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North Sea ArchaeologiesA Maritime Biography, 10,000 BC - AD 1500$
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Robert Van de Noort

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199566204

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199566204.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 13 June 2021

Conclusions: a maritime biography

Conclusions: a maritime biography

10 Conclusions: a maritime biography
North Sea Archaeologies

Robert Van de Noort

Oxford University Press

The purpose of writing this book was to explore aspects of human behaviour that have been, to varying extents, disregarded, overlooked, or ignored in terrestrial-dominated archaeology to date. Recognizing that the sea ‘is good to think’, it was envisaged that an exploration of North Sea archaeologies could launch something of a ‘maritime turn’. This final chapter considers the broad themes of the human past that have been enlightened through this study, and questions if and how these can be reproduced in land-based research. Five interrelated themes are presented here: the essence of nature–society interrelationships, the attribution of forms of agency to inanimate objects, deviant spaces, the essence of travelling long distances—including the skills and knowledge required for this—and finally, how the sea contributes to shaping social identities. The relationship that people had with their environment, or nature–society interrelationships, is fundamental to archaeological research on land and at sea. Explicitly or implicitly, terrestrial archaeology presents us with something of an irreversible progression towards ‘encultured’ landscapes—narratives wherein the land becomes increasingly less natural and more cultural (see chapter 2). In much of Europe, the ‘enculturation’ of the world started back in the Post-glacial. It continued throughout the Mesolithic, with the creation of paths through, and clearances within, otherwise natural landscapes. In the Neolithic, ‘enculturation’ took place through deforestation, and through the apportioning of symbolic significance to natural features and the construction of monuments relating to these. By the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age, large tracts of land were being accommodated to the needs of humans through the creation of field systems and settlements, producing ‘cultural landscapes’. From the middle Bronze Age onwards, according to accepted land-based archaeological thinking, it would appear that nature played at best a minor role, limited to the impact of climate and weather on the crops being cultivated. The study of the North Sea has fundamentally challenged the nature–culture dichotomy. The concept of ‘enculturation’ places Homo sapiens centre stage in a changing world, but underestimates the role played by the sea and rivers, as well as animals, trees, and plants, as important co-constructors of landscape.

Keywords:   Aggersborg, Champagne, Dunkirk, Edinburgh, Franks, Gokstad, Haarlem, Icelandic sagas, Jutland, Lincolnshire

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