Changing Trends in the 20th Century

Middle Bronze Age Burial, Down Farm One major trend of archaeological investigation within the AONB in the 19th and early 20th century was the focus on the prehistoric archaeology of the area. With the exception of Pitt Rivers study of the medieval King John's House in Tollard Royal no major investigation of later periods was undertaken until the large scale excavation of the Rockbourne or 'West Park' Roman Villa from 1942 onwards.

The last 30 years has also seen an increase in new methods and scales of investigation ranging from geophysics, landscape scale surveys including aerial survey, and systematic recording of historic buildings. The interest of archaeologists has also expanded to include evidence from modern periods linked with a much wider definition of the historic environment and heritage conservation. For example, the study, conservation and management of historic parks and gardens now fall firmly within the archaeologist's agenda.

Another trend is a gradual shift from the investigation of sites by privately funded amateurs to research projects supported by both universities and other professional bodies, and local and county based societies.

Finally the rise of developer funded 'professional archaeology' instigated by Planning Policy Guidance 16 in 1990 which had its origins in the state funded rescue excavations of the 1970s and 1980s has had some impact on the history of archaeology enquiry in the AONB. This has included investigations preceding the laying of a pipeline in the northern half of the AONB by Wessex Archaeology in 1989 and small scale watching briefs and investigation in advance of small scale extraction.

However the impact of PPG16 in aiding our understanding of the heritage of the AONB is not as important as other areas of England. This is because since the designation of the AONB in 1981 large scale development has been restricted through planning regulations. There is not therefore the extensive 'grey' literature that exists in other areas of the country documenting numerous surveys, watching briefs and excavations by professional archaeological units in advance of road widening, gravel extraction, large scale housing developments and the like.

Download a short introduction to the history of archaeological discovery in the AONB (PDF 851 KB).

This document forms part of the wider AONB Historic Environment Action Plans.