Deserted villages, drones and LiDAR

The changing technologies of the modern day are allowing new views of many different archaeological sites including deserted medieval villages. The advent of drones which allow aerial data to be gathered across sites not only enables detailed archaeology photographs to be taken but also fine grained topographic surveys. LiDAR (Light Detection & Ranging) data also allows for topographic survey as well as peeling back layers such as tree cover. This is also becoming more widely available.

As with all new technology the full capabilities of drones is only just being explored. One group that have explored the possibilities of the technology has been Yorkshire Archaeological Aerial Mapping and among their surveys have been a number of deserted village sites. They have so far provided the surveys of Wharram Percy, Lead and East Tanfield. Below you can see their survey of Wharram Percy.

Drone survey of Wharram Percy by Yorkshire Archaeological Aerial Survey

Further information and examples of this technique can be found here 

LiDAR data is becoming more freely available and as such more and more people are modelling archaeological sites, and deserted medieval settlements are among these. One site with a number of deserted villages modelled is that of Stephen Eastmead – and this includes a guide to processing LiDAR data using a freely available GIS package –  One of Stephen’s models is below – that of East Matfen village in Northumberland.

East matfen
East Matfen Deserted Village (at number 1) (C) Stephen Eastmead

For those with access to GIS software to process and present the data – you can download LiDAR data from

The data will need processing to make the most of the data – below is the first view of the data from Eske in East Yorkshire – earthworks are visible – but needs processing to reveal all the features.

Initial data from of Eske Deserted Medieval Village before processing

On-line viewers of LiDAR data are available for those without the knowledge or time to process the data. The main one being: There is not complete coverage of the country – but there are many notable sites visible – a couple are shown below:

Eske houseprices
Eske Deserted Medieval Village in East Yorkshire taken from Houseprices LiDAR map of England


Rotsea Deserted Medieval Village in East Yorkshire from Houseprices LiDAR map of England

More and more data is becoming readily available through sites such as these.

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