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1998 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

The weather of the summer of 1998 was the worst for both aerial reconnaissance and the formation of cropmarking for more than ten years, but the few opportunities to photograph sites between June and August were to some extent offset by some reasonable conditions in the early spring and autumn of 1998. During the period 1 November 1997 to 31 October 1998, 943 sites were recorded during 108 hours in the air. This marks a considerable improvement over the previous year's total of 647, but can in part be attributed to an increase in the number of architectural sites recorded.

The last two months of 1997 saw only two flights when it was possible to exploit the effects of the low sun to reveal the character of surviving earthwork sites. The flights were undertaken to Liddesdale and to the Ochils in support of the RCAHMS Afforestable Land Survey projects. The snowy conditions of January 1998, on the occasions when the weather conditions were sufficiently stable to allow reconnaissance in light aircraft, were again applied to coverage of an Afforestable Land Survey area, this time in Glenurquhart. The in-office assessment of the archaeological potential of the proposed National Park, centred on Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, was complemented by coverage from the air on three sorties under a variety of conditions. Holyrood Park, the subject of an RCAHMS project linked to the joint meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Society of Antiquaries of London in May 1999, was photographed under snow at the very beginning of the year, followed by a flight into the northern section of the Lammermuirs, which revealed the possibility of further survivals of pit-alignments adjacent to that discovered in 1997. Strathdon, the area under ground survey by the NAS, formed the goal of many flights during 1997-8, all but four of which were impeded by poor visibility or violent winds over the hills to the north of Strathmore. This did, however, give the opportunity to conduct reconnaissance in the Angus Glens, an area with a remarkable level of surviving and unrecorded prehistoric settlements and field-systems, part of which, Glen Clova, is now the subject of an Afforestable Land Survey.

Other projects which required aerial survey were the World War II defences of the Firth of Forth, and a wide range of the churches in Scotland for an exhibition designed to celebrate the Millennium. There was particular attention directed at examples dating from the 19th and 20th centuries in the Glasgow and Dundee areas, where it was considered that existing coverage required upgrading. Threatened buildings, and especially industrial sites, formed another subject for recording, with Alloa receiving some detailed scrutiny. The inclement summer months of 1998 not only prevented the formation of crop stress and the subsequent cropmarks, but also created conditions unsuitable for productive flying in the north and west of Scotland, with only one flight to record settlement on Coll, continuing the survey of the previous year. While there was little spectacular in the way of cropmark sites with only Perthshire and Angus and parts of East Lothian and Berwickshire being responsive, new settlement and burial sites were discovered.

RCAHMS (DES 1998, 111-2)