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Keynote lectures

Global Change in Africa: What can archaeologists do to understand the present human condition?

Innocent Pikirayi

When: Thursday, 5 September 2019, 18:45-19:45
Where: UniS, A 003

Archaeology is a journey back to the past as much as it is to the present and future. Like any science, natural or social, it must ultimately serve the public, especially in understanding the impacts of human-driven climate change. An archaeology which only focuses on an academic understanding the past is no longer relevant. Current approaches for a better understanding of the past through more accurate and detailed use of advanced scientific methods, including the generation of big data, though useful, remain engrossed in the past. We know, for example, that although human-induced changes to the global environment and natural biotic resources (global change) have accelerated with industrialization over the past three or four centuries, such changes have a much longer history, going back to the early Holocene, with the emergence of agriculture and associated human population expansion (Kirch 2005). My address, which examines aspects of ancient socio-political complexity, human-environment interactions, and collapse and, possibly regeneration of some societies in Africa confronted by negative, adverse and/or catastrophic events, situates the discipline of archaeology in global change in the present. According to Roddick (2018), archaeologists must consider ongoing threats, and work in the present to understand the past, but also to speak to future. I stress here that archaeologists must speak to ongoing global changes in the present beyond their own circles and further communicate the meaning of such with the public.


Since 2010, Innocent Pikirayi is Professor in Archaeology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. At the University of Zimbabwe, he earned his Bachelor and Master degree in History and African Studies and completed his PhD in Historical Archaeology in 1994 at the University of Uppsala. Between 1994 and 2010, Pikirayi has been lecturer and researcher at the Universities of Zimbabwe, Oxford, Uppsala and the Midlands State University.

His research focuses on the origins, development and demise of complex societies in southern Africa. Innocent Pikirayi uses material culture, especially ceramics and glass beads, oral and written texts and geoarchaeology to understand these processes. While the value of these approaches in understanding the past is obvious, he also recognizes the critical role archaeology plays in the public domain as well as within local communities.

His main research areas are:

  • Origins, development and demise/collapse of socio-political complexity in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on the Great Zimbabwe as a centre of political and economic power.
  • African-European contact during the early and later Atlantic periods
  • Public and post-colonial archaeology and the relevance of archaeology in the present.

Innocent Pikirayi has published numerous articles primarily in archaeology, but also in history and heritage and has authored and edited several books, e.g. Water and Ancient Societies: Resilience, decline and revival (Routledge, 2018, together with F. Sulas) and Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice (Routledge, 2016, together with P. R. Schmidt).

Constructing narratives of Britain’s (and the whole of Europe’s) prehistoric past: navigating through a sea of data and the choppy waters of contested discourses…and at a time of political madness

Alison Sheridan

When: Thursday 5 September 2019, 18:45-19:45
Where: Hauptgebäude, room 110

Trying to understand the past by constructing ‘big picture’ and more detailed narratives is what we, as archaeologists, do in our own varied ways; it’s what we have always tried to do, and it is something that has featured in a major way in this lecturer’s own career as a prehistorian, as a museum curator in one of Britain’s national museums and as a team member in several national and international research projects including the Beaker People Project and Projet JADE. The EAA is a wonderful vehicle for showcasing the diverse intellectual traditions and approaches to narrative construction across Europe. But today, the task of creating these narratives is beset by many challenges. We have to deal with a vast amount of new data, generated by a wide range of disciplines – not least that of human and faunal genetics and isotope studies. Not only do we have to try to stay au courant, we must also develop the critical capability to assess the quality and implications of those data, and to integrate them into our working hypotheses. In Britain, the specific trajectory of interpretative archaeology has passed through various paradigm changes over the past few decades, from the positivism of processual archaeology, through the relativism of post-processual theoretical approaches, to the current confused and confusing diversity of thought, with its contested discourses. As ideas familiar from the archaeology of half a century ago become reinjected into the mix – in the form of geneticists’ arguments for population movement, for example – we see the terms ‘cultural history’, ‘cultural diffusionism’ and ‘revisionism’ being bandied about as terms of abuse. How are we to cut through the fog of misconception and the prairie of straw men in our discourse, to arrive at nuanced set of narratives about the past that actually accord with the data? And, distressingly, how can we continue to incorporate developments in Continental Europe within our narratives for prehistoric Britain during the current febrile political climate, where a big question mark hangs over the future of international funding involving Britain? This presentation considers these issues, illustrating them with examples from the lecturer’s period of specialism (i.e. the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age).


