Date of Award


Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Earth Sciences


Joseph T. Kelley

Second Committee Member

Alice R. Kelley

Third Committee Member

Daniel F. Belknap


Large scale coastal sand invasions in northern Europe identified in prehistoric archaeological sites, and recorded in historic documents from the 9th Century to the late 19th Century. Chronologically, the Little Ice Age (LIA) is associated with the most recent extensive sand mobilization in this area, and the increased storminess during this time is linked to sand mobilization. These sand movements caused widespread property damage, and rendered large tracts of land unsuitable for agriculture. Our study site in Quendale, Shetland, UK was also inundated at this time. Archaeological excavations at Broo, approximately 2 km from the coast on the island of Mainland, have exposed a 17th century farmstead covered by up to a meter of wind-blown sand during the LIA in our study location. The goal of this study was to identify the presence and chronology of the most recent and any earlier large sand invasions at this location in the past. Ground- penetrating radar and direct observation was used to investigate stratigraphic sequences. Optically stimulated luminescence dating was used to establish the chronology of large scale sand movements. Study results indicate that several major aeolian depositional events have occurred at Quendale, UK during the time periods of 4390 ± 230 BP, 3520 ± 270 BP, 980 ± 80 BP, 510-200 BP. These events are broadly synchronous with other identified events in the region. In this work, I present two models of formation for the beach system involving the abundance of offshore sediment.