Maria Michael - 2018 - University of Southampton PhD Scholar

In January 2018, having secured an HFF doctoral scholarship, I started the PhD programme at the University of Southampton, under the supervision of Dr Julian Whitewright and Dr Jaco Weinstock. The PhD thesis entitled “To fish or not to fish? The case study of fishing activity in Cyprus” attempts for the first time to gather all the available evidence for fishing (e.g. harpoons or spears, fish hooks, stone, clay, bronze or lead weights for net or line and traps) in Cyprus in a single body of evidence. 

In my PhD thesis, I aim to explore the tradition of fisheries and fishing techniques on the island of Cyprus through time, from Neolithic to Early Christian periods. In other words, my PhD thesis attempts to understand the relationship between fishers and their maritime environment and how this relationship affected the technological and ideological development of fishing activity in Cyprus in the past. This is essential for interpreting correctly the archaeologically neglected aspect of fishery, which has mostly been ignored or its material culture incorrectly classified by scholars in the past. To achieve these objectives, a unique multi-disciplinary approach is adopted, in which maritime archaeo-ichthyologic data, ancient textual sources, iconographical representations and geospatial analysis are applied. Environmental, marine biological and ethnographic data is combined with the archaeo-ichthyologic evidence, in order to illuminate aspects that are invisible in archaeological records, and help further the understanding of fishers’ mental maps. 

Since I started my PhD in 2018, I also have the opportunity to attend numerous courses, which are always supported by the HFF. In July 2019, I attended a two-day course for the study and interpretation of fish remains given by Mrs Sheila Hamilton Dyer. This course enhanced my knowledge of ichthyology and helping me to understand how fish remains contribute in the interpretation of archaeological evidence relating to fishing activity, which is essential for my research. In addition, I had the opportunity to provide sessions on fishing activity in antiquity as part of the MA course “Mediterranean Seafaring” given by Dr Julian Whitewright at the University of Southampton. 

Furthermore, I have presented my work in various conferences, including “Under the Mediterranean” (2017), “MAGS 2019”, “The International Open Workshop in Germany” (2019), “Cypriot archaeology, pre-modern material culture, and cultural heritage in the UK” (2019) and PGRAS (2019 and 2020). These presentations led to publications, which can be found at 

In 2019, I was also member of the MAGS 2019 committee; as a result, I organised the MAGS conference in collaboration with colleagues from Oxford and Southampton. With the assistance of Bob Holtzman, I have edited and completed the online publication of the MAGS 2019, which is available at 

I have also assisted and participated in the two seasons (2018 and 2019) of the underwater survey conducted in Dreamer’s Bay (Cyprus) directed by Dr Lucy Blue, and funded by the HFF. 

Currently approaching the end of my third year, my main goal is to finalise the full draft of my thesis by the end of 2020, and submit my thesis during spring of 2021. Then, I hope I will successfully defend and complete my PhD programme.

Fig.1: Map of the archaeological sites, where finds of fishing gear and identified fishbone assemblages recovered. (source: Map produced by Maria Michael by using the ArcGIS 10)

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