Changing Landscapes

Orkney has not always been as we see it today.  In the past not only was the weather very different but this meant that the vegetation was also different to what we see today.  At the most extreme, 20,000 years ago, Scotland was covered in a thick sheet of ice much like Greenland is covered today.  As this melted it revealed a barren land for a short while before this was re-colonised by plants and animals.  The people eventually followed as the climate warmed.
Our research methods first rely on making landscape reconstructions from geophysical surveys.  These define the old landscapes, the hills and valleys, the shorelines, the rivers.  By taking samples of sediment from these lands we can analyse for different types of vegetation. For example, the land would have had more trees at certain times.  Shallow, fresh water lochs would have existed where there are now marine bays. The types of vegetation can also tell us how warm or cold the climate was. You can read more about these techniques here – Bates et al, 2012.
You can see our reconstructions of the lost lands here.

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