Scorching weather helps uncover archeological sites around Britain

LONDON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Britain's hottest summer in decades has revealed cropmarks across the country showing the sites of Iron Age settlements, Roman farms and even Neolithic monuments dating back thousands of years, archaeologists said on Wednesday.

Cropmarks - patterns of shading in crops and grass seen most clearly from the air - form faster in hot weather as the fields dry out, making this summer's heatwave ideal for discovering such sites.

Archaeologists at the public body Historic England have been making the most of the hot weather to look for patterns revealing the ancient sites buried below, from Yorkshire in the north down to Cornwall in the southwest.

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Avebury's Neolithic Henge monument in England
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Avebury's Neolithic Henge monument in England
A meteor is seen during the Perseids meteor shower over the one of the stones of the Avebury's Neolithic henge monument in Wiltshire. (Photo by Tim Ireland/PA Images via Getty Images)
AVEBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: A woman sits besides the standing stones at the Avebury Neolithic henge monument, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as the sun rises on June 21, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. Constructed in the Third Millennium BC, the Neolithic monument, one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain, contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world. Hundreds of druids, pagans and revellers gathered at the ancient monument, which forms part of the wider prehistoric landscape of Wiltshire and includes nearby Stonehenge, to watch the sunset and the sunrise, marking the northern hemisphere's summer solstice. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
AVEBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: People gather besides the standing stones at the Avebury Neolithic henge monument, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as the sun rises on June 21, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. Constructed in the Third Millennium BC, the Neolithic monument, one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain, contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world. Hundreds of druids, pagans and revellers gathered at the ancient monument, which forms part of the wider prehistoric landscape of Wiltshire and includes nearby Stonehenge, to watch the sunset and the sunrise, marking the northern hemisphere's summer solstice. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
AVEBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: People gather on the ridge overlooking the Avebury Neolithic henge monument, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as they watch the sun rise on June 21, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. Constructed in the Third Millennium BC, the Neolithic monument, one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain, contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world. Hundreds of druids, pagans and revellers gathered at the ancient monument, which forms part of the wider prehistoric landscape of Wiltshire and includes nearby Stonehenge, to watch the sunset and the sunrise, marking the northern hemisphere's summer solstice. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Megaliths at Avebury (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1986), Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom. Neolithic era.
Megaliths at Avebury (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1986), Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom. Neolithic era.
Megaliths at Avebury (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1986), Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom. Neolithic era.
AVEBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 07: Houses built after the Neolithic stones were placed at Avebury are seen on February 7, 2013 in Wiltshire, England. A leading travel magazine has recently named the collection of stones - thought to have been constructed around 2600BC and the largest stone circle in Europe, as the second best heritage site in the world. The Wiltshire world heritage site has been placed ahead of much more recognisable sites including the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in China. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
A small boy climbs up the gradient of the outer ditch that surrounds Avebury, the ancient site in southern England. The Avebury complex is one of the principal ceremonial sites of Neolithic Britain that we can visit today. It was built and altered over many centuries from about 2850 BC until about 2200 BC and is one of the largest, and undoubtedly the most complex, of Britain's surviving Neolithic henge monuments. There were originally 98 sarsen standing stones, some weighing in excess of 40 ton (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
AVEBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 07: The Neolithic stones at Avebury are seen on February 7, 2013 in Wiltshire, England. A leading travel magazine has recently named the collection of stones - thought to have been constructed around 2600BC and the largest stone circle in Europe, as the second best heritage site in the world. The Wiltshire world heritage site has been placed ahead of much more recognisable sites including the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in China. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
AVEBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 07: A visitor jumps as she poses for a photograph besides the Neolithic stones at Avebury on February 7, 2013 in Wiltshire, England. A leading travel magazine has recently named the collection of stones - thought to have been constructed around 2600BC and the largest stone circle in Europe, as the second best heritage site in the world. The Wiltshire world heritage site has been placed ahead of much more recognisable sites including the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in China. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
AVEBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 07: The Red Lion public house is seen beyond the Neolithic stones at Avebury on February 7, 2013 in Wiltshire, England. A leading travel magazine has recently named the collection of stones - thought to have been constructed around 2600BC and the largest stone circle in Europe, as the second best heritage site in the world. The Wiltshire world heritage site has been placed ahead of much more recognisable sites including the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in China. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
AVEBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 07: Visitors walk besides the Neolithic stones at Avebury on February 7, 2013 in Wiltshire, England. A leading travel magazine has recently named the collection of stones - thought to have been constructed around 2600BC and the largest stone circle in Europe, as the second best heritage site in the world. The Wiltshire world heritage site has been placed ahead of much more recognisable sites including the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in China. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
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"We've discovered hundreds of new sites this year spanning about 6,000 years of England's history," said Damian Grady, aerial reconnaissance manager at Historic England.

"Each new site is interesting in itself, but the fact we're finding so many sites over such a large area is filling in a lot of gaps in knowledge about how people lived and farmed and managed the landscape in the past," he said.

The archaeologists are mapping the sites to determine the significance of the remains beneath and how best to protect them. While some may be significant enough to merit national protection from development, local authorities or farmers may be left to decide what to do at other sites.

"We'll hopefully get the help of farmers to help protect some of these undesignated sites," Grady said.

(Writing by Hugh Lawson; Editing by Alison Williams)

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