Accepted Papers:

Seascapes and archaeology: the evidence  


Caroline Wickham-Jones (University of Aberdeen)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper will look at the types of evidence available from which to infer past human inhabitation of a seascape, and at a case study carried out around the waters and islands of north-west Scotland from 1998-2002. Finally, consideration will be given to the varied nature of seascapes.

Paper long abstract:

Human interaction with the sea includes not only present interaction, such as academic study (eg: anthropology and archaeology), but also past activity.

This paper will start with a critical analysis of the evidence available to the archaeologist. This ranges from physical: site location and type; distribution of raw materials; actual boats or harbours, to conceptual: images and graffiti. There is information from related disciplines like geomorphology as coasts, and thus seascapes, have evolved. Finally there is written and oral information: weather reports, merchant records, diaries and stories, accounts of fishing hands.

Secondly a case study carried out around the waters and islands of north-west Scotland will be presented. Scotland's First Settlers, took place across the Inner Sound and included archaeological work on the Island of Skye, the Scottish Mainland and the islands between (Hardy & Wickham-Jones forthcoming). For the people of prehistory the sea could bind as well as separate.

Thirdly, consideration will be given to the way in which the nature of any seascape may be perceived differently. Within any time slice differing perceptions exist and over time these become focussed and pigeon-holed. The archipelago of Orkney provides a good example. Through time the seas here have been regarded as a food resource, place of battle or defence, means of transport, and a leisure site; sometimes all at one time.

Hardy K & Wickham-Jones CR forthcoming Mesolithic and later sites around the Inner Sound, Scotland: the work of the Scotland's First Settlers project 1998-2004. Scottish Archaeological Internet Report.

panel P27
Seascape: anthropological and archaeological approaches to the human habitation of the sea