There has been a lot of recent interesting work being carried out on off-shore archaeology. This does not just include traditional nautical archaeology focussing on the study of ships and maritime installations. Work such as Birmingham University’s research into North Sea palaeolandscapes is extremely important. It aims to better understand the early landscape of areas now covered by water. Similar work could undoubtedly be carried out elsewhere on the British continental shelf.
Whilst of undoubted inherent importance, this research also has clear implications for resource management. With the push towards the expansion of renewable energy, there is inevitably going to be a greater push towards wind power, particularly in off-shore locations where more consistent winds are available and there is likely to be less opposition from local interest groups. However, the work at Birmingham serves as a useful reminder that such projects need to remember that seabeds are as much historic landscapes as on-shore locations. As such it is encouraging to see that COWRIE (Collaborative Offshore Wind Research Into The Environment), an independent company set up to raise awareness and understanding of the potential environmental impacts of the UK offshore windfarm programme has just published a guidance note for best practice in survey, appraisal and monitoring of the historic environment during the development of offshore renewable energy projects in the United Kingdom.
However, as always the proof of the pudding will be in the eating- will this guidance be followed or ignored in the push to meet government targets for renewable energy?