Tools for investigating landscapes

In this course, we will be introducing you to some of the methods that can be used to study a site and the landscape around it.

For convenience, we have divided the course into two parts. The first covers tools and techniques which can be undertaken on computer, or in centralised resources such as museums, archives and libraries. The second part will show you how a study site can be recorded and investigated.

Part 1: Research tools

People have been collecting records for hundreds of years and many of these records can help tell the story of our landscape. In this part of the course we will cover ways in which historical records can provide information about sites and landscapes. During the course we will refer to documents or artefacts as being a primary source or a secondary source of information.

Primary sources are direct or first-hand evidence about an event, object, person, or place. They can be the physical evidence of the site itself, eyewitness accounts, maps or legal documents such as wills or sale documents. Primary sources form a factual basis for the interpretation of a site or landscape.

Secondary sources are usually documents that were created after the event, or are discussions of wider areas or themes. Histories and descriptions of the county of Lincolnshire fall into this category, and can be useful in providing a wider context for a specific site or period of history.

  • Online research: Online research has the advantage of being available in the comfort of your own home and at any time that suits you. It can provide a variety of information about a site, and can help you locate other sources of information in museums and archives.
  • Archive research: Archives, libraries and museums hold a variety of books, documents and artefacts that could provide information about a site.
  • Memories and artefacts: Sometimes there are people who either live near the site, or have had an association with the site, who can share memories, photographs or artefacts which help tell the story of a site.

Part 2: Site study tools

This part of the course will show you how you can make your own record of the sites you find within the landscape. It is, for the most part, and introduction that will allow you to understand how site study works, but is also intended to provide enough information that you can make a start at a basic level.

  • Description and photography: The first part of studying the landscape is to make notes of what you can see, and take photographs for future reference.
  • Site survey: This section will show you how to measure, plan and draw things of interest that you find.
  • Investigation techniques: As well as making a record of what is visible on the ground, archaeologists have a number of investigation techniques that allow them to find further information.