Early Medieval Shellfish Exploitation in Northwest Europe: Investigations at the Sands of Forvie Shell Middens, Eastern Scotland, and the Role of Coastal Resources in the First Millennium AD

Gordon Noble (Corresponding Author), Joe Turner, Derek Hamilton, Lee Hastie, Rick Knecht, Lindsey Stirling, Oskar Sveinbjarnarson, Bethan Upex, Karen Milek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Downloads (Pure)


Coastal shell middens represent a well-known element of the archaeological record of island and coastal regions across the world and shellfish have been an important resource for subsistence since the mid Holocene. However, the factors that influence shell-fishing remain poorly understood and in many regions investigations into the role of shellfish gathering have often remained focused on prehistoric examples to the detriment of shell middens of later dates. This article reports on the emerging evidence for large-scale exploitation of shellfish during a hitherto understudied period for shell midden archaeology in Northwest Europe: the first millennium AD. The article includes a review of a series of previously unknown large mussel-dominated middens in eastern Scotland, an outline of their chronology and character, including Bayesian modelling of dates, and a synthesis of the emerging evidence for shellfish gathering in Northwest Europe during the first millennium AD. The research represents the first investigation of large-scale early medieval middens in Britain and the first review of their international parallels and the important new information they can provide for the early medieval economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-605
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Island & Coastal Archaeology
Issue number4
Early online date6 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018



  • shell middens
  • coastal archaeology
  • early medieval
  • first millenium AD
  • Scotland
  • Northwest Europe

Cite this