Johan Ling

Maritime encounters: a counterpoint to the dominant terrestrial narrative of European prehistory

Recent advances with ancient DNA have brought migration back into archaeological explanation, but little attention has been paid to maritime aspects of these movements or the maritime legacies inherited from indigenous cultures. The formation of the populations, cultures and languages of Europe are now seen largely as consequences of three great prehistoric migrations: hunter-gatherers repopulating the post-glacial landscape, followed by farmers spreading from Anatolia, and then Indo-European-speaking pastoralists from the steppe. There is a significant gap in this current model that we sense most acutely in Scandinavia and the British Isles. The question is how did these groups reach the islands and peninsulas of Atlantic Europe? What types of boats were used? How many people and animals could they carry? To what extent did indigenous coastal peoples contribute traditions and knowledge of boats, boat building, seaways, navigation and subsistence in coastal environments. In the proposed project a highly international cross-disciplinary team will create a more detailed and nuanced story of how prehistoric societies realised major and minor sea crossings, organised long-distance exchange, and ways of life by the sea in prehistory. Our program is based on a maritime perspective, a counterpoint to prevailing land-based perspectives on Europe's prehistory.

Grant administrator
University of Gothenburg
Reference number
SEK 46,700,000.00