2.1 Landscape and maritime archaeology

The significance of the sea to prehistoric sites on the land has a long but sporadic history within archaeological research. Davies argued that the location of megaliths along the shores of the Irish Sea could be linked to navigation markers within the Irish Sea (1946). Bowen (1972) considered the geographical distribution of megaliths in the light of later sea traffic, the voyaging of 'Celtic' saints and pilgrims using skinboats. He concluded that as early as the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic an established pattern of movement and trading, from peninsula to peninsula and coast-to-coast, had been established and that the origin of this movement was the pursuit of migratory fish. In response to Bowen, Clark (1977) suggested that the apparent cultural continuity seen in the occurrence of passage graves along the Atlantic fringes of north-west Europe could best be explained as the result of sea-borne fisher-peoples. The distribution of megaliths throughout this region was thus accounted for through the movements of people following the migratory movements of fish along the Atlantic seaboard. These views were developed when modified diffusion was deemed the social mechanism behind the appearance of similar monuments in various sea-separated places (Renfrew 1973, 20-47). From the 1970s onwards, reaction against the idea of diffusion within British prehistory and a common origin for megaliths, has resulted in the exclusion of movement from the lives of prehistoric people.

In the last 20 years landscape archaeology in Britain has developed in many directions, providing increasingly sophisticated understandings of prehistoric peoples' sense of place. In part, this change of perspective has come about through a growing awareness of indigenous peoples' perceptions of landscape and the realisation that landscapes are deeply ingrained with meaning for the people who inhabit them (Basso 1984; Hirsch and O'Hanlon 1995; Ucko and Layton 1999). A central theme within studies of prehistoric landscapes has been a focus on the settings of monuments and how they emphasise and signify certain aspects of the lived landscape (Cummings and Whittle 2003; Richards 1996; Thomas 1993; Tilley 1994). While this work has certainly energised debate and research within archaeology it has equally received criticism both for its interpretation of the archaeological record and its lack of a coherent fieldwork strategy (Barrett and Ko 2009; Brück 2005; Fleming 1999; 2005).

In contrast to the growing body of work considering the social construction of landscape, little attention has been given to the sea. Some archaeologists have noted the significance of the sea to the settings of monuments, where the sea is interpreted as a symbolic or metaphorical backdrop to life, and death, on the land (Cummings and Whittle 2003; Scarre 2002). Prehistoric coastal and island communities did not simply gaze across the sea, but physically engaged with it, through the daily practices of seafaring and fishing. In this respect the sea was not a neutral backdrop for human action, but was an active medium through which prehistoric communities lived, experienced and ordered their world. A consideration of social practices associated with the sea is thus central to any interpretation of the archaeological record of island and coastal communities in British prehistory.

The research agenda of prehistoric maritime archaeology has traditionally focused on technical aspects of boat construction and seaworthiness, the identification of landing places and the role of both in exploring movement and trade (Johnstone 1988; McGrail 1987; 1988, 1989; Muckelroy 1980; Robinson et al. 1999; Wright 1986). While clear overlaps in research between landscape and maritime archaeology occur, little communication has historically been made between these two sub-disciplines, both having separate research agendas and avenues of publication. The distinction between maritime and terrestrial archaeology creates an imbalance within the discipline, especially as most coastal and island communities in the past would have been based upon aspects of both environments (Crumlin-Pedersen 2010, 14; Westerdahl 2011, 331).

The agenda of maritime archaeology has recently been questioned and critical new approaches that emphasise the social dimensions of the sea developed (Chapman and Gearey 2004; Farr 2006; Crumlin-Petersen 2010; Van de Noort 2004a; 2006). Much of this research has been developed by successfully bringing together maritime and landscape-based approaches in order to develop a critically aware social maritime archaeology. Key to this change has been Westerdahl's influential paper, which called for a refocus of maritime archaeology towards the 'maritime cultural landscape' (1992). Westerdahl's concept of the maritime cultural landscape aimed to include all aspects of the human utilisation of maritime space such as: boats, landing places, settlement, fishing, hunting and all of the attendant features and material culture of maritime communities (1992, 5; 2011, 337). Westerdahl's work had the effect of creating a more unified discipline where maritime and land-based archaeology share common themes and research questions (Flatman 2011, 311).

Recent developments within island archaeology have also highlighted how seascapes may share many similarities to landscapes (Broodbank 2000; Robb 2001). The publication of an edition of World Archaeology dedicated to 'seascapes' marked an important recognition of the importance of the maritime social landscape within land-based archaeology (Cooney 2003) Another significant landmark in the move towards the widening appreciation of maritime issues within mainstream archaeology was the discovery in 1992 of the Dover Boat (Clark 2004c). The multi-disciplinary approach adopted by this project and the emphasis that was placed upon the social significance and context of the boat (Clark 2004d, 3; 2010, 187) has contributed to a widening appreciation of maritime perspectives within mainstream reports and papers (Adams 2007, 219; Strachan 2010). Equally, the discovery and publication of the Dover Boat has brought about a renaissance of research into the entangled histories of prehistoric communities of the English Channel/Manche-Mer du Nord region (Marcigny and Talon 2009; Needham 2009; Lehoërff 2012; Philippe 2009).


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