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Archaeologists have long studied graves and cemeteries. Recent years have seen heated debates over the ethics and politics of digging, displaying and storing the ancient dead. The recent conclusion of a joint English Heritage and National Trust consultation process over the future display of the human remains within the Keiller Museum at Avebury has brought this issue to the fore in the UK. Archaeologists are well aware of how human remains, artefacts and places associated with the dead are contested; they are 'adopted' as ancestors by modern religious groups, 'claimed' by science or 'owned' by us all. However, we contend that the reburial and repatriation debates have obscured a set of far wider questions concerning how mortuary archaeology interacts and intersects with popular culture and contemporary attitudes and practices surrounding dying, death and the dead.
Archaeologists have been remarkably quiet on these broader issues despite the fact that they regularly uncover and interpret the ancient dead for widespread consumption by many different sections of the public. The session aims to incorporate but move beyond the repatriation and reburial debate. Instead we want to critically appraise what mortuary archaeology does for modern societies and conversely how contemporary death-ways and commemorative practices influence archaeological theory and practice. Rather than pursuing a single theoretical agenda, our aim is to create an open forum for debate.
Despite discussions of the 'afterlife' of monuments, the role of the past in the past and the spatial and chronological links manifested in monument 'complexes' and 'ritual landscapes', to date there has been little theoretical consideration of how such persistence of place was possible; and why this was so. Long-term practices occurring over many centuries and human generations are indicated by discoveries at Cladh Hallan, Ferry Fryston and Fiskerton. In Britain, developer-funded investigations have demonstrated numerous landscape and depositional continuities. How could such accurate memories of earlier events be maintained for so long? Was this merely the political manipulation of the past, or was it a more reverential or religious referential process? Was this simply the 'dead weight of tradition', or are we witnessing the power of oral histories, myths and legends to transcend time?
We invite papers from archaeologists interested in such questions of persistence of place and practice. One aim of the session is to move discussion away from simplistic notions of 'ritual' landscapes; and towards the relationships between quotidian activities and arenas of 'everyday life' and the remnants of past features and events. Large-scale landscape references and small-scale, particular events could all be a focus for discussion. We welcome contributions from those working in developer-funded archaeology who have undertaken landscape-scale projects where such physical and temporal connections have been manifest.
Discussant: Duncan Garrow
Urbanism is an interdisciplinary field of study in which archaeology holds a unique position. It is the only field able to shed light on the origins, constitution and long-term development of cities and urban living. While it is generally recognised that cities represent a dynamic composite complex, currently archaeology lacks the concepts and methodology to study the processes involved therein; consequently, the nature of its processes, components and their bearing on the social aspects of urban living remain obscure.
We are looking for critical and fundamental theoretical approaches towards interpreting concepts of the city, urbanism and the built environment in any geographical location. These approaches should relate either to the notion of place (i.e. geographical, identity, social meaning) or the role of boundaries (i.e. physical and psychological, urban sprawl, movement between urban and rural areas) within the urban setting, including those that may be derived from modelling as well as those resulting from aprioristic reasoning.
Participants are challenged to venture beyond descriptive and analytical organisation of data to consider explanations for the formation, utilisation and perception of urban spaces. These approaches should account for the inferential value and consequences of the fundamental notions with which many disciplines treat and interpret such space.
Buildings, the built environment and landscape-oriented approaches are welcomed, especially interdisciplinary approaches combining archaeology with related subjects such as geography, planning and architecture.
The use of innovative technologies has changed not only the way we practice archaeology, but also the way we understand and interpret the past. Along with these powerful tools, a series of issues related to the theoretical aspects of their application have emerged. Developed in other disciplines and for diverse purposes, technologies have not yet adapted to accommodate the needs of archaeological research. Although they have been fully integrated into our discipline, in many cases the assessment and incorporation of essential variables and factors in the models produced remains limited. Additionally, the interpretative process is not only influenced by the use of these methodological tools, but also by the way we as archaeologists manage the excavated and collected data making use of our background, stimuli and biases to externalise our reasoning and produce new versions of the past. Some of these issues have already been considered in the context of certain methodological tools, but there is still fertile field for vivid discussion. Spatial Analysis in GIS, Computer Graphics and technologies in Cultural Heritage Management are only some of the areas that these theoretical pursuits can be fruitfully applied. This session is intended (1) to discuss the underlying theoretical concepts, (2) to examine the extent to which the various constraints alter our perception and interpretations about the past, and finally, (3) to investigate the future directions of these relatively new approaches from a theoretical perspective.
