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Aerial views of Stongehenge to be exhibited - Aerial views of Stonehenge taken 100 years ago are among dozens of historic and modern aerial photos and illustrations that are on display at Stonehenge from 1st to 7th August.
Weather permitting, visitors to Stonehenge on 5th and 6th August may have a chance to ride on a tethered balloon and take their own aerial pictures of the famous monument.
These two events have been organised to commemorate the first aerial photographs of Stonehenge, which were taken in 1906 by Lieutenant Philip Henry Sharpe of the Royal Engineers’ Balloon Section. Based at the time at Aldershot, the Royal Engineers’ balloonists were the forerunners of the Royal Flying Corps and, ultimately, the RAF. It is not entirely clear why Sharpe took those pictures of Stonehenge, but they are the earliest known aerial photographs of the stones, and indeed of any British archaeological site.
The exhibition,entitled 100 Years of Discovery, tells the story of those first photographs, explores the world of aerial photography in Victorian, Edwardian and wartime Britain, and looks specifically at the contribution that the last 100 years of aerial photography has made to our understanding of 6,000 years of British history and pre-history. There will also be a display of 21st century digital aerial mapping technologies and a virtual fly-by of the Stonehenge area.Admission to the exhibition is free.
Aerial photos have greatly enhanced our knowledge of Stonehenge. The full course of the Avenue approaching the monument and the nearby site of Woodhenge were among aerial photography’s earliest successes, while a recent National Mapping Programme project by English Heritage staff has demonstrated just how intensively the landscape around the stones has been used over the last 6,000 years.
Dave Batchelor, chief Stonehenge archaeologist at English Heritage, said: "Aerial photography is most useful in helping us understand the human use and development of the landscape around Stonehenge. This detailed understanding is used daily in our management of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and contributes to the enjoyment of the many thousands of visitors every year."
The 1906 photos demonstrated the clarity with which even slight earthworks could be picked out from above and more easily understood. In the years following the photo’s publication in the journal of the Society of Antiquaries in 1907, archaeologists gradually came to realise the value of aerial photography as a key technique to discover, record and interpret traces of the past, culminating today in a more systematic usage of aerial photography for archaeological purposes.
Today, aerial survey is one of the most important tools for the discovery of archaeological sites in this country. Each year, hundreds of previously unknown sites, ranging in date from the Neolithic (late Stone Age, from circa 4000 BC) to the 20th century, are discovered through the English Heritage National Mapping Programme (NMP). NMP’s discoveries include everything from Neolithic long barrows to the farms and fields of the Bronze and Iron Ages, Roman villas, medieval villages, and a wealth of detail about the defence of the British Isles during World War II.
After Stonehenge, 100 Years of Discovery will travel to Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire, for the Festival of History (12 – 13 August), and to Old Sarum (21 – 29 August). Afterwards, it will travel the country to places including the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury, Salisbury Museum, Devizes Museum and the Royal Engineers’ Museum in Gillingham, Kent.