Grey Waters Bright with Neolithic Argonauts? Maritime Connections and the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition within the 'Western Seaways' of Britain, C. 5000-3500 BC

By Garrow, Duncan; Sturt, Fraser | Antiquity, March 2011 | Go to article overview

Grey Waters Bright with Neolithic Argonauts? Maritime Connections and the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition within the 'Western Seaways' of Britain, C. 5000-3500 BC


Garrow, Duncan, Sturt, Fraser, Antiquity


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Introduction

The phrase we have used in the first part of our title is borrowed from Childe (1946: 36), who, drawing on Malinowski's famous ethnographic study, envisaged the western seaways of Britain as 'grey waters as bright with Neolithic argonauts as the western Pacific is today'. We use this phrase to put across two key points: first, the need to study the evidence for maritime travel around the 'western seaways'; and second, to address the matter of 'greyness' in general. The Mesolithic to Neolithic transition has often been characterised in black and white terms: as a question of either colonisation or indigenous adoption. Some writers have suggested a greyer picture--one that allows room for both small-scale colonisation and indigenous acculturation (e.g. Whittle 2003; Cooney 2007; Cunliffe 2008). As will become clear, our review of the evidence suggests that a 'grey' picture, in which both 'Mesolithic' and 'Neolithic' mariners were involved, is probably more realistic.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

We look first at the extent and nature of the sea itself c. 5000-3500 BC (cf. Rainbird 2007; Callaghan & Scarre 2009), and then at the archaeological evidence within the major offshore island groups in the western seaways (Figure 1): the Channel Islands; the Isles of Scilly; the Isle of Man; the Outer Hebrides and the Orkney Islands. In what follows, all radiocarbon dates are calibrated and given to two sigma. The novelty of our approach lies in combining previously dispersed archaeological evidence with new palaeo-oceanographic and palaeo-environmental modelling. In considering these islands together, we are not looking for uniform patterns across the whole zone, but rather seeking to gain insight into broad-scale connections and change.

Mesolithic-Neolithic transition(s) in Britain and Ireland: the story so far

Whether 'the Neolithic' arrived in Britain and Ireland through colonisation or indigenous adoption was a topic ofdebate throughout the twentieth century (e.g. Fox 1932; Case 1969), and there has been a marked revival of interest in the issue (e.g. Sheridan 2000, 2003, 2004; Thomas 2003, 2007; Cooney 2007; Whittle 2007; Callaghan & Scarre 2009; Pailler & Sheridan 2009). Those in favour of colonisation have tended to emphasise the isolation of Mesolithic communities in Britain and Ireland, placing the dynamic of change firmly with the continental Neolithic. Sheridan (2007: 466), for example, has suggested that there is a virtual 'absence of evidence for any contacts between Mesolithic communities in Britain and Ireland ... and their continental neighbours'; and Tresset (2003: 25) supposes that it would be 'wholly far-fetched' to suggest that Irish Mesolithic groups would have voyaged to the continent. On the other side of the argument, people have stressed that coastal Mesolithic communities would have been extremely familiar with the sea, and thus quite capable of significant and regular maritime travel (Whittle 2003; Thomas 2007; Tolan-Smith 2009).

Those arguing for colonisation also tend to see a direct link between the presence of 'foreign' material culture and the presence of 'foreign' people. The cow bones from Ferriter's Cove on the south-west coast of Ireland have become, arguably, the iconic material sign of fifth-millennium contact between Irish/British and continental populations. The bones were found on an occupation site dominated by Mesolithic material, and have themselves been radiocarbon dated to 4495-4195 BC (Woodman & McCarthy 2003: 33). However, despite the bones' apparently indigenous context, Tresset (2003: 25), for example, views them as evidence for the presence of continental people, describing an elaborate scenario in which the cow is viewed as having escaped from a colony of exotic 'Neolithic' settlers (and then been caught), rather than having been brought from the continent by the Mesolithic Irish inhabitants of the site. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Grey Waters Bright with Neolithic Argonauts? Maritime Connections and the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition within the 'Western Seaways' of Britain, C. 5000-3500 BC
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.