Postgraduate Research Archaeology Symposium

Carlos Garrandes (2016)

Keywords: Whaling, watercraft, maritime archaeology, community.


The renegotiation of the relationship between human beings and the sea is a global phenomenon whose impact has been largely overlooked in the context of ontology. My research explores this process through the particular case of whaling in the Azores.

In the 18th Century whaling reached the Azores and soon became central to the economic and cultural development of this archipelago. In 1984 Portugal adopted the ban established by the International Whaling Commission and all whaling activities ceased. Following this, whale watching companies flourished on the archipelago. For the point of view of the Portuguese government, tourism was the obvious next step to follow the “primitive” stage of hunting. Replacing whaling with whale watching was regarded as an infrastructural and logistical issue that exclusively affected the field of economy.

However, whaling was never about economy in the Azores or, rather, never about economy alone. As this activity developed, it became the manifestation of a unique relationship between people and the sea, rooted at the core of the process community-making. A process based on the performance of activities, rather than a tacit agreement on abstract conventions. Whaling connected Azoreans with the sea as much as it tied them to one another, weaving a network of belonging and connectedness.

The aim of my research is to develop an understanding of the ontological implications of this process through the study of the material culture associated with whaling. My project focuses on Azorean watercraft as the primary archaeological evidence of human-sea interaction.