Land Bias

The existence of ancient seaways, and their crucial role in shaping prehistory, were only recognized in the early twentieth century. Until then, pre-historians and historical geographers had demonstrated a ‘land bias’; a perceptive error brought about by an over-reliance on Roman sources that tended to concentrate on the movement of troops, goods, and ideas on foot and across countries. Certainly, the Roman Empire’s road network transformed internal mobility in Europe and, unmistakably, Roman roads were the keys to military and economic power. ‘The sea divides and the land unites, ran the Roman truism. But for millennia prior to the rise of Rome’s empire, the reverse had been true. The classical sources misled subsequent historians — allied with the fact that the sea erases all records of its traverses, whereas the land preserves them.

— Robert McFarlane