In order to make a systematic record of the archaeological sites on Scotland’s coast and to gauge the level of threat to them, Historic Scotland has commissioned a series of Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys. The first of these surveys was undertaken in 1996, and new surveys have been completed every year since then.

Teams of archaeologists have worked with geomorphologists to produce three sets of maps for each area under study. These maps are colour-coded in order to display different information.
The information is standardised and follows guidelines set out in the Historic Scotland publication ‘Archaeological Procedure Paper 4 - Coastal Zone Assessment Survey’, which stipulates how such surveys should be undertaken and the format of the reports.

The following 3 types of map are included in the reports:

Hinterland geology and coastal geomorphology
This map shows the geology and geomorphology of the area under investigation. It also highlights areas of low-lying land that may be prone to inundation under extreme tides, and whether any coastal defences have been constructed.

Erosion class
This map shows an estimation of the state of erosion of the area of coast on the day of the survey. Erosion class is divided into: eroding; accreting; stable; or any combination of the above. Coastal dynamics mean that an area that is stable one month/year may be eroding the next - but these maps, combined with the geological information, at least give an indication of those areas that are most at risk.

Built heritage and archaeological sites

All sites located in the survey are noted on this map, whether previously known about or newly discovered. Information is also recorded about the condition of the sites, and recommendations given for further work. Since 2001, all new coastal surveys have been managed by SCAPE on behalf of Historic Scotland. All surveys prior to SCAPE’s involvement were published as paper copies, but digital versions of the SCAPE managed surveys have been produced. The early survey reports are available for consultation at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), and should also be available locally at the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR). Digital versions of the later surveys can be supplied upon request. To make distribution of all of these valuable reports easier, SCAPE has scanned all the early reports and producing digital copies. These are available on the publications page. About one third of the coast of Scotland has now been investigated and the surveys have located hundreds of previously unrecorded sites. In many cases, they have quadrupled the number of sites recorded within an area.
Aodhan, Sutherland

Harris Whaling Station

Features in the intertidal zone at Cardross         Landing place at South Glendale, South Uist