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date: 23 October 2019

(p. 249) Waterlogged Archaeological Evidence


The intense people–wetlands interaction discussed in Part 1 is confirmed by the extremely varying archaeological evidence, ranging from settlements and single habitations to material culture, ways of communication (roads and trackways), and even human remains discussed in Part 2. Archaeological evidence of houses and settlements is fairly abundant in Europe, as opposed to other parts of the world where it is rather scanty. Chapters 15, 16, and 17 give a quite thorough description of the various characteristics of residential units, found within two of the best-known lacustrine traditions in prehistoric as well as historic time: the lake-dwelling of the Circum-Alpine region, and the crannogs in the British Islands and Ireland.

Portable wooden objects, bone and antler artefacts, and permanent (or semi-permanent) fish traps or weirs are amongst the most common organic archaeological evidence found in wetland contexts. Sands (Chapter 18) and Schibler (Chapter 20) discuss the remarkable variety of portable objects, drawing the attention to their technology and the various stages of construction. The fascinating topic of fishing weirs and fishing technologies is covered by Moss (Chapter 19), who discusses one of the richest areas in the world in terms of archaeological evidence on fishing activity: the northwestern coast of North America.

People's contact within and between wetland environments has always been a topic of lively debates. Brunning and McDermott (Chapter 21) and Haughey (Chapter 22) approach (p. 250) it from two different angles; Chapter 21 considers the trackways’ different social functions, highlighting the importance in reconstructing past environments, in order to gain a better understanding of complex relationships between trackway building and climate change. On the other hand, Chapter 22 sees lakes and rivers not simply as typical wetland environments, but as a network of highways with physical and symbolic importance for people, from prehistoric to historical times.

The last chapter (Chapter 23) of Part 2 deals with one of the most intriguing topics in wetland archaeology: the bog bodies. Van der Sanden shows how archaeologists have studied these mysterious, at times even controversial, human remains, discussing biased assumptions and prejudices that often hindered the natural course of scientific research.