Maritime lives in Iron Age Britain

Posted on January 4, 2016

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Dowload the pdf here.

Iron Age coastal communities in England have been poorly understood since
the beginning of our discipline. This is mainly as result of the lack of evidence
for everyday maritime activities and also the focus of research on explaining
an agro-pastoral way of living. Evidence of fishing, boats, harbour structures
and ports are very rare archaeologically, and thinking about people living by
the sea in this period has been widely overlooked as most of the interest has
been the nature of the connections and trade-networks (mainly by Cunliffe
2008). In contrast, evidence for non maritime activities, such as farming and
cattle rearing is so rich that looking to the coast only happens in special
situations.
Using the Isles of Scilly as a case study, this research challenges the
established views that societies on the coasts of south-west of England were
mainly cattle herders and farmers. Through palaeolandscape reconstruction,
site analysis and material culture study, this research argues that settlement
on the coastline is as important as that found inland. It shows that Iron Age
maritime aspects of culture were deeply embedded within cultural traditions
and that the maritime way of living had little to do with extraordinary or
unusual situations.

Iscles of Scilly circa. 800 BC

Reconstruction of low tide at the Isles of Scilly around 800 BC.

This research shows that preconceived ideas of what a maritime site
should look like, as is the case of harbour structures and important ports,
divert the attention from the subtleties of recognising maritime culture’s
signature. It is through the study of archaeological context and environmental
evidence that these are likely to become more obvious. Therefore, throughout
this document the analysis of maritime landscape, settlement pattern and
material culture generates new perspectives on how to approach the study of
maritime societies in archaeology.

Download my PhD thesis on the reconstruction of the Isles of Scilly Iron Age maritime landscape here.

 

 

 

 

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