Festival of Archaeology: Uncovering the landscapes, July 2021
- Hello, and a warm welcome to today's HS2 live webinar, where we will be focusing on the landscapes of HS2 as part of the Festival of Archeology. After the presentation portion of the webinar, we will have a live Q and A session where we will be answering questions about the topic of today's webinar. We will do our best to answer as many questions as possible during this time. But if we are unable to answer your questions today, or you have any other questions about the project, please do contact our help desk. Details will be shared at the end of the webinar. Before we begin, I wanted to share some technical information.
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A recording of this live event will also be published on our HS2 YouTube channel after the event. Therefore, if all else fails, you will be able to replay the live event in your own time. HS2 will be the new high-speed back bend of our rail network, connecting the city centers of Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and London. Once complete, once fully completed, we will have built 345 miles of new high-speed track, equivalent to over half the length of Britain from Land's End to John o' Groats as the crow flies. When fully operational, up to 48 HS2 trains with up to 1,100 seats each will be running every hour on the UK's rail network.
This is a huge undertaking, Britain's first new intercity railway north of London in 100 years and Europe's largest infrastructure project. Before we build the bridges, tunnels, tracks, and stations, an unprecedented amount of archeological work will take place along the line of route. HS2's historic environment program is the largest ever undertaken in the UK. We will be using over 1,000 archeologists. We will be telling over 10,000 years of British history on over 60 sites between London and Birmingham for Phase 1. I will now hand over to Emily.
- Thanks, Laura. And hello, welcome to this webinar on the landscapes of HS2. I'm Emily Plunkett, and I'm currently working on Phase 2b of HS2 between Crewe and Manchester.
I'm going to start today with this quote from one of the first and some say, seminal works on consideration for historic landscape in the sense that we, as heritage professionals, recognize it today, and it struck me as quite appropriate. I paraphrased slightly, but "The English landscape itself, "to those who know how to read it aright, "is the richest historical record we possess. "There is no part that is not full of questions."
In the main, there are two aspects of landscape, which we should be considering today. And these are those elements which are above the ground, where we see the past surviving in the landscapes of today and those elements which are below the ground, which are hidden from us, but hold a wealth of evidence of past landscapes which are now lost. As I say, in this presentation, we should be touching on both these types and discussing some of the evidence that HS2 has discovered of both. Landscapes such as those we'll be looking at today are both interesting and important parts of our heritage.
HS2 had recognized this and has, or is currently undertaking work to ensure that their importance is recognized, understood, recorded, and also shared with communities along on the route and close to them. As such, we'll be giving some consideration to techniques that HS2 are and will be using to reveal as much as possible from these landscapes. There are two sections to the webinar, landscape changing later prehistory and later landscapes, covering loosely the medieval to modern periods. So, there's been much work undertaken to date on Phase 1 of HS2, uncovering landscape dating from the earliest phases of human occupation. And the Phase 1 archeological team have presented many of their findings through blogs on the HS2 archeology pages and through webinars, which can be found on the HS2 YouTube channel.
Now, deliberate human alteration of landscape is normally said to begin in the early prehistoric periods when people who hunted across the landscape saw the value in clearing woodland through fire or other means to create more diverse habitats, encourage game, or just to make their lives a little bit easier. The image on the left of your screen shows the type of temporary camp which Mesolithic people would have been using in the lifestyle which was not yet sedentary or settled. And the Mesolithic covers the period roughly between 10,000 to 4,000 BC. So, that's ending about 11,700 years ago, and these people were still dealing with climate change and geological change following the retreat of the last ice sheet.
Their world was dynamic due to these changes. However, for the first section of this webinar, we're going to focus on a later period where climate change was, again, affecting the way in which people used and interacted with their landscape. Around the iron age, which covers roughly the period between 800 BC and AD 43.
So, that's ending just under 2,000 years ago. The climate is thought to become more suitable for agriculture in England. And at the same time, population pressures led to a need to produce more food more easily. As a response to this climate change and population pressure, people began to clear more land and the change which was wrought on the landscape really took on a new scale.
On the right of your screen, you can see Wessex Archeology's impression of a traditional view of an iron age landscape. So moving on, we'll now be focusing on the evidence or potential for these types of more domestic landscapes along the HS2 route across Phase 1, Phase 2a and Phase 2b. So, here we have just one example of known archeological evidence that's been identified within Phase 2a. And this is within the Trent Valley. The image on your left of your screen shows an interpretive aerial photographic image of crop marks at Rileyhill. It shows a mix of linear features and pit alignments.
Crop marks are the effects of the low ground remains on plants growing above the ground. So for example, there might be a greater depth of soil or resource of water and crops will grow larger and more healthily or worse close to the surface. For example, if there's a building close to the surface, they can parch and brown more easily, and crop marks can be read from the air most easily. On the right of your screen, you can see an image of a similar pit alignment to those we see in the Trent Valley, but this one is from Phase 1 on the Coleshill site. It's a fantastic multi period site, and I've included this to demonstrate the scale of these types of landscape features. And as you can see, they are quite massive.
