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2 October 2010
Iron Age sites revealed from the air in Shropshire

Until the last 40 years historians and archaeologists believed that Iron Age ancestors in Shropshire (England) lived almost exclusively on high ground. Conventional wisdom held that the lowlands and river valleys were covered by dense forests. However, recent aerial surveys have revealed a different story.
     The outline of Iron Age forts, farms and other settlements can all be seen from the air, buried under fields that have been farmed for centuries. Dr Andy Wigley, Historic Environment Countryside Advisor for Shropshire Council explained: "The aerial survey evidence has shown us... actually very densely settled landscapes and carefully farmed landscapes for almost a thousand years before the Romans appeared."
     Despite centuries of ploughing, the outlines of Iron Age settlements show up as variations in crop colouring, which can only be seen from the air and only after long periods of dry weather, as it caused by inconsistencies in soil moisture. In recent years the weather has been too wet to show up the variations. However, this summer has offered experts an ideal chance to continue their efforts to map the county's buried landscape.
     Shropshire's many hill forts are largely unchanged, as the high, rocky terrain makes them difficult to build on and impractical for growing crops. However, the evidence suggests lowland areas that were farmed 2,500 years ago are in many cases still farmed today.

Edited from BBC News (13 September 2010)

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