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Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Revision Programme

Date 1947 - 31 March 1983

Event ID 1014509

Category Project

Type Project


The programme of the Ordnance Survey’s Archaeology Division (c.1947-1983) was created to provide information regarding archaeological sites to be published on Ordnance Survey maps (Philips 1960; Seymour 1980: 240, 340-343; Frodsham, Topping and Cowley (eds) 1999).

Having opened an Edinburgh office on 1 October 1958 (DES 1958, 41), and an Inverness office from 1964 (DES 1964, 58), the Division in Scotland published a brief summary of their progress annually in Discovery and Excavation in Scotland for 25 years. The responsibilities of the Archaeology Division in Scotland and the records of their work were transferred to RCAHMS on 1 April 1983 (DES 1983, 53; RCAHMS 1984: ix).

The main product of this programme consists of more than 55,000 record cards organised by 100km squares of the National Grid, recording c.36,000 sites, monuments or findspots. Each received its own card or cards arranged in a National Grid numbering sequence.

The data gathered included a summary description written by an OS Recorder and based on published sources (akin to a basic desk-based assessment), often quoting at length from authoritative sources. To this was appended an account of its state at the time of the OS Investigator’s field visit or visits.

Where appropriate a detailed sketch was added and one or more photographs of a quality good enough to aid identification. A secondary record of each site was kept on a complete set of c.3,800 maps at 1:10,000 or 1:10,560 scale on which every feature or find was noted as it became known (Seymour 1980: 342). Such was the utility of the dataset (essentially created for OS internal use) that it was shared widely with other organisations at a national and local level, although the original was maintained and curated by the OS and later RCAHMS. This ended in 1990, when the entry of most of the information into a digital database was completed, and the text became available through Canmore.

Information from HES Survey and Recording (GFG) October 2016

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