The aim of this work was to examine land-use and settlement on the Berkshire Downs from the Bronze Age to the end of the Romano-British period. Earlier research in this region had presented a landscape history that was in contrast to elsewhere on the Wessex chalklands and rather than a land that grew organically over 2.5 millennia, the area is seen as one which was sporadically occupied, worked, and possibly abandoned. In the west of the region late Bronze Age linear ditches mark a major reorganization in the scale of the landscape, but only a small number of contemporary settlements are known, and field systems appear to be absent. This is followed by an apparent hiatus until the establishment of organised farming communities in the Romano-British period engaged in large-scale cereal production. In the east, Segsbury Camp is seen to signal the emergence of early Iron Age occupation into an area of previously unoccupied and unused land, with later settlement on the Downs continuing into the late Iron Age. Beyond this period little is known and the fragmentary field systems in this region remain undated.
It is proposed that these interpretations are illusory, created by large-scale Romano-British arable expansion in the west masking earlier occupation, and post Roman land-use in the east destroying upstanding monuments and creating a bias in our interpretation.
Today, these former landscapes, some of which survived into the 20th century, are mostly plough-levelled. As such, further understanding lies beyond the limit of many conventional fieldwork methods. A multi-disciplinary approach was used to rebuild this landscape. Aerial transcription from the National Mapping Programme is used to provide a view of the landscape before its destruction through modern agriculture, while maps and documents, lidar, woodland survey, geophysics and metal detected finds are used to create a theoretical account of activity across this region.