The Geoarchaeology of Beach Ridges and Cheniers: Studies of Coastal Evolution Using Archaeological Data


  • Owen K. Mason


Storm history, paleoclimatology, isostatic uplift, sea level, Holocene


Nineteenth century naturalists discovered that Roman ports and Eskimo villages were often stranded inland, a discovery that led to the independent development of "beach ridge archaeology" in the United Kingdom and Alaska. The first principle of beach ridge archaeology requires that human subsistence favored the open ocean and that occupation sites parallel changes in the shoreline. Thus, the use of archaeological data to infer coastal evolution requires consideration of the taphonomic processes that create accumulations of cultural debris. Otherwise, geologists run the risk of misinterpreting radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites that do not mirror the prograding shoreface, as along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the U.S.A. If properly applied the beach ridge method has applications world-wide, as discussed for Southeast Asia, Australia, the Netherlands, both coasts of the U.S.A., Canada, Norway, Mexico, and Peru.