Conceptual Modelling of Seafaring, Climate and Early European Exploration and Settlement of the North Atlantic Islands

Andrew Dugmore, Andrew Casely, Christian Keller, Thomas McGovern

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Abstract / Description of output

This paper outlines a new conceptual model of seafaring.
As seafaring may be considered to be travelling by
sea together with the related technology, skills and motivation
for so doing, it encompasses many different types
of activity ranging from the explorer, to the hunter and
colonist, raider and trader (Little et al. 1966; Marcus
1980). A key aspect of seafaring is the pattern of settlement
related to it; where people may live either temporarily
or permanently as a consequence of seafaring,
how settlements change through time. It also affects
areas that might be utilized, activities that might be
undertaken, and the contacts and communication
that may result from the use of water as connection
rather than barrier. When considering seafaring and
its results (such as the human colonization of oceanic
islands) there is a risk of reaching inappropriate,
monocausal explanations. The extent and nature of
island settlement is affected by the availability of
marine technology, but this is rarely, if ever, the only
explanation. Likewise, favourable and unfavourable
winds and ocean conditions will have an important
role in creating opportunities or constraints, but again
they are most unlikely to offer a complete explanation
of seafaring activity or its results as their impact
is moderated or enhanced by other factors such as
available technology. The same argument also applies
to motivation and the related human factors such as
people’s knowledge of the sea, their skills, willingness
to embrace risk and desire to explore. These human
aspects are critical to seafaring, but they cannot be
wholly separated from available technology and the
natural environment.
As a result our aim is to devise a robust conceptual
framework that integrates human and environmental
factors and is relevant to many different
seafaring activities and the geographical ranges over
which they take place. The idea is to define for specific
areas the various combinations of marine technology,
motivation and knowledge, and climate and
ocean conditions that result in successful seafaring.
One benefit of this approach is that it defines different
types of limits, and may include many different
approaches to successful seafaring. What might, for
example, be achieved in the face of climate change by
low levels of marine technology combined with very
high motivation compared to lesser motivations, but
more capable technology?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Origins and Development of Seafaring
EditorsAtholl Anderson, James Barrett, Katherine Boyle
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
PublisherMacdonald Institute, University of Cambridge, UK
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)978-1-902937-52-6
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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