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Archaeologists Race Against Sea Change in Orkney

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Science  25 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6059, pp. 1054-1055
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6059.1054

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Archaeologists are trying to understand how erosion affects the Orkney Islands' abundance of coastal archaeological sites. Hundreds of coastal sites from Orkney's 10,000-year human history are endangered by climate change. Archaeologists can't fight the ocean so, like the people whose climate adaptation they study, modern researchers continue to adapt themselves. They take advantage of the fact that destructive storms can reveal and even excavate sites, though they're not the most delicate of diggers. And, by adopting new techniques such as 3D laser scanning, they can record, if not save, sites before they are taken by the sea. For Orkney, whose dense archaeology is covered with shell sand that preserves both stone and bone unusually well, the dangers from storms and sea level rise are especially acute because of its northern latitude.