Untitled Document

Studying Our Past: The Value of Historiography to the Future of European Archaeology

Dates: 1–5 September 2010

Contact: website to look and book: http://www.eaa2010.nl


In the last ten years there has been a substantial growth in the number of historiographical studies looking at the ideas, the people, the discoveries and the institutions that have helped to shape our modern heritage world. This session, sponsored by the Society of Antiquaries of London, will look at a number of examples of such research and ask what insights they bring to a consideration of the future development of archaeology in Europe.

In particular, participants will be encouraged to debate the question of what the study of our past reveals about the diversity of practice in European archaeology: is there a 'history of European archaeology' or are there many 'histories'? If there are different traditions, what are the key differences? How have those differences come about, and in response to what stimuli? How do they impact on practice today in different parts of Europe?

Above all, we hope that participants will ask how archaeologists are responding to wider political and social trends towards globalisation: are there positive and creative national traditions that continue to serve us well and that we wish to retain? were we actually more international in outlook in the past? Are there strengths or dangers in studying the past from national perspectives?

Alternatively, does the future of the discipline depend on breaking down barriers and developing archaeological approaches that are seamless, with pan-European, or even global, research agendas, research teams and institutions and a more 'mixed economy' of professionals and non-professionals working in both the public and private sectors?

Such fluid and flexible approaches, which encourage the building of new partnerships, both nationally and internationally, may well be the way ahead in a European economy in which archaeology is going to have to learn to be less reliant on the state for the majority of its funding. For some of us, that might mean rediscovering the original purpose of the archaeological bodies that we represent.

Paper 1

Tim Murray, Professor of Archaeology, La Trobe University, Australia

Histories of archaeology: a global perspective

Tim Murray is editor of the Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, the only peer-reviewed journal in the world devoted solely to this subject. Having taught at the University of Leiden, the Université de Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne), the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales (Paris) and the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, he is now Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Professor of Archaeology, at La Trobe University, Australia.

Based on his European and international experiences, Tim has developed a comparative and transnational approach to the study of the histories of archaeology and antiquarianism. He will introduce this session by providing a brief overview of the main themes and approaches being adopted by scholars of this subject in Europe and around the world, and ask 'why do we do it; what do we learn from the study of the history of our discipline?'.

Paper 2

David Gaimster, General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London

Case study: the Society of Antiquaries of London

David is the General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, founded in 1707 out of the spirit of empirical enquiry that marked the Enlightenment. David will explain how the Society, its Fellows and its publications have been intrinsic to the development of archaeological and heritage practice in England for 300 years, sponsoring some of the great excavations of the 19th and 20th centuries, and pioneering the monument protection legislation that, from small beginnings, now underpins modern heritage management practice. He will look forward to the Society's fourth century and to keeping the Society's mission alive and relevant, in part through the establishment of a European network of antiquarian bodies who gain strength from supporting each other's work as advocates for the heritage, independent of government and national heritage agencies.

Paper 3

Christopher Evans, Director of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit

Antiquarian societies and the 'performance' of the past

Chris Evans is co-editor, with Tim Murray, of Histories of Archaeology, published by Oxford University Press in 2008. He is also co-founder of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, based at the University of Cambridge, which has undertaken and published numerous excavations in England and overseas. Chris will give a critique of the way that 'norms' are established and embedded in archaeological practice. These then become self-reinforcing, when 'following the template' becomes the accepted way of conducting archaeology and publishing the results. Studying the histories of antiquarian societies suggests that today's archaeologists are still conforming to standards set down decades, if not centuries ago, and that, despite frequent calls for greater creativity in the conduct and communication of archaeology, innovation is in fact only for the very brave.

Paper 4

Willem Willems, Professor of Archaeological Resource Management and of Roman Archaeology, Leiden University

European and world archaeologies

Willem Willems is Professor of Archaeological Resource Management and of Roman Archaeology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, as well as Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology. He studied at the universities of Amsterdam and Michigan, Ann Arbor and has worked mainly in archaeological heritage management, as State Archaeologist of the Netherlands and later as Chief Inspector for Archaeology. He is former President of the EAA, was the founding president of the Europæ Archæologiæ Consilium (EAC) and is currently co-president (with Douglas Comer, USA) of the ICOMOS Committee for Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM).

