Short glimpses of 26 years of history in EAA

by Elin Dalen (

Little did I know on my way to Paris and my first EAA annual meeting in 1993 that this was the start of a lifelong engagement. In a hurry, my Directeur General at that time, Øivind Lunde, sent me to represent Riksantikvaren at the meeting. The Scandinavian countries gave substantial economic support to establish EAA, together with The Netherlands, France and UK. Norway took upon the responsibility to host the first Secretariat – and this became my destiny.

To start a completely new organisation, you need people with visions and people with administrative skills. The composition of persons involved the first years of EAA had a useful combination of creativity and organizational talents. To reach the goals and visions of an organisation for all archaeologists in Europe and to inaugurate something you believe in gives energy and joy. I think many of the members in the EAA Steering Committee (the founding group) and we at the Secretariat who were involved in the early days felt we were “breaking the sound barrier” and anything was possible. There were some challenges, but during the early days most of it was fun with a lot of laughter and humour.

In Oslo we did our best to establish administrative routines, get control of the finances, start a bank account, handle all different currencies in Europe, put up different EAA committees and keep track of members – all this in a time without computers or e-mail. Letters, telephone and fax were our tools. The Secretariat stayed on in Oslo for nearly five years. During this time, we had the pleasure to work closely with the Conference organisers in Ljubljana, Santiago de Compostela and Riga and the opportunity to get to know fantastic people that I otherwise never would have met. This was also the start of wonderful friendships. Eventually, everything ends, and the Secretariat was handed over to Museum of London, becoming the responsibility of Natasha and Mariana, another relationship I remember with pleasure, though I must admit that giving away our ‘baby EAA’ filled me with sorrow at the time.

Two years later I was asked to stand for election to the EAA executive Board. And so I did, in the belief that I was just the token female in the election. Coming from a Scandinavian country with a quite equal society, it was a surprise to me that many archaeologists from the Continent treated men and women differently. A female Secretary (and archaeologist) was perceived as having a less important standing. Despite this, I was elected, and Cecilia Åqvist from Sweden was elected treasurer the same year, and so began a new era for me within the EAA. The Secretariat moved to Sweden thanks to Cecilia, and Petra Nordin was employed: a happy solution for EAA. Through all my years in the Board, as a Board member and later Vice President, the biggest challenge was always financial. Support from the Wenner Gren Foundation over the years has been of decisive importance to offset membership and travel costs. The Presidents and the Board members in turn have worked hard to secure the economic health of our association. It was many years before the financial situation became stable. The difficult economic situation was also the main reason for moving the Secretariat. After several bids, the Secretariat ended up in the Czech Republic and Sylvie was employed – a perfect solution for EAA. In all organisations there will be some bumps from time to time. EAA has had some, but these problems and challenges have been overcome.

Though EAA has grown from the first 300 members to several thousand, it is important to keep the soul of EAA, which is a combination of seriousness and fun. Every participant needs to feel welcome and at home in the organisation. I’m sure the good EAA traditions will be brought forward in the years to come. The 25th EAA Annual Meeting is coming up, a meeting in a long line of successful conferences. I believe the reasons for EAA’s success is the combination of interdisciplinary fields and themes, the mix of members from different countries and different backgrounds. Every participant is challenged in their respective archaeological field by listening to other viewpoints. Going to EAA means learning to be open to others, to bring your field and yourself further, to exchange ideas and develop networks. All to the better for archaeology. This is only possible within an atmosphere of a mutual understanding and respect.

To me, EAA is also a peace project bringing people together. This was important in 1993, but even more important today in a changing political world. The challenges from climate change is now one of the most important threats that we as archaeologist must deal with. EAA is a suitable forum, like the EAA Community – Climate Change and Heritage, to develop strategies and tools to handle our heritage for the future.

