Issue: Aeolian archaeology

Subtitle the archaeology of sand landscapes in Scotland
Publication Type
Abstract Landscapes characterised by a substantial presence of aeolian (wind-blown) sand are predominantly coastal, and range from active dunefields with high and unstable relief, to smoother and more stable grassed surfaces which may be subject to some degree of agricultural use. Some are remote and inaccessible, but others exist in closer proximity to conurbations and tourist areas, and the impact of visitors is therefore comparatively great. In addition to the ever-present scouring and redistributing forces of sea and wind, other pressures on the stability of these landscapes include aggregates quarrying, development and the ubiquitous presence of wild burrowing fauna, most obviously the rabbit. Sand creates dynamic 'soft' landforms which are subject to continuing change, to the extent that photographs or maps of just 100 years ago often present very different topographies from those visible today. The encroachment of the sea and continual process of wind-induced change can transform a sand landscape almost overnight. In depositional strata, long periods of stasis may be represented by comparatively shallow soil horizons, which are frequently separated by much deeper bands of sand which may result from wind-blow episodes of far shorter timescale. Dune systems frequently occupy zones of extensive past settlement attraction with numerous environmental advantages, and therefore occur in areas of generally high archaeological potential. Yet their complexity and extreme vulnerability present us with serious problems in terms of balancing an understanding of the archaeology with conservation strategies.
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Author David Griffiths
Patrick J Ashmore
Editor David Griffiths
Patrick J Ashmore
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Year of Publication 2011
Volume 48
ISBN 0 903903 68 4
Note Editorial Expansion: Selected case-studies, originally given as spoken papers at a Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Specialist Seminar, hosted by Historic Scotland, Edinburgh, May 2004
Source DigitalBorn
Relations
Monograph Chapter Title Sort Order Both Arrows Access Type Author / Editor Page
Start/End Sort Order Up Arrow
Abstract
Patrick J Ashmore
David Griffiths
1 - 7
David Griffiths
9 - 23
Discusses potential ways in which a clearer picture could be constructed of these landscapes, and their state of preservation. PP-B
Susan Dawson
Alastair G Dawson
Jason T Jordan
25 - 36
Lithostratigraphical and biostratigraphical investigation of marshes adjacent to coastal dune sequences in the Scottish Outer Hebrides show inland-tapering sand units enclosed within organic sediments. The sand sheets are considered to have been deposited by past windstorm activity, while radiometric dating appears to indicate deposition during the last 2000 years except for the well-known period of Medieval warmth that is here considered to have occurred between c AD600 and 1400. It is argued that the episodes of sand-blow indicated by the deposits may reflect periods of increased cyclogenesis in the North Atlantic associated with increased sea-ice cover, an increase in the thermal gradient associated with the polar atmospheric and oceanic fronts as well as colder air temperatures. It is also noted that the diminished North Atlantic winter storminess during Medieval times was broadly coincident with the expansion of Viking culture.
John W Barber
37 - 53
Deals with methodological issues involved in excavating in the machair, shell-sand systems of the Outer Hebrides and the West Coast of Scotland.
Mike Parker-Pearson
Jacqui Mulville
Niall M Sharples
Helen Smith
55 - 85
Since 1987 Sheffield University and latterly other universities have carried out archaeological investigations of archaeological sites on the machair of South Uist, Barra and the southern isles of the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) as part of the SEARCH project [Sheffield Environment and Research Campaign in the Hebrides]. The remains often survive extremely well as stone-walled dwellings with intact floors, set within deeply stratified settlement mounds, dating from the Beaker period to the Post-Medieval period. This exceptional archaeological resource has come under threat especially from rabbit-burrowing as well as from coastal and wind erosion. The good preservation of floors and other features has helped in the development of new archaeological methodologies and techniques as well as providing new evidence of Hebridean life through the millennia. A bibliography of the SEARCH project is appended.
Tom Dawson
Olivia Lelong
Ingrid Shearer
87 - 105
Discusses how the Shorewatch Project has involved groups across the country to work on aeolian sites. It gives details of one recent project, demonstrating how archaeologists and local group members can collaborate successfully to save information before it is lost forever.
Landscapes characterised by a substantial presence of aeolian (wind-blown) sand are predominantly coastal, and range from active dunefields with high and unstable relief, to smoother and more stable grassed surfaces which may be subject to some degree of agricultural use. Some are remote and inaccessible, but others exist in closer proximity to conurbations and tourist areas, and the impact of visitors is therefore comparatively great. In addition to the ever-present scouring and redistributing forces of sea and wind, other pressures on the stability of these landscapes include aggregates quarrying, development and the ubiquitous presence of wild burrowing fauna, most obviously the rabbit. Sand creates dynamic 'soft' landforms which are subject to continuing change, to the extent that photographs or maps of just 100 years ago often present very different topographies from those visible today. The encroachment of the sea and continual process of wind-induced change can transform a sand landscape almost overnight. In depositional strata, long periods of stasis may be represented by comparatively shallow soil horizons, which are frequently separated by much deeper bands of sand which may result from wind-blow episodes of far shorter timescale. Dune systems frequently occupy zones of extensive past settlement attraction with numerous environmental advantages, and therefore occur in areas of generally high archaeological potential. Yet their complexity and extreme vulnerability present us with serious problems in terms of balancing an understanding of the archaeology with conservation strategies.