SEArch – Sea harvesting in the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer societies. Archaeological microscopic and molecular approaches to shell midden stratigraphy

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Coastal adaptations played a fundamental role for Mesolithic societies of Atlantic Europe, paving the way to some degree of sedentary way of life, largely reflected in the formation of shell middens. Shell middens of Neolithic age are identified, but it is currently debated if these sites relate to coastal adaptations by the first farming communities or reflect the resilience of former forager coastal populations. Shell middens are, therefore, a key-element for understanding the Neolithic expansion process and the nature of the first contacts between forager and farmer populations in western Europe. The SEArch project focuses on the role of human coastal adaptations and environmental changes in coastal ecosystems in the process of the Neolithic expansion, using a geoarchaeological approach at the microscopic and molecular scales. The methodology combines micromorphology and lipid biomarkers analyses. The main research objectives are: 1) understanding shell midden formation processes at the microstratigraphic level; 2) identify the use of aquatic plants and seaweeds; 3) reconstruction marine resources harvesting and processing techniques; and 4) paleoecological reconstruction of intertidal coastal ecosystems. Finally, inquiring the contacts between different prehistoric populations and potentiating our ancient connection to the sea to foster preservation of coastal ecosystems are major aims of the project. Find out more about the SEArch project at
RESEARCHER Carlos Duarte Simões
DURATION 2020-2022