The possible role of humans in the early stages of machair evolution: palaeoenvironmental investigations in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland

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Abstract

Low altitude sandy plains (machair) are a distinctive feature of the Atlantic coasts of the Scottish Outer Hebrides. They formed as a result of shoreward movement of sediment consequent upon a rise in Holocene sea levels. During the long period over which machair has been forming, the earliest date proposed for their human occupation is the Neolithic. The natural origins of the machair are not disputed, but examination of deposits at sites in the islands of Benbecula and Grimsay encourages us to advance a possible anthropogenic role in the process of machair development, and also to suggest that human involvement may date from the Mesolithic period (pre-5000 BP [ca. 5730 cal BP]), a time for which archaeological evidence is lacking from the Outer Hebrides. The presence of charcoal might suggest that burning of the vegetation cover of the machair was an additional factor to the supposedly dominant marine and aeolian processes in sand mobility. Removal of shrub vegetation may also have left sand surfaces open to deflation. There remains a difficulty in separating natural from human causes in investigations of long-term coastal evolution. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-449
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume32
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jan 2005
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005

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deflation
examination
cause
evidence
Machair
Outer Hebrides
Scotland
time
Vegetation
Coast

Keywords

  • Machair
  • inter-tidal peat
  • palynology
  • Benbecula
  • grimsay
  • Scotland
  • Mesolithic
  • Neolithic
  • Western-Isles
  • South Uist
  • pollen
  • vegetation
  • history
  • Lewis

Cite this

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title = "The possible role of humans in the early stages of machair evolution: palaeoenvironmental investigations in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland",
abstract = "Low altitude sandy plains (machair) are a distinctive feature of the Atlantic coasts of the Scottish Outer Hebrides. They formed as a result of shoreward movement of sediment consequent upon a rise in Holocene sea levels. During the long period over which machair has been forming, the earliest date proposed for their human occupation is the Neolithic. The natural origins of the machair are not disputed, but examination of deposits at sites in the islands of Benbecula and Grimsay encourages us to advance a possible anthropogenic role in the process of machair development, and also to suggest that human involvement may date from the Mesolithic period (pre-5000 BP [ca. 5730 cal BP]), a time for which archaeological evidence is lacking from the Outer Hebrides. The presence of charcoal might suggest that burning of the vegetation cover of the machair was an additional factor to the supposedly dominant marine and aeolian processes in sand mobility. Removal of shrub vegetation may also have left sand surfaces open to deflation. There remains a difficulty in separating natural from human causes in investigations of long-term coastal evolution. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.",
keywords = "Machair, inter-tidal peat, palynology, Benbecula, grimsay, Scotland, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Western-Isles, South Uist, pollen, vegetation, history, Lewis",
author = "Edwards, {Kevin John} and G Whittington and William Ritchie",
year = "2005",
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language = "English",
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AU - Whittington, G

AU - Ritchie, William

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N2 - Low altitude sandy plains (machair) are a distinctive feature of the Atlantic coasts of the Scottish Outer Hebrides. They formed as a result of shoreward movement of sediment consequent upon a rise in Holocene sea levels. During the long period over which machair has been forming, the earliest date proposed for their human occupation is the Neolithic. The natural origins of the machair are not disputed, but examination of deposits at sites in the islands of Benbecula and Grimsay encourages us to advance a possible anthropogenic role in the process of machair development, and also to suggest that human involvement may date from the Mesolithic period (pre-5000 BP [ca. 5730 cal BP]), a time for which archaeological evidence is lacking from the Outer Hebrides. The presence of charcoal might suggest that burning of the vegetation cover of the machair was an additional factor to the supposedly dominant marine and aeolian processes in sand mobility. Removal of shrub vegetation may also have left sand surfaces open to deflation. There remains a difficulty in separating natural from human causes in investigations of long-term coastal evolution. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

AB - Low altitude sandy plains (machair) are a distinctive feature of the Atlantic coasts of the Scottish Outer Hebrides. They formed as a result of shoreward movement of sediment consequent upon a rise in Holocene sea levels. During the long period over which machair has been forming, the earliest date proposed for their human occupation is the Neolithic. The natural origins of the machair are not disputed, but examination of deposits at sites in the islands of Benbecula and Grimsay encourages us to advance a possible anthropogenic role in the process of machair development, and also to suggest that human involvement may date from the Mesolithic period (pre-5000 BP [ca. 5730 cal BP]), a time for which archaeological evidence is lacking from the Outer Hebrides. The presence of charcoal might suggest that burning of the vegetation cover of the machair was an additional factor to the supposedly dominant marine and aeolian processes in sand mobility. Removal of shrub vegetation may also have left sand surfaces open to deflation. There remains a difficulty in separating natural from human causes in investigations of long-term coastal evolution. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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KW - South Uist

KW - pollen

KW - vegetation

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