Visitability, in the sense of the ability to attract visitors, has emerged as an important concern in heritage, connected with both the economic viability of related institutions and their avowed mission to educate the public. As Bella Dicks (2004) in her recent analysis has noted, such ability came recently to depend on specific strategies of representation, in terms of both content and modes of display (from simulations and reconstructions to popular hands-on, interactive exhibits). The underlying assumption has been that these strategies may ensure meaningfulness and relevance for wider and more diverse audiences.
This session invites a discussion of this assumption with particular reference to the representation of archaeological material in either museums or archaeological sites - a crucial focus given the growing concern over both the public impact of archaeology and its epistemological status. To undertake this analysis, we propose an inquiry into the ways in which currently popular representational strategies seek to structure the experience of "visiting" archaeology, and the particular ways of relating to archaeological material that these promote, especially in relation to previously prevalent, more "traditional", modes of representation. It also commands interest in potential conflicts and contradictions between the intentions of those entrusted to stage such experiences and their impact on those actually performing the visit.
Welcoming insights from archaeological theory, museums and heritage studies (including visitor research), as well as tourism, the ultimate goal is to assess the extent to which such considerations may indicate new ways of defining (and achieving) "visitable" archaeologies.
Dicks, B. 2004. Culture on Display: The Production of Contemporary Visitability. London: Open University Press
The European Bronze Age witnessed an unprecedented flowering of craft activity. Throughout the period there were developments in decorative motifs, techniques and skill with distinctive emphasis on the pleasing aesthetic through intricately elaborated objects made of a wide range of contrasting materials. These include metal, clay, bone, textiles, wood, bark, horn, antler, hide, amber, jet, stone, flint, reeds and faience, either alone or in combination. At a technical level too, this blossoming of craft activity encouraged innovation and exploration of the potentials of materials.
This session explores the ideas of "craft", "craftsmanship" and "craftspeople" within the context of the European Bronze Age. Rather than focussing on the technological and typological trajectories of the period, it aims to understand the relationship between people and materials, 'making' as a social and technical practice, and the role of craftspeople in Bronze Age society. It asks not only what the significance of the finished object was, but how the practice of creating objects was important in the fostering of craft traditions.
Papers will focus on a range of different materials, drawing on Bronze Age contexts from different parts of Europe, offering a perspective of the Bronze Age from the purview of craft and material and those who made it their role in society.
This session diachronically and synchronically examines the way in which common cultural, architectural and spatial motifs help construct and exercise power through experience of landscape. Principally, the session examines the symbolic meaning of iconographic repertoires enmeshed within the palimpsest of constructed, conceptual, textual or mythological landscapes, and the process of iconographic embodiment. These meanings and processes may have been at once fluid and tenacious, dynamic and static, something which this session will address. Landscape, as transformed from space to place by human action provides a symbolic system existing outside the individual, while also providing an anchorage for identity and facilitating habitus formation via socially encoded material messages. The symbolic system may be used as a resource by both belief systems and power relation configurations, and the reordering and/or reinterpreting of space and place are important features of changes in these.
The formation of a holistic theoretical perspective is necessary in order to examine transitions between sets of material and symbolic technologies facilitating the exercise of power. This may allow for the co-existence of different landscapes and belief systems (for instance 'Pagan' and 'Christian' or 'colonial' and 'native'), and indeed symbolic iconographies or languages through which the world was understood, contested, manipulated and imagined. Therefore, in order to understand discourses played out through iconographic landscapes, comparative thematic papers are being sought considering themes such as the materiality of power, and the cognitive connotations of human interaction with both dynamic and static socially constructed landscapes.
