An orchestra of meanings – Is it possible to understand the multilayered character of past human social organization?
by Maria Wunderlich
When: Sunday 30 Aug - 18:30 - 19:30
Archaeology and cultural anthropology share their roots within a closely intertwined research tradition, but despite of this inherent connection, they remain in many cases apart and separated in present-day research. In the light of current discourses on aspects of identity and ethics, the close connection between both subjects is becoming clearer once more. Current ethnoarchaeological approaches move at this intersection of different discourses, integrating demands on non-capitalistic practice of science (MacEachern/Cunningham 2017) as well as holistic and manifold interpretations of past human life and its position in the world.
The keynote lecture will focus on the potentials and chances of an integrated approach encompassing both archaeological, as well as cultural and social anthropological perspectives. Both perspectives must be accompanied by reflections on the theoretical and methodological background chosen, thereby creating a reflective network of thought and practice. It further provides the chance to complement narratives being influenced western by industrial viewpoints that potentially dominate scientific discourse concerning the multifaceted nature of human behavior and social organization up to today.
This approach will be illustrated by case studies from the author’s own research, integrating both anthropological and archaeological data. Research on recent megalith building traditions in Nagaland, North-East India, has revealed the interconnectedness within and roots of this phenomena in the social structures of the communities involved. The example also highlights how the construction of landscape, specific mechanisms within the social organization, and material expressions, including the use of water resources, are interlinked and cannot be seen as detached aspects of the realities of a given community. The lecture will further explore the character and potentially interwoven meanings of selected examples of artificial and natural waterscapes within the wider realm of economic or social contexts of Neolithic communities in Central Europe. Although the archaeological record remains much poorer, it will be argued that in the case of specific archaeological features, the intersections of different aspects of past human behavior and social organization can be traced.
Maria Wunderlich is currently a Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology, Kiel University. Since 2020 she is involved in the research of the CRC 1266 “Scales of Transformation - Human-Environmental Interaction in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies”.
In her M.A. studies she focused on the inventory, and the multifaceted use of a passage grave in Northern Germany during the phases of the Middle Neolithic. For her PhD-studies between 2014 and 2018 she was involved in the DFG-project “Equality and Inequality: Social Differentiation in Northern Central Europe 4300-2400 BC” as a research assistant at Kiel University. Within her PhD, she focused on the relation between monumental architecture and the development of social systems and has conducted ethnoarchaeological research on Sumba (Indonesia) and Nagaland in North-Eastern India. She obtained her doctoral degree (Dr. phil) in 2018. For her thesis she was awarded the travel grant of the German Archaeological Institute in 2020.
Being interested in social archaeology and comparative analyses, she combines different theoretical approaches with material data derived both in recent and archaeological contexts. She is the author of the book “Megalithic monuments and social structures. Comparative studies on recent and Funnel Beaker societies” and co-edited volumes on “Megaliths – Societies – Landscapes. Early Monumentality and Social Differentiation in Neolithic Europe” and “Archaeology in the Žitava valley I. The LBK and Želiezovce settlement site of Vráble”. Her research is focused on the intersection of archaeological and cultural anthropological questions and topics, with an emphasis on the Neolithic of Central and Northern Europe.