Pollard, Antony John
A study of marine exploitation in prehistoric Scotland, with special reference to marine shells and their archaeological contexts.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The history of the study of marine exploitation in Scotland is outlined prior to the
presentation of an overview of the evidence for its practice in both earlier and later
prehistory. This overview is based on a corpus of Scottish prehistoric sites known to
include evidence for marine exploitation. Marine shells are found on a variety of
archaeological sites, many of which cannot be described as shell middens. They are
defined in this work as sites given over to the primary processing and consumption of
marine resources, most obviously represented by marine shells. A simple classificatory
system is introduced in order to allow further discussion of the similarities and
differences between various types of deposits.
The material culture related to marine exploitation is discussed and ethnohistorical
sources are used to demonstrate some of the ways in which similar elements of
material culture have been utilised in more recent times. Issues discussed here include
not only shellfish exploitation but also whaling, fishing and the use of seaweeds. The
utilisation of various kinds of raw materials, of both terrestrial and marine origin, are
discussed and their contextual relationship to marine resource residues considered.
Discussion will then move on to focus more closely on a number of aspects relating to
marine exploitation in both early and later prehistory. The 'Obanian' sites in Oban and
Oronsay are used as a case study to examine the implications of shell middens being
used over long periods of time and as places for burial. The results of survey and
excavation work carried out on the 'Obanian' shell midden on Risga are used to
supplement a discussion on the nature and role of shell middens. Discussion of the later
period is centred upon a contextual study of settlement sites and the relationship
between marine and terrestrial resources is discussed.
This work draws to a close by considering the role of marine resources in prehistoric
ritual practice. The implications of the deposition of marine shells in chambered tombs
and the construction of chambered tombs over shell middens are discussed. In the later
period the redeposition of midden material appears to play an important part in the
development of substantial settlement complexes and may represent a change in the
nature of ritual behaviour. The concluding chapter isolates what are felt to be the most
important issues raised by this work.
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