Mike had his MSc viva this Thursday. This is the first time I have ever seen him even slightly flustered. Normally he is the calmest man on the project. As you can guess from the picture below, he passed.
In between his day job with Oxford Archaeology and working with us during the summer, Mike has found the time to carry out a whole load of field-walking, test pitting and geophysical survey around the round barrow complex at Winkley Lowes. This is a group of three round barrows on the flood plain of the Rivers Ribble and Hodder, just at the point where the two rivers meet.
Mike’s MSc was an examination of the relative merits of a whole range of different field techniques in trying to understand the archaeology of flood plains like this. One of the tools he was able to use was the aerial LiDAR surveys carried out for this area by the Environment Agency. These are produced by scanning the surface of the ground from an aeroplane. This gives them a computer model of the surface of the earth which is accurate to within centimetres. As the data is gathered automatically from the air, large chunks of the landscape can be modelled at once.
The Environment Agency do this, of course, to allow them to see where all the water is going to go when rivers burst their banks. Happily for archaeologists, this level of detail also shows up the very faint differences in height that are the only surviving surface clues to the past shape of the landscape. In particular, Mike was able to see the remains of five different river terraces, marking the changing course of the River Ribble over time.
By combining the results of his survey and excavation with the LiDAR data, Mike was able to demonstrate how the barrows and earlier surface scatter sites fitted together and which ones came first. He plans to pull all these results together for publication next year.
On Monday next week many of us are off to Bournemouth for the annual Theoretical Archaeology Group conference. Sam, Duncan and I are all speaking, one after another, in a very UCLan dominated session on Tuesday morning. Once I have recovered from driving there and back I will post all about it next week.