Coastal Activity Zones

Geoarchaeology as an aid to understanding human activity in the changing environment of coastal zones

The project aimed to identify strategies that improved the resilience of coastal communities to the ecological changes caused by past climate change, and to provide this information to contemporary communities.

It assessed the resilience of northern communities and ecosystems to the effects of climate change. It investigated:

  • long, medium and short-term patterns of climate change across the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere
  • the ecological and societal impacts of climate change through studies of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
  • the changes in ecosystem service delivery that result from climate change
  • the ways in which humans have adapted to the effects of such changes across northern latitudes

Based in Archaeology and Geography and Environment, School of Geosciences this project examined relationships between past climate, land use histories, and the use of maritime resources in the North Atlantic region to advance our understanding of subsistence strategies that may have emerged in coastal communities in response to past climate change.

Research focused on regional case studies in northern Scotland, northern Iceland, and southwest Greenland, where there are well-preserved environmental records in lakes and peatlands, and well-preserved archaeological remains. These regions were ideal laboratories for examining real, community-scale effects of climate change and how people responded.

Through a study of palaeoclimatic, palaeoecological, archaeological and historical data from well-studied sites, new palaeoclimate data from associated projects, and new archaeological data from original coastal surveys, assessment excavations and AMS dating of coastal structures, this project provided new insights into the timing and patterning of economic and subsistence strategies in relation to past climate changes.

This project is supervised by Dr Karen Milek.