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Geoscientist Online

Geology and Archaeology - Submerged Landscapes of the Continental Shelf

sfyjChanges in sea-level have been a major control on global human populations since the appearance of our species. Marine regression and transgression from significant climatic change and corresponding glacio-isostatic rearrangements alter the geography of the continental shelf, modifying the viability of environments suitable to human activity, development or migration, distorting interpretation of any potential archaeological record. A topical multidisciplinary field of research, this Special Publication synthesises the current insights within this relatively recent area of underwater geoscientific investigation.

With an overview introducing the subject context, the volume contains three regionally-based thematic sections of 13 papers from research presented at the 34th International Geological Congress, Brisbane, Australia in August 2012. Selected case studies from geographic regions with differing combinations of sea-level histories and crustal movements, cover the present geoscientific understanding and technological challenges in submerged landscape reconstruction and assessing archaeological site potential. Regions influenced by cycles of glacio-isostatic submergence / rebound and associated interactions between sea-level change and glacial history are included from the northern European Fennoscandian Shield and Baltic. Tectonically active areas with complex inter-plate kinematics producing highly variable patterns of uplift, subsidence and topography, are represented by case studies from the Mediterranean. Continental shelves with relatively stable cratons (with minimal tectonic or isostatic influences) are documented by case studies from Australia and South Africa.

Similar research themes within each regional category are inevitable, but particular emphasis is placed upon topics that intersect these geographic ‘boundaries’. Advances in the discovery, interpretation and reconstruction of submerged palaeolandscapes and developments in predictive modelling, coupled with the integration of geological, palaeoenvironmental and archaeological evidence, have provided significant insights into the patterns of human activity and population dispersal at several key locations.

All sections are well written and edited, concisely laid-out with clear and appropriate figures, photographs and data-tables. Many are presented in colour and enhance the understanding of the textual details. The volume is a comprehensive contribution to the field, and the editors are to be congratulated. The primary readership is anticipated to be practising geoscientific professionals and graduate students within this ‘emerging’ research discipline. A recommended read and reference work.

Reviewed by Mark Griffin

GEOLOGY AND ARCHAEOLOGY – SUBMERGED LANDSCAPES OF THE CONTINENTAL SHELF by J Harff, G Bailey and F Lüth (editors). Geological Society of London Special Publication No 411. 2016. Geological Society of London. ISBN 978-1-86239-691-3. Hbk. 294pp. ISSN 0305-8719. List Price: £110.00, www.geolsoc.org.uk.