SDG 13: Climate Action

Shell middens: Underwater archaeological sites offer clues to ancient coastal communities

Evidence in middens offer clues on how people adapted during times of sea-level rise and climate change. Image: Jonathan Benjamin

Katherine Woo

Postdoctoral Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, James Cook University

Sean Ulm

Deputy Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, James Cook University

Jonathan Benjamin

Associate Professor in Maritime Archaeology, Flinders University

Jessica Cook Hale

Visiting Scholar, University of Georgia

Geoff Bailey

Emeritus Professor of Archaeology, University of York

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Scuba diver excavating shell midden.
shell middens are hard to differentiate from natural shell deposits. Image: Katherine Woo, Geoff Bailey, Jessica Cook Hale, Jonathan Benjamin, Sean Ulm

Danish field crew take cores of the sea floor to determine whether middens are present.
Examination of three shell middens dated them between 7,300 and 4,500 years old. Image: Katherine Woo, Geoff Bailey, Jessica Cook Hale, Jonathan Benjamin, Sean Ulm
Middens can explain coastal life 1,000s of years ago.
We teased out different strands of evidence that offer new insights into how we might find and excavate other midden sites in watery depths around the globe. Image: Katherine Woo, Geoff Bailey, Jessica Cook Hale, Jonathan Benjamin, Sean Ulm

Middens provide fundamental information about food choices, tool technology, trade practices, and cultural values.
In undersea shell middens we can find discarded tools and ornaments, old living surfaces, and in some cultures, human burials. Image: Katherine Woo, Geoff Bailey, Jessica Cook Hale, Jonathan Benjamin, Sean Ulm

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SDG 13: Climate ActionAustraliaTrade and InvestmentGreen New DealsBiodiversitySystemic RacismDenmark

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