The Wenner-Gren Foundation Workshop:

"Island Archaeology and the Origins of Seafaring in the Eastern Mediterranean"

Each year the Wenner-Gren Foundation awards a number of grants in support of workshops whose purpose is to explore the recent gains in knowledge on an emerging topic in Anthropology or Archaeology. The motivation of such a workshop is to bring together a small group of scholars actively working on a topic in a relaxed and informal setting so that there can be an open and wide-ranging discussion. In the present case, the plan is for the meeting to last three days which will allow ample time for the participants to exchange new information and ideas with one another. In recent years, investigations at early archaeological sites on islands in the eastern Mediterranean have been highly productive and make it possible to approach the question of the origins of seafaring in new ways. In other words, the research has reached the point in time when a Wenner-Gren Workshop is called for, as explained in the abstract below.


“The meeting will focus on recent advances in island archaeology and their implications for the origins of seafaring in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Both are now rapidly developing foelds of study.  This was not always the case.  When I first went out to Cyprus in 2003, only one pre-Neolithic site (Aetokremnos) was known on the island and none on the island of Crete.  Work at the two early sites on the Aegean Islands had just started.  In the literature, there was still the notion that hunter-gatherers were reluctant seafarers as well as the claim that island sites older than the Neolithic were very hard to find.  In fact, the early sites on Cyprus (Aspros and Nissi Beach) soon came to light when new methods were used in the field.  Today there are more than ten pre-Neolithic sites on the coasts of Cyprus. Mesolithic sites have been found on the south coast of Crete (Plakias) and seven of the Aegean islands (Ikaria, Kythnos, Lemnos, Melos, Naxos, Tilos, and Youra) have now produced pre-Neolithic sites.  The pace of research has quickened to the point where a Wenner Gren Workshop is truly called for.  For years, island archaeology in the Mediterranean world focused on the Neolithic and colonization.  It is now time to uncouple the origins of seafaring from both of them and to rethink the earliest maritime activity in the region. "

The workshop is being organized by Albert Ammerman, who is a Research Professor at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. With generous support by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, he previously put together a workshop called "The Neolithic Transition in Europe: Looking Back, Looking Forward", which was held in Venice in 1998.  This meeting, which was attended by many of the leading scholars in the field, eventually led to the publication of "The Widening Harvest".  In the present case, there is also the plan to publish the proceedings of the upcoming meeting in the form of a book.  At the same time, this web site has been created to facilitate the dissemination of what was learned and discussed at the workshop.

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