Bronze Age rockart in Bohuslän

The sea, the sea

The University of Exeter is involved in the first major archaeological study focusing on the sea rather than a piece of land.

The research led by Professor Robert Van de Noort traces the earliest seafaring in northwest Europe.

In his new publication ‘North Sea Archaeologies’ Professor Van de Noort focuses on the way people engaged with the North Sea from the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 BC to the close of the Middle Ages, about AD 1500. The sea takes centre stage, unlike previous research where others have viewed the sea from the safety of land, or have dived on wrecks at the bottom of the sea. This is a comprehensive archaeological study of an entire sea, the North Sea.

The book published by Oxford University Press draws on archaeological research from countries including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and France. The research looks at the development of seafaring ships and their use by early seafarers and pirates, and the treatments of boats and ships at the end of their working lives. It also addresses topics which include the first interactions of people with the emerging North Sea, the origin and development of fishing, the creation of coastal landscapes and the importance of islands and archipelagos.

Professor Van de Noort said, ‘The research links the types of boats and ships archaeologists have discovered with the different reasons behind seafaring. This offers previously unexplored opportunities to consider the social dynamics on board these early craft, and helps to explain the beginning, and end, of piracy on the North Sea.’

He added, ‘The North Sea has changed dramatically during the last 10,000 years as the climate warmed following the last Ice Age, and the North Sea has been co-constructer of coastal landscapes. The astonishing manner in which coastal communities adapted to the rise in sea-level may hold some interesting lessons for the future. This is particularly relevant with sea-levels set to rise as a direct consequence of global warming.’

Date: 6 January 2011

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