Issue: Enlarging the Past

Subtitle The contribution of wetland archaeology
Publication Type
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Author Bryony J Coles (neé Orme)
John M Coles
Editor Alexandra N Shepherd
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Wetland Archaeology Research Project
Year of Publication 1995
Volume 11
Number of Pages: 172
ISBN 0903903113
Source ADS Archive
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Abstract
1 - 172
This monograph is the publication of the 1995 Rhind lectures presented by both authors. They have selected a number of themes to examine, each of which will show how wetland archaeology has enlarged our knowledge about the past.
1 - 25
This chapter provides a general definition of wetlands, a brief history of their exploration, utilisation and exploitation, early descriptions and the first discovery of associated objects going back to c AD 1400. Early pioneers of wetland archaeology included Robert Munro, Arthur Bulleid and Frank Cushing. A brief survey of significant Mesolithic sites encompasses Star Carr, Friesack in Germnay, Noyen-sur-Seine in France, Torihama in Japan and Windover in Florida.
26 - 52
This chapter focuses on dating, particularly the contribution of dendrochronology. The Sweet Track in the Somerset Levels was broadly dated by artefactual evidence and radiocarbon dates to c 3200 bc. This was refined by dendrochronology which was able to identify a contemporaneous settlement far away in the Alpine foothills at Hauterive-Champreveyres. At the time of writing the earliest settlements dated to before 4000 BC were located in southern Germany and included Hornstaad-Hornle. It has been possible to provide absolute dates for the individual components of a settlement and a settlement pattern.
53 - 76
This chapter focuses on the discovery of ancient human bodies and other things preserved within the peat. Such discoveries go back over 500 years and include the famous Tollund man. The question of preservation is also considered along with possible reasons for the deposition of these bodies in bogs. Were they victims of violent or unnatural death, or were they executed criminals? The survey of objects focuses mainly on human effigies.
77 - 103
In this chapter it is suggested that where conditions are good and where archaeological work has been appropriate, wetland sites can provide information which in the main cannot be found anywhere else. The focus here is on food and the evidence from three sites is considered: lake Paladru and Chavarine-Colletiere, France and the Glastonbury Lake Village.
104 - 133
This chapter examines a number of responses to the challenges presented by wetland archaeology. One of the fundamental problems is how to find the site before it is exposed by other agencies such as drainage, ditches, motorway construction, industrial development and peat quarrying. Approaches in Japan, Florida, Ireland and England are considered along with options for preservation and identification of the potential threats.
133 - 159
Despite the clear value of wetland sites it is argued that their promise has never been fully realised due to a combination of factors, among them the working out of peatbogs, the gradual decline of hand-cutting of peat, the erosive character of water in some Alpine lakes, the silting of other bodies of water, the construction of massive docks, railways and roadways along lake shores and in river valleys, the use of some wetlands for dumping, the denomination of others as wildlife reserves, and the development of other areas of archaeological research. It is acknowledged that extraction of the wealth of evidence is time-consuming and costly. The chapter concludes with a strategy for Scottish wetlands which have yet to be fully explored.
160 - 167
168 - 172