International Workshop at the Museum of Cultural
History, University of Oslo
November 16th-18th, 2016
This international workshop aimed at exploring modes
and strategies of using coastal landscapes in the Mesolithic, to understand
more thoroughly how Mesolithic hunters and gatherers interacted with, used and
depended on the coastal areas.
Most of Europe’s Stone Age coastal landscapes have
been inundated or buried under beach sediments at the end of the Last Glacial
period. In some parts of Northern Europe, as in the Oslo Fjord area, sites are
preserved on dry land – due to constant land upheaval since the deglaciation.
Within the last two decades, the Museum of Cultural History, University of
Oslo, has excavated many of these former coastal sites, providing a
comprehensive body of data. There can be no doubt that the Mesolithic societies
of the region were strongly related to the present shorelines, with coastal
areas being vital for subsistence and communication across the water. Even
though displaying clear technological and chronological traits, the sites
differ in range of artefacts and in the raw materials used, and show a variety
of distribution patterns. Also, different topographical settings can be
distinguished. This data holds key-information for an understanding of the
Mesolithic economic and social strategies, on movement, connections, land-use
and taphonomic aspects both within the coastal areas and in their relation to
To address these issues the workshop focused on patterns and varieties within the use of coastal landscapes, and on the structure and infrastructure of the coast during the Mesolithic through case studies from different regions of Northern and Western Europe.
The following questions serve to better understand the
long term relation between human populations and the sea/coast: What kind of
activities can be traced at these sites? How did people interact within and towards
a changing coastal landscape? Why was the coast attractive – and can we discern
a change of relevance through time?
Topics that were discussed are:
– The social relevance of coastal sites: Spot, place,
or living area?
– Lithics in coastal landscapes: Mobility and
– The technology of Mesolithic coastal societies
– Coastal sites in the light of paleoenvironmental
– Coastal landscapes – cosmological landscapes?
patterns/patterns of abandonment
The workshop was organized by the research group “Stone Age Coastal Landscapes” at the Museum for Cultural History, University of Oslo (Almut Schülke, Guro Fossum, Lucia Koxvold, Steinar Solheim).
significance of coastal areas in the Mesolithic
Astrup (Moesgård Museum, Denmark) – The role of coastal exploitation in the
Maglemose culture of southern Scandinavia – Marginal or dominant?
Driscoll (School of Archaeology, University College Dublin) – Revisiting old
territories: models of coastal-inland mobility strategies in Mesolithic Ireland
Kriiska/Alar Rosentau (Institute of History and Archaeology, University of
Tartu) – Stone Age marine landscape and coastal society in Estonia
Bērziņš (Institute of Latvian History, University of Latvia) – Transformations
of coast and culture: a view from the Latvian shore of the Baltic
Lübke (Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, Schleswig) – Geoarchaeological
investigations on the early Mid-Holocene cultural development of the
south-western Baltic coastal area
Coastal settlement, mobility and networks
Solheim (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) – Temporal variation
in Mesolithic coastal settlement – a Nordic approach
(School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences, University of
Reading) – Regional gateways, vital hubs – exploring Mesolithic mobility and
settlement using recent discoveries at Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Isle of Islay,
Koxvold (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) – Chasing the perfect
refit. The use and reuse of the Middle Mesolithic coastal area of Bommestad,
Marchand (CNRS, Université du Rennes 1) – Mesolithic Networks of Atlantic
France (7th and 6th millennia BCE)
Nyland (Arkeologisk Museum, University of Stavanger) – Nodal points in a mobile
coastal world? Entangled lithic procurement sites in the Mesolithic
Humans and coastal environments
Breivik (Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, University of Trondheim) – Dynamic
relations between humans and environment in Early Mesolithic Norway
(Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) – Climate change and resource
exploitation during the Middle Mesolithic/Late Mesolithic transition. Crisis,
adaptation or business as usual? A case study from the Oslofjord area
Wieckowska-Lüth/Wiebke Kirleis (Institute for Pre- and Protohistory, Kiel
University) – Palaeo-ecological investigations on human-environment
interactions during the Mesolithic – an example from Lake Skogtjern, Telemark
Coastal areas: Practice and perception
Damm (Department of Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Tromsø)
– Mesolithic pyro-technology: practices and perceptions in coastal Norway
Sørensen (Museum Lolland-Falster, Denmark) – Ritual deposits in coastal areas –
reflections of the Stone Age Cosmology?