The Trent Valley was an area of known archeological potential for Phase 2a due to the known use of rivers by early peoples and the attractive geology of the area, which was good for settlement and is also good for preservation of the evidence. As such, it was focused for several of the research questions which Phase 2a are hoping to be able to answer through their archeological works. The site at Rileyhill lies on a low bluff overlooking the flood plains of the Trent. This is a fairly typical location for early settlement, and it allows the best access to the broadest range of resources, and also allows observation of the traffic along the waterway, which can assist with safety of the settlement. And the image on the left shows crop mark evidence of prehistoric and later settlement activity, identified through aerial photography.
We think that the West Midlands was probably first divided by physical boundaries in the mid-iron age, using lines of pits and ditches to demark land rights and areas of use. And we see both pit alignments and ditches used on, at Rileyhill to divide the landscape. Some of the activities seen at Rileyhill is likely related to the mid-iron age. And this landscape change was due to growing complexities within society, as it expanded and became more settled. It's likely that the site at Rileyhill is a mix of fields and animal enclosures with a possibility of some other use. Now, I wanted to show you this image, also from the Trent Valley area, within the Phase 2a study area, to demonstrate that not only were the elements of the landscape division on a massive scale, as shown on the last slide with the pits at Coleshill, but that the evidence we can find through our work is also not just limited to one or two small fields or small excavation sites, but it stretches beneath the modern landscape for miles.
The inset map there showed us the deposit topography of the area, and we'll just come onto that a bit later in the presentation. It's worth noting that the activity shown on this map ranges from the late bronze age to the late iron age. So, from about 3,200 years ago to about 1,900 years ago with pit alignments first occurring from the late bronze age. I also understand that recent archeological investigations in this area, as part of the HS2 Phase 2a works, has also begun to reveal more about the iron age evidence within this landscape close to Kings Bromley. It's really exciting.
And it's really helping us to expand our understanding of this complex landscape. This type of landscape shown here represents landscape change and control, as I said, on a hitherto unseen scale in England and as mentioned, this was in part due to climate change, which provided a more favorable condition for agriculture and for people to spread and develop. Thus, more land was required for settlement and resources. It's interesting that the landscapes were driven by climate change. And now they are some of the most vulnerable to climate change, with increases in flooding, extreme weather, and potential changes in agricultural practices due to climate change all presenting a threat.
Now, so moving on, these two images are from areas along our Phase 2b route and illustrate some of the field pattern landscapes we can use to support our investigations of earlier landscapes. In the main, the Northwest of England is generally considered to be less populous than other parts of England until the post medieval period when industry really began to boom within the region. This is mostly due to the landscape of typography, which had resulted in a largely low lying region, which was waterlogged in places, often heavily forested, which was difficult to navigate and difficult to access and where resources were also difficult to access.
In addition, the heavier soils of the region made it less appealing to early farmers than the lighter soils in the south and the Midlands. And it was harder to get a plow through. It's also worth noting that the landscape becomes drier and better drained and more accessible moving south into Staffordshire and Warwickshire, which is why we see the landscapes in the Trent Valley we just looked at. The main obstacles to discovery or possibly the presence of early settlement across the Phase 2a study area are geological, both in terms of visibility and, visibility to us that is, and the soils, which were, again, were too heavy for these early agriculturalists and thus unattractive to settlement. However, in the Phase 2b area, the low population density in prehistoric periods, before written records, is in some ways speculative, as the geology of the region is very mixed due to glacial activity. This is generally known as glacial till, and as across Phase 2a, this makes activity of former peoples really hard to spot through crop marks or through other means.
The agricultural expansion of the post medieval period has also worked to obscure some of the visible surface evidence of early settlement within the landscape. Similarly to the people of the Trent Valley, people here would have looked to occupy higher ground, close to rivers, lakes, or meres, where there was an excellent range of resources available. Examples of this type of found can be, this type of site, sorry, can be found close to Tatton Park or near Bucklow Hill among others.
We know that small scale clearance of woodland have been occurring from the Mesolithic period, from the pollen record and other indicators. Mostly these indicators occur from peat deposits, which are found across the region. So, humans were using the landscape and exploiting its resources, just in potentially fewer numbers. We also think that the area did follow the general national trend towards settled farming in later pre-history. Although, this was still supported by the hunting of game and birds in wetland areas.
I think our challenge on 2b is to find that evidence. In part, we can use the modern landscape to assist us in locating early settlement. Though, as mentioned, later activity can obscure this and prehistoric fields are also quite easy to compute with medieval fields as the techniques of farmable land, of expanding farmable land were a bit similar. You can see a nice image of some likely medieval fields near Clive Green, Cheshire, on the image on your left of your screen. We mostly looked for early evidence displayed through field boundaries using historic or modern maps.
We know from national studies that the main, in the main, ancient fields are small, irregular, have wobbly edges, and often have more irregular or even a lobe-like shape to them, this is due to the approach to woodland clearance, which would have been by hand, quite slow, in small amounts, and on an as needed basis. And this is sometimes called assarting. The map on the right shows some fields which may fit this description of prehistoric fields. I've highlighted the edge of the field in orange for you here.
