Modern technology uncovers Black Down’s hidden past

PUBLISHED: 15:10 05 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:10 05 February 2014

A ‘Digital Terrain Model’ with the vegetation removed to show the earthworks of a possible Iron Age hillfort

A ‘Digital Terrain Model’ with the vegetation removed to show the earthworks of a possible Iron Age hillfort


Airborne laser scanning may have revealed an ancient hill fort and burial mound near Haslemere. Sarah Bain, chairman of the Black Down & Hindhead Supporters of the National Trust and a trustee of Haslemere Educational Museum, explains

A fascinating insight into the archaeology and earliest human use of Black Down, the beautiful natural wilderness on the Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire border, has been uncovered by a new form of airbourne scanning.

While this prominent outcrop is thought to have been used by humans perhaps from as early as the Mesolithic period 12,000 years ago, very little detail is known about any early human activity here.

So the National Trust, with initial funding from the Black Down & Hindhead Supporters, teamed up with University College London to undertake a full archaeological survey of Black Down.

They have made use of LiDAR, a new form of airborne laser scanning, developed for aerial surveys of otherwise inaccessible landscapes.

In particular the team was interested in circular earthworks near the Temple of the Winds, which may indicate Bronze Age burial sites, and a possible Iron Age settlement area lower down the hillside at Castle Copse.

The LiDAR survey’s initial results seem to confirm their existence, as well as identifying other more recent earthworks, including drove-ways and old road-stone excavations.

As a complimentary part of the project, a collection of over 2,000 flints thought to date from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, that have been found on Black Down and held at Haslemere Educational Museum, are being re-assessed.

The next stage of the project will be field-walking surveys and archaeological digs on Black Down headed up by the National Trust’s expert team of archaeologists.

A new exhibition at Haslemere Educational Museum will now describe the LiDAR technique, the survey’s results, and explain how Black Down was used for from pre-historic times, through the days of the feudal system until the mid-1900s.

• The exhibition Green fades into the Blue is at Haslemere Educational Museum from Wednesday February 5 to Sunday March 2. For more information, call 01428 642112 or visit

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