Coastal and Underwater Archaeology

Coastal and Underwater Archaeology

Coastal and Underwater Archaeology is an emerging theme incorporating:

  • new methodologies and approaches to explore past sea-level change
  • the reconstruction of submerged archaeological landscapes
  • the nature of archaeological coastlines and coastal settlements in the past
  • changes in the human exploitation of marine and shoreline resources throughout history

Lower sea-levels for much of human history mean that considerable areas of the continental shelves, though submerged today, were once dry land. Research at Aberdeen in collaboration with other institutions is exploring these drowned landscapes using diverse techniques, including remote sensing, sediment analysis, diving and fieldwork on the shoreline.

Doggerland, between the UK and the continent, provided a considerable land mass, of crucial importance for our understanding of the early populations of Northern Europe. Our research on nearshore and high energy waters provides analogue data that helps to better understand the wider picture.

As well as the reconstruction of past terrain and investigating surviving sites, our coastal research also includes the study of maritime adaption, colonisation and migration in the North, of both humans and domestic (and commensal) species, incorporating techniques such as:

  • materials analysis
  • DNA
  • isotope analysis
  • geometric morphometrics

Combined with our Northern focus and bioarchaeology specialisms, the palaeoeconomy of coastal areas and the reconstruction of marine subsistence practices through palaeodietary analysis has recently become another key component of our coastal archaeology research theme - with projects ranging from prehistoric hunter-gatherers in Western Alaska to the fishing communities of Medieval Scotland.