Sea Level Change

Following Last Glacial Maximum, one of the most dramatic consequences of the ice melting was that sea-level rose globally from 120m below present height, drowning the coastal lands around our shores.  In the UK, while most of the rapid sea-level rise happened before people had settled across the newly deglaciated landscape, the last period in which the waters were rising, albeit more slowly, took place from about 10,000 years ago to 4000 years ago and happened when people were living here.  In order to find clues as to how this might have impacted the early settlers of Britain we first have to recreate the drowned landscapes.  This is done using geophysical survey methods together with the direct sampling of preserved sediments (see Past Lands).  In this way it is possible to shed light on the nature of the ancient landscape and once this has been completed we can model the rate at which sea level rose and covered the land.

What did it mean for the people living around the coast?  They would certainly have had to change where they collected their shellfish.  Islands would have formed requiring new access with boats. The waterbodies between islands might have had increased severity of tidal races.  As the sea level continued to rise the people would have been increasingly squeezed into narrower coastal corridors.

Did this lead to conflict? Did it result in people starting to make more permanent homes?
What did they think about loosing the land and loosing important features, both natural and ones that they might have constructed?  Look at the pages on drowned features to see some of what was lost….

Sea level 2

Sea level curve for Orkney over the last 9000 years.

Map of what Loch of Stenness might have looked like around the time the Ring of Brodgar was being built around 4500 years ago.

Map of what the Loch of Stenness might have looked like around the time the Ring of Brodgar was being built around 4500 years ago.

Global sea-level curve over the last 250 years.

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