Seaward Landward: investigations on the archaelogical source value of the landing site category in the Baltic Sea region by Kristin Ilves144 pp., 33 illustrations (some colour)Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Box 626, Uppsala University, Sweden, 2012, npg (sbk), ISBN 978-9150622850
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
© 2013 The Authors. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology © 2013 The Nautical Archaeology Society
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 223–224, March 2013
How to Cite
Christensen, A. E. (2013), Seaward Landward: investigations on the archaelogical source value of the landing site category in the Baltic Sea region by Kristin Ilves144 pp., 33 illustrations (some colour)Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Box 626, Uppsala University, Sweden, 2012, npg (sbk), ISBN 978-9150622850. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 42: 223–224. doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12008_11
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
This is a doctoral thesis of the modern variety, where the thesis itself is rather short, but based on previously published papers. In this case, there are four papers including one previously published in IJNA (41:1, 94–105) and a manuscript. The papers are republished in full. A short introduction states the aim of the work: ‘I define landing sites for watercraft in the widest social sense as water-bound contact zones; places of social interaction that can be archaeologically identified and investigated’, and ‘What I present here is an archaeological methodology for exploring landing sites’. Both in the papers and the dissertation, the author is a stern critic of much previous work: ‘In my opinion, archaeological study of the maritime aspect of past societies has regularly been driven by applying empathy as the main methodological approach, which has been combined with a haphazard attitude towards source criticism', and ‘It has become clear to me that such a methodology is lacking in the archaeological research designs that are oriented towards sites in coastal and shore-bound areas, particularly landing sites and harbors.’ The first paper, ‘Discovering harbors’, evaluates earlier research. A central point is that it has been assumed that early ships could land on any suitable beach, so landing sites might leave no traces for the archaeologist to find. Possible landing sites have been identified by place names, topography and other ‘non-archaeological’ criteria, and sites near the coast have been identified as landing sites without discussing other possible functions. Paper 2, ‘Do ships shape the shore?’, looks at remains of structures found at landing sites and discusses the importance of landing sites in society. The author points out that quite complicated structures have been built even when the vessels used were small log-boats. Paper 3, ‘Is there an archaeological potential for a sociology of Landing Sites?’, the author introduces the landing sites as ‘contact zones’ for human interaction. Three very different sites are used as examples; a seasonal fishing village in Estonia, the ‘repair shipyard’ at Fribrødre Å on Falster, and the anchorage Krogen in the archipelago outside Stockholm. The fourth paper describes the use of phosphate analysis for establishing former shorelines at relevant sites, applied to the situation in the Baltic, where shorelines have changed drastically since the Ice Age. The manuscript ‘Identifying Water-bound strategies in the Archaeological Record’, describes the strategies selected for the investigation of a Swedish site, Garn, based on the theoretical framework established in the four papers.
The material selected for the thesis is restricted to the Baltic, most of it from Swedish sites. The author claims that landing sites in the Baltic have not been utilized to their full archaeological potential. Her ‘Contact Zone’ approach is a fruitful new way of using the material. The demand for a more stringent theoretical approach and the practical solutions suggested are valuable. The author stresses the importance of landing sites as areas for social activity using the many religious sites at the Roman London waterfront as one example. The use of her new definitions and research strategies will surely give valuable new results.
Considering the close cultural contacts which have always existed between Denmark, Sweden and Norway, it is astonishing how little Danish and Norwegian material has been used, even with a strict geographical concentration on the Baltic. Fribrødre Å, on the island of Falster, and Hedeby may be called Baltic sites. However, a pioneer work such as The Coast of Funen from the Iron Age to the Middle Age, (Crumlin-Pedersen (ed.) 1996) has not been consulted. The numerous and extensively published Norwegian boathouses are not mentioned at all. In fact, I have not been able to find the word ‘boathouse’ in the dissertation. The closest we get is a paper on Greek shipsheds, among the references in paper 3 (Blackman D., 2003). In the light of the statement that the author's main aim has been to ‘understand landing sites as an archeological as well as a social category’, the sole use of Baltic material limits the value of the work. Blockages are a well-researched type of monument in Danish waters. As they were evidently built to prevent landing, they could throw light on eventual important landing sites behind the blockages. This type of site is not considered.
The printing and presentation is of high quality, with numerous illustrations, some in colour. One printers' or proof-readers' error is the use of the plural ‘watercrafts’ for watercraft in paper 3.