UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Marginalised mariners : Bronze Age fishing in the southern Aegean MacLean, Rory


Maritime archaeology of the Aegean Bronze Age is primarily focussed on trade. Very little work has been carried out on the role of ships in the context of exploiting marine resources. This is partly due to the lack of shipwreck evidence for fishing boats, alongside the romanticised scholarly preference for studying larger cargo ships. The result is that fishing in the Bronze Age is considered in modern scholarship to have been minimally important, and conducted primarily from the shore on an ad-hoc basis as a dietary supplement in times of need. This thesis challenges those assumptions through a more detailed analysis of fishing evidence in coastal communities in Minoan sites during the Middle and Late Bronze Age, and attempts to reconstruct smaller scale seafaring patterns to create a fuller picture of regular human interaction with the sea. Three sites are used as case studies (Mochlos and Pseira in Crete, and Akrotiri on Thera), where ichthyofaunal assemblages (fish bone/otolith remains), supported by remains of fishing equipment and iconographic representations of marine life, are used to reconstruct the precise nature and scale of fishing activity. Special emphasis is placed on the marine habitats of each fish species, to ascertain how necessary seafaring was to catch them. Using ethnographic case studies on the capabilities of small seagoing craft, hypothetical ranges of fishing ‘territories’ are mapped out for each site to gauge the extent to which fishing facilitated frequent interaction with the local seascape. The conclusions from this research are threefold. Firstly, evidence from all three sites suggests that fishing has been largely understated as a consistent food source in this period. Secondly, the species that were targeted strongly indicate that seafaring was a large part of catching them, so much so that fishing is likely the most frequent way that Minoans engaged with the sea. Thirdly, the extent of the maritime zones that local fishers would have interacted with highlights the existence of small scale networks of maritime interaction, seafaring expertise, and navigational models. This places fishing as an important element in the creation and maintenance of small maritime network nodes.

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