Precision Farming and Archaeology

  • Henry R Webber

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This research investigates the interconnections between Precision Farming andarchaeology. It highlights the impactsthat human activity has on soils throughout time and situates themwithin the context ofnew,digital,agricultural methods for mapping, monitoring and managing landin the UK. Precision Farming is new to archaeologists, and modern archaeological approaches are not well recognised in the agricultural world. This research aims to cross this divide, promoting mutually beneficial dialogue and shared understanding between the two.Three detailed case studies demonstrate the variety of technologies and techniques used in both archaeological investigations and Precision Farming systemson the same area of land. Each case study brings together the archaeological and agricultural backgroundof each area, as well as targeted soil sampling forpXRF analysis of soils to evaluate soil stratigraphy and geochemistry. Combining this with GIS analysis of over 13different datasets allowedcomparison ofhow archaeological data might be useful for future agricultural land management, and how Precision Farming data may be considered foraidingthe mapping, monitoring and management of archaeological sites. The results display awide variety of impacts that human activity can have on the soil, and that many are relevant for agricultural managementtoday.Archaeological sites can impact soil nutrients and soil contaminants, as well as explain anomalies in Precision Farming data.Results havedemonstrated Precision Farming datacan be used to discovernew archaeological sites, add information about existing sites, and help engage the modern farming community. Factors such asthe type of archaeological site, the data available and the spatial resolution of thatdatacan all have effect on these results. This is the first attempt at studying the breadth of interactions between Precision Farming and archaeology, withfurther research needed to develop these ideas and promote knowledge exchangein both the archaeological and agricultural worlds, at a practical, academicand a policy level.
Date of Award24 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorVolker M Heyd (Supervisor), Tamar Hodos (Supervisor), Martin Bell (Supervisor) & Wendy Matthews (Supervisor)

Cite this