The management of submerged terrestrial archaeology: an assessment of current awareness of the seabed resource around Scotland

Caroline R Wickham-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper assesses the provision of cultural heritage information relating to offshore submerged archaeology for Environmental Impact Assessments as part of the management of the seabed around Scotland. Over the past millennia areas of the seabed around Scotland have at times been dry land. This means that they were available for human settlement and are likely to preserve the remains of ancient habitation and other activity. Elsewhere in the UK and in Europe work on submerged archaeology has confirmed the existence of an extensive and often well preserved resource stretching back to the last Ice Age and beyond. This paper is concerned solely with sites that once comprised terrestrial archaeological sites; it does not cover wreck archaeology. The submerged terrestrial archaeological resource is fragile, but little understood. In Scotland it has been ignored until the inception of a research project in 2006, The Rising Tide, which is investigating past sea-level change and submerged archaeology around Orkney. Up to now, general management has been carried out through a system of benign neglect despite increasing threat to the resource from the development of the seabed. The Marine (Scotland) Act enshrines the need to protect and manage submerged sites and landscapes, through the implementation of marine planning, licensing and Marine Protected Areas. One of the principal relevant measures for environmental protection through which this is carried out is the inclusion of archaeological information as a critical resource for Environmental Impact Assessments on the seabed. This is enshrined in EC Directives (and applies equally to sites on land). Good management is, however hampered by the lack of base line data on the resource and by a lack of awareness among those responsible. Responses to a questionnaire on the awareness of submerged archaeology and the need to consider it as part of the seabed planning process highlighted a number of serious weaknesses in the current system, not least a lack of awareness, Scottish-based guidelines, and relevant skills.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209–236
Number of pages28
JournalConservation and Management of Archaeological Sites
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • submerged
  • seabed management
  • legislation
  • development
  • marine
  • landscapes


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