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The potential of coastally eroding palaeoenvironmental deposits and middens as climatic and cultural data reservoirs

Author(s): Ingrid Mainland ; Jane Downes ; Scott Timpany ; Julie Bond ; Jen Harland

Year: 2016

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The acute problem facing Scotland’s archaeological heritage through loss and damage by rising sea levels and increased storminess in response to global climate warming is gaining increasing recognition. This threat is prompting diverse mitigating responses, most significantly Historic Scotland's Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys and the work of the SCAPE Trust. These surveys have, however, predominately focused on the recording of cultural, rather than palaeoenvironmental remains; while midden sites or coastal peats have been noted, such sites have not been analysed or assessed in detail. Their potential as a source of evidence for environmental change and human response to it thus remains largely unexplored. This paper will present a review of coastally eroding middens and other sources of palaeoenvironment evidence in selected regions within the Northern Isles of Scotland to highlight the scale, extent, significance and character of this resource and the current and future impact therein of erosion and rising sea levels. Using cases studies drawn from recent work in Orkney, the paper will go on to illustrate the potential of these sites for addressing human response to environmental change, in contributing to the development of modern marine resource management and as unique data reservoirs for local climatic change across millennia.

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The potential of coastally eroding palaeoenvironmental deposits and middens as climatic and cultural data reservoirs. Ingrid Mainland, Jane Downes, Scott Timpany, Julie Bond, Jen Harland. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403131)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America