Argonauts of the North Sea - a Social Maritime Archaeology for the 2nd Millennium BC
Van de Noort, Robert
University of Exeter
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
The Prehistoric Society
This paper aims to offer a new analysis of the social dimensions of seafaring in the second millennium BC and a consideration of the role of seafaring in (re )creating the social order at the time through its economic, socio-political and ritual significance. It revisits the sewn-plank boats from Ferriby, Kilnsea, Dover, Calidcot, Testwood Lakes, Goldcliff and Brigg, and aspects of the way in which seafarers signified themselves and their world through their imagined relationship with the environment are illuminated. The study argues that in the Early Bronze Age, sewn-plank boats were used for directional, long-distance journeys, aimed at the ‘cosmological acquisition’ of exotic goods, and the contexts of these boats link the overseas journeys to the ancestors. In the Middle and Late Bronze Age, sewn-plank boats were used for down-the-line exchange, and fragments of sewn-plank boats were included in structured deposits, within or near river crossings, reflecting the idioms of transformation and regeneration which are well established for this period. Through the reconstruction of the boats’ crews, it is suggested that the development of a retinue was a prerequisite for the successful completion of the long-distance journeys, and the social identities that were cultivated during these voyages are recognised as a potentially important element in the rise of elite groups in the Early Bronze Age.
Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. Journal home page http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prehistoric/
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 72, 2006, pp. 267-287