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31 October 2021
Inundated Cultural Landscapes
Archaeologists have known for more than a century that fluctuating sea levels have repeatedly exposed and flooded coastal landscapes. However, only within the last few decades have we explored the potential that inundated landscapes possess for broadening understanding of cultural land use, settlement and early coastal adaptations. Examples are abundant, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. Survey of the North Sea’s “Doggerland” by Vincent Gaffney and colleagues has revealed many insights relating to population dynamics and the extent of fragmentation within the existing terrestrial archaeological record of Britain, Scandinavia and western continental Europe. In North America, pioneering work in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida by Michael Faught has highlighted the importance of coastal occupation in the Pleistocene. California’s Channel Islands are similarly understood to be within a broad coastal plain that was densely occupied before inundation during the mid-Holocene, and in eastern North America, the underwater cultural landscapes in the Lake Huron basin illuminate early Holocene land-use activities otherwise poorly represented in the terrestrial record.
Research into submerged cultural landscapes in the Southern Hemisphere is also beginning to emerge, aided by high-resolution mapping that demonstrates preservation of palaeoshorelines and associated landscapes despite sea-level transgression. In many instances, as work in South Africa demonstrates, the drowned coastal morphology is drastically different from the modern coastlines of the region, providing new insights into the past climate, drivers of coastal change and anthropological potential for the early Holocene.
These selective but representative studies all illustrate the potential that inundated landscapes possess for expanding our knowledge, not only of the use of coastal and lake-edge environments but also of the process of inundation and change in the deep past. We are challenged to use the unique and novel data from submerged landscapes to explore some of archaeology’s and anthropology’s biggest questions, including cultural origins, maritime adaptation, early seafaring and human response to climate change.
This volume, targeted at a global audience, will present recent advances in the discovery, analysis, and interpretation of inundated cultural landscapes. We are particularly interested in contributions addressing Pleistocene land use otherwise underrepresented in the terrestrial record. We especially invite papers that address inundated landscapes in the Southern Hemisphere and how this region might offer different perspectives to the north.
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