Time and the Maritime: The Temporality of Coastal Zones

Posted on March 25, 2020


This part of my series of posts on conference presentations, that I have filmed. This is another one from the TAG conference:

Session Info

Coastal regions are dynamic spaces and people’s interactions with these areas have played a large role in shaping societies, cultures, and technologies (Cordell 1989; Fitzpatrick et al 2015; Rainbird 2007), as well as how we frame our research. We have now moved beyond subsistence-based interpretations to account for why people inhabited coastal locations in the past, and the desire to inhabit these marginal areas can in part be viewed from the standpoint of social determinism. Maritime ways of life may seem like an obvious option, but they are not an inevitable choice (Vavouranakis 2011), and we should attempt to assess the wide range of economic, religious, and social factors that inspired these choices. People’s relationships with coastal areas can be complicated and fluid, despite the seemingly obvious benefits of coastal living. What influenced people to pursue a maritime way of life in the first place, and how were these spaces used, perceived, and renegotiated over time and space? To what extent did coastal environments impact and shape social spaces and relationships between people? This session will seek to invite papers dealing with these issues from a temporal perspective. The session will explore the temporality of coastal zones through theoretical debate particularly focusing upon identity, the body, cognition, innovation, culture change and movement within a maritime context.

Organisers: Christopher Nuttall (University of Uppsala) and Henriette Rodland (University of Uppsala)

We Do Not Sow: Hunter-gatherer coastal communities on the eve of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition


The liminal zone between coast and land was very important for Mesolithic communities throughout Europe. For many decades this relationship has been examined through a purely economic lens. But surely, as is the case today, the sea drew these prehistoric peoples for a myriad of reasons and imprinted a lasting impression on their consciousness. This paper explores human relationships to coastal areas on the eve of farming. During this period, Mesolithic communities in maritime zones maintained a stalwart attachment to the sea in the face of an ever increasing pressure to alter the earth. In many cases, it is in the coastal zones that Mesolithic peoples took the longest to adopt farming. The renegotiation of space and world-view between Mesolithic and Neolithic peoples in these areas is at once a complicated but intriguing one. Although Mesolithic communities may have been vastly different from the neoteric Neolithic cultures that eventually supersede them, they both shared an engagement with the sea that went beyond the economic.

Tom Lawrence (Oxford Archaeology)

Cornwall’s Romano-British ‘Cottage Industry’: Networking communities, seasonality & historic chronology


Romano-British salt production in the west of Cornwall has not been regarded as anything other than as economic activity. Hathaway’s (2013) work on Romano-British salt works in Britain, though, noted its small scale production and methods within the domestic setting of local Romano-British ovalhouses. Experiments carried out with Plymouth University students at Truro College over four years demonstrated more problems with the scale and viability of these small-scale operations, given the locations of the small ovalhouse settlements with low concentrations of salt in the neighbouring seawater. Saltmarshes are more suitable for commercial scale production. Using Michel Callon’s (1986) four stages of translation, this paper investigates how different agents, human and natural, were assembled to create a salt production process that met local economic, social and spiritual needs (based around annual pelagic fish migration) against the shifting political imperatives of the Roman province.

Caradoc Peters (University of Plymouth)

Gifts from the Wrath of God: The reanimation of submerged prehistoric forests by coastal communities in the post Medieval period


Submerged prehistoric forests first appear in the documentary record in the 12th century when Gerald of Wales observed that at Newgale on the Pembrokeshire coast. Since the early 20th century such forests have been the subject of scientific study but have rarely, if ever, been studied as a post Medieval cultural resource. This paper discusses how coastal communities have used the trees and timber to negotiate and reinforce relationships on a personal, municipal and national scale, one that emphasises a connection with the maritime landscape that crosses both temporal and geographical boundaries. It explores how the forests have created, and continue to create, a sense of place for coastal communities and asks, through ongoing research, whether the localised trends that have been noted are part of a more widespread phenomenon.

Andy Sherman (CITiZAN, MoLA) and Lara Band (CITiZAN, MoLA)

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