Applying luminescence methods to geoarchaeology: A case study from Stronsay, Orkney

Tim C. Kinnaird*, David C W Sanderson, Naomi L. Woodward

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Luminescence methods were used to date a palaeoenvironmental coastal exposure on Stronsay, Orkney. The section consists of glacial sediments that are overlain by intercalated peats and windblown sands, implying varying past environmental conditions. Rapid luminescence characterisation was undertaken using screening methods in combination with quantitative dating of selected samples, providing information on depositional processes and chronology. A temporal discontinuity between the glacial sediments and later peats encompasses the period associated with an important Mesolithic site located inland, and implies erosional episodes. The onset of blanket bog formation on Stronsay dates to 3760±330 yrs BP, consistent with observations elsewhere in Orkney and northern Scotland. Periods of enhanced aeolian activity on Stronsay occurred in the late Bronze Age (2700±265 yrs BP) and at the beginning of the Little Ice Age (650±75 yrs BP). Recent periods of sand deposition in the 19th and 20th centuries (AD 1865±20 and 1960±5) correspond to periods of known historic storminess. These results add to an expanding catalogue of data on sand movements throughout the Holocene in Orkney, and set a framework to interpret the evolution of nearby archaeological and natural landscapes from prehistoric to modern times.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)191-199
    Number of pages9
    JournalEarth and Environmental Science Transactions Of The Royal Society Of Edinburgh
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


    • Coastal environmental change
    • Holocene
    • optically-stimulated luminescence


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