One of the joys of archaeology is that you get to discover and name stuff. In particular, you get to indulge one of the great pleasures of children’s literature and make maps and invent names for places. The screenshots below are not, as they might look to be, maps of the earldoms of Dalemark¹. Instead they show our study area in Whitewell, after I’ve been playing with it in QGIS all week.

In the last post I talked about using the characteristics of the environment to divide the project study area up into smaller zones. This means that if we sample within each different zone we ought to ensure that we cover all the varied environments around Whitewell. I have made a start on creating these landscape character zones this week, and have quickly discovered that I had underestimated the amount of variation there is to characterise. I only looked at five things: elevation above sea level, slope of the land, aspect (i.e. which way does the land face), and both the superficial and bedrock geology.

Even this limited set of choices has led me to create 31 different imaginary countries. Each one is an approximate line around a chunk of similar(ish) landscape. I’ve fudged things a bit to make sure we didn’t end up with hundreds of tiny statelets. I’ve also tried to make the boundaries follow things like walls and roads that are actually visible in the modern landscape. That way we won’t need to take the GPS with us every time we want to find them.


To give some idea of where these zones come from, here are all 31 of them colour-coded to show different characteristics. At the simplest level the Hodder valley runs through the area, so we can consider the difference between lowland and upland environments. The river itself may be a boundary too, crossing it in winter would certainly be quite a serious undertaking.


In this map I have ranked the landscape zones from one to five depending on how steeply sloping they are on average. The white zones are one, I could probably take a minibus in there without too much trouble in the summer. The pale greens ones would need a land-rover and I’ve scored them two. The two mid-green shades for three and four are four-wheel drive tractor and quad bike territory. The dark green zones are fives and any off-roading there would have to be done on foot.


The direction that slopes face would also change the experience of moving around on them. The north face of New Laund Hill is a good example. The north-south orientation of the Hodder valley shows up clearly in all the east and west-facing slopes. Of course, beneath all of this is the surface ‘drift’ geology and beneath that is the solid, mostly limestone, bedrock.


The big distinction visible in the drift geology is the contrast between the orange alluvial terraces of the Hodder and the glacial till present everywhere else (except where the limestone pokes up through it).


The mapping of the solid geology shows similar differences between the limestone formations. What this mostly influences, obviously, is how likely we are to find caves and sink-holes in that bit of the study area.

These zones will need to be modified and tweaked as we find out more about each landscape. There are two important things to do next. The first is to look at how the known archaeology fits into the zones. The second is to think up names for them all.


¹Although the Forest of Bowland AONB will tell you that large parts of Middle Earth are based on the Hodder Valley. I am sure that New Zealanders have a different view


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