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date: 11 April 2021

(p. 893) Epilogue: Reflections on Wetland Archaeology and its Significance

The Oxford Handbook of Wetland Archaeology concludes with two personal, reflective essays, representing the views of archaeologists that have had different, but equally rewarding encounters with wetland archaeology across their careers.

Charles F.W. Higham (Chapter 53) describes his own encounters with wetland environments and thoughtfully writes about their wider potential. Over 50 years ago, he met one of the great pioneers of European lake village studies, Emile Vogt, who encouraged him to study the faunal remains from Egolzwil 4 for his doctoral dissertation and he spent weeks camped by the Greifensee, experiencing for himself lakeshore living. However, he took another road in the carr woods—and started his journey to the archaeology of southeast Asia. His paper reviews such topics as the global reach of wetland archaeology today; the challenges of recovery and conservation and the potential that wetland archaeology has to inform us about past societies, time and our common humanity.

Finally, Bryony Coles (Chapter 54), one of the modern pioneers of wetland archaeology across the world concludes the book with her own reminiscences. She describes the origins and development of the Somerset Levels Project, which she co-directed with John Coles in the 1970s and 1980s. It was the demonstrable success of this project and the consequent establishment of the international network known as the Wetland Archaeology (p. 894) Research Project (WARP), which arguably brought wetland archaeology to a wider audience. She emphasises in her paper some key themes and discusses some of her own work, on wooden figurines, on Doggerland—the lost land under the North Sea—and most recently on beavers, modest creatures that she has now revealed had a huge impact on the prehistoric environments of Europe.

Concluding her paper, she looks to the future of wetland archaeology, stating that we need to “press on with research on the significance of wetlands for humans in the past, to contribute to current strategies for wetland preservation, and to develop a more stable relationship between people and water than exists at present.” As editors, we agree.