Tag Archives: Mesolithic

GEOarchaeology and PRehistory of Atlantic Societies(GEOPRAS)

Programme supported by ANR (n°CE27-024)

The GEOPRAS consortium comprises seven partners that have been involved for several years in coastal archaeology (UMR 6566 CReAAH, UMR 6554 LETG, UMR 5607 AUSONIUS, UMR 6553 ECOBIO, UMR 6539 LEMAR, UMR 7266 LIENSs, INRAP). It was born directly from the dynamics established in the framework of the IRN PrehCOAST, applying the reflections to Atlantic France.

Our programme studies the coastal societies of recent Prehistory (Mesolithic and Neolithic) on the French Atlantic shores in order to understand their social and economic organization and the role they play in broader historical dynamics such as neolithization. Characteristics such as the accumulation of goods through storage, specialised modes of production, and the emergence of a social hierarchy or a sedentary lifestyle are often attributed to these coastal populations, on the basis of ethnographic documents from the last two centuries. However, each of these social manifestations must be described according to regional environmental variables, without evolutionary preconceptions. Our research hypothesis is that environmental dynamics have greatly facilitated certain forms of historical evolution. This encourages us to determine with greater precision the nature of these environmental transformations, then to analyse human networks at the continent-ocean interface.

Corpus of archaeological sites integrated into the GEOPRAS programme

The first task will be to restore the environmental benchmarks. During the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, most coastal landscapes were radically transformed by the sea-level rise and the associated processes of erosion and sedimentation. The coastal environments of the past will be reproduced through a three-level approach combining a large scale (region) with an intermediate scale (nearby landscape) and a local scale (archaeological site). Our consortium proposes a combination of methods suited to different geographical conditions (dunes, rocky coasts, marshlands) around the Bay of Biscay, testing the limits of several of them. To gain the best possible understanding of an “archaeological signal”, the GEOPRAS project will focus on developing rapid intervention and rescue methods for archaeology and geoarchaeology. We intend to apply these methods to sites currently being excavated or whose exploration is planned as part of the project, such as foreshore and marshland sites and shell middens. Optimal integrated methods and procedures will be developed for the recording of archaeological remains, which are often ephemeral on foreshores, as well as for sampling, particularly in shell middens. These procedures include geophysical surveys, archaeozoology, micromorphology, geochemistry, taphonomy, metagenomic approaches, and OSL datings.

Mesolithic Shell Midden of Beg-er-Vil (Quiberon, Morbihan, France)

The second task is to study how human societies have managed the land-sea interface. Shell middens have become the emblematic nodes of these coastal Holocene settlements because they contain an abundance of bio-archaeological data. They will be analysed to judge biodiversity as well as food practices.

Sampling and coring in Hoedic (Mesolithic Shell Midden, 2021).

The third task is to understand the specific features of technical systems in a maritime context, especially seafaring. This technical field is at the heart of all the questions raised about the relationships between coastal areas, as well as the decisive features of the various technical systems developed in these areas. To overcome the lack of knowledge of prehistoric watercraft, we suggest an approach, based on three disciplinary poles in permanent interaction: 1) ethnographic and historical references, 2) technological and use-wear analyses of lithic and bone tools, 3) experimentation.

In addition to proposing methodological developments, we aim to lay down the conceptual, methodological and technical foundations of a maritime prehistory with procedures adapted to coastal heritage. The results will be included in a handbook of maritime prehistory, to be published in French and English. The involvement of amateur archaeologists, observers, tourists and other citizens in scientific tasks will be anticipated and coordinated by inviting them to take part in the main scientific meetings and, of course, in field operations such as surveys, excavations and experiments.

About micromorphology….

The mission objective was to bring together the researchers working on aspects of site formation processes of coastal Mesolithic sites in Brittany, including existing samples from Hoedic (Morbihan), collected in the excavation seasons of 2019 at the archaeological site of Port-Neuf.

Hoedic 2021: micromorphological sampling in a Mesolithic layer by P. Arias (photo: G. Marchand).

For that, Dr. Carlos Simões stayed at the IUEM Brest, from Monday 21st to Friday 25th of November 2022, hosted by Dr. Marylise Onfray. Both micromorphology specialists, during the first two days, they carried out microscopic analysis of the existing micromorphological thin sections from Hoedic, producing the first descriptions as a basis for future analysis to conduct in coordination with the further members of the team working at the site.

In a one-day meeting, on the Wednesday 23rd, member of the GEOPRAS/PreCOAST specialists met at the IUEM to bring together data from several aspects of coastal geoarchaeological, geomorphological and geophysiscal research in Brittany, included that of Hoedic.

