Learning from Loss: insights from twenty years of public archaeology at the Scottish coast

Tom Dawson and Joanna Hambly

Since 2000 the SCAPE Trust, a small team of archaeologists at the University of St Andrews, has worked with the public in monitoring, documenting and taking practical action at threatened coastal heritage sites across Scotland. This paper will present findings from two recent projects. From 2012 to 2016, the Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project put community volunteering at the heart of a national survey to update records and prioritise action at eroding archaeological sites. In 2018 the Learning from Loss programme brought over 100 people from local communities together with academics and heritage practitioners from the USA and Scotland to explore attitudes to coastal heritage loss and climate change. These projects have taught us an enormous amount about the state of Scotland’s coastal heritage resource, its potential and how it is being affected by natural processes, as well as about public attitudes to heritage loss.

Joanna Hambly is a Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews and project manager at SCAPE, where she is in the happy position of being able to combine archaeology with her passion for involving volunteers and her enjoyment of being on the coast.

Tom Dawson is a Principal Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews and manages SCAPE. He has worked in archaeology around the world and since 2000 has brought this experience to bear in applying fresh approaches to tackling eroding coastal heritage through public engagement and community action.

Over Nine Waves: seascape character assessment in Ireland

Tracy Collins

This paper introduces a Seascape Character Assessment project commissioned by the Marine Institute (Foras na Mara), the State agency responsible for marine research, technology development and innovation in Ireland. The assessment was undertaken by the environmental consultancy Minogue and Associates. Tracy Collins was the archaeologist on a project team that included environmentalists, ecologists, landscape architects, geologists and GIS specialists. The paper outlines the aims of the project and details the cultural heritage aspects, illustrating the variety of the cultural heritage of the Irish coast and islands since earliest times. It will discuss some lessons learned during the project and how cultural heritage might be enhanced and protected into the future.

Tracy Collins is a professional archaeologist and director of heritage consultancy Aegis Archaeology since its establishment in 1997. As an archaeologist working in the contract sector, she has worked on cultural heritage of all periods but has a special research interest in medieval monastic archaeology.

The tides that bind: foreshore archaeology and the community of Mersea Island, Essex

Oliver Hutchinson

Since 2016 the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN) has worked with the residents of Mersea Island to record and monitor archaeological sites and features at risk from coastal erosion. What started with a handful of local folk keen to learn more about their island history has grown into a network of budding foreshore archaeologists from all corners of the community. The team now comprises over 50 island residents, including local oystermen, dog-walkers and the occasional holidaymaker. Since their first foray onto the foreshore, fourteen new sites and over 70 new features have been recorded. Their valuable work has revealed the scope of coastal change on Mersea over the last 40,000 years and has preserved by record many significant sites and features that have since been lost to the sea. This is the story of how this island community’s work to study the past is helping them to understand the challenges they will face in the very near future.

Oliver Hutchinson leads the Mersea Island Discovery Programme, a community foreshore archaeology project based in Essex, England, that began in 2016. It is one of six such programmes within the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN) of England, aiming to train volunteers within coastal communities to record and monitor archaeology threatened by coastal erosion. Oliver is also a presenter on Channel 4’s Britain at Low Tide and an Honorary Research Assistant at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL.


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