Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Project title: Inhabiting coastal worlds: Marine resource exploitation and human-seascape interaction in the Iron Age Eastern Mediterranean.
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Alexander Pruß
Marine resource exploitation is first attested in the Eastern Mediterranean basin in Paleolithic periods, and continued to play an important role in the livelihood and social orientation of coastal communities in later periods of economic diversification and broadening cultural connectivity. This dissertation project investigates how coastal communities in this region inhabited, circumscribed, and ultimately conceptualized littoral and marine environments throughout the Iron Age, when Eastern Mediterranean seascapes witnessed unprecedented cultural activity.
Following the dissolution of Bronze Age palatial systems, the cultural landscape of this region was transformed by the mass migration of cultural groups (e.g. 'Sea Peoples'), geopolitical reorganization, and the coalescence of new entrepreneurial maritime trade networks. Meanwhile, the physical landscape was reshaped by the development of artificially engineered harbor systems and industrial-scale exploitation of coastal environments. In order to interpret how these complex developments affected human-seascape interactions across broad transects of time and space, I investigate fishing practices, shellfish harvesting industries, mariculture, and other modes of marine resource exploitation – processes that reflect how coastal communities habitually engaged with their aquatic environment. Faunal remains (including shells and the skeletal remains of fish, marine turtles, and marine mammals) are the most abundant material residues of marine resource exploitation, and they hold a rich repository of information about past human behavior. In this study, I integrate zooarchaeological data from Iron Age faunal assemblages of selected coastal sites in southern Anatolia and the Levant, with contextual information, paleoenvironmental data, textual references, iconographic depictions, and other categories of material culture (eg. fish hooks, lead weights, worked shell ornaments) that derive from maritime activity. I am ultimately interested in the specific cultural expressions, technological traditions, and knowledge systems that are embedded in this record; and what they inform us about the maritime dimension of life at the convergence of land and sea.