Coastal environments and their role in prehistoric migrations

Westley, Kieran and Dix, Justin (2006) Coastal environments and their role in prehistoric migrations. Journal of Maritime Archaeology, 1, (1), 9-28. (doi:10.1007/s11457-005-9004-5).


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In recent years, increased attention has been turned towards the role of coastal environments in facilitating the global dispersal of humans. Previous approaches have focused on locating, dating and linking coastal archaeological sites, in order to create an overall impression of population movement across continents. When considerations of the actual process of colonization have been presented, they have been predicated on a series of assumptions regarding the nature of the coastal environment. The most important of these is that the coastal zone is homogenous and stable, on space and time scales relevant to human migration. This paper aims to test this and other assumptions by considering the true nature of the palaeo-coastal zone on global to continental scales and on timescales commensurate with migrating populations. Evidence is presented from Pleistocene and Holocene palaeo-environmental and archaeological records, so covering the major migrations of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. The principal conclusion of this study is that the coastal zone is in fact characterized by a significant degree of environmental heterogeneity and instability on a multitude of spatio-temporal scales. This in turn has significant implications for how we interpret the actual process of colonization.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1007/s11457-005-9004-5
ISSNs: 1557-2285 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: coastlines, palaeolithic, colonization, palaeo-environment, timescales, pleistocene
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > Archaeology
University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Ocean & Earth Science (SOC/SOES)
Faculty of Humanities > Archaeology
Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences > Ocean and Earth Science > Geology & Geophysics
ePrint ID: 40524
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
January 2006Published
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2006
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:11

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