Black Down's archaeology: a new exhibition

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A new National Trust exhibition opens at Haslemere Educational Museum this February. It showcases research into the archaeology and earliest human use of Black Down, a beautiful natural wilderness near Haslemere, on the borders of Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire.

Black Down is the highest point in the South Downs National Park. Looked after by us, its landscape of wavy hair grass, purple heather and pine trees offers a true sense of the wild. The outstanding views even inspired the poet Tennyson.

Although the recent history of Black Down and its land-use are fairly well-documented, very little was known for certain about pre-historic human activity here. But, perhaps since as early as the Mesolithic period, 12,000 years ago, it is thought that Black Down was used by humans for grazing for their animals, for resources such as wood and stone, and perhaps for burial sites.

A new form of airborne laser scanning, known as LiDAR, has been used to pin-point sites of possible interest on even the most densely vegetated landscapes. Our archaeologist, Tom Dommett explains:

'LiDAR uses infra-red laser beams to let us see beneath the trees and map otherwise inaccessible landscapes with unprecedented accuracy. It reveals the humps and bumps which can indicate archaeological sites.'

With initial funding from the Black Down & Hindhead Supporters, Tom Dommett has teamed up with University College London to undertake a full archaeological survey of Black Down, using LiDAR to help locate promising sites for further investigation.

Tom adds: 'We are particularly interested in some circular earthworks near the Temple of the Winds, which may indicate Bronze Age burial sites, and a possible Iron Age settlement area lower down the hillside at Castle Copse.'

As a part of the project, a collection of over 2,000 flints thought to date from the Mesolithic period, found on Black Down and held at Haslemere Educational Museum, are being re-assessed by ourt archaeologists with the assistance of volunteers from local archaeology groups

The exhibition ‘Green fades into Blue’ is at Haslemere Educational Museum from 5 February to 2 March 2014, curated by Tom Dommett, Archaeologist and David Elliott, Head Ranger. It opens with a lecture by Tom Dommett, 5th February at 7.30pm at the Museum, free entry. For more information phone 01428 642112 or visit