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1 February 2010
A thousand new sites discovered off the British coast

Nearly a thousand new archeological sites have been discovered off the North East British coast as part of an English Heritage-funded project. The survey was conducted by EH archaeologists along with help from Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it has been done to help researchers understand the history of the coastline and damages it may face. Uncovered during the project were a number of Iron Age multivallate forts and hillforts. At Howick Hill, these are still used as earthworks.
     David MacLeod, senior investigator with English Heritage's Aerial Survey Team, said: "Often, it's only by looking at a site from the air that you start to understand its size and structure. Historic sites along the coast are vulnerable to the effects of both natural coastal change and human activities." Although erosion has actually helped to reveal a number of nationally important sites along the North East coast, such as Bronze Age burial mounds at Low Hauxley in Northumberland, too often it poses a threat.  "This project will help us understand not just the history of our coastline, but also the dangers it faces now and in the future."
     Dr Clive Waddington, from Archaeological Research Services, who carried out the survey, said: "We've always known that the North East coastline is rich in archaeological sites. However, we were really surprised not just at the number of new sites we found, but also the range and diversity. This survey has given us evidence for human activity in the region from prehistoric times right through to the modern day and helped us build up a much better picture of what activities have taken place along our coast over the last 10,000 years."
     By 2010, the survey aims to have produced the most detailed picture yet of the threat posed to the nation's heritage by rising sea-levels, coastal erosion and managed realignment of the coast. The results will allow decisions to be made about the best way to manage the coastline to preserve historical sites or, where nothing can be done, to ensure that they are recorded and understood before erosion takes its toll.
     As part of the project, Dr Waddington's team is now working with experts at Durham University to feed the results into a computer-generated map. This will also be used as a predictive tool, for example to identify which sites could be under threat if there were a rise in sea levels.  For further information on the Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk.

Source: Northumberland Gazette (29 January 2010)

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