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Climate change erodes Scottish history

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on October 10, 2019 - Duration: 01:40s

Climate change erodes Scottish history

Ancient British structures older than the pyramids are being threatened by climate change, experts have warned, as rising sea levels, heavier rainfall and severe weather events endanger Scotland's archaeological treasures.

Megan Revell reports.

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Climate change erodes Scottish history

In one of the most remote corners of Britain, climate change is eroding some of our oldest and best preserved relics of history.

The Orkney Islands sit off the north coast of the Scottish mainland.

There, thousands of ancient structures, some older than the pyramids, are quietly disappearing.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT SCOTLAND CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENTIST, DAVID HARKIN, SAYING: "So sea level rise, changing rainfall patterns, increasing temperature.

All these things in isolation and in combination can have a detrimental impact on the state of preservation..." David Harkin is a climate scientist at Historic Environment Scotland, which has tracked a rise in Scotland's rain, sleet and snow - of 27 percent since the early 1960s.

Wetter weather prompts decay and structural collapse, which, alongside beach erosion, is threatening Orkney's most famous site - Skara Brae.

When inhabited, it was over half a mile from the sea.

Now, it sits only a few meters from the North Atlantic.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT SCOTLAND CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENTIST, DAVID HARKIN, SAYING: "There's really nowhere else like it that's preserved quite like this.

So it really gives you a sense of how people lived 5,000 years ago." Skara Brae is one of more than 3,000 historical sites on Orkney, some of which date back to the Iron Age.

Of them all, around a third are on the coastline.

Julie Gibson is a lecturer at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and warns about the battering effect of the waves.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF THE HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS LECTURER, JULIE GIBSON, SAYING: "On this stretch of the coastline, all the settlement archaeology is within 100 meters of the coast edge.

And so as the sea takes this heritage of ours away, it's taking all that we have." Thousands of years of human history, lost to the wind, rain and sea.

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