Members' lecture
The Mediterranean and Atlantic from prehistory to AD 1500

Monday 26 February 2018,
18.30–20.00
BP Lecture Theatre
Tickets £15
Members £15

To book, call 020 7323 8195

Recommend this event

For humans the sea has always been an alien and dangerous environment. So how and why did humans become seafarers? Archaeologist Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe explores the evidence, bringing together years of research and very recent findings.

The journey begins 40,000 years ago, with hunter-gatherers in the eastern Mediterranean building simple vessels to cross the sea to Crete. The talk will end in the early 16th century, with professional sailors from Spain, Portugal and England establishing the limits of the vast Atlantic from Labrador to Patagonia.

In between, the talk will cover what we know about ancient shipbuilding techniques, what we can learn from the myth of Odysseus, and accounts of the first circumnavigation of Africa, Byzantine ships recovered in Istanbul’s harbour, computer modelling which shows how Europeans could have traversed the Atlantic, and even DNA evidence from mice teeth which reveals how Cyprus was colonised by our Neolithic ancestors.

The human impulse to conquer the sea stems from an inbuilt urge to explore. It is also perhaps the driving force in human history.

Includes a complimentary drink.

Age: 16+


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Sir Barry Cunliffe.