Professor Kevin Edwards

Professor Kevin Edwards
Professor Kevin Edwards
Professor Kevin Edwards


Emeritus Professor

Email Address
Office Address

Department of Geography and Environment, 
School of Geosciences,
University of Aberdeen,
St Mary's, Elphinstone Road,
Aberdeen AB24 3UF
Scotland, UK


& Clare Hall, 

Herschel Road,

Cambridge CB3 9AL,



School of Geosciences



  • Honorary Life Member, Quaternary Research Association, 2022-
  • Senior Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Univ. of Cambridge, 2019-
  • Coppock Research Medal and Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, 2018
  • Institute Associate, Scott Polar Research Institute, Univ. of Cambridge, 2018-
  • DSc, 'Studies in Quaternary, Geographical and Archaeological Science', Univ. of St Andrews, 2014
  • REF 2014: Panel member for Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology, UK Research Excellence Framework
  • Christensen Fellow, St Catherine's College, Univ. of Oxford, 2012
  • 133rd Rhind Lecturer, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 2012
  • Member of Academia Europaea, 2012
  • Life Member, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, 2012-, Fellow Commoner, 2020- 
  • Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall and Visiting Scholar, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Univ. of Cambridge, 2011-2012
  • RAE 2008: Panel member for Geography and Environmental Studies, UK Research Assessment Exercise
  • Visiting Researcher, Geography & Geology, Univ. of Copenhagen, 2007-09
  • Adjunct Professor, Doctoral Faculty of the Graduate School, The City Univ. of New York, 2002-
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2002
  • Professor in Physical Geography, Univ. of Aberdeen, 2000-17, Adjunct Professor in Archaeology, 2007-, Emeritus Professor in Geography, 2018-
  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1999
  • Professor of Palaeoecology, Dept. of Archaeology & Prehistory, Univ. of Sheffield, 1994-2000, Head of Dept. 1996-1999
  • Honorary Research Associate, Limnological Research Center, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1983
  • Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Biogeography, Reader in Palaeoecology, School of Geography, Univ. of Birmingham, 1980-94
  • Lecturer, Dept. of Geography and Palaeoecology Centre, The Queen's Univ. of Belfast, 1975-80
  • PhD, University of Aberdeen, 1978
  • Tutorial Fellow, Dept. of Geography, Univ.of Aberdeen, 1972-75
  • MA First Class Honours in Geographical Studies, Univ. of St Andrews, 1972

External Memberships




Editorial Boards:

  • Palynology
  • Journal of Archaeological Science  
  • North Atlantic World book series (Brepols)



Research Overview

  • Palynology
  • Environmental and anthropogenic change in the North Atlantic region  
  • Mesolithic (hunter-gatherer) impacts on vegetation in Scotland
  • Long-term vegetation and environmental change in the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland
  • Tephropalynological studies
  • Environmental archaeology
  • History of Science

The above are pursued within the context of the Environmental Change sub-group of the Environmental Processes and Change Research Cluster of the Department.

Current Research

Landscapes circum-Landnám: Viking settlement in the North Atlantic and its human and ecological consequences: This project was made possible by a major Research Programme Grant for the period 2002-07 from the Leverhulme Trust. The award resulted from a UK-wide competition within the theme 'Long-term settlement in the ancient world'. It enabled a high resolution and comprehensive investigation of what happens environmentally and socially when a group of people - in this case the Vikings - colonise 'pristine' landscapes. Sites in the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland were and are being studied by an interdisciplinary and multinational team including Paul Buckland (Archaeology, Universities of Sheffield and Bournemouth), Andrew Dugmore (Geography, University of Edinburgh), Thomas McGovern (Anthropology, Hunter College, City University New York), Ian Simpson (Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling) and Guðrún Sveinbjarnardóttir (Scandinavian Studies and Archaeology, University College London). Kevin Edwards was PI on the project which was led by the University of Aberdeen. 

Footprints on the edge of Thule: landscapes of Norse-indigenous interaction: This is a development of the Landscapes circum-Landnám project and was funded by the Leverhulme Trust for the period 2007-11. A primary aim is to investigate the complex relationships between humans (Norse incomers and indigenous groups), their economies and interactions with environment in parts of Greenland, Norway and Sweden. Collaborating researchers include Andrew Dugmore and Eva Panagiotakopulu (Geography, University of Edinburgh) and Ian Simpson (Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling), as well as many overseas research collaborators (e.g. in Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark). Kevin Edwards was PI on the project which was led by the University of Aberdeen. 

Pre-agricultural landscape impacts (erosion, fire and vegetational change) and woodland status in western Scotland (including the Inner and Outer Hebrides) and the Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland): Pollen, charcoal, palaeoentomological and archaeological studies of early Holocene/Mesolithic environmental and cultural change, including the nature of the woodland cover. The work involves collaboration with archaeologists from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland's First Settlers Project) and Bradford, and palynologists and palaeoentomologists from the Universities of Birmingham, Sheffield and St Andrews. Funding has come from NERC and The Leverhulme Trust.

Palaeolimnological studies of prehistoric agricultural impacts: Studies of lake sediments as repositories of land use and erosional history and involving pollen, chemical, particle size and radiocarbon studies. This is being carried out partly in association with Graeme Whittington, the School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St Andrews with funding for radiocarbon dates from the NERC.

Lateglacial environments in Scotland, including oxygen isotope studies: High resolution palynological, palaeoentomological and stable isotope research aimed at detecting biotic and environmental sensitivity to climate change . This is joint research with the School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St Andrews, the School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Birmingham and the Department of Chemistry, University of Glasgow/SUERC, East Kilbride. Funding for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry 14C dating and oxygen isotope analysis has come from NERC.

