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Pixaerial - 4 Years of Discovery!

With no previous experience of archaeological surveys, John Rowlands and David Roberts embarked on a project that systematically captured the entire landmass of Anglesey - some 225 square miles - on some 7,000 digital images. The work was part-funded by the Welsh Assembly Government via Anglesey County Council's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty department.


"Digital photography made the project possible and much more managable", says John, who now runs an online database with David of some 40,000 images. Their work can be seen at The surveys, which are almost entirely oblique images, took place both in summer and winter, and subsequently spread to other areas of Wales, particularly the welsh Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, who helped the projects along through their Sustainable Development Fund programmes.

"Taking the images is great, but the indexing and grid referencing of each image takes several days' work", says David, who has endured 120 mph winds and subzero conditions in an open-windowed cockpit for several hours by now. "Summer's great, but at the end of a half-hour flight in winter, I look like a slime-covered monster, it's that severe up there!"

2009 marks the fourth year of Pixaerial's work, and the duo have made several important new discoveries through their photography, including the discovery of an entirely new section to a hill fort, despite the fact that it had previously been extensively studied. "I think that was the best discovery in many ways". says John. "We just happened to notice in low mid-winter light that the hill fort had a kind of extension that nobody mentioned in any previous texts". After some further research and checking with Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, the discovery was confirmed, and gradiometry was undertaken shortly thereafter under CADW funding.


Several other surprises have been thrown-up by the very useful informal partnership between the APs taken by Pixaerial and gradiometery undertaken by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. Examples include the discovery of a previously-unsuspected mediaeval settlement within the confines of an Iron-Age hill fort, and infilled practice trenches from the first world war period near Beaumaris.


Another curious discovery includes a well-preserved, small enclosed farmstead of the Romano-British period in central Anglesey, discovered on the very first flight Pixaerial undertook. This is of a type usually found at the foothills of upland areas, so is an unusual discovery on lowland Anglesey. A Roman-period As coin, as confirmed by the British Museum, was found at the site.

John and David have capitalised on informal links with others, particularly Dr. Jim Bennell, of Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences. Using Dr. Bennell's expertise, the team have been able to obtain a novel 'aerial' view using marine side-scan SONAR of the WW1 british submarine H5, which sank with all hands following a ramming by the british trawler Rutherglen on 2nd March, 1918, who believed it to be an enemy craft. On board was US Navy Lt. E.W.F. Childs, who became the first US Navy casualty of the First World War.


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