Archaeological Measured Survey


Views of Neolithic Arran: a workshop on the integrated archaeological measured survey of chambered tombs on Scotland’s national forest estate

A recent Forestry Ccommission Scotland (FCS) / Scottish Archaeological Research Framework skills-sharing workshop explored creative archaeological visualisation through the survey of several chambered tombs on Scotland’s national forest estate on the Isle of Arran. The project aimed to compare archaeological measured survey techniques (at a range of scales and with a range of integrated responses) using a number of chambered tombs in varying states of condition. The workshop was hosted by FCS and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). The workshop aimed to explore the preliminary results within the context of an informal academic discussion (led by Dr Vicki Cummings of the University of Central Lancashire) involving a range of participants (including staff from FCS, NTS, Historic Scotland and RCAHMS).

We wanted to explore the process and recording of archaeological observation. We also hoped to combine new archaeological survey techniques with an aesthetic and creative illustrative methodology. The resulting measured plans, isometric projections and reconstruction images were derived from a combination of terrestrial laser scanning and both terrestrial and aerial photogrammetry.

The ‘Views of Neolithic Arran’ workshop aimed to:

•     enhance the HER with detailed site records;

•     provide CPD and discussion;

•     support and inform ScARF; and

•     encourage a creative response from the surveyors.


Isometric model of Giant’s Graves North

Chambered tombs have traditionally been represented as simple ground plans, although isometric illustrations have been used to present three dimensional structure (such as the famous isometric illustrations by Stuart Piggott of West Kennet, or the fabulous drawings within Elizabeth Shee Twohig’s Irish Megalithic Tombs). This isometric model of Giant’s Graves North (NS 043 246) uses visual scale to enhance understanding (© AOC Archaeology).


Textured mesh of the principal chamber at Giant’s Graves North

 This textured mesh of the principal chamber at Giant’s Graves North was created using terrestrial laser scanning and high resolution photogrammetry (© Northlight Heritage). Integrated survey techniques can result in very detailed high resolution datasets which can be visualised in a number of different ways.


Structural reconstruction of Giant’s Graves North This structural reconstruction of Giant’s Graves North (by Northlight Heritage) complements the artistic reconstruction below (by David Simon). Once created, the 3D model can be viewed and interrogated from any angle.


Traditional archaeological plan of Torran Loisgte chambered tomb

This traditional archaeological plan (by AOC Archaeology) of the much ruined chambered tomb of Torran Loisgte (NS 040 248) enables both objective record and subjective interpretation – from the positions of the surviving orthostats to the likely extent of the original cairn. 

Textured vertical view of Torran Loisgte

This textured vertical view of Torran Loisgte (by Archaeological Survey & Consulting) is derived from a photogrammetric 3D model created by a combination of low altitude aerial photography and terrestrial photography.