I believe EAA will continue to be important as a meeting place for future archaeologists, and I hope many will experience the same pleasure and joy I have had during more than 26 years. To meet so many great people and archaeologists is rewarding both professionally and personally. Many have become close friends and unfortunately, some have passed away, great losses for EAA and me personally. Still the hard work they represent, and all their efforts, have brought EAA forward and headed EAA into the next 25 years.

To all the fantastic EAA people – thank you for every joyful moment! Happy 25th Anniversary!

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Looking back at 25 years of EAA

by Hrvoje Potrebica, EAA board member (

Twenty-five years ago, when the EAA was formed, I was fresh out of the University with more or less nowhere to go. I was living in a country that was still struggling for its existence and independence in cruel war, and Europe was from my perspective some far off place. On the one hand, I was educated and brought up with the idea that Europe is geography and culture and not politics. Life, on the other hand, taught me that whatever you want, you need to get for yourself, and the process of getting something requires commitment, dedication and the investment of time and resources. In my case, dedicating time and resources was not always an easy decision.

The European dimension of EAA, however, was something that immediately appealed to me, and to be part of it, I managed to do things that at that point were next to impossible. For me, the EAA was a tempting treasure-box of different experiences, views and skills. Learning about others - their experiences and different views – enabled me to know myself much better. Many things changed in the last 25 years: my country became part of European Union, and I myself am now Professor at the university from which I had freshly graduated when I joined EAA. Now, I am a member of several international professional and scientific networks, but EAA will always be special in my life. We kind f grew together, the EAA and I, surviving and learning through our successes and failures, always changing, hopefully becoming better. In the meantime, archaeology in my own country grew and changed too, and I was part of that process, being a president of the Croatian Association of Archaeologists for eight years. At the same time, motivation to be part of the EAA never ceased; actually, it just grew stronger! Part of that is probably due to my perception of the EAA as a European forum where I do not represent my country or any special interest group, but myself as a European archaeologist.

Indeed, this is exactly how I felt for the past 25 years and still feel in the EAA – as a European archaeologist. I strongly believe that I was not more or less European in the 1995 when the EU was a dream, or now when my country is about to take over the EU presidency next year. It does not mean I am less a Croatian archaeologist – on contrary! I always try to share our local perspectives, our specific experiences and different views, thus adding to richness of the overall European perspective and helping European archaeology to find its way in these times of extreme change in Europe and the wider world.

At the same time, being part of the EAA enables me to bring the best European practices and larger European perspective back to my country, fitting it to our contexts and needs, making us better in our own right. That is why I see the EAA as my future for many years to come. Europe changes every day and we should be an active and sometimes even corrective part of it. Because we do have special skills and precious social and diachronic perspectives, we also have a responsibility to share on the largest possible scale in these troubled times. EAA also changes. 25 years ago, we were a small group of little less than 500, where everyone knew everyone, and our annual meetings were more intimate. Our internal structure was strongly individual and we had just few committees and working parties. Last year we were more than 3000. Our meetings have become some of the largest meetings of archaeologists in the world, and they become an ever more relevant forum for at least some issues related to the archaeology of the world. Such a big body needs a stronger skeleton, and now we have all kinds of communities and other internal organisational structures. Of course, the EAA would need to change and develop, constantly adapting to its size and social context, to keep being operational, effective and influential. When I think about the EAA from perspective of my quarter of a century long membership, the biggest challenge for the future of the EAA will be how to adapt without losing our specific and special European dimension and flavour, and even more how to remain an association of individuals instead of big corporation.

Over 25 years, the EAA has grown to be a large and influential organization, but for me it will always primarily be large gang of friends. Since the EAA made me a European before politics accepted me as such, I will keep reminding us and everyone else that Europe is much larger than the EU, and that we should never forget that. The next quarter of century will not be easy for the EAA, but it will definitely be exciting, and I am looking forward to part of it!

