Research of the submerged coastal corridor is by necessity a multi-disciplinary activity that requires adoption and adaptation of both marine and land survey techniques. Many of these have been extensively developed within their own sub-disciplines and it is recognised that it is vital in this research framework, not to repeat current and recent work, but to flag up its presence and indicate where Scotland fits within global palaeo-landscape reconstructions, and thus has direct implications for Scottish submerged archaeological landscape research.
Considerable recent research has highlighted the potential offered by palaeo-landscape reconstruction across the land-sea divide (e.g. Bates et al. 2008; Ryan and Pitman 2000; Ballard et al. 2000; Stight 1986; Faught 1988; Lambeck 1996). A recent publication (Benjamin et al. 2011) provides examples from around the world of research approaches, topics, and methods, highlighting the breadth and variety of results from research into the submerged past.
A number of specific pointers can be immediately highlighted which help to interlink this chapter with external research networks and specifically with the ScARF Palaeolithic and Mesolithic panel document. Three particular areas of research are highlighted here; site types, geomorphological conditions and sedimentary regimes, which are directly linked to the potential for survival (and detection) of submerged archaeology.
Site typologies must currently be based on the known terrestrial Mesolithic and Neolithic sites from Scotland, with additional typologies imported from appropriate comparable countries, such as Ireland, Northern France, the Baltic Sea region (e.g. Fischer 1995b) and other parts of the North Sea and from Continental Europe.
Extensive and intensive research into geomorphological development has been undertaken across Scotland, although not necessarily directly related to archaeological site survival and detection. However, literature reviews of such published research concerned with shallow water environments, such as Scottish firths, with potentially improved preservation qualities, should be recognised as of high priority for this theme. It is considered that this is a low-cost, high return methodology, which would pay dividends for this research theme.
Similar issues affect sedimentary regimes, so that reviewing existing research material must be recognised as a priority, in order that existing models can be tested and improved with more data points, based on geotechnical assessments of sedimentary datasets, which demonstrate inundation and hence increase the possibility of site preservation.
The following synthesis represents an evaluation of palaeo-environmental reconstruction of the present day Scottish coastal corridor (the intertidal zone and above) out to the sub-tidal shelf. It addresses given geographic areas, their particular geological history and the known inter-woven prehistoric occupation. The aim of the evaluation is to provide a better understanding of current palaeo-environmental reconstruction within the Scottish remit of marine archaeology.
A number of objectives are proposed in fulfilling this aim: to address issues with palaeo-environmental reconstruction, both specific to Scottish waters, and generically with reconstructions of similar drowned landscapes; to construct a research data base of areas previously researched spatially and temporally; to provide an up to date characterization of archaeological seascape zones within Scottish waters; to complete a brief review of survey methods that are successfully applied to palaeo-environmental reconstruction; to compile a list of work conducted to date – who has done what and where; to review the current capacity to meet future investigation needs; to propose a way forward for future investigation.