Academics to reveal ancient landscape

Archaeologists from 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.

Archaeologists from Bradford University, who will be working with a team from the University of Birmingham, aim to unlock the mysteries of Stonehenge and show people how the local area looked during the time the monument was created.

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Dr Christopher Gaffney, lecturer in Archaeological Geophysics at Bradford University, said: "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.

"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."

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, 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.

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They will work alongside specialists in British prehistory and landscape archaeology in the three-year collaboration.

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.

With more than 750,000 visitors annually, half from overseas, the site is one of the UK's most popular tourist hotspots.