While the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) in Scotland contains valuable information on more than 170,000 archaeological monuments, it is clear that this dataset is conditioned by the disposition of past survey and changing parameters of data collection strategies over many decades. This highlights the importance of creating systematic datasets, in which the standards to which they were created are explicit, and against which the reliability of our knowledge of the material remains of the past can be assessed. This paper describes issues of data structure and reliability, then discussing the methodologies under development for expediting the progress of national-scale mapping with specific reference to the Isle of Arran. Preliminary outcomes of a recent archaeological mapping project of the island, which has been used to develop protocols for rapid large area mapping, are outlined. The primary sources for the survey were airborne laser scanning derivatives and orthophotographs, supplemented by field observation, and the project has more than doubled the number of known monuments of Arran. The survey procedures are described, followed by a discussion of the utility of ‘general purpose’ remote sensed datasets, focusing on the assessment of strengths and weaknesses for rapid mapping of large areas.
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