3.4 Summary of gaps in our knowledge and future approaches

As noted above, SCAPE has published the CZAS data on an interactive website. However, some of the data is not available on local or national databases. A first step to addressing this would be to accession the individual site information into the RCAHMS database. This could be a two-stage process; the first stage would verify the data and ensure it is not duplicating existing sites, (which could require some field visits) and the second stage would be the data-inputting.  To help work on stage one, the SCAPE Trust is hoping to launch a major new project that encourages members of the public to revisit sites recorded in the CZAS. Using paper forms or mobile phone apps, the public will be asked to update data, report upon condition and record information to aid the future management of the sites.

The CZAS illustrated that along with the major shoreline infrastructures, there are minor or vernacular remains, such as slipways, harbours and ephemeral portages, which have not been studied in a systematic manner. Often the coastal, intertidal and maritime hinterland sites are treated in isolation, failing to tie them to their associated infrastructure, hinterland features, and trade and communications networks. Conversely, studies of inland towns, for example, need to consider the existence of outports, or other systems of getting goods to the coast for export.

We lack suitable models of past maritime systems in Scotland that approach our sub-discipline from a holistic point of view and this is perhaps understandable, given the breadth of information that would need to be researched. One example of the diversity of a maritime landscape is illustrated in a study of East Fife (Lewis et al. 1999, Martin 2000) which demonstrates the broad range of site types encountered and the different types of skills the researcher needs to understand such a complex and multifarious landscape. One specific area where there is a true gap in our knowledge is the fishing industry, and ports and harbours. This includes both vernacular and modern industrial complexes, castles and their often associated portages, and prehistoric to historic slipways, nousts and landing places. Within these areas lie opportunities to apply cross-disciplinary data, such as engineering models for the quality of harbours and coastal defences or predictive modelling approaches, often used in the natural sciences sector, in order to identify areas and sites for further research and to develop best-practices across disciplines, such as using third party data to investigate submerged prehistoric archaeological landscapes.

An audit of the breadth and depth of archive material that exists for the subjects that fall under the umbrella of ‘coastal, intertidal and maritime hinterland’ would address a serious gap in current knowledge. Few, if any, land-based archaeological projects have incorporated the foreshore within their project design, as for example was done in the upper Shannon basin, Ireland (O'Sullivan et al. 2001). No Scottish project has yet approached the comprehensive coastal survey demonstrated, for example, around Strangford Lough, N. Ireland (McErlean et al. 2002). This gap has been touched upon above, when commenting upon the amount of data available only in grey literature, such as the CZAS. Similarly, data held within the RCAHMS database is not necessarily sorted in such a way to be directly useful for researchers into specific topographical niches and a clearer understanding of the intricacies and unevenesses of the RCAHMS database would be invaluable.

Figure 19: Graffiti from Kilchattan Church, Isle of Luing, Argyll, possibly showing Viking ships or medieval galleys and highlighting another research resource, ©Colin Martin and Paula Martin.

Graffiti from Kilchattan Church, Isle of Luing, Argyll, possibly showing Viking ships or medieval galleys and highlighting another research resource, ©Colin Martin and Paula Martin.

Broadening our research remit, to include folklore, iconographic evidence including boat graffiti, oral testimony and literature is an all-important part of our knowledge network that often brings out avenues previously unexplored. This is particularly so in the case of subsistence fishing and small local sites such as kelp kilns. The mass of early photographic records of shipping fleets, combined with oral traditions, is often overlooked, but provide prime evidence for our research area. Looking at contemporary or past societies from other parts of the world can be both enlightening and cautionary for theoretical approaches and remind us of the need for primary data-gathering exercises. The application of data that has been gathered from other research projects, and in other disciplines, can prove fruitful but is often very time consuming and can be hampered by issues regarding cross-disciplinary data sharing.