As you can see, the edges of these fields are wavy and organic, much different from the modern fields to the far right of the map, which are very square and straight. And we can also use typography to be our friend here. We know these fields were on a low ridge of high ground, overlooking a water grow, overlooking water course but within striking distance of several areas of moss land.
It's prime settlement location for a group looking to maximize their resources but keep their feet dry. As it happens, we know that there are possible iron age settlement remains here. They're recorded on the local historic environment record. And we know that just a little way down the stream is an iron age promontory fort.
In the south of England, techniques we used for archeological prospection, such as for geophysics, crop mark survey using aerial photography tend to work well. This is due to the old shift we encounter in these regions and also the land uses which prevail. Geophysics is a technique which allows us to get a plan of ditches and pitch, pits, rather, which were previously cut into the landscape and cannot be seen from the surface.
As you can see, the image on your left clearly shows a mixed period settlement from Boddington in Phase 1. It's a lovely site and really demonstrates the time depth which you can pick up even without breaking the surface. However, the image on your right is from a location of Phase 2b, and it's much less clear. And this is in part due to the changing geologies as you move north from Birmingham across Phase 2a and 2b areas, which offers less conclusive returns due to physical signals.
And it's also due to the, you know, those mixed nature of those glacial tills that I mentioned earlier. And the speckled effect you can see is due to material incorporated into the top soil through plowing, which can interfere with geophysical survey. This practice is soil improvement through imported material, likely started in the medieval and post medieval periods when the pressures from the Manchester markets and other growing towns led to a drive to improve fertility on previously on unwanted land. So that we could grow more food. Due to these issues of geology and land use, it's much harder to find the low ground landscapes.
And so, traditional thinking within the archeological worlds has sometimes been that there was far less occupation above a certain point within the west of England. HS2 hope that their work will help to shed light on these regions and provide better understanding of settlement within the Midlands and the Northwest of England. However, we can use alternative methods to help us divine where remains might be found, such as historic maps, topography, geophysics, which we've already discussed, and also the techniques which are represented by the two images on your screens now, and these techniques have been put to use in river valleys of Phase 1 and referred to as deposit modeling. Deposit modeling uses existing information, such as boreholes, which is where you take a core from the ground. And that reveals the layers of soils and geology and topographic modeling to map the distribution of buried deposits, which may contain archeological interest across the landscape.
Deposit models also allow archeologists to identify paleo-environmental deposits sealed within river sills, which can provide insight into past environments when dated and the paleo environment is basically just the environment of the past. Dating of these deposits can be achieved through paleo-environmental remains, including pollen or even wood, which we can date using dendrochronology or carbon dating. By interpreting when a deposit accumulated and what they represent, we can begin to understand where may have been appealing for early people to settle.
This enables subsequent field work to be targeted, and then archeological remains to be better understood. Now, we see two examples of deposit model on this slide. The green areas are likely the low laying areas, which would have maybe been less appealing to settlement and the red and orange areas are those areas where deposits, which are usually sand and gravel, have built up to make islands of higher ground, which would have been more appealing locations for early settlement.
Our archeologists can then use this information to help them design investigation strategies, and try to discover if any human activity was present. Whilst this has been a bit of a whistle stop tour, I hope that it's been interesting and has provided insight into the more ancient landscapes that we can find on HS2 and the types of evidence that we can look for in order to discover these landscapes. But it's time to move on to the next section.
On your screen, you can see two images. One on the left shows Wharram Percy, a medieval village, which was abandoned and preserved in the landscape in North Yorkshire and Combe Abbey, a landscape garden in Coventry, I think. These are not places which were affected by the HS2 route, but they are illustrative of the content of this section. Most of the country, the landscape did not, apologies.
Across most of the country, the landscape did not continue to, did continue to develop across the Roman period, but then it fell backwards slightly in the early medieval periods due to population decline and climactic deterioration. So, up to the medieval period, we tend to see little change from earlier landscapes, but then due to climactic improvement, population growth, again, political change, in 1066, we had a fairly large event that meant that England had an influx of new elites and they have their own ideas about landscape management and have the power to enact large scale change upon the landscape. So, from medieval onwards, we once again begin to see the development of the landscape and the expansion of human effect on it. This change within the medieval period is where we can truly begin to see the development of the landscape that we can recognize today.
I'd like to start this section at Yarlet in Staffordshire, which is within the Phase 2a area, which is a probable 12th century monastic grange. The monastic grange was usually an outlying farm for an abbey, which would have helped to feed and provide for the community within the abbey. Generally, they are a consolidated block of land where a commoner community rights would have been excluded. At this location, the monks who took over the land chose to depopulate the existing settlement, which we think moved the villages on and enclose a large area of land, resulting in the ovoid land parcel that you can see in the image.
I hope this is clear to you, but if it's not, I'll just pop a red line up to illustrate. The boundary here is an earthwork banking ditch, which would have likely been taut by hedge as it mostly still is today. This would have both excluded the locals and also helped to contain livestock on the land. The boundary was possibly extended at some point, as we can see an internal curve line, which may or may not represent an earlier boundary to the grange.
