The Dawn of Everything: A View From the Water
The historiography of maritime archaeology is one of margins and peripheries. Linked to the development of underwater archaeology, efforts to advance theoretical frameworks within the discipline have been slow at best. There remains a widespread assumption—even among archaeologists—that maritime archaeology deals mostly with shipwrecks and underwater sites, and as such, has little to contribute to broader debates in archaeology. Archaeology remains a terrestrial affair that rarely engages with water worlds, and when it does, it retains its feet firmly on ground. So what do a land archaeologist and an economist have to offer to the world of maritime archaeology?
In spite of its terrestrial focus, The Dawn of Everything speaks to a number of recurring issues in maritime archaeology, where scholars worry about the relationship between terrestrial states and maritime worlds. Such concerns are central to the very constitution of maritime societies: are they hierarchical or heterarchical; are they the same as, or different from the wider societies in which they sit? In the maritime discourse, environmental determinism takes a greater role than Graeber and Wengrow would admit in their book. Graeber and Wengrow’s interest in fluid societies that have the capacity to construct and deconstruct themselves seasonally find their best laboratory in maritime cultural worlds. Both the ancient past and the ethnographic present provide us with an opportunity to understand the contingency of power and decision-making, all within the framework of a seasonal environmental landscape. If nothing else, The Dawn of Everything encourages us to look at each society on its own terms, so let us start by getting our feet wet.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Linda Hulin, Veronica Walker Vadillo
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