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OS data used to create a virtual aerial map of archaeological sites in England

For the first time Historic England has made the results of years of aerial photograph mapping projects freely available online.

Overview of the Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer tool

The Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer tool shows archaeological sites that have been identified, mapped, and recorded using aerial photographs and airborne laser scanning (lidar) across England. The map shows archaeological features not just as individual sites, but as part of complex, multi-period landscapes.

It's the culmination of over 30 years of work by Historic England and its predecessor organisations. For the first time, it’s possible to access all the mapping and interpretation work carried out by Historic England in one place.

The logistical challenges of creating the map

The way that mapping and recording has been carried out over the last 30 years has changed a lot, but there has always been an appetite for a map of archaeological sites across England.

The results of aerial archaeology mapping have historically been archived by individual project and the use of attribute data has also developed over the years. This has meant that there was no single standardised dataset that could be used for national, regional, and local archaeological studies. Advancements in specialist software mean it’s now easier for the public to access and view.

The Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer tool from Historic England

The solution

Historic England, with help from various Historic Environment Records (HERs) worked to standardise the data. They used Ordnance Survey APIs, OS Maps API and OS Open Names, available through the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA), to overlay their data on. Until now it’s not been possible for Historic England to make the results of its aerial archaeology mapping available in a user-friendly manner.

"This new aerial archaeology mapping tool lets people fly virtually over England and drink in its many layers of history. On Ordnance Survey mapping, it will allow everyone to explore the hidden heritage of their local places and what makes them special. We hope it will give people a springboard to further investigation, whether for research purposes or simply to satisfy curiosity about what archaeological features they may have noticed around their local area"
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive Historic England


Visualising the country in an interactive map helps transform understanding of historic landscapes. This is further enhanced when the mapping is used alongside site-based textual data available from local Historic Environment Records or the Heritage Gateway, and historic maps. The map provides a key visual aid to help communicate with landowners and members of the public.

Find out about the solutions available to public sector organisations through the PSGA.


Accurate, up-to-date maps that offer the most convenient way to add detailed OS data to your application.

OS Open Names

A comprehensive dataset containing the names and locations of named places across Great Britain​