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Crop Marks at Draffan: Aerial Archaeology - Mapping from the skies

Part of the Mapping the Past trail

Aerial photography is a key tool used by archaeologists to understand and map the landscape. Aerial photographs have the ability to reveal hidden features not easily visible on the ground in the form of cropmarks.

Cropmarks are formed when the growing rates of crops like wheat are changed by buried archaeology . The remains of ditches or pots holes, buried below the ground, hold more moisture than the surrounding soil, and the crops planted above them can grow faster and stronger. The difference between the crop growing produce an effect that can be seen from the air and plotted onto maps, allowing us to see buried and badly damaged archaeological features.

Although a quiet farm today, evidence from aerial photographs suggest that Draffan was once the centre of a busy community, with large enclosed sites, possibly dating to the Iron Age, dominating the plateau on which the farm sits.

One of the cropmarks at Draffan was visible in 1864 when JB Greenshields noted that, "On the farm of Draffan was a small camp regularly constructed, of a circular form, having a diameter of about 60ft but now much obliterated." Since the mid 19th century, this site has been ploughed away and can now only be seen from the air. 

This listing was created as part of the Mapping the Past project, managed by Northlight Heritage and delivered by CAVLP Heritage. Explore the site as part of the Mapping the Past trail (see right).

Area Guide