AMAZING archaeological discoveries have been made in the New Forest.

Prehistoric burial mounds, a World War II practice bombing range and searchlight position have all been found between Burley and Godshill.

Airborne light detecting and ranging (lidar) has revealed the archaeological gems using lasers.

Archaeological researcher Tom Dommett said: "One of lidar's greatest benefits in the Forest is its ability to penetrate all but the densest vegetation like conifer or holly.

"It reveals very subtle features which are difficult to see on the ground and are even more difficult to map accurately, particularly in woodland.

"It is also very helpful with stream restoration projects because it can pick out the former natural stream beds, and it can be used to pinpoint veteran trees."

Tom explained that because lidar is indiscriminate in what it shows the data sometimes has to be backed up by targeted field survey, known as ground-truthing.

"This is where the involvement of the wider volunteering community has been really helpful and the New Forest History and Archaeology Group have already made an invaluable contribution, " he said.

"At the current rate of survey carried out in the National Park it would take roughly 200 years to obtain a full understanding of the archaeological resource, but with lidar we will hopefully be able to do it in 10 years.

"There is great potential for lidar to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the Forest's past and, crucially, our ability to preserve and protect that past for the benefit of future generations."

Archaeologists usually rely on lengthy and labour-intensive field surveys to uncover such features, but lidar speeds up the process.

It uses a pulsed laser beam that is scanned from side to side as the aircraft flies over the survey area, measuring up to 100,000 points per second to build a detailed digital model of the landscape and the features upon it.

Lidar was developed for submarine detection 50 years ago but its value to archaeologists has only been recognised in the last decade.