OUP_Meso Europe_Taylor Wetlands ...
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractArchaeological accounts of wetland landscapes during the European Mesolithic often focus on their economic value, viewing these environments as resource rich areas that provided opportunities for hunting, fishing, and the harvesting of plant materials. However, the relationship between Mesolithic communities and the different wetlands that were present across Europe is far more complex. Inhabiting these environments required specific forms of technology, technical skill, and knowledge adapted to the particular conditions prevalent within those landscapes. This included the ability to make and use specialist hunting or fishing technology, watercraft, and architecture, as well as detailed knowledge of the geography of these landscapes, the behaviours of wetland fauna, and the habitats and properties of wetland plants. Wetlands were also important culturally, with evidence for ritualised acts of deposition and disposal that tied them into broader understandings of the world, and the ontological significance of particular places, animals, and environments. These forms of technical skill and ontological knowledge would have been particular to the human communities who inhabited these environments, learnt and developed through the course of people’s lives, and bound up in their identities. As such, we need to think of wetlands, not just as places of economic importance, but as environments that shaped very particular ways of being during the European Mesolithic. As a number of researchers have argued, wetlands are uniquely placed to study this interplay between environment, economy, technology, and social practice, given the excellent levels of organic preservation that can occur at some wetland sites (Van de Noort and O’Sullivan 2006, O’Sullivan 2007). Excavations at these ‘wet’ archaeological sites have recorded large assemblages of faunal material and organic material culture, often stratified within sedimentary sequences that can be dated using radiometric methods. Where these archaeological records can be coupled with paleoenvironmental data, they provide detailed accounts of people’s lives, and how they relate to the environmental conditions prevalent in and around those locations. While there is a geographic bias in the distribution of ‘wet’ sites to the more northerly parts of the continent, they provide useful models with which we can infer forms of activity in other parts of Europe.
CitationTaylor, B. (2023 - in press). Wetlands. In Nilsson Stutz, Stejerna and Torv (Eds.) The Oxford handbook of Mesolithic Europe. Oxford University Press.
PublisherOxford University Press
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