This area of land was controlled by an elite and would have been used for agriculture or to support the grazing of sheep or going back to the mother house. I think this concept of time depth should also be talked about here as well. As well, this started life as a monastic grange, it likely passed into private hands with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, and then would have continued its landscape development into a private park, used for hunting deer or other game, and then onwards into a pleasure park. And you can see some evidence that these later landscapes in the round stands of trees within the enclosed area.
And of course, when we can see the later and modern fields laid on top of that. Again, as the land passes back into agricultural use. We know that in this location, the earthworks have been little studied and HS2 provides a really great opportunity to learn more about the preserve landscapes through excavation, recording, and documentary research. We also hope to discover more about the original manor house linked to Yarlet, which is possibly located in the largest stand of trees within the former grange foundry.
This is the clump of trees which is to the right of the road and on the corner of the very dark green field. I think this is a really great example of how even early landscapes can survive into the modern landscape and be easily recognizable by all if you know where to look. So firstly, on this slide, I want to be clear that HS2 Phase 2b does not pass through the registered park at Dunham Massey. There is close to areas of the wider Dunham estate at some points. Dunham has been used as an illustrative example of the influence of these large estates on the wider area.
And of course, during our work in the design of HS2 reassess and respond to existing concepts such as Dunham. So, from the first enclosures in the medieval period, the development of landscape continued both agricultural and private use and across the intervening periods, enclosure was largely undertaken by private agreement between those who used land, commoners, and those who wished to enclose the land for private gain, the landlords. This was a of largely informal process.
But into the 17th century, it became more common to seek to retain what was known as a private act through parliament and by the 1750s, so that's the mid-18th century, this had become the norm. We know that the deer pocket Dunham had medieval origins, but was largely brought into being in the early 18th century. And until, and we know that until the late 18th century, direct involvement in agriculture also formed part of the employment of most working people.
Now, the wider estate at Dunham was heavily remodeled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to reflect more modern thinking about agricultural practices. And in part, these changes were also a response to the increased demand from labor as more people move to the city to serve growing industries. And this, A, obviously reduced the available labor to work farms and, B, increased the demand for food from the city markets. Intensification of agriculture due to pressures from city markets also led to the enclosure of waste in common land and other marginal areas, including some areas of moss land, due to the changing populations and technological innovations. In the images on your screen, this modernization and efficiency drive can be seen in the image on your left through a comparison of the very large straight boundary field inside the estate. The edge of the state is marked by the red line and the estate is on the right of that line, versus the very smaller, and more irregular fields are in Gorsey Village.
It might be possible that some of these fields around Gorsey village are medieval survivors. Parliamentary enclosure by act was typified by large regular fields as they were part of a large scale and deliberate re-planning of the landscape not seen since the medieval period. As we saw at Yarlet.
And these fields would have been similar to those we see on modern maps within the former Dunham Estate. These types of planned and controlled landscapes often typify what we think of as the English landscape today. However, the need for control and efficiency within these estates to make sure that the house survived and kept going often resulted in the loss of earlier landscapes and sometimes had an effect on the visible time deck for in today's landscape.
But this is not true of all former medieval or later estates. At Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire, we can see great deal of time depth captured within the landscape. The image shown here is a LIDAR image and LIDAR is a technique which uses light beams to map the surface of the land through calculating the speed of the beam return. It shows surviving ridge and furrow open field systems, former housing platforms, site of a probable early medieval, an earlier manor and other features of a past landscape preserved within the present landscape.
And these features range in date from the medieval or possibly earlier to the modern period. We also know of archeological remains from the general area surrounding Hartwell, indicating the areas were used from the prehistoric and into the Roman period. There's a possible Roman cemetery nearby and flint tools have been found. But evidence from within the Hartwell site is unclear. The Hartwell site is a great example of extensive time depth revealed through alternative archeological methods. From the eighth century, political power is becoming more centralized with the exertion of chartered rights and the establishment of significant royal and Episcopal holdings, as well as large market centers.
Aylesbury became one of these largely market centers and was also likely to have been important royal estate with an associated minister church. It's likely that many of the surrounding medieval villages, such as Hartwell, originated as places that provided agricultural support to the royal estate at Aylesbury. It's also thought that Hartwell originated in the medieval period as a moated manor site and disbursed settlement, which can be seen through the scattered housing platforms across the site.
And the moated manor was a house surrounded by a moat, which was either for their fence, exclusion of livestock, or just as a status symbol for the elites that lived there. It's likely that the dispersed settlement shown by the scattered housing platforms was, at some point, reorganized, possibly along the north-south road. And the area given over to the characteristic ridge and furrow of the open field systems, which would have then been associated with the village. Reorganized solutions like this were often driven by control of the land and, or a changing landowner. For example, when many of the estate passed from the Anglo Saxons hand into the northern hands.
So, landscapes such as Hartwell, Yarlet, Dunham, and the others that we've covered in this webinar are both interesting and important parts of our heritage and HS2's recognized this and has, or is currently undertaking work to ensure that importance is recognized, understood, recorded, and shared with communities. The image on the right here shows some of the historic landscape character work which formed part of the environmental statement for Phase 2a. This work took existing regional studies on the development of landscapes and used them to build character areas, to help understand, to help us understand where the landscapes of heritage interests could be found. And the one on screen relates to Yarlet.
