This paper investigates the potential of multispectral methods of airborne remote sensing for geological and archaeological prospection in river valleys, specifically the archaeologically rich, well-documented aggregate landscape of the middle Trent Valley in the East Midlands of England. The paper reviews the systematic examination of Daedalus 1268 Airborne Thematic Mapper (ATM) and Compact Airborne Spectrographic Imager (CASI) multispectral data. Data from a single flight along the Trent Valley in 1996 were subject to a comprehensive suit of analytical techniques including the calculation of vegetation indices and multivariate analysis. The results suggest that both ATM and CASI data have great potential for detecting and characterizing archaeological and geological features. Vegetation indices relying on ratios of red to infrared reflectance were particularly effective at highlighting crop-marks, in some cases revealing crop variation not apparent in the visible spectrum. Copyright c; (c) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.