Free talk to explore impact of coastal erosion

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Julie Gibson at the eroding Broch of Steiro in Orkney

Some of Scotland's most important archaeological sites are being lost to coastal erosion. This will be the message of a free lunchtime talk given in Glasgow this week as part of the Celtic Connections festival.

Julie Gibson from the University of the Highlands and Islands' archaeology department will explore the issue through case studies from the Orkney Isles, where almost a third of all known sites are either being damaged by, or are under risk from, the sea. Ms Gibson, who is also Orkney's county archaeologist, will conclude her talk by looking at opportunities to safeguard these sites to protect Scotland's cultural heritage and contribute to our economy.

Speaking about the threat, Ms Gibson said: "Scotland has the longest coastline in Europe and, as a maritime nation, much of our heritage relates to the sea.

"Around Orkney, more than a thousand archaeological sites are threatened or are being actively damaged. The 5,000 year old Stone Age village of Skara Brae is dependent upon a sea wall that requires constant maintenance, the medieval site of Langskaill in Westray retreated five metres in one go a few years back and a Pictish site on Lamb Holm went from being a visible building to nothing but a line of rubble.

"Such erosion not only causes us to lose valuable information about our past, but may also damage Scotland's future economy and the livelihoods of people in remote and rural areas. If these sites receive suitable investment, they have the potential to generate finds and media interest which will attract visitors from across the globe."

Ms Gibson's talk, "Rising tides: climate change and the loss of our coastal heritage," will be accompanied by music from University of the Highlands and Islands BA applied music students. The lecture is one of a number of free Celtic Connections events organised by the University, an education partner with the festival. Students and staff will be involved in a variety of lectures and concerts, including a debate on the origin of Scotland's indigenous languages chaired by comedian Susan Morrison.

"Rising tides: climate change and the loss of our coastal heritage" takes place from 12:30pm to 1:30pm on Thursday 31 January in Studio 1 of the Glasgow City Halls. The event is free, but ticketed. To book a place or find out more, visit

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