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Friday, 18 January 2013

Wales Under Snow – Winter Archaeology From The Air

The first snows of 2013 provided breathtaking conditions for Royal Commission aerial reconnaissance on 15th January. Despite leaving Haverfordwest airport under rain showers, the hills of eastern Wales were covered by a blanket of snow providing immaculate conditions for earthwork recording combined with the low winter sun.

Painscastle motte and bailey.

Aerial reconnaissance over the Radnorshire commons east of Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells, together with recording to the south along the Usk Valley between Llangorse and Brecon, targeted underflown scheduled ancient monuments for Cadw as well as looking for previously unrecorded archaeological sites.

Snow ‘evens out’ the colours of the landscape allowing complex earthwork monuments to be seen more clearly and precisely. At the same time drifting or melting snow, as well as melting frost on improved pasture, all help to show up slight differences in topography which can highlight an archaeological site.

The snow proved ideal for making stunning new records of well-known monuments like Painscastle medieval motte and bailey and the complex hillfort and medieval castle at Cefnllys together with previously unrecorded earthworks to the north.

The scheduled ancient monument of Cwm-twrch medieval settlement (small rectangle, far right), matched by newly-recorded ploughed-down earthworks of a larger platform settlement on the opposite side of the valley (feint lines, left)

As well as discovering new monuments like the unrecorded house platform and earthworks on the opposite side of a minor valley from the scheduled Cwm-Twrch deserted rural settlement in Radnorshire. Another interesting discovery were near-invisible earthworks of a probable moated site near Llangasty-Talyllyn, south of Llangorse Lake, showing as lines in melting frost. These special weather conditions rarely last for long, making timely aerial reconnaissance imperative.

For more winter aerial views of Wales under snow, see the 2012 book by the Royal Commission

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