tsunami

sea level

storms

cliff collapse

tephra

tsunami

vegetation

wind

Foula landslides

Foula lightning

 

Holocene

Definition: the period of last 10,000 radiocarbon years

The present interglacial has seen many environmental changes. Temperatures have remained close to present levels but other elements of the Shetland climate - rainfall, windiness and storminess - have varied in ways that we are only beginning to appreciate against the backdrop of global warming. A key event in the climate history was the "Little Ice Age" between about 1200 and 1700 A.D. Sea level has risen and it is only over the last few thousand years that it has reached close to present levels. Shetland has experienced extreme natural events - tsunami, storms, coastal floods and ash falls from major Icelandic eruptions - but the impact of these on the landscape has been minor when compared with the arrival of man around 5000 years ago.

The dating of events over the Holocene can be achieved in many ways. Radiocarbon dating has been particularly significant but in recent years this method has been greatly augmented by new techniques. Basic stratigraphy remains important and this of course applies equally well to the archaeological context. The long history of occupation of Shetland by man provides many crossovers between studies of ancient settlements and the natural environment. Thus studies of vegetation changes, soil development and dune migration have usefulness in both establishing the sequence of environmental change and is assessing man's role is promoting these changes.