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1990 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

When the gales of January and February 1990 finally abated and allowed the light aircraft used by the Commission to get into the air. There was only the opportunity to catch the last of the light snow cover across a narrow strip of the Border Hills as part of the ongoing programme of prospective reconnaissance in areas potentially suitable for afforestation. The fine dusting of snow was particularly valuable in revealing the successive patterns of cultivation adjacent to settlements and farmsteads, especially in the area of Crom Rig in Teviotdale. Other flights were undertaken in Annandale in support of the Commission's Inventory programme. Wet weather in June, and record rainfall in the first half of July, led to a slow start to the summer season. Early flights in June yielded an unusually high proportion of cropmarks in winter-sown cereals, revealing details of prehistoric settlement in Fife, Lothian and Berwickshire: a particularly precise rendering of a settlement was recorded at Kirkton of Largo (North-East Fife District), and of exceptional significance, was the recognition of a Roman Temporary Camp at Mylnefield (Dundee District). The heavy rain of early July caused damage to the crops, with some sites, such as East Bearford (East Lothian District) appearing as a void where the crop had collapsed. With the absence of rain in the last two weeks of July conditions for cropmark-formation improved, but the distribution of the marks maintained their strong eastern and coastal bias. Flights to central and western Scotland revealed little in the way of cropmarking and even in the east the vast majority of cropmarks were faint and elusive, often visible from only a narrow angle of view. Much of the value of the summer's reconnaissance lay in the application of increasingly refined perceptual techniques to enhance the recording of an ever-more thickly populated ancient landscape: the contrast between unenclosed settlements to the north of the Forth and enclosed to the south continues to be broadly maintained.

The recording of industrial monuments from the air was continued with flights in south-west Scotland, the central belt. Fife and Angus, designed to photograph the sites of collieries scheduled for demolition. The coverage of the architecture of Glasgow and its environs was enhanced in the course of two flights.

Up to the end of October a total of more than seventy-three hours flying has been undertaken in thirty-one sorties with a total of 750 sites recorded. As in the previous year, about one-third of the total number of archaeological sites were recorded for the first time. This figure is indicative of the continued rapid expansion of the identification of archaeological remains in Scotland, and, even in a year of difficult weather, the rate of increase shows no indication of a downward trend.

RCAHMS (DES 1990, 52)