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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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Introduction: the sea is ‘good to think’

Introduction: the sea is ‘good to think’

1 Introduction: the sea is ‘good to think’
Title Pages

Robert Van de Noort

Oxford University Press

The locale of nearly all archaeological research is land. Whether one studies landscapes, excavates sites such as monuments, cemeteries or settlements, or analyses material culture, the basis for study and debate comes nearly always from terrestrial contexts. Most land-locked archaeologists simply disregard the seas and the oceans, and where land is bordered by a saltwater landscape, this is all too often eagerly adopted as the convenient boundary of the study areas. Others, studying exotic material culture, are more interested in the terrestrial find spots than the maritime journeys of objects that have travelled long distances. Some archaeologists have studied the exploitation of the sea from the land, but rarely stray beyond the functional utilization of the sea and coast for food. A small number of archaeologists work on ships and waterside structures directly related to shipping activities, but this group of maritime archaeologists, with their own conferences and journals, have had very little impact on the thinking of their land-locked colleagues. The principal reason for choosing a sea over a landmass as the geographical centre for this archaeological study is that it provides an alternative space in which to explore the ways that people related with, and connected to, the world around them. As a part of the world that is physically unmodified and unalterable by humanity (at least until very recently), the sea offers an alluring contrast to the terrestrial landscape, with its imprint of human existence visible everywhere. This inability to change and to control the sea has, and had, profound impacts on how people engage with it. Gilles Deleuze developed this concept furthest, most notably in his study of Desert islands (1953), in which the sea is very much seen as a different space, the ‘realm of the unbound, unconstricted, and free’. The sea has since come to be seen as ‘the Deleuzian Ocean’ (Connery 2006: 497). One could say that this study offers a ‘maritime turn’ in terrestrial-dominated archaeology and, by doing so, sets out to investigate aspects of human behaviour that have been, to varying extents, disregarded, overlooked or ignored.

Keywords:   Appleby, Bergen, Calais, Dogger Bank, Fair Isle, German Bight, Holderness, Jerusalem, Mediterranean

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