As you can see, much of the landscape in this part of the route was recognized as a mix of ancient or medieval irregular fields and later post medieval planned fields, but with the dominant character being early date, and that's the darker green that you can see over most of the map there. And what's interesting is that, whilst we saw the boundary from the grange is very well preserved in the landscape, it's been an overlain by later planned fields, which have become the dominant character of the landscape. And that's the lighter lime green you can see there. Archeological work, recording works of landscapes such as Yarlet might include drone survey as is being undertaken at Hartwell House.
And the image on your left shows some of the early results of these types of photographic survey, and shows how they can assist in building up a picture and a record of the landscape. I hope that in the image on the left you can pick up current field pattern and also some of the soil marks, which are similar to crop marks of Richard Faraway in the plowed field at the top left of the image. So, both of these techniques allow us to begin to understand the landscapes as a whole, rather than in small parts and to map them for posterity. In both techniques not only are the ancient parts of landscape are mapped, but also all elements, which formed the landscape as it appears right now.
And this is recognizing that, as once these landscapes were new, and in some cases quite radical, so our landscapes will also become historic. Of course, we live in a period where landscape change is inevitable, even as a result of or in response to climate change, but this is not a new phenomenon. And as we've seen in this presentation, many of the landscapes we value were in response to climactic change, but these landscapes, both ancient and modern are also vulnerable to climate change, either from extreme weather, which can tear down trees, wash away riverbanks or collapse cliff hedges through increased flooding events, which can damage buildings or wash away archeology, or maybe as a result of farming, changing farming regimes. As our climate shifts in the UK, we may need to shift our approaches or crop types as we once did in the prehistoric periods to match our environment. We may also see landscapes altered due to the need to ensure the safety of people and places such as the building of flood defenses.
Or we may see them change as people seek more green energy sites or look to reforest areas to counteract climate change. As we've discussed, these are not necessarily new issues for the peoples of England, but they might make us look at our landscapes with different eyes if we can see where that change has altered the landscape in the past. I hope you've enjoyed this session. I look forward to answering your questions. I'll now hand back to Laura. Thank you very much.
- Lovely. Thank you, Emily. That was fascinating. Okay. So, we will now move onto answering some of your questions. As a reminder, we have Q and A and comment function, which you should be able to find at the top right of your screen. We will do our best to answer as many questions as possible during this time. But if we are unable to answer your question today, please do contact our help desk.
Details will be shared at the end of the webinar. So joining Emily as the Q and A panel today is Chris, the historic environment manager for HS2, and John, senior historic environment manager in our herds team at HS2. Hi Chris and John. Okay. So, we had a number of questions submitted beforehand, and I think this is, next one's a question for you, John. Could you explain the process of excavation onsite? How do you know where these landscape boundaries settlements are and how do we excavate them? - Okay, thanks, Laura.
Yeah, so we do a lot of initial work. So, we will obviously look at some crop marks, which people might be familiar with. We undertake geophysical surveys and we follow that up with trial trenches on areas which we strip the top soil off, usually, in rural environments. And that leaves us with kind of essentially marks on the ground, which are the infield features of past activity. So, we can actually see lines of ditches, rectangular or circular enclosures, that might've been enclosed buildings, and we can see those on the ground through different soil colors.
So, that is essentially how we kind of focus in and then target those features and start to excavate them and differentiate them from what we would think of as a natural geology. - Brilliant, thank you. Great answer. Okay, Chris, this is a question for you. Are you expecting to find anything that's a key difference in Phase 2? - Wow. That's a great question. And I think, sorry, I'm the historic environment manager for Phase 2a, so this specifically does this tie into what I do.
And it ties in, I think, fundamentally to what makes HS2 so exciting, really. Firstly, yes, we are expecting some, you know, unique regional variations as you'd expect in any part of England. There's, in the past, Staffordshire was very different to London, as it is today.
But we do have specific heritage assets that we're particularly interested and excited about. In 2a, we have a possible square barrier, which is unusual in this part of the world as an iron age feature. We go past a post medieval battlefield, a civil war battlefield at Hoptonheath which might be interesting. And it's quite unique thing along our route, but I think what's most interesting in the kind of comparison between 2a and 1 is, is it really topped to the scale of HS2. I mean, Emily talked about the project being 345 miles long, which is absolutely right.
But the shape of that, as a linear strip between London and Crewe, for my part of it, is what makes it so exciting and so interesting because as a consistent team, with myself and John and Emily and yourself, Laura, we're all working on where, we're studying those sites that are on the 2a route, there's Roman and prehistoric and later sites on 2a. And we're comparing them with the Roman and prehistoric sites that the team are finding just outside of the M25 in London and up in Lichfield and all across that route. So, it's not just the unique and interesting things that are going to be interesting in 2a. It's also the comparisons that we're going to be able to make across the entire route because HS2 goes in areas that we've not managed to do much archeology before.
Archeology in England, usually, is done in advance of house building or road building. And those works tend to be done in very specific locations, you know, near the big cities where people want to live, not so much on slopes or flood plains, which are bad places for houses, but a railway like ours is something that has to go very straight. It has to, particularly a high speed line, it moves in a very linear way. So, we're actually crossing landscapes and areas that haven't really been explored by archeology before.
