Oxford University to create prehistoric map of England

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The School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford is to compile a map of prehistoric England for the first time in a project called

The ‘Portal to the Past’ project will allow people to look online to discover the history of their own area over 3,500 years, from the Bronze Age in 1500BC to the Domesday Book in 1086.

The team leader Professor Chris Gosden, in a statement said that local history is one of the most popular internet searches, the project seeks to take advantage of public interest by enabling visitors to unravel their localised history over the past 3,500 years. At status quo, parish records will only show up results of up to 1,000 years ago.

The five year project, funded by £1.8 million from the European Research Council, will bring together all the available data into a digital archive to create maps and as much information as possible about prehistoric England.

Data will be gathered from several sources. Amongst myriad resources include English Heritage aerial photographs showing ancient sites of interest, information from developers carrying out archaeological research on sites before building work begins, county archives, and even private research by museums and individuals.

In order to harness the information into one platform, the project team will work closely with the British Museum, the Archaeology Date Service and local history experts. Professor Gosden commented that bringing these information into one centralised portal will reveal how the landscape of England has changed over the years.

Professor Gosden said “England is extraordinary in the level of potential information about the ancient landscape. We hope this project will provide an in-depth analysis of the whole of England, so we can glean new insights into how the landscape has changed and developed.”

He added  that the project will add a wealth of knowledge on the overall landscape development of England over the past 3,500 years.

 “Until now we have had fragments of information about landscape use during this period but this project allows us to form a bigger picture of overall patterns and regional variations within England.”

The Portal to the Past website is expected to go live in 2014. It will be available through the University of Oxford School of Archaeology website at http://www.arch.ox.ac.uk/

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