Alison Sheridan has worked for National Museums Scotland (NMS) as a curator of Scottish (and more broadly, European) prehistoric archaeology since 1987. She is currently Principal Archaeological Research Curator, and is directing an AHRC-funded project on prehistoric gold in Britain’s auriferous regions. She studied Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and her 1985 PhD was about exchange and social organisation in Neolithic Ireland – a topic to which she regularly returns, given the close prehistoric links between Ireland and Scotland. Her speciality is the Neolithic, Chalcolithic Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland within its European context, and she is an authority on pottery, stone axeheads (especially those made of Alpine jadeitite), and jewellery made from jet, faience, amber and gold.

Within NMS she has been a member of the curatorial team that created the Early People gallery and she has also curated two acclaimed exhibitions, Heaven and Hell…and other worlds of the dead (2000‒01) and Stone Age Jade from the Alps (2016‒17). She has co-ordinated the museum’s archaeological radiocarbon dating programme, and has been responsible for its collection of British archaeological human remains. She has been involved in many national and international research projects including:

  • Projet JADE, investigating the use of jadeitite and other rocks from the North Italian Alps;
  • the Beaker People Project, using isotopic analysis to explore diet and movement among the ‘Beaker People’; and
  • various ancient DNA projects, including work undertaken by Professor David Reich on the ‘Beaker People’.

Her own research includes the application of ‘hard science’ analytical techniques to archaeological artefacts.

From 2010 to 2014 Sheridan was president of the Prehistoric Society. In 2018, she was awarded the British Academy Grahame Clark Medal for outstanding work in prehistoric archaeology. She has an extensive publication record with over 320 peer-reviewed publications.

Challenges for archaeoastronomy

Clive Ruggles

When: Thursday 5 September 2019, 18:45-19:45
Where: Hauptgebäude, room 210

Archaeoastronomy provides a set of tools and practices available to archaeologists wishing to investigate tangible links between the material record and observable phenomena in the sky. The term "skyscape archeology" has gained popularity as a means of ensuring that archaeoastronomical studies are better integrated within broader archaeological investigations rather than beng regarded as a separate "interdiscipline". At the same time, UNESCO's Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative jointly with the International Astronomical Union has led to a variety of cultural properties worldwide with established or putative connections to the sky moving towards inscription on the World Heritage List.

Despite all this, many theoretical and methodological shortcomings that have persisted for decades continue to be evident. The World Heritage connection means that addressing these shortcomings is not purely an academic concern but can also influence public perceptions of what constitutes our most valuable global cultural heritage.

I shall explore the challenges going forward using a variety of examples, including two very different recently published projects in which I have been personally involved—the re-interpretation of an Early to Middle Neolithic timber posthole setting at Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, UK, which generated controversial astronomical interpretations following its excavation in the late 1980s, and an integrated archaeological and archaeoastronomical study of a pre-European-contact landscape on the Hawaiian island of Maui.


Clive Ruggles is Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the School of Archaeology and Ancient History of the University of Leicester.

His research interests centre upon people's interests in, perceptions of, and uses of the sky and celestial objects in various social contexts. These topics are encapsulated in the fields of study that have become known as archaeastronomy and ethnoastronomy. In 1999 Clive Ruggles was appointed Professor of Archaeoastronomy within the School, apparently the first such post in the world. He has worked in many parts of the world and published numerous books, papers and articles on subjects ranging from prehistoric Europe and pre-Columbian America to indigenous astronomies in Africa and elsewhere. He is editor-in-chief of the 3-volume Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, a definitive source on theory, method and practice over the entire field, published by Springer in 2014. He has ongoing fieldwork projects in Polynesia and Peru and co-ordinates, on behalf of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a joint initiative by UNESCO and the IAU working to promote, preserve, and protect the world's most important astronomical heritage sites.

