Helen Farr – a short biography

Helen FarrHello!  I’m Helen Farr. I am a Maritime Archaeologist at the University of Southampton and one of the educators on this Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds course.

As a keen sailor, HSE commercial diver and general lover of the life aquatic, I would happily spend most of my time in, on, or under the waves.  As such, I am interested in most dimensions of maritime archaeology but my specialism is in the really early stuff, from early human migrations and the global origins of seafaring to the prehistoric landscapes now submerged by rising sea-levels.

I am passionate about exploring what makes us human and why we go to sea, what drove our earliest ancestors to step foot off dry land, and the inherent skill, knowledge and social organisation implied by seafaring.  My interest in this research developed after spending several years studying Neolithic seafaring in the Mediterranean through analysis of the obsidian trade, analysing thousands and thousands of chipped stone tools that could be geochemically sourced to island locations in order to map maritime activity and prehistoric island colonisation.  The more I learnt about the Neolithic the more I realised that seafaring was already an important and well developed activity and this inspired me to delve further back in time, to explore the origins of seafaring.

I am fascinated by how people engaged with the sea in the past and understanding the changing maritime environment is an important element of this.  People living on the coast have always been affected by coastal dynamics and changing sea-levels and many early archaeological sites have been submerged due to Holocene sea-level rise since the last Ice Age. With a multidisciplinary approach combining underwater archaeology, marine geology and geophysical survey techniques, we can identify and map these submerged landscapes and the archaeology preserved within them.

After completing a PhD at the University of Cambridge, I worked as a post-doctoral fellow in the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research before being awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship and moving to the University of Southampton in 2009. I currently hold an interdisciplinary lectureship within the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute. Over the last few years I have worked on projects in southern Italy, Mauritius and the Solent, whilst my current research focuses on the north western Australian continental shelf.

I am a member of the CMA and CAHO, teach on the MA/MSC in Maritime Archaeology and currently hold the position of Reviews Editor for the Journal of Maritime Archaeology.

During this course I will be exploring examples of sea-level change, submerged landscapes and the Who, Where, When, and How of early seafaring. If you are interested you can follow me on Twitter @RHelenFarr. I am really looking forward to sharing my research over the next few weeks!

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