Europe’s dry summer yields a new archaeological discovery . In 2018 Parts of Europe baked in out-of-the-ordinary warm spells in summer. while uncomfortable for some, the heat revealed a treasure trove of long-lost historical landmarks.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland last summer, prolonged heat waves sent city residents in search of shade and cooling spritzes. It’s way too hot, and people aren’t used to it. And prompted dairy farmers to ration feed.
Dairy Farmer: I haven’t seen the farm this dry ever. I think the last time we had a very dry period on the farm was in 1976.
But while trying for some, the British Isles’ driest summer in 57 years has been a boon for local archaeologists and history buffs. In July, author Anthony Murphy photographed a 5,000-year-old previously undiscovered gathering site known as a henge in Eastern Ireland.
ANTHONY MURPHY: I just simply couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was in a field of crops. So this wasn’t the marks of farm machinery in the soil or anything.
Instead, the concentric rings of dots were crop marks, ghostly outlines of a civilization past emerging from the moisture-starved landscape. “archaeological discovery”. Crop marks and their related phenomena, parch marks, allow drone operators and aerial archaeologist to see thousands of years of history beneath the dry soil without ever having to pick up a shovel. Here’s why they form. Over time, prehistoric ditches, moats and other dug-out features are filled in by subsequent generations. Today, those areas retain more water and dry spells than the surrounding earth and lead to taller and greener grasses and crops. At the same time, thin layers of soil placed over old stone walls or building foundations cause vegetation above to dry out more quickly. The result is a variety of geometric figures visible only from above.
Damian Grady is an aerial reconnaissance manager with Historic England, one of them many groups chronicling the sites for future preservation and excavation.
DAMIAN GRADY, Historic England: This is a new archaeological discovery hundreds of new sites this year spanning about 6,000 years England’s history. These range from Neolithic ceremonial monuments, Iron Age, Bronze Age and Roman farms, medieval settlements in the east of England, and also World War II camps that we have not seen for a long time.
Among the group’s older archaeological discovery, a treasure trove a circular ditch associated with an Iron Age settlement known as a round, the enclosed fields and paddocks of a Roman era farm, and an unusual triple-ditched burial mound likely from the Bronze Age. But there have also been rediscoveries of more recent activity, like the long-gone barracks and sidewalks of a World War I prisoner of war camp in Southern Scotland, the foundations of Tixall Hall in Staffordshire, where Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned, and the geometric pattern of an 1850s garden etched once again in the grounds of Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire, England. Rising temperatures are revealing secrets across the English Channel too. In Switzerland, researchers have announced the discovery of the C-53 Dakota aircraft. It had crash-landed on a glacier in the Bernese Alps in 1946. Archaeologists and the Swiss Air Force are working to retrieve the wreckage and hope one day to put its artifacts on display.