Accepted Paper:

Submergence in the Isles of Scilly  


Jacqueline Mulville (Cardiff University)
Dan Charman (University of Exeter)
Charles Johns (Cornwall Council)
Helen M. Roberts (Aberystwyth University)

Paper short abstract:

The Isles of Scilly have an exceptionally high density of funerary monuments with 83 entrance graves packed into 16km2. The reason for this is unclear, but there is evidence that over time the Isles of Scilly have submerged and this may have affected the density, visibility and type of archaeological monuments. When this submergence occurred and how fast the land became inundated is the subject of the Lyonesse research project, the results of which shed light on the changing nature of the islands and allows us to consider the islanders response to sea level change over time.

Paper long abstract:

The Isles of Scilly are a group of around 200 islands and rocks lying 45km southwest of Lands End, in southwest England. The islands have a rich archaeological heritage but rather little is known of palaeoenvironmental changes associated with changing human settlement. Between the main islands there are large expanses of shallow waters which were submerged as a result of Holocene sea‐level rise and inter‐tidal peats and organic silts outcrop on some of the beaches. Previous work on exposed inter‐tidal sediments suggested there was potential for developing a better understanding of both palaeoenvironmental context of human settlement and rates of past sea‐level rise for the islands.

The English Heritage‐funded Lyonesse Project is aimed at addressing three key issues concerning the islands: 1) The extent of the 4 inter‐tidal and sub‐tidal palaeoenvironmental resource, 2) The nature of vegetation change in relation to human occupation, 3) Rates of past sea‐level change and the changes in palaeogeography of the islands. The question of past sea‐level change is particularly important to resolve because of very rapid rates of sea‐level rise have been suggested with significant implications for the nature of human settlement and activity during both prehistoric and later periods. Initial data on sea‐level constrained by both radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence dates suggests the model of a very rapid rate of sea‐level rise should be discounted.

Panel S02
Palaeoeconomy and palaeoecology of south west Britain