Chair: Simon Stoddard
Discussant: Simon Stoddard
by Daniel Pett
Practice-as-research has had a significant impact on UK research cultures across higher education and arts sectors since the mid-1990s. Arguably, Cornelius Holtorf's 1998 hypermedia history of megaliths was the first practice-based PhD in archaeology: it explored the potential of then-new CD-Rom technology to present different ways of telling archaeology. Since then, a growing number of practitioner-researchers have begun to draw upon the histories and practices of film, video and new media in order to consider the ways in which media produce specific archaeological forms.
In this session, the Centre for Audio-Visual Study and Practice of Archaeology (CASPAR) brings together current archaeological practice-as-research and investigates the interplay between screen-based technologies and archaeological knowledge to think through some of the implications of Friedrich Kittler's announcement that 'media determine our situation, which - in spite or because of - deserves a description' (1999, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter). The session will investigate moving image practices as they create archaeological materials and subjectivities. These practices include archaeo-landscape reconstructions in computer games, computer-aided visualisation, the televisual familiarity of Time Team graphics and the conventions of documentary film and TV. Established and emerging methods and technologies can aim to: record, preserve, and reconstruct archaeological artefacts and landscapes; present archaeological site interpretations; model change and resilience; and represent scientific archaeological knowledges. This session focuses on practice to explore how technologies of the virtual materialise specific and often messy sciences (John Law, 2004, After Method: Mess in Social Science Research, Routledge), which in turn frame archaeological possibilities
Outreach', 'participation' and 'engagement' are words seen with more frequency in archaeology. In many ways this phenomenon has been led by the major heritage agencies in the UK; e.g. the Council for British Archaeology's call for "Archaeology for all". Similar aims have been promoted by major funders such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage 's aim to build more active communities, the Labour governments 'Impact, and Knowledge Transfer' Agendas, and the LIB-CON governments 'Big Society'. These issues are increasingly the key aims of individual and local authority projects.
These initiatives, together with the current renaissance of community archaeology, have also seen an increase of projects working with previously under-represented audiences, where engagement with participants is a leading goal of a project rather than the archaeology itself. Yet when these projects are evaluated, it seems the participants are typically the same traditional social demographic. .
The session then, has two main themes:
•Is it possible to conduct 'archaeology for all'? How can we, as archaeologists, create new types of archaeological projects, which reach out to those who don't? By not engaging with 'others' are we not only missing an important audience but also curtailing the relevance of archaeology in the present.
•When this 'engagement' is fully considered, what are the practical and theoretical implications of this form of archaeology? Are we able to create new frames of knowledge through engagement with new audiences or are we bound to a restrictive practice in order to package archaeology as 'outreach'?
Several advances in methodology and techniques have occurred within the science-based archaeological sub-disciplines often collectively referred to as environmental archaeology, in the UK, since the Palaeoeconomy and Environment in South West England Symposium, held at the University of Bristol in 1985. The south west's rich archaeological heritage and surprisingly varied environments provide exciting opportunities for these new and improved approaches to understanding our past, just as they did 25 years ago.
Understanding the theory behind the application of science-based methodologies in archaeology is critical to their effective use in the wider discipline - knowing their limits as well as their potential. Often such limits can be overcome by combining several different datasets and methodologies from across the environmental sub-disciplines, highlighting the theoretical virtues of interdisciplinarity within the sciences.
The human species has an unequalled ability for local and regional environmental adaptation and past conditions continue to shape present and future reworkings, thus environmental archaeology is central to the current climate change debate. Limits of adaptation by people and the environment in the past may highlight future restrictions. Parts of the south west have reached and breached such limits in the past as sea-level change and upland deterioration.
Papers are encouraged from researchers currently engaged in environmental archaeological research in south west Britain, particularly from interdisciplinary projects and those that have an overt aim to place scientific methodologies and datasets within a theoretical structure.