Shell Midden of Beg-an-Dorchenn: contemplation…

On Thursday 24th, a field trip was organised to the site of Beg-an-Dorchenn, in Pointe de la Torche (Finistère), where the remains of a Mesolithic shell midden is preserved, and aspects of coastal geomorphological dynamics and evolution could be observed.

On Friday 25th, a seminar was organized at the IUEM, with an introduction by Dr. Onfray, followed by a presentation of Dr. Simões titled “What is a shell midden? Microstratigraphic insights from Mesolithic sites in Iberia”, which closed the mission activities.

Technologies and the Coast

Riga, Latvia, 6-9 june 2023

Institute of Latvian History, University of Latvia, Riga

The next IRN PrehCOAST scientific meeting will be held in Riga (Latvia) from 6 to 9 June 2023. The theme of the meeting will be prehistoric techniques in coastal and marine areas. It is organised by Valdis Bērziņš, Inger Marie Berg-Hansen and Miriam Cubas

.More information to come on this blog….

Oslo, 2016

The Coastal Landscapes of the Mesolithic

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 the inland.

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 taskscapes

– The technology of Mesolithic coastal societies

– Coastal sites in the light of paleoenvironmental data

– Coastal landscapes – cosmological landscapes?

 – Taphonomic 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).

For the publication of the contributions see

See: https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9780203730942

CONTRIBUTIONS

The significance of coastal areas in the Mesolithic

Peter Moe Astrup (Moesgård Museum, Denmark) – The role of coastal exploitation in the Maglemose culture of southern Scandinavia – Marginal or dominant?

Killian Driscoll (School of Archaeology, University College Dublin) – Revisiting old territories: models of coastal-inland mobility strategies in Mesolithic Ireland

Aivar Kriiska/Alar Rosentau (Institute of History and Archaeology, University of Tartu) – Stone Age marine landscape and coastal society in Estonia

Valdis Bērziņš (Institute of Latvian History, University of Latvia) – Transformations of coast and culture: a view from the Latvian shore of the Baltic

Harald 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

Steinar Solheim (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) – Temporal variation in Mesolithic coastal settlement – a Nordic approach

Karen Wicks (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, western Scotland

Lucia Koxvold (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) – Chasing the perfect refit. The use and reuse of the Middle Mesolithic coastal area of Bommestad, Southeastern Norway

Grégor Marchand (CNRS, Université du Rennes 1) – Mesolithic Networks of Atlantic France (7th and 6th millennia BCE)

Astrid Nyland (Arkeologisk Museum, University of Stavanger) – Nodal points in a mobile coastal world? Entangled lithic procurement sites in the Mesolithic

Humans and coastal environments

Heidi M. Breivik (Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, University of Trondheim) – Dynamic relations between humans and environment in Early Mesolithic Norway

Guro Fossum (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

Magda 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

Charlotte Damm (Department of Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Tromsø) – Mesolithic pyro-technology: practices and perceptions in coastal Norway

Søren A. Sørensen (Museum Lolland-Falster, Denmark) – Ritual deposits in coastal areas – reflections of the Stone Age Cosmology?

Almut 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

Aikaterini Glykou/Gunilla Eriksson/Kerstin Lidén (Archaeological Research Laboratory, University of Stockholm) – Seal exploitation in the Baltic Sea during the mid- and late Holocene

Knut Andreas Bergsvik (University Museum of Bergen) – Mesolithic fishing landscapes in western Norway

Axel Mjærum (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo) – Stone Age fishing in Southeastern Norway

Rennes, 2014

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

General topics

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.

Supports

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.

CONTRIBUTIONS

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 Northern Spain

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 Currás

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. Teira

L’habitat asturien: une nouvelle approche pour un problème ancien

Igor 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 organisation spatiale

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 Atlantic France

Rick Schulting – Diet and territory at Téviec and Hoëdic, southern Brittany

Cyrille Billard, Vincent Bernard – Les barrages à poissons au Mésolithique : une économie de prédation ou de production ?

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 fiords?

Erik Brinch Petersen – Marine Adaptation of the South Scandinavian Population

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 Baltic Sea

Alexander Popov, 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

Posters

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 El Cierro

Scientific project

1. Background: Towards a better integration of research on prehistoric coastal societies in Europe

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.

2. Scope

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.

2.1. A connected history of Europe

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.

2.2. Coast-Inland dynamics

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.

 Skerry coast in the Oslo fjord (Photograph: Almut Schülke)
Skerry coast in the Oslo fjord (Photograph: Almut Schülke)

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.

2.3. Amplification of concepts and means networking

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.

3. Aim

3.1. Duration

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.

