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Uig Landscape Project

Project Team

Publication details for Dr Mike Church

Lawson, I T, Edwards, K J, Church, M J, Newton, A J, Cook, G T, Gathorne-Hardy, F J & Dugmore, A J (2008). Human impact on an island ecosystem: pollen data from Sandoy, Faroe Islands. Journal of Biogeography 35(6): 1130-1152.

Author(s) from Durham


Aim: To investigate the form and dynamics of ecosystems on an isolated island in the North Atlantic before human settlement in the first millennium ad, and the effects of human activities thereafter.

Location: The island of Sandoy, Faroes (6150¢ N, 645¢ W).

Methods: Two sequences of lake sediments and one of peat were studied using
pollen analysis and sedimentological techniques. Age models were constructed on the basis of radiocarbon dating and, in one case, tephrochronology. The data were analysed statistically and compared with existing data from the region.

Results: The pollen data indicate that early Holocene vegetation consisted of fell-field communities probably growing on raw, skeletal soils. These communities gave way to grass- and sedge-dominated communities, which in turn were largely replaced by dwarf shrub-dominated blanket mire communities well before the first arrival of humans. There is evidence for episodic soil erosion, particularly in the uplands. Changes in the records attributable to human impact are minor in comparison with many other situations in the North Atlantic margins, and with certain published sequences from elsewhere in the Faroes. They include: (1) the
appearance of cereal pollen and charcoal, (2) an expansion of ruderal taxa, (3) a decline in certain taxa, notably Juniperus communis and Filipendula ulmaria, and (4) a renewed increase in rates of upland soil erosion. The reliability of
palaeoecological inferences drawn from these sites, and more generally from sites in similar unforested situations, is discussed.

Main conclusions: The subdued amplitude of palynological and sedimentological
responses to settlement at these sites can be explained partly in terms of
their location and partly in terms of the sensitivity of different parts of the ecosystem to human activities. This study is important in establishing that the imposition of people on the pristine environment of Sandoy, while far from
negligible, especially in the immediate vicinity of early farms and at high altitudes, had relatively little ecological impact in many parts of the landscape.

Dr Simon Gilmour, MA(Hons) PhD FSA FSA Scot MIfA

Director of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

Telephone: +44 (0) 131 247 4115

Contact (email at


My research area focuses on the archaeology of the first millennia BC and AD across the Atlantic Seaways.  I have co-directed excavations and landscape surveys in the Western Isles and Argyll, with colleagues in various universities and worked abroad in Syria, Romania and France on excavations.  I am currently an Honorary Fellow of the University of Edinburgh where I have taught various courses in Archaeology.

After completing my PhD I worked at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) as the Aerial Survey Liaison Officer in the National Monuments Record for Scotland (NMRS) from 2001 to 2005.  During this period I was also Secretary of the Scottish Aerial Archaeology Group, and a member of the Aerial Archaeology Research Group (AARG).

From 2001 to 2004 I was elected to the Board of Archaeology Scotland (then the Council for Scottish Archaeology) as Honorary Secretary, and served as elected Vice President from 2004 to 2010.  I am currently the elected Vice Chair of the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) and convener of their Historic Environment Working Group (HEWG) and Historic Environment Bill taskforce.

I am currently Director of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the oldest antiquarian Society in Scotland, and second oldest in the UK, founded in 1780.  Further information on the Society is available through the website  As Director I manage the Society with a small staff team, servicing over 3000 Fellows across the world.

'Uig Landscape Survey Project', Lewis, Western Isles (UK). Co-directed four seasons of landscape survey and excavation of four archaeological sites across the Uig Peninsula, Lewis from 1995 to 1998. Post-excavation nearing completion. Principal funding bodies: Historic Scotland (UK), University of Edinburgh (UK), Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland (UK), Uig Estate and the Gearing family (UK).

'Glashan Dun', Argyll (UK). Co-directed a season of excavation and survey at this Iron Age roundhouse adjacent to the Glashan crannog.  Post-excavation nearing completion.  Principle funding bodies: Historic Scotland (UK), University of Nottingham (UK).

