Skip to main content

Aerial Archaeology

  • Reference work entry
Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

Introduction and Definition

Aerial archaeology (AA) uses photographs, and other kinds of image acquisition, in archaeological field research. It involves taking photographs of the land from above, examining them for pertinent information, interpreting the images seen there and making the resulting data available in a variety of forms to develop archaeological knowledge about past people and the conservation of archaeological sites and landscapes (Bewley & Rączkowski 2002).

Key Issues/Current Debates/Future Directions/Examples

Why Can We See a Variety of Types of Sites?

Since people first learnt to fly, it has been appreciated that traces of early human activity can be observed from the air, recognized from their curved or linear shapes. Humans have always exploited and adapted the environment to their own needs. The surface of the ground has been disturbed and altered by generations of previous occupants, who have dug into it to create foundations, ditches, and pits, and raised...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 5,499.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


  • Bewley, R.H., S.P. Crutchley & C.A. Shell. 2005. New light on an ancient landscape: lidar survey in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Antiquity 79: 636–47.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bewley, R. & W. Rączkowski. (ed.) 2002. Aerial archaeology. Developing future practice. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brophy, K. & D. Cowley. (ed.) 2005. From the air: understanding aerial archaeology. Stroud: Tempus.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crawford, O.G.S. 1923. Air survey and archaeology. The Geographical Journal 61: 342–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crutchley, S. & P. Crow. 2009. The light fantastic: using airborne laser scanning in archaeological survey. Swindon: English Heritage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Devereux, B.J., G.S. Amable, P. Crow & A.D. Cliff. 2005. The potential of airborne lidar for detection of archaeological features under woodland canopies. Antiquity 79: 648–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Doneus, M. & C. Briese. 2011. Airborne laser scanning in forested areas – potential and limitations of an archaeological prospection technique, in D. Cowley (ed.) Remote sensing for archaeological heritage management: 59-76. Brussel: Archaeolingua.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parcak, S.H. 2009. Satellite remote sensing for archaeology. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rchme, 1960. A matter of time: an archaeological survey. London: HMSO.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ur, J.A. 2003. CORONA satellite photography and ancient road networks: a northern Mesopotamian case study. Antiquity 77: 102–15.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, D.R. 1982. Air photo interpretation for archaeologists. London: Batsford.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Włodzimierz Rączkowski .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York

About this entry

Cite this entry

Rączkowski, W. (2014). Aerial Archaeology. In: Smith, C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Springer, New York, NY.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, New York, NY

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-4419-0426-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4419-0465-2

  • eBook Packages: Humanities, Social Sciences and Law

Publish with us

Policies and ethics