World prehistory from the margins: the role of coastlines in human evolution

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JournalJournal of Interdisciplinary Studies in History and Archaeology
DatePublished - Jun 2004
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)39-50
Original languageEnglish


Conventional accounts of world prehistory are dominated by land-based narratives progressing from scavenging and hunting of land mammals and gathering of plants to animal domestication and crop agriculture, and ultimately to urban civilisations supported by agricultural surpluses and trade. The use of coastlines and marine resources has been viewed as marginal, late in the sequence, or anomalous. This bias is primarily the result of three factors: the removal of most relevant evidence by sealevel change; the bad press given to coastal hunters and gatherers by 19th century ethnographers; and a belief in technological 'primitivism'. In this paper I will examine the case for treating coastal habitats as amongst the most attractive for human settlement, and coastlines and seaways not as barriers but as gateways to human movement and contact, from early hominid dispersals to the rise of the great coastal and riverine civilisations.

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2004 the G.R. Sharma Archaeological Society. Reproduced with permission.

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