Matt and I got to talking the other day as we were hard at work doing the final layout for TEA’s 2023 Spring Issue. Naturally, the topic of conversation turned to the season. We generally associate spring with the concepts of rebirth and life – the lessening grip of winter, the soft fingers of new buds on the trees, a gentle greening and the lurid pastels of seasonal festivities. However, what is often swept under the rug is the entropy and death so necessary to processes of re-birth. Spring is dependent upon the energies stored in seeds and the fertilization of the soils by the remains of previous years’ plants and other once living matter. In short, we dwell on the success stories—the new life, the fresh buds, and the baby rabbits—rather than on the things that have died to bring forth new life. Archaeology is all about both, albeit to varying degrees.
Like many other academic disciplines, we tend to focus almost exclusively on the positive aspects of what we do—on the new discoveries on excavation, on exciting new results and on the odd successful grant application, rather than on the misplaced trenches, the broken favourite trowel, the studies with negative results and the piles of unsuccessful funding applications. We all too often keep the failures and frustrations to ourselves. Spring invites us to reminisce on the emerging positives rather than dwell on the heavy-weighing negatives. Nevertheless, all these so-called ‘failures’ often have important insights and lessons. Because we tend to not communicate about our ‘failures’ like we do about our successes, and as a result we can (perhaps unconsciously) turn those ‘failures’ into mistakes.
In thinking about all of this, we would like to present to you, the EAA Community, a special invitation for submissions on the theme of failure. We want to share and discuss our negative results and experiences and the positive lessons that can be learned or new and insightful information that can be gleaned from them. While it is difficult and annoying, failure is a part of everyone’s life; we just don’t talk about it enough. Please contact Matt or I with ideas—short or long—for manuscript submissions to TEA at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from (and commiserating with) you! Don’t worry, we are happy to include anonymous contributions, so tell us about your bad day – we’ve all had them!
Returning to the matter at hand, what you have before you is proof that, like the season of spring and its dance between life and death, something beautiful and new can be created from the juxtaposition of unique and very different things. No better metaphor for this can be found than in our stunning cover (“Part of a common humanity”) submitted by Roger Thomas, another winner of TEA’s 2023 Photojournalism competition. And, speaking of the photojournalism competition, we are delighted to announce that the EAA has agreed to finance another photojournalism competition for 2024! You can find more information on themes and submission guidelines in the announcement or on the EAA homepage.
This issue contains within it a host of new and exciting content in addition to the competition details and the Member Calendar including the ever popular In Case You Missed It, Meet a Member over TEA with Nour Munawar as well as our last edition of the Chat with the Secretariat. In this issue, we also take a look at the exciting and relatively new EAA Community known as ComTex. New thematic content includes overviews of recent research on investigations of Palaeolithic hunter gatherer plant use and the analyses done on a 12th century reliquary pendant from Mainz. For a change of pace, we have also included a segment documenting the tremendous efforts put into the multi-institutional “First Kings of Europe” exhibition which just opened in Chicago and a description of ongoing efforts towards heritage activism at the alpine lodge known as “Annahütte”.
However, just as spring reminds us not only of life but also death, we have also as Newsflash about the closure of yet another archaeological establishment, this time in Ghent, Belgium. We include a special section on culture and European identity as well as a conference report from the European Americanist Archaeology Meeting on “American Landscapes” and reflections on “whither archaeology in the digital age” following the European Archaeology Days Forum in Paris. Finally, be sure not to miss the list detailing the exciting evening lectures series on “Body and Death"!
The myriad themes included in this issue are a good mirror of the season. While some discussions come to a close, a thousand new ones spring up in their wake and out of their ashes. In this, the rainbow on our cover is an appropriately symbolic, it fractures the grey light of the storm to give birth to something fleeting, new, and beautiful. Importantly for us as archaeologists and heritage professionals, it is these same processes that have been ongoing since the dawn of time.
Samantha S. Reiter and Matthew J. Walsh