Defence archaeologists call in GIS platform to protect heritage sites

A Saxon skeleton found during an excavation at Barrow Clump on Salisbury Plain Training Area (Crown Copyright / MOD 2018)
A Saxon skeleton found during an excavation at Barrow Clump on Salisbury Plain Training Area (Crown Copyright/MOD 2018)
Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) archaeologists are using a GIS platform to protect heritage sites on the Ministry of Defence’s UK and overseas estate.

The platform, known as a historic environment record (HER), is an online database that provides access to heritage records and condition surveys for more than 800 listed buildings, 700 scheduled monuments and tens of thousands of archaeological monuments on the DIO estate.

The HER uses the Historic Buildings, Sites and Monuments Record product, a platform for data management, analysis, presentation and publication of heritage data from Idox Software. It exploits GIS data, allowing the integration of multiple 3D digital spatial datasets, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Using the HER, DIO archaeologists and historic building specialists can support military training and operations, and provide advice on any aspect of defence that has an impact on heritage. This includes development control, infrastructure projects, environmental stewardship, sustainability appraisals, grounds and facilities maintenance, site disposals, climate change, natural capital and recreation.

The MoD is responsible for managing more than half of the government’s historic environment assets. The HER will provide an extensive data source for these historic buildings and sites, from evidence of the earliest human activity, through prehistory, Bronze Age feasting sites, Roman villages, Norman churches, medieval fields, to Cold War facilities.

Protecting overseas sites

The platform also captures the MoD’s heritage responsibilities overseas, creating the world’s first international HER. Overseas sites included in the database include classical remains at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, Gibraltar Naval Base, and Mayan temples on the British Army’s training area in Belize.

Guy Salkeld, DIO archaeologist, said: “The HER will add enormous value to the DIO Historic Environment Team’s work, from providing an accessible overview of the historic environment, to supplying detailed advice on the impact of MoD activities on heritage assets, and enabling a wealth of sustainability potential in between.”

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