Researching Catastrophic Environmental Changes on Northern Coastlines: A Geoarchaeological Case Study from the Shetland Islands

Gerald F. Bigelow, Stephanie M. Ferrante, Samuel T. Hall, Lisa M. Kimball, Robert E. Proctor and Sue L. Remington


The Shetland Islands Climate and Settlement Project is researching the settlement histories and local ecologies of fragile coastal sand environments in the easternmost of the Norse North Atlantic regions during the past two millennia. North Atlantic coastal sands were settled heavily in some periods, but abandoned at other times. The pioneering climate historian H. H. Lamb proposed that these areas have been subject to periodic landscape destabilization catalyzed by extreme storminess related to global climate changes. It is also likely that human land use and burrowing by rabbits have contributed to the onset of sand blows.

Through excavating well-preserved settlements, studying associated sand deposits in high resolution, and exploiting documentary evidence of eolian sand disasters, the SICSP is exploring connections between Little Ice Age climate processes, regional extreme weather, and human adaptations in a northern archipelago strongly influenced by trends in the North Atlantic Current and the North Atlantic Oscillation.

  • Gerald F. Bigelow, Stephanie M. Ferrante, Samuel T. Hall, Lisa M. Kimball, Robert E. Proctor, Sue L. Remington, Atlantic Archaeology and History Research Institute, 210 Dugway Road, Bridgton, Maine 04009 USA

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