Schülke (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) – Newly frequented or
revisited? Diverging concepts of historicity in the changing coastal landscapes
of Mesolithic Southeastern Norway
The resources of the sea
Glykou/Gunilla Eriksson/Kerstin Lidén (Archaeological Research Laboratory,
University of Stockholm) – Seal exploitation in the Baltic Sea during the mid-
and late Holocene
Andreas Bergsvik (University Museum of Bergen) – Mesolithic fishing landscapes
in western Norway
(Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) – Stone Age fishing in
Archaeology of maritime hunter-gatherers: From settlement function to the organization of the coastal zone
Rennes (France), 10th-11th April 2014
Catherine Dupont and Grégor Marchand
Maritime hunter-gatherers have been the subject of particular attention from anthropologists, due to the wide variety of social organization all over the world. The diversity of their technical system, whether to fish, food preservation or storage, also just caught their attention. Archeologists have meanwhile focused their consideration on the so emblematic shell middens. These coastal or estuarine sites often combine dumps, graves, homes and daily activities areas. The recent resumption of their exploration in Europe came to highlight all their informative potential to answer the question of relations between humans and the marine environment. This new dynamic research is also supported by the diversification of disciplines related to archeology, which deliver more attention on these so singular remains. The workshop of Rennes in April 2014 allowed archaeologists from several countries to make an assessment under all latitudes and along all the oceans. It appeared that these sites could not be conceived out of wider economic and social networks. The papers published in this book are also an opportunity to question the place of these so particular human groups during the Prehistory of our species.
The organization of this event also received financial support from a number of public bodies and research projects: UMR 6566 CReAAH, the European “Arch-Manche” project (Interreg IVA 2 Mers, FEDER funds), the project “SeaMeso” from la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme en Bretagne, the CNRS (DR 17), the Rennes Observatory of the Sciences of the Universe (Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers de Rennes, OSUR), the Ministry of Culture (Regional Archaeology Service) and the Brittany region. The University of Rennes 1 kindly let us use the Donzelot amphitheatre. Finally, we wish to thank the Société préhistorique française for accepting to categorize this event as a “French Prehistoric Society session”.
This conference has been published online for free since 2016 on the website of the French Prehistoric Society and can be viewed here.
Jeudi 10 avril 2014 (9h-18h)
Nuno Bicho – Coastal resources and its importance for
early human adaptations in Southern Iberia
Jean-Marc Pétillon – Vivre au
bord du golfe de Gascogne pendant le Tardiglaciaire : un nouveau paradigme
Esteban Álvarez-Fernández, Bárbara Avezuela, Joan Emili Aura, Inmaculada
Barreram, Réné-Pierre Carriol, Katerina Douka, Catherine Dupont, Maria José Fernández,
Sonia Gabriel, Alejandro Gómez Fuentes, Jesús Jordá, María Paz Villalba – Importance des ressources côtières dans le
sud-ouest de l’Europe durant le Pléistocène supérieur et l’Holocène : espèces
collectées et zone de collecte
Véronique Laroulandie – Sur
l’exploitation des oiseaux marins par les chasseurs-collecteurs via le site de
Santa Catalina en Espagne (Pléistocène)
David Cuenca Solana,
Igor Gutiérrez-Zugasti, Manuel R. González-Morales – Shell tool and subsistence strategies during the Upper Paleolithic in
Joan Emili Aura
Tortosa, Jesús F. Jordá Pardo, Esteban Álvarez-Fernández, Manuel Pérez Ripoll; Domingo
C. Salazar-García, Ernestina Badal, Adolfo Maestro, Juan Vicente Morales; Bárbara
Avezuela, Maria J. Rodrigo, Ricard Marlasca, Josep A. Alcover, Maria P. Villalba
Palaeolithic – Mesolithic Seapeople of the
southern Iberian coast
Ana Cristina Araújo – Shells … as usual: understanding patterns of
early Mesolithic organization
Pablo Arias – Transitions
côtières : Les processus de néolithisation dans la vallée du Sado
(Portugal) et la région Cantabrique (Espagne)
Pablo Arias, Miriam Cubas, Miguel Ángel Fano, Eneko Iriarte, Inés L.
López-Dóriga, Christoph Salzmann, Carlos D. Simões, Felix Teichner et Luis C.
