Of all the regional sections, this one covers the largest area and at the same time has the smallest number of underwater finds, with 138 recorded finds (Appendix I). Known sites are relatively few or exist as isolated discoveries, and some countries have yet to yield any finds at all, although those included here, namely, Malta (Gambin, Chap. 17, this volume) and Ukraine (Kadurin et al., Chap. 21, this volume), clearly have promising conditions for new discoveries. As indicated in the Introduction (Bailey et al., Chap. 1, this volume), this paucity of finds reflects in a general way both differences in coastal geology and geomorphology and different intellectual interests and histories of underwater investigation. Nevertheless, the known underwater finds extend from as early as the Middle Palaeolithic in Croatia
(Radić Rossi et al., Chap. 18, this volume) and Israel
(Galili et al., Chap. 23, this volume) to the Bronze Age or later, especially in Italy (Castagnino Berlinghieri et al., Chap. 16, this volume), Croatia (Radić Rossi et al., Chap. 18, this volume), Greece (Galanidou et al., Chap. 19, this volume) and Bulgaria (Peev et al., Chap. 20, this volume). They represent a variety of site types including cave deposits, palaeontological finds
, votive deposits
and village settlements
with details of settlement layout
and features such as dwelling structures of timber and stone, pits
. In two areas, Bulgaria (Peev et al., Chap. 20, this volume) and Israel (Galili et al., Chap. 23, this volume), the concentration of underwater sites along limited stretches of coastline and the range of finds and quality of preservation are comparable to the underwater settlements
of the western Baltic in Denmark and Germany (Bailey et al., Chap. 3, this volume; Jöns et al., Chap. 5, this volume).
It is broadly true to say that investigation of submerged Stone Age landscapes throughout these marine basins has been overshadowed by an interest in shipwrecks
and submerged remains of shoreline infrastructure such as harbours, fish tanks, ship sheds and settlements relating to the Bronze Age, Iron Age and classical antiquity. In part, this reflects the fact that the Mediterranean and the Black Sea already from an early period were coming under the influence of maritime exploration, trade and colonisation associated with the development and expansion of Neolithic and Bronze Age societies at a time when Stone Age societies in NW Europe were hunting and fishing along the now-submerged coastlines of the North Sea and the Baltic or expanding into the newly deglaciated regions further north. It also reflects the fact that some coastal regions, notably in southern Italy and Greece, have continued to sink after stabilisation of eustatic sea level because of their tectonic history, with the partial or total submergence of coastal settlements and harbours of later periods.
Another disincentive to underwater exploration for submerged Stone Age sites and landscapes noted by Arias (Chap. 13, this volume) is the relative narrowness of the continental shelf
along many sections of the Mediterranean coastline— ≤ 5–10 km. Here, the amount of land exposed at lowest sea level was relatively small, and its periodic exposure and inundation
by changes in sea level had less dramatic effects than on shallower continental shelves elsewhere. Narrow shelves also encourage the view, not necessarily justified, that sites such as caves situated on the present-day coast are close enough to provide a sufficient window into the use of the submerged landscape and its palaeoshorelines
without the need for underwater exploration. Because of the geology and topography of the Mediterranean coast, coastal caves of this type are common. They include some of the most important and best-known Palaeolithic sequences in the Mediterranean such as Gorham’s Cave
(Arias, Chap. 13, this volume), the Monte Circeo caves of Italy (Castagnino Berlinghieri et al., Chap. 16, this volume), Crvena Stijena in Montenegro on the east Adriatic coast (Whallon 2018), the caves of the Mani Peninsula and Franchthi Cave in Greece (Galanidou et al., Chap. 19, this volume), Ksar Akil in Lebanon (Tixier 1974), the Mount Carmel Caves
(Galili et al., Chap. 23, this volume) and the Haua Fteah in Cyrenaica, Libya (McBurney 1967; Barker et al. 2007). Similar examples are present on Atlantic coastlines, notably in northern Spain (Arias, Chap. 13, this volume) and on the island of Jersey
(Bailey et al., Chap. 10, this volume).
These sites, not surprisingly given their deep stratified sequences and abundant remains, have attracted considerable attention and resources in their investigation and play an important role in providing insights into the use of the adjacent territory that is now submerged. However, as the chapters in this section make clear, these on-land caves are part of a continuum that extends to submerged caves offshore and below present sea level. Moreover, on-land caves on the modern coastline need to be complemented by underwater investigation of the adjacent submerged landscape, the ways in which that landscape and its resources were modified by sea-level change
, and how these changes in their turn affected the site catchment of the caves located on the modern coast, their varying attractiveness for human occupation at different periods and the nature of the food remains and artefacts deposited within them. Moreover, submerged cave sites, even those quite close to the present coastline, may give evidence of human activities not represented in the deposits of caves on land.
Notwithstanding these disincentives to underwater exploration, it is worth noting that the preconditions that have encouraged underwater investigations in north-west Europe, namely, exposure of artefacts and other features in the intertidal or shallow water zone, are clearly present on some Mediterranean and Black Sea coastlines. These examples include stone tools eroded out from underwater deposits or visible in pedestrian surveys along the modern shoreline (Arias, Chap. 13, this volume; Radić Rossi et al., Chap. 18, this volume); soft sediments and peats in shallow bays where culture layers and artefacts are often brought to light by commercial activities such as dredging, notably in France
and Bulgaria (Billard et al., Chap. 12, this volume; Radić Rossi et al., Chap. 18, this volume; Peev et al., Chap. 20, this volume); and remains of stone structures easily visible in shallow water in Italy, Greece and Israel
(Castagnino Berlinghieri et al., Chap. 16, this volume; Galanidou et al., Chap. 19, this volume; Galili et al., Chap. 23, this volume). There is also a strong scientific tradition of investigating sea-level change
, a theme increasingly focussed on the human impact of such changes (Benjamin et al. 2017).
In at least three cases, underwater investigation motivated primarily by the search for shipwrecks
has resulted in the discovery of important underlying prehistoric deposits with cultural material, notably at Cala Tramontana
on the island of Pantelleria (Abelli et al. 2016, p. 97; Castagnino Berlinghieri et al., Chap. 16, this volume), Zambratija
(Benjamin et al., 2011, p. 194; Radić Rossi et al., Chap. 18, this volume) and Urdoviza
on the Bulgarian coast (Angelova and Draganov 2003, p. 12; Peev et al., Chap. 20, this volume).
Closer examination of the Mediterranean and Black Sea underwater sites reveals some similarities with the more abundant material in the other marine basins, as well as contrasts. We highlight four themes: underwater caves
, sea crossings, mapping and predictive modelling
and underwater settlements.