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date: 28 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Antarctica was the last continent to be known. Human encounters with the region acquired different characteristics over time. Within the framework of dominant narratives, the early ‘exploitation’ of the territory was given less attention than late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ‘exploration’. Nineteenth-century exploitation was especially associated with sealing on the South Shetland Islands. Dominant narratives on the period refer to the captains of sealing vessels, the discovery of geographical features, the volume of resources obtained. However, they do not consider the life of the ordinary sealers who lived and worked on the islands. This chapter aims to show the power of archaeology to shed light on these ‘invisible people’ and their forgotten stories. It holds that archaeology offers a possibility for reimagining the past of Antarctica, calling for a revision of traditional narratives.

Keywords: Antarctic archaeology, South Shetland Islands, sealing industry, capitalism, invisible people.

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