4-OCEANS: Human History of Marine Life




Code   .   ERC - Grant Agreement n.º 951649
Start   .   2021
Duration   .   72 meses

Principal Investigators   .   Poul Holm (Trinity College Dublin)  .   James H. Barrett (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  .   Cristina Brito (CHAM - Centro de Humanidades da Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade NOVA de Lisboa)  .   Francis Ludlow (Trinity College Dublin)





Funding Entity

European Research Council


TCD – Trinity College Dublin
NOVA FCSH – Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade NOVA de Lisboa
NTNU: Norwegian University of Science and Technology



4-OCEANS is a new European Research Council (ERC) Synergy Project, starting in July 2021 and that will run until 2027. It is funded by the ERC under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 951649).

4-OCEANS aims to assess the importance of marine life for human societies during the last two millennia, up to the age of intensive fishing under steam-power. We contend that the harvest of marine resources played a critical, but as yet underappreciated and poorly understood, role in global history. To bridge this gap in our understanding, the project includes an interdisciplinary team combining expertise in marine environmental history, climate history, natural history, geography, historical ecology, ancient DNA, radiocarbon dating and zooarchaeology.

The ambition of 4-OCEANS is global. To be achievable at this scale, the project will apply the methodology of selective systematic review and meta-analysis. It will gather, integrate, analyse, highlight and celebrate decades of high quality research by experts working with documentary, cartographic, iconographic, zooarchaeological and environmental evidence.



We will examine when and where marine exploitation was of significance to human society; how selected major socio-economic, cultural, and environmental forces variously constrained and enabled marine exploitation; and identify the consequences of marine resource exploitation for societal development and the oceans. Through these objectives we will discover how marine resources as novel wealth altered societies throughout history. How might marine wealth have enabled some societies to escape food shortages? How did it trigger long-term socio-economic impacts and ecological consequences? How were marine resources valued, consumed, and energetically transformed?






Principal Investigators

Poul Holm (Trinity College Dublin)

James H. Barrett (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Cristina Brito (CHAM)

Francis Ludlow (Trinity College Dublin)


Portuguese Team
Nina Vieira
Ana Catarina Garcia
Joana Baço
Jaime Silva
Patrícia Carvalho


Carla Alferes Pinto
Isabel Gomes de Almeida
Ana Cristina Roque
Daniel Quiróz
Juciene Ricarte Cardoso


Other Collaboators

Bastiaan Star (Ancient DNA, University of Oslo)
Marie-Josée Nadeau (Radiocarbon Dating, National Laboratory for Age Determination, NTNU: Norwegian University of Science and Technology)







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