Unknown Roman road network in Great Britain. Discovered using laser technology.

Article bay
3 min readAug 25, 2023

Thanks to the utilization of airborne laser scanning, an unknown network of roads built by the Romans has been discovered in Great Britain. These roads were used extensively and were laid out in a deliberate manner.

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A groundbreaking method has entered the world of archaeology in recent decades. We’re talking about airborne laser scanning. This technique, which employs devices like LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), involves emitting laser pulses towards the Earth’s surface from a transmitter located on an aircraft or drone. The echoes, reflected from obstacles, are then measured upon their return to the receiver. Archaeologists consider this method revolutionary because it enables a highly accurate analysis of terrain features, allowing for the detection of faint remnants of ancient architecture. Initially, this technology was only used for military purposes.

The method is not only suitable for locating ancient tombs but, as it turns out, ancient roads as well. British scientists demonstrated this in an article published in the “Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology.” They focused on the southwestern region of Great Britain, west of Exeter. This pertains to a substantial part of Devon and Cornwall counties. They successfully identified a network of Roman roads.

The quest for Roman roads in Great Britain.

From the 1st to the early 5th century AD, the Romans occupied vast territories in Britain, including Scotland, which was then known as Caledonia. During their reign, many cities were established based on military camps. Additionally, they constructed numerous roads. The southwestern area of Great Britain remained inadequately explored in this regard. For many decades, researchers lacked the data to update maps depicting ancient roads in this part of the country. The necessary tools for such investigations were simply lacking. From 2016 to 2022, the National LIDAR Programme was implemented, aiming to laser-map the entire Great Britain. These data were also made available to historical researchers who commenced their analyses. This effort led to the identification of around 100 km of previously unknown road networks dating back thousands of years.