza Lewis (ex Time Team) has been sharing parchmarks from across the UK on her twitter feed in the last few days.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:16 PM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Carenza Lewis has been running archaeological expeditions for locals and kids in my parents' locale, and doing a very good job of it. She's the real deal.
posted by Devonian at 4:11 PM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

For anyone not already aware, you can explore your own neighborhood this way using Google Earth; open the "Show Historical Imagery" time-slider and use it to find a set of aerial photography that was taken during a year/season that best contrasts plant growth. (Though how many options are available in the time-slider varies greatly depending on the area.)
posted by Cusp at 5:18 PM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I remember these from primary school in south Wales. Every summer there were brighter green rings in the school field in the same place and we were told that it was caused by the foundations of roundhouses from thousands of years ago.

There was also a 12th Century Motte and Bailey castle just down the road called Tomen-Y-Clawdd. Although we called it the Monkey Tump for reasons which I am, to this day unaware.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:07 AM on July 10, 2018

Not that old, but a "ghost garden"
posted by lmfsilva at 4:44 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

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