So, to be able to make those comparisons across Phase 1 and 2a and 2b, when Emily begins work on that phase, should be really exciting and really will sort of push forward what we know and what we can understand about this whole strip of England. So, yeah. It's really, the comparison there is going to be fantastic. - That's great. Thank you, Chris. Very comprehensive answer, thank you. We have questions come through on the Q and A.
I think I will go to John first. Perhaps he can answer this. I don't know. If Emily or Chris might want to jump in as well. So as you mentioned that geology and topography tend to dictate the location of archeological potential for latest prehistoric sites. Please, can you elaborate on this? For instance, do you have a hierarchy of preferred geology soils along HS2 1 and 2a? - Okay. Yeah, I can provide a response generally on that. Yeah.
Obviously, you know, there are certain geologies that allow us to see archeology from the past more easily. So, you know, gravel terraces adjacent to rivers. In general, gravel geologies tend to show up archeology really well from crop marks. We also tend to work pretty well with geophysical survey, better than maybe some of the heavier clay areas. You know, so those, you know, field systems, pit alignments, and things that Emily showed earlier in the Trent Valley are typically found on gravel terraces adjacent to river valleys. And that's true of the Trent Valley and true of many of the river valleys across the country.
It's not true entirely to say that there's no activity beyond those or that we have a hierarchy of geologies that we are looking out for HS2. I mean, we have defined character zones, which, you know, attempt to characterize different topographies, different geologies across the route, but I don't think it's true to say that we're focusing necessarily on one over another or that certain types of activity or different activities can't, couldn't have taken place in the past in different geological and topographical locations. I think that's my general answer.
And I don't know if Chris has anything specific for 2a on that. - No, nothing specific to answer that. I think John's exactly right. And the principles there apply equally to 2a as they do to Phase 1. I think we're all aware from really tying back to what I was saying earlier.
So much archeological work is done in specific areas because of the way it's funded for house building and other construction, that there is kind of a tendency almost to assume that that's where we're going to find archeology. So as HS2 archeologists, we're here to structure railway. We're acutely aware of where we need to consider that risk. But we're also aware that we're not, that we are going across those different locations, those different environments, those different terrains, that may yield unexpected finds. So, although we do go through a process of risk management, we do go through a process of identifying areas that we think from our experience are most likely to include evidence. We don't rule out and we don't, we don't just write off areas as, exactly like John said, because they weren't heavy geology or because there isn't a history of significant finds in those kinds of areas.
So, yeah, we apply our techniques across the whole route and we look forward to sort of adding a fresh dimension to the understanding of archeology, really. - Okay, thank you. Question for Emily. What does the phrase time depth mean? - Oh, okay. Right (laughs). So, it's generally thought to mean that it's time that you can read in the landscape. So obviously, in different eras, landscape change occurred and then they had an effect on that landscape.
So, it's how, time depth really is thinking about how we can see and read those changes and those past events and the lives of past people in the landscape that survives today. And we can, you know, we can see this, as I've pointed out in the presentation, through field boundaries, but also through things like earthworks, standing earthworks such as ridge and furrow or, you know, defensive remains such as hill forts or ponds are quite a good one. We often find that the history of ponds is more interesting than they can let on. You know, either they're for extractive or for agricultural purposes in terms of improving the land.
And if they're extractive, sometimes that can indicate that there's a production site nearby or something like that. And obviously, buildings are a big part of that as well. You know, building change, building development, building placement within the landscape, all of that tells us something about how that landscape has developed and how people have been using it. Yeah, that's kind of how I define time depth. Anyway, I don't know if John or Chris have any different views on it. - No, I don't think so, Emily.
I think you've explained that well. - Lovely, thank you. And another question for John, I'm going to say, could you tell us some more about science used on HS2 and any new techniques or things used on Phase 1? - Yeah, yeah. Okay, yeah. First of all, I'll get a plug in for our other webinar on Monday on, for the Festival of Archeology, which is on innovation. So, we'll be focusing on that at greater length then, but yeah, so science, so, obviously, we've employed quite a large range of scientific techniques.
We've undertaken paleo-environmental sampling, taking pollen cores, looking at the past environments, which are kind of fairly standard practice on most archeological sites. Obviously, we've employed that at a kind of larger scale too, as Chris was saying, so that we can enable that kind of broader comparative analysis, ultimately, when we come to examine the work and analyze it more closely, but yeah, so some of the more innovative things that have taken place are our contractors' fusion and archeological research services have employed quite an innovative technique of geochemical survey, where they've been taking samples across landscapes where different chemical signatures can indicate different types of activity in the past, and indicate kind of hotspots of past human activity. Then we've followed that up with sort of essentially ground-truthing kind of work. So, we test pitted and stripped those sites to see what those geochemical anomalies are actually telling us.
So, that's one of the quite innovative things. Plus there have been, we've, you know, we've been able to facilitate quite a few other technologies as well, such as digital kind of recording technologies, scanning and photogrammetry and that type of thing. So, I'll be talking about that more on Monday.
