Although recent studies have provided an unusually detailed archaeological and digital database for Stonehenge and its immediate environs, the historic research emphasis on the monuments has rarely permitted a rigorous analysis of wider landscape structures in relation to the emerging complexity of the archaeological evidence. This is perhaps surprising given the explicit landscape-scale and context of analysis and interpretation embodied in much of this work, including special prominence given to structured 'symbolic landscapes', cosmography and architectural order. Hitherto, despite the impressive scale and outstanding results of recent fieldwork programmes, especially those undertaken by the Stonehenge Environs and Stonehenge Riverside projects, these have reproduced a fairly traditional monument/site-focused approach to field investigation. The nature, spatial locations and extent of previous geophysical prospection work within the study area are broadly consistent with this wider pattern, being drive either by reactive evaluation strategies determined by the planning process and mitigation of proposed development, or by monument-focused research agenda, resulting in discontinuous, fragmentary, relatively small-scale and often linear rather than spatially-extensive survey areas. The guiding philosophy of the project outlined here is entirely different: the intention is to explore landscape as undivided three-dimensional space and to understand ancient built environments and associated practices at extensive scales within that spatial framework.
Whilst this approach certainly underpinned previous work in the Stonehenge landscape by members of the current team, this project aims to pursue a range of new research objectives (not limited to known monuments) at a much greater scale and a far higher level of both data resolution and complexity. In recent years, teams from VISTA have also been engaged in constructing a virtual environment for the immediate area around Stonehenge and have undertaken geophysical survey work within the wider landscape. There is now the opportunity to realize the full potential of this outstanding technological, methodological and research expertise and the exceptional scale of resourcing available to the project partners (see Equipment section below). This consortium has been created as part of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Remote Sensing and Virtual Archaeology which has provided funding for international participation and access to the exceptional technical resource which will be used during survey. The University of Birmingham IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre is the UK partner within the consortium and will lead the fieldwork, support project management and provide regional expertise.