The aim of this session will be to focus on a branch of archaeological theory and practice, emerging in the UK, that is focusing on understandings of social processes and wider social mechanics through a re-examination of site formation, assemblage formation, taphonomy, residuality, deposit and assemblage re-working, re-deposition and transformation. This is an area of study that, remarkably, over the last quarter of a century has had little sustained investment of time or joined-up thinking despite promising starts in the 1970s and 1980s (Adams 1987; Bradley & Fulford 1980; Brown 1985; Crummy & Terry 1979; Evans & Millett 1992; Fulford & Peacock 1984; Millett 1979; Moorhouse 1986; Orton 1975; Orton & Orton 1975; Schiffer 1972; Sullivan 1989). While much of this early research was successful in defining and problematising phenomena in archaeological sequences, which bore directly on the inference potential of deposits and structures, chronologies and type series, newer approaches are directed at addressing what defined instances of complex formation can tell us about everyday practices in the past, rather than the limitations of the evidence for dating purposes or complete faunal assembalges, and allow us to draw inferences about the social processes that lead to complex deposition, re-working, re-deposition, something that is simply not addressed in the majority of contemporary archaeological theory and practice.
Chair: Reuben Thorpe
Discussant: Dr. Chris Cumberpatch
Within this session we would like to explore the concept of liminality and liminal landscapes within an archaeological context. The term landscapes can be used to encompass the micro landscapes of the trench through to macro, large scale, archaeological landscapes.
For Arnold van Gennep, there were three stages within a rite of passage, separation, the liminal stage and re-aggregation or reintegration and this concept of liminality forms a useful starting point to examine the role and engagement of archaeologists within these landscapes as well as the participants in their creation.
The session will aim to use, amongst others, the concepts of spatial, temporal, cultural and mythological liminality as a lens through which to examine a wide range of landscapes.
We plan to attract speakers with a diverse range of research interests from the Neolithic and earlier periods through to Contemporary and Historical archaeology.
Examples could include but are not limited to, Neolithic monuments, prehistoric funerary landscapes, Roman frontiers, medieval towns and leper colonies, first settlers and early colonials, conflict landscapes, peace and protest camps, dividing walls and frontiers, urban landscapes and cardboard cities and industrial ruins.
The concept of -scapes (e.g. taskscapes, seascapes, heritagescapes, soundscapes, landscapes) has increasingly permeated archaeological and heritage thought. In one respect, -scapes may provide a convenient short hand recognition of ontological distinctions between experiences of apparently different phenomena. However, is there a danger that a -scape based practice hides other phenomena in the past that transcend our categories of analysis. Do -scapes potentially limit our abilities to generate other forms of engagement with the past?
The dominant metaphor of -scape is of the visual experience of a scene or view: such approaches are potentially problematic. What are the implications of other non-scape metaphors or tropes for our engagement with the past and associated contemporary representations of the past?
We welcome contributions to the session which will seek to explore the nature of -scapes, either through case studies or from theoretical perspectives, and / or to consider the ramifications of a continued dominance of -scapes to future practices:
Is a -scape based approach fundamental to contemporary practices?
What are the values and strengths of a -scape based approach?
Are some -scapes more useful in analytical terms than others?
Are all -scapes equivalent, in historical or contemporary terms?
What are the potential ramifications of other tropes for our practices?
Chair: Kenny Brophy
This session aims to assess whether Marxian ontological and epistemic positions might allow archaeologists to turn their potentially debilitating relativism into a more purposeful form of theoretical pluralism. Marxism has a celebrated influence in archaeological analyses of the politics of the past; discussions about social identity and class; relativism and multi-vocality; and the relationships between theory/data, material culture/action, archaeologist/society. Contributions to the session may reflect core themes in Marxist archaeology such as explicitly emancipatory approaches to research, the analysis of political interests and scientific knowledge, inequality, authority and anarchy, or socio-cultural evolution. Alternately, papers may consider the practical application of Marxian concepts, such as the domestic mode of production or surplus value, to archaeological settings.
In particular, the session hopes to explore from a Marxian perspective the claim that post-processualism's radical relativism 1) risks 'reconstructing a past in our own image' (Insoll 2007: 9), 2) slides archaeology further towards idealism (Barrett and Ko 2009), and 3) creates an environment where archaeology lacks the ability to judge competing knowledge claims and hence challenge hegemonic social conditions (McGuire 2008). The session locates itself in the interstitial space between objectivism/relativism, idealism/materialism, explanation/emancipation and emphasizes the interrelationships (both complementary and contradictory) that linked production, social organization, power and ideology in the past. It thus showcases the ways that Marxian analyses transcend the conceptual boundaries created during the processual/post-processual debate
17th–19th December 2010