L’habitat asturien: une nouvelle
approche pour un problème ancien
Gutiérrez-Zugasti, David Cuenca-Solana, Manuel R. González-Morales – Shell midden formation by Mesolithic
hunter-fisher-gatherers in northern Spain: old and new perspectives
Mariana Diniz – Between the Land and the Sea: debating Final
Mesolithic and Early Neolithic site catchment areas in Southern Portugal
Raphaële Guilbert-Berger, Bernard Gassin, Isabel Figueiral, Viannet
Forest; Lionel Gourichon, Berger Jean François – Premiers résultats concernant le statut du site de Laverune et son
Ingrid Sénépart, Didier Binder, Nicolas Weyder – Économie d’un espace littoral : le cas des chasseurs-cueilleurs
mésolithiques du bassin de Marseille et de ses environs
Grégor Marchand, Catherine Dupont, Nathalie Desse-Berset, Yves Gruet,
Marine Laforge, Jean-Christophe Le Bannier, Camille Netter, Marylise Onfray,
Guirec Querré, Pierre Stéphan – Beg-er-Vil
revisited: new methodological approaches of the maritime hunter-gatherers in
Rick Schulting – Diet and territory at Téviec and Hoëdic,
Cyrille Billard, Vincent Bernard – Les
barrages à poissons au Mésolithique : une économie de prédation ou de
Vendredi 11 avril 2014 (9h-18h)
Søren Henning Andersen
– Danish shell middens – new results on
internal organisation and intersite relations between shell middens in Danish
Erik Brinch Petersen –
Marine Adaptation of the South
Garry Momber, Lauren
Tidbury, Julie Satchell – Flooded
landscapes, human cultural divergence and the North sea basin
Lu Peng, Anne Tresset,
Jia Xiaobing, Jin Yingxi, Yuan Jing – Holocene
sea level rise, biodiversities and late prehistoric economies: a comparative
approach of North-East China and North-West Europe
Hirofumi Kato – From “Okhotsk culture” to
“Ainu culture”: maritime adaptation and human migration
Christine Lefèvre, Dominique Legoupil – Chasseurs-pêcheurs-collecteurs maritime de Patagonie australe :
exploitation de l’espace littoral
Dominique Bonnissent, Nathalie Serrand, Pierrick Fouéré, Christian
Stouvenot, Laurent Bruxelles, Sandrine Grouard – Archéoécologie des sociétés insulaires des Petites Antilles au
Mésoindien : l’enjeu des ressources
Sandrine Grouard, Sophia Perdikaris, Dominique Bonnissent – Peuplements humains de l’Arc antillais : une
chronologie précolombienne de la pêche
Nicolas Valdeyron – Entre
permanences et changements : la collecte de coquilles marines dans la baie de
Luanda (Angola), du début de l’ère à l’actuel. Données archéologiques et
ethnologiques, réflexions méthodologiques
Robert Vernet – L’exploitation
ancienne des ressources du littoral atlantique mauritanien (7500-1000 cal)
Sophie Méry – Le Totémisme est-il
bien mort ? Les Dugong Bones
Mounds du Détroit de Torrès
(sub-actuel, Australie) et d’Akab (Néolithique récent, Détroit d’Ormuz).
Jean-François Berger, Vincent Charpentier, Rémy Crassard, Federico
Borgi, Philippe Béarez – Premiers
chasseurs-collecteurs maritimes en Mer d’Arabie (XIe -IVe BCE)
Antoine Zazzo, Olivia
Munoz, Jean-François Saliège† – Diet and
mobility in a late Neolithic population of coastal Oman inferred from
radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analysis.
Paul Wallin – The Use and Organisation of a
Middle-Neolithic Pitted Ware coastal site on the Island of Gotland in the
Andrei Tabarev – Lords of the Shell
Rings: Boisman Neolithic Culture, Russian Far East
Sergii Telizhenko – Stone assemblage of Copper Age shell midden
of Ardych Burun site on Southern shore of Crimean peninsula
Claire Houmard – L’exploitation
des ressources animales des premiers peuples maritimes de l’Arctique de l’Est
canadien (~2500 B.C.)
Esteban Álvarez-Fernández, Inmaculada Barrera, Réné-Pierre Carriol, Marián
Cueto, María José Fernández, Alejandro Gómez Fuentes – Nouvelles données sur les relations des groupes de chasseurs-cueilleurs
avec la côte durant le Tardiglaciaire dans la Région Cantabrique : la grotte de
The initial phase of the PrehCOAST research group (« Coast-inland dynamics in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies ») involves researchers from Spain (Santander), France (Bordeaux, Brest, La Rochelle, Paris, Rennes, Toulouse), Latvia (Riga) and Norway (Oslo). It integrates archaeologists, palaeo-environmentalists and archeobiologists involved in the exploration of coastal societies of Prehistoric hunter-gatherers (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic). It aims to overcome certain national divisions in the assessment of cultural or environmental processes on a continental scale, but also to help develop archaeology adapted to similar parameters and constraints. This concerns the very nature of these prehistoric societies whose subsistence is based on maritime resources, but also the concepts necessary to renew their study. Working in both marine and continental environments implies the use of geophysical prospecting methods or very particular excavations.
