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Archives and Research

Marine and coastal

Various teams across Historic Environment Scotland carry out research into marine and coastal areas.

1 Overview

Various teams across Historic Environment Scotland undertake research into marine and coastal areas.

Marine and coastal research includes, for example:

  • surveying coastal sites and collating third party research into maritime sites for the Canmore database and national archive
  • engaging the public in survey and recording projects to aid our understanding of the coastal historic environment
  • identifying historic assets in coastal and marine environments for designation
  • monitoring the condition of Historic Marine Protected Areas and coastal scheduled monuments

Historic Environment Scotland’s research into climate change and the historic environment is one of our duties as a public body. This naturally includes assessing the impacts on the coastal and marine environment.

We also fund external research projects in coastal and marine environments through our Archaeology Programme. Funding is awarded to universities, archaeological contractors, charities and community groups. 

2 Teams

Survey and Recording Group

Areas of focus: Surveying coastal sites and collating third party research into maritime sites to help maintain and add to the Canmore database and national archive.

Survey and recording projects are also often part of our public engagement approach. Involving members of the public in this way increases participation in the coastal historic environment and helps to build our own body of knowledge.

Heritage Directorate

Areas of focus:

  • Undertaking assessments of the significance of historic assets in coastal and marine environments for designation purposes
  • Monitoring the condition of designated sites
  • Grant-aiding external research projects in coastal and marine environments through the Archaeology Programme

Climate Change Team

Areas of focus: Supporting research projects into climate change, including assessing the impacts on the coastal and marine environment.

3 Partnerships and funding

Our funding for marine and coastal research comes from Historic Environment Scotland’s core budget.

Much of our research is conducted in-house, but we commission underwater archaeology surveys from specialist providers. We also work closely with other public bodies in Scotland such as Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.

The grants we offer through our Archaeology Programme support external research projects in coastal and marine environments led by universities, archaeological contractors and third sector groups.

Other funding sources for coastal and marine research include The Crown Estate and the Research Councils UK.

4 Projects

Discovering the Clyde research programme

We are managing this five-year programme to explore how people have shaped and been shaped by the River Clyde.

The river has brought opportunities and challenges for humans for thousands of years. Through a series of projects, we will examine the physical historical remains along the 176km long waterway – from prehistoric crannogs and defended strongholds to water mills and recent river crossings.

This fieldwork, combined with desk-based research and engagement with local people, will reveal more of the story of the River Clyde and people’s attempts to control, change and exploit it.

Findings from the research will be useful to:

  • cultural heritage managers
  • planners
  • historic environment researchers
  • academics
  • the general public

Read more about Discovering the Clyde, including how to get involved.

The Discovering the Clyde programme has been supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

Scottish MPA Project

Fieldwork led by the Scottish MPA Project is helping to inform recommendations to Scottish Ministers on the creation of a network of well-managed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the seas around Scotland.

Historic Environment Scotland advises Scottish Ministers on the designation of Historic MPAs, providing statutory protection for marine historic assets of national importance.

SCAPE

We provide support for the work of SCAPE, which researches, conserves and promotes Scotland’s coastal archaeology. The trust has a particular focus on the impacts of coastal erosion.

Research techniques

Frequently used research techniques include:

  • archaeological survey/excavation of coastal sites
  • aerial photography
  • archaeological diving
  • marine geophysics – includes multibeam sonar, sidescan sonar and sub-bottom profiling
  • geotechnical research (analysis of sedimentary cores)
  • documentary and archival research
  • evaluation of information from third parties – including avocational diving groups and developer-funded surveys

5 Publications and conferences

We presented at EAA Glasgow 2015, the annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, the following papers:

  • The wartime underwater heritage of Scapa Flow, Orkney: Responding to changing perceptions of significance and value (Philip Robertson).
  • Jacobsson, P. et al., ‘Is timber recycling affecting our interpretation of the marine crannogs in the Firth of Clyde?’, European Journal of Archaeology (pending publication).

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