Exploration into the nature of early trans-oceanic contacts
While some oceans, like the Atlantic,
operated as barriers, preventing contact and exchange until relatively
recently, the Indian Ocean has for millennia
served as bridge linking diverse and often distant lands and ethnic groups.
Classical sources accentuate the Indian Ocean's
role in the trade routes travelled by Greek, Roman and other ships. What is less
recognised, but increasingly apparent is that seafaring activity had much
earlier beginnings in the Indian Ocean. Traces
of these earlier activities involved many prehistoric/non-literate Asian and African
societies. These early contacts played a major role in the translocation of
flora and fauna, including well-known domesticates and less well-known
commensal animals and weeds.
The focus of the SEALINKS project is to gain new
evidence and insights in the nature of early trans-oceanic contacts, including
a strong emphasis of the movement of domesticated plants and animals, as well
as commensal small mammals and arable weeds. At UCL, Dorian Fuller takes a lead
roll in overseeing archaeobotanical sampling and its integration with other
analyses, such as faunal and genetic research.
The project has joined excavations and
carried out sampling for plant and animals remains at sites in Sri Lanka, Kerala (India),
coastal Tanzania and coastal
Kenya, while in the earlier
stages of the project evidence was synthesized from further north, from those
lands framing the Arabia sea, including the Red Sea
and the Persian/Arabian Gulf.
A core of researchers and PhD students are
based in Oxford’s School
of Archaeology under the lead of
Nicole Boivin, while plant genetics and phylogeography is based at the University of Warwick under the lead of Robin Allaby.
Work on small mammal morphometrics and genetics is being carried out in Durham (Gregor Larson), Aberdeen
(Keith Dobney) and Cornell
Archaeobotany is being lead at UCL by Dorian Fuller, and includes work by PhD
and MSc students.
project is interlinked with the Early Rice project and the Pleistocene
Hunter-Gatherer subsistence in Sri
- Fuller, Dorian Q and Nicole
Boivin (2009). Crops, Cattle and Commensals across the Indian
Ocean: current and potential archaeobiological evidence. In Plantes et Societes (ed.
Gabriel Lefevre), Etudes Ocean Indien 42-43: pp. 13-46
- Nicole Boivin and Dorian Q.
Fuller (2009) Shell Middens, Ships and Seeds: Exploring Coastal
Subsistence, Maritime Trade and the Dispersal of Domesticates in and
Around the Ancient Arabian Peninsula. Journal of World Prehistory 22(2): 113-180
- Nicole Boivin, Roger Blench and
Dorian Q Fuller (2009) Archaeological, Linguistic and Historical Sources
on Ancient Seafaring: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Early
Maritime Contact and Exchange in the Arabian
Peninsula. Chapter 18 in The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia. Paleoenvironments, Prehistory and Genetics. Dordrecht: Springer. Pp. 251-278
- Fuller, DQ, Nicole Boivin, Tom
Hoogervorst, Robin Allaby (2011) Across the Indian Ocean: the Prehistoric
movement of plants and animals. Antiquity 85 (328): 544-558
Winner of Antiquity's Ben Cullen Prize. Read more»
- Richard Helm, Alison Crowther, Ceri Shipton, Amini Tengeza,
Dorian Fuller and Nicole Boivin [in press] Exploring the emergence of
agriculture, interaction and trade on the East African littoral: preliminary
results from Kenya. Azania
- The main funds comes from the European Research
Council grant to Nicole Boivin (Oxford).
- Some archaeobotanical analyses are
being carried out at UCL by a PhD student funded through the NERC Early Rice
Project (grant to Dorian Fuller).
- Small mammal research in Durham and
Aberdeen has NERC funding.