Similar programs have been conducted on submerged prehistoric remains (Submerged Prehistoric Archaeology and Landscapes of the Continental Shelf / SPLASHCOS / 2009-2013). It seems to us opportune to shift the questioning towards the relations between coastline and continent, which structure the modes of existence of these human communities. The inclusion of human beings in the multiple cycles of these environments and their mobility practices are at the heart of these approaches. But it is also important to take an interest in the historical role of coastlines as a privileged means of circulation, whether for exchanges or migrations, in order to write a connected European prehistory.
Workshop – University of Oslo – Museum of Cultural History
October 8th-10th, 2019
Outline of the topic
This workshop will explore the topic of hunter-fisher-gatherer mobility and how it can be studied archaeologically, with special focus on the coastal zone (WP 4 of the IRN). Topics such as the use of landscape or seascape, seasonal movement, linear movement as well as links and connectivity between people and groups will be central to the discussion. An important part of discussing mobility is the question of social organization and possible social hierarchies. Furthermore, movement of people or ideas are central for the transformation of Mesolithic societies in the course of the neolithisation.
Mobility can be studied from a variety of perspectives and can be approached with different archaeological, geographical, chemical and spatial methods. It reaches from empiric studies of the distribution of artefacts and raw materials, via studies of provenience and migration, to considerations of means of transport and bodily experience of movement. Furthermore, it includes perspectives on the character of seascapes and ways of using the sea for transport and communication and of the different coastal zones, including the hinterland, and their accessibility. By studying these aspects, and combining different parameters, more routinized behaviour, as well as pathways and routes might be understood more closely. Thus, the workshop aims at carving out limitations and future possibilities of the discussion of movement, on the basis of the Mesolithic coastal record.
Tuesday, October 8th
9.00-9.45 Coffee and informal welcome
10.00-12.00 Open seminar
10.05-10.30 The PrehCOAST-network and coast-inland relations in Mesolithic Western France (Grégor Marchand, CNRS, University Rennes-1, France)
10.30-10.55 The relevance of PrehCOAST for Southeast Norway (Almut Schülke, KHM, UiO, Norway)
10.55-11.20 PrehCOAST and Northern Spain (Pablo Arias, University of Cantabria, Spain)
11.20-11.45 The Latvian coast of the Baltic Sea and its place in the story of prehistory (Valdis Bērziņš, University of Latvia, Latvia)
11.45-12.00 Questions and discussion
From 13.30 to ca. 17.00 Workshop
«Coastal mobility/coast-inland mobility in hunter-gatherer societies”
– Introduction to the Coastal mobility/coast-inland mobility in hunter-gatherer societies (Almut Schülke)
– Adaptation of the first afro-pastoral societies in the Ponant Islands (Yvan Pailler and Pierre Stéphan)
– Mobility and connectivity in Final Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic, NW-Europe (Inger Marie Berg Hansen)
– Mobility of the last hunter-gatherers of Atlantic France: but where have my tools gone? (Grégor Marchand)
– Pablo Arias: to be announced
– Hinterland discoveries. Middle Mesolithic woodlan utilization and the case of the Eidsberg site, Eastern Norway (Axel J. Mjærum)
– Coast-inland links in Latvia: rivers, amber and ceramics (Valdis Bērziņš)
– Miriam Cubas Morera: to be announced
Wednesday, October 9th
9.00-15.00 Excursion to Mesolithic coastal sites in the Oslofjord area
15.00-c.17.00 organizers’ meeting (at professorboligen) and possibility of studying artefact material (at St. Olavsgate 29)
Thursday, October 10th
9.00-12.15 Continuation Workshop
«Coastal mobility/coast-inland mobility in hunter-gatherer societies”
– Raw materials on the move. Approaching Mesolithic mobility and networks through minimum analytical nodule analysis (Guro Fossum)
– Flint and knapping technology as indicator for coast-inland mobility in hunter-gatherer societies in the Eastern Baltic 6th-3rd millennium BC (Mārcis Kalniņš)
– Technical systems of the Holocene Maritime Hunter-Gatherers from Brittany: preliminary results through the lithic assemblage of Téviec (Jorge Calvo)
– The 82-Kilometer fit (Svein Vatsvåg Nielsen)
– How the shells followed Mesolithic and Neolithic human populations in western France? (Catherine Dupont)
– Quantifying coastal exposure – Applying viewshed and fetch analysis to locational patterns in the Norwegian Mesolithic (Isak Roalkvam)
– Modelling human movement in coastal areas: a visibility and mobility network approach (Elias Lopez-Romero/P. Fabrega Alvarez)
13.30-16.30Plenum discussion on planned projects within/across work packages, articles, planning of future meetings etc.