- Brilliant. Thank you, John. Question for Chris, what, in your opinion, is the most exciting part of the landscape? I'm assuming for 2a, but you can answer for anywhere, really (laughs). - Oh, right. Well, that's a very good question.
I think from 2a's point of view, it is I think the photo that Emily showed, that great long sweeping left sort of slice across the Trent Valley that really will show a huge amount of time depth, to go back to an earlier question, that will show, you know, phase on phase of settlement within this key area for the landscape of this area. I mean, the river values have always been important. People love living next to rivers. People still love living next to rivers. And it's an area where you can see, straight away from the aerial photo you can see that there are multiple levels of settlement there.
And I think what's going to be particularly interesting in that area is this kind of concept of the past in the past of how those layers interacted, of how people could see some of those monuments potentially in the landscape and they were, they were building their own monuments and how those interface, and I think that that Trent Valley is such a critical part of England, in fact, that I think we'll really, we'll be able to really add to the corpus of knowledge of this area. So, I think from my point of view, that's really exciting. And at 2A, 2A is a great sort of project. It's really kind of covers three broad landscapes. The first is that Trent Valley, which is so exciting, but the central sort of higher and harder geologies around stone have very interesting elements as well, through all of medieval settlement in that area that I think we're really going to have some interesting investigations around and then Cheshire at the top, the Cheshire Plain, which is this kind of area that's almost much flatter.
And then you can see the effect of glaciation in that area much more, much more vividly. And certainly, in the archeological record, I think we're going to get some very different results from Phase 1 where there's much less, where they're south of that sort of most recent phase of glaciation. And there isn't really that kind of interface, I think, I think there's interesting landscape along the whole of 2a, so I'm, it's a good position to be in.
- [Laura] Lovely, thank you, Chris. Do you want to jump in as well, Emily? - Yeah, sure. So, it might seem like a bit of a weird one, but I find the most exciting bit of the 2b landscape actually the Manchester Ship Canal. Most people would be like, "Why?" But it's, you know, it's, I love the massive engineering endeavor of it. You know, the fact that it had such a huge effect on the landscape, it was a massive change to the landscape. It said something about, you know, the economies and the society at that, at the time it was built, it changed the landscape forever.
And it also had a huge development on the, you know, influence on the development of the region. Manchester probably wouldn't have continued to grow and boom and succeed in the way that it did if not for the ship canal. So, yeah, I find the ship canal a really fascinating piece of the landscape, which I think is often overlooked. - Brilliant. Thank you. No. That's really interesting.
That actually sort of feeds into the question I was going to ask you next, Emily. What about industrial landscapes? Do they count as historic landscape? - I mean, in my view, yes. The thing about industrial landscapes is that people think that they are more modern, but actually industrial landscapes start right from some of the earliest prehistoric periods, you know, when you think about bronze, bronze smelting, and bronze excavation in Wales and the industrial site there was so pollutive that it changed the chemistry of the surrounding peat deposits. But I definitely think that all of those industrial landscapes from those earliest right through to the modern landscapes have value to us, and they, you know, they've changed our society. They've changed our world. And I think that they're really interesting, I think there's a lot to be learned from them.
both in terms of, you know, their physicality and how those landscapes work, but also in their influence on people and communities and societies that interact with them. And not just when they're active, but also now, you know, how do people view the, you know, the abandoned industrial landscapes, which are scattered across, you know, across the country? And obviously, with Manchester being quite a lot, you know, being quite a significant place within the Phase 2b route, it's obviously something that we're going to be considering, we're going to be considering quite a lot is those kinds of industrial commercial landscapes and what they mean and how we can get the most out of those through the work that we're doing. - [Laura] Brilliant. Thank you, Emily. I don't know if Chris, is there anything you'd like to add for Emily's response? - Yeah, I think it's a really great question because it kind of cuts to the point of archeology kind of starts yesterday, where we have landscapes that come all the way up to the present. On Phase 2a, we go through kind of the hinterland of the Ordnance Depot at Swynnerton, which is this great World War II feature, and really is a landscape scale feature, this kind of vast dispersed military complex.
And certainly on Phase 1, we go through at least one World War II airfield in North Hampton, and the Trent itself was, you know, that we have fortifications, certainly we have at least one pillbox within the Phase 2a route, and we have a possible Cold War feature as well. So, we really are interested in kind of the heritage right up to the present day and those all add to the understanding of the landscape, which is, like Emily said, ever evolving. - Brilliant. Thank you both.
The next question I'm going to throw at you, John. Have you found anything on Phase 1 that changes what we know about the lives of people in the past? - Ooh. Good question (laughs). (Laura laughs) Well, okay. So, we've found obviously an awful lot of archeology up and down the route.
