The Lea Valley Mapping Project

MOLA team
31.03.2008

The project aims to create a digital geoarchaeological database (using TerraStationII software) of the Quaternary deposits of the Lower Lea Valley, from geotechnical borehole data and archaeological records. By interrogating the database deposit models will be generated that will be used to reconstruct the evolving landscape of the area and to predict areas of archaeological potential. The models will be transferred to GIS based software and made available to a wide-range of end-users on-line and in paper form.

The Lea Valley Mapping Project is supported by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, administered by English Heritage. The project, which started in March 2003, is being carried out by a core team of MoLAS/MoLSS archaeologists and geoarchaeologists, with considerable input from scientific officers of the BGS and supported by a team of academic advisors from UCL, UWL and the BGS.

The lower Lea Valley is an urban area formerly extensively associated with heavy industry. Deep alluvial deposits exist across the valley floor and there has been little large-scale archaeological excavation in the past. The available information largely consists of geotechnical borehole data and the results of small-scale excavation/evaluation. The project develops methodologies that are appropriate for this kind of data, using in-house geoarchaeological and GIS skills and our experience of similar projects where we have mapped buried topographies.

Data collection and database creation forms the bulk of the project. The BGS have trawled through their archive to provide over 3000 borehole logs, many dating back to the 19th century, for the study area and BGS officers are currently obtaining new data, specifically for the project, from the relevant Local authorities, engineering and drilling contractors.

The data is being screened and input into the database by the MoLAS project team. At the same time, archaeological data is being gathered from the records of over 300 archaeological interventions that have taken place in the study area. The archaeological information is input into the database in a similar form to the borehole logs, but has additional value in the finds and dating evidence it contains.

Data entry is nearly completed for the northern part of the area and from early June we will begin to build up models for the sub-surface stratigraphy of the modern floodplain and adjacent river terraces and consider our approach for transferring the models to GIS mapping, where the landscape information will be linked to layers of data relating to archaeological distributions and land use (including past and potentially future areas of quarrying).

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