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Human observations of late Quaternary coastal change: examples from Australia, Europe and the Pacific Islands

Nunn, Patrick D. and Ward, Ingrid and Stéphan, Pierre and McCallum, Adrian and Gehrels, W.R. and Carey, Genevieve and Clarke, Amy and Cook, Margaret and Geraghty, Paul and Guilfoyle, David and McNeair, Bianca and Miller, Glen and Nakoro, Elia and Reynolds, Doc and Stewart, Lisa (2022) Human observations of late Quaternary coastal change: examples from Australia, Europe and the Pacific Islands. Quaternary International, 638 . pp. 212-224. ISSN 1040-6182

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In the aftermath of the last ice age, when sea level rose along most of the world's coastline, the activities of coastal peoples were impacted by coastal submergence, land loss and sometimes isolation as offshore islands formed. In some parts of the world, there is clear evidence that people encoded their observations of postglacial sea-level rise into oral traditions that were communicated across hundreds of generations to reach us today in an intelligible form. In other contexts, people's observations of rising sea level are likely to have formed the foundations of ‘legends’ about undersea places and the peoples inhabiting them. For a selection of coastal sites in Australia and northwest Europe, this study discusses a range of contrasting situations in which culturally-grounded stories about coastal submergence, land loss and isolation plausibly recollect the nature and effects of postglacial sea-level rise. Using science-based histories of postglacial sea-level change, minimum ages are determined for each group of site-specific stories; in the case of Australia, these range from 7000–11,500 BP, for northwest Europe from 5500 to 9500 BP. For selected sites in the Pacific Islands, where human settlement about 3000 years BP post-dated the end of postglacial sea-level rise, localized submergence is recalled in traditional stories of local people. It is argued that studies of late Quaternary coastal evolution can often be filled out by adding details from stories preserved in local cultures, something which leads to a clearer picture of the human-societal impacts of coastal submergence and land loss than can be obtained from palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and geological evidence alone.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Divisions: School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education (SPACE)
Depositing User: Ms Shalni Sanjana
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2022 23:54
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2022 23:54

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