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The Maritime Cultures Research Institute (MARI) is a fundamental research center that explores how people in or close to a maritime environment created particular ‘fluid’ cultures and societies based on connectivity and transience. Because of this transient role, social, economic and political innovations take place. Seas and coastal areas, including islands, estuarine and riverine environments form indeed liminal zones, where products, people and (their) ideas are exchanged and transformed. Traveling the seas connects people, and coastal and riverine societies are well known for their ‘access’ to the world, both from a material and an immaterial point of view. Liminal makes central, so to speak. From early on, itinerant craftspeople and merchants met in trade hubs and landing places, contributing new forms and ideas, such as early urban communities. The latter lean on contacts and input of artefacts, people and wealth. Thus, the center focuses on the comparative study of:

  • the investigation of travels, connections and exchanges;
  • access to and transfers of material culture and (cultural) knowledge;
  • the social dynamics related to the migration of traders and craftsmen;
  • the interaction between environmental possibilities and constraints and human behavior;
  • landscape creation as a result of the former;
  • how people adapted to changes in climate and sea level rise;
  • the organization of infrastructure and the use of space in ports, landing places and early towns;
  • the significance and impact of export and import of bulk and luxury wares; and finally
  • a particular ‘maritime’ sense of place and identity

In short, MARI studies what it means to know the sea(s) and what lies beyond, but also the social, economic and political impact of this connectivity to coastal societies. The center’s predominant geographical focus is Europe. It aims to study, compare and connect the archaeology of the North Sea World to the (Eastern) Mediterranean, from Cyprus to Iceland, from prehistory to modernity, though no hard-geographical limit is imposed.