Archaeological drone surveys in the Yorkshire Dales uncover previously unknown henges, prehistoric villages and medieval farms

Undiscovered remnants of prehistoric and medieval settlements have been uncovered in the Yorkshire Dales thanks to new drone technology.

Aerial surveying techniques called LiDAR have been used in the Westmorland Dales, the western edge that was incorporated into the National Park in 2016.

Historic England have also taken part in the project, which covers a 136km area known for its Roman archaeology and the ruins of Pendragon Castle.

Many prehistoric, Roman and medieval farmsteads and villages have not been fully determined because of changes in land use, such as woodland creation.

The remains of a Gilbertine monastic house in the grounds of St Oswald's Church in Ravenstonedale were discovered in the 1920s

The drone images will enable mapping to be carried out so that important features can be preserved.

In Smardale, near Kirkby Stephen, the drones revealed the outline of warrens that were used to rear rabbits for food and fur in the medieval period, when they were known as 'pillow mounds'.

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Elsewhere in the Dales, two henges that had been ploughed down and were no longer visible were rediscovered, as were a 'significant number' of prehistoric settlements, former farmsteads and complex medieval farming landscapes hidden beneath stone walls and hay meadows.

The location of medieval rabbit farms known as 'pillow mounds' at Smardale can be seen in aerial drone images

The National Park Authority said: "The introduction of LiDAR has been an incredible tool for archaeologists to identify ancient features and landscapes that exist across Britain, especially in upland environments. In some places LiDAR allows us to peel back what is visible and see what might exist below, for example on moorland where the vegetation cover makes it hard to identify faint earthworks or where tree cover has made other survey methods nearly impossible. It can also help us to see features that exist underneath modern ploughing.

"LiDAR and other aerial survey techniques allow us to view archaeology at a landscape scale. It allows us to view hard to see features like co-axial field systems, large parallel earthwork banks that are believed to be Bronze Age in date. Not much survives across the Dales of a known Bronze Age date, so the fact that these can be accurately identified, mapped and placed into context with known prehistoric settlements can help us to understand more about the lives of our ancestors."