English Heritage (EH) is digging in for battle against modern farming methods that it claims are destroying thousands of fragile ancient remains.
Chief executive Simon Thurley launched the campaign last week with a report, Ripping Up History. It calls on the government, archaeologists and farmers to tackle 'one of the greatest threats to Britain's archaeological heritage'.
Roman villas and towns, Neolithic long barrows and Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are taking a battering from intensive farming and monster machines, with some 3,000 important scheduled monuments being affected, the report warns.
'Modern intensive ploughing has arguably done more damage in six decades than traditional agriculture did in six centuries, ' said Thurley. 'We are ripping up our history and doing irreparable damage to the character and fascination of our countryside.'
He called for new laws to protect threatened sites - current loopholes allowed sensitive sites to be ploughed, he said.
Ripping Up History details devastation of Roman mosaic floors and prehistoric burial mounds. A 4,000-year-old gold cup found in Kent was scarred by ploughing, and nearly 40 Bronze Age metal hoards unearthed in Norfolk over 30 years have been damaged by farming.
The EH campaign coincides with the launch of the government's Review of Heritage Protection consultation paper, in partnership with EH. They are looking at refocusing protection measures and aim to publish a White Paper early next year, said heritage minister Andrew McIntosh.