3.2. Operating mode

  • 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
  • Student and young researcher formation
  • Co-supervision of PhD-students
  • ERC-applications (2020)
  • National Founding (ANR type) – application from 2019 onwards…
  • Dissemination of results of the cooperation on international conferences (e.g. EAA, SAA, UISPP) and co-authored articles
  • Final international conference

3.3. Research object / areas

– Norway: The Oslo Fjord region

– France : Atlantic shores and islands (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Brittany, Normandy)

– Spain : Cantabria and Asturias

– Latvia : Kurzeme Peninsula and Gulf of Riga coast

Excavation in the mesolithic site of Beg-er-Vil, Brittany, France (@Gregor Marchand)

4. Work packages

The research group will study and integrate six main topics, which are described as work packages below. They will be discussed in the annual workshops.

WP 1- The Coast and Coastal Societies – Concepts and terminology

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.

WP 2 – Methods to study the coast as an interface between the inland and the sea

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.

Core drilling on a Mesolithic site in Brittany, carried out by Eneko Iriarte and Pablo Arias (photograph : Gregor Marchand)

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.

WP3 – The site as the nodal point of a network

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.

Middle Mesolithic coastal site Trolldalen, Akershus, today placed elevated in the woods (Photograph: Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo).

WP4 – Connection / links / mobility

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.

WP5 – Perception of the coastal areas

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.

WP6 – Actions and reactions: neolithization

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.

5. References

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Bailey, G. N., Hardy, K., Camara A. (ed.) (2013). Shell Energy: Mollusc Shells as Coastal Resources, Oxbow Books, 320 p.

Binford, L. R. (2001). Constructing frames of reference. An analytical method for archaeological theory building using ethnographic and environmental data sets. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Braje, T. J., Dillehay, T. D., Erlandson, J. M., Klein, R. G., Rick, T. C. (2017). Finding the first Americans, Science, Vol. 358, Issue 6363, p. 592-594 – DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5473

Bjerck, H. B., Breivik, H. M., Fretheim, S. E., Piana, E. L., Tivoli, A. M., Zangrando, A. F. J., Skar, B. (2016). Marine Ventures. Archaeological Perspectives on Human-Sea Relations. Sheffield, Bristol : Equinox Publishing Ltd, 428 p.

Conneller, C. (2006). The Space and Time of the chaîne opératoire: Technological Approaches to Past Landscapes. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 21, 2006, p. 38-49.

Breivik, H. M., Fossum, G., Solheim, S. (2017). Exploring human responses to climatic fluctuations and environmental diversity: Two stories from Mesolithic Norway. Quaternary International, March 2017, p. 1-18. DOI10.1016/j.quaint.2016.12.019

Erlandson, J. M. (1988). The Role of Shellfish in Prehistoric Economies: A Protein Perspective. American Antiquity, 53 (1), 102-109.

Erlandson, J.M., Fitzpatrick, S.M. (2006). Oceans, islands, and coasts: current perspectives on the role of the sea in human prehistory. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 1: 5–32.

Gandois H., Stéphan P., Cuisnier D., Hulot O., Ehrhold A., Paul M., Le Dantec N., Franzetti M. The stone fish traps of the Molène archipelago (Iroise Sea, Brittany, Western France): a long-term tradition starting with very early megalithic constructions. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12277

Gutierrez-Zugasti, F.I., Andersen, S.H., Araujo, A.C., Dupont, C., Milner, N., Monge-Soares, A.M. (2011). Shell midden research in Atlantic Europe: state of art, research problems and perspectives for the future. Quaternary International, 239, p. 70-85.

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Marchand, G. (2014). Préhistoire atlantique. Fonctionnement et évolution des sociétés du Paléolithique au Néolithique. Arles, France, Éditions Errance.

Marchand, G., Perrin, T. (2017). Why this revolution? Explaining the major technical shift in Southwestern Europe during the 7th millennium cal. BC, Quaternary International, Volume 428, Part B, 15 January 2017, p. 73–85, DOI information: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.07.059

Pailler Y., Stéphan P., Gandois H., Nicolas C., Sparfel Y., Tresset A., Donnart K., Dréano Y., Fichaut B., Suanez S., Dupont C., Audouard L., Marcoux N., Mougne C., Salanova L., Sellami F., Dietsch-Sellami M.-F. (2014). Landscape evolution and human settlement in the Iroise Sea (Finistère, Brittany, France) during the Neolithic and Bronze Age, Proceedings of Prehistoric Society, 80, 105-139. DOI: 10.1017/ppr.2014.9.

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Exploring the coast, sounding out the past: the methods and practices of maritime prehistory

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

Rescue excavation of a Neolithic structure on the foreshore of Soulac-sur-Mer, Gironde, France (@Florence Verdin)

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:

gregor.marchand at univ-rennes1.fr

pierre.stephan at univ-brest.fr

yvan.pailler at inrap.fr

More information on Société Préhistorique Française Website (in french)