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Bradford Archaeologists Turn Back Clock at Stonehenge

8 July 10


Archaeologists at the University of Bradford are heading to Stonehenge to help with the world's biggest ever virtual excavation.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, which began this week, will use the latest geophysical imaging techniques to visually recreate the iconic prehistoric monument and its surroundings.  

They aim to unlock the mysteries of Stonehenge and show people exactly what the local area looked like during the time the monument was created. Bradford archaeologists will be working with a team from the University of Birmingham.

Dr Christopher Gaffney, Lecturer in Archaeological Geophysics at the University of Bradford, said: "This is an incredibly exciting project to be part of. Rather than looking at typically small discrete areas we intend to cover the whole of the World Heritage Site. We will do this using emerging technology that allows us to pull large banks of sensors behind a quad bike and using real time GPS to locate the measurements.

"We are delighted to be working in partnership with our colleagues from Birmingham on what is a once in a lifetime opportunity to undertake this survey at Britain's best known ancient monument. No one has collected this much data so rapidly before for an archaeological geophysical survey, and so we will need to research into new types of processing and visualisation.

"Bradford is regarded as the premier university centre in Britain for geophysical prospecting for archaeological remains and this project will capture the imagination of not only our students but many people across Britain."

The multi-million-Euro study is funded by the new Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna and the University of Birmingham and is assisted by the National Trust and English Heritage.  It will bring together the most sophisticated geophysics team ever to be engaged in a single archaeological project in Britain. They will work alongside specialists in British prehistory and landscape archaeology in the three-year collaboration.

The project involves the Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bradford, the University of Birmingham's IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA); and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute and its European partners from Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Using state-of-the-art equipment the scientists will map the Wiltshire terrain and its buried archaeological remains with pinpoint accuracy. When processed the millions of measurements will be analysed and even incorporated into gaming technology to produce 2D and 3D images.

Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, said: "Developing non-destructive methods to document our cultural heritage is one of the greatest challenges of our time. This task can only be accomplished by using the latest technology, including the combination of large-scale laser scanning together with leading-edge magnetometer and geo-radar systems. No landscape deserves to benefit from study at this level of detail more than Stonehenge."

The project begins midway through one of Stonehenge's busiest tourist seasons for years. With more than 750,000 visitors annually, half from overseas, the site is one of the UK's most popular tourist hotspots.

Yet while visitors flock for a glimpse of the world-famous monoliths, the 12-strong Hidden Landscapes Project research team and their equipment will be spread over an area spanning four kilometres this year and a total of 14 over the next three years.  

8 July 10

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Further information for Media Enquirers

For further information please contact the University of Bradford Press Office on 01274 23 3089/3084.

Out of office hours call 07879 437996. Alternatively, e-mail press@bradford.ac.uk or fax on (01274) 236280.