Accepted Papers:

Investigating the submerged prehistory of Europe: ethnographic methods  


Jonathan Benjamin (University of Edinburgh)
Catriona Pickard (University of Edinburgh)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper re-examines an existing model for the discovery of submerged prehistoric archaeological sites on an international scale. Analysis and interpretation of physical and cultural characteristics are described and a specific focus is placed ethnography and human interaction with the sea.

Paper long abstract:

Through the investigation of historically documented and modern accounts of human interaction with the sea, this paper aims to expand upon existing models for the discovery, exploration and interpretation of prehistoric archaeological landscapes.

The importance of coastal regions to hunter-gatherer and early agricultural populations in Europe is well established. As a consequence of post-glacial sea-level rise much of the coastal archaeology of Early Holocene Europe is now submerged. The archaeological potential of submerged sites has been amply demonstrated by underwater survey and excavation in Scandinavia. Despite the wealth of evidence recovered from such sites, a concerted effort for the discovery of prehistoric material through underwater methodology has not been widely practiced in other regions of Europe. In part, this is a reflection of the specific hydrological conditions prevailing in the southwest Baltic Sea but also results from the theoretical and practical issues surrounding underwater site discovery and excavation. A number of the submerged prehistoric sites investigated in Scandinavia were discovered through 'predictive modeling'. The potential locations of preserved archaeological remains were presupposed largely from the presence of submerged topographic features (including embayments, straits, inlets, islands, etc). The fundamental principles of predictive modeling can be applied internationally. However, detailed regional consideration of the economic strategies and social practices of historically documented and recent maritime groups may facilitate greater resolution in underwater site discovery. A revised theoretical model for the survey of submerged prehistoric sites, with a specific emphasis on its ethnographic components, is described in this paper.

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