Participants: Jorge Calvo Gomez, Catherine Dupont, Grégor Marchand, Elias Lopez-Romero, Pablo Arias, Miriam Cubas Morera, Valdis Bērziņš, Mārcis Kalniņš, Inger Marie Berg-Hansen, Guro Fossum, Axel Mjærum, Svein Vatsvåg Nielsen, Isak Roalkvam, Almut Schülke, Steinar Solheim
The importance of coastal areas for prehistoric hunter-gatherers with regard to migration routes, economy on different biotopes, mobility and as social arena is known in all parts of the world. In the last two decades, large amounts of data on Mesolithic and Neolithic coastal sites have been collected all over Europe, closely linked to rescue archaeology on the one hand and an intensified research interest – especially on shell middens – on the other. Two recent international workshops have expressed the need for diverse archaeological communities to meet and to discuss the role of the coast as living space for prehistoric hunter-gatherers:
Rennes 2014: « Archéologie des chasseurs-cueilleurs maritimes. De la fonction des habitats à l’organisation de l’espace littoral / Archaeology of maritime hunter-gatherers From settlement function to the organization of the coastal zone », C. Dupont/G. Marchand [dir.]
Oslo 2016: « The Coastal Landscapes of the Mesolithic », A. Schülke/G. Fossum/L. Koxvold/S. Solheim [dir.])
These meetings have however also illustrated that there are at least two scholarly traditions in Europe that deal with these topics, a Northern/Northeastern tradition and a South-Western tradition. Even though dealing with similar research problems they have investigated these issues within their respective culture historical frame, and thus have operated independently from each other, partly due to language barriers.
The planned research network « Coast-inland dynamics in late hunter-gatherer societies » will unite interdisciplinary archaeological research from different schools and language traditions across Europe to explore the interface between land and sea for late hunter-gatherer societies, and how the cooperation of several archaeological traditions can enrich research on them. The network will work with and cooperate in the study of different coastal regions of Europe (The Atlantic Ocean, the Baltic Sea and the Skagerrak/Oslofjord), without prejudging possible extensions to other shores of Europe, or even other continents.
The network of researchers intends to address a number of themes that draw their origin from similar geographical or palaeo-environmental constraints, however differently preserved. These include the ability of these populations to juggle several natural cycles (tides or seasons) to ensure their subsistence. By transcending national boundaries, schools of interpretation and their epistemological limits, it also intends to propose new perspectives on these objects of research, while sharing methods and means.
In the manner in which the prehistory of Europe has been written for decades, the coastal strip appears either as a convenient pathway for human migration or as a place to experiment with particular social and economic forms.
The circulation of human groups by sea is a hypothesis that remains little explored in Europe, except in Norway, where maritime migrations are clearly the most accepted hypothesis for human expansion in the early Holocene. On a continental scale, it is clearly the assumed modes of continental expansion – often along an East-West axis – that are favoured in archaeologists’ models. Coastal migrations, either by navigation or along the shores, were nevertheless imagined in the 1920s by some specialist of Mesolithic and have found a new life under the pen of some Palaeolithicists working on the movements of the first humans (Erlandson, 2001 ; Bailey, 2004 ; Braje et al., 2017).
On a global scale, the view on the intrinsic characteristics of certain coastal populations has undergone significant developments. The question of their particular status arose in the late 1970s and was widely debated during the 1980s in the sphere of social anthropology with a rapid transfer of questions to prehistory (Price and Brown, 1985). After the general rehabilitation of hunter-gatherers’ livelihoods (Lee and DeVore, 1968; Sahlins, 1974), it became apparent that many societies with a predation economy did not fit into such a picture, especially those on the shores of the North Pacific. Their highly hierarchical social organization, their specialized economy and the permanence of their villages were in sharp contrast to the usual practices of many hunter-gatherers societies in the ethnographic record. Most of them shared a common, massive use of aquatic resources, which allowed them to be categorized as a separate category, the “maritime hunter-gatherers” (Yesner, 1980; Erlandson, 1988). These human communities have set up specialized economies that sometimes produced surpluses, with an extremely elaborate technical system and a particular interest in storage (Testart, 1982 ; Binford, 2001; Sassaman, 2004; Kelly, 2007).