Research Interests

  • Archaeology of Iron Age Atlantic Europe
  • Aerial Survey
  • Management, Protection and Presentation of the Historic Environment


Gilmour, S (2005) 'Complex Atlantic Roundhouses - chronology and complexity', in Turner, VE, Nicholson, RA, Dockrill, SJ, Bond, JM (eds.) Tall Stories? - 2 millennia of brochs Shetland Amenity Trust, Lerwick, 78-96

Cowley, DC and Gilmour, S (2005) 'Some observations on the nature of aerial survey' in Brophy, K and Cowley, DC (eds.) From the air: understanding aerial archaeology, Stroud: Tempus, 50-63

Gilmour, S (2005) Review of 'The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Celts and Romans, Natives and Invaders' by D W Harding, Routledge, in Scottish Archaeological Newsletter 47, Council for Scottish Archaeology, 14

Gilmour, S (2005) Review of 'Facing the Ocean: the Atlantic and its peoples 8000BC-AD1500' by Barry Cunliffe, Oxford University Press, 2001 in Scottish Archaeological Journal 25.2, Edinburgh University Press, 188-9

Cowley, D C and Gilmour, S (2005) 'Discovery from the air: a pit-defined cursus monument in Fife' Scottish Archaeological Journal 25.2 (2003), Edinburgh University Press, 171-8

Fraser, S, Gilmour, S and Dawson, T (2003) 'Shorewatch: Monitoring Scotland's Coastal Archaeology' in Dawson, T (ed.) Conference Proceedings on Coastal Archaeology and Erosion in Scotland Historic ScotlandTechnical Conservation, Research and Education Division, 197-202

Gilmour, S (2002) 'Mid-first millennium BC settlement in the Western Isles?', in Ballin-Smith, B and Banks, I (eds.) In the Shadow of the Brochs a Festschrift to Dr. Euan MacKie, Tempus, 55-66

Gilmour, S and Henderson, J (2003) 'Archaeology at Loch Glashan in Argyll' Scottish Archaeological Newsletter 43,Council for Scottish Archaeology, 10-11

Redhouse, D I, Anderson, M, Cockerell, T, Gilmour, S, Housley, R, Malone, Cand Stoddart, S (2002) 'Power in Context: the Lismore landscape project' Antiquity 76, 945-6

Gilmour, S and Church, M (2002) 'On the edge of the World?: excavations at Uig, west Lewis' Scottish Archaeological Newsletter No38,Council for Scottish Archaeology

Gilmour, S (2002) 'Hot Bananas!' Review of the Rhind lectures by Barry Cunliffe, Scottish Archaeological Newsletter No39, Council for Scottish Archaeology, 3

Gilmour, S (2000) 'First Millennia Settlement Development in the Atlantic West', in Henderson, J (ed.) The Prehistory and Early History of Western Europe British Archaeological Reports, International Series 861, Oxford, 155-170

Gilmour, S (1998) 'Recent Excavations in Lewis' Historic Argyll No.3, LAHS, 14

Gilmour, S and Cook, M (1998) 'Excavations at Dun Vulan: a reinterpretation of the reappraised Iron Age' Antiquity 72, 327-37

Gilmour, S and Henderson, J (1998) 'Excavation of a Cairn at Cleigh, Kilmore in 1996' Historic Argyll No.3, LAHS, 13

Gilmour, S and Henderson, J (1997) 'Cleigh, Kilmore Parish, by Oban' Historic Argyll No.2, LAHS

Burgess, C, Gilmour, S and Henderson, J (1997) 'Recording Archaeological Excavations using GIS' Archaeological Computing Newsletter 46 Autumn 1996, Oxford, 2-9


Harding, D W and Gilmour, S (2000) The Iron Age settlement at Beirgh, Riof, Isle of Lewis: Excavations, 1985-95 - Volume 1: The structures and stratigraphy Calanais Research Series No.1, Edinburgh University Department of Archaeology


Gilmour, S and Henderson, J (200) 'Survey and excavation at Loch Glashan Dun', Final Interim Report for Historic Scotland

Gilmour, S and Henderson, J (2005) 'Survey and excavation at Loch Glashan Dun Preservation Report', Final Preservation Report for Forest Enterprise and Forestry Commission Scotland

Burgess, C, Church, M, and Gilmour, S (1998) Uig Landscape Survey unpublished Interim Report in the Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

Bonsall, C and Gilmour, S (1994) Archaeological Evaluation and Watching Brief at the former Auction Mart site, Lochavullin, Oban: Report to William Low plc. unpublished report lodged in the NMRS

Gilmour, S (2001) Shorewatch: Recording Scotland's Coastal Archaeology, Pilot Phase 3, Final Report unpublished report for the Council for Scottish Archaeology and Historic Scotland


Over 20 reports in Discovery and Excavation in Scotland published by the CSA (Archaeology Scotland)