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1995 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Date 1 January 1995 - 31 December 1995

Event ID 545534

Category Project

Type Project


The course of aerial reconnaissance in Scotland in 1995 was uneven with the first half of the year producing very mixed weather with no consistent spells of a calm, clear or dry nature before late June. A total of some 870 sites was recorded in 117 hours up to mid-September. Flying in the early months, with the advantage of conditions of low sun, was directed towards areas where other sections of the RCAHMS were undertaking survey: the Central Scotland Woodland project, and in particular the industrial monuments; Eastern Dumfriesshire; Kingussie; and Strathdon. The incidence of snow-cover, accompanied by good flying weather was limited, but the upper reaches of Strathdon provided fair conditions for the identification of vestigial remains of settlement and cultivation. Attempts to carry out aerial survey in the Rogart area of Sutherland were regularly frustrated by adverse weather conditions, and reconnaissance was not carried out until June.

The recording of Second World War installations has been an irregular feature of aerial reconnaissance for several years, being undertaken when sites were threatened with demolition or presented themselves as particularly eloquent examples of their type when viewed from the air. The Defence of Britain project, with its aim of recording and documenting military sites, particularly those of World War II, has led to the formulation of a Royal Commission project on the defences of Scapa Flow, which has an aerial component; one flight has already been undertaken, but weather conditions at suitable times have prevented a second sortie.

Winter, spring and early summer in Scotland were unsettled with regular rainfall and near-average temperatures, leading to a steady and unstressed development of cereal crops. The Soil Moisture Deficit figures were low until the unheralded dry and sunny weather of the last ten days of June Particular attention was directed, when weather permitted, to the south-west of Scotland. This yielded some interesting new sites, including a small ceremonial complex near Ballantrae and a series of palisaded settlements on the east side of Loch Ryan. Reasonable conditions over the Grampians allowed the area around Speyside and the Moray Firth to be successfully surveyed. While, given the unusually prolonged absence of rain in July and August, the number of sites visible was not remarkable, except around the inner Moray Firth, some of the monuments revealed, such as square and round barrow cemeteries and pitted features, will add significantly to the appreciation of the archaeology of the area.

The effect of the lack of rainfall in late July and the first twenty-one days of August was to produce parchmarks in pasture fields, particularly important in revealing sites in the area lying between the cereal-growing fields and the moorland where upstanding monuments survive, a section of the landscape rarely visible to archaeologists and the Tweed Basin and Clydesdale were particularly productive The majority of the previously unrecorded sites, appearing in the form of parchmarks, were settlements, but a Roman temporary camp near West Linton also appeared as a positive mark. Reconnaissance in 1995 involved a higher proportion of more distant sorties than in previous years, thus improving NMRS holdings. In sum, the weather pattern of the summer of 1995 yielded its share of useful material, but it did not produce a year that could com pare with these of 1989 and 1992 in the discovery of archaeological sites.

RCAHMS (DES 1995, 114-5)

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