Dec 08
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Full Fathom Five: Shipwrecks, Drowned Landscapes, and the Search for Our Maritime Past

A lecture by Duncan Howitt-Marshall

When: Monday, November 23, 14:00-15:00

Where: 6th Level Auditorium

 


The maritime world is one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring spheres of human agency on the planet. Throughout history, the seas and oceans have played a key role in the emergence of complex societies, especially in the Mediterranean and Near East, where the sea functioned as a vital medium of communication between settlements on adjacent shores. As seafaring technology evolved from small reed-built and dug-out canoes in the Stone Age, to large, sail-driven ships in the Bronze Age, maritime networks facilitated the circulation of people, ideas, and raw materials, and the diffusion of technological innovation and modes of subsistence. In sum, sea travel became a principal driving force for social change across increasing spheres of activity. The search for our maritime past, therefore, including the investigation of shipwrecks and drowned landscapes, is crucial to our broader understanding of ancient Mediterranean history and culture.

Underwater archaeology, one of the youngest sub-branches of historical enquiry, has been at the forefront of this search since the beginning of the 20th century. Over the last fifty years or so, it has steadily evolved into an exacting, multidisciplinary field of research, drawing together an array of scientific methodologies to explore archaeological sites on the seabed. In the eastern Mediterranean, underwater archaeology has been responsible for numerous high-profile discoveries, including drowned prehistoric settlement sites and landscapes, anchorages and harbours, and the sunken remains of merchant ships laden with raw materials, ceramics, precious metals, and exotica.

This lecture provides an introduction to maritime and underwater archaeology in the eastern Mediterranean through a focus primarily on seafaring and coastal adaptations from early prehistory to the end of the second millennium BC. It considers the development of applied methodology and issues related to ethics and heritage management, and examines the connections between sea travel, technology and social change. A number of case studies are considered, including the famous Cape Gelidonya and Uluburun shipwrecks off the southwest coast of Turkey, and the submerged settlements at Atlit Yam in northern Israel and Pavlopetri in southern Greece. The lecture concludes with a brief summary of ongoing work on the earliest prehistory of Cyprus and the search for submerged prehistoric landscapes.