Archaeology as Anthropology: A Bird’s Eye View

Danilyn Rutherford

When: UniS, A 003
Friday 6 September 2019, 16:30-17:30

What makes archaeology anthropological? At the Wenner-Gren Foundation, we have a vested interest in this question: in supporting anthropology worldwide, we have long supported archaeologists worldwide, including in places where the connection between these labels isn’t clear. In this talk, I will argue that this feature of our history is less a problem than an opportunity. I offer a bird’s eye view on what brings the various varieties of research we support together. These boil down on the one hand, to a spirit of inquiry, and on the other, to an ethics of engagement. On both fronts, I will argue, archaeologists are in a unique position to provide leadership to the field as a whole. A bird is not a drone, and my observations lack the detail that others with an insider knowledge of archaeology might offer. But on the basis of the over 1500 applications Wenner-Gren receives each year, I can offer a picture of the important terrain archaeology in coming to occupy in the broad field of projects we support.


Danilyn Rutherford graduated from Stanford University with a B.A.S. in history and biology in 1983. She received her doctorate in anthropology with a minor in Southeast Asian Studies from Cornell University in 1997. She has taught at Goldsmiths College in the fall of 1996, before joining the faculty in anthropology at the University of Chicago, where she received tenure in 2003. She was professor, and for five years, chair, of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she taught between 2009 and 2017. She has served as the president of the Society for Cultural Anthropology and on the board of the Papuan Resource Center. She is currently the president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Danilyn Rutherford is the author of three books: Raiding the Land of the Foreigners: The Limits of the Nation on an Indonesian Frontier (Princeton, 2003), Laughing at Leviathan: Sovereignty and Audience in West Papua (Chicago, 2012), and Living in the Stone Age: Reflections on the Origins of a Colonial Category. Her research has long focused on the disputed Indonesian half of New Guinea and has involved fieldwork and archival research in West Papua and the Netherlands. She has also written essays on topics ranging from kinship to money to global warming to ethics and epistemology within anthropology. She is currently working on an ethnographic memoir on belief and communication in the social worlds of severely disabled young people in the United States.


The relevance of merging fields -what archaeometry can’t tell

Karin Margarita Frei

When: Friday 6 September 2019, 16:30-17:30
Where: Hauptgebäude, room 210

Archaeology and natural sciences have a long history of working together. Yet, within the last decades a cascade of new and improved scientific methodologies has somewhat transformed current archaeological practice. The accelerated rate at which the field of archaeological science/archaeometry has developed during the last years, has led to many new cross-disciplinary studies with subsequent publication of the results. Also in archaeological conferences there is a noticeable increase in the number of sessions that either focus on - or include, some form of archaeological science/archaeometry topics. The exponential growth of data stemming from the analyses of a large pallet of archaeological and environmental materials is, however, not without problems. Several scholars have pointed out that there is a need for establishing more integrated forms of collaborations between archaeologists and the natural scientists. I personally agree with this point of view, though, how to move from a multi- or cross disciplinary type of practice to a more transdisciplinary approach seems to be an extremely challenging (and at times even impossible) undertake. An undertake which is made continuously more difficult as more and more methodologies are being used. In this presentation I will reflect upon and discuss this issue, and offer some thoughts based mostly on own experience. What is lacking? What is needed? What can we as archaeometrists/archaeological scientists do to address the issues and concerns raised by archaeologists? Is it enough to find a common language, or are the research questions we pose the key to reach a higher level of mutual integration between the natural sciences and archaeology?


Karin Margarita Frei is since 2016 Professor of Archaeometry at the National Museum of Denmark. Prof. Frei has a M.Sc. in geology/geochemistry from the University of Copenhagen. In her field-based M.Sc. project she analyzed some of the oldest rocks on Earth in Greenland with different isotope methods. She started to work within the field of archaeometry during her Ph.D. studies at the Center of Textile Research (CTR) at University of Copenhagen, in which she further developed isotope techniques to investigate the provenance of raw materials of ancient textiles. In 2011 she was awarded with the international “Best PhD thesis Award in Archaeometry”, by the Groupe des Méthodes Pluridisciplinaires Contribuant à l’Archéologie (GMPCA). Shortly after she received the “For Women in Science Fellowship Award 2011”, awarded by L’Oréal Denmark, UNESCO and The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Her list of awards continues with several national and international prices, the latest being the 2017 “Shanghai Archaeological Forum Research Award”. Prof. Frei is also a life-member of The Danish Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters. Her research in the last 10 years has focused on developing and applying isotope techniques to trace human and animal mobility in several parts of the world and covering different prehistoric and historic periods. She has worked with archaeological remains and materials from e.g. Mesolithic in Sweden, from Bronze Age in Denmark, Hungary and Italy, from Viking Age and Middle Ages in Denmark, Island and Greenland, and from pre-Columbian in Peru. Currently she leads two research projects, “Tales of Bronze Age Women” and “Tales of Bronze Age People” and participates in two others. She has published more than 70 peer reviewed articles in a diversity of journals including Antiquity, World Archaeology, The European Journal of Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Scientific Reports (Nature Group), PNAS and PlosOne.

