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Rising sea levels destroyed evidence of shell vessels on many prehistoric coastal sites



  The rising sea level ruined evidence of the shell center at many prehistoric coastal sites
Farasan gates along the Palaeo coast. Credit: Niklas Hausmann

Archaeological remains of coastal areas in the form of shell mites are usually found on today's beaches and evidence that shellfish as a food source goes back 1

64,000 years. Within this time frame, sea levels change dramatically and tanks are moved on the scale of kilometers. The current study, published in PLOS ONE reveals that this movement of coasts affects the majority of the shell kernels by causing the shells to be washed away or at present underwater, thus dispelling our understanding of former coastal areas around the world.

Shall be food waste is a common discovery in archeological coastal areas over the past 164,000 years. But many can now be hidden.

In this study, an international team of scientists was first quantified by well-known Australian archaeologist and anthropologist Betty Meehan in the 1970s. Meehan described how today's coastal offspring on the Australian coast processed most of their shellfish on the direct coastline to reduce transport weight and only transported some shells that still contained meat further inward to their main residential area to be treated there. The scientists theorized that if prehistoric people in a particular place used the same strategy, and if the sea levels increased dramatically since then, archaeologists would no longer find evidence of large scale mills related to that population. If only a few were found near the place of residence, scientists can assume that the population does not rely heavily on shellfish for living – and that would of course be wrong.

Using a large cluster of over 3,000 prehistoric shell mills At the Farasan Islands in the Arabian Red Sea, the researchers assessed their spatial and temporal patterns in connection with long-term changes at sea level. A selection of websites was radiocarbon dated to 7,500 to 4,700 years ago. During this period, the lake in the Southern Red Sea still rose as a result of melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age. The increase ceased about 6,000 years ago and the sea level was slightly higher (2-3 m) than today. This was followed by a gradual decline over ~ 2000 years to our current sea levels, with the exception of the development of recent decades.

Coastal utilization of shellfish changed slightly during this period, and prices for shell-based radiocarbonate dates indicate that 10 times more shells are deposited at the direct coastline than at "post-shore" sites, reflecting Meehan's ethnological research. Despite their larger size, no shoreline sites are preserved that date 6,000 years ago, and closely follow the change of sea level in this region and point to a large number of sites that must have been lost to the sea since the beginning of coastal life.

Usually well-preserved in archaeological sites, shoulders are easily washed away by rising sea levels

"We already knew that coastal sites are in an uncertain situation and we are often dependent on places along steep cliffs or a few hundred meters inland for to study the collection of seafood dated before today's sea levels, "First author Niklas Hausmann from the Max Planck Institute for Human History explains. "Now we know that not only a little bit remains on the beach, but the bulk of the shell material, which really undermines our perception of how much seafood has eaten in places, even a little inward."

"With our study, we have shown that much more seafood meat has been eaten in times of lower sea levels than we previously thought, and we must get away from the simplified" shell along with seafood meat "attitude," explains Hausmann.

Shellfish are often overrepresented in assessing past coastal living conditions because of their hard shell that preserves better than plants or even bones. However, the meat they contain is archeologically invisible and could have eaten somewhere. This study shows that the potential use of coastal processing plants linked to habitat areas cannot be discounted, especially when such coastal treatment sites can now be submerged.


Fixed record of past climate fluctuations now available thanks to laser imaging of shells


More information:
PLOS ONE (2019). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0217596

Provided by
The Max Planck Society




Citation :
Rising sea levels destroyed evidence of shell vessels on many prehistoric coastal sites (2019, June 12)
June 13, 2019
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