3.4.1 Sea-level modelling

Increased awareness and considerable research over the past few decades has resulted in the production of various models to illustrate how relative sea-level has changed in the northern North Sea area and around Scotland throughout the Holocene.  It will be noted from the following maps, however, that there is considerable discrepancy in detail from map to map.  This has arisen because of the inexact nature of modelling as a tool.  Accurate models depend on using accurate data.  While individual models could be refined by the addition of more data, any one model is quickly outdated by new work.  It is also true that data localised to Scotland is necessary in order for any model to be of specific use for Scottish archaeology.  At present, some parts of Scotland are well represented in the data, while other stretches of coast have little, if any, data.  Differential crustal rebound means that extrapolation from one part of Scotland to another will always be inexact.  For these reasons, modelling is at present a weak tool with which to manage archaeological information relating to submerged landscapes around Scotland.  The maps do, nevertheless, give an impression of the extent of coastal change with which the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic population of Scotland had to contend. The following models are neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, they are based on different data.

Suffice it to say, however, that sea-level change during the Lateglacial and early Holocene had profound physical effects on Scotland, which undoubtedly had significant impacts on human inhabitation; sea-level change over this period was sufficiently marked for it to be intimately associated with cultural change (Smith et al. 2011).