Prehistoric remains from coastal areas thus need to be explored with these questions in mind. Questions also arise as to the possible intensification of practices in response to diverse environmental, political, demographic, societal and symbolic or religious stimuli. Their increase does not need to be linked to a scenario of a progressive move towards neolithization, but must be analysed separately in their respective spatio-temporal and historical context. Such questions are crucial for writing the history of humans on the European continent: while agro-pastoral practices were spreading throughout Europe from the 7th to the 5th millennia before our era, some of these littoral groups developed forms of resistance, from Atlantic Europe to the North Sea and the Baltic, perceptible as long-lasting Mesolithic enclaves.
Coastal areas usually are considered as fundamental living space for hunter-gatherers, while being interpreted as peripheral in the common neolithization models. This dichotomy of centre and periphery, which is closely connected to the topic of coast-inland relations, has to be explored.
Accessibility, maritime and inland mobility, social complexity, storage or economic intensification are some of the topics we must address in order to understand the place of the first coastal populations in a history of Europe that will take into account all the human communities and not only the continental ones.
The coastal areas of Europe have different geological characteristics and emerged in different ways, with prehistoric coastal sites being partly or fully submerged or being preserved on dry ground. Furthermore specific soil conditions in each region have affected the preservation of archaeological materials in different coastal regions. This variety in geology, topography and material influence our ways of understanding hunter-gatherer coastal societies. The use of the coast by prehistoric people has to be understood in relation to the hinterland/inland, as a dynamic social system. This includes aspects of human mobility, which are related to the multiple marine and continental cycles: What are their rhythms and geographical scopes? This also encompasses “linear” mobility, i. e. with regard to collective migrations, notably through navigation, as e.g. the expansion of Early Mesolithic populations to Norway.
The objective of the research network is therefore to have researchers from these different regions and national schools cooperate and not just to compare the results in each geographical area. In particular, it will be imperative to work together on the same case studies, amongst others by building co-directed PhD or post-doctoral projects at the universities of several countries. This will go hand in hand with accomplishing funding through several sources.
The duration of the IRN is scheduled to run from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2023 (5 years). Its constitution took place in the autumn of 2017; the present dossier was written in January 2018 and other consultation meetings began in February 2018, in order – already – to build common actions and benefit from our current collective dynamic.
The cooperation of researchers from various countries, different research traditions and languages requires a mutual understanding of the different perspectives on research, and on methodological and theoretical approaches. We would like to actively take advantage of the diversity of the group, and integrate differences in approach as a constructive element into the cooperation. A first workshop will therefore be dedicated to discuss our respective terminologies, our understanding of the research object and our research traditions, to find a way of communicating together. An aim will be to produce a discussion paper which will not only serve as a basis for the programme, but also as a compilation of the status and history of research in different parts of Europe, and thus will be interesting for an international audience. This reflective approach will also serve to make obvious different modes of how we as archaeologists deal with subject of study.
This WP is an opportunity to share analytical methods which can develop joint field work or laboratory analyses carried out jointly. In areas affected by a significant continental uplift, as in Norway, the former shorelines are now located above the present-day sea-level. Their exploration provides fundamental insights into the rules of human settlement along the shoreline. When the dynamics of marine transgression dominated, the flooding of late Palaeolithic or Mesolithic dwellings involved either geophysical surveys (sonar, sediment penetrator…) or surveys by underwater diving. Prospecting below the present-day sea level is also now practiced in some geographic zones and is extremely useful for establishing a link between earth and sea. Besides the discovery of submerged Mesolithic habitats, these sub-marine observations can also reveal the massive structures involved in predatory activities and fisheries (Langoüet et Daire, 2009 ; Gandois et al., 2017).
In some cases, the ancient coastlines are difficult to locate accurately and it is necessary to reconstruct the coastal paleogeography by working in strong interaction with geomorphologists and palaeo-ecologists on the topics of the relative sea-level rise and the paléoenvironnemental changes (Uehara et al., 2006; Stéphan and Goslin, 2014; Pailler et al., 2014). Thematic seminars will have to be conducted, based on joint field work.