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Where were we then?

by Michael Potterton, TEA editor from 2005–2010 (

I was delighted to be asked to become the editor of The European Archaeologist some fourteen years ago in the summer of 2005. At that time, Anthony Harding was president of the EAA, my Irish compatriot Margaret Gowen was vice-president and Karen Waugh was just stepping down after four years at the helm of TEA. Karen had taken the reins from Henry Cleere in 2001 and, ably assisted by Petra Nordin, she masterfully oversaw the production of eight issues of TEA, amounting to over 130,000 words of important communications, updates and news stories. Of course, Henry had been the standard-bearer and a great editor and promoter of TEA since issue 1 in 1993. If my calculations are correct, he edited the first fourteen issues between 1993 and 2001.

Margaret Gowen and I were both based in Dublin in early 2005 when she telephoned me to ask if I would be interested in the role of editor of TEA. As an incentive (as if one were needed!), Margaret reminded me that the EAA’s annual conferences – which the editor always attends – were held in a different European city each year. Recent conferences had taken place in Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Ravenna (Italy), Thessaloniki (Greece) and St Petersburg (Russia) she enthused. ‘Wow’, I replied, intrigued by the idea of travelling to far-flung destinations, visiting renowned and lesser-known archaeological sites, and perhaps picking up some foreign vocabulary. ‘And where will this year’s conference be held?’ I asked excitedly, hoping – almost assuming – it would be Cracow or Croatia or Malta or somewhere else on my bucket-list. The phone line went quiet. Then Margaret said something that sounded a bit like ‘Cork’. Surely this couldn’t be right; she must have said ‘Corfu’ or ‘Córdoba’ or ‘Corsica’ and I had simply misheard?

As it happened, the EAA’s 11th Annual Conference at Cork in early September 2005 was excellent (and easy for me to get to!). As many of you will recall, almost seven hundred members made the trip and nobody was disappointed – the conference papers, the archaeology and the hospitality were all splendid. I went on to edit ten issues of TEA, amounting to about five hundred pages and 150,000 words. I felt more up-to-date on current research and debates in European archaeology during those five years than at any time before or since! My work as editor would not have been possible without the assistance of Sylvie Voláková who, after one issue, changed her name to Sylvie Kvetinová so I would not be able to find her to pester her with questions about members, names, dates, updates, deadlines and announcements! Either that or she just got married. The EAA board met each February in Prague (what a fabulous city), and the next few annual conferences were held in Cracow (Poland),

Zadar (Croatia) and Valletta (Malta), so I did get to visit some (more) amazing places, meet some wonderful European colleagues, see some remarkable archaeology and even pick up some foreign vocabulary (‘Gdje je muzej?’, ‘Czy napiszesz artykuł dla TEA?’, ‘Fejn hi Sylvie?’). When I stepped down after issue 32, I handed the editorial baton to the very capable Alexander Gramsch who, along with Lidka Żuk, steered the TEA ship safely and steadily for the next six years. In 2015, Katharina Rebay-Salisbury and Roderick B. Salisbury took over as editors and I was delighted to hear from them earlier this year and to be invited to contribute to the latest issue of TEA to help celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the EAA and the sixtieth issue of TEA! It really is a remarkable achievement and I offer a hearty congratulations to all those involved, right from the very start and up to the present day. The TEA archive must run to over a million words by now.

Looking back, I see that in my parting editorial ten years ago I wrote that ‘The world of archaeology, like the world itself, is in a state of change at the moment’. The same is true today, for sure. Things seem a little more precarious now, a little more fragmented, perhaps more polarised. It is at times like these the organisations such as the European Association of Archaeologists and publications like The European Archaeologist take on even more relevance and importance. Rarely has it been more important to communicate, to reflect, to exchange thoughts and ideas, to appreciate our shared cultural heritage, as well as to acknowledge and to respect our differences. As archaeologists, we must strive to uncover information about the past and share that information – both among ourselves and with as wide an audience as possible – so that together we may convert that information into knowledge in the present in the hope that it can be distilled into wisdom for the future. In this, the role of the EAA and its publications should not be underestimated. If we do not understand the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Congratulations on your work in helping to better understand the past.

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