CITiZAN volunteers recording the remains of trees at Cleethorpes

What can archaeology contribute to climate action?

Katherine Newton
12.11.2021

As the COP26 UN climate change summit comes to a close, we look back at a series of powerful heritage climate stories. These videos - by archaeologists from our CITiZAN project along with partners CHERISH in Wales and Ireland, and SCAPE in Scotland - show how archaeology is informing climate action today and helping communities to adapt and build resilience to climate change and coastal erosion.

Explore their stories here…

Climate action from CITiZAN, SCAPE and CHERISH

Climate change is devastating our coastal ecosystems, eroding our coastlines, destroying connections to our past and flooding our communities. By understanding the past, and sharing its stories now, we can build resilience for the future.

Watch Climate action from CITiZAN, SCAPE and CHERISH.

Can we adapt at the speed of erosion?

The Holderness Coast has been eroding for thousands of years. Since the Roman period at least 20 settlements have been lost along its cliffs. But what can this teach us about how we can adapt to climate change today? 

Watch Can we adapt at the speed of erosion?.

Can we hold back the waves at the Wemyss Caves?

Collapsed sea walls no longer protect the ancient Wemyss Caves in Scotland and their spectacular Pictish carvings. These former sea caves will be underwater again by the end of the century as natural processes, accelerated by climate change, change sea levels. 

Watch Can we hold back the waves at the Wemyss Caves?.

Uncovering the Secrets of Dinas Dinlle

On the coast of North Wales, the prehistoric fort of Dinas Dinlle is slowly collapsing into the sea as the coastline erodes and storms batter the ancient site. Can archaeologist uncover its unique story before it is lost to the sea?

Watch Uncovering the Secrets of Dinas Dinlle.

A community cracks coastal erosion

Working in partnership with the local community on Mersea Island, Essex, CITiZAN has lifted the lid on the origins of rapid destruction of the island’s coastal environment. The community-created data set is furthering our understand of what might happen to our coasts in the coming century and what we can do to shape that future.

Watch A community cracks coastal erosion.

The origins of climate change in an eroding coast

Coastal erosion has exposed evidence of former salt industry at St Monans, Fife in Scotland. Now at risk from climate change, these remains represent the fossil-fuelled industries that are today having such a devastating impact on our climate.

Watch The origins of climate change in an eroding coast.

Developing a toolkit to monitor the effects of climate change on the coast

CHERISH employs a range of methods - from aerial survey and geophysical survey to archaeological excavation and geoarchaeological analysis – to better understanding of fragile archaeological remains and the impact of coastal changes on these remains.

Watch Developing a toolkit to monitor the effects of climate change on the coast.

Fish traps that capture change

In Kent, CITiZAN has mapped 1100+ timber stakes, once an extensive network of fish traps. Those that remain underwater at low tide today provide vital data on changing sea levels since they were constructed and used, as well as changes in the area’s biodiversity.

Watch Fish traps that capture change.

How ancient forests are tracking sea level rise

Submerged forests are time capsules of climatic and environmental information, providing invaluable information on the timings and rates of sea level change over time.

Watch How ancient forests are tracking sea level rise

The tiny Welsh village with a stormy past

Cmw ye Eglwys in Wales was once a bustling port. Subject to storms and significant coastal change over centuries, soil samples are being used to explore the interaction between the climate, the changing environment and the people who have lived and worked here.

Watch The tiny Welsh village with a stormy past.

How is archaeology helping plan a changing coastal?

CITiZAN’s work at Medmerry on the Solent is vital to understanding the area and how its communities - both in the past and today - have worked with the landscape to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Watch How is archaeology helping plan a changing coastal?

Traditional salt making inspired by coastal erosion

At Brora in Scotland, fragile industrial remains are being destroyed and are vulnerable to future storms and sea level rise. The revival of traditional salt-making inspired by archaeological investigations on the site is connecting today’s local community with their illustrious industrial past.

Watch Traditional salt making inspired by coastal erosion.

Using technology to monitor coastal change in Ireland

Ireland’s coast is being transformed by climate change. Using drones, LIDAR, satellite data and other technologies, CHERISH is analysing these changes, creating valuable data, undertaking cutting edge research, and playing a significant role in the fight against climate change.

Watch Using technology to monitor coastal change in Ireland.

Take climate action: from climate stories to global change

Dr Marcy Rockman’s project Every Place has a Climate Story equipped US National Park Service Rangers to talk about climate change with visitors. She sets out why climate stories are not just nice to have, they are essential to building our capacity to speak about the places that matter most to us.

Watch Take climate action: from climate stories to global change.

Although COP26 is drawing to a close, climate change is not abating. Archaeology has an important role play in preparing communities for the future, so why not share your #ClimateHeritage story? Join us in taking climate action, now.

To watch all of the videos visit the CITiZAN YouTube channel.

  • CITiZAN
  • From the experts
  • Science
  • Ecofacts
  • Community project

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