The coastal archaeological sites share a lot of problem as acidity of the soil, salinity effects, taphonomy. It also involves identifying them and sharing knowledge. Other crucial issues, such as the use of marine organic materials for dating, are raised, with the question of the Marine Radiocarbon Reservoir Effect, but also the dating of the dunes, the lagoons or other natural formations on the coast. The studies of shell middens or shell layers, which are particularly emblematic sites of these populations, has been greatly amplified over the last few years on various coastlines of the planet (Erlandson and Fitzpatrick, 2006 ; Gutiérrez-Zugasti et al., 2011 ; Bailey et al., 2013 ; Marchand, 2014 ; Bjerck et al., 2016). They integrate a very wide variety of scientific methods, from geophysical surveys to the data analysis in laboratory after excavation. This analytical bubbling must generate in-depth exchanges between researchers and sharing of experience.
Archaeological sites like settlements, graves, caches etc. in the coastal zone and the connected hinterland will be studied with regard to their use at certain times, the meanings that were ascribed these locations and how they were part of a material, cultural and social networks. To understand a site’s significance in a certain period, the activities that were conducted at the site will be entangled by studying the archaeological remains and taphonomic aspects of site formation. While functional and systemic approaches have ascribed archaeological sites a special function within a contemporary society/population or a social network, studies of activities and tasks that were performed at a place, will understand these sites in their landscapes as being experienced through activities and as being formed and re-formed through time (Conneller, 2006). Such studies will explore the multiple meanings of sites in the coastal strip, as nodal points of networks as well as how the sites were used, re-used and abandoned in social networks. This will cast light on not only the meaning and function of coast-bound sites, but also on social organization, economy and affiliation to land and sea at different times, and thus on the topic of coast-inland dynamics. The question of depositional practices, either intended or unintended, will be central for the understanding of the marking of the land/coast.
The functional status of the different settlements (WP 3) defines only one aspect of the network. The different functional status of habitats leads to the concepts of complementarities and therefore transfers between the sites (human displacement, exchanges …). The measurement of its connectivity, what is being transferred and what drives it is more problematic. Other indicators such as the spatial distribution of raw materials or production sequences give a dimension to the networks, anyway not enough to characterize them with precision. It is necessary to inject a temporality that we suppose to be cyclic following the seasons or the tides. Indicators given by the hunted prey or vegetable intake are of then crucial.
The role of islands and archipelagos, as final destinations or simple stopovers, is also an important matter of research. Maritime mobility (by coastal navigation) or marine mobility (by deep-sea navigation) is still a difficult topic to study in archaeology, as they often rely on tenuous and indirect markers: the poor knowledge of embarkations clearly presents problems, as does the deficient chronological framework, which hampers direct correlations of contemporaneity between insular and continental populations.
The perception of coastal areas in the sense of different landscapes is an important aspect for understanding life along the interface of land of sea. The choices of how and to which degree the resources of the sea were exploited and the physical possibilities of the coastal strip will be studied. This includes topographic features of the different case-study areas along the coastline and in the water (depths, currents etc.), different biotopes, natural cycles like the tides and different seasons, but also social and cosmological aspects of the coast that are expressed in the archaeological material. Central for this approach will be the strengthening of our knowledge on the technological mastery of tasks related to the sea like fishing, hunting sea mammals and the use of sea-going vessels/boats in a historical perspective, and thus the (changing) degree of capability of managing the sea. To investigate the perception of coastal landscapes will also include investigations on how living at and with the coast is perceived in historic times as well as today in different parts of the world, and will thus also contribute to our recent understanding of coastal areas.
By placing the dynamics of interactions between coastal and continental human communities at the centre of this programme, there is a risk of dealing – at least unconsciously – only with closed or fixed situations. However, these populations have been confronted with tremendous transformations, the definition and measurement of which are essential. Geographically, these lifestyles have obviously been disrupted by the more or less rapid changes in the landscapes as a result of changes in sea level. The effects of climatic events, such as that of 9300 or 8200 cal BP, are the subject of numerous studies (Breivik et al., 2017; Marchand and Perrin, 2017), on which they should be based.
Finally, the major disruption of systems is undoubtedly of human origin, with in the first place the more or less rapid changes that accompany neolithization. Several archaeologists in our network have been involved for a very long time in the fundamental question of the relationship between late hunter-gatherers and the farming communities and their role in the transition to the Neolithic. In such a perspective, mastery of chronology is essential. It gives the phenomena their real chronological thickness and characterizes in fine the nature of the changes. By questioning the different historical agents – human and non-human – it is ultimately the stability and resilience of systems (WP 3 and WP 4) that one is led to question a little differently.
