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Journal of Archaeological Research

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 287–350 | Cite as

The Archaeology of Aquatic Adaptations: Paradigms for a New Millennium

  • Jon M. Erlandson
Article

Abstract

Although aquatic resources are often seen as central to the development of post-Pleistocene cultural complexity, most models of human evolution have all but ignored the role of aquatic or maritime adaptations during the earlier stages of human history. When did aquatic resources, maritime adaptations, and seafaring first play a significant role in human evolution? I explore this fundamental question by (1) reviewing various theories on the subject; (2) discussing a variety of problems that prevent archaeologists from providing a clear answer; and (3) examining the archaeological record for evidence of early aquatic resource use or seafaring. I conclude that aquatic resources, wherever they were both abundant and relatively accessible, have probably always been used opportunistically by our ancestors. Evidence suggests, however, that aquatic and maritime adaptations (including seafaring) played a significantly greater role in the demographic and geographic expansion of anatomically modern humans after about 150,000 years ago. Another significant expansion occurred somewhat later in time, with the development of more sophisticated seafaring, fishing, and marine hunting technologies.

aquatic resources human evolution maritime societies coastlines boats 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon M. Erlandson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of OregonEugene

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