Soil pollution on the remote Scottish islands: High levels of pollution (e.g. lead, zinc, cadmium and arsenic) discovered in the anthropogenic soils of St Kilda seem to be related to peat burning and arable farming practices combined with the local custom of composting seabird waste. This project aims to continue investigations on St Kilda and to place the results in a wider context. This is joint research with the Departments of Plant & Soil Science and Chemistry, University of Aberdeen, and the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, with funding from the Leverhulme Trust.

The antiquity and environmental signatures of ancient tin mining in SW Britain: The precise date of tin mining – and the related metallurgical extraction of copper, lead and silver in Devon and Cornwall – was unknown and has been subject to historical comment/myth for millennia. This project investigated the chemical signatures in raised mires from Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor accompanied by AMS 14C dating. The outcome has significance for the economic (pre-)history of Europe. This is joint research with Andrew Meharg (Department of Plant & Soil Science, University of Aberdeen and is funded by NERC (Meharg and Edwards co-PIs).

Reconstructing 8000 years of environmental and landscape change in the Cairngorms: New discoveries of well preserved sub-fossil pine stems in lakes from the northwest Cairngorms highlight the potential of deriving a long Holocene length tree-ring record for this region. Combined with palynology and geochemical data, multiproxy approaches enable an examination of environmental change during the Holocene, including: the first comprehensive appraisal of human influence on the vegetational structure of the region; quantified tree-ring based inter-annual summer temperature reconstructions for discrete time periods, which will significantly extend high resolution records of climate change in the UK; elucidation of whether periods of forest decline are related to climatic anomalies or human influences. This work is funded by The Leverhulme Trust (2010-13) with co-PIs Rob Wilson (St Andrews), Siwan Davies (Swansea) and Kevin Edwards (Aberdeen).   

Viking Unst: The Viking Unst project began as a collaborative project between the Shetland Amenity Trust and the University of Copenhagen and aims to investigate the archaeological and environmental evidence for Norse settlement on the Island of Unst, Shetland. Our work includes palynological investigations associated with the excavations at Belmont being carried out under the direction of Anne-Christine Larsen of the Vikingeborgen Trelleborg, Sydvestsjællands Museum, Denmark.

History of science: Archive-based historiographical and biographical research into two main areas: (i) the history of palynology; (ii) James Croll. The research is based heavily on fresh archival work (e.g. in the British Library [London], Imperial College London, the National Museum of Wales [Cardiff], BGS [Keyworth], Tolson Memorial Museum [Huddersfield], Royal Society of Edinburgh, University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Swedish Museum of Natural History [both Stockholm]). 

  Recent Research Students
  • Fraser Green, BSc (Edinburgh), PhD (Aberdeen): Palynology and the Mesolithic of the Isle of Skye and Inner Sound, Scotland 
  • Douglas Borthwick, MA, PhD (Aberdeen): Palynology of Norse settlement, Suðuroy, Faroe Islands  
  • Egill Erlendsson, BS (Iceland), PhD (Aberdeen): Palynology of Norse settlement, southwestern Iceland
  • Clare Brown, BSc (Plymouth), PhD (Aberdeen): Palynology, neoecology, erosion and agriculture, Isle of Skye, Scotland  
  • Ilse Kamerling, BSc, MSc (Free University of Amsterdam), PhD (Aberdeen): Palynology of Norse and Sami settlement, northern Sweden
  • Paul Ledger, BSc (East Anglia), MSc (Coventry), PhD (Aberdeen): Palynology of the Norse Eastern Settlement, Greenland
  • Patricia Wiltshire, BSc (London), DSc hc (Glous), PhD (Aberdeen): Developing forensic palynology 
  • Claire Christie, MA (Aberdeen), MA (UCL), PhD (Aberdeen): The prehistoric settlement of West Mainland, Shetland



Funding and Grants

£1,235,000    The Leverhulme Trust

Landscapes circum-Landnám: Viking settlement in the North Atlantic and its human and ecological consequences. (Jointly with P.C. Buckland, University of Sheffield, A.J. Dugmore, University of Edinburgh and I.A. Simpson, University of Stirling). 2002-07.

£168,350       The Leverhulme Trust

Did the disposal of seabird waste seriously pollute cultivated soils in remote islands of Scotland? (Jointly with A.Meharg and J. Feldmann, University of Aberdeen and D.A. Davidson, University of Stirling). 2002-05.

£270,000       Scottish Funding Council: SAGES

Scottish Alliance forGeosciences, Environment and Society. For provision of 60% share of 2 lectureships, shared studentships and equipment. 2006-11.    

 £1,000,000    The Leverhulme Trust

Footprints on the edge of Thule: landscapes of Norse-indigenous interaction. (Jointly with A.J. Dugmore and E. Panagiotakopulu, University of Edinburgh and I.A. Simpson, University of Stirling). 2007-11.

 £28,000         Natural Environment Research Council

When was Cornish tin mined and processed in prehistory? (Jointly with A.M. Meharg, University of Aberdeen). 2009.

£4,400            The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland

The potential of the Norse middle settlement of Greenland for a major interdisciplinary research project. (Jointly with J. Edward Schofield, University of Aberdeen). 2010.

£250,000         The Leverhulme Trust

Reconstructing 8000 years of Environmental and Landscape change in the Cairngorms. (Jointly with R. Wilson, St Andrews and S. Davies, Swansea). 2010-13.

$15,000           National Geographic

 Palaeoecological investigations at Point Rosee, Newfoundland. (Jointly with J.E. Schofield). 2016-17.