Coastal environments and their role in prehistoric migrations

Kieran Westley, Justin Dix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, increased attention has been turned towards the role of coastal environments in facilitating the global dispersal of humans. Previous approaches have focused on locating, dating and linking coastal archaeological sites, in order to create an overall impression of population movement across continents. When considerations of the actual process of colonization have been presented, they have been predicated on a series of assumptions regarding the nature of the coastal environment. The most important of these is that the coastal zone is homogenous and stable, on space and time scales relevant to human migration. This paper aims to test this and other assumptions by considering the true nature of the palaeo-coastal zone on global to continental scales and on timescales commensurate with migrating populations. Evidence is presented from Pleistocene and Holocene palaeo-environmental and archaeological records, so covering the major migrations of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. The principal conclusion of this study is that the coastal zone is in fact characterized by a significant degree of environmental heterogeneity and instability on a multitude of spatio-temporal scales. This in turn has significant implications for how we interpret the actual process of colonization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-28
JournalJournal of Maritime Archaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jan 2006


Dive into the research topics of 'Coastal environments and their role in prehistoric migrations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this