The Lyonesse Project: a study of the coastal and marine environment of the Isles of Scilly (OASIS ID cornwall2-58903)
This project was commissioned by English Heritage and carried out between 2009 and 2013 by Historic Environment Projects, Cornwall Council with a team of specialists from Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Exeter and Plymouth Universities, English Heritage's Scientific Dating Team, volunteers and local experts and enthusiasts from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Maritime Archaeological Society and the Islands Maritime Archaeology Group. The aims of the project were to reconstruct the evolution of the physical environment of Scilly during the Holocene (11,700 cal BP to present), investigate the progressive occupation of this changing coastal landscape by early peoples, explore past and present climate change and sea-level rise, develop geophysical techniques for mapping submerged palaeo-landscapes, improve management and promote better understanding of the islands' historic environment and encourage local community engagement with the historic environment. Six main types of work were involved: an audit of recorded and reported coastal and subtidal 'peat' exposures, auger and GPS surveys of the intertidal 'peat' sites; geophysical survey and diver inspection of the sub-tidal 'peats', sampling and palaeoenvironmental analysis of selected intertidal and sub-tidal sites; a programme of radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating; and outreach to inform the public, disseminate results and encourage volunteer participation. A notable aspect of Scilly's historic environment is the presence of stone walls and other remains below high water, the result of low-lying land being submerged by the gradual rise in sea-level. The timing and nature of changing land areas and the separation of the individual islands has, in the past, been the subject of much conjecture and debate. Seventy-eight new radiocarbon dates and 15 new OSL ages were obtained for the Project and the new data provide a much more secure basis than previously existed for reconstructing the evolution of the islands during the Holocene. The Project's pollen data represent almost the entire last 13,500 years of vegetation history on Scilly providing a unique insight into the development of the landscape through the Holocene; set against the backdrop of changing sea levels.