CAR Seminar series

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences and ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Pr. Brian Fagan

The Big Fish Come to Land. An Archaeologist (and non-fisherman) Explores the History of Fishing.

Fishing is one of the most ancient of all human subsistence activities. Multidisciplinary archaeology and history provide a dynamic portrait of this much-neglected topic. Brian Fagan traces the long history of fishing from its beginnings in sub-Saharan African some 2 million years ago. He discusses the fundamental qualities of opportunism and careful observation that govern subsistence fishing and even fishing in this electronic age. The major turning point in the human relationship with fishing came when fish became a commodity with the emergence of the first pre-industrial states. We visit Egyptian fishers feeding pyramid workers, early fish farmers along the Nile and in Rome, sail with merchant ships as they visit “fish-eaters” camps on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and also Cambodia’s Tonle Sap. The rich European and North Atlantic herring and cod fisheries and the Industrial Revolution set the stage for the decimation of ocean fisheries that has reached crisis proportions today.

Archaeologist Brian Fagan was born in England, was educated at Cambridge University (BA, MA, and PhD), and worked in Central Africa as an archaeologist and museum curator before coming to the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1967. His research was on subsistence farming villages in southern Zambia; he was one of the pioneers of multidisciplinary African history. He is now Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Anthropology. Brian is the author of numerous articles and general books on archaeology, ancient climate change, and most recently histories of water, ancient seafaring, fishing, and the changing relationship between humans and animals. He is regarded as one of the world’s leading archaeological writers and lectures about the past, especially ancient climate change, all over the world. His most recent books include Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind and Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Ocean, The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present and Future of Rising Sea Levels, and The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History, all published by Bloomsbury Press, New York. A global history of fishing in production with Yale University Press. He is also the author of several widely used university textbooks on archaeology. Brian is an enthusiastic bicyclist and cruising sailor, who has sailed thousands of miles in different parts of the world. He lives in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife Lesley, 6 to 24 rabbits, three cats, 7 turtles, and some goldfish. This is his fifth visit to Australia.