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9000 years of drifting sand in Norway

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Falkavage
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« on: April 08, 2011, 11:39:56 pm »

9000 years of drifting sand in Norway




Jæren. Photo: Elida, Flickr
9000 years of drifting sand in Norway
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Friday, April 8, 2011  |  Featured, News

The sand along the south-western coastal rim of Norway has drifted for more than 9000 years, triggered by sea-level changes and human activity, new research has found.

Researchers in countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland study sand drift, but most of them focus on dunes along the coastline, not on the plains further inland.

“Sand dunes are dynamic. For all we know, they may have been formed last year. But sand plains are much older and more stable. Thin organic layers present in sand is interesting, when trying to understand sand drift in pre-historic times,” says botanist Lisbeth Prøsch-Danielsen at the University of Stavanger’s Museum of Archaeology.

Together with her colleague, geologist Lotte Selsing, she studies the transportation of sand to the plains behind the dunes on the beaches along the coast of Jæren. Why and when it first occurred, and in which areas it is most prevalent.
Pre-historic sand drift

Aeolian sand consists of particles, usually quartz, which has been transported by the wind.

“As a result of having collided with each other, sand particles have acquired a rounded shape which have been shifted around by the wind over a long period of time. Keeping the sand grains moving requires a certain wind force – around 12-15 metres per second. Such wind forces occur at any time of the year in Jæren since de-glaciation,” Selsing says.

Several archaeological excavations have shown aeolian activities that date as far back as 9000 years and in some places, layers of aeolian sand are quite thick.

“When Stavanger Airport was extended during the 1980s, a large area was surveyed archaeologically. The site was covered by as much as two metres of sand, which had simply levelled out the entire landscape,” says Selsing.
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Falkavage
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2011, 11:41:40 pm »


Bore strand, Jæren. Photo: By var N. Omenås, Flickr
Changing landscapes

The coastal landscape in Jæren was fundamentally altered by sand drift, and the original topography obscured. Finding pre-historic settlements in areas covered by aeolian sand is thus very difficult. But this new research has enabled us to point out the location of cultural monuments more accurately, Prøsch-Danielsen and Selsing explain.

    the common occurrence of sand drift in Jæren may be attributed to sea-level changes, and human activity

Their findings indicate that the common occurrence of sand drift in Jæren may be attributed to sea-level changes, and human activity which have influenced the local environment and climate.

“Between 7500 and 5500 years ago, the coast line was one kilometre farther inland from today. The big, shallow fiords and estuaries were filled with sand, deposited during sea-level changes. This sand, dating back to the Glacial and late Glacial times, is the origin of today’s beaches along Jæren. When the sea-level eventually dropped, large areas of sand were exposed, and the wind could play around with the sediments again,” says Prøsch-Danielsen.

For sand drift to occur, a number of factors have to be present, she adds. Sandy material has to be available, together with a lack of vegetation cover and a good measure of wind to transport the sand.

Near the Salthelleren prehistoric site in Ogna, there are traces of sand drift dating back approximately 7000 years – prior to any agricultural. Human activity tore away the vegetation cover, exposing soil to the wind and thereby reinforcing sand drift.
Vanishing forests

“Although it may be difficult to envisage today, Jæren was thickly forested during the Early Stone Age,” says Lisbeth Prøsch-Danielsen.

But early settlers began cutting down and burning the trees to provide pasture for animal husbandry – resulting in large moors. In a span of 1500 years, the Jæren forests were completely gone and coastal heaths were predominant until the Second World War, when modern agriculture finally gathered ground.

    Although it may be difficult to envisage today, Jæren was

    thickly forested during the Early Stone Age

This man-made transition from forests to coastal heath land changed the local climate significantly, especially along the coast. There were no trees left to protect the soil from the strong winds coming in from the sea, and because of the wind’s cooling effect, temperatures felt lower, Selsing explains.
Agriculture a contributing factor

When agriculture was introduced in Rogaland 6000 years ago, the aeolian activity increased even further. Human settlements enforced environmental degradation by exposing the coastal landscape to erosion and desertification.

As the first farmers ploughed their fields to sow barley and wheat, they tore up the soil and exposed the sand underneath, thereby sparking off sand drift. The scientists have uncovered plough marks in the Iron Age layers  and there are also signs of farmers having been forced to move their pastoral fields as a result of sand destruction.

Environmental degradation

The Stavanger Airport excavation uncovered alternating strata of soil and sand, indicating stable and unstable cycles during early agricultural times in Jæren.

“Among pre-historic farmers, the desire to reap short-term benefits seems to have overruled the need to preserve land for securing a long-term basis of existence,” says Prøsch-Danielsen.

The impact of deforestation on the local climate and environment was severe. It is comparable to the situation we are facing today, the two scientists observe. But unlike pre-historic man-made environmental changes, modern interventions are more far-reaching and difficult to rectify.

Sand drift and profound environmental changes to the Jæren landscape continued during the Middle Ages until today. There are local pockets of desertification, matched by few sites in Norway. One is Kvitsanden near Rørøs, which is the country’s only inland desert – the result of logging to fuel the former copper mining industry, Prøsch-Danielsen explains.
More information

    * Lotte Selsing, the University of Stavanger’s Museum of Archaeology. Tel.: +47 51 83 26 69, e-mail: lotte.selsing@uis.no
    * Lisbeth Prøsch-Danielsen, University of Stavanger’s Museum of Archaeology. Tel.: +47 51 83 26 68, e-mail: lisbeth.prosch-danielsen@uis.no
    * University of Stavanger’s Museum of Archaeology

http://www.pasthorizons.com/index.php/archives/04/2011/9000-years-of-drifting-sand-in-norway
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rockessence
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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2012, 08:36:15 pm »

I realise this is an old post, and I haven't been back in a long while. (Hi everyone!) 

“Between 7500 and 5500 years ago, the coast line was one kilometre farther inland from today. The big, shallow fiords and estuaries were filled with sand, deposited during sea-level changes. This sand, dating back to the Glacial and late Glacial times, is the origin of today’s beaches along Jæren. When the sea-level eventually dropped, large areas of sand were exposed, and the wind could play around with the sediments again,” says Prøsch-Danielsen.

Boreas once mentioned that Scandinavia has been rising steadily since the weight of the glacial ice dispersed to the oceans on all sides.. and still are... which is another reason that coastlines there are seemingly moving downhill.  In "Homer in the Baltic", Felice Vinci points out that the locations in southern Finland around Toija (presumably Troy) are now quite a bit inland from when the scene of the war took place. 
Hence, (quote from Vinci) "It is remarkable that farmers often come across Bronze and Stone Age relics in the fields surrounding Toija. This is proof of human settlements in this territory many thousands of years ago. Further, in the area surrounding Salo (only 20 km from Toija), archaeologists have found splendid specimens of swords and spear points that date back to the Bronze Age and are now on display in the National Museum of Helsinki. These findings come from burial places, which include tumuli made of large mounds of stones that can be found at the top of certain hills, which rise from the plain today, but which, thousands of years ago, when the coastline was not as far back as it is nowadays, faced directly onto the sea."
Could be the rising of Scandinavia? Or...?

Felice Vinci's Homer in the Baltic on this board: http://atlantisonline.smfforfree2.com/index.php/board,132.0.html
« Last Edit: May 13, 2012, 08:42:26 pm by rockessence » Report Spam   Logged

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