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International workshop (IRN PrehCOAST / French Prehistoric Society)
Organizers: Grégor Marchand, Yvan Pailler and Pierre Stéphan
Location: University of Brest / IUEM
WARNING: due to the current epidemic, the round table is postponed from 2 to 4 December 2020
When prehistoric archaeology dips a toe cautiously into the sea, it starts to lose sight of its landmarks. Human occupation at the interface between the maritime and landward domains is a complex research topic that can be hard to grasp, for three reasons. First and foremost, the position of the coastline has fluctuated over time as a result of marine transgressions, erosion, sedimentary inputs or isostatic recovery. Revealing these habitats and other traces of human activity on the foreshore requires a wide range of techniques that is constantly evolving: geophysical surveys, Lidar, coring, etc.
Secondly, the multiplicity of environmental domains that people exploited means that a very wide range of archaeological and archaeozoological evidence is left behind, requiring a wide range of approaches. The study of mammals, fish, birds and shellfish enhances our knowledge and provides a better understanding of how the natural cycles – seasons or tides – were managed (or rather, adapted to) by fishermen and by agro-pastoralist communities. Particular attention needs to be paid to the interdisciplinary nature of the investigation, and to the differing time-frames involved in acquiring different kinds of data. The degree to which this work can be intermeshed will determine the success or failure of these scientific programmes.
Thirdly, prehistoric coastal settlement should not be regarded as a kind of tightrope walk on the edge of an ecotone, but rather as the starting point of economic and social networks that extend far into the land beyond the coast, as well as linking coastal areas: for example, some whalebone paddles or shell ornaments ended up far inland, travelling along such networks. Once again, the study of these artefacts involves the use of state-of-the-art scientific methods.
Finally, we cannot ignore the regulatory aspects that weigh on archaeological and Paleoenvironmental interventions in coastal environments: the diversity of regulations on human or natural heritage and the multiplicity of institutional stakeholders can generate significant bottlenecks in research, even though marine erosion continues in its unrelenting way.
The workshop “Exploring the coast, sounding out the past: methods and practices of maritime prehistory” therefore offers a comprehensive assessment of these new methods of exploring prehistoric habitats in the maritime domain, opening up scientific perspectives. This meeting, which focuses on the methodological and technical aspects of prehistoric coastal land use – a topic that is currently undergoing a transformation in our understanding of it – also aims to address the heritage, ecological and political problems encountered by scientific research when dealing with prehistoric societies on the world’s coasts.
This international round table is supported by the European Research Network (IRN) project “Coastal-inland dynamics in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies” (PrehCOAST), supported by the Institut Ecologie et Environnement of CNRS since January 2019. It also benefits from the scientific dynamics of the ArMeRIE programme (Maritime Archaeology and Interdisciplinary Environmental Research) and the “Brest-Iroise” Workshop Zone (LTSER France).
The language of the event will be English. Proposals for papers (only in English) should be sent to:
The IRN Coast-inland dynamics in hunter-gatherer societies (PrehCOAST) is a network involving researchers from Spain (Santander), France (Bordeaux, Brest, La Rochelle, Paris, Rennes, and Toulouse), Latvia (Riga) and Norway (Oslo). It integrates specialists (archaeologists and environmentalists) who devote all or part of their work to the issues of prehistoric societies (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) in their environment.
At this stage, the network involves 27 people from 8 laboratories in France and 1 laboratory in each of the partner countries (Spain, Latvia, Norway). At this stage, it is more the existence of obvious research links that presided over the association of these researchers.
Laboratory : UMR 6566, Centre de Recherche en Archéologie, Archéosciences, Histoire (CReAAH)
Institutional partners : CNRS, Universités de Rennes 1, Rennes 2, Nantes et Le Mans, Ministère de la Culture, INRAP
– Vincent Bernard, Researcher, Archaeology and Dendrology
The duration of the International Research Network (IRN) PrehCOAST is scheduled to run from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2023 (5 years). Its constitution took place in the autumn of 2017; the formal organization begin in January 2018, in order – already – to build common actions and benefit from our current collective dynamic.
The works of the network (IRN) will combine several types of actions:
Regular organizational meetings to work on project-building, applications and external funding,
Annual meetings/workshops (on topics from the different WPs),
Exchange of researchers for collaboration on diverse case studies (sites/regions/topics),
Publication of results in co-authored articles, exchange of researchers/students in field work, 5/ application to diverse international or national application.
Thematic meetings are the necessary preludes to the submission of research programs at national and international levels, to the definition of common fieldworks, but also to the co-direction of PhD thesis at transnational scales.
Coast-inland dynamics in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies