The archaeological investigation of shell middens has a long and rich history. By the mid 1830s, the presence of artefacts found with large accumulations of shell along the Danish coast had successfully demonstrated that these sites were the result of human activity rather than natural processes. At about the same time in other parts of Europe, shell middens were also being discovered and written about - a process which continued throughout Europe as time went on. Until recently, European Atlantic shell middens attracted only sporadic interest from archaeologists and scientists. However, there has been a notable resurgence in the excavations of shell middens over the last few decades which has been accompanied by the development of a range of new scientific methods applicable to shells and other midden components. There now exists a sizeable amount of information on shell middens, their variability and insights that they have revealed through scientific investigation. A workshop was organised in September 2005 in the Department of Archaeology, University of York, which brought together colleagues working on shell middens along the Atlantic facade of Europe. The aims were to discuss the current work that was being carried out in each country, to consider the use of coastal resources through prehistory and to present new scientific techniques which were being developed. This volume presents the papers from that conference, and is organised geographically, starting with Scandinavia, moving down to Britain, Ireland and France and then to Iberia. For each of these areas there are some papers which provide reviews of the overall state of shell midden research of coastal archaeology. There are also some case studies which provide more in-depth information on sites which are less well known. In addition, several of the papers provide information on scientific techniques which have recently been developed and which are being applied to shell midden sites along the Atlantic facade. Finally, there is a discussion chapter, which suggests ways forward for shell midden research in Atlantic Europe from a Pacific perspective.
Nicky Milner is a Professor at the University of York, specialising in the Mesolithic period. She has co-directed excavations at Star Carr since 2004.
Introduction: shell middens in Atlantic Europe (Nicky Milner, Oliver E Craig & Geoffrey N Bailey) Mesolithic coastal settlements and shell middens in Norway (Hein B Bjerck) Shell middens ("Kokkenmoddinger") in Danish Prehistory as a reflection of the marine environment (Soren H Andersen) Fishing for storage: Mesolithic short term fishing for long term consumption (Eva Schaller Ahrberg) Coastal fishing in Stone Age Denmark - evidence from below and above the present sea level and from the bones of human beings (Anders Fischer) Land snails and shell middens: A new approach in Danish archaeological research (Nina Nielsen) Residue analysis of ceramics from prehistoric shell middens in Denmark: Initial investigations at Norsminde and Bjornsholm (Carl Heron, Oliver E Craig, Marcus Forster, Ben Stern & Soren H Andersen) Middens in Scottish prehistory: time, space and relativity (Caroline Wickham-Jones) A Late Mesolithic - Early Neolithic midden at West Voe, Shetland (Nigel D Melton & Rebecca A Nicholson) Deconstructing the myths of Irish shell middens (Nicky Milner & Peter Woodman) Determining the season of collection of inter-tidal gastropods from analyses of shell carbonates: Modern analogue data and 'internal analysis' of data from archaeological shells (Marcello A Mannino & Kenneth D Thomas) Prehistoric shell middens along the French Atlantic facade: the use of marine and terrestrial resources in the diets of coastal human populations (Catherine Dupont, Rick Schulting & Anne Tresset) The use of marine resources by the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic societies of Cantabrian Spain: The current evidence (Miguel A Fano) Pico Ramos cave shell midden: Mesolithic-Neolithic transition by the Bay of Biscay (Lydia Zapata, Nicky Milner & Eufrasia Rosello) The Muge Mesolithic complex: New results from the excavations of Cabeco da Amoreira 2001-2003 (Jose Manuel Rolao & Mirjana Roksandic) The influence of environmental change on Mesolithic settlement-subsistence and shell midden formation along the Lower Tagus River, Portugal (Tim van der Schriek, David G Passmore, Anthony C Stevenson & Jose Manuel Rolao) Twenty years of Ethnoarchaeological research in Tierra del Fuego: Some thoughts for European Shell-Midden Archaeology (Jordi Estevez, Assumpcio Vila & the DEVARA Group) Discussion: Middens of the Sea Peoples (Atholl Anderson)