Early Neolithic sands at West Voe, Shetland Islands: implications for human settlement
G. K. Gillmore, N. Melton, 2011. "Early Neolithic sands at West Voe, Shetland Islands: implications for human settlement", Human Interactions with the Geosphere: The Geoarchaeological Perspective, L. Wilson
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In 2002 and 2004–2005 archaeological investigations were undertaken on middens exposed by coastal erosion at West Voe in the south of Mainland Shetland, UK. This work established that the site dated from c. 4000 cal BC to c. 3250 cal BC and was of major importance for two reasons: (1) as the first of Mesolithic date to be found on Shetland; (2) as the first site to be found in the Northern Isles that spanned the Mesolithic–Neolithic transition. This paper describes investigations into the origin of sands deposited around 3500 cal BC and their potential effect on human settlement. The sands in question lie between two midden deposits, the lower of which accumulated over the period 4000–3500 cal BC and the upper 3500–3250 cal BC. The sands, therefore, dated to the period shortly after the adoption of agriculture on the archipelago, represented in the lower midden by the appearance of domesticated species and ceramics at around 3700–3600 cal BC, and represented a disruption in human occupation at a critical point in the development of a changing use of the landscape.
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Human impact on our environment is not a new phenomenon. For millennia, humans have been coping with – or provoking – environmental change. We have exploited, extracted, over-used, but also in many cases nurtured, the resources that the geosphere offers. Geoarchaeology studies the traces of human interactions with the geosphere and provides the key to recognizing landscape and environmental change, human impacts and the effects of environmental change on human societies. This collection of papers from around the world includes case studies and broader reviews covering the time period since before modern human beings came into existence up until the present day. To understand ourselves, we need to understand that our world is constantly changing, and that change is dynamic and complex. Geoarchaeology provides an inclusive and long-term view of human–geosphere interactions and serves as a valuable aid to those who try to determine sustainable policies for the future.