As part of the ArchaeoLandscapes project, and with the aid of tutors Cinzia Bacilieri and Chris Musson from the Aerial Archaeology Research Group, the University of Siena/Grosseto, in June 2011, carried out five days of aerial survey, landscape recording and teaching over archaeologically-sensitive parts of southern Tuscany.
The focus the aerial exploration was around the Etruscan and Roman town and Archaeological Park of Roselle, on the west coast of central Italy near Grosseto. The objective was to identify previously unrecorded sites within an area already being studied by the University within the ArchaeoLandscapes project through large-scale and intensive geophysical survey. The combination of the two techniques, along with ground-based survey and perhaps excavation, will hopefully show over the years how much can be achieved by treating these and other methods as complementary methods of archaeological survey and interpretation.
The 20 hours of flying and photography completed during the event, about half of it in the Roselle/Grosseto area, revealed much about the trackways and ancient river courses that influenced the pattern of human settlement from prehistory onwards. A particular discovery was a range of buildings, perhaps a Roman villa or farmstead immediately below the hilltop town of Roselle, in an area where adjacent fields have produced excellent archaeological information from geophysical survey over the previous few months.
Another target area was the spectacular World Heritage Site of the Val d'Orcia and the surrounding Natural Park, including the extraordinary clay-based landscape of the Crete Senesi. Within this area the objective was both to seek previously unknown sites but more specifically to obtain aerial photographs of the spectacular landscape and its agricultural and settlement patterns. The resulting photographs will be used within the ArchaeoLandscapes project for an exhibition (and perhaps booklet), informing visitors, students and the general public about the landscape and archaeological character of this very special part of southern Tuscany. It is hoped that the images, and the interpretations that can be drawn from them, will also provide backing for a presentation is a session promoted by the ArchaeoLandscapes project at a conference on the management of World Heritage sites and landscapes in Menorca during the later part of 2012.
A third purpose of the survey work was to provide intensive ground-based instruction and in-air experience for undergraduate and Masters students at the University, and to a research assistant already engaged in the geophysical survey work in the Roselle area. Important training and background information on aerial survey was also given to two young pilots from the Florence Aero Club. On the final day of the event eight students from the University's recently-initiated course in archeologica preventiva (conservation archaeology), including one from Spain, enjoyed their first taste of 'life in the air', so essential to their understanding of the range of information and survey techniques that can be brought to bear on the exploration, interpretation and conservation of the archaeological and landscape heritage that is so much at risk from unsympathetic modern developments and intensive agricultural activity.