Prehistoric Black Sea: Background

Aydos River Valley (Cide, Turkey) (photograph Claudia Glatz, CAP)

Black Sea Prehistory currently does not exist as a field of research. The study of the pre-Classical Black Sea is both regionally fragmented and peripheral to European, Mediterranean, Eurasian and Near Eastern archaeological traditions. 

This is in part due to political and ideological divides that dissected the region until recently, divergent academic traditions and language barriers. These have had a profound impact on the ways in which prehistoric Black Sea societies and their inter-regional connections have been approached and interpreted. Despite evidence for intensive interaction along its shores and the significance of these connections, for instance in the case of the spread of farming or metallurgical advances, the Black Sea is traditionally conceived of as a boundary or obstacle to interaction and not as a catalyst for culture contact and exchange, as is the case with the Mediterranean. 

As a result, prehistoric Black Sea societies and their social and cultural developments have been conceptualised almost exclusively through their land-based connections and research into maritime links and their technological and environmental parameters have yet to gain momentum. 

Establishing communication between scholars working in different disciplines and regions bordering the Black Sea is the crucial first step in establishing prehistoric Black Sea studies as a field of research. The project aims to achieve this through the hosting of three research workshops in Glasgow in December 2012 and March 2013. 
The first of these workshops will bring together archaeologists working all around the Black Sea in order to present the current state of knowledge on the societies and cultures of the region from the Neolithic to the Iron Age and in this way share unpublished or otherwise difficult-to-access information. The second objective of this workshop is to consider archaeological and other evidence for interaction between different Black Sea groups and the implications of these connections. 

Discussion in the second workshop will focus more closely on the physical and technological constraints and possibilities for prehistoric interaction in the Black Sea region. Drawing on expertise from a range of disciplines including archaeology, palaeogeography, anthropology and history, workshop participants will discuss among other issues, the technological possibilities of early seafaring in a Black Sea environment, land-based communication channels, and archaeological evidence for exchange. Participants will also engage with new methodological possibilities and evaluate interpretive models for interaction and exchange along and across the Black Sea.

The final workshop is geared specifically towards the development of one or more concrete, collaborative research proposition.