I think one, a nice site or area of sites that we've identified recently have been some late upper Paleolithic and early Mesolithic archeology in Northamptonshire in the River Gray Ouse Valley, where we've got quite significant spreads of flint work. So, that does tell us something that we really didn't know about the occupation of that landscape, because that type of archeology is very ephemeral and insubstantial and not tremendously easy to locate. So, I think that that is a good example. One of my favorite sites that we've found is a timber circle site near Wendover, which seems to also, which was obviously a ritual prehistoric site, which seems to also have attracted activity in the iron age where we have iron age burials and deposits of precious metal and also Roman ritual activity, where we have a Roman burial in a lead coffin. So, that's very interesting in terms of whether that site had a special significance over, you know, potentially 2,000 years. So, that says something about how societies in those later iron age and Roman periods, you know, were kind of interpreting their past landscapes, if you like, you know, how did they kind of consider places within their landscape? And, you know, there may be locations that were significant, which are hard to, for us to normally detect.
So, it's kind of a bit of a different perspective on that. - Lovely, thank you. Okay. Emily, I think this'll be the next question for you.
How do we know what these landscapes are used for? Do we know if they were growing crops or keeping livestock? - Okay, that's a good question. I think there's several ways in which we can tell what past landscapes were used for. One of them is, I think we've already mentioned a little bit, which is to look at those kind of pollen indicators, indicators that tell us what kind of plants were being grown within the region. So, you know, that's one of the main ways which archeologists have developed their understanding of the spread of agriculture kind of across England, is by looking at the, you know, the pollen of cereal crops and things like that. But we also, you know, we do find, you know, burnt material, burnt cereals.
So, we look at domestic deposits to understand what people were farming or growing. In terms of looking at the landscapes and understanding, I think sometimes there are indicators in terms of the form. So, things like where you see certain types of cup feature, which are obviously designed to direct livestock or control livestock and to sort them, and to make those kinds of, you know, farming tasks easier. They're often forms that pass, that don't really change an awful lot between then and now.
And so, you know, there are parallels to be drawn and like there's quite a lot of thought that goes on. I don't know if I have any, if anybody else has anything to add to that, but I don't know if that was a useful answer either. (laughs) I hope it is. - No, that was great. Thank you, Emily. Does anyone else want to jump in or should we move to the next question? I'll move to the next question. So Chris, how long does desk research take and what type of things do you look at? - Okay, that's a good question as well.
I mean, desk research is often the first stage, but it often also runs in parallel to the work that we're doing. So in terms of how long it takes, it really is an open-ended question, depending on how complex your site is and how many sources we can, we need to look at. And those sources can be hugely variable. I mean, as a standard, if, and there's the sources that we've looked at already, for example, would include known archeological sites. So, the list of known archeological sites is held by the local authority and that's called the historic environment record. And that includes a kind of a map of known sites and heritage assets and known excavations and known just features of interest in the landscape.
So, we've obviously consulted that as a first port of call, Historic England maintain a similar database. We're also very, very interested in what we can find from historic maps. So, we've consulted record offices in, across the route, to look at historic maps going back, well, hundreds of years, really. There are several key phases of mapping, including the ordinance survey maps, most recently in the 20th century, We also look at tide and enclosure maps from the 19th century.
And earlier than that, when individual landowners would commission their own estate and parish maps, those are often held in the record office as well. And those can be particularly interesting. Those can show a lot of the kind of landscape form and field boundaries that Emily was talking about, so that's a real key key issue, key asset, for desk-based research. Aerial photos is a fantastic resource as Emily showed, again, a slide earlier than that. And we look at aerial photos held at the repository in Swindon, English, Historic England's repository in Swindon and more local sources.
And those are really, some of those aerial photos go back to the 1930s in specific locations. And then in 1946, there was a countrywide aerial mapping project that was carried out when a lot of the airplanes from World War II were going unused. So, the government put them to good use taking photos across the country, and that's a real great snapshot of the landscape and crop marks in 1946. So, we consult those. Absolutely. Those are the kinds of standard sources we look at, but when we have a specific area of interest, we can commission more bespoke research or look at specific sources.
Some of the country houses along our route have their own archives. And I think one particularly useful example that I know occurred off Phase 1 was around Lichfield, where there was a discussion about some of the civil war troop movements. And we carried out some research looking at some of the papers from the civil war commanders in that area. So, it really can be a very tailored exercise and it's really kind of a fascinating archival exercise that can really shape how we deliver, quite a major project to field work.
So, it takes as long as it takes, if that's not a terrible answer. And the sources really can be, can cover anything that we can get our hands on, really. I hope that was useful. - Yes. Very useful answer. Thanks, Chris. It's not, it's not all about digging, is it? - [Chris] It's not, exactly.
- I think we've just got time for one more question. This is a question for John. What is a, I cannot, can never say this, premonitory fort? - Premonitory fort, yeah. Okay. A premonitory fort is where people in the past, basically, utilized the natural premonitory or ridge in the landscape that would essentially jut out. You also get them along coastlines, England, and Wales, and Ireland, Scotland, and places like that, where they essentially create earthworks at the Southern, say, extent of the premonitory to cut it off entirely to make it into a defendable fort. So, you would have those from the iron age, sort of late bronze and iron age, but 800 BC onward.
So, they're very much like hill forts, same sort of function, really, just a defended enclosure, but utilizing that very dramatic natural topography to their advantage. - Lovely. Thank you. Okay. So, thank you all once again for taking the time to tune in today and for the questions. We've tried our best to answer as many as possible during the time available.
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