Willem's paper will address the manifold and complex issues surrounding the relationships between European archaeologies and those elsewhere in the world. He will explore how these issues relate to archaeological research, to managing archaeological resources and to the archaeological profession. He will also address the linguistic question, and the barriers to archaeological understanding and progress that result from the dominant use of English as the lingua franca of archaeological publication and debate.

Paper 5

Kristian Kristiansen, Professor of Archaeology, the University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Archaeological unity or diversity?

Kristian Kristiansen is professor of archaeology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He has published extensively on the Bronze Age (The Rise of Bronze Age Society, with Thomas Larsson, Cambridge University Press), archaeological theory (most recently in Archaeological Dialogues 2004 and 2008) and on archaeological heritage. He received the European Archaeological Heritage Prize from the European Association of Archaeologists in 2005 and the Society of American Archaeology's best book prize in 2007, for The Rise of Bronze Age Society.

His paper will look back at the 19th century origins of heritage management and look forward to the future based on an analysis of developer-funded excavation, or contract archaeology, in Europe. He will argue that the unifying principles enshrined in the Valletta Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of 1992, intended to create commonality of practice, has in fact resulted in dramatic diversity, through its widely differing implementation by different European nations, and, indeed, among regions within nations, such as the federal states (landes) in Germany.

The paper will show that this variation comes down to, and originates from the same two different political principles of 'socialism' and 'capitalism' that are at the basis of so much division within European and global social and political philosophies.

Other papers under consideration

Simon Gilmour, Director, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; awaiting title and abstract.

Norbert van den Berg, Koninklijk Oudheidkundig Genootschap (Royal Antiquarian Society) of the Netherlands; awaiting title and abstract.

Workshop: New Historiographical Approaches to Archaeological Research

Dates: 10–11 September 2010

Venue: Freie Universität, Topoi-Haus, Dahlem, Berlin

Recent developments in the history of science have called for a revised history of archaeology and a move away from hagiography and presentations of scientific process as a linear development. Historians of archaeology are beginning to use new, and approved historiographical concepts and tools, both to trace how archaeological knowledge has been produced, and to reflect on the historical contexts under which this knowledge has been generated. This international workshop will assemble scholars in order to discuss innovative approaches and methods for writing histories of archaeological research.

The workshop is divided into four sections, in which various aspects of the history of archaeology will be discussed. These are the interrelations between research processes and social aspects, space as a central category in archaeological research and theory, the complex relations between science and politics, and materiality and concrete practices in archaeological research.

Following this thematic framework, the workshop-sessions will cover various issues:

  • a basic discussion on the specific differences between the historiography of the human sciences (as archaeology and anthropology) and the historiography of science;
  • historical approaches to individual scholars as well as archaeology research groups by biography, prosopography and network analysis as methods of investigation;
  • the interrelations between epistemic changes in archaeology and political concepts, analyzed by cultural history, postcolonial theory and the analysis of terms in archaeology;
  • the question about the role of spatial concepts have played in the creation of chronological orders in past archaeological research and how 'archaeological space' was constructed;
  • the historical investigation of material practices in archaeology, such as excavation and dating methods, discussing the tools of Science and Technology Studies (e. g. actor-network-theory) as well as approaches and concepts that originally relate to the history of experiment (such as scientific objects);
  • discussion of the visual representation of field research.

Sorting out useful approaches and learning how to adapt and modify them to fit our specific needs may help to develop fresh perspectives and to create a more comprehensive understanding on how archaeological research worked. Yet, it may not only open new perspectives on the construction of the past but also even shed light on general patterns of knowledge production in archaeology.

Full details and program will be available from early May at: http://www.topoi.org/images/pdf/workshops/new_approaches_program.pdf