Aiming High: the rise of mountain archaeology and its role in today’s changing world

Francesco Carrer

When: Friday, 6 September 2019, 16:30-17:30
Where: Hauptegbäude, room 110

Mountains are the backbone of nearly every continent. They cover 22% of Earth’s land, host one fourth of terrestrial biodiversity, and provide approximately the 60-80% of freshwater. Their landscapes bear unique aesthetic, symbolic and religious values for millions of people, house 30% of World Heritage Sites, and attract 15-20 of global tourism every year. Mountain regions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate and land-use change, and their protection has become a global political priority. This vibrant framework has stimulated the emergence a new branch of landscape and environmental archaeology, aimed at understanding the relationship between human communities and mountain environments in the past: some call it mountain archaeology. But how does this new sub-field of archaeology contribute to the international debate on mountain sustainability?

Traditional practices and ecological knowledge of mountain communities are generally considered the result of a long and slow adaptation to montane environments, and are promoted to foster sustainable management and global change mitigation. However, little if anything is known about their origin, and their complex historical evolution is often underestimated. I believe that the key-mission of mountain archaeology is to fill this knowledge gap, and provide policy-makers and other stakeholders with reliable and solid understanding of the history of human-mountain interaction. Mountain archaeology is contributing to debunking several myths about the history of mountain strategies and their effect on the environments, particularly in the more fragile and ‘marginal’ uplands. A priori assumptions about past land-use and sustainability are increasingly replaced by evidence-based reconstructions.

In this paper I will explore some of the recent advancements of mountain archaeology, and show how they are transforming the perception of mountain landscapes, their history and their future management. This overview will enable me to address the future challenges and exciting perspectives of this emerging archaeological sub-field.


Francesco Carrer is a Research Associate at the McCord Centre for Landscape of Newcastle University (UK), and has previously worked at the University of Trento (Italy), and York (UK). His main research interests focus on the use of computational method to analyse socio-ecological dynamics in mountain environments, from prehistory to historical times. He has pioneered the integration of spatial-analysis techniques and ethnoarchaeological investigation, to inform the interpretation of spatial patterns in high-altitude environments. He coordinates various archaeological and ethnoarchaeological fieldwork projects in the Italian Alps, aimed at understanding the dynamics of human occupation in high mountains during the Holocene and the Anthropocene. Through his research he investigated the evolution of seasonal pastoralism, the long-history of upland landscapes in the Alps, and the origin of summer cheese production. More recently, he has started exploring the evolution of mountain palaeoeconomy, by integrating ethno-historical research and mathematical modelling, in order to assess the long-term effects of subsistence strategy, mobility and population on vulnerable mountain ecosystems. His mountain research is published in international peer-review journals, and the results of his fieldwork projects in the Alps of Trentino (Italy) are published in a scientific volume (co-edited with D.E. Angelucci). He is an active member of the HOME commission (Human Occupation in Mountain Environments) of the UISPP. Beyond his research work, he acts as GIS and landscape consultant in both the private and public sector.

Archaeology beyond paradigms. A plea for reflected translations

Kerstin Hofmann

When: Saturday 7 September 2019, 16:30-17:30
Where: Hauptgebäude, room 110

Translation is a versatile analytical concept currently being employed across several academic fields, including cultural studies, sociology, science and technology studies. But the so-called translational turn has only played a minor role in archaeology. Our focus on objects and assemblages, rather than languages and texts, may explain this to some extent – a situation no doubt exacerbated by a current, generally rather critical, stance towards all text-metaphors. Yet the successful reconceptualization of the translation term in many cultural and social sciences, and its regular application in praxeological approaches to knowledge generation, offers a welcome opportunity to introduce the concept into archaeology.

