One of the questions which interests me is that of how the coastline of the isles has changed during the time since humans settled here following the end of the last ice age.
It is a complex topic and I was delighted to stumble upon a very recent article,New models of North West European Holocene palaeogeography and inundation, in the Journal of Archaeological Science (Volume 40, Issue 11, 11 Nov 2013) which addresses that question for the whole of the British Isles. Each 500 year snapshot is presented as a map and each of these is downloadable for more detailed, local-level study.*
The key points for the Western Isles are:
11,000 – 8,000 BP
“The Outer Hebrides are considerably larger than they are now, with a low lying coastal plain extending out to the West of the Uists.”
The authors note that:
“...there is clear evidence for Mesolithic seafaring, with Ireland being occupied along with the Isle of Man, Rhum, the Hebridean Archipelago...”
8,000 – 6,000 BP
Although the Western Isles are not specifically mentioned, the point is made that when sea levels rise:
“...our understanding of terrestrial space also needs to be carefully considered; with reworking of estuarine areas and the expansion of former wetlands into open areas of sea, all serving to shape modes of transport and connectivity...”
6,000 – 4,000 BP
“The extended coastal plain which surrounded the Outer Hebrides is significantly diminished in size and the islands are approaching their present configuration.”
4000 – 500 BP
At this point we really need to examine the individual maps in greater detail, but when I attempted this I was informed that the data is not yet available so, unfortunately, investigating what this model might tell us regarding the Western Isles will have to wait just a little while longer...