The conference themed ‘Landscapes and Societies in Ancient and Medieval Europe East of the Elbe. Interactions between Environmental Settings and Cultural Transformations’, the fourth meeting of the interdisciplinary project ‘Gentes trans Albiam – Europe East of the Elbe in the Middle Ages‘, was held on 26 and 27 March 2010 on the Keele Campus of York University in Toronto, Canada. The scope of the Gentes trans Albiam conferences is quite distinctive in that it focuses on a region with a marked absence of a direct Roman tradition, i.e. Europe east of the Elbe, forming a unique cultural landscape. This is not least observable in maritime archaeology, most prominently reflected by the absence of the bottom-based shipbuilding tradition – a tradition with alleged roots in Romano-Celtic craft – before it was introduced in the southern and eastern Baltic Sea in the wake of the northern crusades. In my contribution I aimed to highlight the relevance of maritime archaeology to explain cultural changes in the broader sense, in order to demonstrate that the study of shipwrecks is not a self-contained subject merely focused on the development of shipbuilding as a technological tale, but that it is directly linked to the underlying processes of societal change.
Gentes trans Albiam – Europe East of the Elbe in the Middle Ages