The new definition of translation in cultural studies removes it from its traditional linguistic sphere, and particularly from the focus on (in)accuracies. Instead, it contextualizes translation between functioning dialogue and perplexity resulting out of incomprehension, viewing it as a practice of exchange between cultures and/or disciplines. Reflected translation can therefore serve as a useful concept for archaeology beyond paradigms – without negating existing differences.

If translation is viewed as a means of representing foreign cultures (e.g. Doris Bachmann-Medick), archaeology can be understood as a translation science on several levels: our discipline translates between the past and the present; it translates terms, ideas and concepts between societies, academic tribes and territories; in medial terms it translates between the material, iconographic, textual and, more recently, digital worlds. But archaeology can also nvestigate translation processes themselves, particularly so when studying cultural contacts or the use of the past in the past.

I shall demonstrate the potential of translation theories by applying them to archaeological themes and practices, including transdisciplinarity and resilience as a travelling concept, object-epistemological practices of editing things (respecting Bruno Latour’s circulating reference), and translation as a concept for the analysis of cultural contacts, using so-called imitative coins as a case study.


Kerstin P. Hofmann is Deputy Director of the Romano-Germanic Commission of the German Archaeological Institute in Frankfurt am Main and head of its research field ‘Crossing Frontiers in Iron Age and Roman Europe’. She studied Prehistoric Archaeology at the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel and at the University of Cologne. After completing her PhD on Thanatoarchaeology and Bronze and Early Iron Age cremation burials in the Elbe-Weser-Triangle, Germany, in 2006, she held a foreign exchange scholarship from the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) at Rome. From 2009 to 2016 she worked first as coordinator and then junior research group leader on “Space and Identity” within the framework of the Excellence Cluster Topoi in Berlin. Her interests lie in the fields of material culture studies, identity research, cultural contacts, border studies and coping practices. She is Vice President of the Deutscher Verband für Archäologie and deputy spokesperson of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Theorien in der Archäologie e. V. She has published numerous articles on theoretical concepts and issues in archaeology and has authored or edited several books, including Ritueller Umgang mit dem Tod (author, 2016), Between Memory Sites and Memory Networks (co-editor, 2017), Mapping Ancient Identities (co-editor, 2018), Objektepistemologien (co-editor, 2018) and Beyond Antiqurianism: A review of current theoretical issues in German-speaking prehistoric archaeology (article, together with Ph. W. Stockhammer, 2017).

Tales of the Unexpected. Creativity in Archaeological Interpretation

Gavin M. Lucas

When: Saturday 7 September, 16:30-17:30
Where: Hauptgebäude, room 210

In this lecture, I consider the nature of archaeological theory in a post-paradigm era and reflect especially on the function of creativity in archaeological interpretation. Much of the debate about archaeological knowledge, especially in the late 20th century, was caught up in issues of evaluation, objectivity and relativism, while the new millennium has seen a greater focus on describing knowledge-making practices, especially at the coalface, i.e. fieldwork. Certainly knowledge production, as a practice, is inflected by issues of plausibility and conviction, but such issues have also tended to monopolize much of the debate. Yet equally important to knowledge production is the problem of novelty. Interpretations don’t just have to be convincing; they also have to tell us something we don’t already know. The question I want to address in this lecture concerns how new knowledge comes about; how do we comprehend epistemic novelty and how is it nurtured? Such questions also deal quite directly with issues facing every archaeologist as they routinely relate to their data: how do I go about interpreting it? Beyond methods, beyond theoretical paradigms, what is the x factor behind a creative and innovative interpretation?


Gavin M. Lucas is currently professor in archaeology at the University of Iceland. He joined the University of Iceland in 2006, prior to which he worked for the Institute of Archaeology in Reykjavík as assistant director (2002-6) and before that, as a senior researcher for the Cambridge University Archaeology Unit (1996-2002). Gavin Lucas studied in London (UCL) for his BA and at Cambridge for his PhD while much of his early archaeological experience and career was in contract archaeology in England. His main areas of interest are in archaeological theory as well as the archaeology of the modern world (c. 1600-1900). His fieldwork work these days is exclusively in Iceland but in the past he has run projects in England and South Africa. Major works include Critical Approaches to Fieldwork (Routledge, 2001), Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past (co-editor, Routledge, 2001), An Archaeology of Colonial Identity (Springer, 2004), The Archaeology of Time (Routledge, 2005), Understanding the Archaeological Record (Cambridge UP, 2012) and most recently, Writing the Past (Routledge, 2019).