Eroding sites

There have been numerous excavations at eroding sites, and two of Scotland’s most informative (and celebrated) multi-period occupation sites – Skara Brae in Orkney and Jarlshof in Shetland -were excavated after being revealed during storms. There are innumerable archaeological sites buried under layers of sand, probably in similar remarkable states of preservation.

Although hidden and protected by the windblown sand for centuries or millennia, many of these sites are now threatened with total destruction by the sea. Some eroding sites probably had a close relationship with the sea, such as the Scar boat burial (Owen and Dalland 1999), whereas others may originally have been inland sites which were later exposed at the coast edge due to erosion, such as the wheelhouse at Cnip (Armit 2006). Eroding sites provide an opportunity for research as they are threatened with destruction and can therefore be fully excavated without any constraint other than that of resources.

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