The past and future coasts of Orkney: a study in the use of chronological and predictive modelling in the preservation of Orkney’s coastal heritage

McCaskill, Kathleen (2023) The past and future coasts of Orkney: a study in the use of chronological and predictive modelling in the preservation of Orkney’s coastal heritage. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


This thesis explores the use of radiocarbon dating, Bayesian modelling, and GIS predictive modelling to broaden our understanding of the nature and extents of prehistoric coastal settlements on the coastlines of Orkney. The research utilises the eight study sites across the islands of Westray and Mainland Orkney to apply these research methods, and has produced a total of 49 new radiocarbon determinations from the multiphase settlement site of Links of Noltland, Westray. These determinations have been used together with 167 existing dates from the current radiocarbon record of the study sites to produce a series of Bayesian chronological models. The results of these models were examined together to provide insight into the nature and extent of site continuity in prehistoric coastal Orkney, as well as exploring the question of potential differences in this continuity between Westray and Mainland Orkney, and the reasons for this.

Further, the research focuses on the ever-increasing risk that climate change and coastal erosion pose to the archaeological record of coastal heritage sites. With the purpose of filling the gaps in the archaeological narrative, archaeological predictive modelling was used to produce two models of the predicted locations unrecovered archaeological sites, based upon the current known coastal settlement locations. This method was conducted as a proof of concept to assess the usefulness of the predictive modelling on island environments, and between study areas of varying size and prior sample size. The results of these models were viewed against the projected changes to sea level rise and coastal erosion areas by 2050, in order to highlight the areas and sites at the highest risk of the impact of climate change.

The results of this research highlight the benefits of the use of multi-disciplinary approaches in the research of archaeology site locations, and urges for a shift in research and excavation practices to proactively consider the impact of climate change in all future archaeological research from proposal to preservation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues this thesis is not available for viewing.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Supervisor's Name: Hamilton, Professor Derek and Cook, Professor Gordon
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83912
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2023 07:14
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 07:14
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83912

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