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Date July 2011

Event ID 966611

Category Project

Type Project


HY 387 141 and HY 294 131 (centred on) Work on Holocene sea level change in Orkney indicates that relative sea levels only reached their present position some 4000 years ago. This project which was set up in 2005 aims to:

• construct a sea level curve to provide detail of former changes in relative sea level around Orkney

• investigate the possibility that remains of past human settlement might be preserved on the seabed.

The project combines various different strands of work including sediment coring, remote sensing, seismic survey, diving, intertidal survey, palaeoenvironmental analysis on land, in the intertidal zone and from submerged surfaces, aerial photography, archive searches, and ethnoarchaeology.

In June 2011, seismic survey in the Bay of Firth revealed detail of structural complexity within some of the main anomalies previously identified by sonar survey, suggesting an anthropogenic origin for these structures. The position of these sites within the submerged landscape suggests an Early Neolithic date. In addition, detail of the sediments within the Finstown Basin has been used to interpolate the existence of a small loch or lagoon prior to inundation. This is of particular relevance to an understanding of the Mesolithic use of the area. In September 2011 sediment cores were extracted from the Bay of Firth with the aim of building more detail into the environmental history of the area pre-inundation.

Work has also taken place in the Loch of Stenness. An initial sonar survey around the SE shores has revealed a number of potential anomalies in close proximity to the World Heritage sites at Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, and to the excavations at Ness of Brodgar. These will be investigated further in 2012 and the extent of the survey extended.

Dates from the Lochs of Stenness and Harray, and from Mill Bay, Hoy and Dam of Hoxa, South Ronaldsay have added to the detailed sea level history of the islands.

Archive: Contributors (currently). ADS, Orkney SMR and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland, Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership, Society of Antiquaries of London and Royal Archaeological Institute

University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of St Andrews, University of Wales, Trinity St David, and University of Bangor, 2011

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