Home > News > ‘Seapeople – Archaeology of Maritime Hunter-Gatherers’

Arch-Manche Partners Participate in:  Seapeople Conference

Maritime hunters-gatherers have been the subject of much attention from anthropologists, in part because of the high variety of social organization that they exhibit worldwide. The diversity of their technical knowledge, whether related to fishing or to food preservation and storage, provides another focus of attention. Archaeologists have also developed a strong interest in these populations, known by their shell-middens along marine or estuarine seashores. The recent resumption of excavations on some of these sites in Atlantic and Mediterranean Europe has highlighted all their informative potential, that make clearer the question of the connections between the human beings and the marine environment. This renewed research dynamism is also connected to the diversification of archaeology as a discipline, which brings a variety of approaches to these littoral societies. The aim of this conference was to present new methods of shellmidden excavation, and how to make use of both this and from the important but often problematic information obtained during old excavations. The dynamics of formation and transformation of these sites (taphonomy of organic remains, differential preservation, control of the oceanic reservoir effect during radiocarbon dating …) will be more particularly highlighted, next to archaeological problems linked to coastal or estuarine environments. Finally, the development of the methods of underwater prospecting allows the extension of these themes. The shell-midden as a unique archaeological phenomenon clearly presents a complex situation!

Beyond these considerations around sites with shell deposits in the strict sense, there is the question of their relation to broader economic and social networks, in particular the question of the collective mobility which would rely on complementary settlements, either on other locations along the coastline, or in the hinterland. Finally, by changing the scale of observation, the role of these coastal occupations in society must be investigated. We know that a certain form of resistance to the attractions of the agro-pastoral economies took place in Atlantic Europe in the sixth millennium BC. But, new datings and data on the seasonality have allowed continual re-assessment of the duration of these confrontations, even their nature and also their role in the social dynamics observed in the Early and Middle Neolithic.

This workshop was attended by archaeologists, anthropologists and palaeo-environmentalists working on maritime peoples of every continents in order to bring to the foreground the diversity of the methods of study and evolving scenarios.


More information can be found at: http://seapeople2014.univ-rennes1.fr/index.php