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date: 11 April 2021

(p. 717) Changing Research Attitude: Towards One Archaeology


Wetland archaeology through its multidisciplinary studies of diverse watery environments seeks to explore how people in the past engaged and interacted with these various dynamic, changing, and bountiful landscapes. In some places, localities, and regions, where wetlands utterly dominate, these may well be amongst the most significant past human–environment relationships, and the focused investigation of how people lived in and close to wetlands, and attended to their daily and seasonal rhythms and changes, may well be entirely appropriate. However, wetland archaeology can, and should, do more than this. It has the potential to trace human action in wider worlds, to place the role of wetlands within their wider regional cultural contexts. It can investigate how people dwelled in local and regional landscapes, wet and dry, possibly linking their activities and economies to local and long-distance trade networks. Wetland archaeology—particularly when it works in collaboration with other disciplines—can help to create an understanding of how people in the past created distinctive social worlds through their material engagement with their environments, and also with other people, places, objects, animals, ancestors and time itself.

The chapters in this section, like others in the Oxford Handbook of Wetland Archaeology, strive to create these wider understandings. Robert Van de Noort (Chapter 42) places wetland archaeology at the heart of a global human concern—climate change—and argues that wet (p. 718) land archaeologists need to engage in the climate change debates of the immediate future. Stijn Arnoldussen (Chapter 43) explores how the fine-grained settlement data from the Dutch river delta area throws light on wider later prehistoric settlement and society. Mark Harris (Chapter 44) provides an anthropological study of Amazonian lifeways and how social life and seasonality are intertwined there, providing archaeologists with an inspiring sense of how people in the past may have inhabited and attended to their wetland environments. George P. Nicholas (Chapter 45) reviews anthropological approaches to hunter-gatherers and wetlands, similarly pointing the ways forward for archaeological interpretation. Paolo Bellintani (Chapter 46) reveals the links between the material culture of the lake villagers of central Europe, and explores precisely this sense of people living in wider social, ideological, and economic worlds. Kristian Kristiansen (Chapter 47) explores how people in late prehistory worked both drylands and wetlands, and how we need to see both datasets together to understand prehistoric societies, arguing that wetlands provide an archaeological laboratory that allows ‘detailed archaeological and environmental insights into historical long-term processes of the intensification of land use during later prehistory’. Finally, Peter Bogucki (Chapter 48), in describing the prehistoric and early historic archaeology of rivers, lakes, and bogs in the Baltic Basin, exemplifies the approach that both wetland and dryland archaeology must be taken together if we are to understand people's lives in the past across the world.